The Spirit of Things

With the Olympics on, I find that my friendship circle has been split into those who embrace and support this demonstration of extreme athletic achievement and those who, for whatever reason, just refuse to get into the spirit.  This is something that baffles me – how can people actively resist the surge in emotions that our whole society is channeling? More to the point, why would you want to, why would you actively try to be the person who is negative and judgmental of others excitement.

It’s not just in the Olympics that you find these people but also through everything.  Dress up parties – when 90% of people come all dressed up in their embarrassing gear ready to have a laugh at theirs and others expense, there are always those few who refuse to join in, sticking out like a sore thumb, in their jeans and t-shirt.

Then there are those who go to dance clubs and say I don’t dance, or dancing isn’t cool.  This just makes me want to shout “Why are you here”.  People who hate Christmas, or Easter, or birthdays – how can you hate holidays when you get presents and chocolate?

My favourite though, are those who refuse to get into the travel spirit.  You know the ones I mean, I am sure you have met them, and then wished you hadn’t. They are the ones who look at everything and say “Yeah but back home its better”. We are all guilty of it sometimes, but it’s those who actively try to ruin or mock others enjoyment that really niggles my Nelly, why do they need to always burst someone’s bubble.

I am often accused of the exact opposite – of getting too excited.  Currently at work I am turning every thing into an Olympic competition.  I am ten times worse when I travel, any excuse to build on the excitement of the activity and I run at it like a bull facing a London bus.

When I was in Thailand I decided to try white water rafting. Even though it was the dry season we had been promised level 4 rapids, what we were looking at could be best described as a 2 (though I didn’t know the difference, a fellow tourist informed me of this). A little disappointed we prepared for our lesson on how to stay within the raft.  It was then that I got a little bead of fear in the pit of my stomach as our instructor taught us how to stay afloat and to avoid rocks if we were thrown in… suddenly a helmet was slapped on my head, a life jacket thrust into my hands as I was pushed down to the awaiting rafts and our raft captain Sam.

First thing we learnt about Sam was that he liked a good laugh, second thing we learnt about Sam was that we would be the butt of most of his jokes as he sprayed us all with water. For all Sam’s jokes he took our safety very seriously, correcting and instructing us on how to sit in the raft.  Our raft was the only all girl team heading down the river; my Canadian travel friend and two Swedish girls joined me – this was the first challenge.

We headed off down stream picking up pace, with Sam’s brilliant skill we got through the first set of rapids so smoothly that our spirits soured and our confidence rose. This is when we took it to the next level.  This was no longer a slow meander down a river – this was now a race. Dropping our oars into the water we began our war chant  “one, two, faster, faster, one, two…”

Quickly we overtook most of the other boats giving us second place.  They had been taken by surprise by our ferocity and were now paddling hard to regain their place. Sam had laughed for only a moment at our chant, before realising how serious we were about winning.  He changed from being the laid back tiller man, to being a whip cracker, pushing us faster and faster, splashing us when we slacked off. We nearly lost him when we overtook another team; the cheaters grabbed Sam and pulled him into the water.  But quick as lightning he was back in our boat, and took his revenge – he rammed our boat against theirs jamming it against a rock.

As our laughter died away we hit another set of rapids, looking ahead we could see the lead boat stuck in between two rocks – we were heading right for them.  As our two boats collided our boat began to take on water, fast!  The ever-quick thinking Sam grabbed us by the life jackets and hauled us into the other boat.  He then went back for our sinking raft.  We, in the meanwhile endeavored to unstick our new boat.  As it became free and floated off down river without Sam we resigned ourselves to sitting eight people in a boat for another two hours.  We felt dejected, we had lost – race over.

Suddenly Sam was there with our re-inflated raft.  We jumped ship before you could even say ‘aye aye’.  Rapids were fast approaching.

After an hour of careening over rocks we finally hit a calm patch of river.  We were boat number 1 and exhausted. Victory was so close. Suddenly Sam calls “to the right” meaning, all to the right side of the boat, after the last hour we had learnt to follow Sam’s instructions instantly and without a second thought.  I flung my whole weight to the right side of the boat along with the others – it flipped right over.  We hit the water hard, emerging with identical expressions of shock on our faces, only to hear Sam’s laughter.  Soon we were all laughing and floating down stream alongside our boat.

Back in the boat we felt revived and full of energy, two boats had snuck up on us and were trying for first place.  We broke into our war chant and paddled harder and faster.  The captains of the other teams were playing dirty, splashing us, and pulling at our boat.

The final set of rapids appeared and we had slipped back to second, but the first boat had jammed in the rocks.  Sam steered our boat straight for it, we barged into the boat spinning it around as it was freed from the rocks, but we were out in front for a final push for the finish line.

We trudge up the hill glorifying in our victory as we sat down to eat, I devoured my food but nothing tasted better than the victory we had created.  Even if we hadn’t of won, the experience of the drama of the race, was worth the exhausting effort it took

Fish that Sam pulled out of the river – was there no end to his skills!?


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