19 July, 2006

Crazy Day ONE!!

Monday morning the students went to the Tirol Firefighters School in Austria. We were to work with the firefighters. Their job was to put us in "stressful" or "challenging" situations, which they did quite well.

Day one: we sat through a little talk about the day, where they actually told us alot about nothing they were going to do. Austrian Firefighters can be very vague when they want to be... The one thing we did learn was that we can choose not to participate in any activity without giving any reason. Of course there was no chance for me to opt out of anything; I am way too competitive for that! We did learn that if we were hurt or freaked out or something we were to yell "ASTARTE" and the exercise would immediately come to a halt. I don’t know what ASTARTE means, but probably something like "I am a wimp".

First off we were divided up into groups and separated. The first exercise was a piece of cake for me, as we just had to put a metal ladder together stand it up against a building and crawl up a couple floors and then crawl back down a rope ladder. (We were harnessed with ropes, so it was totally safe).

Second our group was led into a room and they took us one by one (me first!) into another room. All the nice firefighter told me was that the room would be dark, full of smoke and I have to find my way out. No problem, I thought although my heart was racing a bit... I had to crawl up on a platform and then enter the next room thought a small door. I took my last look at the firefighter who had a crooked grin on his face and enter the darkness. Upon entering the room, I had to crawl into a little tunnel and then entered a cage like place. I could not stand up and because of my surgical enhanced knees, I could not crawl, so I thought of Mr. Farley my gradeschool gym teacher and started doing the crab walk feet first. This turned out to be the best thing for me, since the cage got larger and smaller and turned left and right, up and down. I was in a wicked McDonalds playland complete with smoke, darkness and loud crashing noises. I found a trap door and then had to go down and then up another tunnel and then down through a hole in the floor. I actually was not panicking at all. My only thought was to keep moving and get the hell out of there. I finally made it to a door and opened it and found another student there. There was a little light but we had to drag this very large very heavy stuffed dummy through a long small tunnel and then up a manhole ladder. This was sooo tough and a little humbling since I could not lift the dummy by myself and had to rely on the other guy to help me pull and push him up the ladder and to the light and safety. I made it in record time and the coordinator said I was the first (the other 2 groups had already done it) to reach the door so quickly. I did not tell anyone my secret about the "crab walk" because I guess that was the trick, since some people had fallen down the hole in the floor (and my wonderful friend and awesome traveling companion, Laurie, had to be taken to the hospital via an ambulance after falling down the hole, luckily she came away with only bruises, albeit super huge bruises.) and the others crawled and head first was not the best way to go into the darkness. All in all, most of the female students were exceptional; one point for "girl power"...but of course who is counting points anyway, it is not really a competition, right....

Third exercise is where I really rocked…it’s MY blog, so I can make it all about me! We were hoisted one by one down a different manhole into a very small area, about the size of a closet. Our instructions were to save another dummy (we named him Mikey) and get every one back out. There was standing ankle deep water and a ladder (the fold up triangle shaped one) There were 7 of us and as soon as the last one was hoisted down, the firefighters took away the ropes and turned on a massive hose and water started pouring down into the hole. Everyone freaked out for a second (me included) and then I started moving. I knew that I work really good under pressure and luckily everyone was somewhat listening. I grabbed the ladder and positioned it right under the hole and started to climb up. I was getting drenched from the water so I had to crawl back down for a second. I saw Biviana (a young small girl from Columbia) struggling with Mikey by herself. I crawled back into the hole and yelled for someone to help her and that I was going up. Everything was happening so fast and at that moment, it wasn’t an exercise for me, I was in full rescue mission! I then climbed back up and tried to get out of the hole but the ladder was a little short (or maybe I was) but I could not jump up and hoist myself out with my arms because of the water pressure, I tried it and then was kind of stuck with both knees on one side of the hole and my upperbody on the other. I was going to fall back into the hole or on the ladder when a firefighter pulled me out. He then backed back out of the way and then I saw Mikey´s head appearing (the others were pushing him up). I grabbed him and I don’t know how I did it, but I pulled him out of the hole. Another student’s head appeared and I helped him crawl out. We then helped the other 5 out. By that time we were all drenched and the last ones up said the water was really rising. After each exercise we discuss things as a group and while I was getting Mikey out, the only 2 guys in our group were in the corner farthest away from the water and Biviana had to pull one of them towards the ladder to help her get Mikey out of the hole. She said everyone was yelling down there but she managed to get them to the ladder. We said we were a great team, since we did such a good job working together! 2 points for "girl power", ummm okay, I am counting a little...

No comments: