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] => 2017-12-08 12:40:43
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    [post_content] => On September 14, I said goodbye to home and got on a plane bound for Nepal. I was extremely nervous but so excited to kick off the adventure of a lifetime. I didn’t really know what to expect or what I would encounter in Nepal. What would my group members be like and would they laugh at my jokes? What about my instructors? How will I possibly fit everything I need for 3 months into a backpack? What if I forget something? What about the culture? Would I stick out like a sore thumb? Will my host family understand anything I say? How will I possibly use a squatty potty for so long? Will I get sick of eating rice for every meal? Am I going to enjoy a week long Buddhist retreat? What about living in a rural village? Can I trek for 8 hours a day for almost 3 weeks straight? What about showers and laundry? Will I ever feel clean again? Am I going to sleep on the floor every night? Will I get sick? How sick? Will I return the same person as when I left? How will this experience shape the rest of my life? Should I have just gone to college?

Little did I know the decision to come to Nepal would be one of the best I’ve ever made. Three months later and it’s hard to process everything that I experienced, but it was more than I could have ever imagined. My 11 fellow students turned into more than friends- they turned into family. Together we explored Nepal and in the process learned so much about ourselves. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve hugged, we’ve climbed mountains, we’ve challenged each other to think differently and to be better humans, and there is no way I will ever be able to repay everyone for their immense impact on my life. My instructors are more so much more than instructors. They are friends, mentors, and some of the most driven and inspirational people I have ever met. They have pushed me to question and to never stop learning. My backpack that once felt so small now feels excessive and I regret bringing as many clothes as I did. The culture in Nepal is very different from home, but I fell in love. Temples and stupas everywhere, a deep respect for others and for the Earth, the happiness that engulfs everyday life. Turns out the squatty potty is not so bad and much of my group has even come to prefer them. My host families may not have always understood me, but they taught me so much about gratitude, compassion, simplicity, and community. Daal bhat power 24 hour is a true statement even if we get sick of it at times. The Himalayas left me speechless and in an indescribable state of awe multiple times a day, and the views made all the hard days of trekking absolutely worth it. We learned to embrace our stink but also to really appreciate the occasional waterfall/river shower or an opportunity to hand wash clothes. We all got sick at some point and it often seemed like we consumed more ORS than regular water, but the support of the group made it better.

I know I have grown and changed in the past three months, and I’m proud of all that I have learned on this course. I have learned to lean in to uncomfortable situations and I have embraced a completely different way of life. I have learned so much about Nepali culture and as a result I have examined my own culture in a different light and really reflected on how I live my life. I have become so much more aware of my immense privilege and learned how I can better use what I have been given to create positive change. I have grown so much in my gratitude, especially for things I usually take for granted like clean air, a constant supply or filtered water, and a bathroom inside my house instead of across the street. I have seen and experienced so much in a short period of time and will forever be influenced by my time in Nepal.

