A woman sitting in a chair at Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind) in Jaipur. Photo by Eliana Rothwell (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist), India Semester.

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Photo Essays

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    [post_date] => 2018-08-29 11:15:18
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If you haven't seen our Instagram Story on our move to a new HQ, here's some shots of the action...

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    [post_date] => 2018-07-03 12:23:51
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WORDS by MOHAMED ARGUINE

IMAGES by SHINO YOSHEN

Years ago, when I was approached to lead Dragons first summer course in Morocco, I found myself considering who should join us on our trek in the High Atlas mountains. I contacted five local guides, all of whom were very fit and had years of experience. Among them was a man named Ben M’barek, and from all I had heard, I was hoping he would accept the invitation. I was looking for one of the guides to provide more than just loading his mule from one campsite to another, setting up tents, and serving food. I was hoping to find someone who would reflect the cultural traditions, ethnic diversity, and character of Morocco—someone who would embody the spirit of our mission and our values.

THE EARLY LIFE OF BEN M’BAREK

Ben M’barek was born in the village of Boutaghrar, a tiny hamlet at the northern edge of the Valley of Roses, on October 1948. His father was one of the first men in the village to immigrate to France in the late 1940s, and he ultimately married 15 women and fathered 33 children, leaving Ben to live with his mother.
Long days of solitude on the mountain slopes appealed to his restless nature. He would come back home tired and reflective, but brimming with his love for poetry and local music.
M’barek’s mother, Touda Hmad Ait El Qaseh, was as committed to her children as she was connected to nature. As a single mother, she would leave home early in the morning to help wealthy families from the village and neighbors in their fields—anyone who needed help collecting grass for their animals and irrigating their crops—for a few vegetables in return. On the best days, she would return home with a cone of sugar for the family. Ben M’barek never forgot the sacrifices his mother made and, as she grew older, he insisted that she live with him and his family. She lived with her son until 2008 when she passed, having lost her sight three years earlier. Ben M’barek never went to school, nor did any of his eight kids. He considered school a luxury reserved for fortunate families, so when he was young he worked in the fields like his mother and found side jobs on construction crews. Later on, he worked on and off as a sheep herder for fourteen years and found it to be more to his liking. Long days of solitude on the mountain slopes appealed to his restless nature. He would come back home tired and reflective, but brimming with his love for poetry and local music.

