As exciting as summer is, it can be easy to slip into a listless, bored state as the days get longer and much, much hotter.
To keep the doldrums at bay, Go Columbia staffers each decided to take on something that scares us.
A summer dare, if you will, to give ourselves a jolt out of the summer rut.
Some of us are afraid of heights, or eating spicy food, or singing in public. We found places in Columbia to conquer our fears.
We encourage you to do the same, because summer is no time to be afraid, or worse, bored.
It’s a time to be alive.
The Dare: Try new foods
I wouldn’t call myself a picky eater, but I’m not exactly an adventurous one, either. When I go to Thai restaurants I typically play it safe and order Pad Thai, which is delicious so there’s no need to ever order anything else, right?
Well, I’d like to step outside my culinary comfort zone, so this week I tried Harambe Ethiopian Restaurant in Five Points.
Ethiopian food baffles me. What are those piles of colorful mush? Why is it arranged in a circle? And how do you eat it?
Turns out, the cuisine is typically a mix of vegetables, like collard greens and cabbage, and spicy meat dishes, served atop a spongy flatbread called inerja. You eat with your hands (just one, the right, as the waitress pointedly told me as I lunged for my lunch with both fists).
I ordered samosas, which are amazing fried triangles with savory filling. Then, a friend and I split the Harambe combo, a variety of stews, lentils and veggies on a plate of inerja. It was tasty in a pre-chewed sort of way. And the meal was full of flavorful spices I don’t normally use when cooking.
I’m not sure if I’ll add Ethiopian food into my rotation of pizza and spaghetti dinners, but I’m glad I tried something new.
Next up? Eating alone, something that terrifies me.
But that would require a double dog dare.
The Dare: Compete in front of an audience
I have fairly regular nightmares about doing something dumb in front of a ton of people. I like to know what to expect, and I don’t like crowds.
But I really value dependability. So when fellow staffer Erin Shaw asked me to step in when her partner in a trivia-for-charity event had to cancel, I couldn’t send her to do it alone.
Colonial Life has put on Challenge for Charity for 15 years, inviting members of the media to hear a presentation, quizzing them in front of a bunch of employees, then donating to a charity of the top three finishers’ choice.
But I knew none of this. We ate. We heard a presentation. We took notes.
They told us to study our notes and that we’d be quizzed on the presentation – and they actually said this – “like gladiators in an arena.”
We sat in an atrium with four floors of employees looking over railings above us. Just like an arena. The emcee introduced me as a last-minute sub. It would make sense to wave, right? I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that. Instead, I made a bizarre pointing gesture like Joe Biden. I got some weird looks. Great start.
We missed the first question. “I want to go home,” I thought, miserably.
And then things started turning. We made a respectable showing in the first round and moved on to the second. We wouldn’t go home humiliated, at least.
In fact, we’d go home with a first place finish – and $3,000 for our charity, Oliver Gospel Mission.
So, was it harrowing, going into the “arena?” Yes. Would I do it again? Apparently, yes, since Erin and I are now the official competition team for The State and Go Columbia.
Rebekah Lewis Hall
The Dare: Try out for the U.S. bobsled team
When I was younger, I loved the movie “Cool Runnings.” The story is about Jamaica putting together a bobsled team consisting of track runners. It’s a funny and inspirational movie, but it didn’t make me want to be a bobsledder.
But what stuck with me was the idea of challenging yourself and doing what others think you can’t.
At 5-9 and 140 pounds in high school, I wasn’t the ideal size of a sprinter, but my 800-meter relay team finished in the top-six at the New York State Indoor Championships my senior year. We also made the state meet in the outdoor season in the 400-meter relay. It was an amazing feeling to see how people looked at us before the race, and how it changed after we had beaten them.
I think we all can identify, to a degree, with being an underdog. I’ve always used that as motivation.
So when the chance to try out for the U.S. bobsled team came up, I dared to do it.Becoming a bobsledder on a world-class level is no joke, and certainly not something that you can just hop off your couch one day and decide to do – or in my case, decide two weeks prior to the tryout to do. Butit was fun to imagine what it would be like to go to a local tryout, like the one held in Columbia this past weekend, and then move on to the regional and national level.
It didn’t quite turn out that way. My time in the 45-meter dash and my distance in the shot put and broad jump were not close to what the U.S. bobsled team is looking for. Still, it was fun to take the challenge, to see where I stacked up – and to think how much I could improve if I tried again next year.
I might just take that dare.
The Dare: Sing in public
I have a secret passion and I blame American Idol. And The Voice. And every other program that showcases just how much vocal talent America has. And after years of being beaten over the brow with it, I too believe that I am one of the thousands of singers whose talent needs to be shared with the world.
But I have one problem: stage fright.
Still, I had to start somewhere, and karaoke at local bar seemed like an easy way to do it. But even in the near-empty club, I was petrified, my heart beating a mile a minute.
After choosing a song I retreated to the bathroom where I could hear myself think (and listen to the song to make sure I knew the melody and words). After a stern pep talk to myself and a long sip of an overpriced cocktail, I took the stage, made a wisecrack about it being my first time and proceeded to belt out Amy Winehouse’s “Love Is A Losing Game” to the dozen or so people at the bar.
I was surprised to find that once I started singing I sort of went on autopilot. I became less concerned with the crowd and more worried about stumbling over a line and staying in pitch. When I finished, I was even met with a smattering of applause.
It was enough encouragement to say I’m going to try it again. I won’t let fear control me or a room full of strangers stop me. I won’t be available for autographs after but I will accept a congratulatory drink or two ... dozen.
The Dare: Climb to the top of Williams-Brice
I don’t care who you are, USC’s Williams-Brice Stadium is intimidating.
I didn’t attend college in South Carolina (try N.C. State), and I haven’t jumped onto a Tigers or Gamecocks bandwagon.
But one thing I do know is that the colossal, 80,000-seat plus Venus flytrap is scary from the outside. I now know that it’s even more terror-inducing from the inside.
You see, I’m afraid of heights. But when someone dared me to run to the top of the stands, it was the chance to face my fear.
I ran up the “nosebleed” seats. And when I got to the top, I froze, grabbing something stable. I gingerly looked over the side, neglecting to admire the lovely landscape down below but instead focusing on my main objective of not dying.
I somehow survived the experience, though I was more than relieved to be back on solid ground.
My first time in Williams-Brice hopefully will not be my last, but I’ll probably cough up the cash to sit closer to the field on game day.
Jane Moon Dail