Photo by Fye Maithai, Student.

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Alumni Spotlight

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    [post_date] => 2018-04-19 10:25:39
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-19 16:25:39
    [post_content] => 

Since Earth Day deserves more than one day a year, we’re going to give it a few days of alumni student love. Starting with Dragons Student Ambassador Benjamin Swift

[caption id="attachment_152916" align="aligncenter" width="567"] Photos by Benjamin Swift, South America Semester Alumni Student.[/caption] Captioned: "For Earth Day, I'm sharing pictures from my South America semester of fellow student, Trisha, picking up trash on a trek we did while doing our service trip in the Altiplano. Trisha and I also visited the Tiquipaya landfill (pictured, top), which inspired an article that I wrote for my campus newspaper (goo.gl/S16dEQ). This interest in the environment and trash helped lead me to Haiti, where I visited my Dragons Instructor, Ellie Happel, and learned about her work and research fighting proposed metal mining. While there, we visited SOIL (oursoil.org), a composting toilet company that provides dignified access to sanitation for people who would otherwise not have access to it, creating rich organic compost in the process. At SOIL, I wrote an article (goo.gl/RiYSFd) for them after helping the workers empty poop buckets all day. Through these photos, which include images from a landfill in both Colorado and Bolivia, I hope to highlight that the waste we create is an issue, whether it is obviously visible or not. In Bolivia and Haiti, trash is conspicuous in cities and in the environment, though, per-capita, people create much less of it than in the United States. Americans generate much more waste, but simply do a better job of concealing it, thus creating an illusion that it does not exist." 🙏🏼 you Benjamin. #earthday #wheretherebedragons #wheretherebe🐉

Want to see more? Visit Dragons Instagram Feed.

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    [post_date] => 2018-04-18 11:04:05
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    [post_content] => Please enjoy these two reflections from South America Semester Alumni students which were a past feature of the Map's Edge, Dragons Community Newsletter.

A MONTH OF CONTRASTS by CINDY LIU, Alumni of Dragons Andes & Amazon Semester

The most important lesson I’ve learned in the past month is to feel as equally with my heart as with my mind, so although much of what I’ve seen still confuses me, I know that at least these impressions will stay with me long into the future.

HOW CAN ONE YAK EVEN BEGIN TO SUM UP MY IMPRESSIONS OF PERU, or any of my experiences for that matter? But as I think back on the past month, four images wrought with irony and contrast stand out to me.

The first is of a taxi driver who drove a group of us from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, and his pouring a sip of his Fanta on the ground as an offering to the Pachamama before drinking from the bottle. The second is of my home-stay mama in the town of Japu in Nacion Q’eros, who pulled a cellphone out of her pocket the night we were there. When I asked her if there was reception, she shyly shook her head no. The third is of a young university music teacher, who presented to Emma and I an entire table of Incan and Pre-Incan instruments at the Inka Museum in Cusco; among them included panpipes made from condor feathers, flutes made from llama bones, and ceremonial whistles in the shape of a hummingbird. He was initially wearing a ‘North Face’ sports jacket, but halfway through donned an indigenous poncho and wool hat ‘in case we wanted to take photos.’ The final one is of reading in the Machu Picchu museum that the terraces at the ancient Incan city were now covered with a type of African weed, because it appeals more to the ‘Western aesthetic.’

These four images remind me of the complicated dynamic between traditional culture and development. It is interesting to see a taxi driver remain loyal to his ancestors’ beliefs, but it is ironic that he did so with a soda produced by a Western company. It was bittersweet to see my home-stay mama with a cellphone, because I didn’t know how often she had use for it, or how much modern technology had touched the people of Q’eros, who still seemed very attached to their land and traditional lifestyles. It was funny to see the young music teacher drape his poncho over his Western-branded jacket, as if doing so would give us a more authentic experience. It was sad to see a site as mystic as Machu Picchu so touched by tourism, and confusing to realize that tourism is probably also what sustains the preservation and continued excavation of the city. What these impressions have taught me though, is that development is not black or white, nor good or bad. The struggle between preservation and development is real, albeit unconscious, as I’ve seen with my very own eyes. I can still remember Fabian, our local guide in Q’eros, who had been the president of the five local communities, sitting in the grass telling us about his wish to preserve the culture and practices of the indigenous people, but acknowledging that he had moved his family to Cusco so that his children could get a better education.

The most important lesson I’ve learned in the past month is to feel as equally with my heart as with my mind, so although much of what I’ve seen still confuses me, I know that at least these impressions will stay with me long into the future.

RESPONSE TO CINDY’S POST by MARTINA HILDRETH, Alumni of Dragons Andes & Amazon Semester

The best I can do is to stop imposing my own preconceptions upon their reality, and instead embrace what I see, in all it’s complexity and incomprehensibility, with open eyes and a mind free of judgement.

