Anargi’s CAS Journey

Journey of an IB student

DP 1 Orientation 2019 Kithulgala

Eating Lunch Day 1 Photo Credits; Dr. Leigh

This trip tested me on both emotional and physical settings as it served as a non – conventional, yet very effect eye-opener to expose everyone to the DP.  Although I was very excited about reliving by 9th Grade experiences, I felt that I had some initial reluctance when partaking in activities with newcomers and students that I didn’t usually associate with. However, my preconceptions about my grade and the overall sentiment that I had towards the trip was erased the moment my class got on to the bus, and headed for the leech infested valleys of Kithulgala. What captivated me the most was how everyone broke down their respective defense mechanisms and found a certain form of ‘shared middle ground’ through our collective displeasure of hiking and fear of leeches. The bus ride, I felt, somewhat was a truest reflection of my grade; chaotic but with a certain kind of order. During this time, I had a feeling embedded deep within, that this trip would be vastly different from the others. This trip would be the incentive that strengthens our existing bonds and glosses over the awkward tension when creating new friendships.

Using a more IB oriented lens, the following three days will be explored through the ways of knowing and areas of knowledge, however coupled with the specific feelings and thoughts that interlinked with the activities.

Day 1

The first day was split into two sections; the initial aspect focused on canyoning while the latter centered on white water rafting. The hike up to the canyoning location was scenic and tranquil as vivid imagery of the lush forest coupled with the harmonies of the blue magpie contrasted with the concrete jungle that we were familiar with back in Colombo. It helped heighten my sense perception as my otherwise diluted sense of sight and auditory imagery living with the dull and mundane sounds of Colombo was now in full use as I was in awe of this foreign landscape that I witnessing. The tiring but exhilarating hike to the location not only provided me with ample time to enhance my somewhat ‘rusty’ senses but also fuel by anticipation to relive the memories of Grade 9. The basis for my positive association for these two activities were my fond recollections of Week Without Walls; which was the tune that I played on repeat to distract myself from the exhausting journey. As every step I took made me closer to the welcome sounds of rushing water, it helped me calm my nerves and reassure myself of all the fun and learning awaiting me. On a different aspect, this journey acted as an adhesive that helped me get closer to the newer additions; those not present during the Grade 9 WWW, as I was able to paint a vivid image of my experience canyoning and hopefully, enhanced their desire to get to the location faster.

Canyoning, along with the basic objectives of fun and learning, also have subliminal expectations of communication and trust when working together as a team. At first this proved to be slightly difficult as our grade initially didn’t understand the seriousness or gravity of the activities that we partook, however as we gradually increased the intensity it became more apparent that the factors of communication and trust were key in ensuring our safety. An instance in which this was evident was when a student was assigned to lead one activity in order to expand not only their basic leadership skills but communication as well. Therefore, one student was delegated the task of ensuring that the student sliding down the waterfall was in the right position before pushing them off. When it was my turn, I was reluctant and quite skeptical of this specific activity as I was not convinced that the student leading the activity could control my weight under the flow of the water and help position myself correctly, to safely slide down. However, (with much convincing), I trusted him with his job and monkey crawled towards the readying position, and slid down the waterfall, successfully. These two values were also apparent in following example, which was the activity that I was asked to lead. This was one where I had to help the rest of my classmates jump off the roof of a hollowed wall. Initially, I didn’t think that my role within this activity was significant as it was just educating my peers on how to jump. However, this was not the case as I felt a sense of responsibility when guiding my classmates and promising their safety. This was especially apparent when some chose to do more complicated jumps (backflips, front flips or attempted to…) as I felt a sense of accountability and a newfound sense of trust as I counted them off. This activity helped to establish a sense of reliance and instill confidence in my peers as they waited their turn to jump.

