Like the title? People here are fans of wordplay, so I’ve been trying to step up my game.
One thing I forgot to mention about Santa Fe last night: it’s HIGH UP. Like, 7,500 feet above sea-level high. Yesterday, I could barely unpack without getting dizzy (though lack of sleep might’ve contributed to that too), and today, everyone kept reminding me to stay hydrated because I could get altitude sickness. Also, it’s super hot and sunny. Despite reapplying sunscreen several times throughout the day, I still got pretty tan.
Today I walked across a cable at least twenty-five feet off the ground using the help of a few ropes and a partner. Strapped into a harness held aloft by teaching fellows and mentors, I held onto a white rope with both hands as I shuffled across the cable. At the center, I let go of the rope and grabbed onto another. My partner, a woman about my age named Maria, was balancing on a cable that formed a right angle with my own. We were both nervous–our legs were shaking, so the cables beneath us were shaking–but we both made it to the center. From there, we had to move to another cable, holding onto each other’s wrists for support. That’s when I fell off.
Well, my feet left the cable, at least. Instead of falling, I hovered in the air, held up by my team members below. Maria reached out her hand and pulled me up so we could keep crossing. As I was slowly moving towards the pole at the end of the course, Maria lost her footing and fell, too. I grabbed her, we both found our balance again, and I was finally able to grab the pole, pulling Maria along with me. We both tapped the pole, sat back in our harnesses, and allowed our teammates to lower us to the ground.
If you know me well, you know I hate heights. So much. I used to be afraid to climb to the top of the jungle gym on my elementary school’s playground. But before it was my turn to complete the high ropes course, I got to watch some of the other teaching fellows cross it. Most of them were scared, but they were able to rely on everyone that was supporting them (their partners crossing right along with them, and my coworkers and me as we held the ropes attached to their harnesses). I don’t know Maria well, but she’s a returning teacher that lives in the same building as me. I know her well enough to trust and respect her, so when we had to rely on each other, I never felt unsafe. Of course, the ropes holding me up helped, too.
Normally, I’m not a huge fan of community-building activities. I think it’s fun to work alongside people, but I feel like real bonding is something that takes more than a few hours of games. Maybe the reason I felt different about it this time around was the people I was with and the way the challenges applied to what we’ll be doing this summer. I was paying attention to everyone’s strengths, because I know I’ll have to rely on them over the next few weeks. And I was trying to show everyone that I can bring something to the table too.
This isn’t to say that I’m best friends with everyone in the program yet (and it definitely doesn’t mean I’m ready for my first week of teaching), but I know more about the people I’m sharing this experience with and a bit more about myself. At the end of the day, we had to go around the group and give a few compliments to one other member of our team. Another teaching fellow, Summer, called me well-spoken, insightful, and supportive. I had a hard time accepting the praise (I’m not very comfortable with being complimented in front of a large group), but I appreciated it. I do tend to think of myself as supportive, but I don’t think I’ve been called well-spoken or insightful outside of feedback I’ve received on essays. It was cool to hear that coming from someone I just met.