Photo by Benjamin Swift, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Posts Tagged:

Transference

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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-12-20 10:36:54
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-20 17:36:54
    [post_content] => 

Please enjoy the following featured yak, written by Tabita Doujad, a student on the Fall 2018 South America: Andes & Amazon Semester (Group A).

It will be hard to tell the whole story.

I began my Dragons journey with all of my future plans in limbo. This was no accident; it was an intentional creation of space for something wildly new to grow. Because I am a person who has craved control over much of her life, who feels most comfortable when a sturdy plan is in sight, I knew that if I wanted to learn anything real about uncertainty and maybe, eventually, trust, I had to leave the second half of my gap year unscheduled. The thought of coming home after this Dragons trip without any real plans burdened me with anxiety for the first third of the adventure. I carried a kind of fear in my chest, a voice that asked me sometimes, What if you get stuck? What if this adventure is your only one? But I told myself, this is good for you. This uncertainty is what you need. Because you see, I also began my gap year with a kind of philosophy, a half-formed theory in mind.
I carried a kind of fear in my chest, a voice that asked me sometimes, What if you get stuck?
It’s an idea about trust: I want to believe in, or at least live by, the hope that if I give my energy and my efforts to the life I want to lead, things will come to me. Roads will open up for me if I trust enough in their possibility. I believe that that kind of trust and my willingness to engage with the world matters; I believe it plays a part in the unfolding of my life’s events. I think of it all as kind of a net. The net can be anything at all- a kind human being, a seemingly magical coincidence, a piece of good news, a story, or a door swinging open to a new journey. Like a crowd of people carrying a singer, or a friend… it is what catches you when you’ve gathered up enough courage and trust to let yourself fall. Leaving this part of my gap year empty felt like falling. I had (and have) no plans to attend college yet. Along with some other reasons, I wanted to see how far this wave of adventurous living could take me. I wanted to see what could come of a lifestyle that revolved around that idea of trust and flow.
This uncertainty is what you need.
In a kind of practice for my time post-Dragons, I learned to trust in small things on our three-month journey. My best example of this is the day that I let my friends cut my hair. One day, nearing the end of our final, 8-day trek, my group and I set up our tents, ate plates of pasta and organized gear. Then we gathered on the grass of the campsite with scissors and pocket knives, and a small ceremony began. I wore Ella’s rain poncho as a makeshift barber’s cloak, we ran a comb through my hair, and then, one by one, everyone cut a piece. I felt the dull pair of scissors that Edson, our guide, had brought from the kitchen house, go straight up the side of my skull, and I knew there was no going back, no resisting anymore. It was like a metaphor for the entire journey: I had to have trust in each one of the people who were taking part in this experience. It was my first haircut without a mirror, with only the faces of my beautiful friends to read as they piled onto the grass in front of me after cutting their piece (pictured in the photo above!). They looked worried, which worried me, but they all encouraged me with love. In the end, when I did look in the mirror, I was thrilled (and surprised) to see that it was honestly the best haircut I’d ever had. The care that my friends had taken with me, the energy that they had put into their work, was part of what made it special. I want to remember now how that kind of trust can lead to something beautiful.
They looked worried, which worried me, but they all encouraged me with love.
As I move now into the uncharted territory of my post-Dragons year, I think of all that I will carry with me from this trip, that lesson in trust being one of them. Our Ana, who led us in a ceremony on the last night of our adventure, told us to “guardar en sus corazones este viaje, como un recuerdo bonito.” To keep this journey in our hearts, like a beautiful memory. I want it to be a memory that lends itself to action. This has been a journey that has taught me how to be patient, how to think deeply, how to be respectful, how to have more courage, how to listen well. I will carry so many of the things that it gave me into the rest of my life. Stepping into the airport of my home city yesterday, I thought, over and over again: It will be hard to tell the whole story. It has been 24 hours now, and I’m still at a loss for proper words. Any real retelling of the past three months would be full not only of the things that I have lived, but would dive, also, into the imagined perspectives of other lives. This story is not just mine. To tell it, to express its complexity and richness, its reality and its surreality, to understand and to explain each of the implications and impacts that it had on every person that it touched, is an impossible task that I’ll never undertake in one Yak alone. Some things can’t be written at all.
