People are precious

People Are Precious

Yesterday, I climbed Mt. Hua which you can read about how to prepare for the climb in yesterday’s post. Today, I just want to focus on the fact that people are precious.

*Disclaimer: This post contains strong language which may be offensive — reader’s discretion is advised.

There are three three stories I’m about to share.

  1. The Apple Of My Eye
  2. Don’t Be A Pussy
  3. We Are A Global Family

Let’s begin…

The Apple of my Eye

When I first came to China, I had a business idea I wanted to explore. I had a friend from Japan who came from Xi’an and we embarked on an expedition to get a taste of the culture and the lifestyle in China.

We met in Beijing. Explored for a few days. Created memories at Tienanmen Square and the Great Wall. Then, jumped on a train to Xi’an.

My friend helped to arrange a place to stay while we were on the 24+ hour train ride from Beijing to Xi’an. I arrived and…


I’ve gotta skip all this because its another story for another time.

Anyway, I was living in Xi’an for a couple weeks and, without a friend, I was beginning to feel completely isolated. A person can only be alone for so long before it starts to tear them apart.

We’re social creatures.

Each day I would wander aimlessly around the city. I was struggling to find a decent cafe to work at (I hate Starbucks, I refuse to work there, always) and I wasted hours doing a whole lot of nothing.

One day, I had met a random foreigner named John. He’s an artists from America and it was a quick encounter, polite talk, and nothing more.

I thought nothing of it until a week or so later. I was crossing a bridge and John came walking toward me with an older Chinese woman and a young Chinese girl.

“Hey! John. Good to see you again.”

As John and I exchanged greetings. The young girl looked at me with a curious eye.

“Oh, this is my uncle John. And, I’m Jef. It’s nice to meet you!”

“My name is Hua Huan.”

Smiles split our faces apart.

You know those moments when you meet someone and you know you have an immediate connection with them? This was one of those moments.

We immediately pounced on each other — socially, not physically (don’t be a pervert) — and it was a quick exchange of play and fun and humor. After a few minutes of this unbelievable wild introduction, I was being invited to lunch which I declined to go instead to a half-decent cafe to finish off some client project.

“Well, I gotta go, the wise Wolf has rabbits to hunt, skin, and eat.”

“Ha! You won’t be eating a single rabbit in China if you don’t have a clever Fox around!”

She winked and walked away. I laughed and went to work.

The Fox & The Wolf

A year and a half.

That’s how long I’ve come to know the Fox.

Up until this point in my travels, I didn’t know too many people since my life as a teacher in Japan. When you’re jumping from country to country every couple months, it doesn’t give you a chance to truly know someone deeply.

After I met the Fox for the first time, we parted ways while creating hope for a new future. We shared a vision to bring our talented passions into a real experience that others could enjoy.

Want to know what we see? Sorry, can’t tell you. At least, not now. If you subscribe, the Fox and the Wolf promise that everything will be revealed.

Real Relationships Take Time

I’m not really sure where this is going any more, so I’ll warp things up.

Each time I came to visit Xi’an, I leaned on the Fox to help me survive. She became my interpreter, my translator, my hunting partner, my travel companion, and, inevitably, my best friend.

Sadly, we’ll be parting ways (again) and I am unsure when (or if) we’ll ever see each other again. It’s one of those heart-wrenching moments that you don’t want to have but, in the end, it contributes to the growth of the relationship.

“You are the apple of my eye.
The light of my life.”

Fox’s final words before we both return to the forest of life to hunt and to scavenge on our own… until we meet again…

Nothing happens overnight except flash floods, lunar eclipses, and some other things I can’t recall because I’m usually asleep. However, in regards to relationships, they all take time to develop, deepen, and delight our soul. That’s why I believe people are precious.

Don’t Be A Pussy

Climbing Mt. Hua was a challenge.

They say it is one of the most dangerous mountains to climb in the world. I’m not so sure I can contribute to that claim, since I haven’t climbed every mountain in the world. However, I can say there are challenges that could bring you to the brink of death.

