Women in Banaras sit in front of a mural that connects goddesses to the empowerment of women. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, India Semester.

Posts Tagged:

South Asia

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    [post_date] => 2019-12-05 14:37:40
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-05 21:37:40
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We thought you might like to see some sweatered goats. ❤️ which yes, you can have on your own wall. Each year, Dragons South Asia Program Director, Christy Sommers @talkingcentipede produces our favorite calendar with photos of these fashionable gals. More than 50% of the proceeds of the sweatered 🐐 calendars benefits Asha Deep Vidyashram, a school that serves over 200 K-8th grade students in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood in Varanasi, India. In 2019, the calendars raised $12,700 for the Asha Deep School! ✨ Calendars can be purchased on Etsy. . 📸s by @sweateredgoats otherwise known as @talkingcentipede otherwise known as Christy Sommers.

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[post_title] => Featured Instagram Photos of Sweatered Goats [post_excerpt] => Sweatered goats photos and calendars, compliments of Dragons South Asia Program Director, Christy Sommers. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-instagram-photos-of-sweatered-goats [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-05 14:37:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-05 21:37:40 [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] => 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] => 17 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 17 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 640 [name] => Dragons Instructors [slug] => dragons_instructors [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 640 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [parent] => 0 [count] => 24 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 24 [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] => 40 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 40 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Global Community, Dragons Instructors ... )
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    [post_date] => 2019-05-16 13:32:12
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-16 19:32:12
    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_154948" align="alignnone" width="1318"] Photo by CHELSEA FERRELL, BHUTAN: A farm and house built in traditional Bhutanese architecture located outside of the UWICER environmental institute and research station outside Jakar, Bhutan.[/caption]

 

WORDS & IMAGE CHELSEA FERRELL, INSTRUCTOR

LOCATION: BHUTAN

If you say you’re going to Bhutan, be prepared for a wide range of reactions. From the skeptical bank-teller (“Hold on, let me make sure that’s a country before I authorize your credit card.”) to the confused listener (“Oh, that’s in Africa, right?”) to the awestruck fan (“Isn’t that the happiest country in the world?!”). While you can’t anticipate others’ reactions, one thing is certain: Once introduced to the country, the people, and the concepts of Bhutan, your perspective won’t be the same.
By virtue of merely being in the country, you are incorporated into the community and your presence alone makes you a valued member.
In June 2018, after months of planning and relationship building, Dragons launched its inaugural summer program in Bhutan. For someone familiar with the country, it’s impossible to miss the many ways Bhutan and Dragons are alike. Both are small. (Bhutan only has a population of 750,000 people!) They are both decidedly independent and not afraid to be different. And both Bhutan and Dragons are loyal to their principles, regardless of the climate among peers. While many countries focus solely on capitalism and generating wealth, Bhutan uses Buddhist ethics in its governance and economic policies. As one of the world’s newer democracies, Bhutan is often cited as an example of a country that is doing development differently. Bhutan has managed to adapt to modern life even while preserving its heritage and remaining faithful to core values. But my favorite similarity between Bhutan and Dragons is the informal, dependable, tight-knit communities entwined throughout each. Bhutan often feels like a neighborhood block party that might take place on a street in the US suburbs. You meet people you’ve never seen but somehow, they seem to know all about you. By virtue of merely being in the country, you are incorporated into the community and your presence alone makes you a valued member. I’ve felt this same way about the Dragons community. No matter where I go in the world, I can be sure of one thing: I’ll likely run into a Dragons instructor, student, or alum.

CHALLENGING DEFINITIONS OF HAPPINESS

My personal journey in understanding happiness in a Bhutanese context began in 2012, when, as a graduate student of Social Anthropology and Tibetan language, I spent a month traversing the country. At that point in my life, I’d lived in several countries and was slipping towards the feeling like I had nothing new to learn or experience in another culture.
The remoteness of the country and the lack of Western ideologies enforced a need to unplug...
A few days in Bhutan, however, was enough to jerk me out of the cocoon that I’d formed around myself. The remoteness of the country and the lack of Western ideologies enforced a need to unplug and naturally created an environment that led me to re-evaluate what I thought I knew.

Bhutan called into question some of the core assumptions in the West so fundamental to our thinking that many of us no longer recognize them as value tradeoffs, such as, “bigger is better” and “nature should be commodified.” My time in Bhutan also led to a recognition of the values of silence, slowness, and a lack of instantaneous gratification. It led me to see the value of technology should not be blindly assumed, but evaluated in this context.

