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.

Blog

Where There Be Dragons

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 155363
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-09-05 11:40:18
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-05 17:40:18
    [post_content] => 

There's a lovely feature of our fearless (and fun) leader, Reed Harwood, at GetBoulder.com this week.

Here's an excerpt:

“Our most profound learning doesn’t happen in the classroom. It comes from meandering up a creek bed, peeking under stones, digging through the muck,” Harwood says. “It comes from getting into environments that surprise, challenge and divert us from our everyday context.”

Head over to GetBoulder.com to read the full story!

[post_title] => Reed Harwood, Dragons Executive Director, Featured at GetBoulder.com [post_excerpt] => There's a lovely feature of our fearless (and fun) leader, Reed Harwood, at GetBoulder.com this week. Read on for an excerpt... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => reed-harwood-dragons-executive-director-featured-at-getboulder-com [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-05 11:43:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-05 17:43:58 [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] => 641 [name] => About Dragons [slug] => about_dragons [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 641 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [parent] => 0 [count] => 30 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 30 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [cat_name] => About Dragons [category_nicename] => about_dragons [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/about_dragons/ ) ) [category_links] => About Dragons )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 155380
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-09-12 12:45:55
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-12 18:45:55
    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_155381" align="alignnone" width="4512"] PHOTO: Fernanda and her homestay mom, Ouleye; dad, Ibou; and brothers, Sidikh, Rassoul, and baby Mame Cheikh.[/caption]

WORDS by FERNANDA ROMO

SENEGAL PRINCETON BRIDGE YEAR PROGRAM ALUMNI

Mungi dox literally translates to, “it walks.” In conversation, however, one might use it to mean “it’s going,” “it’s fine,” or “it works.” When I set out to write this piece, with the prompt of mungi dox in mind, I immediately thought about my family. After all, I’m living in a homestay with a total of nineteen people (I think), including three married couples and twelve kids of various ages. This is naturally bound to be a bit chaotic and might seem like a headache for people more habituated to smaller “nuclear family” living arrangements. For this reason, writing about how my household functions, how everyone pitches in, and how living in these big families actually works was sure to be a crowd pleaser. Wouldn’t everyone love to hear the conclusions I’d drawn about African family structures from my experience living with the Mbayes?
“Wouldn’t everyone love to hear the conclusions I’d drawn about African family structures from my experience living with the Mbayes? Regrettably, as appealing as that piece might sound, I’m not writing it.”
Regrettably, as appealing as that piece might sound, I’m not writing it. Mainly, because I can’t. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that the chances of me being able to provide a fair analysis of this family’s dynamics are about as high as those of snowfall in Dakar. The mere idea of scrutinizing the way these people behave within their family, just to arrive to the conclusion that it surprisingly “works,” feels foolish at best and condescending at worst. However, my impending erroneousness is not the only thing holding me back from writing about the people in Senegal who are so dear to me. For a long time I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why I felt a tinge of discomfort every time I thought about turning the people I consider family into the subjects of my writing, especially when said writing is directed to Western audiences. I remember once, I considered blogging about Mame Maty, my instructor Babacar’s 10-year-old daughter, who I love like crazy and who is definitely one of the people closest to my heart here. I ended up deciding against it, because something about it wasn’t sitting right with me. And even though I didn’t entirely understand why, one thought kept popping up in my mind: she’s my friend. That’s also what I feel today when trying to make myself produce some insightful conclusions or lessons gathered from analyzing my homestay family. I don’t want to “report back” on what Senegalese families are like, both because it’s not possible to do so accurately, and because these people are, first of all, my family. Not subjects of study, not sources of all-encompassing revelations, but people who treat me like a daughter, a sister, a friend. And just as I wouldn’t write up a couple pages about my best friend back in Mexico and send it to an audience of people who she will never meet and who will form their entire perception of who she is based on my words, I don’t particularly feel inclined to do that here. And maybe that’s a good thing. After all, I think the main reason why the Bridge Year Program works, and is so incredibly meaningful, is because of relationships. The moments when I have felt that my time here has the greatest value have all been centered around having strong bonds, familiarity, and overall friendship with people. It’s really beautiful to think about how my Senegalese family and I genuinely care about each other, and how our lives have been enriched as a result. So I guess if you asked me, “Does it work to put a random toubab1 in the middle of a household in Dakar, Senegal, and have her be a part of this family for a few months?” I’d say yeah, mungi dox.

