I lie in my giant bed, shivering slightly because there’s no electricity in the entire camp, which means that the heater is not working. I snuggle deeper into my bed to keep myself warm, and inhale the scent of dust and sweat that has tainted the air in our cabin. My roommate is already snoring, so I decide to reflect on an experience I’d had that day, where I was much, much more cold.
Our raft glided along the smooth river, nearing the cluster of boats not too far from us. I stopped
paddling for a moment to pay attention to the breathtaking nature around me: the great forests looming above me, full of creatures enjoying the sunny day; the giant cliff-like rocks sticking out of river, like tiny replicas of the glorious cliffs visible behind the woodlands; and the vast mountains, the menacing sources of the fresh water we were sailing on. A distant yell brought my attention back to the people around me, and I continued paddling.
“Boom, boat, get out of the way” my math teacher chanted, trying to give us a steady rhythm to paddle in. As our bright red raft finally caught up the the other ones, the eighth graders began their attack. A group of my classmates tried to jump from their raft to the neighbouring one, roaring war cries like wild animals. Of course, most of them didn’t make it to the next boat, and they ended up in the water.
Among all noise and splashing water, I failed to notice my dear friend Melanie diving into the river. Slowly, she swam in the Siberian water, her pink hair floating behind her, a single goal in her mind and a smug look on her face. Finally, she arrived at my raft and her intentions became clear. She grabbed me from my life vest and tried to pull me in. For a moment, I felt terrified and tried desperately to hold on to the side of the boat. But then, I remembered other people’s stories about how much fun they had while rafting and how the best part of it was jumping into the river. So far, the trip had seemed ridiculous to me. Honestly, the only reason I was on this trip was because my mom made me go. Besides that, I hadn’t enjoyed the first half of it. I had been cold, wet, exhausted, annoyed, and just bored. Then again, this did look promising, so I decided to give it a try and let go of the raft.
As my body hit the water, the lighting behind my closed eyes changed from a yellowish white to bright blue, and my nose filled with icy coldness, starting flames in my head, making my insides burn. I tried to turn around in the water to ease the pain, and almost kicked Melanie.
That was probably the moment she realized the flaw in her plan: when pulling me in, I had fallen on top of her, and she was still under me. As we both struggled upwards, she finally managed to escape from under my back and float to the surface, me arriving soon after.
I took a deep breath of Altai air, and suddenly burst out laughing. Despite the cold, I felt amazing. It was probably one of the first times I actually had fun on the trip.
Trying to stay afloat, I started doggy paddling towards the nearest boat, my oversized helmet blocking my vision slightly. I grabbed onto the only solid thing I could see from under the sunflower colored helmet. Luckily, it was a raft, not a rock, but when I grabbed the rope that was attached to the side of it, a turquoise wave of water tried to pull me away from it. Desperately trying to hold on, I burned my hands on the rope, the coldness of everything only making it worse.
Then, for the second time that day, someone grabbed me from my life vest, but this time it wasn’t one of my friends; it was our local tour guide, who pulled me back into our raft, and dropped me on top of a bunch of paddles and Melanie, who was laughing hysterically. Weirdly, I was grateful. Her pulling me into the water had made me wet and cold, but it had also made me do something new, something that I had actually enjoyed, and I was happy.
Finally out of the water, I took a minute just to breathe. My body was soaked, my hair was stuck to my face and helmet, and my limbs were still in slight shock from the frigid water. My fingers and toes weren’t cold– they were icecubes, the wool socks stuck to my feet were not helping at all.
Still, as I tucked my hands under my life vest to restore the warmth that once filled them, I changed my mind and decided that eighth grade did in fact have the best trip in middle school.