I AM SO GRATEFUL TO CINDY for putting so eloquently something I’ve felt unable to express in words. The contrast and complexity within Peruvian and Bolivian society has been very evident, and at times hard to reconcile with how I think things are, or how I wish they were. It is especially difficult when it appears that travelers like me are partially responsible for creating the confusion, as illustrated by Cindy’s example of the grass at Machu Picchu.

I believe that I am looking for a culturally “authentic” experience with Dragons, but what does that mean? Does it mean bemoaning and overlooking the facts that Peruvian museum workers wear North Face and express their thanks to the Pachamama with Fanta? No, I don’t think so. The best I can do is to stop imposing my own preconceptions upon their reality, and instead embrace what I see, in all it’s complexity and incomprehensibility, with open eyes and a mind free of judgement. I realize that the places we are visiting are impossible to know and understand in just a few months. I will strive to value the questions I have been given just as much as I would the answers I lack.

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    [post_date] => 2018-04-05 07:48:22
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One of the questions we ask our students after they travel with Dragons is: Having finished your program, and knowing what you now know, what advice would you give to a future student before they get on the plane? The following is a collection of 20 pieces of alumni advice offered to future Dragons students before they embark upon their summer and gap year travels...

Q: What advice would you give to a future student before they get on the plane?

“Come empty as you can and, yes it’s a long time, but I promise you it flies by so fast!” - Harrison Gully

“It's totally fine to be nervous, but don't let it overcome your excitement. There will be moments that are awkward or uncomfortable, but they don't last.” - Kate Canning “Talk to everyone, even strangers on the streets while waiting in line for tacos, because you can learn so much about the country and the environment in simple conversation.” - Rebecca Worth

“Don’t overthink it. You can’t always be prepared for the experiences that you will encounter on this trip. And even though that fact is a little daunting, it’s also the best aspect!” - Ana Cordes

“Come in with an open mind. Most of your preconceptions will be shattered.” - Jack Fitzgibbons “Don't waste too much time being homesick.” - Ava Samuels

“Express early and often what you want from the course!” - Miles Dyke

“Be open minded because many activities seem impossible at the time, but actually come much easier as you do them.” - Wes Breier “Keep an open mind. It is definitely not like home but when you keep a positive outlook, even sleeping on a board isn't that bad and sometimes enjoyable.” - Pearl Rincon “Pack lots of layers!” - Mollie Ames "It is going to hard and stressful at times. The simplest things at home take much more time and energy here. But it gets easier and you find your favorite boutiques that carry your favorite yogurt and there is a chair in your homestay living room that the whole family knows is yours. This faraway place will always be different from home but you will find a new home here in every new person you greet and every handful of cheb you eat." - Julia Kelly

“Your goals at the beginning will change so much over the course, just let it happen.” - William Albright

“Be prepared and excited to be pushed out of your comfort zone.” - Corinna Donovan

“Don't stress too much before hand. Everything is organized and all opportunities are open.” - Meike Leonard

“Enter the course with an open mind and let it take you down its path without fighting.” - John Marangola

“Try and push yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone every single day. Stick your neck out, be aware, and it will surprise you how, if you do this every day, you will grow and evolve as a person, individual, and team player.” - Briana Frost

“Travel light. Emotionally and physically. Be a feather in the wind. Be okay with not always knowing what to expect.” - Rachel Wolf

“Be aware of your preconceived biases, and work hard to combat that. This experience is incredibly powerful and you will be experiencing a very different culture to the one in the United States. Take the time to find the beauty in difference. You won't regret it.” - Thomas Sulger "This will be the most profound experience of your life. It will be educational, exciting, beautiful, challenging, deep and raw. The hardest moments will teach you just as much if not more than the magical ones, so value them."- Claire Lindsay “Jump in! You can only truly experience this trip if you leave your fears and hesitations at the door (or on the airplane).” - Sophie Ashley "Take a deep breath, you are here, you made it, and you have chosen this journey for yourself. That on its own speaks volumes about how strong and courageous you are. Know that you are here for a reason; it may be the hardest thing you've done in your life and it will be a series of moments in which you will learn and grow, and it will be nothing short of amazing. Theres no way I can tell you to take every last drop out of this experience without sounding preachy or echoing what your parents have already nagged you with. I can only echo it. Your time here will end all to soon, so jump in feet first, make friends on the street and create a home for yourself here. You've got this." - Espoir DelMain

If you're Dragons alumni and would like to add a piece of advice to this list, feel free to leave it in the comments!

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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-01-23 13:13:52
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-23 20:13:52
    [post_content] => Oh! We love it when our past Gap Year students send us video footage from their year abroad!  Thank you Benjamin Swift (Dragons South America Semester, Fall 2016)

“Thanks to everyone who made the past year+ great! Here's to more adventures in 2018 (albeit a bit late) Scenes from my 2016-17 gap year in Perú, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador. Highlights included traveling with Where There Be Dragons, interning with ecologists in Quito, diving in the Galápagos Islands, and volunteering at the AmaZOOnico animal rescue center in the Ecuadorean Amazon.”



