Dream Island School – Eight Goals

Courage, Breaking through Physiological and Psychological BarriersChallenge on Suhua Highway  

On the fourth day of the cycling trip around the island, this year’s exhausted cyclists faced the most rigorous section of their journey. This section was also a controversial part of the original route path. The young people were not familiar with cycling or trained. Suhua Highway is dangerous and, without a doubt, the most problematic aspect of the event.   

After a 5 o’clock morning alarm, the team leader gave words of encouragement to the group before the planned 6 o’clock departure. The leader was faced with 20 tense expressions. Everyone is uneasy. Narrow, winding roads, landslides and falling rocks, reckless gravel trucks, any of these factors could turn a dream into a nightmare…  

The gravel on the roads did indeed cause one of the cyclists to fall off her bike. Blood gushed from the wound in Yangyang’s leg. Morale was down in the group. The pain from applying the medicine only brought more tears to Yangyang’s face, but she insisted on riding on. A tense mood easily wears down a person. The fatigue accumulated over the past few days began to take its toll on each of the cyclists. Smiles became fewer and fewer and replaced by sweat.   

In the middle of the journey, the team leader told everyone that, due to the proximity of the tropical storm Doksuri, the original planned route of 58 kilometers would have to be changed to a 102-kilometer direct route to Hualien. He didn’t think their bodies could take it and suggested that they hitch a ride on passing supply trucks. No one could have guessed that these amateur cyclists insisted that they continue through the difficult section of the journey on two wheels still. They said that this leg of the route was very difficult. It was mostly uphill and a downward slope was not going to come to their aid. With no end in sight, all they could do was concentrate on the banner of courage and convince themselves that there were only a few kilometers left. They constantly told themselves: “Just keep it up a little bit longer!”   

At 7pm the entire group arrived at their destination. They had completed a 12-hour ride along the Suhua Highway. Not only were they able to take in all the beautiful scenery, they were also full of a newfound courage!   

An Old Fear of Heights Meets the Courage to Trust in a New Friend          Jingyu’s High Ropes Challenge

“Let me down! I give up!” Suspended less than two meters in the air, this girl, named Jingyu, cries out in fear! She is a participant in the bicycle trip around the island. The group stopped in Hualien to participate in a set of bravery challenges. When Jingyu was set to do the High Ropes challenge she gave up within 10 seconds of her companions lifting her off the ground.  

She has had a fear of heights since she was a child. She was often woken up by nightmares of falling from somewhere high up. Heights were not a challenge she ever considered taking on. This is why when she was lifted up in the air she yelled “No way! I don’t want to! I’m scared! I can’t do it!” Confusion flooded her thoughts. All she could focus on was the height so that every time she rose the pressure increased.   

“I’m not used to being in a big group of strangers and it’s difficult for me to integrate myself.” Jingyu was so introverted that she often limited herself on what she could accomplish. She thought the tasks were too difficult and her fear of failure prevented her from trying. This compounded a fear of heights, so it’s no surprise that she wanted to give up on the high ropes challenge…  

However, after she came down and collected her thoughts, Jingyu unexpectedly said that she wanted to try again. She chose to put her trust in the fact that her companions, who she only knew for three days, would hold tight to her ropes. She chose to challenge her fear. It was plain to see that Jingyu was struggling most out of all those taking art.   

“I don’t want to miss out on this part of the experience!” “How come everyone else can but I can’t?!” “Everyone is helping me. There is no reason that I can’t succeed!” It was these thoughts that spurred her onwards. After listening to the experiences of her companions, focusing her attention on the beautiful scenery and breathing to the rhythm of the rope pulling, Jingyu courageously opened her clasp and faced the challenge to swing through the air. What she didn’t know was, at that moment, her companions below were even more excited than she was!   

Jingyu’s Second High Ropes Challenge   “The scenery from up high really is beautiful…” This is what she thought while she was swinging through the air. It’s a good thing that I mustered up the courage to experience it for myself!” She maintained this attitude and took on the next challenge, even though she was still afraid of heights.      Courage will always be with you when you follow the path to your dreams…Xinyi’s Solo Bicycle Trip Around the Island

I was always a crybaby. Family pressures were so great that crying was the only way to relieve it. It was the only way I could calm myself…” These are the words of Xinyi. She planned to participate in the around-the-island bicycle tour with a friend she grew up with in the Family Support Center, Xinrui.   

However, on the day that they were going to set out, Xinrui told everyone that she couldn’t make the journey because of her new job…  

Everyone was sorry to hear this. Some even thought that Xinyi would quit as well, but Xinyi resolutely announced that she wouldn’t give up this challenge. 15 days, 1,111 kilometers, a group of strangers and this self-professed crybaby was going to take on this challenge. What if her friend leaving was an omen? Maybe the journey would be too difficult   

“Before the event, when I found out that Xinrui might not go, I got scared. I was worried about going with strangers and the many other unknowns that would appear on the journey. I was hesitant for a long time, but then my sister reminded me: ‘Who are you traveling around the island for?!’” When Xinyi recalls the struggle she faced in the beginning she feels very grateful for her sister’s words. They strengthened her convictions to complete her dream to travel around the island. This challenge was for herself. Holding on to the thought of “Don’t do something you’ll regret!” She clenched her teeth and set forth to pursue her dream.   

