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    [post_author] => 1525
    [post_date] => 2020-11-17 13:14:02
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-11-17 20:14:02
    [post_content] => Join us for a series of free webinars in the coming weeks with Dragons Director of Admissions, Eva Vanek, who will help answer your questions about summer, gap year, and college credit travel planning for 2021.

Summer Travel Webinar

Nov 25th at 5pm MST | Learn More/Register >> Dec 3rd at 5 pm MST | Learn More/Register >> Dec 9th at 5 pm MST | Learn More/Register >>

Gap Year Travel Webinar

Nov 25th at 5pm MST | Learn More/Register >> Dec 3rd at 5 pm MST | Learn More/Register >> Dec 9th at 5 pm MST | Learn More/Register >>

College Summer Abroad Webinar

Nov 25th at 5pm MST | Learn More/Register >> Dec 3rd at 5 pm MST | Learn More/Register >> Dec 9th at 5 pm MST | Learn More/Register >>

PRESENTED BY:

Eva Vanek, B.A. with honors in International Development, minor in Anthropology, McGill University. Growing up canoeing and camping Eva found her way to Dragons in 2009where she led a Guatemala program and later, a couple Andes and Amazon Semesters. Presently, Eva is thrilled to be working as the Dragons Admissions Director and in her spare time enjoys volunteering at the Boulder homeless shelter, touring on her bike and passing quality time in the garden.

____

Interested in gaining your own in-field perspective of the world through cultural immersion, wilderness exploration, and language study? Learn more about our unfiltered and immersive Summer and Gap Year programs in Asia, Africa, and the Americas here.

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WP_Post Object
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    [ID] => 157119
    [post_author] => 1530
    [post_date] => 2020-10-06 12:24:13
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-06 18:24:13
    [post_content] => I want to tell you about my extraordinary friend Sushil Babu Chettri from Nepal. He’s an inspiration for a whole number of reasons, not least for his remarkable life story. His full firsthand account can be found on the Learning Service blog.

He was born in a remote village in the west of Nepal, but ran away as a child and ended up on the streets of Kathmandu. At the age of eight, he learned how to beg from tourists and avoid getting addicted to drugs, while enduring the violence of street gangs.

After some time a tourist “rescued” him and brought him to an orphanage, but unfortunately, the place was corrupt and abusive. The children had no-one to care for them and had to cook and clean for themselves. They did not go to school and had no healthcare. The kids were not even fed enough and were sent out to beg for food. The owner collected donations from various sources but the money never reached the children.

 

Volunteers would come in and out of the orphanage, never suspecting that they were contributing to the exploitation of the children. The volunteers showered love and gifts on the orphanage kids, but the children found it traumatizing to have a conveyor-belt of caregivers, and when they left the hardships resumed.
At the age of twelve, Sushil was the oldest child in the orphanage and felt responsible for getting the children out. He eventually exposed the situation to an American lady and then made a police report about the conditions in the orphanage. The children were all rescued and it slowly their story came out – none of them were orphans, they had all been trafficked there.
The children all went to an organization that cared for them and tried to reconnect them with their families. Sushil felt he was too old to start school but instead he learned skills like how to use a camera and started making short films. He started documenting the lives of street children through film and raising awareness of social issues such as getting children of Kathmandu’s slums into schools. He only reconnected to his family and returned to his village when he was an adult, finding out for the first time that he had a younger brother. The issue that Sushil campaigns on most passionately is orphanage trafficking. After experiencing firsthand how orphanages are run as businesses in order to attract donations, with children stolen from rural areas like where he grew up, he now hosts talks and workshops with tourists and volunteers – and Dragons students! – to share his experience. Recently he has been trying to draw attention to the plight of children trapped in abusive orphanages during the coronavirus pandemic. In recent months, Sushil has been back in his remote home town documenting the situation of migrant laborers as they pour over the border from India despite the strict lockdown. He has been active in campaigning for aid for them, but also for aid to be given in the right way and to not be tokenistic or vanity-driven. He is also launching a project to build a well in his village in order to support vegetable growing there.
Throughout Sushil’s life, he has demonstrated remarkable resilience. He is friendly, positive, and fun, and is always willing to use his time and voice to help other people. He is an enormous inspiration to me – and as close as they come to a living legend.
Sushil Babu Chhetri is a freelance photographer and filmmaker who is based in Kathmandu, Nepal. His films include Flowers in the Dust and Letter to God. He is also an activist campaigning on behalf of children living on the street and in orphanages. You can follow him on YouTube and Instagram.  
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Inspired? Join us on a Summer Abroad, Gap Year, or Custom Travel Program and meet more heroes like Sushil! [post_title] => Local Heroes Series: Sushil Babu Chettri, Nepal [post_excerpt] => I want to tell you about my extraordinary friend Sushil Babu Chettri from Nepal. He’s an inspiration for a whole number of reasons, not least for his remarkable life story. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => local-heroes-nepal [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-11-10 19:58:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-11-11 02:58:34 [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] => 776 [name] => Local Heroes Series [slug] => local-heroes-series [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 776 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 2 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 0 [cat_ID] => 776 [category_count] => 2 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Local Heroes Series [category_nicename] => local-heroes-series [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/local-heroes-series/ ) [1] => 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] => 78 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 78 [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/ ) [2] => 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] => 50 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 50 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [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] => 15 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 15 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Local Heroes Series, From the Field ... )
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    [post_date] => 2020-08-18 11:00:41
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    [post_content] => 