FERNANDA ROMO left her home in Mexico in 2017 to travel to Senegal for nine months as part of Dragons Princeton Bridge Year Program. She is currently a student at Princeton University, where she spends her days looking at pictures of her time in Dakar at 3am, facetiming her five dogs, and going on rants about the fake Mexican food in the dining halls.

[post_title] => I’m (not) Writing About My Family - An Essay by Fernanda Romo [post_excerpt] => "Wouldn’t everyone love to hear the conclusions I’d drawn about African family structures from my experience living with the Mbayes? Regrettably, as appealing as that piece might sound, I’m not writing it.” [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => im-not-writing-about-my-family-an-essay-by-fernanda-romo [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-12 12:45:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-12 18:45:55 [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] => 52 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 52 [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/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 675 [name] => The Dragons Journal [slug] => thedragonsjournal [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 675 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [parent] => 0 [count] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 20 [category_description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [cat_name] => The Dragons Journal [category_nicename] => thedragonsjournal [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/thedragonsjournal/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 32 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 32 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, The Dragons Journal ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 155343
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-08-29 12:58:38
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-29 18:58:38
    [post_content] => We are loving this interview with Dragons students Danielle (South America Semester Alum '19) and Chinelle (Nepal College Study Abroad Alum '19) that played on Jamaican National TV this week. The discussion exploring their Gap Year experiences is well worth your six minutes to watch!

Ps. Danielle was a recipient of Dragons scholarships. Dragons Fund scholarships are generated entirely from the donations of generous Dragons alumni, instructors, and staff. You can learn more about how the fund ensures access for all students, regardless of their financial circumstances at: dragonsfund.org.


    [post_title] => Interview with Dragons Alumni on TVJ Smile Jamaica
    [post_excerpt] => We are loving this interview with Dragons students Danielle (South America Semester Alum) and Chinelle (Nepal College Study Abroad Alum) that played on Jamaican National TV this week. It's well worth your six minutes to watch! 
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => open
    [ping_status] => open
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => interview-with-dragons-alumni-on-tvj-smile-jamaica
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2019-09-05 11:42:52
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-05 17:42:52
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => post
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 1
    [filter] => raw
    [categories] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Term Object
                (
                    [term_id] => 641
                    [name] => About Dragons
                    [slug] => about_dragons
                    [term_group] => 0
                    [term_taxonomy_id] => 641
                    [taxonomy] => category
                    [description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ.
                    [parent] => 0
                    [count] => 30
                    [filter] => raw
                    [term_order] => 9
                    [cat_ID] => 641
                    [category_count] => 30
                    [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ.
                    [cat_name] => About Dragons
                    [category_nicename] => about_dragons
                    [category_parent] => 0
                    [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/about_dragons/
                )

            [1] => WP_Term Object
                (
                    [term_id] => 646
                    [name] => Alumni Spotlight
                    [slug] => alumni_spotlight
                    [term_group] => 0
                    [term_taxonomy_id] => 646
                    [taxonomy] => category
                    [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. 
                    [parent] => 0
                    [count] => 32
                    [filter] => raw
                    [term_order] => 10
                    [cat_ID] => 646
                    [category_count] => 32
                    [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. 
                    [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight
                    [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight
                    [category_parent] => 0
                    [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/
                )

        )

    [category_links] => About Dragons, Alumni Spotlight
)
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 155329
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-08-22 14:41:20
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-22 20:41:20
    [post_content] => Hey Summer Alumni,

Don't forget that Dragons annual 1-minute visual story contest is officially open! See below for contest details, and check out this lovely submission by Lula Alhussein from the Madagascar Summer 2019 Program for inspiration!



******

Hello Summer Students!

