Location: Underway to Barbados
TLDR: An exciting day brimming with leadership and bonding exercises on our short stay within Ile Royale.
Our morning started with night. All of our staff depart at roughly 0700 for reconnaissance of the very scenic island before us. In the days prior, we had been mentally prepared for a competitive challenge course between the watch groups, yet none of us were prepared for what our staff members had coordinated. After a wonderful breakfast, courtesy of our head chef Zoe and her galley crew, we gathered our belongings and made for the nearest dock via our dinghies.
Once ashore, our march through lush and tropical scenery blended with dilapidated cobble buildings took us to the central hub of the island. Along our journey up the steep and rustic path, we encountered our first taste of the prevalent wildlife in the form of bright yellow birds and various monkeys gazing at us amidst the flora. Upon initial arrival at the island’s center, the caravan laid their belongings at a tree and gathered themselves while a group of presumed locals played football/soccer in the adjacent field. Contrary to this group of locals, Ile Royale had a distinctly remote and isolated feeling during our time spent there. Apart from the tourist-oriented locations and pathways, much of the island had a prominent overgrowth of diverse plant life; often, we would see the occasional critter wander through, undeterred from the human presence on the island. Seldom did we find a building that was either untouched by the elements or that actually felt lived in. With the setting established, our prepared activities between breakfast and lunch went as follows: the twenty students were to be divided amongst their respective night watch groups, entailing three groups of six or seven students. They would be given various trials by the staff members in a competitive manner (What I will be calling “Watch Wars”). Ideally, from these trials, the watch group that worked best as a collective unit would be successful. The first of the trials was manufactured and transcribed by Elder “The Pomegranate” Gabe, of which all twenty of us were to find three “artifacts” of varying points from the Argo while playing a rambunctious game of Tag over the span of thirty minutes. The catch to this game of Tag was that the watch groups formed a ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ dynamic regarding who we could tag and be tagged by, further with the main tree acting as a recovery method once tagged. Whichever group was able to find and maintain possession of the hidden artifacts by the game’s end would be given supposed advantages in the following trial. Naturally, this preface was met with great enthusiasm between the students.
Like bilge rats scurrying under the light of an oil lantern, the sheer chaos of twenty non-French-speaking adolescents simultaneously acting as prey and predator alike was a marvelous sight to behold; it was as if the island was handcrafted for the very occasion. The prior mentioned artifacts, consisting of a handbell, a life jacket, and the decapitated head of a CPR dummy, were found swiftly and rapidly danced from the different pairs of hands as individuals were tagged. Ultimately, the victors were watch team one, who upheld the possession of all three artifacts, two of which were held by Peter as he hid under a rock. Functionally, this meant Peter’s experience of the trial was concealing himself under a rock while periodically making eye contact with a tourist passerby, all while eerily holding an eyeless, white, plastic skull. Essentially, if Gollum from ‘Lord of the Rings’ was in ‘Hamlet.’ With a landslide victory, watch team one was the first team to receive their respective clue for the second trial. The trial entailed each group being given four total paper clues indicating distinctive attributes of our staff members and that we were to find them in their location somewhere on the island. Each time a staff member was found, the watch team would complete a challenge posed by the said staff member and be given their next clue. The three challenges presented to the watch groups were all oriented around team-building exercises, and all coincidentally focused on the prospect of not touching the ground in differing methods. The methods for these exercises included the coordinated carrying of team members across a certain distance, having to flip a carpet without any team member touching the grass, and finally forming and traversing a path of make-shift “stepping stones,” requiring the entire team to cross a distance without touching the ground. Succinctly put, the staff poured their hearts into the effort of making this experience enjoyable, and we’re all very appreciative of them for it. The advantage that watch team one received paid off as, once again, they were the champions of the second trial as well, finishing first by roughly fifteen minutes. Their triumph stemmed from their knowledge of our medic Claire’s position prior, given that she was certainly the most hidden between staff members.
Following a phenomenal two-hour period ashore, our belongings were retrieved, and we made our way back to Argo posthaste for a delicious lunch prepared by the Brit Boys, Ben and Freddie. With a swift cleanup process, once again, we departed for the island, however, as a free period for students and staff alike. For most of us, our free time was predominantly spent in the single cafe the island offered, making use of the limited amenities presented while others continued their exploration of the island. Something we all found humorous about this cafe was the internally-lit glass display in the indoor’s center, filled with a quaint supply of strictly Mars bars behind a locked glass door. This was the only non-beverages on hand at the time of our stay and required an employee to unlock every time someone desired a four-euro Mars bar.
Despite said limited accommodations, the collective of us were grateful for a shaded seating area in which many made calls and accessed other cellular functions before our departure. Side note to the reader, much congratulations to both Zoe and Elene for doing their first flat-ground backflips on the grass during free time via ‘Beau’s Academy for Backflipping’ (patent pending).
Around sunset, the crew made their way back to the dock to be taken to the Argo by staff, giving somber goodbyes to wonderful and compacted memories. We enjoyed a sensational dinner, once again courtesy of the galley crew, and raised anchor bound for Barbados.