5:00am wake ups are easier when these mountains call for you to get out of your tent. Photo by Cecelia Palmquist (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest, 1st Place), Nepal Semester.

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Where There Be Dragons

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    [post_content] => While we're not out of the pandemic yet, we are still able to find meaningful ways to travel. How do we ensure that we are running safe, meaningful, and responsible travel programs in the current climate? Read on to find out how and why we've returned to travel and where we go from here. 

[caption id="attachment_158289" align="aligncenter" width="638"] Mario and Celestino, community leaders in the Parque de la Papa community in Peru.[/caption]

Para nosotros es como nuestros hijos y bueno hermano, tú nos enviaste tus hijos para cuidar y para compartir nuestra cultura de parque de la papa y nuestros ancestros de todo lo que vivencias de nuestra comunidad. Las puertas están abiertas y cuando usted puede enviarnos los hijos, estamos a la espera. –Mario, Parque de la Papa, Perú.

For us, it's like our own children and well, brother, you sent us your children to care for and to share in our culture from Parque de la Papa, from our ancestors, and all the ways of life here in our community. Our doors are open and when you can send us your children, we are eagerly waiting. – Mario, Parque de la Papa, Peru

**********

On a Sunday afternoon in July, my phone beeped with a video message from Luis Reyes, our Latin America Program Director, who was visiting a Dragons student group in the Peruvian Andes. Like a nervous parent answering a call in the middle of the night, I held my breath until I could be sure all was well. As soon as I opened this message though, two familiar faces reassuringly greeted me. 

Mario and Celestino, longstanding homestay parents and community leaders in Parque de la Papa, were dressed in their technicolored traditional ponchos and chullos (beaded hats). It had been a year and a half since Dragons students had been able to visit their community and even longer since I’d been there in-person. 

After so many months of navigating mercurial pandemic conditions, of meticulously mapping a responsible return to international travel, of thinking through the myriad ethical and safety questions, the sincerity and simplicity of Mario and Celestino’s message finally brought it all home: we can travel again. And, we can do it with integrity.

While no one needs a detailed play-by-play of the pandemic, we can all stand to learn from the unique challenges of the past two years and what they can teach us about creating safe, responsible, engaging, and original travel experiences in this new global reality. What I hope to offer to you is two fold:
  1. How did we get here? Let’s briefly revisit the sudden shutdown and incremental reopening of international travel so we can better understand what the future holds.
  2. How can we travel again with integrity? As an organization, Dragons has tried to intentionally learn from our successes and failures over the past three decades. Let us share some of what we’ve learned firsthand over this pandemic.  

How did we get here?

In February 2020, Dragons had student groups traveling in 14 countries across Latin America, Africa, and Asia. As COVID-19 rapidly escalated from a regional epidemic to a global pandemic, we worked around the clock to safely bring our students home as international borders and flights shut down with unprecedented haste. If you, or anyone you know was involved with international travel during that time, I offer you a heartfelt handshake and hug! Those were stressful times to navigate and perhaps a story for another day! By the end of March 2020, we had officially entered a new global reality in which once easily passable international borders had hardened into a seemingly ever-growing wall of COVID travel restrictions. By May, the US State Department would change the entire basis of its travel advisory system due to COVID concerns, essentially throwing 80% of countries into an alarming red “Do Not Travel” category. The cliché that the ‘only certainty is uncertainty’ had never felt so true. As the pandemic tragically surged at home in the US, remote work and virtual learning became the new norm. An emergent mental health epidemic swept across the nation, particularly affecting our youth, with dramatic increases in anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles. The Dragons mission to “cultivate meaningful connections through immersive and responsible travel” felt impossible to embody amidst a global pandemic. The virtual classroom was embraced out of necessity. While it's nothing short of a technological miracle, in the long run, we all know that screens can never substitute for real face-to-face human connection, especially when it comes to travel and experiential learning.

How can we travel again with integrity?

Dragons spent the summer months of 2020 collaborating with other travel providers and educational institutions to develop program protocols in-line with public health guidance. With the unpredictability of international travel, as well as the ethical responsibility to the places we visit, Dragons focused our energies on developing US domestic programming rather than rushing to return to travel abroad. Over Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, Dragons was able to safely bring together student groups for our new Rio Grande and Colorado River Basin Gap Semesters In order to return to in-person programming at a time when nearly all school campuses remained closed, we took extensive precautions to prevent the transmission of COVID while still allowing for genuine community engagement and values based education. To highlight a few of these risk mitigation tools we implemented:
  • Students kept a daily health log prior to arrival, submitted a pre-travel PCR test, and agreed to adhere to our COVID Participant Agreement that outlined our expectations and best practices for prevention.
  • We offered pre-travel webinars openly sharing the risks, protocols, and need for adaptability under changing circumstances.
  • We designed COVID conscious itineraries to mitigate exposure risks by prioritizing outdoor spaces, minimizing time in urban areas, and considering COVID risks for each activity. 
  • Once together, student groups went through a multi-day “Pod Formation” phase before undergoing additional PCR testing and finally being able to relax protocols amongst group members.  
  • Throughout the program, our instructors were trained to uphold our detailed COVID In-Field Protocols & Management Manual, which in addition to common sense safety measures outlined a plethora of contingency plans.
For Dragons, these US domestic programs were an unexpected silver lining in the ongoing pandemic thunderstorm. At a time when experiential education seemed like only a remote possibility, we were able to safely bring together students, turn off our screens, and dive into an immersive travel experience.

