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    [post_content] => I'm still digesting everything that has happened over the past three months, so I would like to just thank some of the people I met in Indonesia that made this program meaningful.

First, I must thank Papi, my home stay mother in Jogja. She fed me incredible food, taught me bahasa Indonesia, made me laugh all the time, and basically showed me the ropes. She also made me realize how similar the words "sit" and "shit" are. Dangerously similar.

Andreas, my ISP instructor, taught me how to make street art and showed me all the beautiful artwork all around Jogja. He also taught me that making mistakes is fine, that you should just go for it anyway.

In Langa, I must thank my host mom and my host sister. They fed me all the vegetables I could possibly want and I wanted a lot. I must also thank them for getting me hooked on Anak Jalanan, an Indonesian show that translates to "Children of the Street". Don't worry, they aren't really children and they definitely didn't grow up on the street. However, the most important thing I learned from my Langa family was how to sit in silence. How to embrace moments where you are doing absolutely nothing. It's a skill I didn't know I didn't have and one that proved essential later on in Sampela.

And finally, Sampela. My host family in Sampela was incredible. The first night, I was sure they didn't like me. I was so used to the overwhelming friendliness of the people in Langa that their more quiet nature made me uneasy. Through trips to the Kaledupa market with my mom, sitting on the porch with my dad, and hanging out with my host sister and her baby, I began to feel like part of the family. I discovered that they were kind and hilarious people, even though I couldn't communicate with my host mom and dad very well. Sometimes you can tell a lot about a person just from sitting with them on their porch. I think that's what blows me away most about this course: how you can know a person without having been able to communicate well with them. How just experiencing someone's life with them for a short period of time can teach you so much about them.

I know that my experience in Indonesia could not have been the same without these people and I want to thank them for inviting me into their lives. I only hope they got something out of the experience too.
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Indonesia: Community, Culture, & Conservation

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Thank you

Jackie Tyson,Indonesia: Community, Culture, & Conservation

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I’m still digesting everything that has happened over the past three months, so I would like to just thank some of the people I met in Indonesia that made this program meaningful. First, I must thank Papi, my home stay mother in Jogja. She fed me incredible food, taught me bahasa Indonesia, made me laugh […]

Posted On

04/28/16

Author

Jackie Tyson

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One thing that I have noticed here in Guatemala is that families live together. What I mean by this is that grandparents, parents, children, aunts, uncles, and cousins all live in the same house or house complex. I think this brings the families closer together both mentally, emotionally, and physically. The fact that families live in the same house surprised me a little bit because in the United States most families live miles away from each other, and families aren’t as close as they are here in Guatemala.

I grew up in a small town where I am related to most of the people in the town and in the surrounding area. I grew up being really close to my family and doing almost everything with them. Whether it be playing after school or going away for summer vacation. I like this closeness; I think it makes us appreciate each other more. Especially when we are away from one another.

This trip is the first time I have done something without my family and I have missed them all so much. I’ve learned a lot of things, but mostly how much I love and appreciate my family and the things they do for me. I know that when I get home I will have a new view on what family really means, and how lucky I am to have the family that I do have.

-Heather

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Rivendell Guatemala

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Family

Heather Dexter,Rivendell Guatemala

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One thing that I have noticed here in Guatemala is that families live together. What I mean by this is that grandparents, parents, children, aunts, uncles, and cousins all live in the same house or house complex. I think this brings the families closer together both mentally, emotionally, and physically. The fact that families live […]

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04/28/16

Author

Heather Dexter

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We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.

The beauty of this whole process was best described, perhaps, before people even took to frequent flying, by George Santayana in his lapidary essay, “The Philosophy of Travel.” We “need sometimes,” the Harvard philosopher wrote, “to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.”

I like that stress on work, since never more than on the road are we shown how proportional our blessings are to the difficulty that precedes them; and I like the stress on a holiday that’s “moral” since we fall into our ethical habits as easily as into our beds at night. Few of us ever forget the connection between “travel” and “travail,” and I know that I travel in large part in search of hardship — both my own, which I want to feel, and others’, which I need to see. Travel in that sense guides us toward a better balance of wisdom and compassion — of seeing the world clearly, and yet feeling it truly. For seeing without feeling can obviously be uncaring; while feeling without seeing can be blind.

Yet for me the first great joy of traveling is simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light, and from a crooked angle. In that regard, even a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet (in Beijing) or a scratchy revival showing of “Wild Orchids” (on the Champs-Elysees) can be both novelty and revelation: In China, after all, people will pay a whole week’s wages to eat with Colonel Sanders, and in Paris, Mickey Rourke is regarded as the greatest actor since Jerry Lewis.

If a Mongolian restaurant seems exotic to us in Evanston, Ill., it only follows that a McDonald’s would seem equally exotic in Ulan Bator — or, at least, equally far from everything expected. Though it’s fashionable nowadays to draw a distinction between the “tourist” and the “traveler,” perhaps the real distinction lies between those who leave their assumptions at home, and those who don’t: Among those who don’t, a tourist is just someone who complains, “Nothing here is the way it is at home,” while a traveler is one who grumbles, “Everything here is the same as it is in Cairo — or Cuzco or Kathmandu.” It’s all very much the same.

