A yak stands guard on an inland sea on the roof of the world. Photo by Rebecca Thom, China Semester.

Posts Tagged:

Featured Yaks

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    [post_date] => 2020-03-26 13:07:28
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-03-26 19:07:28
    [post_content] => homestay indonesia 

The following has been translated by the Instructor Team on behalf of Kat’s host mom, Ibu Suparmi

Let me introduce myself, my name is Suparmi, I am 55 years old. My husband is Agus Hartono, he is 56 years old. I have two children, Adibah (25) and Arwana/Awa (24).

The first time I heard that our family would host an American Dragons student, I felt doubtful and unconfident. I was not sure whether I could host our guest well because everyone in our family has their own responsibilities outside our home. We are a new Dragons host family, and this was our first time hosting a guest from abroad, so we didn’t know what to expect or how we would do.

When I learned that our new family member’s name would be Katherine, I felt nervous and excited. But in retrospect, I shouldn’t have worried because over the last three week we have had a lot of fun and interesting times while hosting Kat (that’s what I called her).

During my first week with Kat, I had difficulty communicating with her. Every time I spoke Indonesian with her, she just moved her eyes and said “I am confused.” However she is a very curious person. She always asked a lot of questions and shared stories. One morning, when she got up from bed, she asked me “Ibu (mom), do you like my hair?” (while she was playing with her curly hair). I told her, “I like your hair”, everyone in the house was laughing. In this first week we learned that Kat is just 17 years old, she is very young, but she is already independent, and she always wants to help around the house.

homestay indonesia I remember one morning during that first week when Kat was in the kitchen. She asked me about the many different types of ingredients that we had there, and afterwards she said she wanted to make her own drinks. I watched her as she made her own ginger and lemongrass drinks. I was so proud of her, she was able to take care of herself. No wonder, I think this was because she had a part time job in a coffee stall in America. Wow! The next morning, while Kat was helping us with the dishes, she made her own coffee and tea. I was so impressed 🙂 And once in a while she would happily help me with cooking (as I mostly bought food from outside, hehe).

During the second week, I didn’t want to waste my time with Kat. We met every morning and evening. We talked and talked about politics (both in Indonesia and in America), about Kat’s family, and a lot of other things. Her stories made us become closer. Saturday and Sunday are our family days and I invited Kat to join me at my work where we had organise activities for “National Garbage Day”. On this occasion we had many activities such as river cleaning, a talk show about the environment and garbage waste, a village clean up competition, and even a flash mob! I could see that Kat had enjoyed those days. She was a celebrity! Almost everyone that she met wanted to take a selfie with her.

homestay indonesia Kat would always tell me about her cooking ISP (Independent Study Project) too. In the morning she would go to the local market and then in the afternoon she would cook alongside her mentor. One evening, Kat brought us some food that she made at her cooking class and said in Bahasa: “Hari ini saya masak lemet dan pisang goreng (today I cooked traditional snacks wrapped in banana leaves and fried banana).” I told her that in my whole life I had never cooked lemet, and I am Indonesian! Kat said ” I am American, and I do cook lemet”. Everyone laughed. And then we all tasted her food.

During our third week, I noticed that Kat was tired. She was busy with the Dragons group. Every time I asked whether she was tired, she answered: “Sedikit (a little bit)”, and then she would laugh afterwards.

For me, Kat is a special person. She is polite, curious, and a fast learner. At our home, Kat is already part of our family, she is my youngest child. Adibah, Awa and my husband always want to invite Kat to eat outside. Last time we went to a Javanese noodle place, then Japanese food, and we even tried Pizza Hut. We also took her to some bookstore here in Jogja too.
In a few days Kat will leave us and I thought, why does time have to go so fast? I had tears in my eyes… I was just getting closer to Kat, and she already had to leave soon. When there is a meeting, there is always a time to say goodbye. “Sampai jumpa lagi, Kat” (until we meet again).
homestay indonesia   by Ibu Suparmi (Kat’s host mom), translated by the Instructor Team.  