I hiked alone.

At the start, I was greeted by an ancient temple with Taoist monks roaming around in robes. I spent a moment gliding through stone pillars while embracing the incense that danced in the air.

Before beginning my ascend, I spent a moment in front of a Buddha statue. Contemplating the complexities of my life and hoping that 3 RMB would be enough to guide me toward a clear life path.

Does that even work?

It started with steps. Then a slight incline. All the while weaving around low grade mountains with a rocky river split in the middle.

This is easy.

My ego started inflating and I started hiking hard. After 34 minutes of climbing, I reached a point where the sun couldn’t reach over the mountain tops. I was covered in shadow and the cold came creeping in.

Moments before, the sun was hitting hard and the heat was causing me to sweat. By the time I reached the shadows, I was drenched in sweat and my multi-layers made the brisk air feel frigid cold.

More stairs. More inclines. Longer stairs. Higher inclines.

Exhaustion stopped by after an hour into the hike. My pace slowed significantly and some hikers were passing by me while others were playing leapfrog.

It didn’t help that the night before, I never slept a wink. I stayed at a hostel, and, you know how hostels are, your “roommates” have little to no regard for the comforts of others. They cough. They snore. They turn on the lights. They make lots of sounds. And so on.

I’m not 100% sure if it was the lack of sleep or air changed as the went up in elevation, but I started to feel dizzy from time to time.

Hey. You need a bread.

I took a rest in a shaded air with some cool cats and a group of Chinese youth with more combined energy than an atomic bomb. I was heaving when I reached this point and I pretty much collapsed when I sat at a table and took out some I reachgoji berries to refuel.

“Hey Foreigner, you eat that?”

“Yeah. Goji berries. They’re super healthy. Want some?”

“Oh, you know, in China, we put goji in tea. Not eat.”

“Well, in Canada, we put goji in cereals and eat.”

“You want hot water?”

“No, I’m fine, thanks. I really like to eat these.”

I reached into my bag to grab more food.

“Hey, foreigner? What you eating now?”

“This? It’s just a bag of peanuts.”

The group laughs and starts talking in Chinese.

“Here foreigner. You need. Take some.”

They passed me an entire loaf of bread.

What a smart thin to bring on a hike. They’re so prepared.

“I’m O.K., really. Thanks for offering.”

“Hey, you need a bread. Please, take.”

I opened the fresh loaf and grabbed three slices.

“You a crazy foreigner. We like you! O.K., we have to go. It’s too cold to sit. See you at the top!”

Ascending to hell.

I sat for about 10 minutes and decided to start moving when I couldn’t resist the shivers. I said goodbye to the cats that meowed at my feet to pick up all scraps and continued my way up.

There brief period of pure bliss.

I passed through a section that exploded with nature. Leafless shrubs were blanketed with a small layer of snow. Various species of birds would swoop past my head and sing their songs in the trees. There was also a frozen waterfall which shimmed like crystal.

I moved more gracefully up the slope until the scenery began to fade like a smile after a child drops an freshly scooped ice cream cone.

Stairs began to shoot upwards at a 90 degree angle. The steps were just enough for your toes and causing your calves to scream.

Heaving. Sweating. Freezing. I hiked upwards through hell.

I made it!?

Each set of stairs was like an optical illusion. It fed you false hope that you were almost at the top, but there was always another set of steeper, smaller steps to climb.

When I finally reached the north peak, my heart was ready to explode. I could feel the thudding against my rib cage and it sent vibrations down to my toes.

There was a cafe that caught my eye and I thought I’d sneak a peek at the menu and grab a coffee if it was a reasonable price. However, just as I was about to enter, I was intercepted by a random girl who seemed lost on the mountain.

“I’m sorry. Hello. I’m sorry. Hello! I’m sorry…. Hello!?”

I have a habit of ignoring everyone who approaches me and stick to my peripherals and instincts to judge whether my life is in danger and I need to use the karate skills I practice during daydreams on a daily basis.

