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03 May 2010

Games Without Frontiers

Football, Soccer, Ping-pong, Gockey.
Name a game and we pretty much played it during our school’s three-day retreat to the mountains last week.

And that was just during our “free” time.
There was not shortage of activities, which made for some great father/daughter bonding time.
She beat me in Tetherball.  By cheating.
I beat everyone in Ga-Ga, three times.  By getting lucky.
We lost as a team in Ping-Pong.  By two points.
After two action packed days, the trip was coming to an end, but not without the finale: 
  • Eco-Stratego, Mini-Survivor meets tag meets hide-and-go-seek
Here are the rules -- two teams hide in the mountains... each player represents an animal...  one player on each team is the sun.
Find the sun and you win.  
Along the way, if you run down someone from the other team, tag them, and exchange your rank.
Spider beats fly.  Human beats lizard.  Bear beats Lion or is it Lion beats Bear.

Rule book please.
As you might imagine, this is serious business, especially for the counselors.
So serious, that the sun gets a bodyguard with him, usually a low-ranking animal like a flea or something.
In game one, it took our team a little while and a lot of manpower, but we finally tracked down the sun and brought home the win.
Game two was a lot more challenging.
Our Stratego strategists once again did a masterful job of hiding our sun in our zone, but this time so did the other team.
So good that we had to call it a draw when the game went too long.

The bell rang, signaling for everyone to come back to home base.  
The game and the trip were officially over.
Within minutes, we had all gathered for a closing group picture.

Minus two people -- the sun and the bodyguard from the red team.
At first it was no big deal.
30 minutes later, no one was too concerned.
60 minutes later, it was a different story.
By this point, the school bus had arrived and was packed up, ready to take the kids back to school.
All the kids but two.
Nobody seemed too worried on the outside, but I must say that my heart was beating a little faster than usual.
Maybe it was the altitude or maybe it was the fact that I used to work in local news.
The two missing kids were not from my group, not from my cabin and not from my Eco-Stratego team, but at this point none of that mattered.
What if?  
I know chaperones are always supposed to be encouraging and optimistic, but WHAT IF?
We were approaching the 90-minute mark without hearing a word from the boys.
A car had already been sent to search for them, megaphone and all.
The result was nothing.
Thankfully the weather was perfect and we were in the middle of the day, but I must say, my mind was really wandering.
The two missing boys were no longer a bodyguard and a sun, they were just two sons.
I couldn’t help but think of the conversation between the school and the kids’ parents.
The bus left with two missing seats and headed home to get everyone back on time.
Everyone but them.
One of the teachers waited to drive them home separately.
Once it was determined that the boys would not be coming back on their own, a group of about 10 adults headed into the mountain for a search and rescue mission.
For about 15 minutes, we hiked up and down, right and left, shouting their names every few seconds.
I must’ve covered several football fields when I heard a scream echoing through the hills.
By this point, I wasn’t sure if I was hearing things, but I sure liked what I thought I was hearing.

Sure enough, the boys had been found.

Here comes the sun had never sounded so good.
Apparently, they had unintentionally moved beyond the boundaries of their zone and had found a hiding place where they would not be found.
By anyone.
Within minutes the boys had returned to the lodge and smiles had returned to our group.

Mission accomplished.

We had found the sun.   The game was over.

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