Returning to International Student Travel

A successful return to domestic travel was also an important step for honing our COVID safety practices for a reopening of international student travel, which would happen in July 2021. As public health guidance and global travel restrictions evolved, we were able to adapt our extensive domestic travel protocols and response plans to an international context. For example, we added even more in-field testing throughout the program, extensive COVID safety briefings for community contacts and host families, and protocols specific to each cultural context.  We also went through a rigorous country-by-country assessment for each of our destinations, developing a COVID Country Risk Assessment Matrix that accounted for the following key considerations:
  • COVID case numbers, testing, positivity rates, and trends 
  • Travel restrictions and COVID specific entry requirements such as testing, quarantine measures, etc. 
  • Availability and access to general medical care as impacted by any increases in hospitalizations 
  • Restrictions and community norms related to social distancing, mask wearing, perceptions of foreigners, and public health practices
  • Activity limitations and modifications to program components such as homestays, transportation, independent time, etc. 
Drawing on a variety of resources--both objective metrics and more informal conversations with people on the ground--we grouped our travel destinations into Red, Yellow, and Green tiers. Importantly, we continued to revisit those assessments as travel start dates approached, and due to COVID surges in certain regions, we even had to downgrade and cancel some programs based on new or unpredictable information. Having solid evaluative criteria and the adaptability to respond to changing circumstances have proven key to a safe and responsible return to travel. 

In Conclusion

Based on our assessments as of November 2021, we are able to bring Dragons students to Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, Senegal, and Nepal. You can read about how those trips went in the words of students and instructors on our Yak Board. While we’re not out of the pandemic yet, we are continuing to monitor program locations based on the criteria outlined above informed by a multitude of information channels. We’re excited to return to more places that we’ve visited for years before the suspension of travel in 2020 and again introduce travelers to the many communities we hold close to our hearts and our responsible travel practices.  **** Aaron Slosberg has been working with Where There Be Dragons since 2008 and is the current Director of Student Programming.  [post_title] => Is It Safe To Travel Internationally Again? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => is-it-safe-to-travel-internationally-right-now [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-12-21 15:57:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-12-21 22:57:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 30 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 30 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Dragons Travel Guide [category_nicename] => dragons-travel-guide [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons-travel-guide/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 20 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/uncategorized/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, Uncategorized )
Featured Post

Is It Safe To Travel Internationally Again?

Posted on

11/15/21

Author

Aaron Slosberg, Director of Student Programs

View post
While we’re not out of the pandemic yet, we are still able to find meaningful ways to travel. How do we ensure that we are running safe, meaningful, and responsible travel programs in the current climate? Read on to find out how and why we’ve returned to travel and where we go from here.  Para nosotros es como nuestros hijos y bueno hermano, tú nos enviaste tus hijos para cuidar y para compartir nuestra cultura de parque de la papa y nuestros ancestros de todo lo que vivencias de nuestra comunidad. Las puertas están abiertas y cuando usted puede enviarnos... Read More
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    [post_content] => As we begin to head out the door and travel again, one of the needs that comes to mind is how to pack. When we think about organizing our items for travel, we might feel a mix of emotions: joy, frustration, excitement, intimidation...Check out the tips below for advice on how to keep your packing light and versatile and to calm fears about needing the perfect gear. 



Once upon a time, I found myself a recent high-school graduate answering phones for a Senator in Washington, D.C. After many months of the chaos of managing insistent blinking phone lines and angry constituents all day long, I couldn’t help thinking that there had to be something better I could be doing with my accidental gap year (a story for another time). 

So, taking advantage of the Congressional Library, I started checking out books about faraway places and eventually found myself signed up for a gap semester in Southeast Asia. I lived on ramen and fundraised for months to pay for the trip. The hard part was done! 

Or so I thought. Then I received a packing list for my gap semester abroad in the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Nepal. My mind started to spin. “What the heck is an internal frame backpack...definitely not my JanSport?” “I don’t see Doc Martens on this list….” “Um, is Gore-Tex sold at Target?” On that first big trip of my life, I was more stressed about packing than about leaving the country for the first time to places where, only months prior, I couldn’t have pointed out on a map. I probably packed and re-packed my bag no less than 20 times. 

In the years since, I have taken countless trips abroad - including those I led as a Dragons instructor in Morocco - and moved abroad for extended time periods to Northern Ireland, Egypt, Morocco, and, most recently to England with my kiddo, partner, and dog. I have learned a lot about packing: what to pack, what not to bother with, and how to actually do the packing. Am I a pro? No. Am I getting better at packing with every trip? Heck, yes. 

 

People Keep Telling me to Pack Light

Less is more. If you remember nothing else from these musings, please file away this piece of advice that many share (and struggle with)! The first time I traveled abroad, I bought the only large backpack I could afford. What I ended up with was something that made me look and feel like one of the giant Galapagos tortoises I took care of during my summer jobs at a reptile zoo. And, while it might have been funny looking, the bag was perfectly functional. The problem was not the bag, but what I did with it. Which was to stuff it so full I could hardly walk down the street. There are so many reasons to pack light when traveling abroad. On my personal travels and as an instructor for Dragons I constantly was lifting my bag on the top of shared taxis, mules, and transits or carrying my bag for long distances. Having a manageable bag is something your arms and back will thank you for while you are traveling. Beyond manageability, packing light saves you space to add a few things from the places you visit and also makes it much easier to keep your things organized. I try to aim for keeping my bag at least 25% empty, as it makes everything easier to manage.  There is also something to the mind-pack connection. Ok, I made that up. But, in my experience having a lighter pack also leads to an ability to be more focused on the place and less on your literal baggage.   