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[post_title] => OVERHEARD ON THE YAK BOARD: A LETTER FROM KAT’S HOST MOM [post_excerpt] => A homestay host in Indonesia reflects on her time with a Dragons student. "In a few days Kat will leave us and I thought, why does time have to go so fast? I had tears in my eyes… I was just getting closer to Kat, and she already had to leave soon. When there is a meeting, there is always a time to say goodbye. 'Sampai jumpa lagi, Kat' (until we meet again)." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => overheard-on-the-yak-board-a-letter-from-kats-host-mom [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-03-26 13:08:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-03-26 19:08:54 [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/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Global Community )
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    [post_date] => 2020-03-06 09:47:50
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    [post_content] => 

Overheard on the Yak Board (Guatemala Independent Spring Experience

Guatemala homestay independent spring experience ISE If you had happened to be walking down 4th avenue in San Miguel Escobar last Saturday around noon, you would have seen me and my Spanish teacher Blanca carrying a massive, scalding frying pan in a Guatemalan swaddling cloth woven for newborn babies. This strange event was only one of many misadventures that day. As my time in Guatemala began to come to an end, I wanted to cook a thank-you lunch for my host family, my instructor and his family, Biz and Nell, and my Spanish teacher. I settled on an overly-ambitious menu of avogolemono (a Greek chicken soup), a massive Greek bread, two salads, and strawberries with cream. I wanted to share a few of my favorite foods, like the Greek cuisine I eat with my grandmother at Christmas, the strawberries I associate with summers in New Hampshire, and the obligatory kale salad I must like as a Brooklynite. Guatemala homestay independent spring experience ISE The adventure began on Thursday, when Biz, Nell, and I went to Antigua to buy ingredients. Our first stop was La Bodegona, a massive grocery store that caters to locals and tourists alike, resulting in an overwhelming maze of food. We found three separate pasta aisles, went on a several-minutes long quest for powdered sugar, and even stumbled into a whole separate building dedicated to clothing, which felt a little like stepping into another dimension. After La Bodegona, with our iPhone translators at the ready, we crossed the street to the municipal market where we spent an equal amount of time finding our way to the vegetable section as we did actually shopping. On Friday, I spent the whole morning cooking the soup, and prepping the other dishes for lunch the following day. My grandmother helped me start the wood stove for the soup, and then watched in horror as I put my chickens directly into boiling water without washing them. She efficiently helped me rescue the birds and run them under the tap, and although a crisis was averted, she and my host mother asked me if I had washed just about everything else every time I added it to a dish. Whoops! Guatemala homestay independent spring experience ISE Guatemala homestay independent spring experience ISE A few minutes after chicken-gate, I ran into soup crisis number 2. In Greek, the name of the dish means egg-lemon soup, and although fresh eggs abound here, it turns out there’s not a lemon to be found in all of Antigua. As I later learned, lemons require cooler temperatures than limes, and are thus not well suited to tropical, warm countries like Guatemala. Fortunately, my instructor Juancho brought me an alternative citrus fruit he grows at home, and combined with lime, I used that to replace the lemons. Satisfied with my soup, I put it in the fridge, and called it a day. On Saturday, I woke up very early to start the bread dough. Guessing roughly how much yeast to add in absence of the rapid-rise packets I’m used to, I got the dough rising right about when the rest of the family woke up. The mornings here are quite chilly, and as a result, I was having a hard time getting my bread to rise. I tried putting it various parts of our patio and kitchen, boiled water to heat the bowl, and finally settled on an elaborate system of heating and cooling the dough on our stove, around the boiling coffee, beans, eggs, and tortillas my host grandmother was preparing for breakfast. Eventually, I was satisfied with the dough, and enlisted the help of my host sisters to braid it.
The lunch ended up being a huge success. The food (against all odds) turned out well, but the best part about the meal was spending it with all of the people who have made my two months here magical. I’m so sad that I only have one more week in Guatemala, but the lunch reminded me that the connections I’ve made here will last a lifetime.
Once the bread was set, my host sister and I carried it down the street to my Spanish teacher’s house to bake. The oven in my kitchen doesn’t work, so Blanca generously volunteered hers. When we arrived, however, we discovered that the massive frying pan we were using for the bread didn’t fit into her oven. Fortunately, she had a larger oven in a different part of the house, and her husband kindly dragged it to the kitchen and connected it to the gas. Unfortunately, however, this oven only had two markings to measure temperature, a plus sign and a minus sign. I took a guess and selected plus, and then told Blanca I would return in an hour. I guessed wrong. 20 minutes later, Blanca texted me a photo of some very crispy looking bread, and asked me if this was what I was going for. I sprinted down the street (my host sister led the way on her bike) and found my bread several shades darker than it should have been. Fortunately, with some scraping, we managed to salvage the bread, and the inside was just as tasty as usual. The final challenge, however, was getting the bread back to my house. Blanca volunteered her baby swaddle, and that’s how I found myself on fourth avenue with a piping-hot Greek holiday bread. Guatemala homestay independent spring experience ISE Meanwhile, a situation was developing at home. Before picking up my bread, I had put the soup on the stove to heat up. As I was walking home, my host mother called me to say that the soup smelled horrible, and had separated overnight. Disappointed, I was resigned to cooking spaghetti as a last-minute replacement, but my host mother would hear none of it. “We’re going to remake the soup!” she declared confidently, even though we had less than an hour until our guests were going to arrive. I tried to reason with her, but she had already fired up the wood stove and enlisted her mother to help us. “¡Manos a la obra!” she declared, and went into a frenzy of buying replacement chickens, helping me chop ingredients, and heaping wood into the stove to speed up the cooking. One second I would see her at the woodpile, and the next she would be stirring the soup side-by-side with my host grandmother who was picking apart chicken carcasses like it was an Olympic sport. And, about 45 minutes later, just as our guests were walking in the door, we had a fully-completed soup! The lunch ended up being a huge success. The food (against all odds) turned out well, but the best part about the meal was spending it with all of the people who have made my two months here magical. I’m so sad that I only have one more week in Guatemala, but the lunch reminded me that the connections I’ve made here will last a lifetime.  

