Aaand action!

Chester called me back. That’s the guy that works for Dan Lok. I told him my three things. I told him that I felt confident. Excited. Audacious.

He was excited too, by the sound of my voice and my attitude. He said he was impressed. Said I was special.

“Good.” I said. “Because I want you to give me the course for free.” He laughed.

“Seriously. When you didn’t call me back, I was like “fuck you guys”, I can do this by myself. I can. I don’t need you guys, you need me.” He laughed again. I was serious.

He talked to me for 51 minutes despite the fact that I was adamant I didn’t need any help. I told him all the things I had learnt, how those points proved to me that I didn’t need to pay $2500 to learn anything. “Okay,” I said, “I’m not a master, but I’m good enough for now.”

“You know how I know I’ve got stuff to learn? Because you didn’t offer me the course for free.” 51 minutes and I have to start making excuses. This guy is wasting my time. “I’ve got Jiu Jitsu,” I say, “Thanks a lot. Have a great afternoon.”

I don’t go to Jiu Jitsu, I’m too excited. Instead make my website, my company. R.J.H Copywriting. I realize that the $2500 I saved can be invested on my website, on myself. I realize my web domain looks shit unless I pay for something better. I’m gonna pay tonight for that ugly mess to become something pretty. There’s still work to do on it, but it’s a step forward. I realize how this website is my practice for my clients. If I can’t make this work for myself, how am I going to be able to help anybody else? The website is the perfect start.

I realize this blog needs to be separated from Abroad Mind so that it can better support R.J.H Copywriting. I realize I’ve got to make much better use of social media and be willing to market myself. I realize that I’ve got a lot of potential.

There’s a Chinese Services Section and I realize that it’s too much. It needs to be a separate website, my next company. I’ll have to get rid of it tonight after work. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Today has been about realization. Turning my dream into reality.

R.J.H Copywriting is a thing now. I’m going it alone. It’s gonna be a hit.

Beautiful website, ugly link:

https://missthebeat.wixsite.com/website

The ball is rolling steadily forwards.

F You, Dan Lok

I never wanted a job. I just wanted to be free and happy.

Wait.

I don’t want a job. I want to be free. I’m happy enough.

But I want to be ecstatic.

I need more money for less work. Way more money for way less work.

I’m a teacher. I teach kids with “complex behaviours”. That means they abuse me, throw chairs at me and spit in my face. I can handle that. I can smile and be kind to them. Treat every day as a fresh start. I can.

But I don’t want to.

I’ve got a plan and this is my first action. I’m writing this down, just in case I “make it”, so that it can be my success story and can make me even richer. Hell, even if I fail miserably, perhaps this will be the ironic story of failure which makes me millions.

By the way, I’m reading Dan Lok’s F U Money.

I had a telephone interview last night from one of Dan’s people; they are trying to sell me the course. In their words, trying to help me. They set me an assignment. Said they’d call me back today. I did my assignment and if I did good, maybe they’d let me on the course. They didn’t call back at 7pm like they said. Oh well.

The three things I took from the free webinar?

1. I can do it by myself, without paying them shit. I know what I have to do, and it’s up to me to get on the computer and do it. Take action. Half term is coming up. I got this.

2. I have the skills I need already. I may not be a master, but I’m good enough to make a start, the rest I’ll learn as I go. I got this.

3. If what they told me is the truth (dubious), they need me more than I need them. They can let me do the course for free, a scholarship, and train me up to be an excellent colleague, or I can do it solo. Fuck you. I got this.

In the best possible way, Fuck You, Dan Lok. I got this.

I watched the webinar, read half of the free copy of F U Money. I get it. Action. I get it. Don’t trust people you don’t know to do shit for you. Do it your fucking self.

I’ve made my plan. One more week until half term. Five nights to read up on the missing little details and then a solid 9 days of action. A few hours each day, because that’s the whole point isn’t it? Less work, more money. More time to enjoy my freedom.

You already helped me a lot, Dan Lok. Really. Sincerely.

Fuck you very much.

10 Alternative Reasons to Become a Vegan

1. Veganism is a great way to start an argument.

2. It makes choosing from the menu much less of a chore.

3. You can say you love animals without reference to their flavour.

4. Your farts will smell like lavender.

5. Cows start to look like people in concentration camps.

6. It’s easier to spell than vegetarian.

7. You finally get something to be smug about.

8. You might become the Buddha.

9. To get in bed with a vegan.

10. Because it’s the new normal.

No New Year's Resolution; Now, Here Resolution

You don’t need to break those bad habits. You need to be conscious of how you’re feeling right now. You don’t need to start going to the gym more. You need to wake up from your daydream. You’re better than a creature of habit. You’re a human. You don’t need to make a promise to yourself; you need to get to know yourself. Good morning. Wake up. Hello.