“Excuse me? I’m sorry. Do you speak English?”

“Uhhh… I’m sorry… can you speak French?”

I spoke with a lame French accent. My exhaustion and heavy breathing worked completely in my favor.

“Oh… I don’t speak French.”

She had a look of shock and disgust and disappointment. As she turned to walk away, I switched to my regular accent.

“Are you lost? This is the top of the mountain.”

“Actually, I want to know if the plank walk is open. Do you know?”

“How did you know I work here?”

There was awkward silence.

“Oh, sorry. Right. Well. I was told that the plank walk was open but other people are telling me that’s it is closed. So I just want to know if it is and where it is, you know?”

“Look. I just reached the top. I have no idea what’s up and what’s down. Come with me, I’m going to grab a coffee, then we can figure it out together.”

We walked into the cafe. Looked at the menu. And, ran out.

The price of an Americano was 78 RMB. That’s $15 CAD for some crap coffee. I’ll pass.

“Well, let’s just carry on and figure out this board walk thing, shall we?.”

We asked around about the board walk but didn’t get much information. And, to my horror, we went even close to the top. The north peak was only the half way point and there was still another 2 hour climb.

How the hell am I going to survive this!?

I barely had a chance to catch my breath or regain my energy before the girl who thought I was French started racing up the steps, two at a time. I slowly dragged each foot, one after the other, trying to keep pace, conversate, and breathe.

Move bitch.

“Hey, I gotta stop, give me a moment.”

My head was spinning. Passing was, for some insane reason, looking like a good choice.

She waited a few minutes then said, “Move bitch!”

It worked. Her volatile words really worked.

I snapped back into composure and started moving again. Faster. More steady. More…

I crashed. I took only 17 or 19 steps before I gassed out.

“Don’t be such a pussy! Move it!”

I had no idea who this girl was. I didn’t know her age. I knew nothing about her, yet, she was whipping my ass like a boot camp instructor.

And, it worked.

We continued to push and poke at each other. Jokes wavered from vulgar to raunchy. We laughed. We shivered. We climbed. We killed it.

Let it snow.

By the time we reached the south peak, dark grey clouds were looming above and picture-perfect snowflakes started fluttering from the sky.

Even though my my finger were and my body frigid cold because of the sweat in my base layer, the cold barely affected me.

I must have been at an extreme adrenaline high. I was getting slammed with moments of bliss and periods of total chaos. I would be on the verge of passing out then suddenly super powered and leaping up the stairs.

Truthfully, a small part of me was slightly concerned. However, this girl I met (which, up to this point, I never knew her name) was a guiding angel.

She poked me with hilarious vulgar one liners which motivated me not to be a pussy. Yet, when I told her I was about to pass out. She slowed to a halt and simply sat down without saying a word. She remained totally unaffected by the world around us and shared intimate stories about her experiences, her beliefs, and her views.

When we finally finished the mountain, we shared our names, shared some chocolate, and shared whatever Asian flu we had incubating in our bodies a week prior to the hike (we were both hacking and sniffling and shooting snot out our nose through our climb together).

Catching balance.

I don’t know if it was my 3 RMB donation at the beginning of the hike, but some things miraculous happened throughout my climb on Mt. Hua. The many people I met along each stage of the mountain, seemed to appear and the right time, every time.

The Chinese guy who offered his bread.

The bird who sang me their songs.

And this girl, who pushed me and motivated me to finish the climb.

People are precious and often, they seem to come into our lives at particular times to help us stay in balance.

(Oh, FYI, animals are precious too, but that”s obvious to anyone.)

We Are A Global Family


People Are Precious

Take a look at your relationships. Take a moment to realize the impact they have on your life. Big or small, good or bad, all people are precious in their own unique way.

Make sure you subscribe to receive an update when I finish this post. Oh, and I’ll be sending out my first ever Newsletter at the end of this month, so you’ll want to get that, right?

Thanks for reading.

Jef van de Graaf
Canadian Copywriter & World Traveler
Business | Travel Blog | Connect

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