Just wanted to share with you the details of our annual “1-Minute Visual Story” Contest…

The goals of Dragons Visual-Story contest are to:
  • Share visual story through student and in-the-field perspectives.
  • Highlight & offer gratitude/awareness to issues, stories, and people in our community.
  • Encourage more diversity in the perspectives represented by Dragons social media.
  • Offer insight into the Dragons program experience, culture, and character.
  • Encourage tools for story-telling the experience with ethical media creation guidelines.
Parameters:
  • “Visual-Story” can be interpreted as video, photo collage, or anyway you’d like. (Video examples at: wtbdragons.com/ytv)
  • Contest submissions should be no longer than 60 seconds, (but see the next bullet…)
  • You CAN submit multiple entries to the competition. As many as you’d like! (Though you can only “win” once.)
  • Ensure that all content in your film/video/collage (including footage, music, images, props, etc.) is your own or that you have explicit permission to use it (audio/video recorded or written permission).
  • For video, minimum 1080p resolution. If you’d like an official/branded opening graphic/title from Dragons, email us.  Personally created graphic overlays and captions are okay. Entries may be in any language or have no dialogue at all. Closing credits not required.
  • Contest is open to anyone with Dragons Summer 2019 Program Affiliation(Students, Staff, In-Country Community Members)
  • Contest questions? Send an email.
Prizes:
  • There will be 3 winners in total. All three winners will receive a Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket with Dragons Logo and promotion of your submission/video with your credits.
  • The creator of ONE entry will be chosen by Dragons to receive a coupon for 50% off a Dragons program tuition that can be used either by themselves or transferred to a friend (Max Coupon Value: $4,000USD)
  • Winners will be announced on October 1st on Dragons Blog and shared via Dragons social media channels.
Ways to submit: You must submit your entry by September 1st at 12pm MST. Submit your visual-story to the contest by emailing the entry to christina@wheretherebedragons with the subject line: “1-Min Visual Story Contest Submission.”  You may email:
    1. A YouTube URL (subscribe to our YouTube channel while you’re there!)
    2. A Vimeo URL
    3. A link to your video on Instagram . Use the tags: #dragonsvisualstory and @wheretherebedragons.
    4. A link to your video on Facebook. Use the tags: #dragonsvisualstory and @wheretherebedragons.
    5. An actual video file or a link to a Google Drive folder where you’ve uploaded the video.
Video/Visual Making Tips:
  • Consider bringing a travel tripod & make sure your camera has enough storage space for footage.
  • Plan your shoot or gather as a group and come up with creative ways to collaborate meaningfully with communities
  • Throughout a project, seek patterns and sets of images that build cohesion.
  • Take the time to set up your shots, removing logos, water bottles, other distracting objects.
  • Choose landscape or portrait mode and stay in one mode. (Landscape is generally the preferred mode.)
  • Clean your lens! Drop solution onto cloth, not on lens, use damp cloth in circular motion, center to edges.
  • Try to optimize natural lighting. Avoid flash. Use tripods in low light. When shooting outdoors, keep the sun behind you.
  • Avoid background noise (wind, crowds, etc.) but also consider recording novel sounds.
  • Frame shots in interesting ways. Fill the frame, consider putting subjects slightly off-center, use angles to point attention.
  • If you move while filming, make sure it’s subtle and slow so your camera has time to focus on each scene as you move.