On December 9, I will board a plane in Kathmandu and wave goodbye to Nepal. This time, I’m also nervous, but in a way I’ve never felt before. This time, I’m nervous to go home. I’m nervous to return to the place and the people that have shaped the past 18 years of my life. I’m so excited to see my family and friends and share about my time in Nepal, but I’m nervous. I’m nervous about adjusting to a way of life that now seems so foreign to me. I’m nervous I will feel overwhelmed and out of place. I can show my friends and family pictures of where I’ve been and tell countless stories, but there is no way I will be able to completely describe how I felt. How can I describe the feeling of and early morning puja with hundreds of monks at Namo Buddha? How can I share the feeling of complete awe as I looked up at the thousands of stars in the tiny village of Na? How can I reciprocate the strong communities I observed in Chokati and at the Ashram? There is so much I want this share, but I know I will never be able to encapsulate everything that my time in Nepal has taught me and how I’ve changed in the process, and I’m okay with that. At first this thought really freaked me out- would it be hard to prove the validity of experiences that I can’t even describe? I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe the best memories aren’t meant to be shared. And I always know that should I find myself overwhelmed by the transition back home, there are 14 amazing people who understand what a journey this has been and who I can always count on.
    [post_title] => WHEN HOME SEEMS FOREIGN
    [post_excerpt] => I know I have grown and changed in the past three months, and I’m proud of all that I have learned on this course. I have learned to lean in to uncomfortable situations and I have embraced a completely different way of life. I have learned so much about Nepali culture and as a result I have examined my own culture in a different light and really reflected on how I live my life.
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    [post_date] => 2017-05-06 10:16:59
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    [post_content] => We went out in his boat, a battered blue canoe that was roomier and required less bailing than most other boats in Sampela—a financial testament to his fishing capability—and were armed with a long speargun for him, a short, easy to reload speargun for me, and one extra for good measure. We would cruise across a sea peppered by waves big enough to make the boat rock a little until he, peering over the side of the boat, decided that he liked the fishing prospects of that particular spot of ocean. He’d flash me a terrific smile, say, “Ini bagus” (“This is good”), and launch overboard. I’d follow him, much less gracefully, and hope that I was in the water in time to watch him tie the anchor onto whatever monolithic coral structure we’d have stopped over.

[caption id="attachment_150877" align="alignnone" width="958"]Indonesia Semester Photo by CELIA MITCHELL, INDONESIA SEMESTER[/caption]

Then we’d stretch the cut lengths of rubber on our wooden spearguns back, lock in the spears, and dive down. Totombo always caught the first fish, spinning up to the surface with a joyous smile before dropping his catch in the katingting and diving back down. Sometimes my only role for a morning would be to swim his catch back to the boat, and it took me a few days before I caught my first batfish, his most commonly sought prey. Those mornings were always lovely. It was just the two of us in a small blue boat in the middle of the ocean, swimming and fishing and basking in the Indonesian sun, and it was blissful.

[caption id="attachment_150876" align="alignnone" width="838"]Indonesia Semester Photo by CELIA MITCHELL, INDONESIA SEMESTER[/caption]

 

About halfway through my time in Sampela, we started to go out earlier and travel farther, fishing for upwards of six hours. On one of these days, we were taking a break in what was starting to be a blisteringly hot day when a few boats puttered up to us and cut their engines. I’m not quite sure what was said over the next 45 minutes, given that they were speaking in Bajo, but somehow Totombo and I ended up a part of Mr. Helmet and Mrs. Hat’s crew.

I took to calling them Mr. Helmet and Mrs. Hat as a way of referring to them in conversation with other Dragons, and their monikers descended from their headpieces. Mrs. Hat always wore a huge bamboo hat. It’s shadow rarely let the warm glow of her eyes out, instead showing only her sun-leathered face and betel-stained teeth. Mr. Helmet had a well-worn black construction hat which kept the   sun off his face and, more importantly, kept his cigarettes and lighter dry from the ocean’s spray and Sampela’s monsoon rains—it only occasionally showed his face when we were there during the dry spread along the ropes scared most of the fish in their way towards the net and the net was soon teeming with a swirl of fish. I was told in no uncertain terms by Totombo to stay out of the net but I was permitted to get in the water and watch from a distance.

They had one of the only nets I saw in Sampela, and certainly the largest. It had it’s own canoe, and Totombo and I (mostly Totombo) were recruited to help use it. Mr. Helmet and Mrs. Hat each had a large boat filled with several hundred feet of rope with some floating thing— a plastic bag, a water jug, a stick—tied every couple yards. Leaving the net, the net’s canoe, myself and my canoe anchored, each boat began to go in an opposite direction, slowly paying out the rope as they went. The old man who had ridden in the canoe with the net was spending this time pulling the net out and setting it up in the sea and I, unskilled and unable to help, watched like the five year-olds that sometimes accompanied their mothers and fathers to the ocean.