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[post_title] => FEATURED INDEPENDENT SPRING EXPERIENCE REFLECTION: “SUNDAY LUNCH” [post_excerpt] => Guatemala ISE student, Zoe Davidson, reflects on the time she cooked a meal for her homestay family and everything seemed to go wrong. But in the end, "the best part about the meal was spending it with all of the people who have made my two months here magical. I’m so sad that I only have one more week in Guatemala, but the lunch reminded me that the connections I’ve made here will last a lifetime." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-independent-spring-experience-refection-sunday-lunch [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-03-09 14:20:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-03-09 20:20:33 [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] => 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] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 42 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, The Dragons Journal ... )
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    [post_date] => 2019-12-05 14:16:43
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“Move. Away from wooden rice sifters and thick soil walls. Away from those rice cakes that finished baking on your palette as they steamed and collapsed in your mouth. Away from those sunken paddies and rich landscapes- freckled with cobalt windows and flush with bougainvillea. Move, because you’re in the mountains now. The deep, steep columns that flake under your rubber sole as you climb. Remember to look up- don’t dwell on the shards of Isalo you’re leaving behind. The magisterial pillars you bruise won’t shed off you like flint. Sigh the moment as you climb in the distracted line that is your group because soon you’ll leave it. Just as you left your family in Ambatomanga, and the pousy-pousy drivers before that. Because the more you dip the glorious memories into developer- the more you saturate and remember- the fainter they become. So be careful. Because it’s easy to think Madagascar is a dream. Easy to get swept away by the harsh winds and sparkling oasis’s of Isalo National Park. Easy to lust after campfire nights where the moon winks you to sleep in bug huts as your guides murmur quietly about the group of tents. If ignorance is bliss then ignorance is a shimmering waterfall nestled in rocks and drowned by sandbanks. Ignorance is also, then, a break from our longest hiking day and an exhilarating swim in the sapphire pools of the south. Ignorance is hopping back to camp barefoot to settle for the night and enjoy the laughs of the guides that were now our family. Ignorance is beautiful- until you climb back down. Back the cracked wooden beds of the hotel. Back the debrief we had with our instructor about our head guide’s story- and how he ended up working in Isalo. “He lived in hell.” he said coarsely as he toggled with his hunting knife, “was paid nothing, had to mine ore in nightmare conditions, and was exploited every second he stayed there.” At this point he started flicking bits of wood off the table. “You want to know what they call it? The place where human rights and morality are buried in the same holes Malagasy people are forced to mine? The gemstone village. Pretty name isn’t it.” Move, what’s beautiful isn’t always what’s right.”

