So, it was another time of the year for the Company I work for to go on weekend away. I was informed that the Belfast teams are usually attending the activity, but later, they extended it to the Dublin teams.
I saw the mail from our leadership team that we are to pick among some activities of our choice, but the most popular activities were Kayaking and Bush-craft.
I knew what Bushcraft was, my grandfather was a farmer and I used to follow him to his farm when I was little, harvesting Cocoa, Cola nut, Palm nuts etc. Sometimes we would go hunting, he had traps to catch bush animals like antelope, hyena, fox, deer stag etc. His trap didn’t always catch something, but once it did, it would be happy days at home as we wouldn’t have to spend any money buying meat. We would roast the meats and eat for days.
So I didn’t even bother picking bush-craft, because I felt I probably had done it in the past, doing it again would be a waste of my time and of course going to be boring. I wanted to learn something new. But I’d never tried of Kayaking before, so I said to myself ‘Why not Kayaking? It should be fun’ then I jumped right into it. I knew Kayaking has to do with Canoe made specifically for one person to propel with a double-bladed paddle in water, it could be lake river, waterfalls etc. I had seen some movies where people do Kayaking, but I had never experienced it first-hand myself. I am an adventurous person, I like to try new things, but I thought to myself, “this is suicide” because the first problem was that I couldn’t swim.
I am an African man, a typical African man does not know how to swim, in Africa, knowing how to swim is more of a privilege than basic things unlike the way it is in the West.
We are too busy struggling with what to eat, what cloths to wear, where we are going to sleep, how do our kids go to school, etc., than to be worried about swimming.
Except you live in a village, town or city close to a river, where kids go to swim from time to time, or you have rich parents with swimming pools at home or rich parents who have the Western ideologies in them enough to pay for your swimming lessons somewhere, your chance of knowing how to swim as a kid is very slim. I didn’t fall into any of those categories, so I didn’t know how to swim. A typical African child is even afraid to cross a bridge let alone jump into a river, lake, sea or Ocean. We rarely have waters around us, so swimming mostly is the least in our priorities.
I said to myself that I would try to learn how to swim before the day and make sure I am able to participate. I went on holiday with the hope of learning how to swim. Of course, it only makes sense to go back to my country for that a 4-week long holiday, it’s a chance to be re-united with my family, to catch up with friends and loved ones, etc., after I had been out of their sights for long. So, when I got home, the first thing I did was to make enquiries about swimming lessons: it was going to take 4 Saturdays or 10 working days. This was not pragmatic for me because, I would not even be in Lagos for 5 days in a row as I have other cities and towns to visit within time I had, so it was only logical for me to ditch the lesson, but of course at my own detriment.
So, it was Friday of the weekend away, we had to arrange among us who drives us to Enniskillen.
Enniskillen is an Island in the Northern Ireland, which is the County Town of Fermanagh, located almost exactly in the Centre of the County on the natural island, which separates the Upper and Lower sections of Lough Erne. There are many attractive places to visit in the city with lots of rich history.
The Island is full of lakes and forests too, so it is no surprise the selection of the city for both Bush-crafting and Kayaking. It’s 2 hours away from Dublin, so one of the teammates was driving, some of us from Dublin office decided to car pool with him and settle things later with transport fare.
We arrived as scheduled, had a dinner with the rest of the team. During the dinner, some of us decided to play a game called MASH (an acronyms for Mansion Apartment Shark House): In this game, you would draw a spiral and one of your team mate would write things about who you are going to marry (this might be celebrities, like Emma Stones, Emma Watson, Karina Kapoor, Jenifer Lawrence, etc.), how you are going to die (Gun shot, drawn while Kayaking, Sleep and never wake up, etc), your dream job (Software Engineer, Footballer, Basketball, Plumber, Cobbler, etc) and where you are going to live (this might house, apartment, mansion or shared). When it was my turn, I told the person doing mine to specifically put Kayaking on how I am going to die. I drew a spiral of 5 circles and she started counting after writing down the list as mentioned earlier, my “how you are going to die” wasn’t Kayaking. Even though, it was a game, I had a bit of relief that I was not going to die Kayaking the next day.
The MASH game
So, early morning of Saturday, we all set out to the lake where the activities were taking place. When we got there, we were told to sign some long list of paper, I was even afraid to read it, but the short form was that, you signed that you were not under duress to try out any of the activities you pick. In my mind, I was already terrified, every other person else was excited, deep inside, I was scared.
We changed to the wet-suits for Kayaking, life jacket and everyone picked his/her own Canoe. The instructor was there dashing out instructions on what to do and what not to do. So he told everyone to jump into the water first, this he said will make you not get nervous in case you canoe capsized. “Boat could still capsize?” I inquired nervously, “Yes, but, in case it does, you won’t get terrified”, he responded. Everyone did except me, the instructor told me to JUMP. I had to go meet him that I couldn’t jump, he said “Why can’t you jump?”, “I can’t swim” I replied. He said “don’t worry, you are on life jacket, you can’t get drown, and if you would get drown, I would rescue you. It’s my job to make sure you don’t get drown”. So I put my faith in the life jacket and the instructor. Then I JUMPED.
At first I thought I was doing Ok, I tried to swim to the shore. The last time I tried swimming was when I was in my undergraduate, a friend of mine is very good at swimming, so we would go to swim at a swimming pool in a hotel nearby the college. It didn’t go so well then too as I couldn’t still swim, although, I was beginning to understand swimming, I stopped going with him and It was years ago, so I hadn’t tried in recent time until that day.
When I couldn’t keep up with the tide of the water anymore, I panicked, I jumped trying to tell the instructor that I needed help, but I was back in the water helpless. The life jacket didn’t matter, I didn’t float, then things went sideways. That was my first near-death experience. It was the most disturbing scene of my entire life! When the instructor discovered I was struggling not to get drown, he jumped right after me and pushed me ashore. Every other member of the team was just amazed. There was silence everywhere for some seconds, I was asked if I still want to go ahead, but since I had already started it, I should as well finish what I started, so I told the instructor I’ll continue, then he warn me not to allow my canoe to capsize in the middle of the lake.
So, the rest of the team picked their canoes and paddled across the lake. I followed them in my own canoe too at my own pace. Eventually, I caught up with the rest of the team and participated in the games played by the team, but only the one that didn’t involve swimming. Eventually, we paddled back across and off we went back to our hotel rooms.
News broke the second date at my office and some of my colleagues make fun of me lightly about it, while others think the most important thing was we are all back home in one piece. We were eventually back home the following day with different banters on what had happened to me back there.
On getting back home, the first thing I did was looking up internet for where I could get some swimming lessons, luckily for me, there’s National Aquatic Center near my house, they have swimming lessons for some quid less than 100 pounds, I swiftly booked swimming lessons with them, and now I can swim. At least swim enough to get to the shore, at least I can help myself off a river or a lake now. It is far better than before.
In all, it was a great experience; it was the experience that triggered my reactive learning of swimming.