Friday, 24 October 2014

TY Thursdays #6 : GALWAY GROUP FOUR !

It was so dark but the sun was rising, there were green lights on the bus and I sat there listening to 'Cosmic Love' on my phone thinking 'Crap I'm on this bus now and I can't go back. How am I even going to survive the three days ?' I listened to music or drew 'creepy' eyes for most of five hour journey which began at the early hour of seven in the morning. I was so excited the night before that I didn't fall asleep until 2am, managing only three and a half hours of sleep, it's hard to believe that tomorrow it will be a week ago. We stopped off in Enfield for a break mid morning and I had hot chocolate with sauce, cream and marshmallows in Costa - it was like the calm before the storm ! 

We found out the duty groups (i.e breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea.) just before lunch and I was in group one which meant we wouldn't have to set the table as the group gone before us had, but afterwards we'd have take turns to clean, wash and dry up and sweep ! That afternoon, we had our first activities and to my horror, I was doing a water activity. This meant getting into a wetsuit - another horror - which my fingers are still covered in blisters from pulling on. The group I was in were supposed to be doing sailing but the weather wasn't great so thankfully we got to do raft building instead ! I've no photos of the raft that I didn't contribute much to the making over but it looked seriously cool and I was fascinated by how simple it was to put that kind of thing together. Beforehand, we were warned that if one person jumped off, the whole raft would fall apart. After much struggle, a hand being held out and the instructor having to lift my foot on, I finally got on the raft. Leaving beside the whole shouting at each other to keep paddling, we actually made it on our raft to the island where we had hot MiWadi which tasted like Calippo and became the holy water and custard creams up against a tree whilst being bashed by the cold and wind ! Not only was raft building a brilliant first activity, it was my favourite one I attempted out of them all. I went back on the 'speed boat' and those remaining on the raft ended up having to jump off and bring it back where we took it apart - it never broke !

We got back from activities fairly early so all of us girls were sitting in a barn-type-I-don't-know-building while the lads played football. Then all the lads were given a number each and the girls were given a number each (for example mine was the number fifteen.) and you had to sit opposite whoever you had the same number as you for dinner which wasn't that bad after all. Dinner on the first night looked like chicken and mushroom vol-au-vents, I'm not sure but all I know was that it was one of the most delicious meals I've ever had ! After dinner, we were given our phones for a half an hour to ring home and after this we had our first night activities. We were put in our duty groups to do a scavenger hunt and orienteering which was kept me laughing all night because someone in my group ripped their trousers, someone in a different group fell into a river, then we all found garda tape at the back of the grounds which frightened the life out of everyone and my torch was more popular than I ever will be as a result of it being so bright !

 One of the best things about Galway is that you don't need to get up until 8am and nobody is going to complain about the slightest of lie ins ! On Sunday which I keep calling Saturday, my first activity was gorge walking which was not fun at all, considering that I needed to get into a wetsuit again but then I ended up panicking in the water, couldn't catch up with everyone running on land, didn't jump off a single thing and became generally peeved off and upset. At one stage, I got caught behind on my own and it was the first time the water came to my chin and rational thinking did not occur so I started screaming because I didn't know how to kick my legs in order to move on. Luckily, we had a really sound instructor who came back for me and showed me what rocks and branches to hold onto so that I could reach the rest of the group. I couldn't stand gorge walking but I do think that if the weather had even slightly improved, I may have enjoyed it a bit.

Things became better from lunch on wards though since I had abseiling in the afternoon where the moment I somehow got down the slippery stairs which was abseiling in itself, I was just like 'heck no is this happening'. The instructor was really nice and let me walk over to the edge to make a decision on whether to abseil or not and of course, I immediately was like "There's a better chance of that shed getting down that wall in the next five minutes than myself." I was very grateful that this instructor gave me a choice. So basically I spent the hour chatting to people,and taking photos of people doing the abseiling. Some of our group even abseiled upside down in the 'superman pose' and whilst watching them, we saw a man coming back up the stairs from cave walking. The second and third last photos were taken later that afternoon at the lough, it was so pretty and the lone boat only added to the beautiful scenery !

For dinner, we had roast which was actually gorgeous, I discovered that I was probably the only one in the house who hated the meat but loved stuffing and peas and I'm just here like "How ?". That night we went night orienteering in the middle of the woods where I spent the time laughing because first I fell over a log running away from the other teams, three of our team abandoned us and the remaining five of us ended up getting lost ourselves like "Mexicans crossing the American border". We didn't really find much of the things you're supposed to find (what are they called again ?) but in fairness to us, we were three members down and had no flying clue as to what we were doing so to somehow get back for the first bus was a miracle and a half !

Sunday was my favourite day in Galway. 

Monday which I keep thinking was Sunday, is another story altogether - separate post, anyone ? No thanks. We were on breakfast duty that morning which again like lunch was grand and then I found out that I was in wetsuit-involving activities all day - fun fun fun ! First up was kayaking. 'Grand' I thought, everyone saying it's awful but what's the worst that could happen ? So skipping all the difficulties with wetsuits, I'm not even out in the water half a minute and queen dyspraxia is already kicking in so goodbye to all forms of coordination and muscle strength. So I'm there waving my arms about trying to move the paddle properly and fifty swear words later, I'm way behind the rest of the group going round in circles and the instructor had to tow me to where the rest of the group were playing a game with a tennis ball ! Before towing me back, the instructor out of the blue joked that he'd have to capsize me at some point, I advised this not to do this ! On the way back, I was un-towed and all a sudden found myself capsized without any prior warning. I started panicking as I didn't know what to do and I had a panic attack and meltdown when I got out of the water. We may leave it at that otherwise we'd be here all night but lets just say that this isn't a nice experience for anyone and not one you'd want to happen in front of everyone everyday. 