The rope-boats eventually finished unloading their ropes and began to arc around, back towards us. The miscellaneous debris spread along the ropes scared most of the fish in their way towards the net and the net was soon teeming with a swirl of fish. I was told in no uncertain terms by Totombo to stay out of the net but I was permitted to get in the water and watch from a distance.

The net, I realized once I’d gotten in the water, didn’t have a bottom. It was weighed down at the edges, so fish couldn’t get out, but to lift it out of the water like a trawling net reduced its size tremendously, so the Bajo would simply use it as a pen for fish instead. I spent a few moments ogling at the swirl of fish in the nets, filled with lashes of green from parrotfish and red from snapper, before a set of splashes indicated the arrival of the. The swirl turned into a frenzy, punctured by the familiar swish of a speargun’s projectile whipping through the water. By the time I got out of the water our boat was carpeted with fish.

Once the spear-gunners had sufficiently thinned the school in the net, it was closed from the bottom and Mr. Helmet and a fisherman who had helped set up the net pulled it in hand over hand. It wasn’t until it had been landed that I realized that the catch from the net far exceeded any individual’s spearfishing catch, and that Mr. Helmet and Mrs. Hat allowing their helpers to spearfish the net was as much a method of payment as it was necessary to land the net.

The fishermen, triumphant for the day, spent a few moments enjoying their success and the sun before Mr. Helmet called us over to his boat. He gave us a few armfuls of miscellaneous fish and handed Totombo a massive wrasse, his further thanks for Totombo’s help.

Over the rest of my stay in Sampela, Totombo and I rendezvoused with Mr. Helmet and Mrs. Hat three more times. Each time we fished a different part of the ocean and each time our catch was better than when we fished on our own. On my last day in Sampela, Mr. Helmet was on our porch when I woke up and we rode out to the reef with him as part of a flotilla of boats that carved its way to a white sanded reef that was farther from Sampela than I’d been since I arrived. I’d been taught enough by Totombo—about how to read a gesture towards a fish, about how to tie anchors to the ocean floor, about how to be safe with a speargun—over the past two weeks that I was allowed to participate now. Together on that last day, he and I swam over the sun- dappled seabed as host and guest, master and pupil, father and son. (This article was featured in the Spring 2017 edition of Dragons bi-annual Newsletter, The Map's Edge. Each newsletter explores a subject of interest to the Dragons community through the voices of our Alumni, Instructors, Partners, Parents and our International Staff and contacts. Feel free to view our archive of editions of The Map's Edge or even submit a piece to be featured in our next issue by sending an email to justin@wheretherebedragons.com) Save [post_title] => Lessons in Grace: A Map's Edge Newsletter Feature [post_excerpt] => We went out in his boat, a battered blue canoe that was roomier and required less bailing than most other boats in Sampela—a financial testament to his fishing capability—and were armed with a long speargun for him, a short, easy to reload speargun for me, and one extra for good measure. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => sticky-post-example [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-20 21:25:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-21 03:25:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 1 [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] => 53 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 53 [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/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field )
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    [post_date] => 2017-04-20 14:10:32
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    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_150979" align="alignnone" width="806"]IMAGE: FIONA SHERMAN IMAGE: FIONA SHERMAN[/caption]

Dragons is a good teacher for the community of Langa. I am a writer, and still it is difficult to find the words to describe my experience with Dragons. Even if I could use numbers, I couldn’t count the ways to say thank you, to express the sum total of my gratitude. Words cannot adequately describe the feeling, the spirit that has been cultivated in the creation of such a masterpiece. I am just a countrywoman who lives in a small village in Indonesia.

I am just a countrywoman who lives in a small village in Indonesia. Our village is called Bomari, and it’s located at the foot of Mt. Inerie, the highest volcano in Flores, which rises above us like a grand pyramid. It is hard to believe that it’s already been four times, four times living with foreigners who we would normally just call “

It is hard to believe that it’s already been four times, four times living with foreigners who we would normally just call “bule,” sharing a life together for two weeks. It all started in February 2015 when Aaron Slosberg surveyed my village and came to an agreement with my parents to use our family as a homestay for Dragons students.