But for the rest of us, the sovereign freedom of traveling comes from the fact that it whirls you around and turns you upside down, and stands everything you took for granted on its head. If a diploma can famously be a passport (to a journey through hard realism), a passport can be a diploma (for a crash course in cultural relativism). And the first lesson we learn on the road, whether we like it or not, is how provisional and provincial are the things we imagine to be universal. When you go to North Korea, for example, you really do feel as if you’ve landed on a different planet — and the North Koreans doubtless feel that they’re being visited by an extra-terrestrial, too (or else they simply assume that you, as they do, receive orders every morning from the Central Committee on what clothes to wear and what route to use when walking to work, and you, as they do, have loudspeakers in your bedroom broadcasting propaganda every morning at dawn, and you, as they do, have your radios fixed so as to receive only a single channel).

We travel, then, in part just to shake up our complacencies by seeing all the moral and political urgencies, the life-and-death dilemmas, that we seldom have to face at home. And we travel to fill in the gaps left by tomorrow’s headlines: When you drive down the streets of Port-au-Prince, for example, where there is almost no paving and women relieve themselves next to mountains of trash, your notions of the Internet and a “one world order” grow usefully revised. Travel is the best way we have of rescuing the humanity of places, and saving them from abstraction and ideology.

And in the process, we also get saved from abstraction ourselves, and come to see how much we can bring to the places we visit, and how much we can become a kind of carrier pigeon — an anti-Federal Express, if you like — in transporting back and forth what every culture needs. I find that I always take Michael Jordan posters to Kyoto, and bring woven ikebana baskets back to California; I invariably travel to Cuba with a suitcase piled high with bottles of Tylenol and bars of soap, and come back with one piled high with salsa tapes, and hopes, and letters to long-lost brothers.

But more significantly, we carry values and beliefs and news to the places we go, and in many parts of the world, we become walking video screens and living newspapers, the only channels that can take people out of the censored limits of their homelands. In closed or impoverished places, like Pagan or Lhasa or Havana, we are the eyes and ears of the people we meet, their only contact with the world outside and, very often, the closest, quite literally, they will ever come to Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton. Not the least of the challenges of travel, therefore, is learning how to import — and export — dreams with tenderness.

By now all of us have heard (too often) the old Proust line about how the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new places but in seeing with new eyes. Yet one of the subtler beauties of travel is that it enables you to bring new eyes to the people you encounter. Thus even as holidays help you appreciate your own home more — not least by seeing it through a distant admirer’s eyes — they help you bring newly appreciative — distant — eyes to the places you visit. You can teach them what they have to celebrate as much as you celebrate what they have to teach. This, I think, is how tourism, which so obviously destroys cultures, can also resuscitate or revive them, how it has created new “traditional” dances in Bali, and caused craftsmen in India to pay new attention to their works. If the first thing we can bring the Cubans is a real and balanced sense of what contemporary America is like, the second — and perhaps more important — thing we can bring them is a fresh and renewed sense of how special are the warmth and beauty of their country, for those who can compare it with other places around the globe.

Thus travel spins us round in two ways at once: It shows us the sights and values and issues that we might ordinarily ignore; but it also, and more deeply, shows us all the parts of ourselves that might otherwise grow rusty. For in traveling to a truly foreign place, we inevitably travel to moods and states of mind and hidden inward passages that we’d otherwise seldom have cause to visit.

On the most basic level, when I’m in Thailand, though a teetotaler who usually goes to bed at 9 p.m., I stay up till dawn in the local bars; and in Tibet, though not a real Buddhist, I spend days on end in temples, listening to the chants of sutras. I go to Iceland to visit the lunar spaces within me, and, in the uncanny quietude and emptiness of that vast and treeless world, to tap parts of myself generally obscured by chatter and routine.

We travel, then, in search of both self and anonymity — and, of course, in finding the one we apprehend the other. Abroad, we are wonderfully free of caste and job and standing; we are, as Hazlitt puts it, just the “gentlemen in the parlour,” and people cannot put a name or tag to us. And precisely because we are clarified in this way, and freed of inessential labels, we have the opportunity to come into contact with more essential parts of ourselves (which may begin to explain why we may feel most alive when far from home).

Abroad is the place where we stay up late, follow impulse and find ourselves as wide open as when we are in love. We live without a past or future, for a moment at least, and are ourselves up for grabs and open to interpretation. We even may become mysterious — to others, at first, and sometimes to ourselves — and, as no less a dignitary than Oliver Cromwell once noted, “A man never goes so far as when he doesn’t know where he is going.”

There are, of course, great dangers to this, as to every kind of freedom, but the great promise of it is that, traveling, we are born again, and able to return at moments to a younger and a more open kind of self. Traveling is a way to reverse time, to a small extent, and make a day last a year — or at least 45 hours — and traveling is an easy way of surrounding ourselves, as in childhood, with what we cannot understand. Language facilitates this cracking open, for when we go to France, we often migrate to French, and the more childlike self, simple and polite, that speaking a foreign language educes. Even when I’m not speaking pidgin English in Hanoi, I’m simplified in a positive way, and concerned not with expressing myself, but simply making sense.

So travel, for many of us, is a quest for not just the unknown, but the unknowing; I, at least, travel in search of an innocent eye that can return me to a more innocent self. I tend to believe more abroad than I do at home (which, though treacherous again, can at least help me to extend my vision), and I tend to be more easily excited abroad, and even kinder. And since no one I meet can “place” me — no one can fix me in my risumi –I can remake myself for better, as well as, of course, for worse (if travel is notoriously a cradle for false identities, it can also, at its best, be a crucible for truer ones). In this way, travel can be a kind of monasticism on the move: On the road, we often live more simply (even when staying in a luxury hotel), with no more possessions than we can carry, and surrendering ourselves to chance.