- Lula Zeid @lulazeid

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[post_title] => Featured Student Ambassador Reflection [post_excerpt] => “Move. Away from wooden rice sifters and thick soil walls. Away from those rice cakes that finished baking on your palette as they steamed and collapsed in your mouth. Away from those sunken paddies and rich landscapes- freckled with cobalt windows and flush with bougainvillea. Move..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-student-ambassador-reflection-by-lula-zeid-madagascar-summer-19-alum [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-05 14:20:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-05 21:20:46 [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] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 42 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 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 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Alumni Spotlight ... )
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    [post_date] => 2019-06-17 18:21:28
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[caption id="attachment_155057" align="aligncenter" width="555"] Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Andes & Amazon Semester.[/caption]

Overheard on the Yak Board (Bolivia Educator Course):

“The trip challenged my life, my choices, and cemented my commitment to teach my students and make relevant their own dependence on this world of ours, help them realize their privilege, and help them feel empowered to take action for the health of our environment. During my trip to Bolivia, climate change and its effects was not an abstract idea people talked about, it was a lived reality that people had to respond and adapt to. Bolivians are living with the effects of climate change now. They are well aware of how their lives are constantly changing to adapt to new weather patterns. My host “mom”, Rosa told me of smaller crop sizes, and lower yields which directly impact her ability to provide for her son. Pablo, a glaciologist shared his research with us and told us about glacier melts and retreats, and the fact that some communities that depend on the glaciers for their water will fail to survive if the melting rates continue. I learned that a country that relies on mining so heavily as Bolivia does, has irrevocable impact both socially and environmentally. With such tangible evidence of the impact of climate change on real people’s lives, it was hard not to be despairing. I learned that societies are complex and inextricably linked to the place they live in, and how we go about caring for our little piece of the world matters.”

- WORDS by MARIA ELENA DERRIEN, in her essay, Here Are My Thoughts

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    [post_date] => 2019-06-05 10:24:58
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Loving this group reflection from Dragons Spring 2019 Nepal Study Abroad Students....

As our study-abroad program comes to a close, the group wanted to anonymously share some thoughts about that which we experienced, observed, and learned over these many months:

In Nepal I experienced love. Not the eros kind but the philia, philautia and the storge types for sure. When I came here I wasn’t very sure of what to expect, I wasn’t sure of how to feel. However amidst all the discomfort, the pain, the hardship, the cognitive dissonance at times and the deep loneliness that I experienced; what I hold most dear are the times when I truly felt love. I felt belonging, comfort and acceptance and those times are what I remember most.  Maya Angelo once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Those times when I felt love are what got me through.

So I guess this is to everyone: to the friends I’ve made in this group, to the homestay families that I stayed with that are like family now, to the strangers I met in the streets or on ISP, to my instructors who were who held our hands along the way, to myself for making this decision to embark on this journey, thank you and I love you all!

In Nepal, I experienced an intense group experience and significant challenges. I stepped outside my comfort zone in various ways and consequently, experienced many different ways of thinking, viewing the world, and living. We met a diverse range of Nepalis: Tami farmers, permaculture practitioners, young urbanites striving for change, Newari artisans, Kagyu Karmapa Tibetan Buddhist lamas, hiking guides, influential fixers and liaisons, and travelers. That access allowed us to problematize and nuance our understandings of this country that is increasingly connected with the global community and navigating its way through complex questions of modernity and tradition, a democratic transition, rule of law and rule of people and corruption, and industrialization and various developmental paths.

I experienced a supportive, inclusive, and compassionate group culture. I got chances to step up as a leader, take on significant autonomy, independence, and decision-making responsibility. I experienced life in a Buddhist Monastary, hiked in Gaurishankar Conservation Area, lived in Patan in the Kathmandu valley, solo traveled, and much else. I connected with many local people, and hopefully, made some lifelong friends!

In Nepal, I experienced earth-shaking thunderstorms, bruised hips from terrible jeep rides, and countless red rhododendron bushes, growing smaller as the altitude increased. I experienced sharp pain followed by instant relief as I washed my aching feet in frigid opalescent pools, and stifling silence when we awoke to a fresh blanket of snow covering the small Tibetan ethnicity village we were staying in. I experienced wonder as I craned my neck to look at the stars, which reminded me of bioluminescent plankton floating in the sky, and when I watched old women carry impossibly heavy loads on their heads. I experienced sadness as I learned how fast the aquamarine glaciers overhead were receding, and when I sat with women, tears streaming down their faces as they relayed their life’s unimaginable hardships. I experienced gratitude upon receiving endless cups of dudh chyaa, and comfort as I fell asleep next to my sister and her nursing baby, listening to the deafening hail bounce off the tin roof above us.