Our Ana, who led us in a ceremony on the last night of our adventure, told us to “guardar en sus corazones este viaje, como un recuerdo bonito.” To keep this journey in our hearts, like a beautiful memory.
The story of this viaje will escape my being in a myriad of colorful ways; in conversations full of laughter with my family and friends, in the newly-conscious choices that I’ll make as a consumer, in my dreams at night of the places and people I’ve left behind, in my newfound love for spontaneous backyard haircuts, in every plan I make as I decide what roads I want to take next. The story of this semester will tell itself, will find its way from my memories and into my life every day, even when I am not aware of it. It’ll linger in my physical form: my legs harboring the faint remains of hundreds of mosquito bites from the Amazon; my shoulders still sore but made stronger by carrying my heavy pack, the choppy, short haircut through which I will tell, for a little while, the story of all of my friends. Two days ago, I was in Urubamba, waking up in a room full of friends, trying to get some breakfast into my nervous, emotional stomach, stretching my arms out of the window of a bus and feeling like flying. Two days ago I was saying goodbye: to the small apple orchard and to the owners of the Sacred Valley hostel where we stayed, to the cobblestone streets of downtown Cusco, to the the sun-warm and elegant mountains of the Cordillera Real. To my dear friend Emmy, and to my three instructors who I have come to love and admire so deeply. Looking out the window of our first airplane, I took my last look at Peru in the light of day. My last, for a while. For a little while.
I wasn’t expecting any grand transformations to come from these three months of travel. Yet this experience has changed me beyond any physical marks...
My backpack is still half-full, and small reminders of the adventure are strewn about my bedroom. When I left home, I said I wasn’t really going to change, that I wasn’t expecting any grand transformations to come from these three months of travel. Yet this experience has changed me beyond any physical marks, and what a transformative three months this has been. I have been changed by the love I have received, been challenged by it too; have grown up in the face of the worlds that have been shown to me, larger and more complex than anything I knew at home. Coming back home now, unpacking my memories, I am surprised by small differences that are markers of the person I’ve become. The gal that I’m becoming. She’s ready to fall in, now. To be brave with whatever comes next. I carry now in my heart, in place of fear, the light of possibility.
I carry now in my heart, in place of fear, the light of possibility.
Thank you, Dragones. Love, Tabita.     [post_title] => I SAID I WASN’T GOING TO CHANGE - A Featured Student Reflection [post_excerpt] => Please enjoy this lovely featured reflection written by Tabita Doujad, a student on the Fall 2018 South America: Andes & Amazon Semester (Group A). [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => i-said-i-wasnt-going-to-change-featured-yak-tabita-doujad [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-20 10:42:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-20 17:42:32 [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] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 42 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 23 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 23 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Alumni Spotlight )
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    [post_date] => 2018-09-27 11:32:46
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-27 17:32:46
    [post_content] => As a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, I grew quite fond of mealtime. Each afternoon and evening, my host family and I would gather around a large silver bowl placed upon a plastic mat. Squatting in the shade of the wide green arms of a mango tree, we scooped delicious fistfuls of savory sauces and white rice into our hungry mouths. Meals were completely satisfying. In my reflections, I realize that I was being nourished not only by the food, but also by the company I kept. Meals were a communal pause in our day, often followed by napping, drinking sweet mint tea, and braiding hair.

