A dear contributor who wishes to remain anonymous sends us this chilling piece about their Wildmoon Experience at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School. We think this person's encounter with Tamarack Song and his ilk highlights the damage that can be done to people who are given an exploitative, tourist's view of the so-called wild. It takes good guides and lots of time to find a place in the non-civilized natural world that feels clean and healthy and comfortable. A veteran camper can show you how to do that and it doesn't cost anywhere near as much!
The writer of this piece states "...if you want an actual 'teacher' a REAL teacher, go to a reputable, experienced person whom will sit with you and coach you through skills!
Who will give you worthy and fair lessons in exchange for your hard earned money!
I share this 'Teaching Drum School' experience in the hope that others will not follow in my unfortunate mistake and save themselves a lot of grief, money and better health in the process!
Here it is......
I arrive with some surprises: While hiking to the campsite we were to stay in, Lety lets me know "there are no teachers here." Hmmm, I mean, I don't know.. wouldnt you say calling your company TEACHING drum SCHOOL and having no TEACHERS a little effing deceptive? Your dealing with a public that has a very dictionary idea of what 'teaching' is about and you call yourselves "Teaching drum School"!
Later on, I'm told that "'Teaching drum' stands for the heartbeat of the earth. And while there, you learn what mother earth has to teach us!"
Well, my response to that comes from one of my journal entries before even being told about their meaning for the company name!:
"You could argue that nature teaches you, but I could have gone to a national park at my leisure, with SOAP and around 2,000 dollars still in my pocket and learned what 'nature' has to teach me!!!! That is not why I came to Teaching Drum! You have to ask how to do every little thing because their are no workshops and almost nothing is told to you freely. Sometimes the delay in answering me, the expressions on one of the "guides" face, his body language and energy give me the impression that he finds it a bit annoying. The name "Teaching Drum School" IS misleading."
I found one of the 'guides' manner intimidating and some of the things he said, ignorant. He was so into his own little world. And the other 'guide' was most interested in snuggling with his girlfriend and remembering his dreams. It was like being stuck in a forest with 3 people whom knew and WORKED for the company, no other new people were there! (Which I was under the impression there would be!) And I was infringing upon their good time together. THAT is how I felt! Not like "a welcome guest."
We were expected to do some arduous hiking (Which was also NEVER told to me before hand!). The hike we did, to help fix a structure, took almost a whole day with what felt like a heavy boulder on my back. We were told we 'might' have to go to another camp area to fish! A 25 mile distance, about 4 all day hikes in a row there, to fish and then do it all again back! (I was ALSO never told we would be moving from campsite to campsite before coming!!!) I was not going to hike with a ton of gear on my back 4 days in a row, 25 miles away from support camp with three people I did not trust with my saftey! Come to think of it, I don't think I would do such a thing with people I DID trust! It's a pretty stupid thing to do in my oppinion, seeing as how I am not experienced and even for an experienced person it is dangerous!
Silent horror stories:
So one of the two supposed 'guides' was telling me about two different things that had me in a silent horror all to myself.
One of them was a story about a past yearlonger whom they all went on a hiking trip with. This past yearlonger guy accidently stuck an axe into his leg cause he was cutting wood the wrong way (and these particular 'guides', my guides, didn't feel it necessary to point that out to him at the time!). So he tells me they had a 'talking circle' about what was best for them to do for him!!!!! ~ While this poor guy is literally bleeding to death! They eventually built him a sort of stretcher and carried him most of the way to help. He arrived at the hospital with more than half his bodily blood drained! Lucky to be alive, I'd say! So this past 'yearlonger' learned SO MUCH with Teaching Drum technique of 'observation and immitation' he didn't even know how to safely CUT WOOD!
The second thing that freaked me out was when both guides were telling me about how they had lime disease from ticks that are prevalent in that area!!! I asked if they are around this time of year (fall/winter) and one replied that they most likely were not. But they might be in sunny warm patches. "Oh joy!!!"
The girl, was telling me about how she has had plenty of ticks in the past without ever getting lime disease! ~ I guess this was her way of trying to unnerve me.
It didn't work!
Two example of why I find one of the guides ignorant, other than his unfortunate carelessness for others health and well being is here:
I was sharing with the group about an article I read on the plane. The article was about different countries and where you should not go for certain types of vacationing. One of the countries, I forget exactly... (Could have been Iran, or around there), the article talked about how if your a couple wanting a romantic get away you shouldn't go there because in that country they will throw you in jail for public displays of affection with the opposite sex! I related my disgust at such a law and this guy says something along the lines of, "well, if you go into another country or immerse yourself in another groups culture you should abide by it. We have a culture here as well!" That is like saying if everyone does something I should do it as well no matter 'what' it is! I DON'T THINK SO! But yes, I would never visit a country or want to live in a place that had such a disgusting, idiotic, draconian law! I wouldn't put myself in such an environment.
This really smart person also talked to me before leaving about how I was practicing 'death' by leaving early from the experience. Comparing it to a real life survival situation where leaving means death!
You know, I'll just let you decide what you think of this person.
Unfortunate health problems:
Another gift of this ridiculous and costly Wildmoon experience is a slight breathing problem I still have from mold exposure! To get an idea of how serious mold exposure can be take a look at these two web pages:
These highly intelligent 'guides' of mine thought it interesting and necessary to take us all into an earth lodge infested with MOLD! Letting us know it was moldy after we spent a few minutes in it.. breathing and talking. Nothing happened till later on that night, when I was trying to get to sleep in a different (limited air flow) structure! Which could have possibly had mold as well. Who knows?! I was having trouble sleeping because I was having trouble BREATHING. I couldn't get enough oxygen into my lungs.. I felt a heaviness in my chest and I was forced to wake up one of the 'guides' and his girlfriend in a separate structure because the 'guide' I was in this structure with ignored me when I tried to wake him!
