Photo by Abrie Brutsche.

Posts Tagged:

Advocacy

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    [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] => 2019-08-15 12:18:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-15 18:18:53 [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] => 19 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 19 [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 ... )
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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-07-11 13:17:26
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-07-11 19:17:26
    [post_content] => Dear Friends,

Recently one of our dear friends and colleagues, Iván Nogales, passed away unexpectedly. Ivan was a true visionary, bringing theater and the arts to countless young people across Bolivia and beyond. 



Over the years, dozens of Dragons groups have passed through El Alto and collaborated with Teatro Trono in one form or another. If you had the unique opportunity of visiting this inspiring space and getting to know Trono through Dragons, please consider sharing a donation to keep this space open and accessible to others. These kinds of community partnerships are at the heart of what we do, and now we are called upon to give back to one of our core communities in Bolivia. This is what reciprocity, or Ayni, looks like!
Every donation, small or large, counts. Please consider contributing to our campaign to help keep Iván's legacy alive. ¡Que viva Teatro Trono!
My deepest gratitude to all who are called and able to contribute and help spread the word. ¡Jallala Teatro Trono! ¡Jallalla Iván! Sincerely,

From the GoFundMe Page:

"Iván Nogales was the founder of Teatro Trono and COMPA (Comunidad de Productores en los Artes) in El Alto, Bolivia, two initiatives that work to bring about social change through the arts and theater.  Teatro Trono has touched the lives of countless young people, families, international students and visitors, and people around the world who believe in the transformational potential of artistic expression in all its forms.

We are launching a campaign in solidarity with the Trono community so that Iván's work and vision can live on.  Teatro Trono provides workshops and community projects for low-incomes populations in La Paz and El Alto who otherwise would never have access to  artistic outlets, including theater, music, dance, film and radio, and so much more.  Trono runs two cultural centers in El Alto, poetic spaces built on the fringes of El Alto through decades of creativity, love, collective action, and recycled materials.  Teatro Trono now finds itself in a moment of profound loss and restoration after Iván's passing, and needs our support in keeping Iván's vision alive."

Learn More or Donate to the ¡Viva Teatro Trono! In Loving Memory of Iván Project

[post_title] => Dragons Community Fundraiser: ¡Viva Teatro Trono! In Loving Memory of Iván [post_excerpt] => Over the years, dozens of Dragons groups have collaborated with Teatro Trono. If you had the unique opportunity of visiting, please consider sharing a donation to keep this space accessible to others... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dragons-community-fundraiser-viva-teatro-trono-in-loving-memory-of-ivan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-17 13:57:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-17 19:57:22 [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] => 669 [name] => Engage [slug] => engage [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 669 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. [parent] => 0 [count] => 13 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 13 [cat_ID] => 669 [category_count] => 13 [category_description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. [cat_name] => Engage [category_nicename] => engage [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/engage/ ) [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] => Global Community, Engage ... )
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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-05-23 10:07:21
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-23 16:07:21
    [post_content] => 
We hope you have, by now, heard that Dragons created a Community Grant Fund last year? It's an effort to give back to our some of our incredible community partners and is financially supported by under-budget funds from student programming. Grants range from $500-$5,000 per applicant and we're currently seeking grant applications! If you're a member of Dragons community and have a great organization or initiative that could use financial support, please take a look at our applications details and guidelines!  We'd love to hear from you.
Sincerely,
Dragons HQ
[post_title] => Seeking Applications for Dragons Community Grants! [post_excerpt] => We hope you have, by now, heard that Dragons created a Community Grant Fund last year? It's an effort to give back to our some of our incredible community partners and is financially supported by under-budget funds from student programming.Grants range from $500-$5,000 per applicant and we're currently seeking grant applications! [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => seeking-applications-for-dragons-community-grants [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-30 12:58:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-30 18:58:43 [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] => 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] => Global Community, Announcements )
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    [post_date] => 2018-12-05 15:37:41
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-05 22:37:41
    [post_content] =>  


This week we are giving away 5 FREE Learning Service books written by star alum Dragons instructors Daniela Papi-Thornton and Claire Bennett on Instagram.

To enter the contest, go to Dragons Instagram Feed: 1. ❤️ this post (pictured right) 2. Follow Dragons on Instagram That’s it! We’ll randomly pick names of those entered (via both steps above) and announce the winners on Monday December 10th! Learning Service answers tough questions like: What does it mean to serve? Who benefits? How do you do more good than harm? For those engaged in service and volunteer work, it’s a must-read. [post_title] => Learning Service Book Giveaway on Instagram [post_excerpt] => This week we are giving away 5 FREE Learning Service books written by star alum Dragons instructors Daniela Papi-Thornton and Claire Bennett on Instagram. Read on for details on how to enter the contest... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => learning-service-book-giveaway-on-instagram [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-05 15:42:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-05 22:42:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 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] => 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] => 23 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 23 [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 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons_instructors/ ) [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, Dragons Instructors ... )
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    [ID] => 153974
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-11-29 12:43:44
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-29 19:43:44
    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_153975" align="alignnone" width="1080"] Photo by Christy Sommers, Madagascar Summer Program.[/caption]

