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Yunnan Day 2

A few more reflections on yesterday.


There are 55 registered minority groups here in China. The Yunnan province is home to 26 of them. They each have their own customs, dress, and traditions. Nombu explained to me yesterday it was the elevation and mountains that created this situation. Different tribes settled in different valleys and had little or no contact for thousands of years. Most developed their own dialect and accents. Liming is home to the Lisu, Pumi, Bai, Yu, and Han tribes with the Lisu being the majority. When we arrived yesterday a group of Pumi ladies performed a song and dance in traditional dress.



The minorities I met take a lot of pride in their heritage. I've written about diversity recently. My gut tells me these groups of people recognize the lack of diversity across the rest of the country and they take a lot of pride in showing tolerance for the other tribes here in Yunnan. It's been a point of emphasis in multiple conversations. They like to refer to "straight" talk. Being direct in what you say and seeing a sense of black and white in terms of right and wrong.


I sat and spoke with Jason for about a half an hour last night. He's one of the Karst guides and is a native to this area. He's a professional rock climber and it's been something I've been interested in for about fifteen years.


I took notice of a climber named Alex Honnold after teaching a trigonometry lesson that involved rock climbering around ten years ago. A few years ago a documentary called Free Solo chronicled his rope free ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The film won the Oscar for best documentary. Jason told me that Alex Honnold came here to Liming because it's a rock climbers hidden gem. If you saw the pictures from yesterday it's not hard to understand why. He lit up like a Christmas tree telling me about meeting him. Getting to hear people talk about their intense passions is a very cool experience.


I'm a generally reserved man. I tend to stick to the back row and not be noticed. Being the grade level leader for the ninth grade has put me out front of our group a lot. It's forcing me to consider priorities for how I present myself and what I want for our group of kids here. I want them to walk away with some lifetime memories having positive moments that will be foundational for them. The more I reinforce that this is what I want for them the more I think they're appreciating my intentions. It's leading to moments like this one I shared with Ingrid. She wanted a picture of us together because we were both wearing sunglasses inside. Ingrid is a basketball player, so I'm super biased and she's one of my favorites.



Today is going to be a challenge for many of our kids. Via ferrata. It's a rock climbing experience involving safety gear and scary heights. Many have sworn they won't attempt it, but hopefully some will challenge themselves. It's a chance to face some adversity and look inside. How will each react to being in this situation? I plan to be as supportive as I can while throwing myself into the activity too. I'm not specifically afraid of heights, but I certainly don't go seeking out this sort of thing. I even avoid roller coasters. I've told my buddy Durk I'll join him sometime on one. He's a roller coaster freak. Who creates websites dedicated to roller coasters? Durk does.


I've been missing my pupper dawg quite a bit. We have a small dog roaming our area that got some serious ear and back rubbing from me today. Jerry Jumbo was his favorite though...



Breakfast was good. Typical Chinese foods. Nothing new to report there. Afterward we loaded up and my half headed to the via ferrata (the iron way). Via ferrata is assisted rock climbing. There's a cable in place and metal foot and hand holds along the path. The idea is to climb a path that wouldn't be possible with the assistance. You're connected to the cable with a harness and TWO lines. When you come to a section where the cable is bolted to the rock you carefully transfer your lines across to the next section one at a time so you're always attached to the rock.



I did this today, but I don't know if I would do it again. Parts of it were terrifying, and I'm certainly feeling my age this morning. The picture above was about 200 meters above the ground under an overhang where I could rest in the shade. Our maximum height reached about 400 meters up.


We had 23 out of 24 students complete the activity from our group. Only one declined as he had tried it before and chose not to give it a go. It took about two and a half hours. Just before that picture above was the most difficult portion. Getting around the corner behind me was a disturbing section. The hand holds weren't good and the feeling of having your torso farther away from the vertical rock face than your feet was scary.



I was glad I opted to be the caboose. It gave me chances to rest in more comfortable areas and not get stuck in an awkward area with people behind me and in front of me simultaneously. My hands this morning are very sore. Again, not sure I would do this again. I've got a bad habit of not recognizing my age. All these pictures were taken by guides. We didn't allow kids to take their phones and I didn't either.



The via ferrata was a great experience for our kids. A major confidence boost that some of our more timid students can now look back on with a feeling of accomplishment. And yes, Schmelmo made the trip today too.


While we were staring down certain death the other half of our group was working on one of our two service projects, building a greenhouse for a local family.



I had a rough second half of the day feeling like I was constantly dealing with fires started by some of our boys. There's an extreme immaturity and entitlement that some of them have. Boys from wealthy families who believe they're royalty and are untouchable. It's only a small handful, but it can suck the life out of you quickly. I didn't have a free moment until my head hit the pillow.


  • I don't want to help build a greenhouse for a poor family. I'll stay here at the hotel and play video games on my phone.

  • Why can't I run around our courtyard screaming and having a water fight? I don't care about the other new guests in the hotel.

  • I don't have to do what the Karst climbing guides tell me.


It's stuff like this that might keep me from being a grade level leader again next year. The girls are all awesome, but some of the boys are a serious pain.


A happier moment of my day to end on. While the kids were working on the greenhouse a litttle boy was stalking me.



No idea what his name was, but he was fairly fascinated with me. He brought me a small bag of peanuts and wanted to give them to me one at a time. I assume he lived in this home. I tried to teach him to count to five in English using the peanuts. We got up to three. He preferred to count in Chinese.


Getting to see life here in the country is interesting. Definitely had a third world feel. It reminded me of some of the more remote areas of Mexico that I've been to. Small farm life growing their food to survive. This farm had a couple of pens with livestock, two sheep and two pigs. We drove past many of these farm areas today and there was one thing that stood out to me. Many had newer looking cars. Wish I had taken some photographs. The cars really looked out of place compared to everything else I was seeing. Will try to ask a guide today about this. Maybe a misperception on my part.

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Heresolong
Heresolong
Jun 01, 2023

"There's an extreme immaturity and entitlement that some of them have."


Sounds familiar. Maybe not just rich kids but rather teenage boys? If you were a grade level advisor again next year would you have the same kids but a year older or would you have a new group of the same age? One thing I've been trying to convince MHS of is to go back to an advisor who stays with the kids for four years until they graduate. There is constantly talk of building relationships but then they want to shuffle up homeroom each year so you get a completely different bunch. It would be great if you could see those kids grow and mature while getti…


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David Shick!
David Shick!
Jun 02, 2023
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The idea would be to stay with the same class and have them next year in 10th grade. After the insanity of this week I was sure it wasn't for me, but looking back on it I handled the insanity well and stayed calm. Perhaps it is for me? I need time to think on it.

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Paige Shumway
Paige Shumway
May 31, 2023

You and your students totally rock, Dave! What a fantastic experience. Your participation gave them the confidence they needed, and they will look back in this experience for years to come. Shick!!!!!

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You a braver soul than me. I have always had a near disabling fear of heights. Not interested in conquering it as I don't get the payoff. So, I end up with a nice view. There are lots of nice views where I don't have to risk death. Maybe the payoff is in the accomplishment. But I would rather accomplish a sub 70 round of golf!

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Heresolong
Heresolong
Jun 01, 2023
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At your age aren't you risking death just by being alive? 🤣

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