On Saturday, June 15, fifteen Ozrim and two wonderful staff members, Aaron and Kirby, prepared for a daunting forty-five mile canoe trip down Moab, Utah’s aptly-named Green River. Not a single Ozo had expected what was to come in the next two-and-a-half days. All of us grew–not only physically, what with the exhausting and repetitive chore of paddling–but in our resilience and ability to sacrifice personal desires for the well-being of others. We learned to be incredibly self-sufficient: every supply that we needed for survival on the river for the next few days was carried on our canoes. The Ozos cooked every meal, unloaded gear, and set up the campsites every night. The Green River was simply the perfect environment to finally utilize our skills in leadership, teamwork, organization, and prioritization.
The first day of canoeing, we packed our dry bags, coolers, and snacks in our eight canoes and were assigned pairs: one boy and one girl per boat. That day, we managed to conquer about thirty miles of the river, much to our astonishment. However, as the sun went down and the moon’s light reflected off the murky water, we realized that we had not yet spotted a place to stop and set up camp for the night. Our time was finite, but the river seemed endless. Thankfully, after several anxious hours, two Ozos spotted a hidden campsite tucked away in the majestic cliffs. We had only ten minutes to make a livable campsite before the light completely disappeared, leaving us vulnerable. This was likely the absolute most critical point of the canoeing trip, because every single Ozo helped to the best of his or her ability to unload the supplies and set up a designated sleeping area on a tarp. Never have I seen a group of fifteen people work so cohesively with each other to achieve a common goal. We had somewhat expected a Lord of the Flies-type scenario, in which every person would have opposing priorities and chaos would ensue, but we immediately set to work to help one another, and managed to rest easily through the night.
The next day, we canoed the remaining fifteen miles, taking occasional breaks to eat and rest our sore muscles and calloused hands. Though we were certainly exhausted by this time, we still pushed through and made every effort to finish our journey and reach our goal. Every Ozo unanimously agreed that there was no better sight to behold than the endpoint, Mineral Bottom Boat Ramp, where we parked our canoes, joyously hugged our friends, and waited anxiously for the canoe rental company to pick us up in a bus and return us to civilization. We finished a day earlier, however, so we would have to set up camp once more and wait until the next morning to join the rest of the world. We made dinner, set up our sleeping bags, and settled down for the night. For an evening program, we shared our favorite parts of the trip, funniest moments, and what we had accomplished. As the stars emerged and the deafening silence of the outdoors blanketed us, we found that we weren’t so eager to join the bustling city as we were to relish a few more moments of outdoor living.
Being able to immerse ourselves in the wilderness of Moab, Utah for two and a half days was the ideal way for the Ozos to finally put our theoretical knowledge of leadership skills and teamwork to the test in a practical setting. Learning how to organize a group to achieve a common goal in a classroom setting is incomparable to actually being in a situation in which one has to make decisions and solve problems affecting a group.
The callouses and tanlines will disappear, but the memories will last a lifetime.
— Anna Vaszar, Ozo, 2013