Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Hi all!

I feel like I've left everyone high and dry, but I haven't!

First things first, I made it back from Wales alive. Phew..glad I got that off my chest. This past weekend will be extremely hard to explain in a blog, but I'll do my best. This blog post won't have any pictures or videos. It will be mainly me just trying to give you a run through of what happened during the weekend, but after I post this, I'll post second one immediately showing pictures and videos so you can get a visual too!

On Thursday evening we arrived in Wales. We were all ushered into a room where we were given a quick brief of what the weekend held in store. The basic jist of the weekend was we had to do five major tasks to receive "generator parts" which we would use to build a generator that would give us some "code" which we would in turn use to open some safe where we would find some prize. The five main tasks were the following:
1) Present a presentation (Everyone)
2) Rock Climbing (Team B)
3) Rock Climbing and Abseiling (Team C)
4) Mountain Expedition (Team B&C)
5) VIP Meal/ Moroccan theme (Team A)

We had to raise money to do all these things; we had to rent cars and drivers; we had to navigate our drivers through Wales; we couldn't ask the Red Rock leaders anything or we got penalized. Red Rock was the name of the organization that put this on for us.

To get money we had to do "voluntary tasks". Some were more fun then others. I ate a whole can of cold baked beans along with five of the guys to earn some money. I don't think I'll be enjoying baked beans anytime soon. Not all the "voluntary tasks" had to be done by everyone. Some were just whoever wanted to do it, others were an entire team, and some included every single person.

I apologize for my skipping around so much. This whole weekend is really hard to just explain in a blog, so please bear with me and hopefully it makes sense in the end.

Concerning the different teams mentioned above (A,B, and C), everyone got to choose what team they wanted to be on. I chose team C. Mountain climbing and abseiling.

Okay, so back to Thursday evening. Three of the guys from our year group were appointed the leaders, Andy, Pete, and David. They downloaded us with information about what was expected. Everyone picked their groups, then broke off into three or four smaller groups to discuss the presentation. The presentation had to be presented that evening, explaining how we were going to go about getting money, buying food, what everything would cost, what times everything would be, and present it to the Red Rock Leaders later that evening. If the RRL approved of the presentation, we could be done for the evening and do some voluntary tasks to make some money before we went to bed, and that could be that. If they didn't approve of it, we would have to present it again.

What do you think happened?

Yep! We had to do it twice. The first time we didn't have enough details about prices of food items and climbing gear and such.

That night we made it to bed around 2:30 A.M. Well, some of us. Little did I know that that would be my last night in a comfy bed for the next sixty hours...

The next morning we woke up at 6:30 and breakfast was at 7. We were out by 7:30 and we cleaned up the kitchen. We discussed what the day would hold and at 8:00 we had a half an hour of complete silence. This was one of the voluntary tasks. Everyone had to sit together and be completely silent for half an hour.

Whilst sitting silently, I used the time to write in my journal about the previous night and I'll write what I wrote then...

Presentations at midnight; again at half two in the morning. Falling asleep to the sound of rain pinging on the skylight;being shut in a closet with twenty other people in the dark for three minutes (voluntary task...AND it was a tiny closet);cheering while watching the guys do sit-ups and push-ups (voluntary task); and eating a can of cold generic baked beans. These are the things I've so far endured.

Things i have to look forward to today: climbing a mountain in the rain, abseiling down a cliff in the rain, sleeping outside, probably in the rain.

Luckily, in my handy-dandy, heavy duty hiking rucksack, i have water-proof trousers and jacket set, a really attract set might i add....NOT! I do have water-proof trousers and a jacket, but they are by no means attractive, but I'd rather be dry!

At the moment: We are all doing another task to earn money to buy hiking gear. that task is to sit together and not make any noise for thirty minutes. i was enjoying a competitive game of ping-pong, but apparently "silence" means no pinging or ponging. also, i keep swallowing back those baked beans, they insist on slowing making their way back up.
Yummy right?!

8:20 : Nearly done!
I just got silently told to help clean the kitchen

you forget how useful words are until you can't use them...

I wish i had my camera to snap a picture of what everyone else is doing at the moment. the majority are sleeping, some are staring into space; others are journal-ing; a couple are even passing the time by playing a game of hangman. finally others know their weakness and have taken extra precautions by gagging themselves with scarves!

:) geez , I love these people!

That was my journal entry for those thirty minutes of silence.
How innocent I was.. and how clean too! That would be the last time I wouldn't have sand in my hair, dirt under my nails, or mud all over my skin.

That same day Team C went to Overton to rock climb and to abseil. Every group had nine or more team members and to receive the "generator part" every team member had to attempt to rock climb and to abseil. In my head i had a wonderful image of what rock climbing was going to be like and it was nothing like that. It was so much more intense and like proper rock climbing then I had anticipated. Just wait for the pictures and videos. WE also had a time limit. We had to do it by 4:00 PM. Seems like a lot of time, but driving to Overton was included in the time as well. I really enjoyed the rock climbing. I was the third person to go and the first person to make it to the top! Out of the nine team members, only three of us made it to the top.
Abseiling was a different story. I'm not usually afraid of heights, but this was a bit intimidating. I had to make sure I asked the lady how much weight this rope could hold and all the important questions like that. BUT, and my mom is going to love this, I did manage to multi-task whilst abseiling. I took a video on the way down...... ha.. just way to see it.

