Student Reflections

CONNECTION TO THE EARTH LIKE NEVER BEFORE

By Fredrique Guevara-Prep or Yonkers, NY on the 2019 Penobscot Expedition

When I arrived at Kroka I was met with a warm welcome and an instant feeling that I belonged. I noticed the connection everyone had to the earth beneath their feet, both in the literal and spiritual sense. Be it encouraging newcomers to walk barefoot through the Village or just the peaceful, grounded energy everyone seemed to inhabit, anyone can sense the joyful, safe, and freeing community Kroka exhibits.

We started preparing for expedition immediately: carving our spoons, packing personal and group belongings, our boats, paddles, food, and more. We paddled the Ashuelot River for a day—just a glimpse of what was to come. Then we waved goodbye to Kroka Village and drove from New Hampshire to Maine. We met with the people of the Penobscot Nation, and with their guidance left the US landmass with nothing but a few small canoes and our belongings.  

Paddling the length of the Penobscot River, we visited the lands of their people, learning about flintknapping, wood carving, and the history rooted deep inside these precious islands. I can speak for all of us when I say that this experience connected us to the earth and its history like never before. I am extremely grateful to our hosts, whose generosity, hospitality, expansive knowledge and their willingness to share it was nothing short of inspiring. 

The water became saltier, wider, and more tidal. This was the most exciting and wonderful part of our trip. The wildlife we saw as we neared the open ocean brought us pure bliss and gave us the strength to keep paddling even when the current was strong and the tide was against us. From sea otters to eagles, porpoises to woodpeckers, we saw it all! The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. The sunsets, full moons, dewy mornings and foggy evenings made each day more special than the last. 

[The students] were in charge of how our trip went: how many miles we paddled a day, where we camped for the night, when and what we ate. The freedom that our counselors gave us and the trust that they put in us made the trip that much better. It isn’t just about being able to enjoy and connect with nature, Kroka takes it a step further. 

As a city kid I’ve never been in touch with nature as much as I’d have liked to. Kroka gave me the opportunity not only to do that but to grow as a person. It gave me the opportunity to have big responsibilities, to work with others, and to not only survive but thrive in nature—all while having fun at the same time! Imagine us island-hopping off of the coast of Maine with nothing but what we could fit in our canoe. Bartering for lobster, making cornbread, chopping firewood and paddling to the next island, hoping for a little wind to come our way so we could set sail, lean back, and breathe in the salty ocean air… 

In a matter of three weeks, the people I met made an impact on me for the rest of my life. It is almost half a year later (and several states apart) and we still stay in touch! The laughter, riddles, and joy we shared got us through some of the toughest parts of our trip: cold and rainy days, clouds of mosquitoes, portages, and long days of paddling. We held evening meetings where we would touch base with one another. It was healing and it brought us closer together, knowing that we created a space where we were comfortable sharing our thoughts and feelings. Nearing the end of our trip, I couldn’t believe that it had gone by so fast, I didn’t want it to end! I’m grateful to Kroka every day for the opportunity and I look forward to returning!