This past week, I went on a retreat with the youth group to Wisła, a mountain town bordering Czech Republic and Austria. It was gorgeous! And so much fun getting to know the teens and fellow interns better on this trip. Plus, I conquered a fear I’d had for a long time: learning to ski.
The first day was ridiculously cold. We left Tomaszów early on a brisk Monday morning, driving about 4 hours toward Wisła. The sun made an appearance as we headed south and by the time we were on the winding path up to our hotel, the skies were bright blue instead of the smoggy gray we’d left behind at home. There was already a decent amount of snow covering the ground and we had a little trouble getting our bus down the sloping driveway but we all made it safe and sound.
I was roomed with Kaitlyn, my roommate, as per usual, and we were lucky. The other girls were housed 5 to a room and one bathroom between them (no thanks!). We went to rent our ski gear and my first impression was, “ok…I can handle this I think.” I had no idea what to expect the next day. That evening we had our introductory meeting, setting ground rules and played a quick get-to-know-you game. We hung out afterwards, chatting or playing cards/board games until lights out.
First full day, we had breakfast and headed over to the slopes. I stuck on my ski boots with a lot of trouble and hated it immediately. The buckles strapped the hard plastic to my ankles and lower shin so tight, I could barely walk. Not to mention, the bottom of the boots were smooth, even with traction soles, so any slick, icy spots on the walk from the parking lot was a little scary. My feet and shins were pretty angry when I got to the bottom of the ski area, and because I had to walk so slowly, most of the group of new skiiers was gone already. I happened to see some people from our group and asked where the other newbies were. It took me a few minutes because I already felt like crying in frustration and pain of these awful shoes, but I found them eventually and reluctantly snapped on my skis.
Getting over to the lift: okay. Going up the lift: fine. Standing at the top: not bad. Trying to move: God awful. I fell over in the first two minutes trying to “make a pizza” with my skis and couldn’t get myself back up. See, I’d made the mistake of keeping my backpack with me for the first time so the extra weight wasn’t helping me at all. After falling my way down the hill, I was pretty frustrated with the whole process but I wanted to try a few more times. The last fall hadn’t been too bad. And I spotted a friend of mine who took the backpack for me. That made all the difference.
Second run, I still fell a lot, but I was able to get up. Crash landing at the bottom became my technique to stop, but at least I was making it down. And slowly, just a little bit, I wanted to keep going. The feeling of actually beginning to understand, through hard-knocks and snow in my face, was exhilarating. I started smiling and by the end of the first day, I had a pretty decent working knowledge of how to make it down the bunny slope without losing a ski or stick when I fell.
The second day was even better, and I managed to get down the bunny slope without falling and crashing to a stop. By the third day, I was ready to tackle a bigger slope and even though I wiped out so, sooo many times, I learned even more about what worked and what didn’t. I was a bit sad by the last day, but I went down the biggest slope almost the whole time. It was so much fun! I even went through a short forest path and didn’t fall down until trying to get back on the regular slope. I was pleasantly surprised to see what a little perseverance can achieve.
In between these days, we had evening meetings to come together for prayer, worship and a lesson. The theme was about making the right choices and how God uses unexpected people and circumstances to accomplish incredible things. We stayed in the first few chapters of Joshua and discussed the ways the Israelites’ experience related to our own lives now. Their fears of entering the Promised Land and mine of skiing lined up pretty nicely. I put faith in the techniques I had been shown and learned just as they were to put their faith in the Lord who’d guided them with the Laws out of a generation of slavery to a generation of a holy nationhood. It takes courage to step out of the comfort zone and embrace the unknown, but the risk has always been worth it: you will learn something either way.
I had a conversation yesterday at church about the experience and the other person said, “Wow, you’re a brave girl!” I suppose, yes. Yes I am.