In Nepal, I witnessed my host father in Patan make 19 silver rings. On the first day, he cut the raw silver stock into thin strips and bent them into little circles, using a blowtorch to solder the ends together. On the second day, he cut little triangles out of the edges and used a hammer to smooth out the surfaces of the rings. On the third day, he used a hammer and curved chisel to carve his designs into the face of the ring. On these rings he carved an endless knot, an auspicious symbol in Buddhism that represents the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth. On the fourth day, he polished the rings and they were finished.

In Nepal, I experienced so much that it is hard to pin-point any one single moment. But I can talk about the overall emotional experience that I had. When I first met the group in Patan we were unsure of each other, but by the time we began orientation our group culture began to form. We were immediately open with each other and willing to be vulnerable in order to bridge the gap of our differences. This culture of open-mindedness allowed us to relate to each other in ways that we could not have imagined if we took each other at face value. Despite our different backgrounds and virtues we began to see connections and similarities in very intimate parts of our life. Struggles and fears that had previously been kept locked away, were divulged to each other. We found commonalities in our group and once we established this among us we applied this attitude to the rest of the trip. During homestays and outings I was able to relate to the many individuals we met despite our geographical and lifestyle differences. My Patan family felt so familiar to me after staying there for a month that it felt as if I was staying at a longtime friend’s house. This is not to say that our lives were analogous but we were able to bridge the gap with small stories and experiences that brought us closer. Even in the more foreign space of Chokati, I was able to feel a strong sense of connectivity with my host family. Our communication was limited but this made what was understood even more meaningful. Not one meal was quietly as we laughed with each other over my sloppy Nepali and obtuse use of my hands while eating. This approach to my surroundings was forged by our group culture which was established during our early orientation. If it was not for this, my trip would have been immensely more shallow and my take-a-ways greatly limited.

In Nepal, I witnessed:
  • Stray puppies huddled together on sheets of cardboard in the middle of the street.
  • Trash burning in piles along the side of the road.
  • Traffic intersections clogged with motorbikes and taxis and clouds of dust; women pulling the edges of their scarves over their mouths and noses.
  • Fruit vendors on bicycles selling oranges and grapes from the Terai.
  • Cows wandering the streets, sometimes crouching right in the middle of a busy road, so traffic parted around them like the water of a river parts around a stone.
  • Women in bright red saris, smudging the foreheads of their children with vermillion powder.
  • My aama burning incense and spreading rice on the stone markings on the roof.
  • Dishes of spices; yellow turmeric; burnt orange cumin.
  • The white peaks of the  mountains peeking out from behind the clouds.
  • The golden carvings of temples half destroyed by the earthquake.
  • Children in soiled clothes,  following tourists down alleys, begging with open hands for spare rupees.
  • Boudhanath Stupa at dusk, ringed by prayer flags and hundreds of people prostrating at its base.
  • Yaks with bells tied around their necks on the high mountain trails near the border of Tibet.
  • A dead daphey, the national bird of Nepal, lying limp at the river bank.
  • A storm rushing in through the valley, enveloping us in cold mist.
  • My aama washing laundry on the roof by hand, crouching over the buckets of soap water, her hands plunged elbow deep.

In Nepal, I experienced:

  • Getting lost in the streets of Patan and asking a shopkeeper if I could use his phone to call my host family; my host dad arriving on his motorcycle with my sister on his back, laughing at me because I was only ten minutes away the whole time.
  • How it feels to sit in the middle of a room of people and not understand what anyone is saying and smile and sit and eat the food that is given, and to be content with that.
  • Singing karaoke with my host family in their living room.
  • Sitting on the front porch of my home in Chakoti, staring out at the valley as the sun rises.
  • Early morning tea so sweet it stings my tongue.
  • Arriving in the shelter of a tea house in the Himalayas, after a long day of trekking through ice and rock, pouring thermoses of hot duhd chiya into cups that we pass around the table and drink with such pleasure, it’s like the tea is no longer tea, it’s a magic brew imbibed with the power to revive us from the stupor of cold and tiredness.
  • The reality of development; unpaved roads; tangled lines of wires; limited water.
  • Being ignored or looked down upon by men because I am a woman
  • Learning about the dharma from a Tibetan Buddhist Lama; meditating for the wellbeing and liberation of all sentient beings; hanging prayer flags for our loved ones on the hill.
  • Getting dragged down the road by a group of little girls in the village on Holi to play with balloons.
  • Eatings so much dal bhat for dinner I think I’ll be sick if I ever eat another bite of dal bhat again – and then eating more dal bhat for breakfast.
  • Walking down the narrow streets of Boudha in the midst of a mob of monks, sandwiched so close together we can smell each other’s breath.
  • Haggling with taxi drivers; getting ripped off.
  • Getting scolded by my host family for coming home past 8pm.
  • The strength of the women of this country; how they wake up and cook and work, carrying loads of stones in baskets on their backs they secure around their heads, and still manage to smile and laugh and welcome me into their homes, offering tea and biscuits. How grateful I am.