You’re human. The best creature possible on this planet. Don’t make that excuse, “only human,” what would you rather be? You are you. That’s pretty fucking fantastic, don’t you agree? You think you’d rather be me? Actually, I think I’d rather be me, personally. Can you hear yourself? Not your thoughts, your inner monologue. No. Can you feel the vibration of your body? Are you aware of the gentle movement of your molecules? You will be. Soon. When you start paying attention.

You got lost in all the flavours and the feelings; the colours in the noise. It’s okay. Bees can’t help being attracted to the flowers; hummingbirds don’t choose to feast on nectar. It was a trick from the very beginning. You want money. Food. fame. But now you’re here. Good morning. It’s time to wake up.

What did you promise yourself, all those years ago? Do you even still love the kid that you used to be?

That you’ll never grow up. That you’ll never get a boring job. You’ll never be like THEM.

It’s okay. Smile. Breathe.

Hooblagoo. Dunglington. Forsh. Whisper these magic words like you would when you were five years old. It feels like magic, I promise. Smile.

You are human. I am human. That’s pretty cool. You’re as awesome as you ever needed to be, but you want more. I understand, because I want more, too. I want perfection, just like you. Just like you, I am not JUST a human. I’m not ONLY human. I AM human.

I’m not perfect, yet. I get caught out, too. Sometimes. Quite a lot. But that’s okay. Smile. Breathe. Forget about who you were, or who who want to be. Remember who you are. Where you are. How you are. Right now.

I’m sitting a little bit crooked. Now I’m sat up straight. Conscious changes. Incremental changes. Reel in perfection like The Old Man and the Sea. Not too fast, now; you’ll break the line. Not too slow now; it’ll get away from you. Stop. Smile. Breathe.

Thanks for your time; I really appreciate it, I do. Now go and do what you want to do. Be who you are meant to be. Be free.

Success of the Universal Being

All achievement is the product of the collective effort of the universe; the famous few are the representative of a million multitude of other beings, past and present. When you celebrate a famous singer, celebrate your ears; when you celebrate the power of technology, celebrate your ancestors; when you celebrate beauty in others; celebrate your own desire for perfection.

Desire for perfection. Isn’t that the quest for spirituality? Religion in the most basic sense of the word; the conscious performing of habitual actions. Religiously sticking to a healthy diet and exercise regime. Religiously practising your singing voice. Religiously attending to your beauty with skin and hair care products. This is the joy of striving towards godliness; the art of living and being alive.

And which piece of the puzzle are you? Which piece to you desire to be? Consciously improving each aspect of your life; the way you type, the way you make love, cook dinner, wash your hair, do the shopping, drive your car, speak to friends; if you can seek improvement in all the areas in which you are most lazy; those are the areas in which you have been most successful; eating, breathing, sitting, walking; perfection looms. Start with the part of you you cherish most.

Life is not difficult. A sense of ease must permeate your aura; to be enlightened is to both to weigh nothing and to shine brightly. Glow gently for the world. The world does not need heroes, there is no evil; the world merely requires light to be shined in all the dark corners so there are no places for fears to hide.

Success of the one is the success of the many. You do not need to be noticed; if you hold a candle out for others, you also hold a candle out for yourself. Hold your candle selfishly. Hold it for yourself. The people in need of light will gather round, be sure of that. Go with ease and shine.

The Meditation Master of Shang Ri La

Want to read my story from the beginning?

The name Shang-Ri-La conjures up images of lush flowery jungle, sounds of birds tweeting pretty little songs and of hidden treasure waited to be discovered. Once a fictional location, China has stolen the name and used it to promote a small city high up on the mountains of Yunan; an ode to Tibet.

My friend had invited me to travel with him to Shang Ri La in Yunan province in China, and to stop off at Lijiang city on the way. He had been several times and the chance to travel to an excitingly named place, as well as to stay weith his friend, a former Buddhist monk of 24 years, was an opportunity not to be missed. I travelled light but took my guitar with me which had always been allowed to fly with me free of charge.

