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Where There Be Dragons

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    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_150877" align="alignnone" width="958"]Indonesia Semester Photo by CELIA MITCHELL, INDONESIA SEMESTER[/caption]

Most mornings in Sampela, Totombo, my host father, and I were awoken by boardwalk roosters crowing in the sun and would be on the water not much later. We went out in his boat, a battered blue canoe that was roomier and required less bailing than most other boats in Sampela—a financial testament to his fishing capability—and were armed with a long speargun for him, a short, easy to reload speargun for me, and one extra for good measure. We would cruise across a sea peppered by waves big enough to make the boat rock a little until he, peering over the side of the boat, decided that he liked the fishing prospects of that particular spot of ocean. He’d flash me a terrific smile, say, “Ini bagus” (“This is good”), and launch overboard. I’d follow him, much less gracefully, and hope that I was in the water in time to watch him tie the anchor onto whatever monolithic coral structure we’d have stopped over.

[caption id="attachment_150876" align="alignnone" width="838"]Indonesia Semester Photo by CELIA MITCHELL, INDONESIA SEMESTER[/caption]

Then we’d stretch the cut lengths of rubber on our wooden spearguns back, lock in the spears, and dive down. Totombo always caught the first fish, spinning up to the surface with a joyous smile before dropping his catch in the katingting and diving back down. Sometimes my only role for a morning would be to swim his catch back to the boat, and it took me a few days before I caught my first batfish, his most commonly sought prey. Those mornings were always lovely. It was just the two of us in a small blue boat in the middle of the ocean, swimming and fishing and basking in the Indonesian sun, and it was blissful.

About halfway through my time in Sampela, we started to go out earlier and travel farther, fishing for upwards of six hours. On one of these days, we were taking a break in what was starting to be a blisteringly hot day when a few boats puttered up to us and cut their engines. I’m not quite sure what was said over the next 45 minutes, given that they were speaking in Bajo, but somehow Totombo and I ended up a part of Mr. Helmet and Mrs. Hat’s crew.

I took to calling them Mr. Helmet and Mrs. Hat as a way of referring to them in conversation with other Dragons, and their monikers descended from their headpieces. Mrs. Hat always wore a huge bamboo hat. It’s shadow rarely let the warm glow of her eyes out, instead showing only her sun-leathered face and betel-stained teeth. Mr. Helmet had a well-worn black construction hat which kept the   sun off his face and, more importantly, kept his cigarettes and lighter dry from the ocean’s spray and Sampela’s monsoon rains—it only occasionally showed his face when we were there during the dry spread along the ropes scared most of the fish in their way towards the net and the net was soon teeming with a swirl of fish. I was told in no uncertain terms by Totombo to stay out of the net but I was permitted to get in the water and watch from a distance.

They had one of the only nets I saw in Sampela, and certainly the largest. It had it’s own canoe, and Totombo and I (mostly Totombo) were recruited to help use it. Mr. Helmet and Mrs. Hat each had a large boat filled with several hundred feet of rope with some floating thing— a plastic bag, a water jug, a stick—tied every couple yards. Leaving the net, the net’s canoe, myself and my canoe anchored, each boat began to go in an opposite direction, slowly paying out the rope as they went. The old man who had ridden in the canoe with the net was spending this time pulling the net out and setting it up in the sea and I, unskilled and unable to help, watched like the five year-olds that sometimes accompanied their mothers and fathers to the ocean.

The rope-boats eventually finished unloading their ropes and began to arc around, back towards us. The miscellaneous debris spread along the ropes scared most of the fish in their way towards the net and the net was soon teeming with a swirl of fish. I was told in no uncertain terms by Totombo to stay out of the net but I was permitted to get in the water and watch from a distance.

The net, I realized once I’d gotten in the water, didn’t have a bottom. It was weighed down at the edges, so fish couldn’t get out, but to lift it out of the water like a trawling net reduced its size tremendously, so the Bajo would simply use it as a pen for fish instead. I spent a few moments ogling at the swirl of fish in the nets, filled with lashes of green from parrotfish and red from snapper, before a set of splashes indicated the arrival of the. The swirl turned into a frenzy, punctured by the familiar swish of a speargun’s projectile whipping through the water. By the time I got out of the water our boat was carpeted with fish.

Once the spear-gunners had sufficiently thinned the school in the net, it was closed from the bottom and Mr. Helmet and a fisherman who had helped set up the net pulled it in hand over hand. It wasn’t until it had been landed that I realized that the catch from the net far exceeded any individual’s spearfishing catch, and that Mr. Helmet and Mrs. Hat allowing their helpers to spearfish the net was as much a method of payment as it was necessary to land the net.

