Taking the Journey, Transforming Within
Posted 09/08/2017 10:08AM

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right.

- Henry Ford

How do you prepare for the demands of a Kilimanjaro climb, Africa's highest peak? Increasing your fitness and endurance, training at altitude, and breaking in new equipment are essential. Add packing proper nutrition, appropriate trekking gear for fluctuating temperatures and weather patterns, and emergency and rescue tools, and off you go well equipped.

Out of the 18 Keystone students who traveled to Tanzania this summer to climb Kilimanjaro, 13 reached Gilman’s Point on the Kilimanjaro crater rim at 5700m altitude, two climbed further up to Uhuru Peak (5895m), while three stayed behind at various stages of the climb due to illness. Leading up to this journey and as part of the required mental and physical preparedness, Design Teacher Richard Watts organized five training hikes to the Great Wall and Jiufeng National Forest and coached the students on the importance of commitment to personal training and fitness.

“At first, I didn’t think I would make it. I was not as physically fit as most other students in the group and found the preparatory training in Beijing super hard. Then, one month before our departure, I got scared and wanted to give up. But I didn’t,” recounts grade 10 student Joya. “If you want to do it, I’d say go for it. Train hard. Talk to your parents and Mr. Watts. Even had I not made it to the top [Gilman’s Point], “ Joya reflected, “it would have still been a learning journey for me.”

Meanwhile, less than 3000 km south of Kilimanjaro, ten grades 10 and 11 students had just spent 4 days at Gaborone’s Mar-a-Pula School in Botswana where Keystone Head of School Malcolm McKenzie worked for 12 years and was Principal of it for 8. The students got to experience Mar-a-Pula school life, meet and mix with its students, and participate in some of the afternoon service activities.

The Botswana travel itinerary integrated opportunities for environmental and conservancy missions, cultural and intercultural learning, service work, and leadership training in a country and a landscape so vastly different from China and most parts of the world. After leaving Gaborone for the Khama Rhino Sanctuary in Serowe, the students pitched their tents and worked on projects like bush clearing and making firebreaks, engaged in activities to strengthen their leadership skills, and went on evening game drives. “It was a tame experience, in a way, although to the students it was pretty wild,” Mr. McKenzie said.

For the final destination of their journey, the group traveled northwest where they embarked on a mobile safari through the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World heritage site and home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the white and black rhinoceros, African elephant, African wild dog, cheetah, leopard, and lion.

“It was extra special going with students who had not been there before, and who had never experienced the amazing variety of human life, as well as the animals, birds, insects, trees, flowers, skies, and stars that we became a small part of for two weeks. For them it was a first time. For me, it was a different first time, seeing these wonders through the eyes of teenagers who were appropriately astonished. They gave me the gift of refreshment and reinvigoration,” concluded Mr. McKenzie.

The Keystone Office of Global Initiatives offers a wide range of trips and learning opportunities to destinations across the globe. These journeys abroad are an extension of the learning environment at Keystone and leave behind a powerful impression, enriching our students in a multitude of ways. Mr. McKenzie cautions, however, that students must not lose sight of how fortunate they are to take such journeys and the transformation, or transfiguration as he calls it, they are meant to evoke within.

This, too, rings true for Joya: “From the summit looking down, I saw a small dark spot in the far distance [base camp] and felt a sense of accomplishment that was so intense. I had never felt like this before. As I was standing there I remembered it was my birthday that day and my guide sang happy birthday for me on top of the mountain. It was the best birthday ever, without presents, and without cake. Just a deep sense of accomplishment having reached a goal that seemed impossible at first. You will want to do it again.”

 Specials Thanks to The Voice Team

The Keystone Magazine

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