Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blindfolded, wet and climbing walls in Toppieshoek

Tshepo Tshabalala.

Recently the first year journalism class of  TUT went to Toppieshoek in Magaliesberg. Third year student Tshepo Tshabalala went with them and this is what happened.

The temperature in this place is hovering at 39 degrees Celsius. Ok - a bit of an over exaggeration but sweat is bleeding from my eyeballs and palms are dripping of insoluble water as I pen these words.

After countless days of selection tests and interviews the cream of the crop has eventually been chosen to be part of the Journalism department. Out of a possible 400 plus applicants only just over a hundred made it. And every year the new lot has to spend time away playing with water, mud, ropes and climbing walls – not what one would expect budding journos to do. The TUT journalism department calls this a team building exercise.

So on January 25 the young ones hop on a bus with about 50 strangers. There are looks of suspicion doing the rounds as we leave the city of Pretoria into the wilderness of Magaliesberg. Maybe wilderness is pushing it a bit, let’s call it a green, leafy countryside.

The day’s activities start with seemingly cheesy exercises and some old games everyone grew up with in the township. Once the old bones are loose it’s time for some team work – with strangers.

Imagine this – you are blind folded in a room and are told to look for a rope and make a triangle using the rope. That is just one of the tasks given to them. When you think the worst is over the tasks just keep on getting harder and harder. To follow they are to get into groups of 15 and stand on a small piece mat with all feet on it and then try to turn it over using just their feet. With team work, countless arguments and screaming matches some of the teams manage to get it right. Many realise their mistakes and promise to work towards fixing them in future.

I heard the other half of the class which went at a later stage got to play a game of moving a bucket of water from one side of the line to the next with the whole group lying down and just using their feet. You can imagine the result of that – a really wet, muddy and sticky situation.

Then comes the climax of the day, for me at least. For some reason it is torture for some and I just cannot get that. What is this you ask? Let’s get the drum roll ladies and gentlemen – it’s the wall climbing. Not sure how high the wall is, but it’s long. After much fear, sweaty palms and shivers; the climb becomes easier with the cheering and jeering from the onlookers.

The reward for this madness that might leave your brains scattered all over the floor should you fall is the magnificent scenic view of Harties, which one unfortunately cannot take home. For some, the worst part of this is the abseil down. You would think people are always comfortable with being on the ground.

The abseil unfortunately signals the end to an adventurous day but despite this it is clear that the new students are planning to use all the life skills learnt at Toppieshoek throughout their journey in the Soshanguve campus.
To some this was confirmation that they had made the right choice.

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