Day 1 Canyoning Photo Credits; Mr. Duncan

The latter part of the first day centered entirely on white water rafting, as we hiked downhill after eating a full Sri Lankan meal, replenishing our energy reserves. Although, I was excited to relive my memories of week without walls, I also hoped to calm my initial nerves as I knew that this would be a first – time experience for the newer additions to our grade. While, I was trusted those who experienced rafting in grade 9 to effectively complete their jobs, I was reluctant to trust the new students with the ability to do theirs. However, my initial distrust was soon washed away as I realized that the basic pillars of rafting not only sorely depended on experience but reliance and collaborative skills. Despite the fact that I was hoping to be in a group with some new kids, I was content with my group entailing Takuro, Talia, Harry and Kevin. After working on our group dynamic; practicing rowing in synch, assessing our communicative abilities, and collaborative techniques, we turned our raft and headed towards the first rapid. The first rapid proved to be minor in contrast to the following two as it was mainly a series of small falls. I feel that this was an excellent example of how our hard-earned skills paid off; inherently helping us overcome our first challenge. However, the following rapid was significantly larger and within the raft, our group lacked communication, as I didn’t quite understand what commands the guide was delegating as I kept rowing forward when the rest of the group resumed their movements and crouched inside the boat. As a result of the friction, I fell overboard and had to ride the series of larger rapids alone. However, before entering the following rapid, which was known to the locals and the Borderlands crew as ‘The Double Crunch’, our guide warned us of the impending drops, falls and underlying current that traps anyone that falls in. So, with this newly acquired information and the fear instilled by its very name, I was determined to stay safe within the vicinity of my boat. To no avail, as when the guide nudged the raft forward, the side hit a rock, causing me to catapult over Harry and Kevin into the water. It was a strangely comforting feeling that I felt as I broke the surface of the water, as I was watching the raft slope during the beginning of its journey. As I searched my surrounding for any bearings, I saw that Takuro had also fallen in and abandoning any procedures I had learnt, began to swim to him as some way of comprehending this ‘out of body’ experience. However, the moment before I reached him, I was dragged underwater and there began my unorthodox journey of ‘riding a rapid’.

As I fell through the multiple falls and mini waterfalls, my screams of help were muffled by the sound of cascading water as I deserted any precautionary rules that were taught and resorted to my primal defensive instinct of curling up into a ball and hoping to ride out this nightmare. After being stuck in some sort of a current, where I was repeatedly being knocked on to a rock, I discarded my most primitive reaction and went into the position that was taught by my guide. I immediately surfaced. Now remembering the exact moment at which I gasped for air, after seeing the confused, astonished and some amused faces of my classmates, I wore this experience as a badge of honor as I scuttled onto a nearby raft. As I went to sleep that night, I kept rewinding back to the plethora of feelings and emotions that bombarded me and I realized that my falling into the largest rapid was somewhat of an extended metaphor for DP1. The immediate shock I faced once I was spontaneously thrown into the water, the threat-level stress that filled me, when I instinctively retreated back to my safe place and finally when I listened to advice and how I surfaced, all related to my impending experiences as a DP1 student. This was furthered when I understood that I was not the only one having to endure the stress and pressure of being an IB student and how I could always survive when depending on my classmates to support and guide me.