Meet Lin Theik

Lin is a 29 year old tour guide, educator, and entrepreneur from Myanmar. The ninth of ten children, Lin has a contagious enthusiasm for travel, learning from differing perspectives, and environmental entrepreneurism. Linn is a hero on many fronts - from exposing local youth to a variety of cultures within the borders of his own country to finding creative solutions for reusing plastic.

Lin’s Story

Lin had been working as a guide with a tour company leading young American students throughout Myanmar when he asked himself, “Why not do this with local students?” This question inspired him to found an organization, called Promised Land, that brings local youth on trips within Myanmar that exposes them to differing cultures and perspectives found within their own country. Lin teaches Myanmarese youth how to travel, guiding his students to reflect upon their own experiences and helping them to build a cohesive group dynamic. Students learn leadership skills, oversee the group budget, engage in trekking, and have discussions with local community members. Lin tries to give them, “what they cannot get from the city.” He says, “I’m trying to let them see what you really need to see, trying to get them to think outside the box.” Through these immersive and hands-on travel experiences, Lin aspires to cultivate a combination of confidence and respect within his students. Lin shares that one of the biggest obstacles in working with the youth of Myanmar is in fact their parents! Culturally, parents aren’t accustomed to being apart from their children and have high expectations for consistent communication and a low tolerance for separation. Lin surmounts these obstacles by posting daily messages on social media for the parents as well as keeping the trip length to a maximum of four days! Over the years, two prominent figures have influenced Lin’s approach to life. The first was his late father, whose wisdom shaped Lin’s heart-centered manner in which he approaches people. His father taught him,
'People will forget what you say and what you give, but they will never forget how you treat them.' The second was a former boss, who taught Lin, 'When you talk to the people, you talk with your heart, not with your brain.'
Those words of wisdom have a visible effect on the way in which Lin interacts with others; he exudes a zest for life and heart-centeredness that permeates all of his encounters. Lin states, “Traveling is important … to see the world in a different perspective.” He surmises that traveling is akin to standing in front of a mirror; it provides the opportunity to reflect upon one’s life and also to see from another person’s perspective. He shares, “The youth can change the world, if they try to know each other. If you want to know each other, you have to go to the place you’ve never been, talk to the people you’ve never talked to, and eat the food that you’ve never eaten.”
Forever the entrepreneurial spirit, when Lin isn’t busy guiding, he is developing a project to collect plastic and recycle it into bricks to be used for construction.
The idea came to him after watching local pagodas integrate straw to fortify the clay in the creation of bricks. He thought why not use plastic for the same purpose. He is in the process of creating this project and aspires to collect plastic gathered by people in his community by trading a prescribed amount for a t-shirt. We’ll end with Lin’s words of wisdom: “Walk the way you’ve never walked. Don’t judge people, go the road the people go so you will see it. Go travel and learn. You can have fun and see what is there.” Lin believes that meeting new people and seeing the world through different points of view is the key to understanding and true happiness. Lin's Film Recommendation: The Lady Lin's Book Recommendation: Twilight over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess Lin's Favorite Myanmarese Food: Mohinga: rice noodle soup served with beans, egg, and banana stem. An essential part of Burmese cuisine that is eaten in the morning and evening. To learn more about this inspiring human and his organization, please visit Lin’s website: Promised Land Myanmar.
 
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    [post_date] => 2020-07-07 09:15:18
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    [post_content] => We caught up with Dragons instructors Luke Hein and Kawsar Muhtar to learn more about their art-based project to tell stories from Uyghur people around the world during Ramadan.

Every day during the month of Ramadan for the past two years, Luke Hein makes a watercolor painting and posts it on his Instagram handle, vlfhein. The paintings are renditions of photographs and stories gathered in the Tarim Basin area of western China, and they showcase vignettes of life there: Kashgari pottery, desert landscapes, clay tonur (i.e., tandoor) ovens, street scenes, mosques, and buildings decorated with intricate and colorful mosaics.

