By Peng, Hsiang-Ling, LDP Cycle 4. Senior, Dept of Foreign Languages & Literatures
LDP students and teacher at East Peak, Mt. Nanhu. (July 7, 2012)
Gather and Launch
At 5 a.m. on July 3, 2012, while the whole campus of NTU was quiet with only a few of occasional chirping bugs and birds, in front of the Ming-Da Building gathered dozens of people, all dressed up, with 20kg backpacks and gears aside the feet. From this day to July 12, led by Prof. Chu Shi-Wei, students of the Team Learning & Outdoor Leadership class were going on a ten-day task of ascending Mt. Nanhu (to the elevation of 3742m), one of the highest mountains in Taiwan. Throughout this journey, they must cope with not only the precarious environment, but also physical and mental stress. The key strength that would carry them to the end of the journey was not just stamina and tenacity, but the support and sharing from within the team.
Listen to the Mountain Speaks
To many students, these ten days were rare moments they got to spend in nature. But it was no easy matter to enter that mystic realm. In addition to preparing the equipment and planning the itinerary, it also demanded them to step out of their comfort zone and train them both physically and mentally. Before heading to Mt. Nanhu, each of them must complete a running training of more than 100km and a two-day test at the Songluo Lake, Yilan, where muddy paths and steep cliffs had provided a picture on the difficulty of Mt. Nanhu, as well as reminded them the smallness of human being before the mountains.
However, mountains did not just test the students’ strength and will, it also showed the tender and beautiful side of nature. The trail through the woods might be muddy, yet when looking up, patches of green, brown, yellow and red wove into a long tapestry. Birds and bugs formed a beautiful orchestra while flowers and grasses became unique ballerinas. Cobwebs between the tree trunks were swinging in the wind. Hails, which were a pain in the butt a second before, turned into eye-flattering shining pearls rolling in the bushes.
Besides sightseeing, all students were in charge of different class themes to teach the rest of the group. Hence, students had had their oral-expression trained and their ideas shared as well as being inspired. Apart from the mountain whisper, they also heard the words from partners sitting next to them and learnt to work as a team.
Watch us Summit
Being away from the friendly environment, fear and uneasiness somewhat exited. The uncertainty also rose within the students as ten-day mountaineering was indeed arduous. Nevertheless, trekking and summiting had never been an one-man task. Via the “buddy system”, in which students were divided into teams of two or three, they were able to look after one another, and solve the problems encountered throughout both the pre-trekking and the trekking stages. Even though it was uncertain if all students could reach the summit due to differences in physical and mental conditions, everyone vowed before the departure: We will be on top together.
In the end, everyone summited the main peak of the Mt. Nanhu, enjoying the view of the morning sun that sparkled up the contented faces and photo takings. The tears of fear for the cliffs and the pain in the swollen ankles due to long-walking hours were gone, as the comfort zone had been surpassed and more ordeals and pains could be endured. Furthermore, they learned to support one another and get through obstacles together. The smile of victory was built upon communication and coordination among teammates. On the way up to the peak, students had to make decisions on their own. When being lost or a debate on whether they should continue moving took place, the whole team had to stop to decide. Once the consensus was reached, they would set off again. The decision-making process kept taking place throughout the journey. There was this one time when they had to decide to go on a bit more or to stop. Though it was still early, the trek planned might lead the students to the next stop only when it turned dusk. Some in the group were already exhausted while some strongly suggested keep going. At first, everyone seemed to be interested in moving on, wanting to challenge the seemingly endless mountain path. However, the counselors expressed concerns over the physically discomfort ones, resulting reconsideration. In the end, the students turned around and headed back to the previous stop.
Summiting could never be done by just one single person. Instead, it required collaborative team efforts to make it as safe and smooth as possible. In the mountain, every decision made was subject to affect the safety and condition of each team member. If a team had acted without keeping the whole picture in mind, the consequences could be disastrous. Through this experience, the students also noticed that the voice of the majority sometimes stifled different views from the minority. It was thus important for a team to listen and show respect to what the weaker voice had to say.
Return with a Heart so Full
Ten days flew by fast. Six-month preparation turned, in the blink of an eye, into a fruitful reward. When the team once again stepped on the plain, a warm stream flowed upon their hearts. Their life and personalities seemed to be richer and deeper. The team formed a circle by the stream at the foot of the mountain and whispered their gratitude to the nature and to the buddies for their company and support. Everyone returned with a notebook full of records of the journey, the thoughts and the growth in both body and mind. Just like what Prof. Chu had said, “People are forgetful animals—they have to keep a record of what they have learned so that they can recall and reflect upon it in the future.”
Students had not turned into top leaders in a snap due to the journey. What the ten-day experience had brought them was allowing them to think more about their life, helping them to find directions to their very own future and hoping that someday their dreams would all come true.
NTU Hightlight Issue 1106