The Container Matters, Kind Of

Can you live with just a backpack? Yup. For a trip of anything less than 1 year, I recommend bringing one large bag and one ‘carry-on’ that is small-to-medium-sized (think big enough for a water bottle, layer, book, notebook, and camera). More than one larger bag is difficult to manage in many situations. That’s right, all your belongings are in basically one bag. See above about keeping it light. Choose a piece of luggage you can easily manage. On our summer and gap semesters, we recommend a large backpacking-style (internal frame) backpack as the primary piece of luggage because it is easy to carry around, especially when not in an area with sidewalks.  The size of bag depends on the length of your trip, your confidence in packing light, and your ability to handle the bag. For long-ish trips, I usually try to opt for a bag around 55 liters. You can go bigger, but I find this size helps me keep to my light packing goals and it’s easiest for me to carry. For 1-2 week trips, I always start with a smaller bag (30 liters) to see if I can make it work. When I can, I feel like a real champ.  Does the bag need to be new, fancy, and the bestest-thing-you-can-buy? Definitely not. Your luggage/bag, again, should be comfortable to carry; but a used or lower-end version will very likely be just as effective.  [caption id="attachment_156984" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]domestic gap year program where there be dragons colorado utah Photo by Jeff Wagner, Instructor.[/caption]

There is No Such Thing as the “Right” Gear

On this last point, try to avoid ruminating about identifying and finding the perfect or right gear. Everyone has (or will develop!) their list of ‘must haves’ when traveling. You will figure out yours, but beyond a few clutch items; don’t worry about having everything from the outdoors-y stores in town. Especially for clothing, bring things you feel comfortable in and already like to wear. Case-in-point, I wore an uncomfortable pair of zip-off pants for months in Asia during my first travels simply because I thought I needed to have trekking pants to travel.  I don’t believe you need new, specialty, or expensive items to travel. For things you might need to buy, I recommend thrift stores or websites, such as the following, where you can get highly-discounted used outdoor gear.   

Sure, Sure. But What are the Essentials? 

The travel essentials are….well, as I said, you will figure out your own and, of course, it depends. I like to think about utility and versatility alot when I consider the essentials. So when packing, I’m wondering if I can use something in multiple ways or if a piece of clothing can be layered. If something only seems to have one-single use, I will often reconsider.  But for me, I always have the following stowed in my bag when I set off: 
  • 1-2 slim notebooks
  • 1 headlamp with fresh batteries
  • 1 watch 
  • MANY packing cubes 
  • 1 small bag of toiletries
  • 1 good book and 1 travel guide for my destination
  • 1 stainless steel water bottle
  • 2 hats (sun and cold)
  • 1 scarf (to wear, use as a pillow on the plane, mop up spilled coffee, or any number of things)
  • 1 Compressible puffy jacket and 1 sweater
  • Minimal clothing 
  • 1 pair of shoes and 1 pair of sandals 
  • My “uh oh” bag: extra glasses, first aid kit, and some cash
  • Thank you cards or nice paper for people I meet/stay with along the way
  • 2 waterproof stuff sacks/dry bags: 1 for general laundry and 1 for things that aren’t dry by the time I need to put stuff in my bag
  • A portable battery if bringing electronics 
  • A bankcard for an internet bank with no ATM fees and cheap-o currency conversion
  • 1 foldable tote

Mekong

The Actual Packing

I start with a list. I’m a list person, but even if I wasn’t I think this step is key. I have multiple saved lists for different kinds of travel; the list helps me remember key items and brings some intentionality to the planning process. I then collect all my items over a day or more and leave them in a designated spot in my house. I pack in advance; at least 2 days for a short trip and a week or more for very long trips. I do this partially to make sure I don’t need to go and buy things and also to give myself a chance to reconsider items. When filling my bag, I mostly use packing cubes to keep things organized and roll my clothes in the cubes to save space. I like having small cubes to separate different kinds of clothing. It is so tempting to pack a ton of clothes and/or shoes and I try to limit myself to just a few shirts, pants/shorts, and other things. Usually, I only bring 50% of what I initially pull out of my closet. You don’t need an outfit for every day of your trip, or even for every day of one week. I also stick to 1 pair of pajamas and bring only the barest minimum of toiletries (ok, plus too many earrings, but that’s my Achilles heel). I also pre-pack my carry-on (making sure it’s not too full to fit the inevitable snack I’ll buy en route to my destination). I set out the clothes I will wear on my first day of travel; making sure to leave a warm layer out. And, lastly, I make sure to have key items I’ll need upon arrival like sleeping clothes and toiletries at the top of my bag (or, even better, in my carry-on if they fit). Once I’m done, I carry the bag around a bit and then give myself a day or more to think about what I’ve planned to bring on my travels. My goal in reconsidering is almost always to reflect on what I can live without or what I can bring that is simply less bulky. I know that no matter where I travel there will be chances to buy almost anything I might need and that I can usually do laundry.  Sometimes I take apart the whole bag and try to find several items I can leave at home. It’s extremely common for people to add in lots of items that you think you might need. “I mean, probably I won’t need it, but better to be prepared!” While it might feel initially comforting to bring these items, I encourage you not to. I have found that the “what if” items rarely get used and just take up space. Give those things a little Marie Kondo thank you and leave them behind.   