Ramadan Watercolors“The Boy Loves Fish”

When he launched the Ramadan watercolor project in 2019, Luke had just returned from a personal trip through the Tarim Basin, located in Xinjiang Province, China. He wondered: was there a way to publicize the challenging realities there without making explicit political comments that could compromise his ability to travel there in the future? Inspired by Chiura Obata, the renowned Japanese-American artist who painted and taught while imprisoned at the Topaz internment camp during World War II, Luke hit upon the idea of raising awareness indirectly. 
I said, ‘Let me just highlight things I love, to build knowledge, to build understanding, and through that to build empathy and eventually connection and love because that’s what going to make people risk to help somebody else, that’s what’s going to make people loyal to other people.’ The project is valuable because it’s not directly critical. That’s sort of the key move.
“I had been carrying around a cakey old tray of watercolors from my days as a home schooler. I brought it all over Indonesia and China, telling myself I was going to paint something.” It wasn’t until Luke arrived back in the U.S. that he finally sat down to paint with his niece. “I just started doing it, I didn’t know much about watercolors,” explains Luke, adding that he “drew poorly” throughout high school before his interest in the visual arts waned.  Ramadan Watercolors“Daily routines in Kashgar’s demolished old quarter” During the first year of the Ramadan watercolor project, most of the paintings were of photographs from Luke’s direct experiences traveling in Xinjiang Province. Luke had just moved back into his parent’s house in Alabama to help take care of his ailing father, who had been diagnosed with cancer five years prior and was now taking a sharp decline. Luke recalls his father coming out every night while he was painting at 2 or 3 in the morning. “I interrupted my paintings to give massages, talk with him, sometimes to be angry with him, sometimes to be curious, to make time to be with him.” Luke’s father passed away about a month after the completion of the first Ramadan project, on the summer solstice, surrounded by family.  “With this watercolor that you can’t control super well, not in the same way you can control a pen when you’re doing cartoons, drawing/erasing then drawing again, these details, freckles, each leaf on a tree… you can’t do that in watercolor. It takes away your ability to control that much. It ended up being a really healthy medium for me. I came to identify it a little bit with some of the ideas I was struggling with over control, two tensions I was holding very tightly to: One, the situation with my father, the other situation with a friend in China I was very worried about. Both of which I had almost no control over, both of which became fused in me and in the project. I was doing a lot of thinking by painting.” Ramadan Watercolors“Like a Kind of Medicine” Though not a Muslim, Luke fasted and observed the other tenets of Ramadan while painting. Says Luke: “It’s no accident that I was doing this during Ramadan. I don’t know a lot about Islam, my understanding is evolving. The act of submission was the idea I was repeating in my head. This isn’t necessarily going to look good. The time constraint was another element: I’m going to do one painting a day. Some of the paintings aren’t going to get done. You can see pencil on some of the places where I didn't actually get to painting because it took me so long, I had to move onto the next one.”  Ramadan Watercolors“Farms outside of Hotan” The last piece of the project fell into place during a phone call with fellow Dragons instructor Kawsar Muktar—a Uyghur woman from Kashgar—during which they discussed parallels between Uyghurs and the Cajun ethnic group. Years of conversations with his bayou-born grandmother sparked an increasing interest in the history of the Cajun ethnic minority. Why, wondered Luke, when his grandmother’s first language had been French, did neither he nor his father speak a word of it?  After suffering targeted violence and forced removal from Maritime Canada beginning in 1755, the mostly Catholic, French-speaking Acadians (or ‘Cajuns’) were deported en masse to Britain, France, and various colonies. Many Cajuns later regrouped and settled in South Louisiana. Historian Shane K. Bernard explains how xenophobic policies associated with the Red Scare, World War I and II, and the Cold War pressured Cajuns to move to the city and assimilate into White Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority. It was during this time that many Cajuns, including Luke’s grandmother, stopped speaking French. Ramadan Watercolors“Please speak the common language”  And yet the Cajun identity didn’t disappear. “In the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s,” says Luke, “ there was this revival of Cajun as cool. Something on the verge of disappearing seemed to gain the public eye. Most of it was through music and food, commodifying those in a way. It became cool to go to New Orleans, Mardi Gras was super cool.” Although some Cajun activists are critical of this commercialized caricature of Cajun-ness, Luke suspects that without this revival, perhaps no Cajun tradition would have survived to reevaluate today.  Hein pauses before adding:  “There is a long tradition in China of talking about something that happened in a previous dynasty as an allegory, a veiled critique of something that is happening currently.” In its second year, the Ramadan watercolor project started to change shape from an intensely personal project to a collective endeavor. Luke explains that he had been reading on critical pedagogy and became convinced of the value of what Paulo Freire describes as a dialogic relationship a teacher or researcher forms with partners in a project. He began asking himself:  “How can I put more control of this project into other peoples’ hands?” The answer came once again from Kawsar Muhtar, now living in Paris with her husband and three-year-old daughter. Kawsar recounts: “My encounter with the Ramadan watercolor project actually started with Dragons (staff) orientation in 2016 when I met Luke Hein. I remember we had discussions about what was happening in my hometown. It felt very nice and connected to talk to someone who had been to (my hometown) before and understands the situation.” During the second year of the Ramadan watercolor project, Kawsar began collecting stories from Uyghurs from the Tarim Basin now living abroad, asking people to share old photos and the stories behind them. Stories and photos came flooding in from Germany, France, Sweden, Japan, the UK, and elsewhere. Ramadan Watercolors“Waiting at the Dress Shop” Kawsar translated the stories and Luke made paintings from the photos. Says Kawsar: “We want this project to draw people’s attention to the land currently being forgotten. Secondly, we want the diaspora community from [Tarim Basin] to share their beloved memories about their hometown and families, to let each other know that they are not alone, give each other strength and encourage each other to go through this difficult time together.” Ramadan Watercolors“Just a Road Near My Home” “Personally, it has been very difficult for me to accept the fact of not being able to contact my parents in any form at the beginning. Especially because it happened right after I gave birth to my daughter when I needed my parents so badly, I had tons of questions to ask from my parents, and tons of feelings I feel after being a mother that I need to tell my mom. I felt very angry for a long time, I cried a lot, it even led to a period of depression when my daughter was a few months old.  Now I am more at peace. When I receive those stories, I know that I am not the only person who lost contact and connection to their families. I think some people need this platform to express their feelings. It is very important.” Kawsar shares a recent message from a Uyghur girl living in Japan: 
Kawsar: Do you miss your father? The girl: If I saw his shadow, I would hug it.
Ramadan Watercolors“The Taste of Snow”
“For me,” adds Kawsar, “the most inspiring part of this project is that I got to talk to the Uyghur people all over the world, listen to their stories and feelings, and feel connected. 
After we started to post our invitation to collect photos and stories, a lot of people sent me their photos and told me about their memories. Some of them didn’t have any photos, but they told me the stories or the feelings which they miss the most. Luke did some paintings based on just those memories, which I think was incredible. A lot of people don't have any photos or memories to share, but they still write to me and express gratitude and say that they love to follow the stories and photos I post every day. One Uyghur lady who lives in Sweden sent me a poem she wrote after she saw our invitation.” Kawsar and Luke hope to continue the project in future years, both as a means of raising awareness about the lives of Uyghur people to an external audience, and as a way of fortifying Chinese Muslims in the diaspora through storytelling during their holiest month. Kawsar and Luke are actively enlisting help to translate the stories into multiple languages, and many of the stories have already been translated into  Indonesian by friend and colleague Umi Akhdadiyah. The pair also have plans to write a children’s book in the Uyghur language using Luke’s illustrations. Below you will find the aforementioned poem and Luke’s accompanying watercolor painting. It is the woman’s first poem.  

