Photo by Abrie Brutsche.

Posts Tagged:

Advocacy

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 156516
    [post_author] => 1530
    [post_date] => 2020-03-11 10:04:38
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-03-11 16:04:38
    [post_content] =>  

We are filled with gratitude and excitement about announcing our first-ever U.S. based Dragons course. Introducing the Payahuunadü Nüümü Indigenous Nations Program, a 12-day course for Dragons and Nüümü students in California. 

This summer, eight Dragons students, ages 18-24, and four local Nüümü (Paiute) youth will learn together about Indigenous work to regain sovereignty over food, land, and water in Payahuunadü (Owens Valley, California). With a strong emphasis on developing tools for allyship, advocacy, and skills for social and environmental justice work, students will dive into topics like how to create good relations with the earth and human communities, Indigenous sovereignty over water, land, food and governance systems, and what decolonization would actually mean.

Meet our brilliant course designers:

KRIS HOHAG

Kris Hohag is an educator, artist and native of the Owens Valley.
Raised in Bishop as a citizen of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, Kris received his Bachelors degree in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine and his Master’s in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Washington. His work has focused on language revitalization, youth leadership development, outdoor education and building bridges between diverse cultures to unite over our common love of water and land.
A University and Rez-educated scholar and organizer, he initially built a solid reputation by working as a teacher in local schools and mentoring at-risk youth in Southern California, the Pacific Northwest and the Eastern Sierra. Over time and by example, he has proven to be an influential community voice while honing his chops as an entrepreneur and artist. Kris has worked with every tribal organization on his reservation serving Indian people across such central topics as education, economic development, language and culture, healthcare, and governance. He served a two year term on the Bishop Paiute Tribal Council, acting as Vice Chairman during 2014-2015. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for the local clinic in his community, Toiyabe Indian Health Project, as well as a rep for the statewide California Rural Indian Health Board. Several key projects he spearheaded or played a vital role in locally include the Bishop Tribal Youth Council; the Bishop Paiute Tribe’s Community Radio Station: KBPT 96.1 LPFM; the Eastern Sierra Writing Circle and Collective Language, a youth-oriented, monthly open mic and live show to build community and showcase local talent at the Wunut Novi Youth Media Arts Center. He is a founding member of the Payahuunadü Alliance, a grassroots family of stewards comprised of diverse voices united around a great love for the lands east of the Sierras known as Payahuunadü.

KINSINTA JOSEPH

Kinsinta Joseph is the daughter of Patricia and Tom Joseph who met during the Klamath River Fish Wars of the late 1970’s. Her mother is Hupa (Na:tinixwe’) and Karuk from the Klamath and Trinity Rivers in Northern California. Her father is Nuumu and Newe from Pa’ha Gwae, the southern part of Payahuunadü (Owens Valley, CA). As a youth, she traveled across Native country with her parents and nine siblings, learning the importance of nation building. She grew up participating in social justice movements, spending much time at the state capitol trying to persuade the Governor’s office to restore the rivers, advocating humane policies towards our immigrant relatives and helping raise awareness of police brutality. Her family founded California Kitchen at Standing Rock, a movement to bring attention to the destruction that fossil fuels is admitting to the Earth. California Kitchen was organized to feed and house people through the cold winter. Kinsinta is the founder of PayaHupaWay, a Native Jewelry brand focusing on cultural activities such as gathering basket materials, reminding us of our connection to help restore the land. Payahupaway promotes a lifestyle grounded in songs and prayers that is reflective of her ancestral teachings. Kinsinta most importantly is a mother and a partner to a Nuumü man. They have been working on curriculum that prioritizes Nuumu Yadoha (Paiute Language) and Traditional Ecological Knowledge so that their daughter and future generations of Nuumü Youth have the opportunity to learn what is relevant to them, the community, and the Land. She is a founding member of the Payahuunadü Alliance, an indigenous-led grassroots team of stewards united around a great love for Payahuunadü.

CHARIS BOKE

B.A. English, Mills College; M.A. Social Sciences, University of Chicago; Ph.D. Anthropology, Cornell University Charis teaches with Dragons in Nepal and on Turtle Island (North America). In 2018, she completed her doctorate in cultural anthropology at Cornell University, where she studied, learned with, and wrote about herbalists, healers, and community organizers in the United States through an ethnographic lens. Her previous research as a student and Fulbright fellow in Nepal, between 2005 and 2009, focused on swayambhu or uTpati, self-arisen goddess worship sites. As an anthropologist, an herbalist, and a community organizer, Charis identifies as a scholar-practitioner, bringing these multiple perspectives on social justice and healing into her work as an educator. She draws on her background as an anthropologist of medicine, then environment, healing, and religion, and as a Buddhist practitioner whose attention to the world is shaped by the numinous and inexplicable. She seeks and makes magic alone and with groups, in the mountains and the deserts, always learning to listen better to what the earth has to say, a set of practices that she strives to share with others. She is also informed, in teaching and in life, by her long-term commitment to building socially and environmentally just relations. In that mode, she teaches as an “act of radical love,” to borrow bell hooks’ excellent phrase, seeking to guide students toward their own truest life-path through intellectual engagement and direct experience together. The broad goal of her work in and out of learning spaces is to provide people not only with historical and cultural frameworks to understand situations or places, but also with the relevant tools, experiences, and relationships to engage more deeply with the world we live in and all its challenges. She has deep roots in community organizing and activism, and sees her work as a mode of discovery not just about what our world contains, but about how to make it better.   Learn more about sovereignty work and indigenous-led organizations:   