  • Take several shots of the same scene, from several different angles and distances; wide, medium, close-up, and details.
  • Hold your shots for at least 10-15 seconds after you have stopped adjusting the composition.
  • Time-lapses are great for scenes of prolonged time over an area that’s constantly changing.
  • Keep it simple:  Still shots with moving elements are often the best. If you move the camera, slow pans and tilts are best.
  • Never enable digital zooms; it makes videos blurry.
  • Take your time!  Steady. Calm. Connect with your subjects. Appreciate the beauty!
  • Use IMovie or other software or apps to edit, add sound/captions, adjust filters.
  • Use the audiovisual Release Form on the back of this flyer if/as needed.
Ethical Media Making Guidelines: People have the right to determine how they are represented. If you are taking video of people, seek to collaborate and establish informed consent. Video stories that don’t have people in them are entirely fine and encouraged! If you are taking video of people, consider the following guidelines and speak to your instructors for further advice:
  • Introduce yourself and your intentions to anyone represented in your video. Permission/consent should be free, prior and informed and should not happen until after a non-electronics-based relationship has been established. Consider showing another photo/video and telling them what it’s for, who will see it and why you want to share this image/sound.
  • Ensure the media cultivates a respectful, kind, reciprocal, relationship that is sensitive to local customs and traditions. Consult with instructors for advice on navigating the pitfalls of stereotype-reinforcing, exaggerating, or exoticizing media. Do no harm. Be accountable. Film with integrity. Offer gratitude.
  • Consider co-creation projects/elements by handing camera to others/locals — or even having them interview you! People love to be seen and heard if the exchange/listening comes with respect, equality, and the intention to honor. Offer others the mic and stage. And share the product with them!
  • A lens can help illuminate an experience or story. But it can also act as an unhealthy barrier or shield to hide behind. Seek guidance from instructors on establishing healthy boundaries and practices in your relationship with the lens.
  • “The quality of your product will be equal to the quality of the relationships that make it possible.” -Producer Vanessa Ragone
[post_title] => DRAGONS 1-MINUTE VISUAL-STORY CONTEST [post_excerpt] => Hey Summer Alumni: Don't forget that Dragons annual 1-minute visual story contest is officially open. Check out this lovely video submission by Lula Alhussein from the Madagascar Summer 2019 Program for inspiration... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dragons-1-minute-visual-story-contest [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-22 14:43:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-22 20:43:37 [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] => 52 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 52 [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/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 32 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 32 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 654 [name] => Mixed Media [slug] => mixed_media [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 654 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [parent] => 0 [count] => 37 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 37 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Alumni Spotlight ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 155321
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-08-15 12:09:10
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-15 18:09:10
    [post_content] => 