BEN M’BAREK AS AN ARTIST

Ben M’barek first discovered his passion for poetry and music at the age of seven. He found no greater joy than attending weddings in the village, particularly because he was allowed to perform ahidous, a traditional Berber folk dance from Morocco’s Middle and High Atlas Mountains. Ahidous is, in fact, the only dance or musical style performed at village weddings across the region. People sit in a large square—women on one side and men on another—leaving the center of the square open like a dance floor for anyone who wants to perform. Male drummers sit in rows singing while women repeat the lyrics, and there is a master of ceremony to manage the floor and organize the groups who wish to perform.
word of his talent had spread across the region and it was said that any wedding Ben M’barek attended was likely to be a great success and attract hundreds of people
It was during celebrations like these that Ben M’barek’s skills in poetry, dancing and drumming found a stage. Even at a young age, his remarkable range made him a complete artist in the eyes of many and he started to attract the attention of people in the village. He had a very lively imagination that enabled him to excel in a number of genres—from romance, religion and humor to history and social criticism. Before long, word of his talent had spread across the region and it was said that any wedding Ben M’barek attended was likely to be a great success and attract hundreds of people. In time, Ben M’barek became one of the most famous ahidous performers in the region of Imgoun. He and his band started to receive special invitations to weddings and local gatherings, where they became known by local authorities, who then invited them to perform at national concerts and religious celebrations. These would mark the first time M’barek accepted compensation for his music; until then he had typically refused money because he considered adihous a performance emanating from the pureness of his heart. Music and poetry were what kept him alive and young. In 1986, Hassan II, King of Morocco, made a trip to the remote southeast of the country and passed through Kelaat M’Gouna, the Valley of Roses, and Ben M’barek’s home. His visit was a major event in the region. Local authorities went from village to village searching for the best folk dancers to perform for King Hassan II. Ben M’barek was chosen as a member of a group of eight men and women and told to prepare them for the event. He entertained the king and his retinue throughout the week and the performances were very well received. Afterwards, M’Barek became even more respected among local authorities and they began requesting him for more events. Ben M’barek’s life changed dramatically, and he soon found himself performing at large gatherings and weddings across Ouarzazate province. Invitations started flowing in from other places, much further away, some even from non-Berber speaking regions like Casablanca, Marrakesh and Tangier. Although audiences could not have understood his lyrics or comprehended more than a few words of his language, they were nevertheless drawn to the authenticity and traditional movements of his dances. During these concerts, he would instruct his band to play handmade drums and ask that performers respect a traditional dress code that reflected their Berber identity. In 2009, after the death of his best friend and companion of over three decades, Ben M’barek decided to retire from ahidous. His friend’s name was Ahmed ou Daoud and, next to Ben M’barek, he was considered the second best drummer in the region. Some even considered him more talented in the genres of love and romance. Neither Ben nor Ahmed ever showed any inclination toward competition; on the contrary, they performed together in a harmonious way that was noted and respected by everyone. Whenever they performed together, the event would attract masses of people. Ahmed ou Daoud’s death left Ben M’barek in such despair that he did not perform for over a year. And it took considerable persuasion from supporters before he agreed to perform again. When he returned, he made changes to the group and brought in new performers, incorporating several young male and female dancers. He also decided to be more organized, and Ben began acting as their manager.

BEN M’BAREK AS A MOUNTAIN GUIDE

Boutaghrar, Ben M’barek’s village, is a picturesque canyon-oasis situated at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains, where a maze of herders’ paths lead up toward the higher peaks. Working as a trekking guide was a source of income for some in the community, but at the time Ben M’barek had never considered doing such a job. He was blessed with knowledge of the mountain trails and a pleasant personality, but he never attended school nor did he speak any language other than Tamazight, the ancient language of the Berber. Until then, he had spent his days working in the fields, herding and performing poetry and ahidous in the evenings. He wasn’t a mountain guide.
he enjoyed the curiosity of the hikers and their interest to learn more about him
Ben M’barek was approached by a friend who was preparing to take a group of French hikers on a week-long trek through the High Atlas Mountains. Ben M’barek did not know all the little hamlets nor had he memorized the winding paths or best places to camp, but he knew the way and the trip was a life-changing experience. He felt appreciated by the tourists, physically challenged, at peace out in nature and, on a deeper level, he enjoyed the curiosity of the hikers and their interest to learn more about him. Every day after hours of trekking, Ben M’barek would take out his drum, sit on a rock and start playing whatever came to mind. He never thought his songs would attract the attention of tourists who didn’t understand a word of the Tamazight language. But they asked him what the lyrics meant and to teach them how to dance. With the help of one of the main guides, Ben M’barek explained the themes of his poetry. The guide explained that M’Barek was singing about his love for the High Atlas Mountains and that he hoped not to see what might be hiding behind them. The oxygen of his life, its meaning, flows down from the peak of the highest mountain to his soul through the drops of rain and flakes of snow—pure and white as his heart, and imbued with love for this region, which to him is heaven on earth. He also sang about his mother and how he missed her on the days when he was away from the mountains. He wondered how some people who leave Morocco for Europe or the United States deal with homesickness and being absent from their loved ones.