This is what Camus meant when he said that “what gives value to travel is fear” — disruption, in other words, (or emancipation) from circumstance, and all the habits behind which we hide. And that is why many of us travel not in search of answers, but of better questions. I, like many people, tend to ask questions of the places I visit, and relish most the ones that ask the most searching questions back of me: In Paraguay, for example, where one car in every two is stolen, and two-thirds of the goods on sale are smuggled, I have to rethink my every Californian assumption. And in Thailand, where many young women give up their bodies in order to protect their families — to become better Buddhists — I have to question my own too-ready judgments. “The ideal travel book,” Christopher Isherwood once said, “should be perhaps a little like a crime story in which you’re in search of something.” And it’s the best kind of something, I would add, if it’s one that you can never quite find.

I remember, in fact, after my first trips to Southeast Asia, more than a decade ago, how I would come back to my apartment in New York, and lie in my bed, kept up by something more than jet lag, playing back, in my memory, over and over, all that I had experienced, and paging wistfully though my photographs and reading and re-reading my diaries, as if to extract some mystery from them. Anyone witnessing this strange scene would have drawn the right conclusion: I was in love.

For if every true love affair can feel like a journey to a foreign country, where you can’t quite speak the language, and you don’t know where you’re going, and you’re pulled ever deeper into the inviting darkness, every trip to a foreign country can be a love affair, where you’re left puzzling over who you are and whom you’ve fallen in love with. All the great travel books are love stories, by some reckoning — from the Odyssey and the Aeneid to the Divine Comedy and the New Testament — and all good trips are, like love, about being carried out of yourself and deposited in the midst of terror and wonder.

And what this metaphor also brings home to us is that all travel is a two-way transaction, as we too easily forget, and if warfare is one model of the meeting of nations, romance is another. For what we all too often ignore when we go abroad is that we are objects of scrutiny as much as the people we scrutinize, and we are being consumed by the cultures we consume, as much on the road as when we are at home. At the very least, we are objects of speculation (and even desire) who can seem as exotic to the people around us as they do to us.

We are the comic props in Japanese home-movies, the oddities in Maliese anecdotes and the fall-guys in Chinese jokes; we are the moving postcards or bizarre objets trouves that villagers in Peru will later tell their friends about. If travel is about the meeting of realities, it is no less about the mating of illusions: You give me my dreamed-of vision of Tibet, and I’ll give you your wished-for California. And in truth, many of us, even (or especially) the ones who are fleeing America abroad, will get taken, willy-nilly, as symbols of the American Dream.

That, in fact, is perhaps the most central and most wrenching of the questions travel proposes to us: how to respond to the dream that people tender to you? Do you encourage their notions of a Land of Milk and Honey across the horizon, even if it is the same land you’ve abandoned? Or do you try to dampen their enthusiasm for a place that exists only in the mind? To quicken their dreams may, after all, be to match-make them with an illusion; yet to dash them may be to strip them of the one possession that sustains them in adversity.

That whole complex interaction — not unlike the dilemmas we face with those we love (how do we balance truthfulness and tact?) — is partly the reason why so many of the great travel writers, by nature, are enthusiasts: not just Pierre Loti, who famously, infamously, fell in love wherever he alighted (an archetypal sailor leaving offspring in the form of Madame Butterfly myths), but also Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence or Graham Greene, all of whom bore out the hidden truth that we are optimists abroad as readily as pessimists as home. None of them was by any means blind to the deficiencies of the places around them, but all, having chosen to go there, chose to find something to admire.

All, in that sense, believed in “being moved” as one of the points of taking trips, and “being transported” by private as well as public means; all saw that “ecstasy” (“ex-stasis”) tells us that our highest moments come when we’re not stationary, and that epiphany can follow movement as much as it precipitates it. I remember once asking the great travel writer Norman Lewis if he’d ever be interested in writing on apartheid South Africa. He looked at me astonished. “To write well about a thing,” he said, “I’ve got to like it!”

At the same time, as all this is intrinsic to travel, from Ovid to O’Rourke, travel itself is changing as the world does, and with it, the mandate of the travel writer. It’s not enough to go to the ends of the earth these days (not least because the ends of the earth are often coming to you); and where a writer like Jan Morris could, a few years ago, achieve something miraculous simply by voyaging to all the great cities of the globe, now anyone with a Visa card can do that. So where Morris, in effect, was chronicling the last days of the Empire, a younger travel writer is in a better position to chart the first days of a new Empire, post-national, global, mobile and yet as diligent as the Raj in transporting its props and its values around the world.

In the mid-19th century, the British famously sent the Bible and Shakespeare and cricket round the world; now a more international kind of Empire is sending Madonna and the Simpsons and Brad Pitt. And the way in which each culture takes in this common pool of references tells you as much about them as their indigenous products might. Madonna in an Islamic country, after all, sounds radically different from Madonna in a Confucian one, and neither begins to mean the same as Madonna on East 14th Street. When you go to a McDonald’s outlet in Kyoto, you will find Teriyaki McBurgers and Bacon Potato Pies. The placemats offer maps of the great temples of the city, and the posters all around broadcast the wonders of San Francisco. And — most crucial of all — the young people eating their Big Macs, with baseball caps worn backwards, and tight 501 jeans, are still utterly and inalienably Japanese in the way they move, they nod, they sip their Oolong teas — and never to be mistaken for the patrons of a McDonald’s outlet in Rio, Morocco or Managua. These days a whole new realm of exotica arises out of the way one culture colors and appropriates the products of another.