I Most Want

A poem on which the painting was based by a Kashgar native and mother of two boys now living in Sweden @miskin.kalip. Translated from Uyghur to Chinese by Kawsar Muhtar, and from Chinese to English by Luke Hein. Ramadan Watercolors I most want to gather the alfalfa clustering in the fields, to return home and make mouthwatering alfalfa dumplings. My eyebrows have become dry and rough; I want the moisture from the Osma grass to draw them into the shape of a heart.   My hair, like my very self, withers and becomes brittle. I most want to smear it with Persian olive, infusing a bit of nutrition, or, even more, I wish to hang against my mother’s bosom as when I was a child and let her to rub me with sheep oil while I absorb the sun.   I want to dress bright and beautiful, put on high heels, stalk the Old Town’s streets and alleys. I hope Kashgar’s rain soaks me through. I’d open my two hands and scream, allowing my tears to fall the way of the rain.   I most want, in the kitchen, before the holiday, to press close to my mother while we bake dumplings, fry pancakes, and meticulously prepare the holiday table. When I think that I was at my mother’s side and never once thanked her, I have ten thousand regrets and want to run off to slap this mouth of mine until it shatters.  
  Luke Hein is a freelance writer and experiential educator working in the PRC, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the US. Luke was raised in Auburn, Alabama AL after his Louisianan parents relocated there from Seattle in 1987. Home schooled until high school, Luke left Auburn ahead of schedule to spend his senior year in China in 2005. He has been returning there since, as a student, guide, researcher, traveler, and teacher. He's passionate about rural places, regions where boundaries blur, and the ingenious strategies people invent to contend with life's challenges. He writes and makes art at Instagram @vlfhein and has a recent article out on The News Lens International. You can hear an interview between Luke and his grandmother at a StoryCorps. Kawsar Muhtar grew up in Kashgar old city and received a Chinese language education until middle school. She worked as a language teacher, journalist, and editor in Urumqi, where she gained valuable experience with Uyghur media and literature. Kawsar continued her studies in London, where she researched the role of mass media in social construction, representation, and understanding of difference and social diversity. After her studies, she worked as a Dragons instructor in China. She now lives in Paris as a part-time editor and an almost full-time mom.  
PS. WANT DRAGONS BLOG UPDATES SENT DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX? ONE EMAIL A WEEK. NOTHING MARKETY. UNSUBSCRIBE ANY TIME. SUBSCRIBE TO DRAGONS BLOG AND STAY CONNECTED TO THE COMMUNITY. ❤️
[post_title] => Ramadan Watercolors Project: Sharing Stories from the Uyghur Diaspora [post_excerpt] => We caught up with Dragons instructors Luke Hein and Kawsar Muhtar to learn more about their art-based project to tell stories from Uyghur people around the world during Ramadan. Every day during the month of Ramadan for the past two years, Luke Hein makes a watercolor painting and posts it on his Instagram handle, vlfhein. The paintings are renditions of photographs and stories gathered in the Tarim Basin area of western China, and they showcase vignettes of life there: Kashgari pottery, desert landscapes, clay tonur (i.e., tandoor) ovens, street scenes, mosques, and buildings decorated with intricate and colorful mosaics. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => ramadan-watercolors-project-sharing-stories-from-the-uyghur-diaspora [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-11-10 19:53:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-11-11 02:53:49 [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] => 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] => 78 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 78 [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] => 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] => 50 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 50 [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] => 640 [name] => Dragons Instructors [slug] => dragons_instructors [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 640 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [parent] => 0 [count] => 36 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 36 [category_description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [cat_name] => Dragons Instructors [category_nicename] => dragons_instructors [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] => 15 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 15 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Global Community ... )
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    [ID] => 157103
    [post_author] => 1530
    [post_date] => 2020-06-12 10:18:08
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-12 16:18:08
    [post_content] => 