BEN M’BAREK AND HIS DRAGONS LOVE STORY

Dragons first Morocco course in 2007 included a five-day trek starting in Tabant in the Azilal region and to Boutaghrar, my small village at the very northern opening of the Valley of Roses winding around 4,071 meter M’goun, the third tallest mountain in Morocco. Upon the finalizing the itinerary, I called Ben M’barek hoping he would be available to accompany us on Dragons’ first trek in the High Atlas.
He knows the paths and water springs and nomadic herders.
“You’re the first person from Boutaghrar to bring a group of tourists and they aren’t even French!” he said. “I have other offers but since you reached out to me personally, and we are from the same village, I will be happy to go with you. I danced at your mother’s wedding and I know your family very well, so we’ll not talk about compensation. My team and I will help the first international guide from Boutaghrar!” Over the years, Ben M’Barek has become one of the most experienced guides in the region. He knows the paths and water springs and nomadic herders. He is also a committed educator. He has taught Dragons students Berber folk dances. He has taught them poetry. He has shared the essence of his imagination with great love, energy and ambition and became an integral part of the Dragons experience in Morocco. From 2007 through 2010, he led trips with unfailing energy, ingenuity and affection. And when Dragons reopened the Morocco summer course in 2017, Ben M’barek was ready to come back and join us again. After discussing the idea of interviewing him for an article in Dragons newsletter, Ben M’barek opened his heart and house to me, and introduced me to his family with same generosity he has always offered. It was a great honor to be welcomed into his modest home and meet his wonderful family. As lunch was being prepared, Ben M’barek introduced me to his wife, Zahra Alili, who is around 65 years old. He told me that leading Dragons trips has helped him build a better house, buy new furniture and feed his children and grandchildren. His family feels indebted to Dragons for their better life. But I assured him that it is Dragons, and myself, who are indebted to M’Barek for wisdom and hospitality he has provided us.
MOHAMED ARGUINE is a longtime Dragons instructor having worked the first Morocco summer course in 2007. After moving to the US where he received his Master’s from Brandeis in Sustainable International Development, he worked for the Peace Corps and then the United Nations Development Program both in New York City and globally. Mohamed recently led Dragons inaugural Madagascar semester program.
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[caption id="attachment_153119" align="aligncenter" width="970"] Photo by Tim Hare.[/caption]
Bistate jannus. “Walk slowly,” advises the Nepali goodbye bidding.
One of my early expeditions in Bolivia involved a fairly ill-conceived plan to hike 700-kilometers across the southwestern altiplano region with three donkeys to Sajama, Bolivia’s highest peak at 22,000 feet. We thought a month should be sufficient. Along the way we passed through a village every 40 kilometers, creating a constellation of humanity in an otherwise desolate high desert. One of the most memorable interactions was asking a local farmer how far it was to Pisiga, one of the larger towns along the route. It was late morning. Looking up from his quinoa fields he squinted off to the distance, “Son 4 horas, no mas.” We raced off towards Pisiga, eager for a good meal and maybe a bed for the night. We ended up having dinner over a camp stove in the middle of a salt lake, under the southern cross constellation, rather than in Pisiga. We arrived to Pisiga the next day, at sunset, after 16-more hours of hiking! We sold our donkeys in that town and never made it to Sajama.
...how strange it is to chop our days into hours and our hours into seconds. To the majority of humans that have inhabited our planet, time is the sun rising, arching in the sky, and setting just as the stars and moon come out to trace their long path across the heavens. Time is a changing leaf, the coming rain, and the migration of birds.
What was most memorable about the exchange was just how different our perceptions of time were. I reflected on how strange it is to chop our days into hours, and our hours into seconds. To the majority of humans that have inhabited our planet, time is the sun rising, arching in the sky, and setting just as the stars and moon come out to trace their long path across the heavens. Time is a changing leaf, the coming rain, and the migration of birds. In such a spacious and dynamic structure of time, there is little need to ambitiously pack as much into each tick of the clock. Time is not transactional and economic; it is not “money” but, rather, it is one measure of the elegant and often unpredictable arc of existence which demands our respect rather than our control. In order to fully appreciate time in these terms we need to get lost in it. We need a lot of time on our hands to fully lose track of it and start observing these other, ancestral measures of time. One of my favorite bands, Elephant Revival, sings

“Well what is time? It’s when the sun goes down The moon comes up The people dance all around”