Gap Year Highlight Reel from Benjamin Swift on Vimeo.
    [post_title] => Gap Year Video by Benjamin Swift
    [post_excerpt] => Oh! We love it when our past Gap Year students send us video footage from their year abroad! Thank you Benjamin Swift!

“Thanks to everyone who made the past year+ great! Here's to more adventures in 2018 (albeit a bit late) Scenes from my 2016-17 gap year in Perú, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador. Highlights included traveling with Where There Be Dragons, interning with ecologists in Quito, diving in the Galápagos Islands, and volunteering...
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    [post_date] => 2017-12-20 07:15:38
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    [post_content] => 
Here are some sneak-peek excerpts from the featured essays of our winter edition of The Map's Edge. Be sure to check your mail to get your hands on all the glossy pages of stories, photos, and updates from four corners of Dragons global community!
PAGE 4
BRAZIL
Princeton Bridge Year: To Have a Home
By JIMIN KANG
"I believe that there are qualities in each of us that can only be realized in different contexts. I discovered that Brazil brought out a version of myself that inspires me most. To this day, I miss the candor with which I greeted strangers on the street and told them about my love for acarajé, the fried bean fritters I'd eat with friends after hours of practicing Portuguese. I miss the music and the visual arts that flourish across Salvador, and the days I painted lampposts with spray paint oozing down my hands. I miss the confidence with which Bahians wear their own skin, and the way I felt more comfortable in my own body than I'd ever been. More than anything, I miss the people who greeted me with a "seja bem-vindo" (be welcome) and bid me farewell with a "volte sempre" (return always). People who taught me that home can be anywhere in the world, as long as there are people with space in their hearts."
PAGE 8
SIKKIM
Lepcha: Children of the Snowy Peak
By SHARON SITLING
"The Lepcha believe their people originated within these valleys. They call themselves 'Mutanchi Rong Kup Rum Kup,' which translates as 'Children of the Snowy Peak and Children of God.' The Lepcha are nature worshippers, whose religion blends animism and shamanism and is called bongthingism, or Munism. The tribe shares an inextricable relationship with nature as evidenced by their vocabulary, which contains one of the richest collections of names for local flora and fauna recorded anywhere, and reveals a vast knowledge of naturopathy as well as holy texts. By some estimates, there are only 40,000 Lepcha remaining in Sikkim; their language is quickly disappearing and they are fighting to preserve their lands and what is left of their culture."
PAGE 12
SENEGAL
Photo Essay: Between the Lens & Me
By CRYSTAL LIU
"I was hesitant to bring my camera with me to Senegal. I suppose I approached photography with more of a moralist's stance than a scientist's, and I felt some intuitive distrust of images and imagemaking as it related to my educational experience. I worried about the fraught relationship between subject and photographer. I didn't want to reproduce clichés and reduce people to flat, aesthetic purposes. At the same time, I wanted to remember what I would experience, and the fear of forgetting eventually overcame other qualms about the medium. I brought my camera, and I am both glad and regretful that I did."
PAGE 22
MOROCCO
Interview: The Beat of a Different Drum
By MOHAMED ARGUINE
"...after hours of trekking, Ben M'barek would take out his drum, sit on a rock and start playing whatever came to mind. He never thought his songs would attract the attention of tourists who didn't understand a word of the Tamazight language. [...] The guide explained that M'Barek was singing about his love for the High Atlas Mountains and that he hoped not to see what might be hiding behind them. The oxygen of his life, its meaning, flows down from the peak of the highest mountain to his soul through the drops of rain and flakes of snow-pure and white as his heart, and imbued with love for this region, which to him is heaven on earth."

 If you didn't get one in the mail, here's the full digital issue!

 
Dragons bi-annual Newsletter, The Map’s Edge, explores a subject of interest to the Dragons community through the voices of our Alumni, Instructors, Partners, and our International Staff and contacts. Feel free to view our archive of editions of The Map’s Edge or even submit a piece to be featured in our next issue by sending an email to [email protected]
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Waking up
to a different ceiling and scent
is at first a little disorienting.
How can I be 6,000 miles away from yesterday?
How are these people so unaware of the world out there?
Perhaps airports are portals that transport us too quickly,
causing E-motion sickness,
making my stomach feel the loneliness
and longing for what was once in our hands just a few hours ago.
Now, the sand is shaking off the pockets of my daypack,
scent of tea seeping out through my stuff sacks,
the odor of Tide in my hand-washed T-shirts,
red soil continues to penetrate in my boots and skirts,
and memories begin to unpack itself as I emptied my backpack.
 
Poem by Anna Apilado, Summer 2017 Alumni of the Morocco Program
[post_title] => First Night Home: A Poem, by Anna Apilado [post_excerpt] => A lovely poem shared with us by Anna Apilado, Alumnus of the Morocco Summer 2017 Program...  [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => first-night-home-a-poem-by-anna-apilado [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-07 08:26:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-07 15:26:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => 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/ ) [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] => 40 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 40 [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] => 43 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 43 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Continued Education, Alumni Spotlight ... )
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