Everyone but one team member attempted abseiling. Around 4:15 we were starting our trek back to the two Land Rovers our team was split up into. The Moroccan themed VIP meal was being served at 6:00 PM and we had to be there on time. For every minute someone was late for dinner they were penalized 50 Welsh pounds, per person. Needless to say, our Land Rovers got separated, one got lost, and we were late by at least half an hour. Not good...

On a better note, the food made by Team A was absolutely delicious. We had a traditional Moroccan meal which we ate with our hands. But before we ate, team members came around with a bowl and a bar or soap so we could all wash our hands. We then all ate from one big plate in the middle. Then afterward we had Moroccan mint tea. Simply delightful.

Sometime after dinner, Teams B and C gathered all their hiking gear piled it in the Land Rovers.
That night we were going to sleep in a cave. Thats right, a cave.

Minor interruption: All weekend the days seemed entirely too long. You would remember something you did that morning and you'd think, "It was just this morning I did that?"
And..at this point, my memory of the weekend is all running together, so I'm really just trying to capture the main points of the whole experience.

Alright, it was probably around 9:00 PM that Teams B and C set off to start their caving experience. We drove for about two hours and parked the Land Rovers around 11:00 PM. We all got our hiking gear. By the way, it was pitch black and pouring. The heavens had opened and the rains were relentless. We trudged through mud, balanced along grassy slopes and drop-offs, and used our knees to climb up the rock face to get into the cave.

Again, I had this nice little image in my head of a perfectly cut out circle in the rock, evenly leveled, warm and protecting. I was wrong. Dead wrong.

I was one of the first ones into the entrance of the cave and I suddenly realized we weren't going to fit all twenty people into this cave. I looked around a bit and my eyes fell on this hole. "Surely not", I said to myself. Again, I was mistaken. This hole was probably 2.5-3 feet in width and about 9-10 feet long. You had to lay on your back during some of the tunnel-shimmy down into the wider part of the cave, just so you didn't get hit in the head or face with some rock that was jutting out. The hardest part was getting yourself AND your hiking bag AND your sleeping bag down there. It probably took about an hour to get everyone into the cave. It was a real struggle for some who were really claustrophobic, but it was amazing to see people encourage and walk hand in hand with those who really had to lean on God for strength to make it through the next five minutes.

It was 2:30 when everyone was in the cave and setting their sleeping bags up. I figured with twenty people in a cave and being somewhat protected from the door that we would remain really warm in the cave, but that was not the case at all. The cave was wet, frigid, and loud! Every two minutes, no exaggeration here, there was a loud ruckus sound that would boom and echo through the cave corridors. And every time it would happen, freezing bursts of air would fly through the cave, piercing every already-shivering body to the core. I slept next to Lucy and we tried to cuddle to keep warm, but there was just no use. We got up in the morning tired for even trying to sleep and our bodies aching from shivering. I'm pretty sure I zoned out for a total of twenty minutes that night. Everyone was up by six and all trying to wrestle their wet sleeping bags back into those tiny bags they come in.

I thought I would dread going back up that tiny hole towards freedom, but all I wanted was out of that dreadful cave. It was definitely harder going back up then coming down, but I was determined to get out of there. During that night in the cave I was so angry toward the sea, almost begging it to just relent for five minutes, but the moment I made it out of the cave that morning and was faced with the majesty of God's amazing creation, all anger and frustration turned into awe and admiration.

We walked down the mountain and went back up the same way we had come down the night before in the dark and the relentless rain. I had almost preferred the dark to the daylight, because seeing it in the daylight scared me enough. We had to walk back through the mud and finally back to the Land Rovers. Sweet, sweet Land Rovers.

At this point, I'm a little hazy on exact times, but I know the day is Saturday. We have one final expedition to do. The Mountain expedition. Basically, both Teams B and C were dropped off and different points. Team A was dropped off at a base point. Team A was to set up tents and make dinner for the other teams. Team B and C were to find the place of accommodation Team A had set up.

I know Team C had to go back to the Mountain climbing and abseiling mountain to let the final team member abseil because if they didn't then we wouldn't have gotten the "generator part". That took up a big chunk of time during our day that could've been used toward the other expedition. Finally though, at 4:00 P.M., Team C starts our mountain expedition. We trudged for 4.5 hours. I really wish there were words to express the kind of tiredness, and body aches, and exhaustion, and discouragement, and fear that had been shared by all, but you would have just had to be there. We walked up hill the entire time except the last hour maybe. We walked in the dark and fog for 3.5 hours of it all.

I apologize for painting a dark, dismal picture of that evening, but it was really hard for everyone physically and emotionally. We sang though. Singing just makes things more bearable. And we prayed...man, did we pray.

