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Your First Clue: Electronics Policy

Greetings fellow seekers! Your Instructor Team is eagerly awaiting your arrival over here, in the future, on the other side of that beautiful big blue pond temporarily separating us. We assume you all must be eagerly awaiting further clues as to how best to prepare for your expedition South of the Clouds! And indeed, below you will find several new jewels that will help you to properly harness your mind and body for the great adventure now rising o’er the not-too distant horizon. So, without further adieu…

…Our Electronics Policy!

RED: Please Do Not Bring

  • Cell phones. Even if you plan on using your cell phone as a camera or for music, we ask that you seek an alternative. If you do bring your phone, we will need to take it from you at the airportand during our stay in China we will do our best to care for it but ultimately any loss or damage will be your responsibility. Best to leave your phone at home.
  • These will not be useful and could easily get broken during our travels.
  • Tablet devices, such as iPads and Kindle Fires.

YELLOW: You May Bring These, but There’s a Catch…

  • iPods and other MP3 players. Only function is for listening to music, not surfing the internet.
  • Kindles or other E-readers. Only function is for reading, not surfing the internet.

We understand that everyone needs some alone and comfort time. However, as experienced instructors, we have frequently seen these devices allow students to negatively disengage from powerful learning experiences. What we do not want is for you to enter a homestay, pop in your ear buds or turn to your E-reader, and tune out from the experience around you. If you do bring these devices, plan to RARELY use them. Even our longest and most arduous travel days, precisely when it’s most tempting to put our headphones on, can hold some really amazing and unexpected cultural interactions, and we need to keep our eyes and ears open to engage in these unplanned moments. If you have questions about whether or not your devise is acceptable, please email us and we are happy to let you know. Again, if you do bring an unacceptable electronic devise, we will be taking it from you for the duration of our time together.

…More on The Dao of Our Policy

We spend so much time explaining our electronics policy because we want you to be truly on board with it. We want you to see why we ask you to leave some things behind. It is for the benefit of not just you the student, but also for the group as a whole; all your classmates, the instructors, our host communities, and your loved ones back home. Leaving home at home will allow you to be fully engaged in China and will give you more the freedom to grow into a more independent version of yourself. Please consider this policy as an increasingly rare opportunity to be fully, undividedly present in The Moment. It may be one of the few invitations you’ll ever receive to be more connected to yourself, to be spread less thin, and to be more in the here and now.

Here are some other considerations:

Cultural Sensitivity: Having a group of students whip out their devices all the time to take photos isn’t exactly the kind of impression we want local communities to have of us. We’d rather engage them in conversations or take part in their routines. In addition, we’d like to cultivate a group culture that focuses on things beyond material possessions. Less stuff helps us do this.

Theft and Damage: We don’t want your stuff to get broken or stolen! If you’re bringing devices that won’t survive being crushed under bags on an overnight bus or rained on during a muddy hike, know what you’re getting into. Also, pick-pocketing is a common problem on public buses. Another thing to consider is what the effect on the local community will be when something of ours is lost or stolen. Especially for rural host communities, you losing or having an iPhone stolen while as a guest of their homes can be very awkward for our hosts, and might even prevent the community from hosting future groups.

Engagement in Your Experience: One of the biggest reasons to leave as many of your electronics home as you can is that having fewer of these buzzing, beeping, notifying, messaging, attention-shattering things in our lives allows us the mental quietness we need to engage in deep conversation with ourselves. You’ll also find yourself engaging with peers and locals more. You’ll be challenged to sit through those quiet or awkward times when you might want to pull out your phone as a way to protect yourself from discomfort. Through all this, you’ll grow. We guarantee.

Safety: Over the years of running these courses we have learnt that students who are in too frequent contact with parents (via Skype or cell phone) will report health issues, especially seemingly embarrassing ones such as diarrhea, to parents and not instructors. It doesn’t help us help you when your parents know you have a cut, but we only find out three days later after your parents have called the office in Boulder and then the office calls us. By that time the small cut could have become infected. The diarrhea could have led to dehydration. If you report these issues to instructors directly, we can solve the issue before it becomes a problem. All too often cell phones and constant access to parents via the Internet lead to the erosion of direct communication with instructors, the people who can help you.

Homesickness: Another thing we’ve learned running courses for so long is that students who feel homesick continue to feel homesick when they stay in close contact with friends and family at home. On the other hand, students who push themselves to leave home behind and engage in the course feel less homesick. We don’t ever want to discourage you from checking in with loved ones. We just ask that you don’t do it too much. If you have super easy access to Internet and phone, you will contact loved ones more, and as a result you will have a harder time engaging fully in the experience and will feel more even homesick.

Money: One final and less obvious issue associated with mobile phones and Internet devices is the problem of roaming charges. Students can accidentally be charged huge amounts of money using their phone or downloading files outside of the U.S.

Please take a moment, prepare yourself some fine green tea and listen, if you will, to some interesting observations from Simon Sinek regarding much of what here has been mentioned…

This is all for now. Dig deep into what here has been shared. Volumes upon volumes of unimaginable enlightenment can be gained from understanding these powerful lessons and applying them already, now, to your lives back home.

Please check back with us here on the China: South of the Clouds Yak page in the coming days. We will be continuing to offer you important clues. Once you are ready, we will present you with important riddles as to how be a noble traveler; the Lost Art of Giving and soon….

The Tentative Itinerary (i.e. Man Makes Plans and God Laughs…)

May the Force be with you,

Gregory, Kristen and Gong