The fishermen, triumphant for the day, spent a few moments enjoying their success and the sun before Mr. Helmet called us over to his boat. He gave us a few armfuls of miscellaneous fish and handed Totombo a massive wrasse, his further thanks for Totombo’s help.

Over the rest of my stay in Sampela, Totombo and I rendezvoused with Mr. Helmet and Mrs. Hat three more times. Each time we fished a different part of the ocean and each time our catch was better than when we fished on our own. On my last day in Sampela, Mr. Helmet was on our porch when I woke up and we rode out to the reef with him as part of a flotilla of boats that carved its way to a white sanded reef that was farther from Sampela than I’d been since I arrived. I’d been taught enough by Totombo—about how to read a gesture towards a fish, about how to tie anchors to the ocean floor, about how to be safe with a speargun—over the past two weeks that I was allowed to participate now. Together on that last day, he and I swam over the sun- dappled seabed as host and guest, master and pupil, father and son.
OWEN YAGER is a Dragons alum who spent his gap year working as a farm-hand on a ranch in Idaho and attending Dragons Indonesia semester program. He is a Freshman at Carleton College.
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Lessons in Grace

Posted on

02/10/17

Author

OWEN YAGER

Most mornings in Sampela, Totombo, my host father, and I were awoken by boardwalk roosters crowing in the sun and would be on the water not much later. We went out in his boat, a battered blue canoe that was roomier and required less bailing than most other boats in Sampela—a financial testament to his fishing capability—and were armed with a long speargun for him, a short, easy to reload speargun for me, and one extra for good measure. We would cruise across a sea peppered by waves big enough to make the boat rock a little until he, peering... Read More
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In this edition of The Map’s edge, we’ve chosen to shine a spotlight on leadership. At Dragons, we aim to nurture a community of young leaders whose voices, though singular, possess the timbre and conviction to inspire hope in future generations. In the pages that follow, you’ll read Stories from a homestay sister who is building her community’s first library, The founder of an all-female trekking company, and a human rights lawyer. You’ll hear from activists, poets, students and social entrepreneurs. This is our community.

 
I was once trained in a leadership exercise that has time-and–again revealed the same leadership maxims. It begins with a narrative of an Everest ascent, and asks participants to identify the needs that would go into a successful expedition. The workshop reveals the best results when participants don’t know that it’s a “leadership exercise,” and if they instead approach it as a genuine meditation on a successful mountaineering ascent—even when participants have no background in climbing. Here’s how it goes: The person leading the exercise presents the challenge of getting a group of people from Kathmandu to the summit of Everest, and asks them to brainstorm all that will need to go into a triumphant endeavor. The conversation follows a predictable flow, with participants first identifying material needs for the expedition: yaks for transport, tents, crampons, communication gear and medical supplies. Inevitably the conversation trends towards the personnel who’ll be necessary: porters and cooks, a medical officer, technical climbers, a leader. As the exercise evolves, the conversation organically moves to the personality characteristics of a team that would be most successful. Eventually, participants focus their discussion on qualities of ideal leadership. In the numerous times that I’ve seen this exercise play out, the same narrative emerges when going deep about the qualities of the team leader. Even when disparate people from disparate cultures participate, they arrive at the same basic conclusions. And that is this: a successful enterprise—from a goal hashed out in a boardroom to a successful ascent of Everest—requires of its leader authentic character, vision, an ability to articulate a vision, knowledge of terrain, and an emotional center that genuinely values each member of the group.

In any brainstorming, the best ideas often emerge after the obvious ones are exhausted. In the case of the Kathmandu-to-Everest expedition, when the conversation door is left open long enough, participants begin to talk about the distinguishing hallmarks of not just good leadership, but great leadership. When teams go down this path they consistently identify great leadership as something not simply quantified by metrics of goal realization, but rather by metrics of the longer-term growth and development of a project’s participants. A good leader gets the group up a mountain, but a great leader inspires the group to fall in love with the adventure. A great leader returns the group down the mountain with larger heart and vision and with the capacity to lead others themselves. In the world of experiential education, we say that great leadership occurs when a leader “leads from behind,” wherein a group arrives at the goal and says of themselves, “we did this on our own.” When individuals own their success and feel that they

In the world of experiential education, we say that great leadership occurs when a leader “leads from behind,” wherein a group arrives at the goal and says of themselves, “we did this on our own.” When individuals own their success and feel that they have lead themselves they become conscientious and caring stewards of others. They become capable and mindful leaders themselves. Conversely, demagoguery-as-leadership, or leadership that comes from cult of personality, results in tepid participation and leaves followers dispossessed of much personal gain.