The other factor complicating and exciting all of this is people, who are, more and more, themselves as many-tongued and mongrel as cities like Sydney or Toronto or Hong Kong. I am, in many ways, an increasingly typical specimen, if only because I was born, as the son of Indian parents, in England, moved to America at 7 and cannot really call myself an Indian, an American or an Englishman. I was, in short, a traveler at birth, for whom even a visit to the candy store was a trip through a foreign world where no one I saw quite matched my parents’ inheritance, or my own. And though some of this is involuntary and tragic — the number of refugees in the world, which came to just 2.5 million in 1970, is now at least 27.4 million — it does involve, for some of us, the chance to be transnational in a happier sense, able to adapt anywhere, used to being outsiders everywhere and forced to fashion our own rigorous sense of home. (And if nowhere is quite home, we can be optimists everywhere.)

Besides, even those who don’t move around the world find the world moving more and more around them. Walk just six blocks, in Queens or Berkeley, and you’re traveling through several cultures in as many minutes; get into a cab outside the White House, and you’re often in a piece of Addis Ababa. And technology, too, compounds this (sometimes deceptive) sense of availability, so that many people feel they can travel around the world without leaving the room — through cyberspace or CD-ROMs, videos and virtual travel. There are many challenges in this, of course, in what it says about essential notions of family and community and loyalty, and in the worry that air-conditioned, purely synthetic versions of places may replace the real thing — not to mention the fact that the world seems increasingly in flux, a moving target quicker than our notions of it. But there is, for the traveler at least, the sense that learning about home and learning about a foreign world can be one and the same thing.

All of us feel this from the cradle, and know, in some sense, that all the significant movement we ever take is internal. We travel when we see a movie, strike up a new friendship, get held up. Novels are often journeys as much as travel books are fictions; and though this has been true since at least as long ago as Sir John Mandeville’s colorful 14th century accounts of a Far East he’d never visited, it’s an even more shadowy distinction now, as genre distinctions join other borders in collapsing.

In Mary Morris’s “House Arrest,” a thinly disguised account of Castro’s Cuba, the novelist reiterates, on the copyright page, “All dialogue is invented. Isabella, her family, the inhabitants and even la isla itself are creations of the author’s imagination.” On Page 172, however, we read, “La isla, of course, does exist. Don’t let anyone fool you about that. It just feels as if it doesn’t. But it does.” No wonder the travel-writer narrator — a fictional construct (or not)? — confesses to devoting her travel magazine column to places that never existed. “Erewhon,” after all, the undiscovered land in Samuel Butler’s great travel novel, is just “nowhere” rearranged.

Travel, then, is a voyage into that famously subjective zone, the imagination, and what the traveler brings back is — and has to be — an ineffable compound of himself and the place, what’s really there and what’s only in him. Thus Bruce Chatwin’s books seem to dance around the distinction between fact and fancy. V.S. Naipaul’s recent book, “A Way in the World,” was published as a non-fictional “series” in England and a “novel” in the United States. And when some of the stories in Paul Theroux’s half-invented memoir, “My Other Life,” were published in The New Yorker, they were slyly categorized as “Fact and Fiction.”

And since travel is, in a sense, about the conspiracy of perception and imagination, the two great travel writers, for me, to whom I constantly return are Emerson and Thoreau (the one who famously advised that “traveling is a fool’s paradise,” and the other who “traveled a good deal in Concord”). Both of them insist on the fact that reality is our creation, and that we invent the places we see as much as we do the books that we read. What we find outside ourselves has to be inside ourselves for us to find it. Or, as Sir Thomas Browne sagely put it, “We carry within us the wonders we seek without us. There is Africa and her prodigies in us.”

So, if more and more of us have to carry our sense of home inside us, we also — Emerson and Thoreau remind us — have to carry with us our sense of destination. The most valuable Pacifics we explore will always be the vast expanses within us, and the most important Northwest Crossings the thresholds we cross in the heart. The virtue of finding a gilded pavilion in Kyoto is that it allows you to take back a more lasting, private Golden Temple to your office in Rockefeller Center.

And even as the world seems to grow more exhausted, our travels do not, and some of the finest travel books in recent years have been those that undertake a parallel journey, matching the physical steps of a pilgrimage with the metaphysical steps of a questioning (as in Peter Matthiessen’s great “The Snow Leopard”), or chronicling a trip to the farthest reaches of human strangeness (as in Oliver Sack’s “Island of the Color-Blind,” which features a journey not just to a remote atoll in the Pacific, but to a realm where people actually see light differently). The most distant shores, we are constantly reminded, lie within the person asleep at our side.

So travel, at heart, is just a quick way to keeping our minds mobile and awake. As Santayana, the heir to Emerson and Thoreau with whom I began, wrote, “There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar; it keeps the mind nimble; it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor.” Romantic poets inaugurated an era of travel because they were the great apostles of open eyes. Buddhist monks are often vagabonds, in part because they believe in wakefulness. And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.

