Myanmar Semester

Posts Tagged:

Homestay

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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-07-12 11:00:16
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-12 17:00:16
    [post_content] => My home in New York. A place where appearance is valued and looking good has been ingrained in me by society since I was young. As I first arrived in Cambodia, I made sure my hair looked nice, my clothes were clean and looked flattering. First impressions matter, and I have always known a world where first impressions are based not on who you are, but how you looked.

Continuing throughout the first day, I felt vulnerable without my usual makeup and nice clothing. Then that evening, my first bucket shower. Standing in the bathroom with just myself, a few buckets of water, and my travel size shampoo, conditioner and travel wash, I had never felt so out of my element. However, after I took a deep breath, and poured the water on my head, the cold water in the warm air, I felt amazing. With each successive bucket, I forgot what it was like in my old shower at home. I began to prefer this one.
As I instinctively turned to the wall looking for a mirror, I noticed there wasn’t one.
As I instinctively turned to the wall looking for a mirror, I noticed there wasn’t one. I had never felt so liberated. I just didn’t care. I didn’t care that my clothes were a little dirtier, for I had hiked to a beautiful waterfall in them. I didn’t care that my clothes were extremely conservative and ill-fitting, because that way I was able to gain the respect of local people. I didn’t care that there was no hot water, for the cold water felt better than my shower at home ever did. And I didn’t care that there wasn’t a mirror, for I had never felt as confident or as secure in myself as I have these last few days. [post_title] => Where is the Mirror? - Yak of the Week [post_excerpt] => A student reflection on a homestay experience in Cambodia: "I took a deep breath, and poured the water on my head, the cold water in the warm air, I felt amazing. With each successive bucket, I forgot what it was like in my old shower at home...." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => where-is-the-mirror-yak-of-the-week [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-12 11:02:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-12 17:02:59 [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] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 39 [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_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-03-14 08:47:23
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-14 14:47:23
    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_152709" align="alignnone" width="974"] Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Gap Year Program.[/caption]

Many study abroad programs provide a day-by-day (sometimes hour-by-hour) trip schedule used year after year. At Dragons, we keep our programs flexible and dynamic: each itinerary is uniquely designed and implemented by the instructors who lead the program. We believe some of the best experiences can come in the unscripted, serendipitous, and candid moments of surprise. It's a novel approach to travel and best explained by our participants. So here's how our past students define Dragons "flexible" itinerary concept:

“Unlike American life regulated by precise and punctual schedules, life abroad is hectic and ever-changing, which is the beauty of it. Pre-program, I was concerned that the larger and central aspects of the trip may be changed, but this isn’t at all what they meant by flexible itinerary.  Flexible itinerary refers to smaller, more logistical changes. You’ll still get to the end destination, just perhaps by a different route. The itinerary will never be changed in a way that detracts from your experience, but will instead always improve it for you or the group as a whole, whether it is balancing out the hiking days to make it more manageable or taking a quick side-trip to the hot springs to refuel as a group.” - Will LeVan, Peru Summer Student Travel Program [caption id="attachment_152708" align="alignright" width="452"] Photo by Stefanie Daehler, Custom School Program in India.[/caption] “The flexibility allowed my group to turn hikes into classes about religion. It allowed for us to get lost, which then turned into lessons on how not to get lost. We were given the freedom to explore like a traveler, not like a tourist.” - Alyssa Hilb, Silk Road China Summer Student Travel Program “To travel with a flexible itinerary is to travel with an open mind and receptivity to the realities of travel. During my program in Morocco, there were numerous occasions in which sickness, navigational difficulties, or side trips caused unforeseen delays in our daily plan. While ordinarily, this would be a huge logistical and emotional headache, the ease with which my instructors took it in stride and adjusted our plans made all the difference. The benefit of a dynamic itinerary is bypassing the regimented, anxious parts of travel, to embrace the wild, unplanned fun that exploration can be.” - Brett Cohen, Morocco Summer Student Travel Program [caption id="attachment_152710" align="alignleft" width="364"] Photo by Ngun Siang Kim, Myanmar Summer Program.[/caption] “Ultimately, embracing the possibility of candid experiences—those that lead you into the waters of coursing Himalayan rivers and into the corridors of 500-year old monasteries, as mine did during my programs—are what have been most influential in shaping me into the confident, prepared and wise traveler I am today.” - Olivia Sotirchos, North India Summer Study Abroad Program “The most important part of embracing the flexible itinerary was recognizing that our safety was a priority over strict travel and time constraints, and the comfort of knowing we could adjust the plan to fit our needs.” - Silvana Montagu, Eastern Himalayas Summer Student Travel Program “I wasn’t sure what “flexible itinerary” meant at the beginning, but by the end of the trip I grew to appreciate the spontaneity it brought. Our itinerary stayed mostly true to the original outline, but changed in small, beneficiary, ways. For example, we had been staying in a very rural town, Cotzal, where we were doing service projects. We decided to leave a day early, and instead spend the last day at a beautiful waterfall with the homestay families, eating lunch together and swimming. It’s important to let yourself be surprised.”  - Maggie Needham, Guatemala Summer Student Travel Program “The best part about being able to mix up the schedule is that you have the ability to invest your time in areas you are most passionate about. For example, during my trip to China we stumbled upon a shamanism festival with rich colors and new experiences. On the spot, our group decided that spending more time at the festival would be the best for our educational and cultural journey. The best days are those that aren’t 100 percent scripted.” - Liana Flecker, Silk Road China Summer Student Travel Program [caption id="attachment_152711" align="alignright" width="423"] Photo by Nils Skattum, Nepal Semester Program.[/caption] “I’m normally a very planned out person, and was a bit anxious about the flexible itinerary. When I got to Indonesia, I soon realized their concept of Jam Karet there—essentially meaning, "rubber time." People we were supposed to meet, and transportation we were planning to take, often ran late and sometimes never even showed up. This at first drove me crazy, but throughout my semester I learned to “santai saja” (or “just relax”) and just accept the situations for how they were, and everything always worked out. Dragons trips are highly immersive and intensive, and can be exhausting. Being flexible allows the group and its members to get what they really need—whether that’s time to rest, or time to engage and participate longer than the planned amount of time.” - Crissy McCarthy, Indonesia Gap Year Semester Abroad Program “To put the experience into a specific set of bullet points would seriously harm the whole meaning of this voyage in the first place. The world is open to so many possibilities waiting around the corner.”- Will Jamieson, Guatemala Summer Student Travel Program [post_title] => Q&A: What's a "flexible" itinerary? [post_excerpt] => Many study abroad programs provide a day-by-day (sometimes hour-by-hour) trip schedule used year after year. At Dragons, we keep our programs flexible and dynamic: each itinerary is uniquely designed and implemented by the instructors who lead the program. We believe some of the best experiences can come in the unscripted, serendipitous, and candid moments of surprise. It's a novel approach to travel and best explained by our participants. So here's how our past students define Dragons "flexible" itinerary concept... 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    [ID] => 150934
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2017-04-20 14:10:32
    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-20 20:10:32
    [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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