Great leaders are visionaries who see and articulate a potential reality that is better for everyone. They have learned through personal trial and personal engagement the best ways to navigate the difficult terrain ahead. And they have a way of bringing out the best in those that work with them. Great leadership comes not from a place of celebrating the “I”, but instead comes from a place of building the “we”. It comes not from instigating a collective flight from anything fearful, but rather from an ability to inspire a bold dash towards something affirmative.

There’s much more to great leadership: courage, patience, experience and wisdom, among other attributes. But without character, vision, knowledge of terrain and a degree of humility, guides aren’t going to get a group up and down the mountain safely. And they’re not going to benefit from the innate capability of the group to lead themselves, wherein the greatest potential for achievement lies.

CHRIS YAGER is the Founder of Where There Be Dragons. After graduating from Bowdoin College with a degree in Asian Studies, he worked with Colorado Outward Bound before launching Dragons and leading the first courses in China and Tibet. Having worked with over 1,000 field instructors, Chris has been closely involved with the design of Dragons curriculum, in-country programming and new program development.
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The Spring 2017 Edition of The Map’s Edge…

Posted On

04/21/17

Author

Chris Yager, Founder

Description
In this edition of The Map’s edge, we’ve chosen to shine a spotlight on leadership. At Dragons, we aim to nurture a community of young leaders whose voices, though singular,… Read More
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As instructors and students, we are the perpetual recipients of so much seemingly unconditional hospitality. Everywhere we go doors open, cups of fresh coffee are poured, and the best food in the house trotted out. We live amongst kindness that we do not deserve nor could ever reciprocate. So to hear Mertin’s perspective is a welcome reminder that host families are engaged in their own parallel experiences.

[caption id="attachment_150979" align="alignnone" width="806"]IMAGE: FIONA SHERMAN IMAGE: FIONA SHERMAN[/caption] Dragons is a good teacher for the community of Langa. I am a writer, and still it is difficult to find the words to describe my experience with Dragons. Even if I could use numbers, I couldn’t count the ways to say thank you, to express the sum total of my gratitude. Words cannot adequately describe the feeling, the spirit that has been cultivated in the creation of such a masterpiece. I am just a countrywoman who lives in a small village in Indonesia. Our village is called I am just a countrywoman who lives in a small village in Indonesia. Our village is called Bomari, and it’s located at the foot of Mt. Inerie, the highest volcano in Flores, which rises above us like a grand pyramid. It is hard to believe that it’s already been four times, four times living with foreigners who we would normally just call “ It is hard to believe that it’s already been four times, four times living with foreigners who we would normally just call “bule,” sharing a life together for two weeks. It all started in February 2015 when Aaron Slosberg surveyed my village and came to an agreement with my parents to use our family as a homestay for Dragons students. As a young person, I like challenges, however, I was really doubtful about trying the homestay program. It seemed like such an impossible task to host a foreigner. “Why would a As a young person, I like challenges, however, I was really doubtful about trying the homestay program. It seemed like such an impossible task to host a foreigner. “Why would a “Why would a bule want to stay here?” “Their life is so different from our life here!” “Can they eat rice every day?” “What will they do about the food here?” “Oh, our house is too ugly for them!” “Our bedroom is so tiny!” “We do not even have a nice bathroom.” All this negative energy spiraled in my head. My nerves became so intense I almost backed out of our agreement to host a student, but the support and the spirit of the youth in my village convinced me not to change my mind. I was so nervous when the first Dragons group arrived to our village in April 2015. The students of Rita Sri Suwantari, Matt Colaciello Williams, and Rachel Russell were physically so different from us. These bule had white skin. Their bodies were twice as tall as ours. They seemed really intelligent. There were so many facets to our difference that it made me even more anxious to interact with them. Before they arrived, we had prepared everything. Every home in the village was busy getting ready for the arrival of the students, prepping our houses, preparing to communicate, even consulting “Mr. Google” in case of a communication emergency. Despite all this, we knew most of the time we would have to rely on non-verbal communication. Living in one home with two different cultures there surely would be so many things we both couldn’t understand. However, over time, I came to realize, all these small differences, even though seemingly insignificant, began to deeply affect my way of thinking. Bule always say thank you and show appreciation for everything, even though they may not like every situation. This is so different from our own people. In our society, we feel awkward or shy saying thank you or showing appreciation to others for small things. I believe this is the reason why sometimes we can be held back in our way of thinking. I’m sure when someone shows gratitude to someone else, even if it’s not expressed perfectly, this practice will build self-confidence in that person and improve the quality of his or her work. Lately, I’m starting to see our community show gratitude to others, which has been an amazing revelation. In addition, there is the matter of discipline. Bule In addition, there is the matter of discipline. Bule seem very disciplined with time, while the local community lacks punctuality. I have come to believe that being aware of timing is very important in leadership. Bule love cleanliness; they won’t just throw trash on the ground. The local people still throw their trash wherever and this negatively impacts our health. Bule also seem very intelligent and like to master their skills. I have learned so many wonderful things from hosting Dragons students, about their country, about their lives, and about myself. I think Dragons is an extraordinary organization that provides exceptional experiential education to young people. Many people in my village lack higher education, and most of us don’t even speak English. There are so many things about our lives that aren’t the way we wish they were. Still, I feel we have something to teach Dragons students. I hope both the good and bad experiences from staying in our village will affect the students: make them stronger individuals, who are better prepared to care for others in their own communities and environments. I hope the students can use our shortcomings as the basis to become individuals who want to create change. As just a simple village woman, I feel so proud to have this friendship with the students who have stayed with us. I’m sure they are not just ordinary students that choose to come to Langa. I believe they want to become part of our family—we become friends to make both of our lives complete. There are so many people in our community who can’t hold back tears when it comes time to say goodbye. Even I will always have tears in my eyes each time I have to say goodbye to my new friends. They may never know this, as it is a secret that as a community we keep. We do not know when or if we will meet again, maybe for the rest of our lives we will never meet, but the students will always be in our hearts. When we think of the students here, when we miss them, we will sift back through all the beautiful memories we shared together. Like family, far away from us, it is all we can do. I hope, as the years roll on, we will maintain a strong relationship with Dragons. I truly believe Dragons is an amazing organization. You have a great mission to make people into human beings, even a village woman like me. I want to thank Rita Sri Suwantari, honestly you are one of my greatest inspirations. Thank you also to Matt Colaciello Williams and Aaron Slosberg, both of you are amazing leaders who have inspired your students to become part of this community and feel comfortable relating to everyone here. Thank you to the students who have become my teachers, my friends, and my family: Spencer Hardy, Eleni Fernald, Benyamin Yih, and Katherine Georgia Comfort. Thank you Dragons, whoever you are, I am your family.
MERTIN LUSI is the first woman from Ngada Regency to graduate university with a degree in journalism, and later committed herself to detailing the abuses of the prostitution industry in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city. She has since returned to Flores to work on community development projects in some of the island’s poorest, most remote areas, and is currently organizing youth groups in Langa to empower young women to share their stories through journalism. Mertin built Langa’s first library, which doubles as the entrance to her house.