Julianne Chandler, Dragons Latin America Program Director, shares how a community is undeterred in their endless commitment to each other...

It’s Friday morning and I’m up early, the crisp early winter cold biting through the mountain air.  Only in the Andes can you awake to frost on the grass and find yourself battling blistering rays of sunlight by 11 am, with temperatures jumping over 40 degrees F in a few hours.  I sneak out of my gate before the kids are awake, stuffing my hand-sewn mask into a pocket as I roll my rusted old cruiser onto the dirt road.  I’m still taken by the striking calm that fills the air in the absence of motor vehicles, and our little road is deserted save for a flock of sheep as I head towards the main avenue.  When I reach the corner I pause to take in the morning stillness, and my gaze stretches into a horizon that is crisper than ever before: Tiquipayaya lays spread out below, a patchwork of urban sprawl interspersed by large expanses of agricultural fields that predominate farther to the west.  To the southeast the city of Cochabamba takes shape, crowned by Cristo de la Concordia, allegedly the largest christ statue in the world.  In the far distance I can even make out the lomas of the Zona Sur, Cochabamba’s sprawling working class sector, where trouble is brewing.  Bumping down the Montecillo hillside I pass neighbors and families making their way home by foot, their weekly provisions in tow.  Technically only one adult member of each family is permitted to leave the house each week, for a 4-hour window designated according to your national ID number, but I see couples and mothers toting children on their backs, stopping to eat a salteña or sip a glass of mocochinchi on the side of the road.  
I am reassured by these simple acts of normalcy in the midst of pandemic, by small gestures of disobedience in our little Bolivian town.  
I find it uncomfortable to ride with my mask, but slip it over my face as the cobblestone gives way to potholes and clouds of dirt, the abandoned remnants of a paving project that was paused way back in September, just before national elections threw the country into its last crisis. In Bolivia, there are layers to our state of emergency, one overshadowing the next until you can't tell where one was left off and the other begins.  As I roll into downtown Tiquipaya I find the streets lively but also eerily quiet.  Lines snake their way out of shops with some semblance of social distancing, and a truckload of military men look serious but a bit aimless on the corner of Pablo Jaimes and Avenida Reducto.  I know that in some communities thought to be “undisciplined,” such as the Zona Sur, the security presence is not so passive.  They stare down the loan gringa as my bike squeaks past, but fortunately don’t ask to see my ID;  it’s not my designated day and I’m breaking quarantine regulations by being out of the house. In some pockets of the country protests are stirring as we head into month three of draconian quarantine measures, and images on the news show violent repression by members of the armed forces in K’ara K’ara, El Alto, Yapacaní.   In a country with the largest informal economy in the world, people are starting to go hungry and need to work to survive.   On Avenida Cochabamba I slip into the ATM amidst a line that stretches three city blocks all the way to the central plaza.  People are seated on lawn chairs and perched on the curb at a scattered distance from one another, peering out over masked faces as they wait to collect a measly government bonus of 500 Bs. (less than $75).  In El Alto there are reports of people spending all night in line to retrieve their bonus, wrapped in blankets to protect against the biting cold at 13,000 feet.  These are our elderly, our sick, our most vulnerable.  Our transition president Jeanine Añez, who increasingly governs as if she has actually been elected for office, likes to group these people in with the “undisciplined” protesters, as if reprimanding children for staying up past their bedtime.  Lately language of “obedience” and “discipline” are pervasive in the news and incessant TV propaganda, revealing coming from a regime that has no legitimate claim to office.  Under Añez’s newest decree, you can be imprisoned for spreading “disinformation” - even in the form of art - as a threat against public health. If only the same enthusiasm were being directed to testing and medical supplies.  Coming out of the ATM I recognize the eyes of a friend on the corner donning a colorful mask, and we both light up in recognition.  Facing each other we pause and hesitate under the watchful stare of the police, and then both decide in the same moment to embrace each other because we haven’t been able to properly greet a friend in weeks.  Our kids are in the same class at Kusi, and we lament the fact that they haven’t been out of the house in more than 60 days. Caro gives me a squeeze on the shoulder as I jump back on the cruiser, and my heart shines a bit brighter as I head for the countryside.   I reach the shaded bench across from Hotel Regina 10 minutes early but see that Valentina and two of our homestay mamas are already there.  I embrace Doña Leti instantly because she’s like family, but Doña Pilar is nervous about being out of the house and we greet each other at a distance. 
Instantly we are laughing and exchanging community gossip, and we are all wrapped up in the absolute joy and simplicity of sitting on a bench with women friends. 
Doña Pilar tells us about the recent loss of her corn crop, her primary source of income this time of year, which collapsed after the abrupt end of the rainy season.  Soon Paola and her mother Doña Elsa join us as well, with stories about the grandchildren and farm animals and how they’re faring without the essential weekly income they bring in selling chicharrón in the cancha every weekend. Leti is the last to join us, who came from Villa Oruro by foot with the news that her uncle passed away the day before, leaving 9 young children orphaned on the altiplano outside of La Paz (his death was not COVID-related).  Her parents, Doña Carlota and Don Abdon, had rushed to La Paz in the cover of night, risking bribes or fines or worse at security checkpoints, to reach a mourning family in need that could not be accessed by Bolivia’s precarious medical system.   Bolivia Dragons Fund Community Relief Fund Before bidding farewell to our Collpapampa neighborhood families, Valentina and I hand over the modest donation from Dragons that had brought us together.  We explain that while we won’t be able to receive students for an indefinite future, Dragons has started a fund to support our key host communities during this time of uncertainty and economic scarcity.  They are deeply moved that Dragons has thought of them, and share with us what they’ll be able to do for their families with this support: a quintal de arroz (220 pounds of rice), much needed medication, stores of potatoes, flour, cooking oil, beans, and other staples to weather the certain precarity ahead.  Jumping back on our bikes, Valentina and I continue on to visit the homes of other families.  As we ride through open fields and down tree-lined lanes, I am again taken by the sweet liberty of this moment, another small act of rebellion in a time of masks and security checkpoints and social distancing enforced for some at gunpoint.  Nearly 10 years have gone by since Valentina and I walked these same roads together for the first time, stopping in at the homes of farmer families and single mamas and Aymara weavers to gauge their thoughts on receiving young Dragons students into their homes.  They were so shy and skeptical at first, with young children peeking out wide-eyed from pleated skirts at the idea of a gringita or gringito sharing their homes. “But here, in the campo, where we have dirt floors and chickens roam free?  Why would an American student want to live here?”  And why not here, Valentina exclaimed, with the authority of someone who raised her sons free on these same country roads. 