In Nepal, I experienced what it feels like to stand in the presence of a receding glacier and be immersed in its beauty, knowing that what I see in front of me will no longer exist in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, as it exists today. I experienced family and compassion. I experienced the earthy scent of homemade fertilizers and the gift of growing food. I experienced confusion, anger, tears, joy, excitement, and more confusion about the human experience.

In Nepal, I experienced what it is like to be a part of a true community. Everyone addresses each other as “brother” or “sister” even if they are complete strangers, and they will not hesitate to go way out of their way to help each other out. The communal mentality reminded me how important it is to be connected to others, and it was refreshing to see that there really are people out there who are selfless, caring, and altruistic.

In Nepal, a poem:

The sun is setting.

The sky is a shade somewhere between grey and blue. The breeze is cool, as is the grass, and speckled with violet petals falling from the large tree in the yard. Behind me is Kathmandu, sprawling and smoky. It is behind me in more ways than one.

The sun is setting on our time here. It sets in shades of vermillion and saffron, like dried tika smearing across a forehead. It fades like the clang of a brass bell hanging in a temple, echoing in the air. But there’s still light left- enough to see the page- enough for me to write and rewrite everything I want to say about this place. To try and find the words for that which I have only ever found wordless.

Nepal is a sensory country. It presents itself in sights and sounds, touches, tastes and smells. It is alive in a way I have not experienced before. It’s this spark I struggle to name. But it is surely there, and, because of it, I have learned many things I wasn’t aware I didn’t know.

I have learned that the pagoda was first designed by a twenty-year old artist brought from the valley to the court of a grandson of Genghis Khan.

I have learned that goddess Annapurna is not a woman but an overflowing pot of grain, symbolizing prosperity and success. And it is a stunning snow-covered massif that dominates the pale sky.

I have learned that if you’re too loud, too cocky, too bold– the mountain spirits will come for you. I still have not learned why they came for me.

I learned how to braid momos, how to cut tiny tomatoes with a very dull knife, and how to walk along the edges of a terraced bean field, holding up the hem of a scarlet sari.

I have learned that “Namaste” means “I recognize the divine in you”, and I have learned to recognize the divine in the worn faces of millions of gods I have met here.

I have also learned to recognize the divine in the only god I knew before.

I have learned that I am a very accommodating person. That I will eat anything you serve me, however you serve it. Against my better judgement, I’ll finish the whole plate and I’ll even try to eat with my hands until someone takes pity and gives me a spoon.

I have learned how to accept help.

I have learned that culture exists in the grit and grime. In the dust created by civilizations. Its in the magenta and bright coral smeared across my hair playing Holi. In the cracks between stones of a temple, in the carved hands a goddess on a roof strut. It’s in the crimson, auburn, and ocher spices thrown over chopped potatoes frying in a pan of sunflower oil. It’s even in the dust over Kathmandu, a specter so vast and omniscient and sentient that it has become its own character in the story.

I have learned to search for that which makes this place so alive and I have found it wherever I have looked.

It’s in the spread of rhododendron petals, the glow of a marigold. The pound of a mandal to the repeating versus of a song I do not understand. In the braids of school girls and the sparks showering a boy cutting metal in the streets. In the cry of a rooster hours after dawn. In the flutter of prayer flags, and the long, steady ring of a bell.

But ringing bells is for the morning and night is falling. With night comes stars, and in stars, constellations. Memories. Images that will always glimmer. A tiny goat jumping onto the table. The mist over a sacred mountain. My sister sliding a dozen silver bracelets onto my narrow wrists. A crinkled old woman, crouched in hazy, silvery darkness, smoke from her cigarette unfurling around her head, the rain on the tin roof so loud her mouth seems to move silently. And her friends, wrapped in patterned scarves and wreathed in a gentle light, sitting around her, listening and replying. They hear what she is saying. I can forever only wonder.