More Packing Tips, Please

For those of you who want to learn more tips, tricks, and secrets for packing for a Dragons summer and semester programs check out this recorded Packing 101 Webinar or reach out to us to get connected with a Dragons staff member to chat specifics.    Cara Lane-Toomey has been working with Where There Be Dragons since 2007 and is the current Director of College & University Programming.   [post_title] => How to Pack Like a Pro [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => how-to-pack-like-a-pro [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-01-19 12:36:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-01-19 19:36:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 30 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 30 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Dragons Travel Guide [category_nicename] => dragons-travel-guide [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons-travel-guide/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 670 [name] => Recommended [slug] => recommended [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 670 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [parent] => 0 [count] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 670 [category_count] => 20 [category_description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [cat_name] => Recommended [category_nicename] => recommended [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/recommended/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, Recommended )
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[caption id="attachment_158558" align="aligncenter" width="1500"] Photo by Amanda Lai, China[/caption] Traveling abroad for the first time is both exciting and scary. It’s important to not let fear of the unknown make you feel unprepared for the adventure of a lifetime! While there are many tips and tricks for traveling abroad, below are some of our top tips based on our 30 years of travel.

How to Prepare for your Big Adventure

  • Pack Light. Bring clothes specific to the climate and leave your formal clothing at home. Here’s a helpful video on best practices for packing. 
  • Learn basic phrases in the native language of your destination. Not only will you be able to get around easier, but locals will appreciate the effort! Here’s a free app to get you started. It also helps to bring along a small language book with common words and phrases.
  • Learn about the history of your destination before you go. Before leaving for a Dragons course, students are provided with recommended  books, articles, and documentaries to learn more about the history, culture and current issues to read before traveling or bring with them. 
 

How to Get the Most Out of your Trip 

[caption id="attachment_158557" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Photo by Nisha Dhawlikar, Guatemala[/caption]
  • Bring a journal. A journal is a great way to document everything you experience during your travels. It’s also helpful for processing all the new experiences you’re having. We promise  you’ll appreciate being able to return to it later! 
  • Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Everywhere you visit will be a unique experience. Pushing yourself to get out of your comfort zone will allow you to see, smell, and hear the most your destination has to offer. 
  • Try the local food. Nothing speaks to the essence of a place like the food. Live like a local and explore new flavors—you might discover your new favorite dish. 
  • Be respectful of local customs and cultural norms. Every country has its own unique set of customs and expectations. It is important to learn these before you go, but to stay mindful of these while traveling. 
  • Be patient with yourself, those you’re traveling with, and those you meet along the way. Traveling is challenging for everyone in their own unique ways, being patient will allow you to remain present throughout your trip. 
  • Be spontaneous. While you’re traveling, you’ll meet people who introduce you to new opportunities, celebrations, and places to visit. Leave some room in your itinerary for spur of the moment activities that you discover along the way. 
  • Set expectations. Expect to have a stomach issue while you’re traveling, or some setbacks along the way. It happens to all of us, and all we can do is be prepared to flow with the ups and downs of traveling. 
 

How to Reflect Back on your Trip

  • Share your stories. Send letters to loved ones and yourself while you're traveling. 
  • Value experiences over souvenirs. Sure it’s nice to have a memento from a place, but if you have to choose between the sunrise hike and souvenir shopping, we recommend the sunrise hike. You’ll thank yourself later for that decision. 
[caption id="attachment_158446" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Senegal[/caption] Traveling abroad is one of the most life changing experiences you can give yourself. Travel is one of the purest forms of experiential education. It simultaneously inspires a sense of wonder while pushing us to grow into ourselves more than we knew possible. When we travel, we are reminded to never stop learning.  If you’re ready to explore Summer & Gap Year Programs, click here to see a list of courses. For direct questions, please schedule a call to speak with someone on our admissions team. We look forward to exploring the world with you! [post_title] => 12 Tips for New Travelers [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 12-tips-for-new-travelers [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-12-28 14:32:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-12-28 21:32:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 30 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 30 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Dragons Travel Guide [category_nicename] => dragons-travel-guide [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons-travel-guide/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide )
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12 Tips for New Travelers

Posted On

12/28/21

Author

Sarah Bennett-O'Brien

Description
Traveling abroad for the first time is both exciting and scary. It’s important to not let fear of the unknown make you feel unprepared for the adventure of a lifetime!… Read More
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Disconnecting (digitally) to Connect More Meaningfully

I closed my computer screen, grabbed my journal, and found a sunny spot outside—thank goodness for Tucson in December, where I live. It felt appropriate to take a break from my screen to write about disconnecting from technology.  Over the summer I visited the Guatemala 4-week Spanish Language program. I had just joined the Dragons Administrative team in a new digital marketing role—managing social media, blog, and email marketing. I was really excited to be part of the Dragons team and visit a program for the first time. Having worked in the educational travel industry since 2015, I’ve only seen an increase in the dependence we all have on our phones, and the interference they cause with immersive travel programs. I was especially excited to see how a program looked without the use of mobile phones for students.   In Guatemala I spent time with my phone, taking photos and communicating with the other instructors and admin via Whatsapp. Sometimes students would ask to see the photos I took, or requested to see an Instagram post that included them (here’s a beautiful photo of the group at sunrise, actually). But mostly, the students seemed content without their phones, and this was about 2.5 weeks into the program. 

"I don't really miss it."

