I arrived in Beijing a few weeks ago to work with the Jump! Foundation, an organization that I have heard quite a bit about. Think outdoor industry bubble, and then further simplify that to SE Asia - everyone is connected somehow, sort of like the 7º of Kevin Bacon effect except is only 2º.
Beijing has always brought up distinct imagery in my mind. Having never been there before it was interesting to realize that my imagery was all off. Instead of a faded, stale communist state I found a well off vibrant atmosphere with western influences everywhere. Learning more about the history and layout of the city from Beijingers was extremely helpful, and gave me a lot more perspective. The air quality was a bit of a bummer, but hey you can't have it all.
Our project was a 45 person International Youth Award trekking spanning 4 days. Many logistics, site inspections, pre program events, and meetings later we finally got on trail.
|trail head with my co-facilitators|
Our route took us north of Beijing into the mountains that kept imperial China safe for centuries. We started out near Huang Cao Liang and capped the trip off with an ascent of Ling Shan (Soul Mountain). There was even time to do a slight detour to check out part of the great wall en route.The kids were super enthusiastic and more than ready to be on the trail. They had all just finished their last exams and this trek was the last thing standing between them and a few months off.
|testing out some local brew on our site inspection|
Along the way we had some highs and some lows. Perhaps the biggest low was the fact that our trip coincided with the Dragon Boat Festival, i.e. there were a million people on the trail with us........which was only difficult when they produced massive amounts of trash, blocked the trail, and blasted Miley Cyrus tunes (on repeat of course). But some of the best moments were spent navigating through the alpine fog, and watching the kids work together to find their way. After some wrong turns and long days we all ended up at the summit of Ling Shan (2303m).
|hard at work|
Every time I do this kind of work I learn more about my own facilitation style, but also from everyone I interact with. I also realized that being out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do except teach basic trekking skills and making sure everyone is safe is where I am happiest. Perhaps it's the simplicity, or maybe its just the space, who knows?
A whirlwind of flights, taxis, and bad coffee later I arrived back in Chiang Mai. Tonight Katie and I leave for the states, which will mark the first time we do so together!