When we made it to base though, we were welcomed with food and praises, a nice combination. Everyone was proud of us and they said they had just been praying for us non-stop all day. We were warmed up with some tea. Everyone gathered in the upper room of some bunker hall to hear from the three leaders. They all gave a quick run through of the day and a few others had some praise reports about other people.

The leaders really wanted to remind us though that even though we had finished the expedition, the work wasn't over. The weekend didn't end until the next day at 10:00 A.M., so we didn't need to have a "we've done it" mentality. We spent a few more minutes going through the schedule for the last day.

It was probably around midnight that we made it back to the tents and settled in to get some shut eye. I figured that a tent would be much better sleeping in then the cave, but it was just as horrible. We had a wake up call at 3:00 in the morning, so we could make it back to the Red Rock facilities at 5:00, but I had been begging for morning to come since I'd crawled into my sleeping bag. I had shaken and shivered for the last three hours and my body was just utterly exhausted. The cold from the earth had just seeped through and had reached my very bones.

Nonetheless, that will probably be the only time in the rest of my existence that I will be happy to be getting up at three in the morning! We rolled up sleeping backs and took down tents and everyone was on their way by four o'clock. Once that car started moving, I was out like a light. It was the best two hours sleep since I could remember. We got to base, had breakfast, and had to immediately start on cleaning stuff up to be done by debrief at 10:00 A.M. After breakfast we washed all the Land Rovers, inside and out, hosed down all the tents, washed all the bivvy bags, and tried to make as much money as we could before time was up.

Debrief was too much to write about. It basically just went through everything that had happened within the last weekend and why the Red Rock people had made us go through it. They explained what everything was trying to teach us and how it relates back to God.
The entire Wales experience goes so much deeper then everything I have written above, because God was so involved and just expressed Himself to us as a group and to me individually.
It really would just be too difficult for me to write it all out and be able to make it coherent.

To put it plainly, God was amazing this weekend. He showed Himself to be the God in kitchen, the God on the mountaintop (literally), the God in the rainstorm, the God in the cave, the God in the roaring sea, the God in the freezing tents.

I apologize for the length of time it took me to get back to all of you.

I hope i did an adequate job giving you a glimpse of what happened in Wales. My next blog will be pictures and videos..



  1. I saw the pictures that were on Facebook, the sea and the caves look beautiful, and then I read your camping experience and wince. Can I just say that I am SO VERY PROUD of you. I know that to some, that would be a camping adventure,a rough one, but for you I know how completely outside your box and comfort zone that is for you, and I can only imagine the amount of stretchin that did in you. It sounds both difficult, but exciting to go through a breakthrough so early on in your journey there, I think people underestimate the breakthroughs that occur when you push yourself physically and emotionally and have to rely on God to get you through. Again, I am very proud of you. Thank you so much for the detail explanation of your weekend, it helps to be able to read what you are experiencing!

    - So, did you gag on the beans?
    - I am assuming abseiling is like repelling?
    - I am glad to hear you are journaling!
    - The whole small opening part had me feeling cluasterphobic just reading it, I would probably have been freaking out. Did you have a hard time with that?
    - How about the communal eating out of the middle plate? I have a difficult time seeing you all too eager to do that :)
    Well, at least now we can do the Amazing Race! I love you so much, we pray for you every morning on our way to school. I know God is and will continue to do things throughout this year that will impact you for life! Missing you greatly, but loving that you're following your dream. Have a great day, Mom.

  2. Sounds exhausting!...yes rewarding beyond what words could ever describe. Thank you for the details Aeriole - I feel like I was shivering right beside you, sort of.

    Love you and am so proud of you!

  3. Sounds like a very challenging week! I too would probably have freaked out about the small space of the cave - and just sleeping outside in general!I'm glad you were able to find God in the midst of it all. Communal eating is something we've also faced in Korea - it's a challenge, but also sort of makes me feel closer to the people I'm around:) And luckily I don't have to do it often:) I'm so proud of you, Aeriole. I can see how fully you are embracing everything there.

  4. Wow. What an amazing adventure, for sure! I, too, am appreciating the details, and I felt so cold and shivering just reading it! I am very proud of you!!! Can't wait to see pics and that video!

  5. Answers to Mom's questions:
    1) I did have an "oh, here they come!" episode about half way through the can of beans. I was also the slowest one to eat them, but we all wanted to eat our last bite together. I didn't even look at my last bite, but one of the guys told me it just looked like brown dripping snot... i gagged a little after that though.
    2) Yep, i'm pretty sure its the samething. Controlled decent down a rope.. down the side of a mountain.. trusting fully in the rope.. and a little metal rod.. YIKES!
    3) Yes, I had a bit of a problem during the cave. One thing I noticed about myself though, is i don't outwardly freak out. I kept it in. I don't think anyone would say they thought it was difficult for me, but in my head..i was trying to find anyway to get out of doing it.. knowing there was no way out.
    4) The communal eating=not my favorite. But, it was good to at least get a preview of what my north africa trip will be like!
    Amazing race here we come!!
    Thanks for the prayers! and I miss you all so much!

  6. Wow! What an experience!! Very AMAZING!!