BUILDING THE PROGRAM IN BHUTAN

In planning the Dragons program in Bhutan, we incorporated Bhutanese and Dragons ideals not only into program themes, but into the methodology of how we set up the program. During each step of program development, we were conscious of our impact, securing local input through joint brainstorming sessions and attempts to find service activities that would provide value to the communities with whom we worked.
Our FOI allowed us to explore the factors that contribute to happiness, including the use and value of natural space, community life, and the ways that happiness is embedded in and practiced through spiritual philosophies and traditions.
Seeking an alternative way to chart the country’s progress, Bhutan became famous for coining the idea of Gross National Happiness as an alternative measurement to Gross National Product. The country is especially unique because of its variety of public policies related to environmental conservation and cultural preservation. The Focus of Inquiry (FOI) for each trip is designed to look at themes that will be woven through all program activities and experiences. As we formed the program, we also discussed possible program themes, both with one another and with Bhutanese friends and former colleagues. These conversations often circled back to the idea of happiness because with Bhutanese and Buddhist lens, happiness is often viewed differently than it is in the US. Our FOI allowed us to explore the factors that contribute to happiness, including the use and value of natural space, community life, and the ways that happiness is embedded in and practiced through spiritual philosophies and traditions. The FOI was designed to encourage students to look closely at their own lives and experiences, and to explore their tacit assumptions about happiness.

COMMUNITY IS EVERYTHING

In Bhutan, connections stretch out like long games of telephone, particularly as families move between regions with seasonal change. Visualizing how community connections are fostered is best illustrated by picturing a road trip across Bhutan during the summer. Monsoon rains, landslides, and mud on the national highway might cause roadblocks that can last anywhere from hours to days. In the West, this time might be written off as “wasted,” a detriment to productivity. However, in Bhutan, these roadblocks often become social gatherings, a time to meet new people and sip hot butter tea together while watching bulldozers lift massive stones and level out dirt. What seems an annoyance can morph into the best part of the trip. Bhutan is remarkable in this way: It’s a country so small and unplugged that social interactions naturally arise from an unavoidably interwoven community.
What seems an annoyance can morph into the best part of the trip.
With all this in mind, what could be more fitting than Dragons offering a program in a country whose name in the native language literally translates to the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”?

MAYBE THE BEST WAY TO SUM IT ALL UP IS WITH QUOTES FROM THE SUMMER 2018 BHUTAN PROGRAM YAK BOARD:

“Life is very different here. The day starts just before 6:00am in the morning. Everyone works together to make breakfast. It is very much unlike the United States. Back home we usually wake up, eat, and go about our day on our own. Here, they all eat together and get along extremely well. There is a sense that even when they are not talking, they are having a conversation." –Jake Zivkovic, Student

“Bhutan is a small country, but it contains such a vast wealth of history and culture—its diverse peoples, geography, religious traditions, and cuisine are all so colorful and full of spice! Traveling in places like this is difficult, surreal, heavenly, overwhelming, and everything in between all at once.” –Nick Gredin, Instructor

“Some of the first icebreakers my homestay brother had in store for us: ‘Have you been following the World Cup?’ and ‘What is your favorite soccer league team?’ When I went to play later with the Bhutanese teenagers and young adults, they seemed to be shocked when I could barely dribble without tripping over myself.” –Jack Holmgren, Student

“I’m convinced of how special this country is and would like to proclaim myself as Bhutan’s official biggest fan. Why am I so confident about that statement? Almost anybody would feel the same if they could come smell the air and listen to the birds. As I sit in the back of the farmhouse where we are taking residency, I can’t help but stop writing to look at the vast rice fields and clouds gently rolling over the mountains.[...] This may be the quietest place I’ve ever experienced...” –Raif Wexler, Student

“Every meal that we have had at our homestay has concluded the same way; with our homestay mother and grandmother commenting on how little we eat. While attempting to plop more food on our plates, they say that if we don’t eat we will get thin and also point out that we don’t want an empty stomach because that will make us miss our parents.” –Delaney Bashaw, Student

CHELSEA FERRELL works in Global Operations at Tufts University. She received her MA in Social Anthropology from the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) and her BA in Political Science from Swarthmore College. She has led academic and service programs in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Colorado and presented at national and regional conferences on topics of Himalayan Studies and University Risk Management. She believes that intercultural community experiences are powerful sites of personal transformation.
 

P.S. Head over to see the itinerary and details of our new Gap Year Bhutan Semester!

(This essay was featured in the 2019 issue of The Dragons Journal. We encourage you to visit our archive of issues and essays or even submit a piece for publication in the next issue!)
[post_title] => Bhutan: Challenging Definitions of Happiness — A DRAGONS JOURNAL FEATURED STORY [post_excerpt] => If you say you’re going to Bhutan, be prepared for a wide range of reactions. From the skeptical bank-teller (“Hold on, let me make sure that’s a country before I authorize your credit card.”) to the confused listener (“Oh, that’s in Africa, right?”) to the awestruck fan (“Isn’t that the happiest country in the world?!”). While you can’t anticipate others’ reactions, one thing is certain: Once introduced to the country, the people, and the concepts of Bhutan, your perspective won’t be the same. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bhutan-challenging-definitions-of-happiness-a-dragons-journal-featured-story [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-23 10:07:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-23 16:07:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => 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] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 20 [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/ ) ) [category_links] => The Dragons Journal )
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    [post_date] => 2019-01-17 14:42:32
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-17 21:42:32
    [post_content] => 

This week at Dragons HQ, we're quite busy with our annual Admin retreat. In our administrative absence, we offer you this lovely image, from India, by Michael Woodard.