Yunan city had a very modern Chinese feel, as if built only the day before. it contained lots of tourist traps, and subsequently, lots of tourists. We hardly counted ourselves as tourists; we were travellers. We amused ourselves talking to local people; pretty girls and old men. My friend was impressed by my guitar playing and convinced me to go out busking. I had never played in public before, but we were all about breaking down boundaries and limitations at that time. We found a little island in a river, and with a hop I jumped over whilst my friend stayed on the other side with my hat so tyhat he could collect money. In just 10 minutes I had collected about 15RMB, which was the equivalent of five beers, or lunch.

“Yes, Rob! Very good! We should go out tonight into the town and find some bars or somewhere, we can make more money.”

“You mean I can make more money?” I laughed “Isn’t it me doing all the work?”

“I’ll be like your agent, I’ll do all the talking.”

That night we went out, guitar too, and sought out several bars but every bar that we ventured into seemed unwelcoming and uninspiring. Part of it was fear, of course, but my guts were telling me not to bother with these bars. My friend couldn’t hide his disappointment, but was accepting of my feelings. As we walked along, I suddenly spotted a drum shop. It was a small shop, much like a garage without the front door and filed with all kinds of drums. The owner and a worker there seemed very friendly and we darted in. I soon felt at home and asked the owner if I could play my guitar. He was delighted at the suggestion and soon I was playing the guitar and singing in the shop front whilst the boy who worked there played the drums. A large crowd gathered. They clapped and cheered and stared at me through video recordings on their phones and we left after a few songs in high spirits.

Th next day we took a bus ride for a few hours to Shang-Ri-La. We were staying with a friend who entered the monastery aged 7 and stayed there for 24 years. His English was poor but by now my Chinese was good enough that we could chat. I was initially shy to ask him questions. I had read some Buddhism and so I was not totally clueless, but I was still sceptical of its place in society and the practitioners’ of Buddhism’s place in society. He served us tea, introduced me to his wife (my friend was a good friend of hers already) and relaxed quietly for the evening. The next day my friend and I took a moped to a nearby mountain, parked at in the foothills and walked a couple of kilometres to a nearby temple.

“He only married her to save her,” my friend told me as we walked. “She was like suicidal. He was fed up of the monastery, so he quit, married her. he says that once she’s better then he’ll leave her and go and live out the rest of his days meditating. He’s told this to her directly. So honest. Kind of fucked up.”

We played basketball with some kids, 2 v 2. They beat us; we blamed the thinner air that we weren’t used to. We walked past a circle of women chattering away, all at the same time, like birds. We sneaked into the temple so we didn’t have to pay and my friend gave me a tour. It was big. beautiful. he told me which Bodhisattva was which, told me a few things about them. Monks on phones barely registered us walking by.

One of the buildings at the temple complex and my friend.

He told me about one Bodhisattva who stayed in a cave and every time he had a bad though, he drew a black mark, and every time he had a good thought, he drew a white mark. In the beginning all the marks were black, but slowly the colour of his thoughts transformed and one wall was pure white.

That night, the ex-monk told me how many monks took off their robes at the weekends; went to bars, paid for sex. When I questioned their hypocrisy , he looked at me carefully and said:

“This world, Samsara (the transition from life to death), is the same for them and me, the same for you. It is difficult for all of us. Everybody feels the same suffering. Do you understand?” This man had achieved a state of meditation said to be higher than the level of the Dalai Lama; he spoke with clarity and calm. “You cannot escape Samsara.”

It was difficult for me to understand what he meant. Samsara was not a new concept to me, I was aware of it’s presence but had struggled to appreciate it’s true form.

With time I come to understand. Like clouds over the sun, the truth cannot remain hidden for long.

Aaand action!

Chester called me back. That’s the guy that works for Dan Lok. I told him my three things. I told him that I felt confident. Excited. Audacious.

Journey to the Sky

The bus just kept on climbing for at least ten hours. Up and up and up and up. The twisitng, winding road followed a beautiful river which smiled at us the whole way. I was heading to SeDa, the largest Tao monk training school in the world with my girlfriend. We were heading to a different world.

It was night when we arrived. Cold.

It was January and we were 4km up in the air. The average temperature at that time of year is -10 degrees Celsius but it was closer to -20. There was ice covering the road as we stepped of. Some city folk slipped already. In typical fashion, we hadn’t booked a hotel. It’s more adventurous that way. A couple of people greeted us off the bus, took us to a hotel. It was pretty shabby but we were tired and hungry. We’d stay there one night and find something better the next day when we’d take another bus up to the main place we were heading for, a few more miles down the road from this town. Good food, good sleep.

We left early the next morning and took our bags with us. We were staying for a couple of nights at the top of the plateau, again, crossing our fingers that there was a place for us to stay. This was a different world.

