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Tim Patterson, leading an experiential learning study abroad semester for Where There Be Dragons, checks in from the Mekong Semester.

1. The group split up into two vehicles to attempt the rough track to our home-stay in an Yi village near Lashihai. I was riding shotgun in a beat-up van that skidded and fish-tailed up the mountain. The van door fell off twice and the students got out and pushed about a dozen times before the driver gave up and turned around.

We hiked over the pass and saw the headwaters of the Yangtze River through rising rainclouds in the valley below. Heading down to the village, I got a scratchy call on my cell – the other vehicle, a tractor, had also turned around before the pass, and the group needed help with the bags.

I sent my group of students back up the hill to meet the others. The rain came. I sheltered in a hollow tree. Lightning flashed.

Shivering and alone inside a tree somewhere on a mountain in China, I thought – “So this is my job?”

2. Down in the Yi village we ate roasted potatoes for breakfast, pulled from the cooking fire coals.

3. Sure, this job is stressful. Last week a student went into shock crossing a pass near the Tibetan border. My co-instructor, Stew Motta, brought him down with the help of another student. Stew made the call to go to a hospital in town, so I turned back to meet up with the student who had helped with the evacuation.

By the time I reached the trailhead it is was late in the afternoon. We still had a 5 hour hike up over the pass. Short on time, I bargained with mule drivers for a ride up trail. They wanted 185 kwai. I was sweaty, frustrated, worried – and it wasn’t until halfway up the trail, on the back of a mule, passing prayer flags at 11,000 feet that I started to remember where I was.

4. Check out the view from the lodge we hiked into, looking up the valley to 6,740 meter high Kawa Karpo, a sacred mountain that’s never been summited.

5. And now, back in Kunming, we’re getting set to go south into Laos. You can see more photos and read posts by Mekong Semester students on the Yak Yak Board.



About The Author

Tim Patterson

Tim Patterson is a long-time contributor and former contributing editor at Matador Network.

  • Hal Amen

    “Shivering and alone inside a tree somewhere on a mountain in China…”

    Talk about a humbling experience

  • Eva

    Great to get an update on the Mekong semester, Tim!

  • Luisa E. Sperry

    Sounds incredible! Safe travels…

  • Julie

    Wow- beautiful photo.

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