Day 2 Abseil Photo Credits; Mr. Duncan

Day 2

This day was less water – based as it focused on hiking to two separate locations; for a TOK lesson and to abseil. Although the day started off on a sour note, when it began to pour heavily, mid-way through the morning stretches, my classmates and I were determined to make the best of what was left. However, for a brief moment, our optimism was challenged with the possibility of not being able to abseil due to the high level of water; an activity that we anticipated for long before getting on the bus to journey here. However, as the weather cleared, so did our attitudes towards this day as we got on a bus heading to the walk up to the cave. A small group of us decided to support another classmate by taking the shorter route up. The walk itself to the cave was quite enriching as to our left we had a vast expanse of tea plantations, while to the right was a region of mountain ranges dimly lit by the overcast clouds. The somewhat mundane intricacies of Sri Lankan flora and fauna that are often overlooked when traveling in a vehicle past the valleys in the Central Province, was explored uphill as Mr. Lockwood educated us on the biological dynamic of the tea plantations and the strategic positioning of the mountain ranges (which would later be useful when creating a map.) When we reached the cave, I was in awe of its beauty; the faded elaborate paintings plastered on to the hollow walls coupled with the occasional sounds of rain drops echoing. Although the mapping activity was an interesting method of reflecting back on the journey, what I enjoyed the most was mini TOK lesson that we were taught in the second waterfall. This lesson made me question the very existence of my reality as I finally understood how one can have varied of possibilities of different perspectives and yet for it to all be true. This lesson made me aware of the emotional, cultural and societal baggage one might have and its immense impact on how one understands or views a concept. This was transferred to the historical and ethical aspects of AOK as this activity made me question the moral right, we have to judge others for their beliefs as hidden historical or cultural subtexts might have played a role in shaping their ideologies.The second half of the day was spent getting to the abseil point which was a hike that was filled with breathtaking views, cramping muscles and overloaded with paranoia of leeches (storm started half way through!)

Day 3

The last day was significantly shorter than the former as we spent half of the morning being separated into interview groups and the latter half, interviewing the intended target, before heading back to Colombo. Our task was to explore e socio – economic and perhaps, political changes made to the local community from the construction of the dam, restricting waterflow to neighboring villages and inevitably destroying a string of water – based business. During the course of our stay in Kithulgala, we were introduced to the impending problem when my class and I had to maneuver our way past the damn to go canyoning on the first day. Although I heard little wisps of information in the daily news and spilling from conversations during the journey here, I was oblivious to the extent of damage that could potentially be caused with this new development. My immediate concern was towards the people of Kithulgala as I questioned their plan on sustaining their businesses with limited waterflow and pondered on the future of the biological hub in the heart of Sri Lanka.  Within my group, we were given a small – scale, local rafting company owner to interview. While making the questions, my group and I had to keep in mind our approach towards the rafting company owner as we did not want to overwhelm him with weight of our somewhat personal questions, but subtly ease him into our project. My group and I also hoped to craft the questions in a simplistic manner as we did not want the essence of each question to be lost in translation

Day 3 Dam Photo Credits; Me

The drive up to meet our interviewee was eye-opening to say the least. I could now see a magnitude of large changes to the dynamic; depletion of density, limited housing alongside banks of rivers and a slow flow of water trickling past us, giving us a temporary vision the future. Our conversation with the owner was quite interesting as I learnt and adopted a variety of perspectives to this issue of the dam, that I am certain I could not have gained, reading about it in a newspaper in Colombo. The distress in the interviewee’s voice was clear as he described the potential implication to his business. Surprisingly, what saddened him the most was not exactly losing his business, but being forced out of Kithulgala to find work elsewhere as he told us that he wanted to settle down and lay his roots with his friends and family. A response that surprised me the most was when I asked him what action he took to combat this issue, to what he responded with creating a petition and sending a letter to the President of Sri Lanka, pleading to stop the creation on the Dam. However, when further asked, the owner replied saying that the Government promised to release the desired level of water to keep his and all water-based business afloat, but he did not think that they would maintain their promise.

This interview process helped to broaden my perspectives and help clarify some of my insecurities and helped me form an opinion about the dam for myself. Initially, I was secretly in awe of the dam, not because of its sheer magnificence but of what it represented; industrialization. Throughout history it is evident that progress meant development and industrialization, and I thought that that was true in this case, as well; tall trees replaced by cement pillars was a sign of positive development growth. Although I first thought that industrialization was synonymous with improvement, now I believe that replacing the natural essence of a place with artificial life just harmed it. I was saddened to think that the lush canopy shielding this place from the outside world and keeping the magic and wonder within would be soon destroyed with a press of a button or a swing of hammer…




ajayakody2 • October 26, 2019

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