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The Cliff’s Edge

I’ve been blatantly ignoring writing a yak post. Truthfully, at some points I felt that writing one would be more of an assignment than something I would want to do. At others, I believed that writing a post would both limit any experience I had or diminish it in some way. See, I would never be able to describe these experiences in a way that could provide all the details, all my feelings, and all my perceptions of what happened. I felt that only my own memory would be able to contain those important pillars of any one experience.


But then I realized that was, for lack of a better word, stupid. I know I’m still right: that I will never be able to seemingly transfer my memory of something that happened over to you, the reader. However, I know that I should do it even if I can’t do it justice.


So here goes.


Besides having to wake up at 3:00 A.M. in order to watch the World Cup semifinal in Jixiang village, climbing Chicken Foot mountain was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve had to endure on this trip. The long hours on endless staircases, the bloodthirsty monkeys hidden away in the trees, and the weight of my exhausted legs holding me back all tried to work together to force myself and the others to give up. Although the magnificent views and the prospect of conquering all the stairs made it worthwhile, nothing served as more motivation for reaching the top than a small encounter with a monk.

Kyle and I, desiring to take aesthetically pleasing pictures by a particularly amazing view, quickly noticed a monk climbing the stairs towards us. About thirty minutes later, we noticed him again, climbing over a railing that was obviously placed to keep tourists from nonchalantly walking towards the edge of the cliff. It was also fairly obvious that the monk wished to think, observe, or meditate on the edge of the rock facing puffy white clouds and the valley below. We walked past him, gawking at the beautiful view and the potential for an amazing picture. Our next conversation went something like this:

Me: “Do you wanna ask him if you can take his picture?”

Kyle: “Yeah dude, definitely!”

We approached and asked him, to which he gave a thumbs up and posed. Kyle snapped a picture, we said goodbye, and he went back to his business.

Halfway up the next set of stairs, I suddenly stopped and asked Kyle a question.

Me: “Should I ask to take a picture with him? That’s such a cool view.”

Kyle: “Ohh yesss do it. You’re gonna regret it if you don’t.”

Me: “No… I shouldn’t. No… wait I should, I should.”

Kyle: “Do it, do it.”

With Kyle’s push and my motivation for an amazing picture, I approached the monk again and asked him if it would be okay. He smiled and beckoned me over. I clambered over the safety railing, cautiously approached the edge of the cliff, and immediately started listening to the monk’s instructions on how to pretzel my legs correctly.

His willingness to make memories and his helpfulness are indicative of everything we’ve encountered on this trip. I will remember that moment forever and will always remember it as an amazing outcome to a difficult journey.

I guess I should also update all of you on the group’s current state of affairs. By the time you’re reading this, all of us have presented our Independent Study Projects and are heading off to Beijing to begin transference. We’ll be home soon, but, in the meantime, we’ll be reflecting on the last five weeks and all the experiences we’ve had so far. Later.