As a young person, I like challenges, however, I was really doubtful about trying the homestay program. It seemed like such an impossible task to host a foreigner.

“Why would a bule want to stay here?”

“Their life is so different from our life here!” “Can they eat rice every day?” “What will they do about the food here?” “Oh, our house is too ugly for them!” “Our bedroom is so tiny!” “We do not even have a nice bathroom.” All this negative energy spiraled in my head. My nerves became so intense I almost backed out of our agreement to host a student, but the support and the spirit of the youth in my village convinced me not to change my mind. I was so nervous when the first Dragons group arrived to our village in April 2015. The students of Rita Sri Suwantari, Matt Colaciello Williams, and Rachel Russell were physically so different from us. These bule had white skin. Their bodies were twice as tall as ours. They seemed really intelligent. There were so many facets to our difference that it made me even more anxious to interact with them. Before they arrived, we had prepared everything. Every home in the village was busy getting ready for the arrival of the students, prepping our houses, preparing to communicate, even consulting “Mr. Google” in case of a communication emergency. Despite all this, we knew most of the time we would have to rely on non-verbal communication. Living in one home with two different cultures there surely would be so many things we both couldn’t understand. However, over time, I came to realize, all these small differences, even though seemingly insignificant, began to deeply affect my way of thinking. Bule always say thank you and show appreciation for everything, even though they may not like every situation. This is so different from our own people. In our society, we feel awkward or shy saying thank you or showing appreciation to others for small things. I believe this is the reason why sometimes we can be held back in our way of thinking. I’m sure when someone shows gratitude to someone else, even if it’s not expressed perfectly, this practice will build self-confidence in that person and improve the quality of his or her work. Lately, I’m starting to see our community show gratitude to others, which has been an amazing revelation. In addition, there is the matter of discipline. Bule seem very disciplined with time, while the local community lacks punctuality. I have come to believe that being aware of timing is very important in leadership. Bule love cleanliness; they won’t just throw trash on the ground. The local people still throw their trash wherever and this negatively impacts our health. Bule also seem very intelligent and like to master their skills. I have learned so many wonderful things from hosting Dragons students, about their country, about their lives, and about myself. I think Dragons is an extraordinary organization that provides exceptional experiential education to young people. Many people in my village lack higher education, and most of us don’t even speak English. There are so many things about our lives that aren’t the way we wish they were. Still, I feel we have something to teach Dragons students. I hope both the good and bad experiences from staying in our village will affect the students: make them stronger individuals, who are better prepared to care for others in their own communities and environments. I hope the students can use our shortcomings as the basis to become individuals who want to create change. As just a simple village woman, I feel so proud to have this friendship with the students who have stayed with us. I’m sure they are not just ordinary students that choose to come to Langa. I believe they want to become part of our family—we become friends to make both of our lives complete. There are so many people in our community who can’t hold back tears when it comes time to say goodbye. Even I will always have tears in my eyes each time I have to say goodbye to my new friends. They may never know this, as it is a secret that as a community we keep. We do not know when or if we will meet again, maybe for the rest of our lives we will never meet, but the students will always be in our hearts. When we think of the students here, when we miss them, we will sift back through all the beautiful memories we shared together. Like family, far away from us, it is all we can do. I hope, as the years roll on, we will maintain a strong relationship with Dragons. I truly believe Dragons is an amazing organization. You have a great mission to make people into human beings, even a village woman like me. I want to thank Rita Sri Suwantari, honestly you are one of my greatest inspirations. Thank you also to Matt Colaciello Williams and Aaron Slosberg, both of you are amazing leaders who have inspired your students to become part of this community and feel comfortable relating to everyone here. Thank you to the students who have become my teachers, my friends, and my family: Spencer Hardy, Eleni Fernald, Benyamin Yih, and Katherine Georgia Comfort. Thank you Dragons, whoever you are, I am your family. (This article was featured in the Spring 2017 edition of Dragons bi-annual Newsletter, The Map's Edge. Each newsletter explores a subject of interest to the Dragons community through the voices of our Alumni, Instructors, Partners, Parents and our International Staff and contacts. Feel free to view our archive of editions of The Map's Edge or even submit a piece to be featured in our next issue by sending an email to christina@wheretherebedragons.com) [post_title] => YAK OF THE WEEK: Reflections from a Homestay Sister [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => reflections-from-a-homestay-sister [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-20 21:41:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-21 03:41:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 4 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [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. 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    [post_date] => 2017-04-02 14:29:19
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    [post_content] => Here we are, closing another chapter of our story and our time together.