Twenty-two years ago I walked into a small town in southwestern China near dusk and realized I was in trouble. I had the equivalent of just a few dollars left in my wallet and the only bank in town was closed (there weren’t any ATMs). I had no place to stay for the night, no ticket onward, and knew no one in the area. Like most people at that time, I didn’t have a cell phone—even if I had, I’m not sure who I would have called. I stood on the steps of the (closed) bank, one of the larger buildings in town, and watched the warm, late spring sun sinking lower in the sky, considering my options and feeling angry with myself. I was also exhausted and hungry after walking all day. This wasn’t my first brush with the consequences of failing to think ahead (nor would it be my last!) but in a completely unfamiliar place, in a country then still very new to me, with Chinese language skills that might be generously described as “intermediate”, traveling solo… I was feeling both stuck and stupid. The days and weeks leading up to this moment had been some of the happiest and most exciting of my life. I’d taken a year off from college and worked all fall so that I could join a study program in China in the spring. This kind of travel, which was never in the cards for my family growing up, was something I’d always dreamed of. To explain why, I have to tell another story first… WHEN I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD... The town where I grew up sponsored a group of Cambodian refugees who had fled the genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge. One of these refugees, a boy a couple of years older than me, named Kiri, became my friend, and something like an idol. Kiri’s life experiences were different from mine in pretty much every way. I grew up in small college towns in New England where life was mostly quiet and peaceful. Kiri’s family had all been killed in the chaos that enveloped Cambodia at that time and he fled with other children through the jungle, arriving eventually in a refugee camp before coming to the US. Kiri’s childhood experiences left him with scars I couldn’t see, but had some sense of, even as a kid. His experiences also left him with great survival skills—including what, to my seven-year old ears, was a knockout sense of humor. Kiri was still learning English, and one day when he was over at my house, he discovered the power of the phrase, “never mind.” From that moment on, every time Kiri and I needed a boost of extra entertainment as we played upstairs, Kiri would call to my mother downstairs. “Hey, Susan?” “Yes, Kiri?” my mom would answer knowingly. “Never mind!” (cue cascade of two boys laughing). My mom was very patient. Kiri also had concrete survival skills as a result of the time he spent escaping war in the wilderness. One day, Kiri came with my family for a walk in the woods and he and I went down to a stream below the path. I watched him pull a live fish, about six inches long, out of the stream with his bare hands. From that moment on, I did everything I could to emulate Kiri. Kiri had a habit of carrying photos around with him inside his t-shirt, “close to the heart.” One was of his parents. Another was of a tank. After he showed me the photos, I asked my parents for some photos to put inside my t-shirt. Through Kiri, I got to know other kids and families in the Cambodian refugee community in our town. Although I wouldn’t have been able to explain it quite this way at the time, I began to fall in love with people and things that were different from those I knew. I began to wonder about life in places far away from home. I began to dream about seeing the world. So, many years later, when Chinese was introduced as a language option at my high school (a rare opportunity at a public high school in 1991), I jumped at the opportunity. I loved languages, but even more so, I loved the idea of being able to communicate with people whose lives and cultures were profoundly different from mine. Eventually, in the spring of my junior year in college, I landed in China’s Yunnan Province—a place that felt to me like a wonderland: more than 30 different ethnic groups, biodiversity with ecosystems ranging from snowy mountains higher than any I’d ever seen to dense tropical rainforests, a long list of religious traditions, foods as familiar as fried potatoes and as unfamiliar as roasted cicadas. I was in paradise. The culmination of my semester was a month-long “independent project.” Working with my program advisor, I set out to follow the Mekong River along its entire path through Yunnan, from the Tibetan region of Kham in the northwestern corner of the province, downstream and south through ethnically Hui, Lisu, Pumi, Yi, Naxi, Bai, Wa, Dai (and the list goes on) areas to Xishuangbanna, bordering Myanmar and Laos. Carrying letters of introduction that I hoped would allow me to enter many counties then closed to foreign travelers, and cartons of cigarettes needed to win over skeptical local officials, I set out with the goal of covering as much of the route as I could by foot—a goal I soon realized was totally unrealistic given the distance I had to cover and the month I had available. Walking is still my favorite mode of transport. It’s the only way to move from one place to another slowly enough to really see things. It’s also the only way to move that leaves you with no choice but to stop and talk with people along the way. I discovered quickly how friendly, hospitable, and curious the people of rural Yunnan were, often stopping to offer me rides, and inviting me into their homes for meals. In