La Vida Goes to China

By: Nate Hausman
Photos By: Amber and Nate Hausman

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, striving to “be here now” and focusing on choosing our challenges wisely are mantras that La Vida sherpas continually share while leading expeditions. For Amber and Nate Hausman, not only did they recently have the opportunity to live out some of these La Vida sayings, but they also got to share the La Vida trip experience in China with 17 international school students. The trip was a year in the making and consisted of countless email exchanges, numerous Skype conversations and a lot of trust that it would all come together in the end.

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After gear and food pack out, this group is ready to head into the woods!

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Heading to the first campsite!

To bring the trip to fruition, they partnered with Concordia International School of Shanghai, Journey Wilderness Adventures (JWA) and a Beijing-based company called The Hutong. The Hutong provides educational experiences for students that are a unique blend of cultural immersion and experiential outdoor education. They provided the logistical support needed for this trip by preparing a route, organizing transportation and guiding us through the wilderness.

The seven-day trip first became an idea in 2015 after Gordon’s Vice President of Student Life Jennifer Jukanovich made a connection with a staff member at Concordia who oversees all their off-campus experiences. What started as a question of whether or not La Vida could provide an international experience soon became a reality. Rich Obenschain and Nate then had the opportunity to meet with Chris Qualls of JWA who was visiting the Gordon area and heard about La Vida from a former student of his in China. One connection led to another and soon the nuts and bolts of the trip were coming together.

What a view at our cooking spot!

Chefs in the making. Lots of delicious meals were cooked on this trip!

Lots of lessons on the first day: LNT, tent set-up, cooking and cleaning, and the fun broadcasting after brushing teeth!

Many technical lessons on the first day: LNT, tent set-up, cooking and cleaning, and the fun broadcasting after brushing teeth!

It was quickly apparent to Nate and Amber that this experience would be a unique one as soon as they landed in China’s capital. Surrounded by a sea of individuals all speaking foreign languages and being shuffled through long lines at the customs checkpoint, Nate and Amber were thrilled to stretch their legs after 14 hours in a plane. The first few days of their trip were filled with not only tourist activity, but also with final trip preparations. A visit to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Hutong district in downtown Beijing were all highlights from those first few days. In addition to seeing some of the sites though, Nate and Amber all focused their attention on purchasing final food items and packing not only those items, but also food they needed to bring from the United States (who knew it was so tough to get M&Ms in China?)

A key component to La Vida is implementing Leaders of the Day (LOD's). All of the LOD's did such an amazing job at fulfilling this role.

A key component to La Vida is implementing Leaders of the Day (LOD’s). All of the LOD’s did such an amazing job at fulfilling this role.

The students had fun learning about LNT by acting out the seven principles for their peers. They are acting out "Be Considerate of Other Visitors".

The students had fun learning about LNT by acting out the seven principles for their peers. Here they are acting out “Be Considerate of Other Visitors”.

Our first full day of hiking involved A LOT of stairs.

The first full day of hiking involved A LOT of stairs.

Day one of the trip quickly arrived, and with that the leadership team headed to the airport to pick up the 17 students and two teachers from Concordia. Concordia has students from all over the world, so they have a strong focus on building community within the high school. Every year the students are a part of a different “TrIBES” (Transforming Individuals By Education and Service) group which is a weeklong educational travel experience. TrIBES seeks to develop communication, leadership skills, self-reliance and compassion. After a two-hour bus ride into the hills located outside of Beijing, gear, food and personal equipment was all distributed and the group of 23 headed to their first campsite. The group meandered their way through the wilderness and as often happens on La Vida trips, started to develop their own inside jokes, tight bonds over long days of hiking and friendships that would last for years after their experience in the woods.

This group was not afraid to lend a helping hand which was needed our third day of the trip. The group really pulled together and showed care and support.

This group was not afraid to lend a helping hand which was often needed throughout the trip. The group really pulled together and showed care and support to one another.

At this point in the trail, we had to hand our bags down one by one because it was pretty steep.

At this point in the trail, it was very steep so the group had to hand their bags down one by one and then climb down.

The views we encountered on the trail were quite magnificent.

The views encountered on the trail were quite magnificent.

The trip was a great experience overall for everyone involved. Nate and Amber left feeling positive that the spiritual curriculum they prepared reached the students well and opened the door for them to begin exploring their faith more. Topics of discussion were based on community development, cultivating your faith personally, learning to be present and not worrying about the future. During an end-of-trip debrief session, all six of the leaders commented on how much work went into the planning and preparation of this trip, but how incredibly evident that planning was in how well the trip was implemented. Many students commented on how they have become more aware of the role of technology in their lives and how they need to find balance with its use, but also came to realize that time with friends and family is something to be treasured, and not disrupted by the buzzing of cell phones.

The students made their group covenant under the stars and had great ideas on how to bring the community they've experienced on the trip back to their school.

The students made their group covenant under the stars and had great ideas on how to bring the community they experienced on the trip back to their school.

Students spent a morning and afternoon on a solo and reflected on their faith, friendships, and family.

Students spent a morning and afternoon on a solo and reflected on their faith, friendships, and family.

The last day of the trip we hiked along the river bed soaking up as much as we could before it was over.

The last day of the trip the group hiked along the river bed soaking up as much as they could before it was over.

Hiking and outdoor recreation is a new pasttime for China. There seems to be a lot of potential for climbing and bouldering.

Hiking and outdoor recreation is a relatively new leisure activity for China. There seems to be a lot of potential for climbing and bouldering.

Our time ended by sharing a meal at a guesthouse where they served us local Chinese cuisine. Yum!!!

The trip ended by sharing a meal at a guesthouse where they were served local Chinese cuisine. Yum!!!

Now that the trip has wrapped up and everyone is back home again, Nate and Amber have been able to share with numerous friends, family and co-workers about how God truly did provide for them during this entire experience. It is apparent that you don’t need to be located in the Adirondacks to experience the power of La Vida. The lessons you gain from spending time in the wilderness are universal and something that cross international borders. Although future plans for another trip to China are not confirmed yet, there is hope this was not the last international La Vida trip.

Nate and Amber are so grateful to have had the chance to serve Concordia students and to partner with their teachers and The Hutong in providing this unforgettable experience.

Nate and Amber are so grateful to have had the chance to serve Concordia students and to partner with their teachers and The Hutong in providing this unforgettable experience.

 

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2 thoughts on “La Vida Goes to China

  1. Amazing photos that display in part our Amazing Creator. Wonderful to see how our Lord Jesus Christ was at work in and through this trip. I know many seeds were planted to grow their faith. Thank you Amber and Nate for your service to the Lord and His Mighty Work!!

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