Leaving Tiquipaya for the last time meant more this go round, it meant we were actually saying our final farewells to our incredible families. These people that essentially adopted us for a month, providing food, comfort, love, and protection to total strangers, and they did so completely, with their whole hearts. I think back on all of my time in Tiquipaya, with my family, and I truly think that out of our whole journey so far, our time in Tiquipaya has been the time that meant the most to me. When I returned to my family with some sort of sickness I picked up in the Amazon, all I can think of is the look of deep concern on the faces of my host parents, the mint tea Dona Pilar brought to me in bed, how she kept checking on me, every hour or so, and when we sat down to eat dinner, she spent the whole time trying to figure out exactly, down to the fruit, what it was that could have made me sick. This kind of care was something that I recieved everyday from my family, and I really don’t know how to express how much I care about them in return, so I would like to share some gratitude for all of the little things. I am grateful for the first time I saw Dona Pilar and saw her adorable smile, for Nadite, slowing things down for me, for family dinners, for Sergio introducing me to every plant in their garden, for picking figs before dinner with Nadite, Alfredo, and Sergio, for the gatitos that are tough as nails and cute as ever, for Dona Pilar showing me how to do laundry “properly,” for the Simpsons and all of the laughter, for all of D. Pilar’s “how to survive in the streets” facts, for connecting with Don Felix over the loss of our mothers and how important it is to remember the people we love, for all of the intensely concerned faces waiting outside my door when I was sick, for Dona Pilar always being worried about when, where, and with whom, I am going anywhere, for Alfredo’s dedicated explanation, in spanish, of the space/time continuum as it pertains to time travel, for Uno and Jenga, for Nadite, Sergio, Alfredo, Don Felix, and Dona Pilar, and most of all for all of the love and laughter. I felt like I truly found a place in Tiquipaya and leaving was probably the hardest moment I have had so far on this journey.

We have done a lot of traveling over our course, to try to make the most of our experience in only three months, and with that traveling we have constantly tried to be more than tourists just visiting and leaving. Dragons focuses on making and maintaining personal connections in the places we visit, but the truth is, we are outsiders and foreigners and sometimes it is inevitable to feel like an outsider. However, in Tiquipaya our experience was so unique, I felt like we had time to settle into a community, to form a daily routine, to form strong, meaningful connections, and to just live in that community for a while. That is what made it so difficult to leave and the time there so precious. I will always hold that place and those people in my heart and I know that they have had a strong impact on my life that I will carry with me forever.

The end of Tiquipaya also marked a new change for us in the way that it marked the transition into our last phases, expedition and transference. Leaving Tiquipaya meant that we are that much closer to parting as a group and ending our journey. We transitioned into expedition phase which is our last big adventure, and we only have ten days. The time is really moving quickly now and there is a lot to reflect upon and analyze before the end, but I still can’t wait for what we have in store for the little time we have left and I look forward to all of the memories we have yet to make.

 
    [post_title] => YAK OF THE WEEK: Saying Goodbye to Tiquipaya
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