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Reflections from a Homestay Sister

Posted On

04/20/17

Author

MERTIN LUSI

Description
As instructors and students, we are the perpetual recipients of so much seemingly unconditional hospitality. Everywhere we go doors open, cups of fresh coffee are poured, and the best food… Read More
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Have you lately been trying to remember or wondering:
  • How The Electoral College works?
  • What a White House Chief of Staff actually does?
  • About the 44 standing rules of the US Senate?
  • The history of Gerrymandering?
  • How Filibusters work?
The Civics 101 Podcast comes highly recommended by more than one of Dragons instructors as a helpful tool for getting us all back up to speed on the civics we all wish we'd learned in school.  Some instructors are hoping to incorporate it into their field curriculum. Give a few episodes a listen (they are short and super easy to digest) and let us know what you think in the comments? Save Save Save [post_title] => Recommended Podcast: Civics 101 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => recommended-podcast-civics-101 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-20 10:48:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-20 16:48:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 3 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 655 [name] => Transference [slug] => transference [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 655 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Recommended Reading, Activism, Advocacy. [parent] => 0 [count] => 2 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 655 [category_count] => 2 [category_description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Recommended Reading, Activism, Advocacy. [cat_name] => Transference [category_nicename] => transference [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/transference/ ) ) [category_links] => Transference )
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Recommended Podcast: Civics 101

Posted On

04/18/17

Author

Christina Rivera Cogswell, Community Builder

Description
Have you lately been trying to remember or wondering: How The Electoral College works? What a White House Chief of Staff actually does? About the 44 standing rules of the… Read More
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    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_150918" align="alignright" width="418"] Haitian community leaders and Ellie conduct a survey on access to water in communities affected by mining in Haiti.[/caption]

Ellie Happel is a social justice lawyer who has been working in Haiti for more than a decade. Since graduating law school, she has worked closely with various Haitian civil society groups and NYU Law School's Global Justice Clinic on cases of forced eviction in the Internally Displaced People (IDP) Camps in Port-Au-Prince. She has a complaint filed against the United Nations over the introduction of cholera into Haiti, and most recently on issues involving hard metal mining. These are some of her observations.