The monk village was a stunning array of tiny red houses climbing up the mountain in a way which remind me somehow of Rio de Janeiro. It seemed that about 90% of the people living here were monks which the rest of the population performing services for them such as drivers, cooks and shop keepers. And beggars. Lots of beggars. Perfect practice for the monks.

We spent the first day wandering around the town. We were as interesting to them as they were to us and everywhere we went there was mutual wonder upon our faces. We ate some of the worst food I have tasted in China. Greasy, dirty. I lusted for meat. The toilet of our hotel dangled perilously off our the edge of a mountain. There was no smoking in the village at all. My vices were forced into the sunlight. We smoked secret cigarettes in dark corners of the evening.

The main event.

A small procession of people, some of them carrying boxes or the kind of large blue bags Chinese people often use for travelling which remind me of Ikea bags. A funeral procession. We follow the sombre march further up the mountain. The bags and boxes are opened, corpses unwrapped and placed naked on the ground. Three people have died this week. Prayers. Chanting. The ringing of bells. All as you would expect from a Buddhist funeral. Then the knives come out.

Two men begin hacking at the corpses like a butcher with beef. Suddenly a gasp from the onlookers. Hundreds of vultures approach, wait for the men to finish. The Sky Burial is about to commence.

The vultures are ugly and impatient and get in close. The men vacate the area and suddenly the vultures swarm like ants on jam. I can scarcely believe my eyes as the the birds tear the flesh from the corpses like zombies in a horror movie. An eyeball is plucked out in horrid fashion, guts ripped and snatched. The birds scramble for a space, push and shove and steal. I’m entranced, barely aware of the other people around me as I absorb the evisceration of human flesh. I’ve not seen a corpse in real life until this moment and I’m suddenly faced with brutal nature. This body is meat. Life goes on.

Life is a transition from birth to death.

We are food for the Earth.

I retreat down the mountain and light up a cigarette. I feel death’s grip. I see my own skeleton.

Read the next chapter, The Meditation master of Shang Ri La

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Bar Flies

Missed the beginning of the story? Start from the beginning.

We’ve hit our rhythm. Free bottles of whiskey, trespassing on construction sites, the Mario Party drinking game. Whole nights where I can’t remember leaving the flat, can’t remember how I got back. We’re known as The Three Musketeers which just goes to show for the general lack of creativity out there. We weren’t musketeers. We were monkey kings; street dogs running through familiar streets at full tilt, howling and bounding from one scent to the next.

“No money, no house, no car. Back to normal.”

We get drunk watching Barfly. I can tell it’s taken a firm grip on my friends and tonight there’s gonna be trouble. The room stinks of testosterone. The virtues of fighting are being lauded and boxing pasts recalled; victories retold.

Barfly

We’re at the bar. I’ve not seen my friends in a while. I’m sat with a bunch of young Chinese people, probably students. They’re enjoying the novelty of my foreignness and my drink supply is ample. My company mediocre but sufficiently well breasted. A disturbance over there somewhere. The knocking over of chairs. The shouting of multiple languages. I see two or three of my friends in a fight with several more Chinese guys. A dilemma, stand up or remain seated? The fight is short, easily dispersed. Just a bit of fun. I stay sat down. It’s all over already. My friends are kicked out of the bar but I’m defiant when the bar staff try to remove me. I’m not going anywhere.

A Chinese guy comes up to me, he’s more drunk than I, red faced like a lantern and I’m not overly worried by his noisy presence. He’s shouting at me, calling me out. I point to my cheek, I tell him to hit me. I’m staying right here. He keeps shouting at me. I calmly tell him to hit me, crane my neck for him. The people around me tell me to stop answering back, they tell me he’ll hit me. I tell him one more time to hit me or fuck off. He chooses the latter. The staff come back, desperate to get me out and I tell them that I’m not going anywhere. My phone rings.

Helen’s Bar, our playground

“Rob, dude. I’m at the police station. Can you come and get me. I don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.”

I tell the taxi “police station”. I’ve no idea which one. I probably look like I’m on my way to hand myself in.

My friend is sat in reception, a bright, white place that reminds me of a hospital or purgatory. I’m relieved but annoyed.

“Rob! I thought you wouldn’t come.” He looks genuinely delighted to see me. “They won’t let me go. I don’t want to get kicked out of this shithole country, help me translate.”

I can’t figure out what they want. I’m too drunk, my Chinese is too poor.