It's captioned: "Marigold garlands have important cultural and religious significance in India and are commonly offered to the Hindu gods and goddesses." Marigold India Garland Hindu Thanks for your patience this week. Back to regular business on Monday! Sincerely, Dragons HQ [post_title] => Featured Photo (from India) by Michael Woodard [post_excerpt] => This week at Dragons HQ, we're quite busy with our annual Admin retreat. In our administrative absence, we offer you this lovely image by Michael Woodard. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-photo-by-michael-woodard [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-29 15:05:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-29 22:05:13 [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] => 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] => 40 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 40 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/mixed_media/ ) ) [category_links] => Mixed Media )
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    [post_date] => 2018-12-13 10:03:07
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-13 17:03:07
    [post_content] => 
"It blends my love of cute things with India and this desire that I have for people to understand the rest of the world better," Sommers says.

This week, we are celebrating the recognition of Christy Sommers (Dragons South Asia Program Director) and her feature by NPR this week in a piece titled, "Dear Internet: Goats In Sweaters Are Cuter Than Kittens In Mittens." We encourage you to read the article and see for yourself seven "impossibly cute" photos of goats wearing sweaters!

From the NPR article:

"Christy Sommers, who takes the photos, first noticed the cuteness that is clothed goats in 2010, while living in a village in northwestern Bangladesh as a Fulbright scholar studying rural primary education. Now she considers the project as adding "net happiness" to the world and helping to share a little slice of life from parts of the world that Americans don't often get to see."

PS. There's also a calendar. Sales of which benefit local organizations in Varanasi, India. Sounds like Christy quickly sold out after the NPR feature, but she's working on a re-print! More details here. [post_title] => Christy Sommers & Her Featured Goats in Sweaters! [post_excerpt] => This week, we are celebrating the recognition of Christy Sommers (Dragons South Asia Program Director) and her feature by NPR this week in a piece titled, "Dear Internet: Goats In Sweaters Are Cuter Than Kittens In Mittens." We encourage you to read the article and see for yourself seven "impossibly cute" photos of goats wearing sweaters!  [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => christy-sommers-her-featured-goats-in-sweaters [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-13 10:04:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-13 17:04:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 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] => 24 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 24 [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/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 670 [name] => Recommended [slug] => recommended [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 670 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [parent] => 0 [count] => 11 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 11 [cat_ID] => 670 [category_count] => 11 [category_description] => Recommended reading, watching and listening. [cat_name] => Recommended [category_nicename] => recommended [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/recommended/ ) [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] => 40 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 40 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Instructors, Recommended ... )
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    [post_content] => At Dragons HQ, we're head-over-heels for all the experiences and sentiments captured so beautifully in this fabulous video made by Laura Berry of the Fall 2017 Nepal Semester...


    [post_title] => Nepal Semester Video by Alumni Laura Berry
    [post_excerpt] => At Dragons HQ, we're head-over-heels for all the experiences and sentiments captured so beautifully in this fabulous video made by Laura Berry of the Fall 2017 Nepal Semester...
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    [post_date] => 2018-10-04 09:30:02
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    [post_content] => It was extremely hard for the committee to choose only three winners, but we've posted the 1-minute videos selected as our three top #dragonsvisualstory contest winners on Instagram this week.

You can watch the videos on instagram by clicking on the videos below...

[caption id="attachment_153754" align="aligncenter" width="460"] 1-minute visual story video by Katherine Marcus of Dragons Guatemala: Community in Action program.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_153752" align="aligncenter" width="460"] 1-minute visual story video made by Jenna Einhorn, a student on Dragons Summer 2018 Nepal - Traditions of the Himalayas Program.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_153753" align="aligncenter" width="459"] 1-minute video from Vanessa Payne with imagery and sounds from this summer’s Guatemala Spanish Language Intensive 4-week course.[/caption]

Congratulations Vanessa, Jenna, and Katherine!

And thank you to ALL those who put love into their beautiful video contest submissions. They were an honor to watch! Sincerely, Dragons HQ [post_title] => Announcing our Three 1-minute "Visual Story" Video Contest Winners! [post_excerpt] => It was extremely hard for the committee to choose only three, but we're thrilled to announce and share with you the top three 1-minute videos selected as the #dragonsvisualstory contest winners... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => announcing-our-three-1-minute-visual-story-video-contest-winners [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-10-18 12:18:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-10-18 18:18:25 [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] => 54 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 54 [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] => 700 [name] => For Parents [slug] => for_parents [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 700 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [parent] => 0 [count] => 34 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 700 [category_count] => 34 [category_description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [cat_name] => For Parents [category_nicename] => for_parents [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/for_parents/ ) [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] => 40 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 12 [cat_ID] => 654 [category_count] => 40 [category_description] => Featured Photography, Videos, Podcasts, Photo Contest Winners, Films & Art [cat_name] => Mixed Media [category_nicename] => mixed_media [category_parent] => 0 ) [3] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 651 [name] => Announcements [slug] => announcements [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 651 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [parent] => 0 [count] => 50 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14 [cat_ID] => 651 [category_count] => 50 [category_description] => Announcements on: New Programs, Surveys, Jobs/Internships, Contests, & Behind-the-Scenes Activity. [cat_name] => Announcements [category_nicename] => announcements [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, For Parents ... )
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