So I asked the group what it was like being without their phones, iPads, or computers for the last few weeks. To my pleasant surprise they responded with “I sleep so much better,” and “It feels so good to take a break—I know it will still be there when I get back.” Some said, “ I don’t really miss it. I love having conversations at dinner with the group instead of being on my phone.” I thought, Heck. Yeah. I need more of this in my life.  While it always feels important to take breaks from technology, it feels incredibly timely as we’re in the holiday season. The end of the year typically represents a time of gathering and reflection, and a great reason to be more present with our current surroundings rather than our screens. I surveyed the Dragons Administrative Team and our Alumni Ambassadors about how they disconnect to connect.

Best tips and tricks for taking a break from our devices: 

  • I plug my phone in to charge in a different room so I'm not tempted to look at it last thing at night or first thing in the morning. I actually bought a nifty new alarm clock with one of those slow rise lights so that I'm not dependent on my phone for my alarm. When going out on a hike or drive somewhere, I'll try to consciously leave my phone behind so that I'm not dependent on the GPS at every turn. —Aaron Slosberg, Director of Student Programming 
  • With family, we do try to keep our phones off and away from us so that they're not at the dinner table or part of the conversation. One thing that is a pet peeve of mine is when someone is telling a story and they say, "Oh, let me show you the photo of this..." and while it's relevant to the story, I think it just kills the conversation because they pull out their phone, scroll to find the photo, and then the description and storytelling kind of just grinds to a halt. —Dragons Admin Team Member 
  • I've started trying to unplug as much as possible during the weekends. I go hang out at my mother-in-law's house. She doesn't have wifi and I won't touch my phone all day— just play with kids and drink tea and sit around talking and laughing. —Jenny Wagner, Staffing Director
  • I like to set time limits on my phone and also temporarily delete some apps when I feel like I’m going on them too much. —Sally Thomas, Alumni Ambassador
  • Communicate with others that you’re taking a break so they know not to worry. Additionally, let them know your preferred way of getting in touch or when you’ll be checking your phone/email/messages. —Alex Biddle, Digital Marketing Associate 
 

Benefits we experience and activities to do when taking a digital detox: 

  • Surfing is the ultimate unplugged activity for me, my digital free safe space. —Aaron Slosber, Director of Student Programming 
  • I take detox breaks when I spend time in nature, go for hikes, and when I can go camping I rarely use my phone and it works wonders for me and my life. When I’m not on my phone, I try to journal, talk with friends, connect with family, make music or other art, go outside, workout, hike, etc. I feel it helps me feel more clear headed and more present. —Lily Conquanto Alumni Ambassador
  • The benefits of disconnecting allows me the chance to take a few moments to reflect on the past year as I enter into the new year. Not to set "resolutions," but to reflect on my experiences, who I have become, and life's transitions. It forces me to sit with the uncomfortable in order to enter the new year with clarity. —Sarah Bennett O’Brien, Programming Associate 
  • A great way to disconnect is spending in person time with friends and family. Sally Thomas, Alumni Ambassador
  • I absolutely love reading books, enjoy painting in my free time, and I often take walks in nature. It definitely makes me feel less lazy doing these activities than being on my phone, and I feel more connection with everything and everyone around me. —Julia Borque, Alumni Ambassador 
  • Playing board games! —Eva Vanek, Director of Outreach 
  • Baking, to fill the house with scents of cinnamon & comfort! Helps the brain disengage from the chaos of everyday life and focus on the simple pleasure of being "home". Lisa Smith, Administrative Associate 
  • I love to post up at the breakfast table with my sketch pad and draw cabins in the woods. We have some land up on Lake Superior and one day I hope to build an artsy and soulful home for our family. Simon Hart, Director of Partnership and Educator Programming 
  • For me, disconnecting leaves room for surprise and spontaneity. I can't help but view this through the lens of young children. There's a cycle to this process, which is disconnect, then comes boredom (which usually leads to anger/frustration), and then spontaneous action…I love when we get to the final stage. Often it involves trashing the house to build a fort or an obstacle course. When they choose to draw quietly, it's blissful. Whatever it is, it's never something that I foresee, which is what I love most about disconnecting. I think the key is boredom. When they say they're bored, I know we're about to break through to something funky. —Reed Harwood, Executive Director 
  • My favorite things to do when I need a break from the internet are go outside or read! Neither of these activities require any technology so I can get a full break. —Alumni Ambassador

It feels good to take a break.

Even handwriting this post in a journal before typing it out was a joyful experience. I feel better. Don’t get me wrong, technology is a huge help for my day to day work and life, but it feels so good to take a little break. I hear the birds singing in the mesquite trees, I feel the warmth of the December sun, and see my dogs Bert and Ellie sunbathing and happy.  From all of us at Dragons, we’re wishing you a warm holiday season and hope you take time to disconnect digitally so you can connect to yourself and your loved ones. Here’s to soaking up the present moment.  Eager to keep reading about the power or disconnection and unplugged travel? You can check out this article for what it’s like to be on a Dragons course without your devices.  [post_title] => The Power of Disconnection [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-power-of-disconnection [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-12-22 12:24:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-12-22 19:24:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 30 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 30 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Dragons Travel Guide [category_nicename] => dragons-travel-guide [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons-travel-guide/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 55 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 55 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 670 [name] => Recommended [slug] => recommended [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 670 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [parent] => 0 [count] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 670 [category_count] => 20 [category_description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [cat_name] => Recommended [category_nicename] => recommended [category_parent] => 0 ) [3] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 20 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, Global Community ... )
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We're celebrating our 10th year of the Global Speaker Series! Each year our best teachers—with years of international education experience—speak in classrooms  across the United States to share their perspectives and insights with students ready to engage with critical and compelling global questions. While we used to do this for schools only, this year we're really excited to offer these talks to anyone who would like to join. Our 2021/2022 virtual global speaker series includes a range of talks focusing on topics such as climate change, advocacy through story, and learning service.

