It was 8th grade discovery week in Altai. Although it was just the beginning of September, it was pretty chilly. Not even a single sign of the sun was seen overhead. The fresh Siberian wind howled around us. Graceful drops of rain hung in the air.
One of the activities that waited for us in Altai was rafting. It was the activity that I was most excited to do.
As we were nearing the other rafts I felt the excitement in the air. As we got even closer I saw the first person jump into the freezing river. It was Leo, the Swedish cold blood. He was the first to dive of the raft and into the river. As we neared the circle of boats, I saw more people jump into the Siberian water. I looked over our raft and saw a few excited faces and a few scared and hesitant faces. Hendrick was the first to go into the freezing water. He turned around to face Mr.Treinen and asked; “Can I go in?” Mr.Treinen simply nodded. Hendrick threw his paddle down into the raft and jumped face first into the cold water. I wanted to go in too, but hesitated a moment longer as I knew the water was freezing.I am used to either warm water or semi-cold, but this water was mountain glacial water which meant it was very cold. I saw Hendrick swim towards another raft, grab Iliana by her life jacket collar and forcefully swing her into the glacial Siberian water. A loud scream left her mouth and echoed around the river. In an instant the scream was engulfed by the rushing river as her head went under the water. I looked around. And finally saw my prey. Justin was on the other raft. I threw my paddle into the raft filled with determination and excitement and I dove head first into the water. Midair I realized my horrible mistake. Too late.
I hit the water with a big splash of cold water. Pain shot through me as fast as a bullet. The water was numbing. I felt my toes slowly turn numb, this was not a good sign. As I hit the water I could feel a small layer of frost form around me. As I hit the water I licked my lips, they were freezing cold. Again, not a good sign. First my toes, then it slowly went up my thighs then my hips until the cold reached the top of my head. The cold rattled my teeth inside my frozen skull.The cold penetrated my body like tiny ice daggers. It felt like someone stabbed me with a chilled iron knife straight into the heart. Like a freezing knife stabbed at me from the inside and tore its way out.The cold slowly froze me from the outward inward and then inward outward. And just when I thought I could not stand it, the water got even colder! It was so cold it knocked my breath out. The icy water shuddered through my veins, ripping through my body. All this happened in an instant.
I looked around and saw Justin again. I painfully swam toward Justin's raft. As I neared, Justin saw me and ran to the other end of the raft. I swam around to get to him. As I tried to climb onto the raft and get to him, I ignored the searing cold pain in me and focused only on him. As I reached for him, he suddenly lifted up his paddle and baseball style swatted at my head in an attempt to get me off him. And when I say baseball style ,I mean baseball style. Justin plays CEESA softball and he knows how to hit. I felt a ringing in my ears as his paddle struck my helmet. Luckily I was wearing a helmet. My whole head started to vibrate with the force of the hit. Then he hit me again on the top of my helmet. With my head vibrating and my ears ringing with the aftershock of the hit, I decided to give up. Half frozen, half numb I swam towards my raft.
As I was swimming toward my bright yellow raft I felt something slip from my feet. I turned around and saw one of my water shoes came loose and fall from my foot. The current from the river was pretty strong and started pulling my shoe away from me, along with the current. I screamed; “My shoe fell off! Someone grab it!” I saw Leo turn around and reach into the water for my shoe. When I saw him take it and put it into his raft, I was relieved. We made eye contact and I nodded my thanks. I was too cold to speak, too cold to even make a sound. I swam back toward my raft. I would get the shoe back later. As I neared the raft I tried to pull myself up into the raft. My fingers and hands were so numb I could barely hold the side of the raft. As I tried to scramble up onto the raft my hands failed me and I fell back into the glacial water. At last Mr. Treinen came up to me and pulled me into the raft. He grabbed me by my lifejacket and swung me into the raft. I was freezing. My body was enclosed in a layer of frost that froze me to the bottom of my veins but there was still a glimmer excitement that gave back a little more warmth. Sure, I was soaked and shoeless, but I survived the piercing cold. To celebrate my survival, I grabbed a paddle and started paddling like a maniac. That was the only way to warm up my body. Our raft was once again propelled to the front of the raging battlefield.
Once I was warm enough, I turned around to talk to Hendrick but he was nowhere to be seen. He must have jumped ship. I looked around and saw him in another raft, the raft I had just left. Then in one quick motion he grabbed something and quickly dove into the river. I saw him swim toward our raft with my shoe in one of his hands. I was happy that I would get it back and that it did not get lost. As he neared our raft he threw the shoe into the raft and tried to pull himself up. Unfortunately, it did not work as planned. His hands slipped on the side of the raft and he fell back into the river. Thankful that I got my shoe back, I came up to him and pulled him into our raft. He gave me my shoe and I put it back on. I thanked him and we went off again.
I really enjoyed rafting it was so much fun. It fulfilled all my expectations, and in addition it was way more awesome then I could imagine. Being there with my schoolmates, great teachers, in a wonderful nature, made all this rafting a fantastic experience.
And what's more, I overcame myself. At first I was scared to go into the cold water. But sometimes it is good to go out of your comfort zone and try new things. I am used to either warm water or semi-cold, but this water was mountain glacial water which meant it was very cold. I overcame my fear and jumped in. I went out of my comfort zone and because I did that, I experienced something totally new and exciting. I will remember this moment for a long time in my life.