The Real Bivouac - Nick Langen

            “I believe that I will never forget Bivouac. Though specific conversations and announcements will be lost within the frothing memory soup of my brain, my feet will never forget the ten days they spent without ever touching asphalt or traditional flooring. My ears will no doubt ever forget the sounds of wood being chopped and hewed, as well as the driving force behind every single day: a bell that tolls mercilessly and ceaselessly, signifying the end of whatever activity being performed. My nose now has both the fond memory of Swiss Miss milk chocolate powder (served straight up, no water added), and the eye-watering reek of the tent I had to endure over the course of this camping trip thing. I know that when I finally step off the bus that will carry me home, I will make sure to give the driver the most heartfelt thank you he has ever heard in his life and then promptly go to sleep on bed that doesn’t smell like the inside of a septic tank.

            The day I am writing this is, I think, the seventh day of Bivouac, and my day group has gone off into the woods for one hour to “listen, observe, and reflect.” Personally I think they should change it to “listen, observe, reflect, and be eaten alive by mosquitoes.” There are so many mosquitoes out here that I’m beginning to wonder if the rock wall I am sitting on is actually an incredibly advanced mosquito breeding ground possibly developed by the government as a kind of experimental bio weapon. The quantity of blood drained from me is enough to supply several hospitals for an extended period of time.

            Truly, whoever is reading this should recognize the miracle that is my consciousness right now. As one can tell, the things which I am observing right no are mainly mosquitoes, though I can also hear some kind of animal from behind my person. Being a rational human being, I can only assume that it is a velociraptor preparing to call its buddies and tear me several new orifices.

            As a side note, if ever offered to go out into the woods for an hour, I would advise that offer to be declined, as time moves quite slowly. Slower than a one-legged sloth piggybacking upon an overweight and elderly turtle crawling uphill through a glue spill, to put it with more accuracy. Fantastic, the mosquitoes are back, and they brought their friends. Of course, I would prefer to not think about the nefarious creatures that are slowly draining the fluid which I need to continue living, so I suppose I should reflect.

            What is Bivouac? Bivouac is a place where you sit on rocks until your lower half is on the verge of suing you for assault. Seriously, the mere thought of a chair at this point in time is enough to make me shed manly tears and mourn the loss of proper cushioning. It is a place where mirrors are distinctly absent, so the only way to tell how bad one’s acne has gotten is by groping around one’s face. It is a place where the word “restriction” is thrown about with such conviction and repetition that it is akin to the whip of a slave driver. If there are a few things that this entire trip has taught me, it is that no amount of bug spray is too much, portable cushions are a godsend, and orange neck handkerchief things will never go out of style.

            This is probably the part where I should describe my surroundings in traditional observation style, but let’s be honest; there is no fun in that. Oh look, a tree! And what’s that? Another one! Be still my beating heart!

            That rustling noise behind me has finally ceased, so I am assuming that the velociraptor either has lost interest, or maybe feels bad for me.

            I really hope there isn’t another one of these things for the rest of this trip, because I honestly don’t think I could attempt to do this again without smashing my face in against the admittedly comfortable rock wall on which I am residing. Either that or everything from my waist down has gone numb from it being quite the opposite.”

            -Nick Langen on the 7th day of Bivouac 2011, found a journel one could accurately describe as being beaten within an inch of its metaphorical life.

            Looking back on this bitter and sardonic journal entry, I felt a pang of sadness that I could not have appreciated Bivouac in the moment, as opposed to my feelings about it afterwards. Despite the comfort of a bed that does not make one want to wear a gas mask, a certain charm presided over the experience after it was over, perhaps a variation on Stockholm Syndrome, or perhaps the people that I met and bonded with gave the trip more weight than I gave it credit for. In addition, how often does the first week of school see one gathering firewood so that one does not have to feast on old bread and stockpiled apples? The uniqueness of the Bivouac (unique in the sense that Timmy is unique because he eats glue) makes up for any shortcomings it may appear to have had while I was living through it, and many of the shortcomings were of my own fault. I certainly could’ve put on more bug spray that fateful day, in which case my journal would have most likely contained descriptions of foliage in lavish detail rather than the ramblings of a madman.