[caption id="attachment_153118" align="aligncenter" width="864"] Photo by Tim Hare.[/caption] AT DRAGONS we opt to run courses that are a month or more in length. We hear from our students all the time that they wanted to do a Dragons course for years but weren’t able because they had competing summer activities and camps. Other prospective students may choose a program that takes place in two weeks but promises all the same places and highlights. So why would someone elect to do something in 4 or 6 weeks that they can “do” in 10 days? We ask participants to join us for 4 or 6 weeks, or even 85 days not so they can do more things in that time, but, often, so they can do less.
We ask participants to join us for 4 or 6 weeks, or even 85 days not so they can do more things in that time, but, often, so they can do less.
At Dragons we try hard to travel less, do less, have more space, be bored at times, and take the time to know a place well. We encourage others to do the same. We know that deep learning and connection comes not from quantity but from quality - and quality takes more time.

ON DEPTH

Learning, these days, seems to be chopped up into increasingly small bites in order to meet our diminutive attention spans. According to one study, attention span in students currently runs around 10 minutes. Education and travel compete with other fast-paced aspects of our lives. What is gained in breadth of learning is often at the cost of depth. Broad, “landscape-level” learning is useful. On course, however, we want to combine this broad learning with deep dives into the weeds in order to look at intricate connections and more profound meaning. Travel is so intimate it demands depth. Depth takes time.

ON BOREDOM

While Dragons courses are far from boring, we do hope that students have the time on our courses to be bored. We hope they can space out on a long bus ride, wander around local parks or temples, wake on a Saturday morning with no plans other than to accompany their host family to the river to wash clothes. We expect that students may be bored while washing the clothes. Boredom is a forgotten art. We actually may need to schedule it in.
While Dragons courses are far from boring, we do hope that students have the time on our courses to be bored.
Some amazing research is being done on the value of boredom, as outlined in Manoush Zomorodi’s Bored and Brilliant, and its role in opening the mind to contemplation and creativity. When was the last time you were bored? Social media rarely lets us be bored. And the 24 hour news cycle works tirelessly to keep our attention. Boredom helps us to to explore our own minds and our own creativity.

ON BEING FRUSTRATED

We repeatedly see that a group experiences a life cycle where students begin with politeness and interest in each other and the place. Students generally engage each other with curiosity and respect and are open to learning. But we all begin any experience with a level of naivety. It’s like a new relationship, and we often call this the “honeymoon phase,” or forming. Things will almost invariably turn south. And they should, or at least they must if they are to be authentic and honest. So, both in the group and with a student’s experience of place, the group begins to storm. Individuals might start to dislike the local food, or each other, or the smells; they begin to grow tired and frustrated in general. But they will grow beyond that. Students will see each other and the place not with the rose-colored glasses they started with, but, rather, as the multi-faceted interactions they are. Most meaningful interactions are pleasant and unpleasant, fun and also challenging. Students begin to norm when they don’t just see the idyllic version of the place or their peers, but rather their wholeness; they are learning to relate to them in this complexity. Finally, if all goes well, students may arrive at a performing stage, where they are in step with each other and the place. They know how to navigate with confidence. They speak the language. They work through conflict with skill and grace.
We want our students to get frustrated with each other and with the places they are traveling through. Ultimately we work to help them to transcend that frustration.
This dynamic process moves in fits and starts, and is more cyclical than linear, but it generally moves forward and is essential to meaningful learning. As courses get shorter, however, it is far easier to simply avoid conflict and remain in the honeymoon phase - in a fun but rather inauthentic space, both with one’s peers as well as a place. At Dragons, we want our students to get frustrated with each other and with the places they are traveling through. Ultimately we work to help them to transcend that frustration. This deep learning is inaccessible if one chooses to hop from one place to another, one experience to another, one country to another, never having the time or space to be frustrated. [caption id="attachment_153120" align="aligncenter" width="970"] Photo by Tim Hare.[/caption]