Here where we mark our days by the agricultural cycle, where the sweet cadence of Quechua hangs in the air, where the protective gaze of Mt. Tunari peers down at us from a height of 16,400 feet along the eastern flank of the longest mountain chain on earth.  
Those children who peered up at me all those years ago are grown up now.  They’re studying medicine at the public university or working at factories or helping in the fields.  These women have been there through my pregnancies, they grew the flowers at my wedding, their younger kids climb trees and play hide and seek with my own daughter on the program house farm.  By now they have received countless Dragons hijitas y hijitos into their homes, encouraging their Spanish, nursing their illnesses, laughing across seemingly impossible distances - cultural, economic, spiritual - that fall away in an adobe kitchen over a warm meal.    Riding past the Program House farm, we make our way to the farming communities of Apote and Totorkawa.  Doña Marta lets out her deep and infectious laugh when we appear at her store front, beaming as she tells us about her granddaughter who is still managing to bring income in for the family at a meat factory as the public health crisis unfolds. She complains that her braids are untidy when I ask for a photo, and gives me a firm hug when we head on our way.  Doña Marta has seen plenty of other crises unfold, she has survived dictatorships and the loss of children, and she’s unphased by COVID-19.  We’ll get through this, she says, que mas podemos hacer pues? Bolivia Dragons Fund Community Relief Fund Heading further down the road we stop at the homes of Sandra, Doña Eugenia, Susana, Doña Mari and her sister María.  They invite us in, offer tea and mandarinas and fresh pacay from the tree.  They share stories of past students and inquire about our kids and send their surprised and dignified thanks for the support more with their eyes and gestures than with their words.   Bolivia Dragons Fund Community Relief Fund All of these families depend on informal labor to make a living, much like most Bolivians. They sell produce and hot meals at the weekly farmer’s market, they are gardeners and carpenters and gifted weavers.  They run dental offices out of their homes, and serve as local leaders in neighborhood associations. They look out for each other, just as they worry when students aren’t home as night falls on Tiquipaya. Last fall they saw their sources of income run dry after the political crisis took hold, when a predominately middle and upper class popular uprising paralyzed the country for 21 days.  Bolivia was still contending with the effects of political turmoil when the public health emergency descended, snaking its way into corrupt political systems and the embers of recent massacres and the halls of deficient medical centers.  Now our homestay mamas face the loss of Dragons income as well, which has provided a steady supplement to their income these past years.    I ride up the hillside back to Montecillo just before curfew kicks in at noon, and am filled to the brim with the presence of these strong women, laughter in their eyes as they face increasingly tenuous circumstances.
Without their generosity, their kindness, their patience, the work we do of connecting young people to a landscape and slice of life different from the one they’ve always known would not be possible. 
A donation from the Dragons fund will provide a small boost to their livelihoods in the coming weeks, but we will never be able to repay them properly for what they’ve offered us all these years.  How can you even start to place value on the memories, the stories, the intimate folds of their lives that they’ve shared with our students? I’ve been in this work for a long time and honor the effort that Where There Be Dragons has made to extend support to our host communities in a time of global crisis. In my years as an international educator, I have never come across another organization that seeks opportunities for extended homestays in communities like Tiquipaya or El Alto, locations that would not be on the radar for your average traveler.  International travel programming is rife with inequities, both in terms of access to a carefully crafted intercultural experience, but also with regard to recipient communities and the many layers of power and privilege that subtly or overtly shape the exchange.  As the travel industry faces an unprecedented global crisis, I am grateful that Dragons has paused to acknowledge the disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities and populations around the world.  As far as I know, no other student travel organizations are directing fundraising efforts directly to communities in need.   Bolivia Dragons Fund Community Relief Fund When I slip back into my gate, my girls are frantic to see me and I realize it’s the longest time we’ve been apart in two months.  Inara is eager to hear all about Tía Vale and the mamas I’ve visited, and I wrap my arms around my daughters who have not left our land since March.  As I get back to work that afternoon, there’s an update from Ana on the community grant we’ve sent to her in El Alto.  “Lxs chicxs are mobilizing” she says, talking to me from the front lines of Jeanine Añez’s assault on Bolivia’s indigenous and poor.  “The situation is serious.”  They are militarizing El Alto and residents have to get more creative about transporting emergency provisions to the families that have been hardest hit on the barren fringes of the city. 
'They have created human chains to transport goods by foot to more remote areas,' she explains. 
“Lxs chicxs” -  referring to the youth activists and artists that make up Teatro Trono, one of our strongest partner organizations -  take turns moving goods on their designated days as the security presence closes in.  “We have three brigades getting supplies to the wounded in Senkata, to distrito 11, to families in more remote neighborhoods.”  My heart chills at the mention of Senkata,  the site of a government-orchestrated massacre that left 9 people dead and dozens wounded in November of last year.   “We’re calling it the Cadena de Abrazos que Alimentan.”  The chain of hugs that feeds…    