In these moments I will carry what I have learned– just as I have carried cookie crumbs and tattered rupees all across these hills- back to where I came from. Because, most importantly, I have learned that wise men say only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love- in love with this country, this once forbidden kingdom, a place of great history and great promise.

The navigators of old used the stars as maps, and someday I hope the constellations I have will guide me back. Back to the gentle, cerulean mist of morning on the side of mountain. Back to the vivid burn of midday in narrow back-alleys and bricked squares. And back to the pitch darkness, just past midnight, standing outside in the high, snow-bound village of Naa. When I looked up at the diamond-crusted sky and breathed slowly to make the time last. When I knew here, I wasn’t alone. Here, I could never really be cold. And here, I was alive.

—-

In Nepal, I learned:

  • That if I think I understand something, that I have gotten to the bottom of it and reached a sound conclusion, then I have most likely missed the point entirely.
  • That people’s lives are not postcards; villages are not rarefied or isolated places that exist solely for my desire to help, or my scrapbook album of exotic places I’ve been, and just because a culture is unfamiliar to me, doesn’t mean it’s a product meant solely for my consumption.
  • That development can look different depending on what a society values and what they need.
  • That it is far better to stop and ask questions, than to act without listening.
  • That the people of Nepal are incredibly kind and generous!
  • That learning the language of another country not only opens up doors of communication, but is also an act of great respect – that humbling yourself in the face of things you don’t understand is a vital part of growing as a human being.
  • That dal bhat is delicious.
  • That everything I’ve bought, sold or thrown away is still on this planet, somewhere.
  • That everything has a cause and an effect, and my actions are never isolated incidents.
  • That I am incredibly grateful for everything I’ve had the chance to experience in my life; for my parents; my education; the abundance of resources in my country. That despite everything, I appreciate my country more now than I did in the beginning of this trip.
  • That I want to be more involved in the world; in politics; in my community; that even though everything feels very vast and convoluted and confusing, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make a difference.
  • That people are people wherever you go; that everyone laughs and cries, and shits, and dreams.

In Nepal, I learned that there are many different ways of looking at the world, and many different life paths. I learned about Nepali history, politics, economics, language, religion, society, development, women’s issues, and much else. We got access to speak with many, many different folks from here and so we learned about their lives and their issues and their thoughts. I learned how to navigate the sometime chaotic streets of the bustling capital, and also how to graciously accept countless offers of milk tea. I came to learn that simple dal bhat meals are what my body needs.

I learned to design curriculum and to teach. I learned how to balance my own needs with group needs in order to stay present, engaged, supportive and positive. I learned how to interact successfully in a different cultural context, from the small daily interactions to the complex conversations and events that make up our lives as human beings.

From my students I learned many things. I learned about yoga, and building with bamboo, and permaculture, and reggae and other music genres in Nepal. I learned about the tensions between tourism and conservation and the challenges of different perspectives on holy peaks and places, I learned about women’s issues, healthcare, and pregnancy and birth in rural areas, and about traditional Poubha painting and its history in the valley.

I learned about development issues and social justice issues. I learned about the problems of service tourism and “do-goodery”. I learned about the hard decisions that Nepali young people are having to make in order to make ends meet. I learned about challenges in doing heritage conservation while continuing to develop and strive towards “modernity”, whatever that word means. I learned how to get around the city (which isn’t easy!). I learned about different ecosystems and environments in Nepal and the diverse flora and fauna here. I learned about different class and caste issues here. I learned so much!

In Nepal, I learned how to weave a basket from long wet strips of green bamboo. I learned how to fill that basket with rice or flour or bricks and load it onto my back, wrapping the sling around my head and supporting the weight with my strained neck muscles. I tried to learn the grace with which my host mother carried her load up the steep terraced hillsides, but my steps were clumsy on the bumpy footpaths and my basket wobbled precariously on my back. I learned that my mother’s grace was the product of decades of practice, carrying her baskets up the hill day after day, month after month, year after year.

In Nepal, I learned to approach life with empathy and open-mindedness. There is so much time dedicated on the differences in this world, because people are too entrenched in their “way”. To live this way is to live your life with limits. When someone’s perspective is challenged it often causes them to become frightful as if their world is ending. What I have learned throughout my life and over the course of this trip is that gaining a perspective is broadening your world and it will expose you to so many new, and wonderful experiences and relationships. I was blessed to be a part of a group that felt the same way, which is why this trip was so enriching. I hope I am able to bring home this mindset and spread it to just a fraction of people, because a world of empathy is a world without hate.