 

ESSAY BY MICAH LeMASTERS

Follow the trade winds southwest out of Indonesia, keeping the Indian subcontinent to starboard, and you will eventually find Madagascar, adrift, at the edge of the Indian Ocean. It floats alone, a dust-red crescent moon, stretching nearly a thousand miles from north to south. Traveling from the central highlands to the coast, one is never quite sure whether the massive island is drifting slowly westward toward Mozambique or slipping slowly south and away from the great African continent. It is known for its astonishing endemic flora and fauna and, of course, as the only place on earth where lemurs live in their natural state.
If you want to travel to Madagascar to “save the lemurs” then you should have come 20 years ago.
If you know anything about Madagascar, it probably has something to do with the eponymous animated film series or, more likely, the lemurs—the most endangered primates on the planet and the principle force driving the Malagasy tourism industry. The situation for these prosimians is so dire that scientists estimate up to ninety percent of the population could face extinction within the next 20 to 25 years. If you want to travel to Madagascar to “save the lemurs” then you should have come 20 years ago. Madagascar has a single digit percentage of its original forest left and that number is shrinking by the day. Generating tourism dollars or publishing spectacular photographs may buy lemurs some time, but it won’t prevent their extinction. The challenge is much greater than a marketing campaign can solve. In order to stave off extinction, Madagascar—a country with a per capita income around $450 dollars, approximately 30 percent less than North Korea—needs to provide viable alternatives to impoverished farmers who have few options to generate a meager subsistence other than clear-cutting forest timber to sell as charcoal.
Unless significant and strong action is taken to stem the upsurge in unsustainable and illegal logging and exploitation of other natural resources, the ultimate risk may be irreversible loss of forest and biodiversity for Madagascar.
According to USAID, “The illegal export of...threatened and endangered species that are found nowhere else on earth will result in the loss of globally renowned biodiversity. Unless significant and strong action is taken to stem the upsurge in unsustainable and illegal logging and exploitation of other natural resources, the ultimate risk may be irreversible loss of forest and biodiversity for Madagascar.” Although Madagascar is listed as the seventh poorest country in the world, the travel and tourism sector contributed $1.16 billion to the economy in 2014, one-sixth of the country’s revenues. Tourism isn’t suffering from a dearth of funds, the people of Madagascar are. The problem is economic inequality. According to the World Bank, 99 percent of Madagascar’s population lives on less than four dollars a day. Poor policy has led to mass poverty, and the resultant desperation has led to the destruction of critical ecosystems.
Tourism isn’t suffering from a dearth of funds, the people of Madagascar are. The problem is economic inequality.
A small cadre of both amateur and professional scientists and intrepid explorers spend thousands of dollars to travel across continents to see the few remaining lemurs that still live free and wild in the dwindling forests of the Red Island. These people touch down in the dense, polluted air of Antananarivo clad in adventure-grade pants, floppy-brimmed hats and vests made to hold rolls of film no one has carried in years. They are whisked from the tiny airport in air-conditioned 4x4 trucks and set off on a small predictable loop that takes them to the few well-known spots where they stand a reasonable chance of seeing what they came to see.
A person traveling to Madagascar for the sole purpose of seeing a lemur runs the risk of missing an incredible number of amazing things
A person traveling to Madagascar for the sole purpose of seeing a lemur runs the risk of missing an incredible number of amazing things that can’t be found in the dwindling forests. They will miss the inviting smell of rice cakes cooking in an early morning market. They will miss the singsong of an excited seller loading unsold bread at the end of a long day or the choke and cough of an ancient taxi running out of fuel on a steep hill. They will miss the way the sun slides across a terraced rice paddy as a day quietly  ends. They will miss the warm embrace of a sincere handshake. They will miss the taste of too much sugar and condensed milk in the tiny cups of coffee sold on the back streets of Antananarivo. They will miss the heavenly taste of freshly fried bananas. They will miss long afternoons chewing sugarcane under the shade of a small tree. They will miss the loom of ancient baobabs in the distance. They will miss the warmth of burnt-rice tea. They will miss the excited laughter of children racing water carts down the dirt-and-stone roads of some forgotten highland village. They will miss the scent of saltwater and the sound of a traveler’s palm bending in the breeze. They will, almost undoubtedly, miss the actual essence of what it is to be someplace as preternatural and wondrous as Madagascar. The problem is that Madagascar’s chances to attract attention, international aid and tourism dwindle with each passing year, and each year fewer lemurs remain in their natural habitat. Sadly, most people who make it to Madagascar end up missing the real beauty of the place. And in missing the beauty, they miss an opportunity to learn about and draw attention to the conditions and factors that are perpetuating irreversible harm to the fragile ecosystems that support the last remaining lemur populations. What the tourist or scientist misses on the preordained journey is tragic because it neglects the human factor. To neglect the human factor is to ignore the agent singularly responsible for the extinction of the lemurs.
To neglect the human factor is to ignore the agent singularly responsible for the extinction of the lemurs.