“Do you want money? We can give you money?” They don’t want money. “So just let him go.” They don’t let him go.

Suddenly, a man sits next to us. He looks as sombre as my friend.

“Hey, that’s the asshole who tried to fight me.”

“You tried to fight him.”

“In the bar, yes. But then this motherfucker was shouting at me in the street. He was chucking bottles at me. I ran into 7/11 and tried to get them to call police but they wouldn’t do it. I stayed in there because they have cameras.”

“Why didn’t you just hit him? You’re twice his size.”

“I don’t wanna get kicked out of this shithole country, man.”

It’s the guy sat next to us, the guy that chased my friend into the shop, that speaks next.

“They want the name of your company. A contact number. For the records. Then you can go.”

China likes to eat spicy meat

Reconciliation. Both men apologise. It’s not too late. There are plenty of bars still open. We go to the street barbecue. Get some beers. There’s a Tibetan girl with all the attributes of a princess there with a few friends from university. She’s a class above and we’re in awe of her beauty and all round loveliness. She buys us food. We buy them beer. We ask a million questions, try to get her to come to the club with us. Lot’s of barbecued shrimp. I guess the princesses in Tibet eat whatever they want. She doesn’t want to go to the night club. Of course not. We go home.

We go home yapping about Princess all the way.

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On the Power of Listening

This person seems like a good listener

Listen Up

Listening to others is not as easy as we think. It’s one of those things that we do that we think we do excellently, but probably do mediocrely at best. Other actions in this category are sitting, breathing, eating and love-making. Listening is a transformative action. The impact of listening carefully literally has the power to change your life via the power of learning, but also can enhance your relationships, be a source of joy and is a significant step towards enlightenment. On top of that, evidence suggests that listening to pleasant sounds literally changes the pattern of your brain functioning.

What Are We Doing Wrong?

He’s got it all wrong

When we think of listening we’re all about using our ears, which is right. Technically. But the world is not as logical as it ought to be and so we need also to listen with our eyes, too. You’re listening with your eyes right now, but we also need to pay attention to body language. Heck, we need to listen with as many senses as you can use in that moment. That means we can’t be listening whilst looking at our phones, watching television or doing the dishes. I’ve heard that some people can multitask, but I do not believe it. To do something well, it must be given your full attention. Listening is not about you, it is about the other. It is about being receptive and seeking understanding. A teacher said, “If you agree with me, you have learned nothing because you have only confirmed what you already believed, and if you disagree with me, you have learned nothing because you have simply denied what I’ve told you.” We must not listen with our ego.

So How To Improve?

Stop talking. You cannot listen and talk at the same time. How much good are you doing with your words? Don’t even hold that really good thing you have to say in your mind until you have politely let the other person finish so you can tell them. Just listen. Practice not talking for just one day and you will notice how difficult it is. Your ego can’t resist giving itself a little massage by saying something kind or funny or powerful or interesting. If you practice listening instead of talking, you give additional value to the people and the world around you and your world becomes richer. Do not just listen to words, but to sounds, rhythms and texture in voices, animal sounds and even mediocre noises such as the washing machine. The world transforms around you and your understanding of it will also receive a significant boost.

Are We Done Yet?

Pretty much. But one last thing. Remember I wrote about “dropping the rope“? If you’re listening, it is very difficult to become involved in an argument. An argument necessarily relies on two or more people talking and more often than not, not listening to each other. There has not been an argument in history in which two people listened to each other until they became angry and stormed out of the room. You don’t need any extra stress in your life, so practice listening and reduce the amount of stress you have and increasing your joy. Thanks for listening.

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The Emei Mountain Adventure

Spring Festival, Chinese New Year. Copy and paste “spring festival train station” into your search engine and you’ll understand why we didn’t travel on the first day. The second day is much quieter, but it meant we had one less day, giving us 4 days to go somewhere before we had to work again. We didn’t have a plan. I suggested we take fast train to Chengdu. Once we got there we’d go directly to the coach station and ask for a ticket to anywhere. My friends agree and so we set off, not knowing our destination.

The ticket seller is confused, so I repeat.

“5 tickets to good place. I don’t know good place. You know good place.” In Chinese.

She doesn’t know what to do.

“Far away. Mountains. Any good place. Where do people like to go? That’s where we want to go.”

I swap the money for the tickets and leave the bemused old woman behind. I haven’t bothered to shave, I sweat chilli oil and rice wine.

Emei Mountain. We had no idea how long it would take us to get there, or even where there was. If it was too far away, we’d just have to take another day off work.