Select one (or many!) of our free 60-min global talks (free talks are listed below) that are funded by Dragons and offer the opportunity to engage with critical global conversations. If you're an educator interested in booking a talk for your classroom, you can do that here. Again, these are talks are open to anyone (general public) who is interested in learning more about one of these topics.

Please note that most of these talks are on Tuesdays at 5pm MST, but some deviate from that schedule to accommodate speakers' time zones and availability.

2021/2022 Global Speaker Series Schedule

Empathy and Travel

January 27th, 5pm MST

Travel is lauded as a noble pursuit, but what specifically is it about travel that broadens one’s horizons? Arguably, empathy may be one of the greatest tangible benefits of travel.  This talk will examine the connections between empathy and travel, highlighting the latest research into empathy and what it actually is, as well as discussion of “ethical travel,” globalization, and Colleen’s own personal experiences throughout her last seven years of global travel. Speaker: Colleen Dougherty, MSW, The George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, BA Spanish Language and Literature, BS Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Ohio University   

Historic Memory: Antidotes for a Struggling Planet

February 22nd, 5pm MST

From severe climate crises, to global pandemics and widespread unrest. We are living in unprecedented and troubled times. Yet not all is doomed. The planet’s evolutionary past has gifted us a cultural heritage full of valuable lessons and viable alternatives to address some of the most pressing issues affecting the health of the planet and everything in it. This talk is an invitation to take a deep dive into personal and collective histories to uncover useful antidotes to help a struggling planet. Speaker: Este Migoya, B.A. in Anthropology & Latin American Studies, Honours – University of Toronto, International Studies Diploma – Sciences Po Paris  

The Forbidden Fire: Community-Based Fire Management in the Peruvian Andes

April 12th, 5pm MST

The need for agricultural expansion has increased fire use throughout the tropics, aggravating local people’s vulnerability to the changing climate. Fire management has been historically addressed from a top-down conservationist approach, when use of agricultural fires should also be integrated into discussions of rural development. This shift would emphasize strengthening local and traditional institutions for adequate fire prevention and control and provide a better fit to the local context of the actors implementing them. In this talk, Vanessa will share her doctoral research in the Tropical Andes, where almost nothing is known regarding the local institutions for fire management and how these rules are adapted to fit changing socio environmental contexts.  Speaker: Vanessa Luna, PhD student in Interdisciplinary Ecology, University of Florida (in progress) B.A. in Biology, Agraria La Molina University, Peru   

Traditional to Contemporary: From Guqin to China-Style Pop Music Phenomenon

May 31st, 5pm MST

Guqin, is the oldest authentic Chinese musical instrument. Pei’s talk will introduce students to the unique and subtle sounds of the Guqin that have influenced all aspects of China culture. We will trace the use of the Guqin from the story of Confucious learning the instrument to 1977 when Nasa used its sounds as a gift to the galaxy in the Voyager spacecraft mission. Pei will explore how music is an amazing medium for understanding China - from traditional to contemporary life and values.  Speaker: Pei Yuen, B.Des. in Communications Design from Shih Chien University, Taiwan  

Coming Soon — The Fairy Creek Blockades: Frontline Activism and Ecologies of Change

The Fairy Creek Blockades were Canada's largest act of civil disobedience in history, with over 1000 people arrested for blocking the logging of endangered ancient forests on South Vancouver Island, deliberately violating a Supreme Court injunction in the process. The grassroots intersectional movement brought together the people, causes and spirits of Indigenous Sovereignty as well as radical non-violent settler environmentalism, encountering numerous political challenges and tensions in the context of truth and reconciliation following the genocide and resurgence of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island (North America). 'Come for the trees, stay for the decolonization' emerged as more than a catch-phrase. In this presentation and discussion, join Arvin as he recounts experiences and perspectives from the frontlines. Speaker: Arvin Singh, MA University of Oxford [post_title] => Announcing our 2021/2022 Public Global Speaker Series Talks [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => announcing-the-global-speaker-series-for-2021-2022-copy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-01-06 11:57:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-01-06 18:57:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/announcing-the-global-speaker-series-for-2021-2022-copy [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 651 [name] => Announcements [slug] => announcements [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 651 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [parent] => 0 [count] => 66 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 15 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 66 [category_description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [cat_name] => Announcements [category_nicename] => announcements [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/announcements/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 20 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/uncategorized/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 652 [name] => Events [slug] => events [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 652 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Both In-Person and Digital Events including: Webinars, Global Speaker Series, Road Warrior Tours, & Alumni Gatherings [parent] => 0 [count] => 7 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 17 [cat_ID] => 652 [category_count] => 7 [category_description] => Both In-Person and Digital Events including: Webinars, Global Speaker Series, Road Warrior Tours, & Alumni Gatherings [cat_name] => Events [category_nicename] => events [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Announcements, Uncategorized ... )
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As you walk down the street in Senegal, people greet you with 'peace' and strangers invite you into their homes for a cup of tea.
On a recent trip to Senegal, Director of Student Programming, Aaron Slosberg visited the West Africa Gap Semester program. He reflects on his time in Temento Samba — of the warm hospitality he received and centuries-old traditions he experienced.

