Last week was an exciting one for CMRCA, as we hosted 17 students and two teachers from the International School of Phnom Penh! The students positive attitudes and never ceasing enthusiasm propelled them through an eight day adventure both in the city and countryside. The group started with an orientation day in the old city, including leadership and team building models as well as our amazing race. The day wasn’t quite complete until ice cream bars were shared all around and the Chiang Mai Gate Market thoroughly explored.
After a long day walking on the pavement we were ready to hit Crazy Horse and Mae On for two days of climbing/rappelling and ridgeline trekking. Little did staff members Add and Ethan know that they had a group of natural adventurers on their hands! The ISPP students impressed all around, climbing high and setting record times on the trek without getting lost. Three days in and already exhausted (at least the staff and teachers were!) we all settled in to Mae Kampong Village for a home stay and the most delicious home cooked meals of the trip.
Rejuvenated after a solid night’s sleep, the group set out for a day of zip-lining high in the jungle canopy. After a long day we returned to the city and surprisingly (or maybe not if you familiar with 6-10 graders), the students instantly jumped onto the bouldering wall for some more practice and exercise. After another market dinner and warmer night all were ready to head north to Mae Taeng for some white water rafting and river kayaking!
Deep into the Mae Taeng valley we transitioned to the river life and conquered the “Mother Cucumber” in stunning form. We were kept on our heels by constant commands from our rafting guides: “All forward!”, “Over right!”, “Get down!” and “JUMP!”. It was quite a technical ride, but we had brief moments of recovery amidst elephants bathing in the river. And going number 2 while everyone was swimming. “Get back in the boooaaaatttt!”
It was a long and bumpy ride back to the main road with many sleepy students. The stunning views on the boat ride to our floating guesthouse on the Mae Ngat Reservoir kept everybody going. After a big game of Salad Bowl (won by the Decapitated Llamas) the cool lake air wooed everybody to bed…But as soon as the sun came up the next morning, it was time for a SWIM!
We spent our last day kayaking down the Ping River en-route back to Chiang Mai. Once again the ISPP students inspired us with their energy and determination to paddle hard throughout the day and complete the route. Hopefully some of them learned their lesson and in the future will listen to their guides when told to put sunscreen on. We had some lobsters! 😉
Back in Chiang Mai we had a final feast at the Hanging Legs restaurant and a group discussion about personal and group challenges throughout the trip. Our last morning together was spent atop Doi Suthep where we held an appreciation circle — each student was asked to secretly observe one of their peers and then share something kind about them. It was a great ending to a fantastic adventure! (sorry to Louis who got a little sick that last morning…)
All in all, it was clear to us that these students from Phnom Penh share some of the same values with us at CMRCA…They live adventure, seek growth and development, and definitely think like a family, which can sometimes be difficult when a group ranges from grade 6-10. It was awesome to watch them take initiative and act like leaders — as two students were chosen every day to lead the group and facilitate an evening discussion circle.
Thank you students and teachers for an incredible week of exciting activities, deep discussions, and non-stop laughter and smiles. You are quite the bunch and will not be forgotten! Shout out to James, Chie, Ebeltlje, David, Miriam, Alex, Louis, Darren, Dominic, Solinda, Carter, Yong Jin, Abby, Aiman, Takuya, Carolyn, Conner, Mr. McCombe, and Ms. Her!