In Nepal, I learned that you can never get tired of dal bhat.

In Nepal, I learned a lot about a lot. From Nepali language, culture, history, norms and religious practices to development issues, colonialism and consumerism  as well as class, caste and the injustices surrounding that. We also dabbled in some outdoor education and learned about and discussed environmentalism; the list goes on and on.

The more I learned, the more I realized that there was more to know. In fact, there will be always more to know. The quest for knowledge has always been exciting to me, the process of gaining new knowledge and getting a greater understanding of the world around me has always been thrilling. The knowledge I gained on this trip  has undoubtedly impacted me greatly and has caused me to reconsider a lot of my previously held-beliefs and views. The more I learned on this trip the more I realized I knew little about my own history and my leaning here has ignited a desire to learn more about that.

In Nepal, I learned that bar-headed geese can fly at higher altitudes than any other animal and that red pandas poop the equivalent of their own body weight every week.

[post_title] => Featured College Study Abroad Refection: "In Nepal I learned..." [post_excerpt] => "As our study abroad program comes to a close, the group wanted to anonymously share some thoughts about that which we experienced, observed, and learned over these many months..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-college-study-abroad-refection-in-nepal-i-learned [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-03 12:56:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-03 18:56:39 [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] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 42 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Alumni Spotlight )
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    [post_date] => 2019-05-02 11:50:09
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-02 17:50:09
    [post_content] => Dear friends and families,



We are in our second of three days in Ayacucho. We have been trekking in the valley of Sondondo for the past six days. The experiences in this part of Peru have been totally breathtaking. We saw so many beautiful landscapes, but most importantly we learned so much about Peruvian history. The presence of the Wari in this part of Peru has been a constant during our time in Sondondo. We visited some ruins that had not been explored by archeologists and only the community works to maintain them. We also visited the house of one of the most important chroniclers of this part of the world, Guaman Poma de Ayala. This was such a grounding experience. I have learned for so long about Guaman Poma and being in his house just made me feel much more connected to my history.
I started to question my own values, the reasons for my actions and the things that I am focusing in my life.
Personally, the most powerful experience came from an interaction with two people. While we walked the route, we encountered many people. One lady that we crossed on the road, offered me a liter of milk for free just out of the desire to make us feel welcome. I was touched by this act, but it was that same night that I had an even stronger interaction. My co-instructor Sandy and I went to the store to buy a couple of things. I was waiting for Sandy, when an old lady came to the store. Her name was Isabel and after a short conversation about our reason for visiting the area, and her giving us a welcome talk to the region, I listened to her interaction with the owner of the store. Dona Isabel wanted to buy one Sole (Peruvian currency) of bread and one Sole chocolate powder. The owner of the store told her that she didn’t have any chocolate, and only had coffee, the coffee was one sole and fifty cents. Dona Isabel told her that she didn’t have enough money. She left saying goodbye with a big smile. Minutes after, she came back with a big piece of cheese that she offered me for free. When I insisted to pay her, she just said that it was her cariño (love for me), even though we had not talked for more than 10 minutes.
I think that these are the types of experiences that Dragons is about. Situations that make you reflect on your own life.
I left the store very touched. I actually started to tear up. I started to question my own values, thereasons for my actions and the things that I am focusing in my life. I felt so cared for and embraced by this person and I started to think about my own grandparents, and about the things that I am teaching to my students and questioned their validity. I think that these are the types of  experiences that Dragons is about. Situations that make you reflect on your own life. I am so happy that we came to this part of Peru. We decided to dedicate three days to Ayacucho and learn about the historic importance of this city, not only for Peru, but for all the continent. It is here where the last battle of the independence of South America was fought. Incredibly thankful, Jhasmany [post_title] => The Magic of Sondondo - Featured Instructor Reflection from the South America Semester [post_excerpt] => "We have been trekking in the valley of Sondondo for the past six days. The experiences in this part of Peru have been totally breathtaking..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-magic-of-sondondo-featured-instructor-reflection-from-the-south-america-semester [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-02 11:55:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-02 17:55:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 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] => 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/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Dragons Instructors )
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