  Salon Travel Contributing Editor Pico Iyer is the author of "Video Night in Kathmandu," "The Lady and the Monk," "Falling off the Map," "Cuba and the Night" and "Tropical Classical." [post_title] => Why We Travel by Pico Iyer [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => why-we-travel-by-pico-iyer [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-04-28 13:42:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-04-28 19:42:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/blog/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 539 [name] => Colorado Academy China [slug] => ca-china-2016 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 539 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 536 [count] => 3 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 0 [object_id] => 141894 [cat_ID] => 539 [category_count] => 3 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Colorado Academy China [category_nicename] => ca-china-2016 [category_parent] => 536 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/category/summer-2016/ca-china-2016/ ) ) [category_links] => Colorado Academy China )
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Why We Travel by Pico Iyer

Joe Goldes,Colorado Academy China

Description

  We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are […]

Posted On

04/28/16

Author

Joe Goldes

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    [post_date] => 2016-04-28 13:41:41
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    [post_content] => 

Language, what a precious thing! I feel fortunate that here in Vancouver, BC where the sun is slowly drying the remains of a rainy winter, that that this city has a large Chinese speaking community. Some of these people have a longer history in Canada than my own family does in North America. Many others have moved more recently from the mainland and hold much more modern Chinese customs. In Chinatown there are buildings with “half floors” where, a half century ago, workers would sew clothes shoulder to shoulder in a room where the ceiling was too low to stand up. In the southwest of the city, housing prices have tripled in the last decade as Chinese investors, eager to move money out of the mainland have snatched up Vancouver properties.

The reason that Chinese emigrants have decided to leave their families and homeland are diverse, just as our own reasons for going to China are varied. I decided to study Chinese when I started university to fulfill a language requirement, but that choice lead me to study abroad in Kunming, a city I would call home for four years. In that time I studied Mandarin and taught English before I ran to a the Where There Be Dragons crew, with whom I have traveled from the metropolis of Beijing, to the mountains of Qinghai, and to the jungles of Xishuangbana. Once upon a time I thought I knew about China because I had seen Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and could use chopsticks. Now, I feel that know very little about China, and on each return trip I find that I know less and come away with even more questions than ever before. Oh, how many dialects there are to learn! So many dishes to to cook! So many religious practices to patiently observe!

There is a lot to prepare before we go. Through our travel, we will be tested mentally and physically and come back with a greater sense of of the complexities of Chinese life. We will also com back with better tools like language, and 关系 that we will be able to use in the future to pursue our individual curiosities. No matter your language level or experience with China, I’m excited to meet you and get this trip underway. While I wait for May 23rd to roll around, I will have to calm my excitement by reading your self-intros and drinking an occasional cup of 普洱 tea.

Before I go, I will make sure to grab a few knickknacks from BC that will make good home-stay family presents, make sure I’ve checked everything off my list and make sure my personal life is in order. I hope to hear a bit about you up here on the Yak board over the next week, it is important to check this page regularly, so keep it book marked.

一路平安

Joe Goldes 郭得昭

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Self introduction

Joe Goldes,Colorado Academy China

Description

Language, what a precious thing! I feel fortunate that here in Vancouver, BC where the sun is slowly drying the remains of a rainy winter, that that this city has a large Chinese speaking community. Some of these people have a longer history in Canada than my own family does in North America. Many others […]

Posted On

04/28/16

Author

Joe Goldes

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    [post_content] => Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone. -Wendell Berry

Dear Friends and Family,

As is custom at Dragons, we are taking the last few days of the course to reflect on our experiences. For one such reflective activity, we asked the students three questions and are anonymously sharing their responses with you below.

Before that, the instructor team (Rebecca, Jason and Ing-Marie) would like to acknowledge the parents of our students and the emotional labor it takes to send your child to live on the other side of the world for three months. We would also like to thank you those of you who wrote in to the Field Note board! None of us have ever seen such an outpouring of parental love and support and think your students are lucky to have you. We also enjoyed hearing your stories, messages from home and words of wisdom. We think you are all wonderful and would love to host any of you on a Dragons course! Now without further ado:

1. What is something you learned about Nepal?

-I learned that there’s a huge water shortage in Nepal was able to experience and understand that.

-Resilience of its people, strength in community, ability to stand up after being knocked down, simplicity of joy and beauty in silence. How badass village amaas (mothers) are.

-Nepal has taught me about the genuineness and loving kindness that people have. It has taught me the joys of living simply and simply living. It has shown me the importance of having and being a part of a community.

-I accumulated technical knowledge surrounding development, culture, heritage, demographics, language etc and I also learned that none of that ultimately holds any meaning for me. I question myself as to why that is. Something very valuable for me, was noticing very distinctly the remarkable infusion of spirituality and wonder in the quotidian and the habitual. Other things such as the value of human interaction, silence, humility, various human qualities come to mind but , but they do not relate directly to the prompt -the word ‘about’ was a little challenging.

-Holi is the greatest holiday. Especially when celebrated in Kathmandu.

-The strength and kindness of the Nepali people. They have endured so much but continue to be strong, hardworking and kind. Wherever I went I was met with warmness and invitations into houses for tea.

-Kathmandu is a highly polluted city.

-The ability to form powerful and long lasting connections with people who do not speak the same language or have the same culture as I do. It was in situations where I could barely express my thoughts verbally that the strongest interpersonal connection came through. I have so much love for everyone I’ve met in Nepal in a way I didn’t think was possible.

-Resilience exists in abundance. In a place where spirit, soul and will overpower so many demons, anything is possible.

2. Who is a person who affected your experience in Nepal?

-Veda, for teaching me about myself and my world. Evoking thoughts and providing me with hours of worth of intellectual stimulation. My homestay family for showing me endless kindness by warmly welcoming me into their home and life. For the smiles and giggles and piles of delicious food. The instructors for being here and putting up with all the craziness. My mom, for supporting me endlessly. For her emails and messages and check ins and love.