5 hours on the coach, plenty to look at out the windows: Farms, small town girls, firework sellers.

Emei mountain is heaving; the whole mountain seems to breathe people. We get off the coach and wander up and down. Men call at us to stay with them, everything is expensive, out of our price range. All the hostels are full. We barely manage to find a place to stay. Two rooms for five of us, the couple takes one room. We eat barbecue, drink beer and wince wine. We go down the mountain a bit to find a night club. I kiss a couple of girls and we are chased into our taxi by a mob who thump on the windows as our driver races away.

We wake up at midday. The owner of the hotel speaks to us personally over breakfast. We are hungover. He speaks English.

“What are your plans?” He asks, grinning.

“We’ll climb to the top, I guess.”

He says nothing. Goes away. Comes back with a map. Thuds it down onto the table.

“First you go here. Sleep here. Tomorrow you go to the top.”

“We don’t have time for that,” I explain, looking at the map. “We need to go to the top today.”

“Impossible,” he laughed. “It’s 60km. It will be dark before 7 o’clock. You will stay there tonight, and tomorrow you go.”

Only slightly disheartened, we had no expectations of the place before we came here so it was difficult to feel disappointed, we decided to climb the mountain for a couple of hours until we got tired and then head back. We checked out of the hotel and took all our bags with us and enjoyed the relaxed walk through the foothills, playing ninja warriors with the bountiful bamboo along the way.

Two hours in and 2/5 were done. They suggested we take a car as high as a car will go and get the cable car to the peak. I looked at the remaining two.

“I think we can make it to the top,” I said as if it were a fact.

“I think we can definitely make it to the top,” my friend agreed.

“Let’s do this,” our third concurred. We offloaded a load of our clothes into our friends’ bags, but kept several items just in case we got lost on the mountain. It was February and was probably going to get cold up top. Leaving our friends to find their own way, we set off running, to make up for the slow pace we had carried for the first two hours.

We ran for an hour. It was tiring work and we took a rest stop. We watched old ladies being carried up the mountain on bamboo chairs. We had a cigarette and chatted to a Chinese man who was suitably impressed when we told him our plan to reach the top.

“It’s far,” he said. “I think it’s impossible.”

We climbed quickly, overtaking person after person. Our pace was good. We decided to keep going as quickly as possible until dusk when we’d eat dinner and get in touch with our friends at the top. People along the way were selling torches and crampons. We decided to buy two torches and three pair of crampons, just in case. And some Oreos.

We ate at a temple. Good, expensive food.

“We’re at the top. Just saw a beautiful sunset,” our friend told us, sounding very relaxed. “Where are you?”

“We’re not certain. We think we’ve done about two thirds of the hike. We’re at a temple. There’s lots of temples.”

“It’s snowy up here, guys.”

“Really? Well, we were right to buy some crampons then. We’ll be ok. Did you find somewhere to stay?”

“There’s a hotel up here, we’ll wait for you.”

Our pace slowed. There was snow and ice. Eventually we attached the clumsy crampons as we trudged through the ever thickening snow. Each rest stop we passed offered a place to stay. Each time we told them our plan, they angrily muttered, “stupid foreigners”.

Our cheap crampons deteriorated. Every fifteen minutes one of us had to stop to re-tie one or both of their crampons, the laces shortening every time, the metal claws bent and blunted by the unevenness of the ice. The light of one of the torchers dimmed as it ran out of battery, we used the other two sparingly.We ate all of our food.

It had been dark for a long time. Every time we reached a rest stop, we thought it must be the penultimate one. I began to imagine what it would be like to huddle up in the bushes and wait out the morning. It was brutally cold. I was tired, hungry. I hit the wall. I kept going.

A hut; a light on. I knock at the door.

“Do you have food? I have money.” I show him a 100RMB note from my wallet. The man angrily slams the door. “Stupid foreigners.” I remember there are a few sunflower seeds left in my pockets. I crunch them down with the shells on.

We are all tired. We keep going. I start a chorus of “Always look on the bright side of life”. We keep going.

At 30 minutes past midnight we reach the top, exhausted. Our friends managed to find one room for us. We sneak in so they don’t get annoyed. We made it. 60km hiked up a snowy mountain in twelve hours with no preparation and a hangover.

We spend the following night in Chengdu. Make our way back to mundane normality; back to work. We recount our adventure again and again. We go to McDonalds. I win a McNugget eating competition. 53 chicken nuggets in half an hour.

I’ll never eat McNuggets again.

Here is where my story began.

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