When asked, was the journey lonely without your friend? “Not at all!” Xinyi quickly and unexpectedly answered! “I had a great team of cyclists right there with me. Not only did we have Albert (the leader), there was also a group of brothers and sisters riding with us to provide support and supplies. Their encouragement and motivation strengthened the bonds within our group. I made many good friends during the journey!” Xinyi’s enthusiastic response provides testament to her joy on the journey.   

She even told us that she is glad that Xinrui made her own decision. She believes that the two of them will continue to move forward even if it is in different directions. She believes that life is full of difficult choices and you will always face dilemmas. In the end, Xinrui clearly knew what she wanted, so Xinyi is happy for her.    

This is Xinyi, the same Xinyi who used to deal with stress through tears. She says that the greatest thing that she gained from this trip is “Courage!” Now she is better able to use courage to face life’s troubles and the pressures that make it difficult to breathe. She doesn’t know how to put this feeling into words, but she says that it is a powerful force. What a positive attitude! With this energy she will keep moving forward. No matter what troubles she faces in the future, she will keep moving forward!     

Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone and Receiving a Gift of Courage from the Heavens

The first night before the storm in a leaky tent.                        

On July 30th the first level group of children from the cities joined the summer school and, for the first time, left behind the cool days of sitting at home in the air conditioning, eating ice cream and chose to let the earth, sun and sweat enrich their lives.   

However, on this day, as the Hualien Meilun Base greeted them, the Saola Typhoon was approaching!    This group of children, some with an age difference of eight years and who had only known each other for 12 hours, united together and setup their tent in the strong winds and rain. By bending backs, stepping on rain boots and squinting their eyes, they finally finished building the shelter during a terrible storm.   

▲The students have a night picnic in raincoats as the storm rages outside.

With the tent packed to capacity with five people, the inside was flooded with a mixture of rain and sweat that created a nasty smell. In order to breathe some fresh air, the students opened up the outer walls of the tent and rainwater spilled in. The students were forced to spend the night in this wet and muddy tent…  

This was the first night that they spent outside their comfort zone. The pledge they all took in the morning stuck with them through the night — “Dare to Dream and Dare to be Yourself!”    

Courage not only drives you forward, sometimes it makes you learn to face helplessness. 

●Hsiulin, Hualien Disaster Relief  

“Due to the damage of the Saola Typhoon, the group had to temporarily change its plans. They went straight to the disaster area to help the residents clean up their home…” Under notice from their captain, the summer school’s second level students finished their training at the Hualien Meilun Base and went straight to a town in Hualien that was severely affected by the storm – Hsiulin.   

On this day, we learned the power of nature. 

When the students arrived at the town, they faced a terrible site that tugged at their heartstrings. The homes and assembly halls were covered in mud. The entire village was damaged beyond repair that could be provided by manpower alone. What they’d seen only on a TV screen before, was now presented in real life right in front of the students. Many of the students broke down crying while sharing and discussing their experiences that day.  

Excavation, moving rocks, clearing mud. The seriousness of the damage in the disaster area didn’t allow them to stand in awe for too long. Sometimes they had to pinch themselves, that this was still their home, Taiwan. Even though all they could do was help some residents clean their homes, the constant accumulation of fatigue and shock was too much for many of the people.   

As physical and mental fatigue took its toll on the group, a group of young neighborhood children ran back to a fallen home with smiles and began searching for anything that remained. When they found some home treasures in the rubble, they broke out in laughter. The students were deeply moved upon seeing this. The optimism of the children planted positive thoughts in their minds!   

The smiles of the children compared with the astonishment of the disaster area gave them a contradictory feeling. Their actions carried a deeper meaning. Their pain was temporary, but the insights and reflections it brought echoed in their hearts for a long time.  

●The Story of Jianshan, Kaohsiung  

Tama Biung, a member of the Bunun ethnic minority, is a drummer. Today he is teaching the first level summer school students, who just arrived at Jianshan, Kaohsiung, how to sing the song “Return Home” together. This song brings tears to the eyes of many members of the minority because it reminds them of the Morakot Typhoon. Tama Biung shares the beauty of the folk song as well as tells a story of courage.  

In August 2009, a mid-level typhoon, Morakot, brought the worst flood that Taiwan has seen in 50 years. More than 600 people were killed. The area that the students arrived in, Taoyuan District, was one of the areas hardest hit by the Morakot Typhoon. Not one of the elementary schools was spared destruction. Furthermore, the road that led to Jianshan Elementary School was completely destroyed. It took two months after the devastating typhoon before the students could return to their school. As part of the effort to help these minority children get past this tragic event, Jianshan Elementary School created a Samba Drumming Team in 2011. The school could only invite professional drumming instructors for a 5-day course, due to their limited budget. Thus, every rhythm and every beat was ingrained in the children’s’ minds. They haven’t forgotten them to this day.   

