Dear Boundless Families:
On Tuesday night I encountered the older outdoor cohort in their native habitat, so ideal for adolescent primates – Lac Robinson on the Dumoine River in Quebec (google it), a piece of paradise that greeted the kids with one of the nicest rainbows they’d ever seen. Which, of course, meant that they had just weathered a storm
It was 5:00pm and they were rolling into the campsite. Usually groups come in around 3:00pm, but the intrepid teen warriors had been besieged by a stiff headwind. On a 15km flat-water stretch, it’s no picnic.
They, like the younger cohort, were hit by cold, rain and brief moments of sunshine throughout. In what has become a summer that has never really showed up, I was expecting the worst.
I worried for nothing. They were so upbeat it shocked me and made me yearn to be young again. These teens are caloric processing marvels of nature.
Jack made a beeline to the thunder-box immediately upon arrival – nature wouldn’t and couldn’t wait. He emerged a few moments later with a grin of relief on his face, wearing only a tiny pair of shorts and sporting about 50 mosquito bites.
“Jack”, I snickered, “are you using your body as a homeless shelter for the poor and impoverished mosquitos?”
He’s grimacing from the itchy mosquito toxin, so would have none of my jibe.
“Have you considered actually wearing some clothes?”
He grins, and would have none of that suggestion either. My theory is that this trip is providing some profound sense of emancipation for Jack. His spirit is being unshackled. Who needs clothes? This spot, so elemental and rugged and pure, is invading his soul, mosquitos notwithstanding.
That older crew is pure gold. Not one conflict. I am not making this up. The whole event feels like a prolonged joyous party for that tribe. They devour obstacles in their path. I joined them during their descent of Red Pine Rapids and got to see the highly calibrated machine in action.
While I never encountered the younger crew, who were one full day upstream, Brett, their trip leader, called in last night and confirmed they completed the river in tact, crossing the mighty Ottawa River to arrive, exhausted and virtuous, at their last campsite in Driftwood Provincial Park.
“The River was good to us!” Brett proudly declared.
That group, I am thrilled to say, found its footing around day 5, and has never looked back. They had to overcome some hurdles. Three of their dozen were gone by day 4 – one to extreme homesickness, one to pre-existing medical matters and the last because, to put it candidly, he behaved like a dick.
The remaining nine soon felt light as a feather, and have experienced something profound.
Next I’ll turn my attention to English. I haven’t visited them very much at all – no need for this cohort is on auto-drive, but I do have a story to tell.
Four nights ago I get a call at 10:45pm. An english student walked out of his bedroom and has been missing for 5 minutes. A solid kid, I shrugged it off as anomalous and asked the team to call me in a few minutes if the youngling has still not been found.
The call comes ten minutes later.
I drive over to the Ranch and meet up with Samantha, who’s day job is teaching your kids, and on this night coordinated our emergency response.
By the time I arrive, now 20 minutes since we last saw the lad, we have a team of 8 staff searching. Five minutes later that grows to 14. Forests trails are scoured, canoes counted, waterfronts inspected, roads driven. Other students are interviewed.
At the 45 minute mark, I am overcome by a feeling a dread. My saliva is gone. I am keeping calm. My analytic brain is firing on all cylinders. Stay focussed! When do I call the OPP? A Province wide Amber Alert would be issued.
And then my phone pings with the most relieving text I have ever received. The young man has been found.
In the bedroom next to his. He’s playing cards with 3 of his buddies.
Half the staff team feel like utter fools. But the emotion of relief masks this shame to a large extent. The first giggles can be heard among us.
Yes, we will analyse the obvious conclusions to the flaw in our risk management plan. Like, how about looking under our noses before half the community panics!
I knock sheepishly on the student’s door. He is sitting back in his bed, his three roommates huddled around him. All are waiting for the axe to fall.
I look at the boy and ask if I can sit beside him on his bed. He cautiously agrees. I ask, politely,
“I know we’ve all been through a moment. Would it be possible if I could, respectfully, beat on you?”
His roommates light up to the quip instantly, but the student himself is not so sure.
I add, “Okay, if I can’t beat on you, how about a hug?”. He agrees with a palpable sense of relief. And in the moment of our hug, I quietly whisper to him,
“Can you please never do that again? We were all totally freaked out.” He completely empathizes with the pain we have just been through. He promises. I believe him. And everyone moves on.
That English cohort is a wonder to behold. Boundless has utterly ruined that group from ever wanting to learn English in a mainstream classroom again.
As to Philosophy, I had a brief visit yesterday.
Ashley, as has now become her wont, shoves me hard as soon as I enter the Lodge. Who knew that this 17 year old lovely young woman would have a penchant for locker room behaviour.
I warn her that I am calling the Father’s Aid Society.
She dons a mock frown, and gives me a warm and public hug, and I emerge with a spring in my step, feeling so welcomed into Ashley’s world that includes a group who may just be my favourite in Boundless history.
It is no accident. They are being taught by the Teen Whisperer himself, our beloved Tony and his band of merry teachers.
He and the team grabbed the nearest school bus and left the property yesterday to blow off some steam. They encountered an “old couple”, to quote the master himself, who were spying on the group, jaws dropped. They quickly approached Tony when the group was ready and remarked,
“Good luck with your Flock”.
In just two days, you will get to see all these amazing young people once again. I do hope that you have been enjoying your time apart and that your reunions will be sweet.