ENVIRONMENTAL AND CULTURAL IMPACT

It would be tragically ironic if our desire to see the Amazon rainforest, to live with communities on the fringe of intensifying desertification or seasonal floods, or our passion to walk in the icy glaciers of the high Himalayas actually hastened their demise. It is. A flight from Denver to Kathmandu creates 4.9 metric tonnes of CO2. That’s more than double the required per person yearly average which will slow or reverse climate change. Do we typically then take a two year break from air travel after taking one of these intercontinental flights? Probably not. If we’re going to take such long flights, we should do so less frequently, and we should aim to make the experience as meaningful as possible by slowing down and truly immersing ourselves. In addition to the huge environmental impact, travel has massive cultural impact. By staying longer and going for depth over breadth, intercultural exchanges become human-to-human affairs rather than a kind of objectifying experience that tourism all too often becomes. Familiarity breeds care and concern; thus, the more familiar we become with a place or a culture, the more care and concern we are likely to foster.
By staying longer and going for depth over breadth, intercultural exchanges become human-to-human affairs rather than a kind of objectifying experience that tourism all too often becomes.
Wade Davis describes the ethnosphere as, “the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, intuitions and inspirations brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness.” At least half of the world’s roughly 7000 languages spoken today are likely to disappear this century, according to the National Geographic July 2012 article. One language dies every 14 days. According to Davis, the loss is the canary in the coal mine, in that, as the languages die, so do stories and ways of living on the earth. There are a lot of forces at play here, but tourism and travel can add to this decline. By spending the time to learn languages and affirm beliefs and world views we can push ever so mildly against this trend of homogenization. But by sweeping through a place in a short amount of time, never learning the language or truly immersing in the culture, we perpetuate the global power dynamic that is creating this loss. Perhaps the best way to understand this is with a quote from an alumni of our longest course - the 9-month Princeton Bridge Year program:

"Travel, for me, used to be a time to get away and experience something different from my daily routine. However, being in Bolivia for such an extensive period of time has required me to not think of this experience not as "getting away," but setting a new normal. The amount of time I have spent here has pushed me to not use home as an escape. When I face something hard, I cannot just resort to the fact that I will go home where things will be better. When I don’t understand what my host family is saying I am propelled into studying Spanish in more depth. When my service work was not productive I was pushed to ask more questions, take on more projects, and dive into the community further, instead of just accepting the way it was. It is an incredible learning experience that I must face these challenges head on and figure out how to resolve them or live with them." - Sarah Brown, Princeton Bridge Year Bolivia Program

In other words, Bistate jannus. “Walk slowly,” advises the Nepali goodbye bidding.  

Tim Hare is Dragons Director of Risk Management and Staff Training. He calls the mountains of Colorado home, while having made a life for himself climbing, exploring, teaching, and learning throughout the mountains of the Americas.  With Dragons, Tim has instructed or supported courses in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Nepal and SE Asia. He lives in Boulder with his partner and two children.  Read his full bio.

     

Interested in learning more about some of Dragons longer-term programs? Take a look at our 3-month Gap Year programs in Asia, Africa and Latin America, or Dragons 6-week Summer Programs in China, Indonesia, India, Peru, and Madagascar.

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Slow Travel: The Benefits of Longer-Term Programs and Immersive Experiences Abroad

Posted On

05/22/18

Author

Tim Hare, Dragons Director of Risk Management and Staff Training

Description
"At Dragons, we ask participants to travel longer, not so they can do more things in that time, but, often, so they can do less. We try to move less,… Read More
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    [post_content] => 

We are so excited for our current #worldofdragons instagram takeover hosted by a very special and multi-talented member of Dragons community: Christy Sommers. For those who don’t know her, you’re in for a treat. Here’s her introduction and one of her images and captions from the week. Head over to Dragons Instagram feed to see the rest!