The only time available for the drumming team to take the class was every morning during a 20-minute break. They were as diligent as anyone could be. Under the hot summer sun, the team kept dancing and drumming without stopping. They kept practicing their formations and, even though they got aches and blisters, their smiles didn’t leave their faces. The enthusiastic and vigorous drumming wasn’t just to pick themselves up; it was also to pick up their fellow students.

They transferred their positive energy to all of Jianshan.

▲Picture Source:http://www.88news.org/?p=16526  

In May of this year, the team was invited to Germany to perform with professional musicians from 107 different countries at the Berlin Carnival of Cultures. The group of 2nd-6th graders took part in a parade that extended for 3. 5 kilometers. They successfully shared the rhythm of Mt. Yushan with the world. Their eight-part chorus sang loudly on the streets of Berlin. They had cast the shadow of the tragic floods from their hearts and courageously won first place in Germany! 

Even with conflict in the group, it must have the courage to face it.   

The Tainan Itinerary   15 children, 1 map, 40 points of interest, 9 hours of traveling and an unknown city.    It is August 17th; the black and white map reflects the blindingly bright sun. This is one of the classes of the summer school’s second level Tainan Tree Valley Group. The students go to a city they haven’t visited before to learn how to discuss and plan their trip together.   With an open-ended trip like this one, the most difficult problem is disagreement within the group.

15 mouths represent 15 personal opinions and, thus, it is difficult to reach a consensus.

Some people may think that a plan is no good, but they won’t have any idea on how to make it better. In the end, it seems like there are too many problems and nothing seems to work. When this happens, everyone quickly learns the problems that come with a group activity.   

After a long period of back and forth between them and a potential deadlock, everyone finally reached an agreement. They decide to have one Tainan student introduce a point of interest and have everyone vote on it. This result taught the students how to express their ideas in a group and be willing to compromise. It also taught them that they can’t just bring up problems; they must also come up with ways to solve them!   

On this day in an unfamiliar city, the children achieved a new understanding about how to listen, communicate and solve problems as a group. We believe that this kind of learning will help them deal with similar group problems in the future!   

▲A map of the points of interest that the students were to visit that day in Tainan.     

Time brings problems to the surface, but courage is the key to open communication. 

Constant Refusal to Speak  

When a group of students, who are unfamiliar with each other, must spend 18 days together – from morning to night – and must deal with age differences on top of that, it’s only a matter of time before friction and conflict arises. They could be about little things such as habits or big things such as working together, but time always brings about disagreements…   The initial goal of the Summer School’s 1st level Hualien Shuiyuan Group was well intentioned. They were to help the town of Shuiyuan build a multi-function assembly hall out of bamboo. However, this group of children had to start from the basics, which means cutting the bamboo. For them, who probably have never even held a kitchen knife, this was a very difficult task.   

It was continuous hard work for small children, who haven’t yet grasped the importance of sharing and feedback. In the beginning, they weren’t willing to share their experiences during the nightly meetings. Furthermore, the friction that formed after ten days of working together began to rear its ugly head. With all these factors, it’s no surprise that a public dispute occurred…  

The older students would usually play the leadership roles, but they were also tired and let the group go this time… The arguments continued until one day, when they were all in a bad mood, they each went up to the roof to relieve their boredom. They were surprised to run into each other there but they eventually summoned the courage to express their feelings. It was then that they realized that each one of them had the desire to lead the group. They all were all willing to use sharing and feedback to gain the most out of their experience. Therefore, they decided that they must bring back the team’s morale and communication!   

The next day, they invited everyone to talk about the conflicts that had arisen in the group and encouraged everyone to communicate freely. At first they all shared their positive experiences and led the group to carry out a similar exchange. They also provided feedback and ideas to other students’ experiences. They told all the students that if everyone expresses their feelings like this everyday, then they will all gain more from the experience. Through their repeated efforts and hard work, they eventually dissolved all the communication barriers within the group and solved the problem.   

Perhaps, there will be even more difficult problems lying ahead on the road of life, but this time they took a large, successful step by finding the courage to communicate freel    

Every person wants to soar, but not everyone has the courage to 

The Feathers of a Truku Warrior

On August 22nd, the last night for the summer school’s second level Hualien Shuiyuan Group, ten days of service to the nearby towns and villages finally came to an end. Perhaps, the bamboo house, which took so much blood, sweat and tears to build, will disappear, but the interactions between the people and their time spent together will never be forgotten. The basketball games, parties, laughter between the students and children and the rhythm of the drums all leave special memories in the minds of the students. These memories will last a long, long time…  

On this night, a brother from the Truku minority gave the students a dazzling gift – an eagle’s feather. The gift symbolizes a hope that in the future they will maintain their courage and continue to soar through the sky, like the eagle, to wherever they wish to go. “Hold on to your courage and soar on!” This is what he said as he presented the feather!    

▲Picture Source: http: //www. nipic. com/show/1/40/701acce21fb3ecdc. html  

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