Janice's journey

This biography is made based on the diary of a young woman who lived in many years in Denmark before she went on a holiday at her birthmother’s county. Her values and morale is based on her upbringing in Denmark which some might consider offending. However in order to truly understand how she experienced her stay in the United States the cultural influences has to be considered a major contributor to her choices both before, under and after her stay.

Second the names of individual youth transport firms, wilderness programs and boarding schools are not mentioned. It is not a question about being for or against various companies offering emotional growth. It is strictly a story about how Janice as she has chosen to call herself experienced a number of incidents which left life changing marks on her adult life.

This biography is co-authored because Janice wanted to have her story published in both Danish and English.


10. The mouse who want to escape into a hole

We drove for one hour – maybe two. I lost all track of time. When I think of it I always sleep with the lights on. It was never the case before my journey to Utah. Maybe I changed in that area due to this long time blindfolded.


The van stopped and they removed the blindfold. We were in the middle of nowhere and it was evening. It was already dark, so I couldn’t see much of the landscape. I could see a group of people having created a campsite some 50 meters apart from me. My body hurt from all this time in restraints followed by a long time handcuffed. I was guided down to a man and a woman. They looked as they came from a part of Copenhagen called Christiania where there are many Hippies. They presented themselves as Brad and Nancy. They showed me a small tent and a small pile of wood. They ordered me to sit and demanded that I gave them my boots. It was odd and I asked why. Peter said that some of their students got the idea that they would run away and it could be dangerous out in the desert, so they wanted to prevent any crazy ideas.


I could see that the campsite had a fire and it was about to get cold. I asked if I could get a fire too and they replied that I could start all the fires I want but only with the tools I could find in the nature. Until I had such skills I just had to learn how to adjust to the temperature in my sleeping bag. Were they kidding? No, apparently not. They left and I sat wondering if this was a kind of test. Never mind I didn’t want to freeze. What they didn’t know was that we Danish teenagers often hang out in the woods where we share beers over fires. Secondly I used to be part of a scouting team when I was smaller, so I made fire. I was rusty so it took about half an hour before I succeeded. Brad had been watching me. He came over checking if I had smuggled matches into the camp. I told him of my scouting past and he left shaking his head without further comments.


Despite being warmed by the fire I was difficult to sleep. Strange unfamiliar sounds filled the night and my body was still sore due to the transport.


The next morning I woke looking at a fantastic view. There were mountains and valleys for as far as I could see. No roads, no houses, not even smoke which could indicate some kind of civilization. It was wilderness for real. I could see the campsite more clearly now. Brad noticed that I was awake and made a sign for me to come down to the camp.


It was time for breakfast or so I believed. They served some kind of oatmeal. There were no sugar or salt in it and it tasted awful. Brad could see that I didn’t like the taste and he said that spices of any kind weren’t allowed in the wilderness because our systems should be detoxed. He also noticed that some teenagers choose to starve in the beginning but they give in when their survival instinct kicks in.


After breakfast Brad called for a group meeting. We were all presented. There were 5 of us who were forced into this program. Brad and Nancy were guides and there was a third guide observing us from distance who could alarm the office if we rebelled against the guides (I later found out that it had happened some years before my participation when I researched the program from Denmark).


Brad announced that I was on the first level in the program and while I was on this level called “Mouse”, I would be isolated from the group beside when it was time for meals. I could reach the next level when I finished some written assignments. The goal with the assignments was to show the group what I could contribute with and to help me find myself in the process. I was given a notebook and a paper with assignments and then sent back to my tent.


First I had to write something about what I believed justified my placement in the wilderness program. Second I was supposed to write something about what I believe I should alter with my attitude so I could return home to my mother as a better person.


The first assignment was easy. My mother was crazy and that was it. The next question could not be answered. I was happy with my life in Denmark. I had a boyfriend. An apartment in the social housing complex has been reserved for me. It was easy to get a job in the local supermarket. There was nothing I would change.


The rest of day was waiting for Brad to return so he could learn about my answers. It was just before evening when he returned. When I had read the answers to him he replied that it was not good enough and I could do better. I would not be able to progress the next level before I had given the program a chance. He left. Just before dinner a man arrived at the camp. His task was to take a photo of me. Brad assisted and they asked me to smile to the camera. I declined but the dinner would not be served until they had a photo of me smiling because it was their policy only to send photos of happy teenagers to the parents. I figured that I just should get it over with and gave a very fake smile to the photographer. They looked at it and approved it. The dinner was the same as the breakfast combined with some fruits. It was certainly not a five star treatment my mother had bought.


The next morning was the same inedible oatmeal for breakfast. The others got tea and I asked if I also had to get something but it was denied as long as I did not have solved my job with the assignments, so I had to settle with water. By noon, Brad came up to my campsite. He was disappointed. Now I was not allowed to eat with the other teenagers He urged me to answer the assignments truthfully.

In the evening one of the girls in the group came up to me with my meal. Her name was Misha. She was from Florida. She asked why I had not replied to the assignments. She let me understand that the other youths were caught at a particular level in the program until they started to hike. The group would start to hike before that I had passed the assignments. She asked me to give them a real effort because the rest of the group was quite upset with my behavior. Yes, it was just as she would be ready to kiss my feet if I did it. What kind of a wilderness program had I arrived in? There was none of the teenagers who would be here.

Just before going to sleep I got a stomach ache. I had not been to the toilet since we left the Loa. I signaled that I need to talk to one of the adults. Nancy signaled that I should go to her. I asked to see the toilet and Nancy gave me a spade. I must have looked foolish for everyone in the camp began to laugh. Nancy took the spade and told me that she would show me how to do it in the wilderness. It was an impractical operation. The pants were halfway overalls. You have to pull them down, but you didn’t want to take them off completely because it was cold. I was given toilet-paper, but there was no sink where you could wash your hands. You had to be really careful when you struggled with clothes and paper so you didn’t get dirty hands or clothes. And you didn’t want the suspenders to go into the hole. It was one of the filthiest experiences I had experienced in my life. But I dug my hole and I made No. 2.


This filthy task made me realize that I should work this program. I wrote something about that I had not done so well in school (I was tired of school) and that the wilderness experience had led me to realize that I had to give the school a chance and start to take the school serious.

But in reality I wished that I could have used the spade to dig a hole so deep that I could have crawled back to Denmark through it. Everything I wrote was fake and just made to please the adults.  Was I weak? I gave in just because there was no way out of this?

Next morning after breakfast I gave Brad me answers. I sensed that he knew better, anyway he accepted my answers.

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