The conference my sister and I attended in February brought together indigenous and non-indigenous youth from across the country.
The first ice-breaker I participated in went like this: 35+ people in the room, we take a piece of paper from a hat that gets passed around.
Instructions: each person has the name of their animal typed neatly on the paper, you can look now, but don’t tell anyone what is written — the purpose being to find your partner by the end of the game.
Step one: Get up. Wander around. Mingle. Make the sound of your animal and sonically identify your partner. Sit down again once you’ve found your new buddy.
Sounds easy, right. Right. My animal was… A JELLYFISH… Anyone?! What sound does a jellyfish make? Laughing on the inside and grinning wryly on the outside I step into the circle of chaos full of barking dogs, mournful moose, crying loons, crazed sheep…
I’m willing to take risks, I’m happy to meet new people. But attempting to float gracefully around the centre of a circle of strangers staring pointedly and throwing nervous and puzzled glances at you is just ridiculously awkward. First thing. ON THE FIRST DAY!
I’m the last person. If the floor wanted to swallow me up, I’d have no objection. I look pleadingly towards one of the bubbly facilitators, who reaches me, reads my slip and exclaims, ‘Oh! That’s beautiful! We can do it together!’ Awkward reaches a whole new level as everyone zeros in on the two of us: willowy and light on her feet, her jelly impression is as close as anyone is likely to get, and mine equally as distant. Nobody responds. We float some more. The facilitator is totally committed, and I’m dying inside, trying not to burst into a fit of hysterical giggles.
‘Jelly fish? Anyone? Is anyone here a jellyfish?’ the facilitator finally asks. Silence. ‘Any jellyfish here?’ She tries once more and after another extended pause, a tiny voice whispers ‘Me.’ I scan the crowd, identify the mortified speaker whose round face is now very pink, sit down beside them and introduce myself, “Hi! My name is Sam. Nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you” they reply.
‘Ok then! Great job everyone!’The facilitator claps her hands in delight and we move to the next activity.
I never did get my new friend’s name.