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The Central American Sea Kayak Expedition 2000 - Ultimate Adventure

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CASKE 2000
Expedition member: Luke Shullenberger

Self Introduction:

A Vermonter and a devotee of the outdoor sporting life, I recently returned from 4 years living, working and playing in Hokkaido, Japan. I worked as an Instructor/International Relations Coordinator and subsequently as a teacher/manager at an English conversation school, meanwhile training hard and racing in cross-country ski marathon series throughout Hokkaido.

Although I started my athletic career as a runner and alpine racer, I made the jump to nordic ski racing in high school and was a Vermont State Champion in track and field and nordic skiing, and a Junior National Cross-Country Ski Champion. I continued ski racing in a Division I program at Williams College, and by my fourth year achieved a top 30 national ranking. These days, when I'm not competing in ski marathons, I back-country telemark ski, and in the summer compete occasionally in mountain bike events, marathons and triathlons.

The defining period in my life was the four years spent at Williams College. Surrounded by intelligent, passionate and diverse people it was an electrically charged environment, always intense and exiting. 2000 people from places as far as Mongolia gathered in one valley in the Berkshire Mountains studying, training, and playing as hard as possible; it was incredible to be part of it. When not balancing 3 hours of training, 6 hours of study and class time with enough sleep to remain healthy, I spent my time in awe listening to people's tales of their homes and lives. In those four years I studied history, anthropology and music, became the captain of the ski team and compiled a "wish-list" itinerary that I now have to try to pack into one lifetime.

Coming to Japan in 1994, one year after my graduation, I suddenly found myself an outsider in a homogenous society. The past four years there were  a fascinating experiment in learning to adapt and communicate in a culture whose rules were alien to me and whose language, initially, I did not speak.

My diligence at learning Japanese has been rewarded with a number of wonderful opportunities here in Japan. I have apprenticed as a chef, written columns for the Hokkaido News and, through my acquaintance with members of the USSA (United States Ski Association) and JOC (Japan Olympic Committee), been invited to work as a translator at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. In terms of personal satisfaction, my language and inter-personal skills have brought me friends and contacts of every age and description, from big-city businessmen to rural farming families, kindergarten students, and young entrepreneurs. I view my time in Japan as excellent preparation for a lifetime of travel and international relations work.

Read Luke's journal          View Expeditions Photos of Jean-Philippe

Read Genesis of a Friendship (how J-Philippe and Luke met), a story by Luke.

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