If you ever want to become a leader overnight (and do a difficult, detail-orriented task), lead and plan a four day trip for 55 people. In a nutshell, the trip was four days in the south of the country – otherwise known as the Negev. In Hebrew, it is called Sidrat Daroum or Southern Series. A team of ten mechinistim (two from each group), guided by one madricha, planned everything from when we leave the appartment to where we sleep each night, the entire menu, and all the activities. All of this is guided by goals we set for ourselves to achieve through the sidra.
We were split into pairs, with each pair leading a day, and then one pair was head logistics and the other was the head of the team. For about a month, the entire team worked endessly, sometimes meeting a few times a week, sometimes working for hours with your partner, to make the sidra happen. For the day I was responsible for, my partner, Zohar, and I decided we want make our day an allday hike in the desert. (How can you go to the south and not hike?)
I am so glad I took the oportunity to head this sidra. I learned so much about managment and leadership in general. When I began to think about planning a hike, for some reason, it didn’t occur to me that I would be the one actually leading fifty people into the desert. And then, when the madrich who was helping me said that I would need to go down to Sde Boker, where the hike would be, and do the hike with one or two other people, alone, before the actually sidra – I was a bit taken by surprise (this basically meant that I needed to plan two separate hikes and lead both of them). Always up for a challenge, I didn’t let any of this stop me. Even when we experienced many, many … many … challenges along the way (Everything from not having the preparation hike planned the day before we hike it to not having a medic until about eight hours before the hike took place with no finalized Plan B schedule. Feel free to ask me more questions about any of this privately or in the comments, it is actually quite humorus now when I look back on it.), I wasn’t swayed.
The hike was amazing. Astoundingly magnificent. For anyone in the Negev/Sde Boker region, I highly recommend it, we hiked up to Chod Akev and then down and around to Ein Akev and finished the day at our outside campsite. About seventeen kilometers total (a little under ten miles).
When I came back from the preparation hike, everyone who enjoys hiking started asking about it, I of course told them how at some points the climb was so incredibly and beautiful, that at some points it felt like I was flying. This then, of course, got around to everyone and people started to get worried: Is it too hard? Will I fall and die? I won’t be able to finish at all so maybe I should just not try, right?
I have to say it was difficult to keep people’s morale up. A few I knew wouldn’t be able to do the hike because of health and physical complications, but everyone else would be able to do it – that I knew.
So when the night before the actual hike came, and I was preparing to tell everyone that they would need to be up by 5 AM and out by 5:45 AM, I was really worried about how people would take it. As everyone in our mechina knows, sometimes we have tendency to give up before we even try and I didn’t want that to happen this time. When I expressed my concerns to my madrich about how to make everyone understand the importance of getting up and out on time and keeping up a fast past (to fight the sun) and still enjoy the day, he told me that I would need to give a pep talk – the most epic pep talk ever.
For anyone who knows me, pep talks are not usually my forte. I can talk in front of groups alright, but I’ve never been the kind to give master pep talks to a big group of people who actually really need one. It is just out of character for me to be, well, peppy. My madrich ran through some ideas on how to give an encouraging speach and said that if I believe what I am saying , then I can be so convincing that everyone else will, too (I still don’t know if I believe that…).
So we got everyone together and I went for it. I pretty much completely winged it. So I don’t have a written out copy or anything, but it pretty much went how you would expect a pep talk to go – with the necessary Obama “Yes, we can!” reference, of course! That part wasn’t planned, but I definitely learned that I have a lot more in me than I thought I did in terms of being a public speaker and gaining support. I don’t even know how to put it into words, but suddenly people who had been complaining to me about getting up early and doing physical exercise all day were now cheering with everyone else and kind of excited (it looked like it at least).
But I couldn’t know if it had actually worked, yet. I could only be sure if I was successful or not when it would be time to leave the next day.
We didn’t leave by 5:45, we left at 6:15. But it was OK. My group did so amazingly! They all worked so hard during the hike to stay together, to help the people in the back, to have fun, to hurry up when I said it was time to hurry up – I am still, almost a month later, so incredibly proud of my mechina, everyone in it, and even myself. I know it might be a bit superficial to be proud of myself, but I really wasn’t sure if I would be any good at leading a hike. There is so much more to it than knowing the trail. I really had my doubts, but I really think I actually did pretty well. I felt I did well, at least, and I received positive feedback. I was, and am, so amazed at what we accomplished. That hike was pretty difficult and everyone really did just such an indredible job at challenging themselves.
At the end of the day, when we were at the campsite, a friend of mine came over to me and said “Jaz, when you said that we would have to wake up at 5 and be ready in half an hour, I wasn’t sure I coud do it. But then you said that you believed that we can do and when I woke up, I wanted to go back to sleep. But I thought to myself ‘No! I can’t let Jaz down!’ and I got up and ready in time! Thank you for leading such an amazing day.”
That one exchange was worth all the hardships I encountered in making that day happen.
The moral of this story: if you get the opportunity, I really recommend being on a team to plan an important trip. It is really worthwhile, incredibly meaningful, and a great learning experience to see the direct results of what your sweat and tears can bring to others.
Update: I know what apartment I will be in. It was my top choice, so now I just need to move in and start the next semester. But first, enjoying my last moments with my gap group all together and then a week vacation at home. Yes, I do mean home-home. As in New York. I have a busy few weeks ahead of me, but a lot to look forward to!