the Meili Snow Mountains of northwestern Yunnan, a family pulled me into their shack near the road to offer me a small piece of fried fat and a plastic cup of orange soda—the most luxurious things they had to offer. In another town, I asked a girl on the street how to get to the post office. She looked at the items I wanted to mail back to my advisor’s home in Kunming and told me I’d need to have a container to mail them in. She then brought me back to her family’s home for lunch, found an empty grain sack, and carefully packed all of my things in it. I repeated all of the ways I knew to say “thank you” as she stitched up the sack and walked with me to the post office. When we arrived, she helped me navigate the maze of counters, fees, forms, and surly officers with red stamps that run the engine of the world’s oldest bureaucracy. Again and again, I was stunned by the level of hospitality and generosity I was shown. WHICH BRINGS ME BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF THIS STORY... As I arrived in a small town, at the end of a long day’s walk with no money, not even enough for a meal, and no place to stay. As I stood there on the steps of the bank, a man walked over to me. “Hello, can I help you with something?” he asked, “Are you lost?” Startled out of my own thoughts of how foolish I’d been, I explained I was looking for a bank. “This is the only bank around. It’s closed now.” “Too bad,” I said, then, thinking of another priority, “Can you recommend any very cheap places to eat nearby?” The stranger asked me more questions and I eventually began to explain my predicament, but before I had even finished, he opened his wallet and pulled out 100 kuai—at the time equal to about twelve US dollars, and more than enough for a room and a meal. He insisted I take the money. “Chinese people are hospitable,” he said, “and you are our guest from another country. I know you would help me if I were a visitor to your country.” I wondered if that last part was true. I hoped so. I wasn’t sure. Unfortunately, I didn’t think too many foreign young men in small towns in the US were approached by strangers offering assistance and cash. Then, the stranger spoke a Chinese phrase that was, by then, starting to become familiar to me. “It’s what I should do,” he said. I was tired, stress had been building, and I was choked up as he handed me the 100 kuai bill. I asked him to write down his address and promised (though he said it wasn’t necessary) to send him the money he’d given me once I could get to a bank. I thanked him profusely. I imagined how much better things might be for people everywhere if we all did what we should do. WHAT’S THE MORAL OF THIS STORY? I suppose the obvious answer might be: plan in advance and be prepared. Yawn. You’ve heard that before. If I hadn’t set out to “walk the Mekong in a month” (I mean, come on, really, kid?) I might not have been gifted the realization of my own incompetence and lack of knowledge, or the truth of my reliance on others. I never would have met that stranger who showed me such pure generosity, or been faced with the uncomfortable question: Would this ever happen where I’m from? If I hadn’t overshot in what I thought I could do, I wouldn’t have felt what I did in the moment that stranger said, “It’s what I should do.” And that’s a moment that I have always remembered. I remembered it through what turned into eleven years of living in China, and a lifetime of involvement with China and with Chinese people. I remember it, sometimes, when I send groups of students to the high mountains and deep river valleys of Yunnan Province, and to live with homestay families in villages just a short distance away from that small town and the steps of its only bank (no doubt, there are many banks and ATMs there by now!). These days, it’s my job to help those students and their instructors prepare, and plan, and manage budgets, and risk, and logistics. But it’s my wish that they’ll truly challenge themselves, and that sometimes things will go wrong, and that when things do go wrong, they may learn something powerful and unexpected. AND WITH THAT IN MIND... I want to turn this story back in a circle. It has been many, many years since I lost touch with my friend Kiri. My family moved away from that town in New England when I was seven years old. As I wrote out this story, I had the inclination to do something that wasn’t an option back then: I Googled Kiri. Kiri is not his real name. His real name is unique enough that on my first search, to my astonishment, I found a news story about him. It turns out life got complicated for Kiri as he got older and he became involved in criminal activities. His actions weren’t violent, but drug-related crimes led to years in jail. As a result of changing policies and more hostile attitudes towards immigration in the US, Kiri was deported. After growing up, marrying, and having children in this country, he was sent back to the country from which he had originally fled as a refugee. I felt tears come to my eyes as I read about Kiri being separated from his children in the US, and sent back to a place where he had no living family members, a place now as unfamiliar to him as the US had been when he first arrived. Because of what I learned, the process of writing this story down took a different turn for me. Since I learned about Kiri’s deportation, I’ve been trying to get more information, and to contact Kiri, trying to find out if there’s anything I can do to help. In short, I’m trying to return some of the favors the world has granted me and to figure out what I should do.