Gratitude for Temento Samba

On this Thanksgiving day, I’d like to share my deepest gratitude to the community of Temento Samba, the students of the Fall 2021 Senegal Semester, and their wonderful instructors, all of whom welcomed me with open arms during my recent visit to Senegal. I spent 5 days with the group during the end of their homestay in Temento Samba. Right from the start, I was in learner’s mode as students taught me about the local Pular greetings, customs, food, and inner workings of village life. It was so fun to be in the role of student and to have Jackson, Shreya, Hayden, Ace, Anna, Ethan, Isa, Jamie, Owen, and Willow as my teachers. Despite the tranquility of life in Temento, our days quickly overflowed with learning and activities. We hiked to the border of Guinea-Bissau and listened to a community leader talk about the history of conflict stemming from the colonial past. We camped out in our bug huts under a full moon and awoke to a magical sunrise silhouetting the surreal outlines of baobab trees. We plucked fresh peanuts from the ground and roasted them in bonfires discovering how different their flavor could be from a grocery store shelf back home. We drank carefully brewed ataya (mint tea) in community circles under the shade of the mango trees. [caption id="attachment_158447" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Mamadou strumming the harp-like kora[/caption] We were serenaded by Mamadou strumming the harp-like kora while baby goats added their hilarious array of background vocals. We ate meals of faro, millet, rice, and bissap leaves all gathered from the surrounding fields. We donned our homemade Senegalese outfits surreptitiously commissioned by each host family from the local tailor. We gathered as a community on our penultimate day to celebrate each other in a party that saturated the senses in drumming, singing, dancing, and even wrestling. Each of these sentences contains a multitude of stories that evade easy description; to do so feels like trying to convey the magic of the ocean with a thimble of salt water. What I can say with clarity, is that I am forever grateful for my time in Temento Samba. And, I’m grateful for you, dear family and friends, for trusting us with your children and allowing them this opportunity to become a part of a very special community in ways that will reverberate well beyond their stay in Senegal. I will be posting a series of photos in the spirit of a ‘picture is worth a thousand words,’ although I think we’d need about a million to do it all justice here.

Photos from Temento Samba

[caption id="attachment_158452" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Students seated at the start of an epic farewell party in Temento Samba[/caption] [caption id="attachment_158450" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] The “konkoran” are fascinating figures who come to ward off evil, and playfully scare children[/caption] [caption id="attachment_158449" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] A group discussion in the shade of the trees[/caption] [caption id="attachment_158448" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Student amidst X-phase planning[/caption] [caption id="attachment_158446" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Hiking through the forests of Temento[/caption] [caption id="attachment_158445" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Samba trading his instructor hat for his peanut farmer hat[/caption] [caption id="attachment_158444" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Jackson breaking down his tent at dawn[/caption] [caption id="attachment_158443" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Student getting ready to camp under the moonlight[/caption] [caption id="attachment_158440" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Students planning their X-phase adventures[/caption] [post_title] => Reflections from Visiting the Fall Gap Semester in Senegal [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => gratitude-from-temento-samba [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-12-17 16:15:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-12-17 23:15:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 81 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 81 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field )
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Finding Connection in a World of Digital Malaise 

“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” — Zen Kōan [caption id="attachment_158399" align="aligncenter" width="970"] Camping on the north end of Madeline Island[/caption] This morning my cat, Amazae, was in the bathtub chasing his tail. Ever faster he spun in frantic circles seeking his prize, not knowing that his success would ultimately end in self-harm. Perhaps, I thought, this isn’t so different from us humans, frantically pursuing greater control of the world around us, seeking to “develop” and not knowing that this too will end in self-harm. For me, and many others I think, the global pandemic presented a unique opportunity to ask the question, “What am I chasing? What are we chasing?” It offered an invitation to reconsider our pathway forward as individuals, and as a collective species. Do we continue to chase our tail in pursuit of ever greater technological prowess and development? What if we choose to stop? What if we choose to answer a deep yearning for reconnection to self and to the world around us?  Charles Mann describes this dichotomy as that of the Wizard and the Prophet. “The conflict”, he writes, “between these visions is not between good and evil, but between different ideas of the good life, between ethical orders that give priority to personal liberty and those that give priority to what might be called connection.”   

The Good Life 

This summer I had the great fortune of working with a group of Dragons students on the South Shore of Lake Superior. The course explored notions of “The Good Life” as defined by farmers, professors, ecologists and artists of both indigenous and white descent in the area. After a year and a half confined to four walls, forced to interact with friends and family through the cold glass window of a zoom call, our collective longing for meaningful connection was palpable. We had experienced an acute and collective sense of disconnection and isolation as a result of living life virtually. But this phenomenon goes well beyond pandemic times to a longer trajectory of increased human isolation, isolation from our non-human community. As Robin Wall Kimmerer writes in her seminal work “Braiding Sweetgrass,” “Philosophers call this state of isolation and disconnection ‘species loneliness’—a deep, unnamed sadness stemming from estrangement from the rest of Creation, from the loss of relationship. As our human dominance of the world has grown, we have become more isolated, more lonely when we can no longer call out to our neighbors. It’s no wonder that naming was the first job the Creator gave Nanabozho.”  