P.S. 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] => PRESENTING: THE INDIGENOUS SOVEREIGNTY PROGRAM IN PAYAHUUNADÜ [post_excerpt] => We are filled with gratitude and excitement about announcing our first-ever U.S. based Dragons course. Introducing the Payahuunadü Nüümü Indigenous Nations Program, a 12-day course for Dragons and Nüümü students in California.  [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => presenting-the-indigenous-sovereignty-program-in-payahuunadu [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-03-26 13:09:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-03-26 19:09:23 [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] => 24 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 24 [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] => 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] => 29 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 29 [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] => 56 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 56 [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, Dragons Instructors ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 156242
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2020-02-07 13:37:40
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-02-07 20:37:40
    [post_content] => 

Did you catch this episode of Dragons podcast featuring Dragons Instructor Rich Brown on the subject of migration between Guatemala and the US?

Bub Vernon (Dragons Indonesia Semester Alumni) and Rich Brown discuss:
  • Who is coming to the southern US border, and why?
  • What are migrants south of the US border fleeing?
  • How did Rich end up becoming a journalist in Guatemala?
  • How have decisions in the US impacted life in Guatemala?
  • What is "The Forum on Migration"?
 

LISTEN NOW on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

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] => Dragons Podcast: Interview with Rich Brown on the Migration between Guatemala and the US [post_excerpt] => Bub Vernon (Dragons Indonesia Semester Alumni) and Rich Brown discuss: Who is coming to the southern US border, and why? What are migrants south of the US border fleeing? How did Rich end up becoming a journalist in Guatemala? And more. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dragons-podcast-interview-with-rich-brown-on-the-migration-between-guatemala-and-the-us [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-02-07 13:53:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-02-07 20:53:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 62 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 62 [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] => 24 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 24 [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] => 29 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 29 [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 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Global Community ... )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 155593
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-11-18 14:54:37
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-18 21:54:37
    [post_content] => 

We know that Bolivia is on the minds of so many people in our community. We are passing along this article on the current situation in Bolivia written by Jacquelyn Kovarik, one of Dragons current South America semester instructors. The article is titled, Bolivia's Anti-Indigenous Backlash is Growing.

Jacquelyn wrote this article while the group was participating in a rural homestay in Tocaña, an Afro-Bolivian community in the Yungas region north of La Paz. The group has now safety rerouted to Peru.

Jacquelyn, thank you for so skillfully guiding your students through a tumultuous and historic moment in Bolivia's history, all the while crafting a thoughtful journalistic piece and keeping our community informed on this complex situation!

 
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] => Article on Bolivia by Dragons Instructor, Jacquelyn Kovarik [post_excerpt] => We know that Bolivia is on the minds of so many people in our community. We are passing along this article on the current situation in Bolivia written by Jacquelyn Kovarik, one of Dragons current South America semester instructors... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => article-on-bolivia-by-dragons-instructor-jacquelyn-kovarik [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-05 14:21:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-05 21:21:57 [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] => 22 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 13 [cat_ID] => 669 [category_count] => 22 [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] => 56 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 56 [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 )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 155475
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-10-15 15:34:08
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-15 21:34:08
    [post_content] => The following is an excerpt of a recent letter that Executive Director Reed Harwood sent to Dragons instructors, past and present. It offers some history on the new Bishop Paiute Scholarship, which is the result of a relationship between Dragons staff and the indigenous tribe that lives near the site of Dragons annual staff orientation in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. 


Dear Instructor Community:

“I believe in gatherings” said Paul Chaves, a member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe. “And when you gather good people… that’s powerful. This is powerful.” We shared a canopy of stars, the dusty forest floor, and the piñon breeze.  We gathered in the current and ancestral home of the Paiute: the Payahuunadu, aka the Owens River Valley, aka the annual site of Dragons Staff Orientation in the Eastern Sierra. 