  JODY SEGAR is China Programs Director at Where There Be Dragons. He wants readers to know that he did get around to mailing that stranger’s money back, plus extra. (PHOTOS: Northwestern Yunnan, 1996) [post_title] => When Things Go Wrong - An Essay by Jody Segar, Dragons China Program Director [post_excerpt] => "Twenty-two years ago I walked into a small town in southwestern China near dusk and realized I was in trouble..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => when-things-go-wrong-an-essay-by-jody-segar-dragons-china-program-director [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-29 13:08:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-29 19:08:16 [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] => 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] => 15 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 15 [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/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 675 [name] => The Dragons Journal [slug] => thedragonsjournal [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 675 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [parent] => 0 [count] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 20 [category_description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [cat_name] => The Dragons Journal [category_nicename] => thedragonsjournal [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/thedragonsjournal/ ) [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] => 10 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 11 [cat_ID] => 670 [category_count] => 10 [category_description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [cat_name] => Recommended [category_nicename] => recommended [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Global Community, The Dragons Journal ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 155284
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-08-01 12:15:04
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-01 18:15:04
    [post_content] => Maybe you’ve done a group travel program with Dragons or another organization. Maybe you’re feeling ready for a more independent experience abroad...

But here’s what you’re wondering:

  • How can I avoid the backpacker tourist traps?
  • How do I get an authentic learning service experience that avoids the pitfalls of the “voluntourism” industry? 
  • How do I build authentic connections with individuals when I don’t know anyone? 
  • How do I find a homestay family that’s been vetted and recommended? 
  • How do I avoid feeling like I’ve been “placed” without in-country mentorship and guidance?
  • Who do I call on for support when I have questions or if something goes wrong? 
It can be hard to know where to even start. We’ve heard from many past Dragons students that the travels they pursued on their own after a group program left them feeling lost, unsupported, or even conflicted about the ethics and efficacy of their presence and projects.  So we’ve launched the Dragons Independent Spring Experience (ISE).  Here’s what our ISE Programs offer:
  1. Meaningful cross-cultural engagement outside the structure of a group semester, but still with the support of Dragons local (in-country) resources and mentorship. 
  2. A co-created, personalized, and self-directed gap year or study abroad experience.
  3. Direct Support from Dragons international network of trained in-country staff and vetted resources. 
  4. Access to Dragons Administrative Team & our decades of expertise in managing international risk and emergency response.
 

MORE DETAILS: What does an ISE program consist of?

ISE programs are offered in places where Dragons has long-established and active community networks. We are currently offering ISE options in:
  • Guatemala
  • Bolivia
  • China
  • Senegal
  • Nepal
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
Each program site is staffed by a Dragons On-Site Coordinator: a veteran Dragons instructor with expertise in the country and extensive experience working with Dragons Gap Year students and to our standards of excellence. The On-Site Coordinator has weekly face-to-face meetings with each student, conducts a multi-day orientation focused on safety, cultural norms, and strategies for engagement, and acts as a cultural facilitator and mentor throughout. ISE programs have a strong emphasis on cultural and language immersion and in-depth exploration of critical issues. Participants are placed with a trusted homestay family for the duration of the program, receive intensive language instruction (as desired), and are paired with local mentors for an Independent Study Project (ISP). In addition, participants have 24/7 access to our in-country and international emergency response resources. ISE programs have two start dates (January 15 and February 12) with a 6-week minimum length and the option for weekly extensions (up until May 1st). ISE programs were created specifically for those who have previously completed a group travel program (international or domestic), of one month or longer, with any provider.

Dragons Independent Spring Experience Program

Visit our INDEPENDENT SPRING EXPERIENCES Page for more program details and guidance on how to enroll. 

[post_title] => Introducing Our Newest Offering: Independent Spring Experiences (ISE)  [post_excerpt] => We’ve heard from many past Dragons students that the travels they pursued on their own left them feeling lost or even conflicted about the ethics and efficacy of their presence and projects. So we’re launching Dragons Independent Spring Experience (ISE), an independent Gap Year experience supported by Dragons ... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => introducing_independent_spring_experiences_ise [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-15 12:10:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-15 18:10:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [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] => 22 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 22 [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] => 655 [name] => Continued Education [slug] => continued_education [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 655 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Transference. [parent] => 0 [count] => 10 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 655 [category_count] => 10 [category_description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Transference. [cat_name] => Continued Education [category_nicename] => continued_education [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/continued_education/ ) [2] => 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] => 45 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 45 [category_description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [cat_name] => Announcements [category_nicename] => announcements [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, Continued Education ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 155243
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-07-25 12:27:23
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-07-25 18:27:23
    [post_content] => 
FIRST PLACE: MARIA RENDON 
Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2019
"Playing with little village girls at Namo Buddha, a Buddhist monastery in Nepal"
SECOND PLACE: MARIO SALAZAR
Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2019
"Annapurna South. Crazy y'all."
 
THIRD PLACE: ANNA MARKLIN
Indonesia semester, Spring 2019
"Sunset from my back porch of my homestay in Sampela."
  Congratulations to our winners and thanks to all that submitted and shared such lovely images with us!
[post_title] => Announcing Dragons (Spring Semesters 2019) Photo Contest Winners! [post_excerpt] => Congratulations to the winners of Dragons Spring 2019 Semester Photo Contest... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => announcing-dragons-spring-semesters-2019-photo-contest-winners [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-25 12:30:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-25 18:30:38 [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] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 32 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 32 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/ ) [1] => 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] => 45 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 45 [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/ ) ) [category_links] => Alumni Spotlight, Announcements )
1 2 3 26

Where There Be Dragons on Instagram