Dragons Fund is a program of the COMMON Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax-deductible as permitted by U.S. tax law.

 
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[post_title] => A Chain of Hugs That Feeds—Dragons Community Relief Fund in Action [post_excerpt] => Residents have to get more creative about transporting emergency provisions to the families that have been hardest hit on the barren fringes of the city. They have created human chains to transport goods by foot to more remote areas. “Lxs chicxs” - referring to the youth activists and artists that make up Teatro Trono, one of our strongest partner organizations - take turns moving goods on their designated days. We’re calling it the Cadena de Abrazos que Alimentan.” The chain of hugs that feeds… [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => a-chain-of-hugs-that-feeds-dragons-community-relief-fund-in-action [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-27 09:00:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-27 15:00:35 [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] => 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] => 78 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 78 [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] => 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] => 50 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 50 [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] => 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] => 53 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 53 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [cat_name] => About Dragons [category_nicename] => about_dragons [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] => 15 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 15 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Global Community ... )
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    [ID] => 156908
    [post_author] => 1530
    [post_date] => 2020-06-03 14:31:50
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-03 20:31:50
    [post_content] => Dear Dragons Community,

On Monday, May 25th—Memorial Day—George Floyd was murdered under the knee of a Minnesota police officer. In a country already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, Floyd’s death compounded the pain of another open wound: the wound of American racism, an infection that has festered for 400 years. It oozes hatred and rage and violence. It blinds so many to the full, sacred humanity of Blackness.