Basket Weaving on the Shores of Lake Superior 

[caption id="attachment_158401" align="aligncenter" width="1620"] April Stone weaving a black ash basket on the shores of Lake Superior[/caption] “I’m not really into basket weaving,” one of our students mentioned in their entrance interview. Perhaps they associated the art form to a Michael’s department store, or a Martha Stewart magazine. Perhaps they didn’t realize that by ‘basket weaving’ we meant entering into communion with a fifty year-old being through ceremonial harvest, the intimate and sensual intermingling of blood and tree sap as we slice through end grain and accidentally cut ourselves. The two-million year old ‘thud’ of an axe on wood flesh, and the meditative processing of weaving the raw material of a living being into a 12,000 year-old vessel that changed the course of human history. Basket weaving can mean a lot of things depending on how we approach it. And so, we set out this past July to find a deeper connection through the harvest of a black ash tree. Through sunshine dappled forest we walked, slowly, with Joan Elias at the head pointing out the names of plants, narrating the recent history of this 190 acres of forest in recovery.   

Stewarding the Land Back to Health

Joan is our host for these five days, allowing our group to camp in an old hay field alongside a century-old barn, and her vibrant vegetable garden. She has been stewarding this land back to health for the past 31 years alongside her late husband, also an ecologist. In the early 1900s the entire Chequamegon Bay area was logged to a tree, leaving a scarred landscape that is still in the early phases of healing.  At her side is April Stone, a traditional black ash basket weaver, educator and Bad River Tribal member. April has agreed to work with our group for six days, leading us through a live harvest, the processing of raw material, and the weaving of baskets into a finished product. Today, we are here for the harvest. We are here to take a life from this forest, to remove a member of the community.  

Asking for Permission  

[caption id="attachment_158397" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Dragons students with Joan Elias and April Stone preparing to harvest a black ash tree[/caption] When we arrive at the adolescent black ash tree, spontaneous silence spreads through the group. April lights sage and speaks to the tree, asking permission for a harvest. Without invitation, students begin to step forward and place their hands on the tree, to talk to it, to whisper words that I do not hear on the outside of our small circle. In turn, we each step forward to acknowledge the tree, and the significance of our coming to take it.  I found myself speaking to the tree in Spanish, which seems absurd now. Perhaps it was my attempt to create a “special” connection with the tree, as we all had. I think we all wanted to show that in these last moments of its sacred life, we were willing to do what we could to extend ourselves and meet the tree on some kind of middle ground. Is this what a relationship looks like? How do we talk to trees? How do we love them? How do they want to be loved by us?   

The Black Ash 

‘Thud’... the first swing of the axe biting deep into the intricately patterned bark. Our violence would continue, with respect, reverence, vigor and also joy, satisfaction, and fear at each blow, moving ever deeper into the layers of the flesh, each student taking their turn at the axe. As the tree is slowly hewn away we spot dark rot within. “Oh no!” Our collective response to the concern that we had slain this tree for naught.  In a moment we felt wasteful, clumsy, wanton in our destruction. Next, we were reminded by our teacher that even if the tree would not serve for making a basket, it would be composted back into the earth, that it was already in the process of dying, and would lay on the forest floor, nourishing its kin.  The moment passes and we see that the tree will indeed serve our purpose. As we boisterously depart the forest, our trophy hoisted high on our shoulders, the abundance and emotion of our harvest takes me back to Kimmerer who writes, “Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.”  

Learning to Weave Baskets

[caption id="attachment_158402" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] After strips of new wood are removed from the trunk students work in the shade, learning to weave their raw material into different shapes and patterns[/caption] In the shade of a century-old dairy barn, students take turns pounding along the trunk of the tree—collapsing the weaker earlywood, and liberating the latewood to be peeled off in strips. Surrounded by raspberries and flowers, and sitting in small circles sharing stories of life back home, they apprentice April through the process of cutting and weaving the strips into small receptacles.  The smell of freshly harvested black ash fills the nostrils, and the time passes without warning. Over the next five days we become intimately familiar with the tree, the texture of the strips, the way the material plies and shapes.  On our final day with April, we head out to Mooningwanekaaning, or Madeline Island. We set up our small camp looking east across 200 miles of open fresh water and settled in to finish our baskets. As dinner is prepared by a group of students, others head into the woods and return with an abundance of wintergreen leaves and berries, wild blueberries and service berries.   

Connection to Each Other and the Earth 

[caption id="attachment_158400" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] April and Cricket return from a harvest of wild blueberries, service berries and wintergreen along Lake Superior.[/caption] The web of relations is strong. One harvest has led to another, and now we know the names of a few more plants, have put their fruit to our lips, have tasted the forest, seen how it grows together in a tightly knit community. We are a part of that community and are compelled to ask ourselves all the questions related to what it means to be in community, to be a part of the exchange of energy and life.  That night, we sat together around the fire sharing our life stories, allowing our personal identities, struggles, values, and experiences to weave together like so many strands of a basket. These connections we feel to each other and the earth are born of the intermingling of sap and blood, the physical, carnal, emotional exchange we share through the thud of the axe, the silent moment of whispers in the forest, or the stories we share as we weave on the beach. These are precisely the "connections" that Charles Mann speaks of when describing the way of the Prophet. And in these simple tasks—chopping wood, carrying water, (weaving baskets)—we experience interconnectedness and belonging. To experience a slice of the good life, wild harvests, starry nights on the beach, and the power of basket weaving while connecting to the land, check out our Summer Course Lake Superior: The Good Life here. This course runs from July 5 - 30, 2022.  [post_title] => Reconnecting to the Earth and Ourselves on Dragons Lake Superior Summer Program [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => basket-weaving-on-lake-superior [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-12-10 21:47:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-12-11 04:47:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 81 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 81 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field )
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