CREATE SPACE
Leaders for social change create space for movements to thrive, change, and to reinvent themselves. Often, leaders rise not only because of who they are—their charisma or skills or vision—but because of privilege. Leaders acknowledge power and privilege, and work to create the space for those who are less privileged to speak, to contribute, to shine. Strong social movements push themselves to be more inclusive and more creative, and demand leadership that embraces plurality. Leaders invite movements to grow in size and to grow in imagination, to strive tomorrow for a dream that is unforeseen today. Strong leadership and strong movements embrace nonconformity and embrace change. They practice inclusivity.
GET PROXIMATE
Leaders get proximate. Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, said “If you are not proximate, you cannot change the world.” Getting proximate means knowing the People, the masses, the Other. True proximity breeds empathy, and is possible only in the absence of fear. Proximity disappears the Other. It creates unity; differences are celebrated and respected, and a common vision is defined. Leaders get proximate. Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, said “If you are not proximate, you cannot change the world.” Getting proximate means knowing the People, the masses, the Other. True proximity breeds empathy, and is possible only in the absence of fear. Proximity disappears the Other. It creates unity; differences are celebrated and respected, and a common vision is defined.
PRINCIPLES OVER POPULARITY: THE POWER OF DISSENT
Leaders choose principles over popularity. They not only document injustice, but they demand action to change the status quo. They are the authors of (unpopular) dissent. Justice Harlan was the lone dissent in the 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson, arguing that the Constitution is color-blind. It took 58 years before Brown v. Board, when the Court made this the law of the land. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously dissented to promote free speech. Recently, Justice Sotomayor has authored dissenting opinions to document and criticize the racial discrimination in our criminal justice system. The authors of dissenting opinions and the promoters of unpopular ideas are rarely Leaders choose principles over popularity. They not only document injustice, but they demand action to change the status quo. They are the authors of (unpopular) dissent. Justice Harlan was the lone dissent in the 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson, arguing that the Constitution is color-blind. It took 58 years before Brown v. Board, when the Court made this the law of the land. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously dissented to promote free speech. Recently, Justice Sotomayor has authored dissenting opinions to document and criticize the racial discrimination in our criminal justice system. The authors of dissenting opinions and the promoters of unpopular ideas are rarely identified as leaders. They should be. In dissenting, in voicing the unpopular, they encourage alternative visions and promote change.
DARE TO CHANGE COURSE
Leaders dare to change course. Two examples are Toussaint Louverture, leader of the Haitian revolution, and Ernest Shackleton. Toussaint Louverture allied with the Spanish, the French, and then fought for Haiti’s independence, the only slave revolt to result in a sovereign nation. According to C.L.R.E. James’ account, The Black Jacobins, from the beginning Louverture had a singular goal: to abolish slavery and create a free Haiti. Sir Ernest Shackleton led a team of 27 men in an attempt to cross the Antarctic continent. Shackleton is famous not for the transverse—they failed—but for keeping every member of his team alive. Shackleton led his team away from their ship, frozen in the ice, on a two-year journey for survival. Along the way, Shackleton “got proximate.” Shackleton did not use his position of leadership to insulate himself from the pain of the journey. The ship’s captain, Frank Worsley, said that it was Shackleton’s rule that “any deprivation should be felt by himself before anyone else.” For more, go to: bit.ly/1qpL7G8
LEADERSHIP FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
Movements make the leader as much as the leader makes the movement. Leaders for social change encourage broad, ambitious, inclusive social movements. They not only listen to the people, but they work in close enough proximity to know the people, and they give the movement the space it needs to thrive. Leading for social change is less about individual qualities of character than about the back and forth between leaders and the masses, the process of collectively dreaming and redesigning a more just world.
ELLIE HAPPEL’S first experience with Dragons was on a summer program in Dolpo, Nepal. Ellie was later admitted to NYU Law School as a Root Tilden Kern scholar in 2008 where she focused on racial justice issues. She has since worked on environmental justice and public health issues in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Peru and Washington, D.C. Ellie has led Dragons programs in Guatemala, India, and Peru. She most recently led Dragons Fall 2016 Andes and Amazon Semester
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Leadership for Social Change

Posted On

04/18/17

Author

Ellie Happel

Description
Ellie Happel is a social justice lawyer who has been working in Haiti for more than a decade. Since graduating law school, she has worked closely with various Haitian civil… Read More
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Fall 2016 Photo Contest Finalists

Posted On

02/21/17

Author

Dragons HQ

Description
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