“I’m Christy (@talkingcentipede), and I led my first Dragons program nearly a decade ago—the first ever West Africa semester in Senegal and Guinea in the fall of 2008. At the time, I thought it would just be a one-off experience, and that I would then go into the career in international education policy that I had been planning on. Why am I still here? Well, the shortest answer to that question is Liz Connor and Mbouillé Diallo, my co-instructors on that fateful first course. Liz and Mbouillé modeled a life approach centered around building compassion and connection and a deep understanding of the world. Learning alongside our awesome group of students, the course of my life shifted in a new direction. I fell in love with experiential, cross-cultural education as a means of constantly learning about and engaging with some of the most fascinating places in the world. Since then, I’ve worked for Dragons as an instructor on our courses in Senegal, Madagascar, Rwanda, India, and Nepal, and as an administrator in the Dragons office managing programs in those countries.”

Here's Christy's fourth posted image and story behind it:

Captioned: "Dragons student Felicia Jing learns how to weave tradition baskets on our course in Rwanda in 2013. Over the course of those 6 weeks, we explored 3 national parks, climbed up a 12,000 foot volcano, gawked at Rwanda’s spectacular wildlife and beautiful vistas, spent time in a rural homestay in my co-instructor’s home village, heard the stories of Congolese refugees, participated in Rwanda’s monthly community work day, visited NGOs working on everything from wildlife conservation to peace and conflict resolution, and so much more. After all of this exploring and learning, there was a lot to reflect on. Each of our students remarked that Rwanda wasn’t like they had expected; there is just so much more nuance than we are able to imagine before we experience a place first-hand. Even my Rwandan co-instructor remarked that working as a Dragons instructor has changed his perceptions and understanding of his own country through facilitating learning for our student groups." *This is the fourth post of the #worldofdragons takeover by @talkingcentipede.

Head over to Dragons Instagram feed to see more posts by Christy Sommers!

[post_title] => Christy Sommer's Takeover of Dragons Instagram Feed [post_excerpt] => We are so excited for our current #worldofdragons instagram takeover hosted by a very special and multi-talented member of Dragons community: Christy Sommers. For those who don’t know her, you’re in for a treat. Here’s her introduction and one of her images and captions from the week... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => christy-sommers-takeover-dragons-instagram-feed [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-16 09:37:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-16 15:37:05 [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/ ) [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] => 18 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 18 [category_description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [cat_name] => Dragons Instructors [category_nicename] => dragons_instructors [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons_instructors/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 654 [name] => Mixed Media [slug] => mixed_media [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 654 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [parent] => 0 [count] => 28 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 28 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Dragons Instructors ... )
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    [post_date] => 2018-04-19 10:25:39
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    [post_content] => 

Since Earth Day deserves more than one day a year, we’re going to give it a few days of alumni student love. Starting with Dragons Student Ambassador Benjamin Swift

[caption id="attachment_152916" align="aligncenter" width="567"] Photos by Benjamin Swift, South America Semester Alumni Student.[/caption] Captioned: "For Earth Day, I'm sharing pictures from my South America semester of fellow student, Trisha, picking up trash on a trek we did while doing our service trip in the Altiplano. Trisha and I also visited the Tiquipaya landfill (pictured, top), which inspired an article that I wrote for my campus newspaper (goo.gl/S16dEQ). This interest in the environment and trash helped lead me to Haiti, where I visited my Dragons Instructor, Ellie Happel, and learned about her work and research fighting proposed metal mining. While there, we visited SOIL (oursoil.org), a composting toilet company that provides dignified access to sanitation for people who would otherwise not have access to it, creating rich organic compost in the process. At SOIL, I wrote an article (goo.gl/RiYSFd) for them after helping the workers empty poop buckets all day. Through these photos, which include images from a landfill in both Colorado and Bolivia, I hope to highlight that the waste we create is an issue, whether it is obviously visible or not. In Bolivia and Haiti, trash is conspicuous in cities and in the environment, though, per-capita, people create much less of it than in the United States. Americans generate much more waste, but simply do a better job of concealing it, thus creating an illusion that it does not exist." 🙏🏼 you Benjamin. #earthday #wheretherebedragons #wheretherebe🐉

Want to see more? Visit Dragons Instagram Feed.

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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] => 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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