Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Good, the Wet, and the Ugly Tent

Looking back at previous entries, I realize that my blog posts tend to focus on the negative.  

I'm usually a moderately positive person, but it's so much more fun to write (and, I'm assuming, to read), about the occasional misfortunes that occur in a foreign land than the everyday successes.  So, when describing the happenings of Activity Week, I choose to forego lengthy descriptions of beautiful scenery.  I will not elaborate on the life lessons learned or the relationships formed.  Instead, I'd like you to meet the tent that Christina, a fellow staff member, and I shared during out week-long sojourn into the Himalayas:

Believe it or not, this was a brand new tent that Christina and I had the privilege of testing out for the outdoor education center.  For most of the week, the tent was a nuisance at best.  But on the last night, in the rain, it became a downright enemy.  

The following account chronicles that fateful night in a godforsaken structural nightmare. 

 4:00- Arrive at “camp,” what we call the weedy patch of uneven land on which we set up our “tent.”  Frantically, in the rain.

4:15- Drag our muddy packs into the tent, set them in the middle (presumably, the driest) area.  Promptly move them onto our sleeping mats (aka, life rafts) to avoid the puddle forming between our two bodies.

4:22- Stop staring around in shock and terror and begin to laugh.  A lot.

4:25- Detect random orange phantom just outside our tent, shuffling its way to front flap.  Assume the phantom is digging a trench/moat.  Still not sure.

4:26- Begin to bail water out of tent.

4:30- Break out the emergency chocolate.  Discover that Cadbury fruit ‘n nut bars contain "apricot kernels."  Ponder what this means.

4:35- Rain appears to let up.

4:36- Rain resumes.

4:40- Conduct interview with Christina to capture her pure, unadulterated hatred toward the tent.
**see below for full transcript of tent interview**

4:50- Chai is served.  Desperately shove our mugs outside the tent flap, thus surprising, and almost wounding, the man with the teapot.  We are unashamed.

4:51- Begin to zip up tent, but catch a glimpse of a cookie tray.  Mutter “snacks?” under my breath, as it may be a mirage, but Christina overhears and thrusts bowl outside of flap.  Given some snacks that smell of sulfur, along with an uneven amount of cookies.  Is this a cruel social experiment?

4:55- Christina decides it’s time to open the umbrella –inside the tent.  We are not concerned about bad luck; things cannot get worse.

5:00- Things get worse.  Must venture outside to relieve ourselves, within view of camp. 

5:15- Return to camp and have soup.  Spirits are lifted, bladders are light.  Discuss what shape, if any, best describes our tent.

5:30- Return to tent.  Realize zipper is broken as Owen points out some ominous rain clouds to students.

5:35- Zipper tentatively fixed.

5:45- Owen delivers object to raise pole in our tent.  Unsure whether extreme happiness is a result of object’s success or fumes emanating from object.  Object is a kerosene tank.  Question safety of kerosene tank while Owen goes MacGyver on our tent.

6:00- After psychologically-induced headaches and hallucinations, Christina changes out kerosene tank for drinking mug.  She sacrifices her own.

6:30- Owen finishes pimping out our tent.  Not pimping in our tent (just to clarify).

6:31- Storm appears.  So does Owen.

6:40- Dinner appears.  Maggi.

6:50- “Sweeties” appear.  Are they coated in rum?  Should we be concerned?  Eat sweeties.

7:00- Question whether it’s too early to go to sleep.

7:17- Owen declares tent an official geometric shape.

7:18- Guide asks if anyone in tent wants hot chocolate.  Ask for two mugs; one mug is supporting our very lives.  Hot chocolate ETA: 20 minutes.  Depressed, Christina begins to slumber.

8:15- Hot chocolate arrives.  Tastes like warm powdered milk.  Owen departs.  Realize I’ve been sitting in water for the past hour.  Change into shorts and two pairs of wool socks.  Bedtime.


With Christina Gittings, amateur tent expert

Q: If you could sum up your total tenting experience in 3 words, what would they be?
A: Widens eyes at the depth of the question.  Droopy.  Makes guttural noise.  Wet.  At a loss for words as she looks around.  Flatbutt.

Q: In your mind what are the primary aims/purposes of a week-long trekking tent?
A: It should store goods and people in a dry and comfortable space. 

Q: And did this tent meet those aims?
A: It stored people and goods.  Break for laughter.  It’s like I can’t look anywhere without being disgusted by this thing!  Break for tent repair.

Q: Do you think this tent is an introvert or an extrovert?
A: I would say an introvert all the way.  When I ask it all of my questions (Why don’t you keep me dry?  What shape are you supposed to be?  Why is the bottom absorbing moisture?) it just doesn’t respond.  I’ve also noticed it likes to keep things on the inside rather than on the outside.

Q: What is the best feature of this tent?
A: Just off the cuff, I would say the best feature is the tent peg you found at the campsite that didn’t actually belong to the tent.  It was much sturdier than the original pegs. 
Best feature when raining: the everpresent misting effect.
Best feature when dry: its ability to create condensation when there is none!
Best feature when cold: the way the inner net sags, like a pseudo-blanket.

Q: What is the worst feature of this tent?  Choose wisely.
A: The pole.  There’s rubber on one end, which initially makes it seem really hardcore.  But it’s not long enough and it doesn’t go in the middle of the tent.  Maybe this isn’t the worst feature, but it’s definitely the most puzzling.

Q: Would you wish for your worst enemy to stay in this tent?
A: Maybe on a dry night.  On a rainy night, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

rain, urine, tears... it's all the same in the wild.
an expression of terror mixed with relief

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