-Yoga Tara had a major impact on me through her love, dedication and wisdom regarding her practice/lifestyle (yoga). Her ease of consciousness and patience will forever be qualities I try to imitate.

-My homestay families, other students, instructors, my ISP mentor, even random people I’ve met on the street. My mind constantly goes to my family at home, especially my mother and sister. They are the people who have prompted change in me even thought they’re so far away. I feel connected with them right now more than I ever have.

-The beautiful Binita, who will be my sister forever: not only a beautiful smiling soul but a startlingly profound reminder of the core values of love, a pillar of raw gentle affection that will never leave my heart.

-Bob Dylan. He helped me interrogate the culture by using his music a tool to connect with my homestay family. It was very comforting to have him in Nepal.

-My art teacher at the Ashram, Laxman, is very important. “I think art is happiness”. To see him speak about the drawing the way I think about music...that had an impact.

-How should I define “affected”? On one level I was affected by no one but myself but on another I was affected by everyone. I apologize for being annoying and indirect. I was very affected by the Rinpoche at NagiGompa monastery because at that time I had been contemplating my own deeply ingrained sense of equanimity. And thus processed our very short exchange through that kind of trans formative lens.Another person who affected me was a man that I met on a bus in Kathmandu to whom I gave a totally spurious introduction of myself. It was okay. He did not know. It made me think about what I define as myself; whether I am me or an anthropology student from Portugal or anything else that I care to invent.

-My family back home. My groupmates. My ISP mentor (Yoga Tara).

-Of any Nepali person I met our instructor Jason impacted me the most. He is very unique, his is a wealth of knowledge and has some of the most interesting and varying life experiences of anyone I’ve met.

3. What is something friends and family back home should know?

-The last two and a half months have been jam packed and so much has happened. I’m still very much processing it all. But I want people at home to know I haven’t forgot about them and as eager as I am to tell stories about this trip, I am even more eager to hear about your experiences. Please talk about yourself too.

-I’d say I’m more free with my consciousness and that I’ve regained some interest/curiosity about the world and its workings.

-I found a rock on the first day of trek and carried it to Gosaikunda Lake on the last day. Amrit and I skipped rocks and it was very heart warming and meaningful for me.

-I cannot say that I’ve underdone some immense and profound change during the time that I’ve been in Nepal. I decided about 3 months ago that I no longer wished to feel so disconnected to my surrounding, other people and myself. I sought balance, clarity and a sense of truth. Strange things come out of this intention for me. I went through a period of intense disconnection and as a result see myself in a new light. I’d like to convey to friends and family that I’m still the same person really. Only more present and aware.

-I want my friends and family that I’m not sure what I’m doing in life. I do know that it’s not the destination but the road that leads you there and I’m excited to carve my own path, leaping into this next chapter of my life.

-Please know that I intend to move to Nepal as soon as I possibly can.

-My parents and friends should know that I am still very much the same person just a little bit more open, more knowledgeable and more aware. They should also know that I am in a place of acceptance of the principle of movement, transience and flow. And I have developed a dependence on milk tea.

-I have no direction but that of the direction of love. Love for myself, my interactions with others and my interactions with this one lovely world. A direction terrifying void of tangible direction but nevertheless an infinitely worthwhile endeavour.

-I’m grateful for everything you do for me.
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In a place where spirit, soul, and will overpower so many demons, anything is possible

Instructor Team,Nepal: Himalayan Studies

Description

Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone. -Wendell Berry Dear Friends and Family, As is custom at Dragons, we are taking the last few days of the course to reflect on our […]

Posted On

04/28/16

Author

Instructor Team

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We have less than a week left here in Guatemala and its been an amazing experience so far.

With the absence of my daily routine as a student, this trip has made me realize how grateful I am for the life I have back home.

Just to see how different a part of the world can be from your own home is important and something every human being should experience. It opens your eyes to just how big the world really is.

We’ve been talking and learning about a lot of things, but one that is always connected to whatever we may be learning about is nature. Nature is so important here. These people follow nature, and they depend on nature.

In my short time here I’ve had two very important moments with nature. One was when I reached the top of the hardest part in our trek. When I made it to the top of the last huge hill, I felt an energy I had never experienced before. Even thought I had just used so much energy, I gained a new energy by being at the top and having that amazing view – which probably helped. The second was when we went to a hot spring. The water made me feel so revived and fulfilled and fortified. It was a simple but important moment for me.

We are now in our second homestay and by ourselves. I think everyone in the group is settled into their new homes and are enjoying the familias. We will be with these families until Wednesday, then we go back to Antigua. We started this adventure in Antigua and I am excited to end it there as well. Our instructors have been amazing and I believe each student will have lots to share when they return home soon.

-Melissa

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Rivendell Guatemala

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Less than a week left…

Melissa Eaton,Rivendell Guatemala

Description

We have less than a week left here in Guatemala and its been an amazing experience so far. With the absence of my daily routine as a student, this trip has made me realize how grateful I am for the life I have back home. Just to see how different a part of the world […]

Posted On

04/27/16

Author

Melissa Eaton

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    [post_content] => Here, Trillium is learning the art of the foot loom.

