A few weekends ago, my language partner invited me and Theresa to go to a retreat. I was super excited because I love retreats in the United States, and I hadn’t had many opportunites to experience the Catholic religion here besides attending mass. However, there were definitely some differences between the ones I have experienced in the U.S. and this one. I can sum up the entire retreat with one picture… observe the look on my face:
Now, imagine me saying, “You want me to do WHAT?”
We were asked to do some pretty crazy stuff, and this was pretty much our reaction the entire time. Here are some of the highlights:
At every retreat there are games, but the ones at this one really demonstrated the difference between how close the people in this culture are compared to the large personal space bubbles people in the United States have. For one of the games, we had to stand in a circle passing a piece of paper around with our mouths. It was certainly an interesting way to say hello and get to know each other.
In another game we were forced to get into a circle train, holding onto the shoulders of the person in front of us. We then marched to a song which involved some stomping and side-to-side/front-to-back hip action… Everytime we finished one round, we had to move closer and put our hands on the shoulder of the 2nd person in front of us, and then the third, etc., until our circle was so small that we were all sitting on each other’s laps. …Until the whole thing collapsed (which I think was my fault).
We also had to make ridiculous dolls/people figures that we were forced to carry with us as part of our individual teams everywhere we went during the retreat. This was my team’s: (They named her “Iowa” because of me 🙂 )
That night we had a campfire on the beach and sang songs and danced. When we went to bed, instead of sleeping on cots like at retreats in the U.S., the building had hooks on the walls where we hung our hammocks.
The next morning, we had to wake up for 6:00 A.M. morning exercise. I was expecting things like jumping jacks and other easy exercises that wouldn’t cause me to break a sweat. That didn’t happen. We did 100 squats and some lunges and Zumba.
During that day, the teams did a sort of relay race against eachother where we had to go to different sessions and complete obstacles. First we did an Easter Egg hunt and found 2 eggs painted with our team color. These eggs were raw and we had to carry them with us for the rest of the obstacles without breaking them. Next my team had to solve a riddle (which is even harder when you try to do it in your 2nd language). After completing that, we went to a craft station where we had to create a poster describing our team:
Then we had to go to a water balloon station. Two members of the team stood against a wall and the other two had to say something they didn’t like about one of them before throwing a balloon at them. (mine was, “You take too fast for me to understand.”)
Then I was blind folded and carrying a teammate on my back while she directed me around safety cones and I held a spoon with a lime on it in my mouth… After that we switched roles and she was blind folded and had to “wheel barrow” around cones while I gave dirrections. This was pretty rough due to my limited vocabulary and lack of understanding…
Finally, to finish, we had to complete an obstacle on the beach. We had to roll around on the shore where the waves come in until we were soaking wet and covered in sand, army crawl under some string, crawl through a row of hula hoops, roll a coconut to another area with our head, put our head on a bat and spin around, then lay on the sand with the whole team next to eachother and steamroll over eachother (And I’m still holding a raw egg).
In between doing all these crazy things, we also listened to a lot of talks and ate. The theme of the retreat was faith, service, and gifts. To my suprise, I actually was able to get a few things out of the talks and activities, and it ended up being a nice, spiritually refreshing weekend. Usually during the weekends, Theresa and I have gone on group excursions or independent traveling trips, but being at this retreat hearing nothing but Spanish definitely was beneficial for us, and I think it may have even been the turning point for me when I started to understand Spanish better. At the end of it, I even plucked up the courage to present my team’s poster that we made to everyone else. I’m sure I made plenty of mistakes speaking, but it felt like a big accomplishment for me to step up and do that:
Overall the retreat was an extremely memorable experience, if nothing else. And I’m so thankful that I went because that’s where I made all my local friends. Everyone there was really accepting of us and included us in everything. It was cool to be able to connect on the basis of our common faith. And it turned that all the crazy stuff we did had a purpose in the end.
And just for fun, here’s some embarrassing photos of Theresa: