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Kilimanjaro week 5: show us your grit!

We certainly do not live in a training vacuum this week! The seniors wrapped up their final “class” sessions on Friday and marked the occasion with a special dinner amongst faculty and administrators.

As the food courses kept coming, so did the sense of finality and the power of this landmark. The speeches began with the teachers but eventually inspired the students to raise a glass and toast their years spent at TGS and the people who made them what they were. It was a meaningful evening and one that made us feel confident these students are ready to enter their exams and eventually the world beyond TGS.

Our third week of training was quite demanding of time because we were lucky enough to have Chaney onsite for Miyajima hikes, high altitude talks and “gear shakedowns.” There was so much to take in, and hopefully it has all been fully absorbed. For those of you who would like to learn about high altitude sickness, enjoy Chaney’s slides on the topic and see my notes below:

The seniors should all have their hiking boots now, and they have started breaking them in during hikes, walks around town, and even shuffling around school.

Many of us had a big drop-off in our training sessions in the fifth week, likely due to a heavy week four as well as the lead-up to exams. Hopefully, the shift in our May training expectations will invigorate our climbers and get them back in the game!

A shift in training expectations

This month’s training expectation is:

At least one session that lasts 45 minutes or longer per week to test grit. Ideas include: walking on a treadmill on an incline, walking the steps of the hotel, or walking around the city with a small pack carrying 20lbs.

Chaney and Adam spoke onsite about the necessary type of training we must do in preparation for the climb, keeping in mind realistic expectations based on the students’ schedules and what they have readily available. While we still need to be heart healthy and strong for the climb, it’s more important that we have seasoned hiking boots and a mental ability to endure, even when exercise gets hard, boring or monotonous. Anything beyond these grit sessions will only benefit the climbers on the mountain, but no amount of short sessions will match or replace their value.

…it’s the hardest walk you’ll ever take, over steep, craggy terrain and at elevations so inhospitable that more trekkers fail to reach the summit each year than succeed… (Men’s Health, 2014)

This article from Men’s Health magazine tells a story of two readers who trained with Red Bull and climbed Kilimanjaro last winter. The first topic of their article happens to dive into motivation, which reminded me of our very first meeting with the seniors on the riverside of Hiroshima…

What are you climbing for?

There are some students who have been contemplating this essential question since I posed it a month ago:

Looking at what I am passionate about, there are far too many aspects and causes that I would want to climb for – that would make me passionate enough to summit a 5,892 meters peak, that I can’t decide.

I’ve thought about the environment: maybe to push myself to climb in support of the Yasuni tribe of Ecuador, whose home is being destroyed and drilled for oil, or maybe for a more political cause: to remind the world that the Ukraine is an independently sovereign nation.

Its become an interesting test in self-study, trying to decode what I believe I care about enough to push my body to the limits. I can’t wait to see what my classmates decide they’re going to climb for.

During these grit sessions, we may find that this question creeps up into our conscious at moments of weakness or perspective. Hopefully more students are thinking about this and sharing it with others to come to a clear understanding for themselves as to what this experiences means to them.

Write about it!

As a way to chronicle these thoughts about purpose, motivation, and passion…along with the other myriad thoughts that go through a graduate’s head…Chaney helped us acquire small notebooks for the seniors. Within these little books they have been encouraged to memorialize the final two months of their high school career and TGS experience.

As a person who has experienced debilitating reverse culture shock after smaller trips, I cannot imagine the shift that is to come when our seniors land back in their home countries or move on to their university destinations. It cannot be easy to leave this unique bubble and make sense of its impact on your life. We are hoping that equipping the students with notebooks and providing them prompts along the way will facilitate a smooth transition into a fulfilling and successful life away from (but still connected to) THINK Global School.

What’s to come

Last Friday’s dinner showed us how aware our seniors have become of their transition. Some were moved to tears and others filmed every sentimental word for safe keeping. We shall see if this awareness is sustained throughout the month of May and into graduation…or if exams become all-consuming and make the month fly by.

There continue to be training sessions facilitated by ResLIFE and other student groups. And in two weekends, we will have the joy of welcoming Mike Hourahine onsite and accompanying him on an optional climb. During that time we will hopefully chat about some new ideas connected to the climb, including diet, the specifics of our itinerary and the porters on the climb with us. We will also check in to see if everyone is doing well with acquiring what they need on the packing list.

If you have any questions or comments, please comment below!

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Ready to embark on the educational journey of a lifetime?

A passion for travel. A strong academic record. And the desire to improve the world as you experience it. If this sounds like you, you just might be our ideal candidate! Start your application with a five-minute inquiry form - you never know where you might end up.

It all starts here.

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