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The Shivering Depths
The hot, yet pleasurable instant noodles still hadn’t set in my stomach fully but I wasn’t really uncomfortable. On a cold, gloomy day like this, the hot noodles sitting in my stomach really helped me keep warm, for now. The noodles felt as if little snakes were inside my stomach crawling around and tickling me, which then gave me goosebumps. We finally got to dessert towards the end of lunch and I stocked up. I thought “If I am gonna jump into just above freezing water, then I might as well treat myself to something tasty and enjoy the moment while it lasts.”
Then my stomach felt very unsettled. It felt as if I were a human punching bag and Muhammed Ali came in with the blowing punch. I walked towards the bathrooms in a slouched manner as if I were the hunchback of Notre Dame. All I could think about was being able to go the bathroom. Then I enter the bathroom, and I thought it couldn’t get worse. Walls leaky with some sort of liquid, could have been pee for all I know and the floors were viscous, really sticky, like syrup on pancakes and then the worst for last. The toilet looks as if King Kong grabbed a normal toilet and shoved it into the ground, so all that was left was a hole and an outer rim. It was absolutely nasty. I was midway through going to the bathroom, when suddenly -- FLICKER. The lights go out, and I sit in absolute darkness. My palms start getting sweaty and knees get weak. They feel like spaghetti. I finish my business as fast as possible and burst out the squeaky, practically unhinged door and act casual about the fact that the darkness freaked me out.
I trot down the uneven steps, hoping not to sprain my ankle and group up with the rest of the people heading towards the rafts. We arrive at the rocky, uneven surface, just before the river continues eastwards. The Russian raft guides start lecturing us about something to do with rules about when we jump into the water or something like that. The problem is I tune it out as all I could think about are the waves washing up onto shore, and imagining the temperature of that water. It felt as if I was going into deep sleep until I am snapped awake by a loud, raspy voice, it was Mr Treinen informing us which boat was the dry boat and which were the splash boats. I don’t think I ever had a more difficult decision in my life. I peer pressured myself into going on a splash boat. I beat myself up and forced myself to do it. I thought “I have the opportunity, I need to take advantage of it, I need to take the chances I receive and use them”. So I did go on the splash raft and oh boy was it something.
As I sit on the white water raft in the middle of Altai, surrounded by fellow grade 8 classmates on this week long school trip. I try to enjoy this day but all I could focus on at that moment was my warm breath hitting the cold, brisk air, looking as if I was smoking. We were cruising down this spectacularly turquoise river through Siberian mountains and all I could think about is whether jumping into the musty looking, yet fresh river, would be the smartest choice I would make today.
I wasn’t even in the river and I was already shivering on this chilly, gloomy day. So what would it feel like in the river? The temperature was supposedly just above freezing, and all I am wearing is an ill-fitted pair of wetsuit pants and a raincoat that seems like it would be two sizes too large. I tell myself and encourage myself that I should jump in because this is my one and only chance to jump into frigid, teeth chattering, hypothermia laced river was today and only today.
I thought, “I may not have many other opportunities to get an experience like this”. I decided to force myself to jump into this river and that I would not get out of this boat before I did so.
Before I can think much longer, I here a massive SPLASH, and my head snaps up like a corkscrew, and all I make out before the thing disappears beneath the surface of the river is blonde hair and pale skin. I immediately know it is my time to join that person.
I prepare myself mentally and physically for the frigid cold water. I leap off the raft with a small run, leaping with my left foot and the moment my left foot lifts off the raft I know it is too late to turn back and I brace myself for the water.
I hit the brisk, fresh water with a sudden THUD. The moment my body is encompassed with water, my skin tightens and attempts to keep me warm from this frigid water. My arms and legs feel as if they were grapes left out to dry into raisins. For the most enduring three seconds of needle piercing pain, all I could do was bob about the tiny waves that continuously hit my face. After I regained control of my spindly unconscious limbs, I paddled for dear life and hope I can get to the neighbouring raft before my fingernails turn into frosty icicles. I paddled and paddled, one arm after another, left, right, left, right and after what felt like an eternity I abruptly thump into an object, it is a raft. Suddenly I am grabbed by the life jacket and pulled up onto the raft. I flop onto the raft like a slippery, dead fish and finally I am able to get up and sit down, I then attempt to warm up by internal body heat by rubbing my clammy, wet hands together. I then murmured “Finally, I am out of that freezing cold — SLAM.
It seems as if this brutally, teeth chattering water wanted to say hello again, even though I made it clear I was leaving. I then push with much of my remaining force to break the surface of the river water and the only face I can see is that of Anna Mack’s. I can hear her rolling on the raft floor laughing her butt off, while I sit in this FRIGID GLACIER WATER. All I can remember next is being lifted onto the damp raft floor which is covered by oars, which really doesn’t help my landing be a comfortable one, and think to myself
“This may not have been my favorite experience of them all, but I tried something new and attempted to enjoy something new this day”.