Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sisters visit native China over Spring Break

Kayaking a highlight for Anhwei Kirk

Express Staff Writer

Anhwei Kirk kayaks the Sal-ween River in southern China during Spring Break. She planned to present a slide show about the trip to her teacher Sandy Scott’s fifth-grade class at Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum. Courtesy photo by Will Stauf-fer-Norris (Will

     Spring Break trips are special for many Wood River Valley families.

     Hemingway Elementary School students Anhwei Kirk and Goldie Kirk did something very special this year.

     Fifth-grader Anhwei Kirk, 11, and third-grader Goldie Kirk, 8, visited their native China March 20 through April 10 highlighted by a four-day kayaking and boating trip in a remote area of southern China near Myanmar.     

     Their dad Drew Kirk said about his family’s three-week trip to China, “Anhwei was a junior instructor for a Chinese kids kayak camp on the Salween River in Southern Yunnan province.

     “The kids ran 45 miles of big class III water. Anhwei worked with the kids on kayak instruction through a Chinese organization called Last Descents that raises awareness on river conservation.”

     Kirk operates a Boise-based high tech headhunting firm called Payette Group and his wife Kimberly Frank Kirk is a writer and teacher. They adopted Anhwei and Goldie when the native Chinese children were 10 months old.

     Now, Anhwei and Goldie are typical Wood River kids—skiing, skating, horseback riding and enjoying all the things the mountains have to offer.

     Drew Kirk’s interest in kayaking dates back over 25 years. He was a member of a first descent expedition down the Salween River in 2007. At that time, the Salween was the last major river draining the Tibetan Plateau that hadn’t been fully explored.

     Three years ago, Anhwei joined an Idaho summer program called Idaho River Kids that starts with pool sessions and teaches hydrology, river running, safety and kayak-specific techniques on the Payette River. It is a non-profit organization governed by a five-member volunteer board.

     The summer of 2014 will be Anhwei’s fourth year with Idaho River Kids, and Goldie will enter her second year.

     Anhwei has become so accomplished in kayaking that she served as a junior instructor and role model on the recent river trip to China. On the trip were six children ages 3-9 from three influential families in Beijing, China.

     “Kayaking is unheard of in China, and this trip was a way to introduce the kids to kayaking and to raise awareness of river conservation,” said Drew Kirk.

     Goldie served as secondary lead in the rafting section.

     What did Anhwei enjoy about the kayaking trip, besides re-visiting China for the first time since she was three?

     She said, “Meeting the kids and spending time with them, and making new friends. The river was fun.”

     Her father described Anhwei’s response to the challenges of the river, saying, “It was big water, and Anhwei crushed it.”

     “It was unbelievable for both our children to experience their home country through the love of the outdoors,” said Kirk. “They assimilated right back into everything—and they loved the food!”

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