"My Week at the Stone Forest" | My Family Travels

This picture shows me at the top of the elephant I climbed.
This picture shows me and a few of my favorite campers.

Out of all things in life, I believe that you learn the most from a hands-on experience. Traveling is one of the best ways to open yourself up to new ideas and information. One of my most influential traveling instances happened about three years ago, the summer before my ninth-grade year. That summer had already been packed with interesting events, such as moving back to Kunming, China and driving to the border of Laos on a two-lane mountainous highway. When we were settled in our apartment, Dad showed me an advertisement online for an English teacher position for a weeklong camp near the Stone Forest. I had never had a real job before, but I readily agreed to go with him. It was like getting paid to go to summer camp!

Sunday afternoon was start of our journey, and after four hours of driving, we arrived at the camp and were settled in our rooms, all of which were complete with two king-sized beds, high wooden ceilings, and a spacious porch. We ate dinner with all the campers and started to get to know them. That night, all of us leaders of the camp met to discuss what we would be doing and teaching throughout the week, and I went to sleep, excited for the next day.

Monday, the first day of camp was mainly a “getting to know you” day, in which we started early in the morning and played English-teaching games with the kids. After the kids had gotten most of their jitters out, I gave my first English lesson, which was probably a bit rocky, but my Dad says I did a decent job. That afternoon, we walked to our first outing, which was a farm and vineyard a mile out from the camp. We were able to observe the irrigation process of all of the plants and taste-test a few of the delicious grapes. By the time we arrived back at camp, we were awaited by an appetizing dinner of traditional Chinese fish soup.
Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with many adventures, so much so that hardly anyone could wait for me to finish my English lessons. Tuesday, we were taken out to a rose farm not far from the camp. There we picked baskets full of roses, took a tour of the gardens there, and ate a lunch composed of sugar-coated rose petals and rose soup. Wednesday, we visited the hot springs and a small water park. Each hot spring was scented with different essential oils or natural products that helped various illnesses, according to Chinese medicine practices.

The last day of camp, Thursday, was the day everyone had been waiting for. After my tedious English lesson, we journeyed to the nearby Stone Forest, one of the most visited attractions in our part of China. We surveyed all of the tall stone outcroppings and the beautiful gardens surrounding them. I even climbed to the top of a tall elephant sculpture near the front entrance of the forest. We eventually came to a vast green field and let the kids run and play to their hearts’ content.

Our parting with the campers the next morning was sad, but I truly learned so much from the experience. I was pushed out of my comfort zone and thrived in my surroundings. The adventure I took even led me to realize how I can use my abilities in real-world situations. I hope I will have many more amazing opportunities like I had at the summer camp in the Stone Forest.

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