Grade 10 Explore China Trip to Shangri La (Xiang ge li la)
The grade 10 students travelled to the valley of Shangri La (Xian Ge Li La) made famous in the book Lost Horizons (3300 meters above sea level).
The students had done some fundraising and collected some food donations for the orphanage. Both the orphanage kids and LIS kids had a great time playing, dancing and meeting each other… lots of hugs on the way out.
The LIS students had a chance to learn to create a Thanka, an ancient form of art that most often depicts the history of Tibetan Buddhism and the life of Shakyamuni (Siddhārtha Gautama the Buddha) in a painting. The kids drew their own image of Gautama Buddha according to the strict Tibetan guidelines.
Went to a local farm for lunch in the farmer’s traditional home and after lunch we helped him pick potatoes. The kids divided into teams and raced up and down the furrows collecting potatoes for his family.
The students visited the Yunnan Diqing Shambala Tibetan Cultural Museum with the largest Mandala in the world. The students were amazed by the statues and artefacts and learned a great deal about Tibetan Buddhism (not the same as other forms of Buddhism).
The highlight moment was our trip to the Songzanlin Monastery (1679), often called the Potala Palace of Yunnan. The students were awestruck by the artistry and culture all around them. They were treated to a once in a lifetime experience in that they were fortunate enough to meet and talk with a 10 year old boy who is the reincarnation of Rinpoche (the precious one).
Our guides, Chimi Jamin Wangyal and Tashi Renchen, from Extravagant Yak were very know-ledgeable and made the trip a once in a lifetime experience.
Grade 8 & 9 HeiShui Trip
The journey there took a long time particularly if you were on the left of the bus looking vertically down to the reservoir from the unmade road. Once past the water, we registered with the local police and travelled through a couple of painted Tibetan villages before arriving at the field where we camped. The locals were already roasting the goat on the spit, the marshmallows were less chewy.
Yes, the bus did get stuck in the mud, it had rained all night after all, but the driver putting the snow chains on eventually got us moving. The hotel was luxurious, especially after our camping. It was a shame that we could not get into the Monastery but it was great to play Ultimate Frisbee on the grounds and have our Italian Roma supporting student having his picture taken with the chief monk proudly wearing his Roma shirt.
The views in the Dagu Glacier National Park could have been better if it had been a little brighter, but then again their were a number of students who had never made a snowman or thrown a snowball. Skipping stones in the lake was also one of the highlights. Thanks to Mrs Shill, and Abu and Kunchok, the Extravagant Yak guides. It was a great experience to share with the students and fellow staff.
Grade 6 & 7 Explore China Trip to Muni Valley
The grade 6-7 trip to Muni Valley was a huge success, a worthwhile adventure that sought to expose the children to new environments and ideas.
The trip winded through many interesting areas. Our first stop was the site of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, where an immense 7.9 magnitude quake destroyed several villages and killed tens of thousands of people. It was a truly humbling experience for our group to walk the grounds and to explore the earthquake museum, as the children were able to see firsthand the devastating effects of such a significant natural disaster. From there, the cohort traveled to Taoping Qiang Village and stayed in a unique natural setting. The weather was cooler but the air was definitely cleaner. We took a tour of the village, did a small bit of shopping, and then hiked to enjoy some spectacular mountainous views.
The next day the kids woke early so that we could fully enjoy our first day at the homestay in Muni Valley. Students took an afternoon walk on the hillside where they needed to forage for local wild vegetables that were used as part of our authentic Tibetan meal that evening. Additionally, our Extravagant Yak guide challenged the different groups of students to learn to prepare Tibetan style momos, which were then judged by our welcoming homestay hosts. Lots of dough, lots of laughs and plenty of teamwork!
The final day took us to one of the most amazing waterfalls in Asia. There, we enjoyed a beautiful walk along the boardwalks and through the forests to the top of Zhaga Waterfall. The pristine landscape was well preserved and left the entire group in awe with all its strength and beauty. After such an arduous hike the students enjoyed a hearty, protein-filled bowl of Muslim noodles in the town of Songpan. A tour of the old city wall revealed a historical snapshot of the town’s violent but colourful past. Finding and preparing your own food was a central theme on the trip and during our last afternoon, the students once again had to work for part of their supper. Groups were expected to use traditional methods to extract some massive potatoes. That evening, students gathered around the campfire where they sipped on hot chocolate and competed for the title of ‘2016 Explore China Master Marshmallow Roaster’. It was the perfect way to celebrate a trip full of challenges and accomplishments.
The leaders and guides sincerely believe that although many students encountered situations that forced them out of their comfort zone, they learned to quickly adapt to new environments and circumstances. We are confident that students were able to gain an awareness and appreciation for local cultures, as well as develop their own sense of responsibility and independence.