I opened my eyes, I could hear the laughter and giggling of my friends in the background:
Continuously repeating as if the laughter was trying to consume me. The laughter was loud and kept getting louder, I turned around and open my eyes. My sight was very blurry and then I realized my face was an inch away from my friends. Then I screamed out:
It felt as if the life was scared out of me. I even nearly fell out of my seat, I could hear the laughter continue. My eyes were open but my body kept sleeping. It was as if half my brain was paranoid and the other was just dead. I opened my eyes, was hit by a beam of sunlight and I quickly closed my eyes again turning my face to the other direction. I tried once more and there was no ray of light …. so I opened my eyes with caution. My sight was blurry and I was quite skeptical about waking up from my deep slumber but my eyesight getting better over time. When my eyes were finally back to normal, I turned to my friends who were in the seats next to me. They were both grinning at me. I looked up and observed the ceiling and realized I was on a plane off to Siberia, Altai. I stood up and looked around. I could see my whole grade waking up, it almost looked like they were all zombies with no emotions. My grade and I from the Anglo-American School of Moscow were on grade 8 Discovery Week. This was the first school trip we went on that took a tremendous amount of traveling time: a 4-hour flight and a 1.5-hour bus drive. I myself was very skeptical about the amount of sleep I would get during the flight.
When arriving in Altai — in the morning — we only had 30 minutes of sleep on the plane (or at least I did). We did not get any more sleep from that point on: as soon as we arrived we started with the first activity. We were going to visit an old Altai museum. The trip to this museum was mainly for us to have fun and experience the full feeling of Altai: the museum was based on 500-year-old Altai traditions: strange and very new to me and I was a bit skeptical. In the museum, there was a man who sang for us. He sang a 500-year-old traditional Altai song. His singing was unusual and was called ‘throat singing’. He was making all kinds of throat sounds like low pitched and high pitched sounds. The sounds coming from his throat were something like a roar and a moan combined. Almost like a wild wolf with a sore throat in the forest crying to the moon. It was one of the most wonderful, strange and exotic sounds I ever heard in my life. After the activities provided by the museum, we went back to our camp. We had lunch and the food was delicious. I could even hear my friends in the back of the dining hall talking to each other about how mouthwatering it was. After lunch, we had 2 hours of free time, to socialize and play card games. Then we started with the most relaxing activity ever: we had ‘banja’. I had no idea what ‘banja’ was until I got there. It was a giant sauna! It was extremely relaxing and the best moment of Altai. I could feel the sweat running down my skin which was the best feeling ever and filled my body with joy. After 5 minutes of ‘banja’, you would leave and pour ice cold water onto yourself and then go back in. When I and my friend did that I could see the steam coming from us both like thick white cotton. Banja was great fun and everybody enjoyed. All I could hear afterward was:
“I can't wait until tomorrow …. because instead of pouring ice water on ourselves I am going to go into the river which is glacier water from the mountains.” The river was located right next to our camp and every day I looked at its beauty and cherished it. The river was peculiar and out of the ordinary because the blue and green shades made a unique sight, which was pleasant to look at.
After Banja, we went to our, cabins and went to sleep. I hardly got any sleep again because the beds were as hard as bricks.
On the second day, we went rafting. It was going to be horribly fun and a team building experience. The water was super cold because it was melted glacier ice. Therefore, just in case I wore something along with my swimsuit to keep me warm. When we finally arrived my whole grade, including me, put on a wetsuit and a life jacket. The wetsuit was only for the under part of your body, mine was still wet which made it even colder than it already was. It felt as if thousands of little-frozen spiders were crawling up my legs all the way up to my hips and I was very hesitant to go further. My life jacket, on the other hand, was warm and felt like heaven. The people working at the rafting business said my life jacket was put on the radiator a day ago, which destroyed my imagination of heaven being close. When it was time to get into the raft, I could feel the cold air coming off the water, the cold air was consuming me and it was like a cold-hearted ghost gave me a giant dead and soul-taking hug.
We were about a quarter into the ride when I heard the raft guide say that, at this point of the river, we were allowed to jump into the water. We were about to go under a bridge when I saw my friends jump in. I was drowning in my thoughts, a million thoughts swarming through my head like bees, asking me should I do this, should I hurt myself just to feel the feeling of pride, or should I just not jump. I could feel the pressure of needing to jump in. Suddenly, my legs were in the air... and so was I. I guess I made my decision, which was the worst decision ever. First, my legs hit the water and then my body — all the way up to my head. The water felt like millions of bullet ants biting into my skin. Then the pain hit my head and this felt like multiple shark teeth biting into me, leaving me unable to move. It was a strange but very powerful experience and it made me realize and respect all working parts of my body. My hands became numb. I thought my fingers were going to fall off because they became blue and the numbness spread just like a disease all the way down to my feet. I was struggling — as if I wanted to grab the water and push it behind me — making me move to the raft slowly. When I reached the raft, I grabbed the rope and felt the numbness move also to my head. I could hear people quietly call my name. It became quieter by the second, so it had to be my ears translating their shouting into soft whispering. My eyesight became blurry. I looked up and it felt — as if the bridge I was under — kept coming closer and closer until a firm hand grabbed my life jacket. All I could say was: “Finally, … I am saved”. Someone gave me his hand and I grabbed it. I looked up, my eyesight returns to normal. I saw a ginger-haired dude pull me up: it was Mr. Mackenzie. He pulled me into the boat like a drowning whale. When I was finally seated, I heard the raft guide shout aloud:
Everybody started paddling, except me. I was looking straight into the middle of nowhere, waiting for the warmth, I left behind to come back to my freezing body. All I could think of was the warmth, I felt the day before in the Banja. Then, it finally hit me: My soul, which I lost when I jumped in, came back. The energy of my soul was giving me warmth. I started to paddle too: I thought it was a way of making myself warm again. Suddenly, my mouth started going up and down slowly going faster by the minute. It was the last bit of Jack Frost leaving my body. All I could say to myself was: I hope I’ll never have to live through this again. With a frown on my face and my body getting colder because of the wind, I thought the day could never get worse. Then I touched the person behind me — shoulder to shoulder I could feel the energy going from his body to mine — it felt like little electric bolts creeping through my body. I kept on moving closer to the boy behind me until I was nearly on top of him. Those electric bolts felt like lava pouring down my back. When we finally arrived at camp, there was a bonfire. When I saw that fiercely, orange-red hot heated fire, it felt like seeing baby Jesus. Or it felt like someone just saved my life and that someone up above, let me live to die another day.