I have lived in Frazee, MN fifteen years of my life, and I consider myself a dual citizen of both Detroit Lakes and Frazee. However, my family has hardly ever gotten involved in Polar Fest, which is a bit of a shame. This year I participated in the Polar Plunge for the first time, and it was definitely an experience to remember.
I’ve always thought the Polar Plunge seemed a bit too crazy. However, it’s a bit fitting because I also used to think that people who took ice baths were crazy, and now I adore them. I’ve learned to embrace the craziness in life and take advantage of the big opportunities offered, and my life has been transformed because of that.
This transition of embracing the crazy was perfectly represented by my decision to participate in the Polar Plunge. Jumping into a lake in the middle of winter in Northern Minnesota is not for the faint of heart. A little before we went out to jump, someone announced that it was 5 degrees F out, and felt like -12. In other words, a temperature that no sane person would jump into the lake at.
When the Rotary exchange students for Detroit Lakes – me, an outbound to Denmark, an inbound from Brazil, and an inbound from Chile – arrived, we were definitely questioning our sanity already. We all had brought our flags, and savored the bit of heat we had before we checked into the tent.
In the tent, we became aware of just how crazy the costumes were. People represented so many different organizations and causes, and the costumes definitely were interesting. I personally chose to jump in an extremely tacky American flag swimsuit top and running shorts with the Danish flag as a cape, but I can’t imagine how rough it would be to jump in with a bunch of clothes on. I am personally not a fan of wearing wet clothing, so that worked out really well!
After the tent, we went into the sauna to heat up. The sauna was nothing short of absolutely jammed-packed, but I didn’t really mind it. We actually met someone from Spain, which was exciting for any exchange student. After signing the trailer, stripping down, and talking with a few people, it was time for the Polar Exchange Students to take the plunge.
Originally we had planned to jump all at once, but we were called up one by one. First the Victor from Brazil, then Coty from Chile, and finally me. The announcer thought I was from Switzerland, and I don’t know if that is because the Danish and Swiss flags have similar colors. I am not really sure if he understood me yelling that I was going to Denmark, but soon enough, I jumped into the lake.
I have taken ice baths before, and so I know just how cold water can feel. I was prepared for absolute coldness all around me, and that part definitely lived up to my expectations. After I finally pulled myself out of the lake, I ran as fast as I could to get into the changing room.
If you couldn’t tell by my expression, I was a bit in cold shock. It took a while before I could start to breathe normally. However, once I got on warm clothes, I didn’t even feel cold, despite the fact that I didn’t take a warm shower for a while. In the past, when I have taken up to twenty minute long ice baths, it has taken me a while to feel warm again. I guess that since this experience was so short that it didn’t affect me that much.
Afterwards, Coty and and I weren’t able to find Victor, and we ended up getting ice cream and going to her host family’s house. I had recently learned that neither Coty or Victor had not had Ben and Jerry’s in the United States yet, and so we had made plans to go do that afterwards. Victor had other plans, but Coty and I were more than happy to dig into Chocolate Therapy and Americone Dream. It turns out that Coty’s host mother is really into running, and had recorded the marathon trials that happened earlier in the day. I follow professional distance running quite closely, and was a little upset that I couldn’t watch it previously. However, I was more than happy to watch the Amy Cragg, Shalane Flanagen, Desi Linden, and Kara Goucher battle for the three spots, as well as see Meb prove that he is marathon king again. The trails were so exciting that even Coty got into them!
We ended the day by going to a curling competition, and the plans faded away after than. All in all, it was an exhausting, wonderful day. There is something about jumping in a freezing lake that just brings people together.
Now, I continue living my last three months of American high school. Danish is going fairly well, and Duolingo has been my go-to way to productively put off homework. I am finding out more about Denmark each day, and I couldn’t be more excited about my host country! I may have jumped into a lake, but how much my life will change in six months is even more crazy than that.