“Invitational?” I was privileged to be chosen as a guest, but all I heard was two days out of the office to hang out with apprentices!
First-up a strenuous journey from Picton to Anakiwa created a confusing sensation. I was sunburned from my inability to realise I would actually be outside, and at the same time frozen from the sun no longer reaching the forest floor after 3:30 pm. My advice to those who may follow me on this amazing journey - pay strict attention to the recommended gear list.
Travelling from Picton to Anakiwa
Upon arriving at Anakiwa, I quickly realised that it was likely I had more in common with the apprentices than the colleagues I came with. Standing parallel to each other during the pōwhiri gave me a chance to look at each individual; something I wouldn’t dare do if I knew where my phone was. A contented silence fell over both groups as we took in each other, and the vibrant, misty scenery.
BCITO's Outward Bound scholarship is open to apprentices enrolled in a specialist trade aged 18-27. Looking back at me were peers in my age group who had simply chosen a different career path. If I had a trade, perhaps I would be standing on the other side.
A waiata, a hongi, and a hot cup of tea bound two groups as one. Have you ever felt so welcome it feels like you’re talking to someone you’ve known for years? I never expected to feel so instantly connected. Our warm fuzzies were soon cut short with instructions for us “invitationals” to move our gear into the watchhouse. A hot shower and some extra layers were not to be passed up!
We met next at dinner; entering the wooden dining hall humble, and grateful to be cooked for. I scooped myself helpings of dinner before an apprentice politely pointed out the efficiency of dishing up everyone’s tea, and sending the plates down the table. I realised I was only thinking about myself. She reassured me; each watch had to learn the benefits of working together.
Small-talk quickly opened doors to individual worlds. Each apprentice spoke highly of their employer who not only supported them being at Outward Bound, but their individual lifestyle needs too.
With full bellies, and high-spirits we moved through the grounds of Outward Bound by torchlight. We arrived at a single free-standing room mashing the cosiness of a lounge with the intent of a classroom. I realised I wasn’t off the hook yet.
Both apprentice watches intertwined throughout the room. We invitationals stuck together, still adjusting to the uninhibited nature at Anakiwa. Our tight composure swiftly eased once again as games brought out laughter, and shouting! Once the ice-breakers were through, we settled into group discussions about the apprentices' experiences so far.
I can’t quite remember which questions were asked. My task was to listen, and relay back to the room what the apprentices had been through. Being of the same age group made it hard to divorce their words from the emotion it stirred in me. I admired the intensity of their self-reflection. I admired their willingness to share their stories so openly with us. I wondered if I too could own my vulnerability.
Judgement and prejudice have no place at Outward Bound. Not by any book of rules, but by the opportunity each watch has to create the culture they want to spend sixteen days in. Empathy and aroha had flourished long before I had arrived, and will not easily be extinguished.
Each Outward Bound scholarship recipient recognised the privilege of attending. In never shying away from the challenges they faced, they leave Anakiwa anew with a fierce determination to get the most out of every opportunity.
Blake Watch, BCITO Outward Bound Invitational Group 2019, Adriana Milne front and centre.