Saturday, August 13, 2016

Working on the Ropes Course

From the very beginning working to help build a new ropes course has been one of the major goals of this trip, but in the back of my mind, the whole time, has been a nagging question. What can we actually do?  The task seemed well beyond the capabilities of six teenagers and three adults. I knew we were willing but could not imagine that we could provide major help. This last week I learned how wrong I was. 

We only worked three days, but with the leadership, planning and direction of Illie Popescu and Jack Organ, who are the program directors for the Viata's camp, we were able to make major contributions to the effort. And we worked very hard. 

The week before we arrived, a carpenter friend from Gloucester, Zak Smith, put in a week with a Romanian crew partially building three elements. It was these three elements that we worked to finish. 

The first day we split into two groups. One group started on The Wall. It was a large structure, mostly complete. The upper deck needed flooring. Joe and Amy set to work with hammer, saw and nails to cut and fit the planking up above. Meanwhile Allegra and Katie set to work sanding the thirteen foot high wall. That took most of the first day. We sanded until the ribbons of sandpaper wore out and the wood ran out. There were a couple more planks to finish and at least half of the structure unsanded, but we were pleased with the result that first day.  

Meanwhile the other group consisted of Peter, Fr. Tim, Matthew, and Jairen. They had the job of cutting and installing the deck around the log on the King's Finger. Ian went back and forth between teams and often volunteered for errands which involved a lot of climbing up and down the steep hills. 

Over the course of three days we finished the two structures and sanded a third deck. The Wall was completed, deck finished and painted green. The King's Finger was completed and painted with a clear sealer. The Whale Watch plank was also sanded. 

One of the most exhausting, challenging and rewarding tasks was putting staples in the tall trees for elements of the high ropes course. Each tree needs ten staples and the course needs a total of ten trees.  The staples function like steps to help kids climb the trees. 

Joe was the champion at this task. He put in ten staples one day and six the next day. Ian managed one staple, Fr. Tim did four, and Amy did five. All together we put in 26 staples. And the last task on Friday, which I did not witness, was raising an enormous log for the Catwalk on the high course.  

The weather was cool and dry. We began each day with a steep climb to reach the course. My pedometer measured 35 floors climbed each day, and I climbed less than most. We broke for lunch in the early afternoon. Each day we stopped at the mountain spring and each filled at least two large water bottles which we drained each day. We were always tired and often sore after the work. 

So my question was answered.  Six kids and three adults can make a difference, especially with strong leadership, hard work and teamwork. Today we move to the Viata's camp where each American kid will work with a team of Romanians to practice some of the same lessons. 

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