June 15, 2021

To Schlep, or Not to Schlep?

This blog post was authored by Matthew Nekritz, a member of the Tivnu 7 cohort from Denver, Colorado Matthew loves to cook, talk politics, and play basketball. He interned at UniteOregon and Tivnu construction and is deeply grateful for his Tivnu community. We’re publishing it four months after the Mt. Hood trip to send you cooling thoughts on this hot June day.

We may as well have been at the base of Mount Everest. As our bus came to a slippery stop on the mountainside, we were invited to disembark. The seemingly unending blizzard that already delayed our trip a day continued to antagonize us—we had “schlepped” all of our gear a few blocks in the snow to the buses, and now, with the road to Mazama Lodge too icy for comfort, it was time to schlep again. And when I say schlep, I mean SCHLEP. 

As we embarked on our Tivnu trip to Mount Hood, we were excited for a getaway filled with snowshoeing and igloo building. This would truly be a time to enjoy Oregon’s beautiful mountain and spend time as a group. However, with thirty people, including many hungry teens, there was quite a big group packing list. Along with everyone’s personal gear, we were bringing ALL of our food, gear, snowshoes, and more. Unfortunately, calculating meals and food quantities for thirty people isn’t exactly easy. Fortunately, we had plenty of food. Unfortunately, much of it was in our favorite overly dense form: potatoes.

And so, with around 12 bins filled with what may as well have been bricks, we schlepped. And we schlepped. Snowshoes on, blizzard blowing, through feet of unpacked snow we pulled, pushed, sledded, yanked, and rammed our way around switchbacks, up the mountain to our warm haven, Mazama Lodge. Once we reached the top, it was time to go back down, as Steve, our Executive Director and four-wheel-drive-owner, was ready with another load in his car. Our backs were aching—we started this endeavor in Portland over six hours ago, and it seemed there would never be a final bin. But, we schlepped on, for there was simply no other option. No matter how long it would take, we needed to get our gear to the lodge.

Finally, after potentially the greatest cardio/strength workout of all time, the sun set, the schlepping subsided, and we softly settled into the cozy lodge. The fire burned, dinner was cooked, and we heaved a sigh of relief, attempting to ignore the fact that we would have to schlep back down. We were simultaneously hypothesizing what to do with several hundreds of pounds of potatoes. Most importantly, after delays, treacherous bus routes, and schlepping galore, we were able to enjoy the fruits of our labor together and rest at the lodge. The next three days, filled with snowshoeing, igloo building, snowball pummelling, and fireside warming, were without a dull moment. 

Looking back, while we groaned and winced our way up the mountain, the grueling act of schlepping was actually (in my opinion) quite fun. The intensity of the trek and the camaraderie pushing mountains of food uphill in sleds, all while the sky frosted us with white powder, was practically cinematic. Our Great Schlep could not have been more Tivnuesque—an amalgamation of our teamwork, our perseverance, our ability to find joy in frustrating situations. Like with building beds, running through house meeting agenda items, and cooking Shabbat dinner, we may find ourselves looking forward to the result, and losing our focus on the present moment during the process. The schlep reminded me of just how important embracing the process is, and looking back on that blizzardy day, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So when given the choice to schlep or not to schlep, every once in a while, I encourage you: tighten your boots, zip up your jacket, and schlep (just watch the potato count).

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