For lunch, we had sausage rolls which were like the glue to all my problems and the beans that went around were avoided like the plague as nobody wanted excessive flatulence (farting, to peasants like you and I.). My afternoon activity was cave walking - something I was worried but excited about. This was the last time I had to and will ever have to wear a wetsuit (this was more exciting than throwing away my junior cert exam papers.) there was also a light on every helmet and we had jackets - some of which made the lads look like someone out of Grease ! There was very shallow water in the cave but it still made the experience challenging as one minute it would be to your ankles and the next it could be to your waist ! We were given the option to go back either with our helmet lights on or without any on - Only three of us decided to go back with helmet lights on ! By Monday, my flexibility had gone down to zero so I had to be lifted onto the higher points because I couldn't reach up there myself and that is when I lost one of my wellies. Yes, I lost a welly. It was the funniest thing  to happen to me on the trip (thank you to the people in my group and the instructor for helping me on the way !) and the only thing that bothered me was the uneven feeling - not even the choppy rocks hitting off my sock - The instructor was so sound and told me that if my welly was found that they'd send it back with the next group ! If you're wondering how the welly losing situation evolved, I was climbing up on to something and my right foot came out of my welly because I hadn't worn as heavy a pair of socks as I should have. Feel free to picture this in your head and laugh for the rest of the evening. I did, anyway. 

That evening was our last out of the three days and the weather was too bad to have a bonfire so indoors we had to write a speech, poem or song about our whole experience in the groups we'd been in that afternoon. My group spent most of the hour taking photos and talking about everything except what we'd write but we somehow wrote a paragraph in ten minutes about everything hilarious that happened to us on the trip ! For some reason, I volunteered to read our's out except between everyone being so used to me talking quietly and myself laughing my head off, nobody could understand me ! So then a lad in our group read it out instead and I'm pretty sure that everyone heard him ! After all the amazing speeches were read out, the entire group were given sheets of paper each on which we'd draw our hand and write our name on. These would then be passed around and everyone would leave a nice anonymous message on each person's piece of paper - everything on mine was so lovely to the point I was almost off crying again  and I couldn't stop laughing at the "lost your welly hope ye find your welly" sentences. I really can't wait to get back my piece of paper at midterm as it's going to be a brilliant memorabilia to have. We actually had hot chocolate for our last tea which was so so yummy and then penguin bars too ! 

On our last morning, we got up at an earlier time of 7.45am so that we would have time to finish up packing and moving out of our rooms. My roommates and I had all got everything ready the night before so we headed down to breakfast on time as there wasn't much to do and we had sausages ! Hillwalking was my final activity which thankfully did not involve any form of wetsuit gear but it did rain heavily with the odd shower of hailstones so the weather was not on our side that day ! I know that I repeatedly sound so negative when speaking about these activities but hill walking was not great at all. We went through the forest since the weather was too bad to go up the hills and I spent the majority of the activity seriously behind the group which resulted in them having to wait a good while for me at some points. A lot of my caving group were in my hill walking group so the humorous point of the activity was when I like everyone else got into a bit of difficulty in the bog and those from caving go "now Grace, don't go losing your welly again !" In saying all that, keeping at a slow pace paid off when I got back onto the main road and realised I'd only fallen twice - twice when I got carried away with taking photos of the beautiful scenery and the sheep who consistently ran away from us. The night before I'd suggested to one of the teachers that a group photo was taken for portfolios so on the same morning, we all went outside and a photo was taken of group four - a photo which turned out quite good ! Just before lunch when we were changing into our going home clothes, we heard a bus pull up outside. The bus was carrying group five and six, who were arriving that day and among the group were two of my friends so I waited outside the bus and grabbed them, hugging them like crazy when they got off because I missed them so much ! After lunch, we got on the bus and headed home - I think a lot of people will agree with me when I say that knowing you're going home was the best feeling felt on the trip. 

So I should probably add in that on the final night, I didn't sleep until the early hours of the morning. I sat there over-thinking as always and thought of the morning we left and how dark it was, the green lights on the bus and listening to 'Cosmic Love' on my phone, thinking 'Crap I'm on this bus now and I can't go back. How am I going to even survive the three days ?'. And then it occurred to me that I had survived. . Sure, I had hill walking left which was the cherry on top but I had survived the three days with very little support network and generally by myself.

I don't beat around the bush in saying that I have dyspraxia and sensory processing and that I can usually ignore these issues but during these few days, I had no option but to face them full on. It was like being in a fight and you're constantly being pushed to the ground and every time you get up, you're back down again. Everything was grand back at the house but as soon as we were off for activities, it was a nightmare - I cannot recall the last time I cried or had panic attacks and near meltdowns in front of people I was not close to yet I was like a tap all weekend.  I would really hope and like to think that in future, people with similar difficulties would be given the choice to opt in or opt out of activities.

Galway was both amazing and awful - I have never cried and laughed so much !
Thank you so much to anyone who helped me in any way over the few days, no names needed.


  1. I love hillwalking! it's so relaxing wish I could do it every weekend :)

    Jennos Health.

    1. And the scenery makes it so calming ! :)


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