We write to you today to fight that infection. We know that Black Lives Matter. And in the words of instructor Caleb Brooks, “we know that George mattered, that he was imbued with the life force that every poet and theologian and artist and shaman has lived and died trying to translate into the broken languages by which we express our love and also our hate.”

We write to grieve with you, and to join hands with you against the systems that killed George Floyd.

We condemn the racist policies, white supremacy, and police brutality that killed George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and innumerable others. White people and white-run organizations must actively work against the legacies of white supremacy, racism, settler colonialism, patriarchy and structural inequality upon which this country was built and that pervade the lives of Black and Brown people in the US every day.  

As an administrative team, we regret that it has taken us until now to make this statement publicly. We acknowledge that we benefit from these heinous legacies and have a responsibility to dismantle them. Our mission to build a just and equitable world requires sustained anti-racist action. We stand in solidarity with those demanding racial justice. We invite you, our community, to join us in the movement for sustainable transformation. 

Today, Dragons donated to Black Lives Matter 5280, a small organization on the front lines of the protest in Denver, near our headquarters. You can find more organizations to which our staff are donating, and more ways to get educated and involved below.

The work of liberation is hard and at times may feel impossible. But, to echo James Baldwin, “in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand.”

In solidarity, 

The Where There Be Dragons Administrative Team

 

RESOURCES TO GET EDUCATED AND INVOLVED

Thank you to Black-led activists who have created these resources, which we have pulled from various locations. 

READ

We encourage you to purchase your books from black-owned and African American-focused bookstores. You can find a list here
  • ain’t i a woman by bell hooks
  • Ally Resource Guide
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 
  • Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins
  • Black Lives Matter Syllabus 
  • Choke Hold by Paul Butler
  • Divided Sisters by Midge Wilson and Kathy Russell
  • Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper 
  • Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall 
  • How to be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
  • How We Get Free edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor 
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson 
  • Me and White Supremacy: Combat White Supremacy, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad
  • Native Son by Richard Wright 
  • POC Online Classroom  
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde 
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • Stamped from the Beginning by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi 
  • The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein 
  • The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherríe Moraga
  • What to do Instead of Calling the Police 
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Kahn-Cullors & asha bandele
  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo 
  • Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect edited by Joe Macaré, Maya Schenwar, and Alana Yu-lan Price
  • Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis 

LISTEN

WATCH

  • 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
  • American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
  • BlacKKKlansman (Spike Lee) — HBO
  • Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
  • Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada) — HBO
  • Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
  • Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
  • Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
  • I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
  • Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to watch FREE for the month of June
  • King In The Wilderness  — HBO
  • Rachel Cargle’s Address on the Revolution 
  • See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
  • Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
  • Systematic Racism Explained
  • Tamika Mallory’s Speech on George Floyd Protests
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
  • The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
  • When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix

DONATE

GET INVOLVED

  • #AmplifyMelanatedVoices when sharing content
  • Click for a pre-made email draft to demand justice for Breonna Taylor
  • Click for a pre-made email draft to demand justice for George Floyd
  • Click for a pre-made email draft to demand justice for James Scurlock
  • Click for a pre-made email draft to demand justice for Tony McDade
  • CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TO VOTE
  • Get involved with your local government to end police brutality 
  • Join Local Black Lives Matter Chapters
  • Join Local allyship organizations such as SURJ

SUPPORT/FOLLOW

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[post_title] => Solidarity + Resources For Racial Justice [post_excerpt] => We condemn the racist policies, white supremacy, and police brutality that killed George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and innumerable others. White people and white-run organizations must actively work against the legacies of white supremacy, racism, settler colonialism, patriarchy and structural inequality upon which this country was built and that pervade the lives of Black and Brown people in the US every day.   [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => solidarity-resources-for-racial-justice [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-09 12:59:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-09 18:59:19 [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] => 53 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 53 [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] => 670 [name] => Recommended [slug] => recommended [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 670 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [parent] => 0 [count] => 18 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 11 [cat_ID] => 670 [category_count] => 18 [category_description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [cat_name] => Recommended [category_nicename] => recommended [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/recommended/ ) [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] => 60 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 60 [category_description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [cat_name] => Announcements [category_nicename] => announcements [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] => 15 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 15 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => About Dragons, Recommended ... )
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