Tattooing is the most misunderstood art form in Japan today. Looked down upon for centuries and rarely discussed in social circles, people with tattoos are outcasts in this country, banned from most public spaces such as beaches, bathhouses, and even gyms. Tattoos have an extensive history in Japan, and to truly understand the stigma behind them it is essential to be aware of their significance. The first records of tattoos...Read More
TGS Teacher Marta Guevara recounts the climbing and rappelling trip to the Blue Mountains with Nick Sagar.
JUMP, JUMP, COME ON you can do it!
My body is frozen. My legs are feeling weak. I am paralyzed with fear. I need to jump on my back into a pool inside the canyon. I’m standing on a rock only 2 meters up, but it might as well be 50. I look at the faces of the students in my group. My colleagues are also there encouraging. I keep saying, “I can’t.” They keep insisting I can.
The Blue Mountains owe their name to the blue haze created by the oil bearing Eucalyptus trees. We are going on an overnight excursion. Beyond the academic purpose of the trip, the students will also work on self-reliance, group work, and physical and mental challenges. Nick Sagar is with us. He will assist the group in rock climbing. We will also be learning to rappel, and we’re going canyoneering.
The morning starts at 4:30 am. We need to be on the bus by 6:15 am, and some of the students want to go for a quick swim before we leave. Brad happily obliges. We arrive at Katoomba train station at around 9:30 am. Our guides are waiting for us, and we begin our intense journey with a lesson on rappelling or “abseiling.”
There are fears to be conquered. A few of the students are afraid of heights. Amongst cheers of encouragement, and some tears of uncertainty, they all success in rappelling down 5, 10 and 30 meter rock walls. We have a quick lunch, and head to the rock climbing site.
I don’t want to jump. I can’t jump. “Just let go! Fall flat on your back!” They all encourage me…it should be the other way around. I’m the one that is supposed to be down there telling my students to move ahead, to trust themselves and us. What has happened? I used to be the kid who was daring, and never fearing. Where is that girl right now? No, they don’t get it… this is for them, they are the ones who need to overcome their fears… I’m not supposed to be here… Where is my classroom? I miss my walls…
Nick climbs with the students. There is a big difference between indoor and outdoor climbing. For one, there are no pre-designed holds. It’s just the rock and you. As our students found out, sometimes local insects inhabit the crevices! They can throw you off your game in a second! The heat and sharp rock edges can break a lot of spirits as well.
We split into two groups, and a total of six different climbing routes. I sit, watch, and encourage the kids throughout the three hours we are there. I’m their teacher, mentor, dean, and living “parent.” I’m here to help them overcome their fears. Teach them to be supportive of one another. Work with them to develop group skills. I am a firm believer that the future of our world depends on how creative we become at working as a team.