Madagascar, like so many countries in the world, is infinitely more important and fantastic than we think. As Westerners, we tend to push our own values and expectations onto the places where we travel, and because of this we tend to build a very narrow and unstable idea of what a country should be and what it should offer us. Long before we board the plane, we tend to decide what an experience should look and feel like. We imagine photographs of dirt-stained farmers and coy children half-hidden behind open doorways. It is unfair and unsafe to allow a place as unique and beautiful as Madagascar to be pigeonholed as some sort of tropical bazaar or uncanny nature park. It is home to around twenty-five million of the most welcoming and compassionate people on the planet. People that will, without fail, invite you into their homes to share whatever they have (although often they have next to nothing) with you. A few months back I was traveling from the capital city of Antananarivo to Lac Aloatra, about 250 kilometers away. A friend of mine heard I was going that way and came over to ask if I would get her a couple of fish from the lake and bring them back for her. In making the request she held up her right arm, bent at the elbow like a Hula dancer, to indicate that she wanted a fish at least as big as the distance from her elbow to the tips of her fingers. I agreed to keep an eye out for some nice fish and bring them back for her. While I wasn’t crazy about the idea of hauling any number of fish 15 hours from Ambatodranzaka to Antananarivo without a cooler or ice, I did wander through a couple of fish markets just to see what was available and maybe snap a picture that could serve as a surrogate gift. I immediately noticed a lack of fish and when I asked around I quickly found that the lake had been drying up at an alarming rate and that huge parts of what used to be open, fresh water, were now just a mixture of muck and silt run-off from the deforested hillsides. My friend, who lives just a few hundred kilometers away, had no idea that what once was Madagascar’s biggest freshwater lake and the center of what was referred to as Madagascar’s “rice bowl” is but a glimmer of what it used to be. Similar stories can be told of the beautiful remnants of forest that streak down the eastern coast of the island and the bizarre and unique moonscapes of the western deserts. Madagascar’s unique beauty is slipping away and not many people seem to be noticing. If you ask a Malagasy person what is unique about their country, they will tell you about their beautiful forests and their lemurs. They are proud of those things and rightfully so. However, Madagascar is losing huge amounts of forest every year, most lemur species are near extinction and too few realize it. One of the best things that can be done for the lemurs and forests of Madagascar is to create space and opportunities for people to truly understand and appreciate all of what the island has to offer and not just the few things that we expect it to provide for us.
One of the best things that can be done for the lemurs and forests of Madagascar is to create space and opportunities for people to truly understand and appreciate all of what the island has to offer
Frankly, there is more at stake in Madagascar than the prolonged existence of the lemurs. Madagascar, like a ship caught in a storm, wildly sliding down the face of a churning wave, is jettisoning its last few precious resources in hopes of keeping her bow pointed into the wind and sea. Madagascar, an island in distress, is frantically holding on, tossing endangered species and precious hardwoods overboard in desperation, because there seems to be no other way to stay afloat.  
MICAH LeMASTERS is a former Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar and led the first Dragons summer course in Madagascar. He graduated from IU with an MA in Education. Read more about Micah.
[post_title] => Don't Save the Lemurs. The challenge in Madagascar is much greater. [post_excerpt] => "As Westerners, we tend to push our own values and expectations onto the places where we travel, and because of this we tend to build a very narrow and unstable idea of what a country should be [...] Madagascar, like so many countries in the world, is infinitely more important and fantastic than we think." READ MORE... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dont-save-the-lemurs-the-challenge-in-madagascar-is-much-greater [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-10 12:48:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-10 19:48:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 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] => 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] => 19 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 19 [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/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, The Dragons Journal )
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    [post_date] => 2018-09-24 10:46:44
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One of our dear friends and a longtime Dragons instructor, Gina Collignon, has started a campaign to help bring our friend Sandy Pinto, one of our Bolivia instructors and a well-known Afro-Bolivian activist and organizer, to Honduras as part of a delegation supporting human rights, feminist initiatives, and awareness-raising surrounding violence against women under the Honduran dictatorship and in the wider region: Building Bridges of Solidarity. This effort is part of an initiative to help make these delegations availability to a wider demographic, specifically supporting women of color from the Global South to be part of these kinds of delegations.  As Gina writes:
I am part of an amazing community of people who understand the power of travel. What can happen when we use that power not just for our own personal growth, but to also grow connections between amazing organizers who might not otherwise have the chance to meet? I would love to find out.
Please consider contributing to this cause, even a small sum can go a long way!
[post_title] => Supporting Bridges of Solidarity between Bolivia and Honduras [post_excerpt] => A longtime Dragons instructor, Gina Collignon, has started a campaign to help bring our friend Sandy Pinto, a well-known Afro-Bolivian activist and organizer, to Honduras as part of a delegation supporting human rights, feminist initiatives, and awareness-raising surrounding violence against women... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => supporting-bridges-of-solidarity-between-bolivia-and-honduras [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-24 10:57:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-24 16:57:04 [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] => 669 [name] => Engage [slug] => engage [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 669 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. [parent] => 0 [count] => 13 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 13 [cat_ID] => 669 [category_count] => 13 [category_description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. [cat_name] => Engage [category_nicename] => engage [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/engage/ ) [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] => Engage, Announcements )
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