-Brynne
    [post_title] => Loom Life
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Loom Life

Brynne MacMurtry,Rivendell Guatemala

Description

Here, Trillium is learning the art of the foot loom. -Brynne

Posted On

04/27/16

Author

Brynne MacMurtry

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    [post_content] => Guatemala is a country full of sounds. There are many natural sounds like the birds endlessly chirping and the dogs barking, all of the animals making their own distinct noises. Even now, as I am writing this a massive storm has entered Pachaj and much more noise has entered the scene. The rain hitting the roof, the wind moving the metal fences, and unexpectedly loud claps of thunder. It seems this country is indeed not silent. But these natural noises are always accompanied by man-made noises too. As you walk down the street you can hear people advertising their products. You hear wood trucks, and other vehicles making loud sounds, to let everyone know that they are coming by. It is not uncommon then, to be woken suddenly in the night by fireworks going off, or a radio turned way up, so the entire town can hear its music. And when there is a celebration, such as a fútbol game or a wedding, then of course, these noises are multiplied. There are so many sounds around you at every moment in Guatemala, whether you be in the center of a forest, or in the center of Guatemala City, I imagine. This makes me wonder why other places are different. Everywhere there are natural noises continuing into the night. But not all people create their own sounds. The United States too has fireworks, but they only light the night sky once a year. Guatemala has many noises. Beginning with natural sounds of the weather and animals, Guatemalans imitate these noises - They imitate their natural world. This is another way, through sound, that Guatemalans act in similitude with nature.
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Rivendell Guatemala

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Noise.

Max Haehnel,Rivendell Guatemala

Description

Guatemala is a country full of sounds. There are many natural sounds like the birds endlessly chirping and the dogs barking, all of the animals making their own distinct noises. Even now, as I am writing this a massive storm has entered Pachaj and much more noise has entered the scene. The rain hitting the […]

Posted On

04/27/16

Author

Max Haehnel

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    [post_date] => 2016-04-27 15:47:34
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    [post_content] => I had not yet, until this meaningless moment, posted a field note. Though the idea admittedly tickled my fancy, the urge, the necessity, never clawed at me. There was too much to say, there was nothing to say; nothing really matters anyway - maybe I was just being characteristically lazy.
None of that truly bears any significance now, because I am sitting here, in my room in Ale Gaun typing this up in the hope that it be posted and that it reach avid eyes before the end of this course. I honestly shiver at this last phrase. I am once again caught in my own bewilderment at the transitory nature of time, at the ephemerality of the moment that my consciousness registers as 'the present'. Very weird.

Moving on, here is a small collection of random things. I am exercising my arbitrary will to send them out into the interweb, into space, like sound waves or electromagnetic pulses, to be picked up or not by other sentient beings. Some of these were originally written in French, so an attempt at translation was made on my part, though not fully to my satisfaction. Tant pis.