I wanted them to contact the support camp, ie; "Tamarack's home" to leave, but the girl I woke up was looking at me like I was just having a panic attack or something and had me sit in a circle with them, after they built a fire near the lean too. I was to sleep in this lean too the rest of the time I spent there. She took my pulse and the both of them stayed up with me till I could breath better. I could breath better in the fresh air, under the lean too. But my breathing issues did not go away. Their were moments I'd get winded just walking around! It was aggrivating, frustrating and scary. At first, I wasn't quite sure what was causing this reation. But the only thing I can think of to cause this breathing issue was that mold!
I also had these weird feelings in the morning. I'd feel nauseous and have this odd tingling cotton mouth feeling in the back of my throat and tongue. A built up of phlegm in my throat as well. After drinking lots of water through this stupid filter straw, (which is like sucking blood out of a mosquito), and eating something it would go away! I couldn't place it until I started to experiment later on.
I noticed that they wouldn't clean and or disinfect the serving spoon and lid by the fire at all! And the communal cooking pot was probably cleaned out sparingly at best! I started noticing that tingling sensation after eating with them one night and decided to just roast my own food by the fire instead another night. I awoke the nex morning without those symptoms!
A paragraph from my journal talking about my hands:
"My fingers were on fire with ice pain after putting some more laundry in the lake. NOT FUN! Using snow to wipe after relieving myself is quite painful too. It's so cold and I have to pack a flat snowball with my bare hands to use as a wipe. My hands are severly cracked and sometimes bleed. Moving my fingers can be painful because of the cracks I have. The severe cold and ice water only worsens this."
Later on, talking with Tamarack:
According to Tamarack, "mold spores are everywhere and theirs no getting away from them!" (After telling him about the infested structure I was brought into!)
"That tingling, nauseous feeling I was getting after eating was probably because we were eating bear fat and I was allergic" (I ate this bear fat, cooked and separate that same night I experimented and their was no reaction, by the way!) and also, according to him, "I have some body fat on me so the extra bear fat might have been my body saying "that's too much!""
Lety mentions 'maybe' I just missed seeing them clean and disinfect the communal pot and spoon! (I did not! And I also asked one of the guides if he cleans them out and he said "NO") Apparantly he is used to some weird and disgusting custom where people just cook OLD food in with the new food over and over without cleaning the pot! So, it's totally normal for him!
I was given bear fat for my cracked, bleeding hands (which stank so bad, I had to rub my hands with balsam fir after). This bear fat ended up giving me a rash. SO, now my hands hurt to move, bled and itched!
I told Tamarack and Lety about this and apparantly I didn't do a good enough job in letting these 'guides' know about my issues. I should have asked them to try other things!
All in all, WHATEVER issues I came across through this experience that he had me share with him, NOTHING was his fault or his 'guides' fault, but the person who was doing the complaining! ~ In this case, MINE or conveniently, no ones.
I was on my way home:
The below freezing temperature, inability to properly clean myself and my clothes, my hands, lack of support, a developed breathing problem from mold exposure, not feeling safe with this group of people, sleeping with the communal food by my head while coyotes and wolves roamed the area, cutting my gums on sand that constantly got in my food, inability to sleep, feeling that if I pushed it more I could possibly end up with pneumonia, rash, physical exhaustion to the point of nausea, slight yeast infection, constipation, learning very little except some simple hygiene techniques that are not always effective in certain weather conditions and the simple fact that every day I counted down it never got any better for me. I was never enjoying myself except for one day with a group of yearlong women. It was not safe or smart for me to continue. I knew my limit and I was at it. 'Could' I have stayed there the whole time? Oh yes! But I did not wish too. It was not the experience I thought it would be.
Another paragraph from my journal:
I paid a hefty amount to switch my flight back home early. During the three flights back I was embarrassed and felt bad for anyone whom had to sit next to me cause I smelled like the dirtiest smelliest hobo you ever came across in your life! My hands looked awful and so dirty, like I had some sort of skin disease. My bath water was dark. My hands are still recuperating. I'm still haveing breathing issues and might need to see a doctor about getting an inhaler and antihistamines! Yogurt and acidophulus is getting rid of the yeast infection and my body is slowly repairing itself with sleep, warmth, love and healthy surroundings. I feel a bit traumatized."
For anyone thinking about going to this 'School':
Have I learned and experienced positive things while being there, sure! But all of them could have easily occured camping at my leisure with friends and SOAP!!!!
(Sorry, I have developed a fixation with the stuff. Maybe one day, if you are ever as unfortunate as I to have been so very dirty for a stretch of time you will come close to understanding. ;)
If you feel inclined as I and others do to learn wild life survival, I suggest you practice these skills in the comfort of your back yard and or camping! There is plenty of literature on it! But if you want an actual 'teacher' a REAL teacher, go to a reputable, experienced person whom will sit with you and coach you through skills! Who will give you worthy and fair lessons an exchange for your hard earned money! People WHO KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING and leave their cult culture at the door!
If you want a lot of pain, uncomfortableness, to endanger your health, spend a lot of money, be pressured to behave as a cult group, have a possible near death experience, learn diddlysquat in real wilderness survival skills, and have it all BE YOUR FAULT, by all means, Teaching Drum is the place for you!
P.S. They also are affiliated with this place:
Good luck to you and yours