Dragons and the Bishop Paiute forged a connection in June of 2018, when a small group of Dragons instructors visited the Paiute tribe on their land in Bishop. The Dragons delegation had collected seeds from Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala, Madagascar, Thailand, India, Laos, and Mexico for the Paiute’s Food Sovereignty Program. Later that week, a small group of Paiute representatives visited Dragons Orientation at the mouth of Rock Creek. We broke bread, they wondered and laughed at our “Talent Show,” and in Paul’s words a “friendship and allyship” was born. This year, we again participated in their Food Sovereignty program. They shared a meal with us at the our orientation campground, performed traditional songs and spoken word poetry at our talent show, and returned the next day to sell artisan goods at our global market.

Paul told me the ancient myths of the condor and the eagle, and the connections between his people and the people where the Andean condor flies. His people have always been global travelers. “The Paiute are a sovereign nation,” he said, “and our voice is needed at the global table. We’re getting there, but our youth need more global perspective and connection.” I felt the call of reciprocity pulse through my body. The ancestral home of the Paiute has held us for decades, and the Dragons community can now support the Paiute in gaining access to global engagement.

This fall, the Dragons Fund created a scholarship: the Bishop Paiute Scholarship. This annually-awarded, full-ride scholarship will support Bishop Paiute youth on Dragons programs.

As a Dragons staff member, you have received inspiration and solace from the Payahuunadu, the land of the Paiute. You believe in the power of global education. You know how vital it is to have indigenous representation at the table, as we navigate the survival of our collective history. 

Over the next four months, Courtney Zenner Campbell* and Briana Bellamy* will guide the Dragons Fund’s “Ten Scholarships in 2020” campaign, which includes our goal to provide one full-ride summer scholarship to a Bishop Paiute student. Their campaign is just beginning, and they will need your help.  If the spirit moves you to support this scholarship, when donating, simply write “Bishop Paiute Scholarship” in the “Add Special Instructions” section. 

You will hear from Briana and Courtney soon about this important initiative. Thank you, in advance, for considering this effort.

Reed

*Former Dragons instructors and administrators, Briana Bellamy and Courtney Zenner Campbell currently manage the Dragons Fund and its fall “Ten in 2020” campaign. Their goal is to raise money for ten full scholarships for students who could not otherwise afford to participate in a Dragons program.  You can learn more about the Ten in 2020 campaign at www.DragonsFund.org, or by reaching out to Courtney ([email protected]) or Briana ([email protected], 510-990-0271).
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] => Dragons ED, Reed Harwood, on Gatherings & The *New* Bishop Paiute Scholarship [post_excerpt] => An excerpt of a letter that Dragons Executive Director, Reed Harwood, sent to Dragons instructors to offer history on the new Bishop Paiute Scholarship... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dragons-ed-reed-harwood-on-gatherings-the-new-bishop-paiute-scholarship [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-29 15:54:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-29 21:54:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 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] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 42 [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] => 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] => 56 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 56 [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] => About Dragons, Announcements )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 155464
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-10-08 16:18:01
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-08 22:18:01
    [post_content] => 

Dragons is excited to announce a new collaboration with Lumos Foundation, a non-profit founded by J.K. Rowling that aims to end the use of orphanages and institutions for vulnerable children around the world by 2050. 

Dragons will work with Lumos on their three-year campaign aiming to educate young volunteers abroad on the harmful impacts of voluntourism, especially orphanage volunteering. Ultimately, we want to be a part of the conversation to develop best practices and to spark a wider discussion on what responsible volunteering and travel looks like.

As part of this work, Dragons will be publishing our own Child Protection Position Paper which will complement our stance on Learning Service and Responsible Travel. In the meantime, if you are (or know) a past or current student who is passionate about this topic and would like to share their story, please contact Jessica Armstrong ([email protected]).
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] => Dragons Collaboration with Lumos Foundation [post_excerpt] => Dragons is excited to announce a new collaboration with Lumos Foundation, a non-profit founded by J.K. Rowling that aims to end the use of orphanages and institutions for vulnerable children around the world by 2050. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dragons-collaboration-with-lumos-foundation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-17 09:14:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-17 15:14:27 [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] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 42 [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] => 669 [name] => Engage [slug] => engage [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 669 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. [parent] => 0 [count] => 22 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 13 [cat_ID] => 669 [category_count] => 22 [category_description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. [cat_name] => Engage [category_nicename] => engage [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/engage/ ) ) [category_links] => About Dragons, Engage )
WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 155321
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-08-15 12:09:10
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-15 18:09:10
    [post_content] => 

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

  JODY SEGAR is China Programs Director at Where There Be Dragons. He wants readers to know that he did get around to mailing that stranger’s money back, plus extra. (PHOTOS: Northwestern Yunnan, 1996)    
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] => 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] => 2019-10-17 09:18:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-17 15:18:32 [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] => 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] => 24 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 24 [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] => 21 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 21 [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] => 13 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 11 [cat_ID] => 670 [category_count] => 13 [category_description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [cat_name] => Recommended [category_nicename] => recommended [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Global Community, The Dragons Journal ... )
1 2 3