1. It is raining.
2. We are in Boudha - effectuated three quoras around the immense Boudhanath Stupa, which is still in the course of reconstruction. I am currently sitting outside a little café, on the steps, and I am fairly confident that someone will soon approach me to shoo me away; I am probably dissuading potential customers from entering. There are people walking around, the Buddhist mantra of "Ohm mani padme hun" playing on repeat in one of the tourist shops, monks shuffling in their red and yellow garments, and old man clad in orange standing barefoot among a sea of pigeons, lively old women with cloth braided into their hair cleaning the grime off of the prayer wheels. There are brightly coloured payer flags flapping in the breeze, lining the scaffolding which crawls up the full white dome of the stupa. It is sunny. Many Chinese tourists. Just many tourists in general. It is hot today. This would be a nice spot in the early morning. Chinese tourist taking a photo of me - I probably seem to be a typical hippie foreigner here to lose herself in drugs and mysticism. There is a general redolence of fried food and feces, which is not particularly pleasant, but not strong enough to be markedly unpleasant. An old Tibetan man approaches me, smiles rubbing his prayer beads; 'Namaste'. What a full smile. I need to go now.
3. On trek, we walked though a beautiful forest, densely populated with fragrant purple flowers. There was moss everywhere and the trees were gnarled and dripping with lichens. I love moss and lichens. An overwhelming feeling of elation arises. We continue through a beautiful section full of rhododendrons, the flowers floating tufts of red on green leaves and pale red-brown trunks.
4. I hear chickens squawking all over the farm, goats rustling among the leaves that they are meant to be eating, pigeons flittering and cooing about, a strange scratching noise. Ah livestock. Isabelle and I have come to a mutual agreement that the chickens look like they are wearing pants. The rooster is the national animal of France. I wonder if anyone has ever observed a chicken, and then after a while declared: 'my, what a magnificent, regal, noble creature'. To anyone who has, I politely and humbly offer my dissent. Cows, on the other hand are quite nice, apart from the glowing aura of methane that envelops them constantly (I have a sensitive nose, which is simultaneously my strength and the root of my demise). They have a certain serenity and candor about them which I quite respect. I milked a cow the other day. It is my conclusion that cows are best admired from a safe distance.
5. Also on trek. We walk through a high elevation mountain landscape, with little vegetation save the minuscule pink flowers living close to the ground, and brown, scraggly grass. There is heavy fog sweeping over the mountainside, obstructing our view. It is otherworldly and beautiful. Chilling.
6. My favourite form of water is clouds. A close second was ocean. Deserts are like sand oceans. I love their fluidity, their state of constant flux, their movement.
7. Monastery musings: (directly copied from my journal). FAITH. Is it belief? Is it continuous and unquestioning acceptance of a certain way of thinking, of cultivating knowledge, like faith in the scientific method, or faith in tools of knowledge such as deductive and inductive reasoning? It is adherence to the method that most closely allows us to catch approximate notions of truth in the reality in which we choose to exist. Questions regarding the self and the legitimacy of physical reality now arise. It is easy to accept that things exist on different levels without having to make the difficult decision to entertain them in the same dimensions and give them the same weight. Am I truly open-minded, or am I restricted by my own adherence to my primary plane or existence? The question of doubt will always surface in my contemplations. Doubt is an essential to humanity because it is the key to change, it delivers us from blind acceptance and is an elevated expression of our minds.
8. I used to sit on my roof a lot during my Kathmandu homestay. There are a few times that I distinctly remember; some bathed in a soft light from the full moon, some in the early morning, watching the rising of the sun, a big red giant urging the daily ritual to begin, for the cycle to recommence, some in the haziness of the afternoon...
9. Namaste, Batti chhaina, daal bhat khanu aunus, malaai biraloo manpar chha. Meetho chha, ramro, garmi chha, ukusmukus, tapaai laai maddat garnu sacchu, pugyo, dhanyabaad
10. L'aube et le crépuscule, l'existence cyclique.
11. There was a rainstorm the other night; there was lightening and thunder and hail and I sat on the porch with my aamaa and smiled.
12. Trek: Idyllic scenery. River. I can see why humans are so obsessed with nature, why it has inspired so much poetry, and bred such strong monopolizing urges. It is the ideal, the paradisiac.
13. Note 8 continued - Sitting on roof. Panoramic view of Kathmandu. Cow mooing loudly and obtrusively. Blossoming tree, wind in the prayer flags. Tearful happiness and heightened awareness of my place in the world at this moment. Drums beating rhythmically - puja at Kapan monastery. A raindrop on my face. Small vegetable garden below. Woman yelling wrathfully at her cow. I sit facing the city, legs dangling over the rooftops of the world. Kathmandu. Calf almost fell down the hill! He is scared and alone. Tied to a tree. I have a sudden urge to free him. Woman untying the rope now. In the haze of pollution and gradually increasing darkness, the houses look like a sea of rubble. I want to jump off and swim through it, grating myself against its rough edges. Prayer flags still billowing in the dusty, parasitic wind. I inhale swiftly and deeply. My socks are not dry yet. I am getting cold. (Journal entry entitled "25 Février 2016").
14. I went to Pashupatinath with Ben one day. We walked around, admired the trees and the Shiva shrines. We sat along the left bank of the Bagmati, and watched the beginnings of a cremation. There was a dead man, lain out, with his toes in the river. Women were lined up, pouring water over him, a cleansing ritual. One woman in green began to wail, and I watched, moved, as she collapsed onto the ground, so shaken by this death that she was unable to remain standing. Her grief was momentous to me, huge in its dignity and sincerity, and I observed her for a long time.
15. We have delicious achar for breakfast every day. Kenna can attest. Yesterday morning, Suri the demonic feline creature who is usually the physical manifestation of malicious energy, climbed into my lap, curled up into a little ball, and slept. She was so at peace, and it made me quite happy.
16. Aitabaar is a good day of the week because I like the way that it sounds. It is sharp and fine, self-sustaining. The bells at St François-Xavier would be going off to punctuate its melodious wind. Buddhabaar is also nice because it has the word 'Buddha' in it. Bihibaar is the best day because Thursday is the best day, though it really does not sound as nice as Aitabaar.
17. I summited Surya peak. I can now say that the highest elevation at which I have urinated is a little under 5140 metres.
18. I wished that I had skipped rocks at Gosaikunda. Skipping rocks is very soothing.
19. I love airplanes and airports. Closure seems to be such a clinical term. But I am in a state of detachment and drifting. I am the metaphorical fluorescent bead of the Bozeman distribution, and I am content. I have marked a progression with an indefinite trajectory. J'assume ma liberté et le baiser de l'arbitraire déposé au seuil de ma vie. Maybe that would sound too sappy in English.

There is much more to be said of course.
My apologies for not having written sooner. My family will probably have expected this.
Maman, Papa, Anaïs (si tu es là), je vous présente mes plus sincères excuses. Mimi aussi. Vous me manquez.

À très très bientôt,
Je vous aime,
Eva.
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Nepal: Himalayan Studies

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Un retour à l’anachronique, à l’arbitraire et à l’inattendu

Eva Hachem,Nepal: Himalayan Studies

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I had not yet, until this meaningless moment, posted a field note. Though the idea admittedly tickled my fancy, the urge, the necessity, never clawed at me. There was too much to say, there was nothing to say; nothing really matters anyway – maybe I was just being characteristically lazy. None of that truly bears […]

Posted On

04/27/16

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Eva Hachem

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    [post_date] => 2016-04-27 10:48:28
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    [post_content] => We arrived in Beijing on Tuesday morning, for our final two days of the student-led expedition. We've spent most of this spring's X-Phase in Yinchuan, the provincial capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, with a two-day foray into Inner Mongolia and the Tengger Desert. We slid on sand, swam in a desert lake, and slept in Mongolian yurts. Enjoy the photos!
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X-Phase Photos: Tengger Desert

Instructors,China: South of the Clouds

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We arrived in Beijing on Tuesday morning, for our final two days of the student-led expedition. We’ve spent most of this spring’s X-Phase in Yinchuan, the provincial capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, with a two-day foray into Inner Mongolia and the Tengger Desert. We slid on sand, swam in a desert lake, and […]

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04/27/16

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Instructors

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