Upon returning to the States, I processed  my experience in Senegal by attending West African cultural events, printing myriads of black and white photographs, and cooking Senegalese food for friends. One of my favorite dishes to make was mafé gerte, or Senegalese Peanut Sauce. Simple yet scrumptious, this dish has served as one of the bridges between my Colorado mountain life and the years I resided in a round, earthen hut, gathering each day for the ageless ritual of sharing a meal.

Mafé Gerte

[caption id="attachment_153727" align="alignright" width="401"] Mafé Gerte pictured. Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal.[/caption]

Ingredients

  • Onion (1 large white)
  • Garlic (1-2 cloves)
  • Sweet potato (1 medium sized)
  • Carrots (2 medium sized)
  • Potato (1-2 medium sized)
  • Cabbage (approx 3 cups)
  • Habanero pepper
  • Oil of your choice (2-3 tsps)
  • Peanut Butter (½ cup to 1 cup depending on preference for thickness)
  • Tomato Paste (2 tsps - helps cut the sweetness of the peanut butter)
  • Water or broth (a bullion cube in water works well)
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper (Lots of it! A few tsps)
  • Cayenne (A pinch)
  • Rice
This dish is traditionally made with goat meat, which can be added with the onions if you prefer meat in your sauce. Directions:
  1. Cook rice while preparing sauce.
  2. Sauté onion in oil on medium heat until golden.
  3. Add vegetables including garlic, sweet potato, potato, and cabbage and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add 4-8 cups of water or broth (depending on how thick you like your sauce.)
  5. Once water is boiling, add peanut butter, tomato paste and spices.
  6. Turn to a low simmer and cook until sauce is reduced and vegetables are cooked (10-20 minutes).
  7. Serve over rice and enjoy!
Make sure you remove the habanero pepper so someone doesn’t get a hot surprise in their mouth. In the village, the pepper is passed around and dabbed on each person’s portion (it’s that hot!) Bon appetite! Ps. Do you have a favorite recipe from your travels that you'd like to share? Share it with megan@wheretherebedragons.com  
CO-DIRECTOR OF ADULT PROGRAMS
  [post_title] => Recipe for Senegalese Peanut Sauce Mafé Gerte [post_excerpt] => Upon returning to the States, I processed my experience in Senegal by attending West African cultural events, printing myriads of black and white photographs, and cooking Senegalese food for friends. One of my favorite dishes to make was mafé gerte, or Senegalese Peanut Sauce... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => recipe-for-senegalese-peanut-sauce-mafe-gerte [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-27 12:09:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-27 18:09:46 [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] => 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] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 42 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 12 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 6 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 12 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Global Community )
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    [post_date] => 2018-09-13 11:41:23
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-13 17:41:23
    [post_content] => Loving this sentiment so beautifully articulated by Jiwon Yun in her Yak titled, "New Horizons"...
I reconnected to a part of myself that was buried by years of strict schedules and iPhones and the ever present need to get from one place to another. [...] I was in a constant sense of awe and self-reflection; sitting in a boat in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but miles of water stretching into the distant horizon, a place so far from solid land and a sense of control I’d come to rely on..."
"I came on Bridge Year to widen my perspective, to discover parts of the world and parts of myself that were previously unknown, and to push myself to do things I might otherwise never get the chance to do. And everything I brought back with me – the sand in my clothes and the sunburn on my legs – they all remind me of the memories I made on this trip and the lessons I’ve learned as I reconnected to a part of myself that was buried by years of strict schedules and iPhones and the ever present need to get from one place to another. I was able to take a moment just to breathe. To see. To laugh. To exist without worrying. To learn. Like a child experiencing everything for the first time, I was in a constant sense of awe and self-reflection; sitting in a boat in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but miles of water stretching into the distant horizon, a place so far from solid land and a sense of control I’d come to rely on, I became comfortable with having nothing to do but sit with my thoughts. I realized that every step I have taken in my past had brought me to that one moment, and that every step I took in my future would take me to one of the horizons far ahead. I was overcome with a sense of possibility and gratitude, both for the moment and the many moments to come, and my ability to recognize my own opportunities and be grateful for them."

Read her full reflection on the Yak board.

[post_title] => Overhead on the Yak Board: Jiwon Yun on "New Horizons" [post_excerpt] => Loving this sentiment so beautifully articulated by Jiwon Yun in her Yak titled, New Horizons: "I reconnected to a part of myself that was buried by years of strict schedules and iPhones and the ever present need to get from one place to another." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => overhead-on-the-yak-board-jiwon-yun-on-new-horizons [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-13 11:51:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-13 17:51:32 [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] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 42 [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] => 2018-08-16 10:56:40
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-16 16:56:40
    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_152682" align="aligncenter" width="431"]Guatemala Program Photo by Sydney Yang, Guatemala Summer Program.[/caption]

A lovely landing-home reflection from Guatemala Summer Student, Rose Fitzgerald:

As my final flight touches down, the bump of the wheels shudders through me and I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
It’s over. It’s all over. I’m home.
I step off the plane, down through the airport and into the waiting arms of my family. Pressed against my mother’s chest, I cry unashamedly. In a flurry of moments, we’re picking up my bags, walking out of the airport, piling into cars- real cars! – and driving away. In the New York night, surrounded by air conditioning and English, Guatemala feels like some sort of fantastic and hazy dream. I can’t quite tell what is fiction and what is fact, like maybe I made it all up in my head. At home, I stumble into the apartment and promptly dump everything into the washing machine. I shuck off my clothes, reeking of travel and sweat, and once I remember how to turn it on the shower feels like being reborn. In the hot water, I lather up my hair and body with soap and shampoo, caring for my countless cuts and bug bites and cleaning the last remnants of dirt from under each nail. Curled up on the shower floor, I silently wonder if my host mother from Cotzal has ever had a shower like this. I think of the square-meter shack of a bucket shower, laundry soap and a torn curtain hung so low I’d had to crouch. I have to keep myself from crying a second time. When I emerge from the shower, dripping wet and gloriously not-dirty, I pass the mirror in my room and have to stop and stare. I do not at first recognise the person staring out at me. While the changes are minor, they are changes all the same, and my eyes gobble them up, reading differences like a book. There are new scars on my body- long thin scrapes up my leg from a fall while swimming, now-permanent rub marks on my ankle from when I was too stubborn to tie my boot right, a single line on my right arm- a burn from an iron, the very first night in the Miami airport. Along my stomach, thighs and back, hundreds of fading bites dot my skin and I grimace, remembering the flea fiasco in Cotzal. And all over my body is the patchy, uneven tan that comes with wearing a strange mixture of swimsuits and hiking pants every day. The final thing I notice is that the way I hold myself has changed. I can picture the me of a month ago, probably stooped beneath the weight of a bag, wringing her hands and talking everyone’s ear off from nerves. Now, my back is straight, and when I squeeze my thigh I feel muscle, most likely from carrying that same heavy bag every single day. I feel stronger than I’ve ever been. My family ushers me to the table, eager to hear my stories and force food down my throat, regardless of the late hour. On the table in front of me they lay out toast, corn flakes, cookies, tea, a slice of cold cheese pizza- a veritable American feast. They grill me for details, asking about my host families, the food, the other students, the trek, on and on and on. It’s nearly one A.M. by the time I go to bed. I am wrapped up in clean clothes and cozy blankets and surrounded by everything that I love and I am so deeply exhausted but I cannot seem to sleep. I am startlingly aware of the ridiculous excess I find myself drowning in. There is wi-fi at my constant disposal, and a phone and a computer and a TV to use whenever I like. Our kitchen if stuffed to the brim with food, food and more food, some of which we will never eat. I own more than twenty different products, lipsticks and concealers and eyeshadows and liners that I can press over freckles and dark circles, to hide my face away, and I own more clothes than I could possibly need. Again, I am reminded of my family in Cotzal, who I did not see change their clothes once during my visit. I am disgusted with myself. In the dark of my room, my mattress soft and springy beneath me, the night is eerily quiet. Even the ever-present hum of the AC cannot replace the trucks and wagons and barking I expect to hear in the street below. It feels like there is a hole in my chest, aching and raw. Where there once were butterflies, nervous and bright in my chest there is now an empty ache. I want to feel them again, fluttering against my ribcage, their wings whispering adventure and yes.
I am still Rose. I am still that same person, silly and impulsive and alive.
But in my heart, I know that everything has changed. ~Fin

Read more featured student reflections on our Yak of the Week board.

[post_title] => At The End Of It All - Yak of the Week [post_excerpt] => "As my final flight touches down, the bump of the wheels shudders through me and I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. It’s over. It’s all over. I’m home." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => at-the-end-of-it-all-yak-of-the-week [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-08-16 11:03:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-16 17:03:29 [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] => 42 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 42 [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 )
WP_Post Object
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    [ID] => 153469
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-08-02 10:15:32
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-02 16:15:32
    [post_content] => 

This week on Instagram, we featured a story soliciting Alumni student tips on how to deal with the reintegration to life at home after returning from a Dragons program.

The past participant answers were so smart and insightful, we've decided to repost them here on the blog.  Read on for tips from people who have been there before, and know exactly how it feels.... Dragons Instagram Story Soliciting Tips for Reintegration
  1. Stay in touch with host families! The connectedness is something really unique.
  2. Don't go on your phone right away! Reminisce on your time while being at home first.
  3. Don't be afraid to talk with others honestly and transparently about your experience.
  4. Read lots of books, they felt like home to me.
  5. Remind yourself what truly brought you joy from ur trip, aim to sustain that feeling at home.
  6. Your Dragons family is the best resource. They understand cuz they're also going through it.
  7. See your hometown with "travel goggles." Enjoy the little things like you did abroad.
  8. Don't try and rush 'normality.' It takes time to get used to being home (a culture shock 4 sure).
  9. Don't do everything at once. For example, meet up with only one friend per day (or less)!
  10. Talking to your fellow dragons members--as much as humanly possible.
  11. Enjoy for a day. And then set new goals. Keep the direction forward or suffer in stagnancy.
  12. Journal on the wisdom you want to hold onto from the cultures you visited.
  13. Make sure any "what did you do this summer?" conversation goes both ways.
  14. It was hard! I said 'namaste' to everyone for a few weeks on my return home from Nepal.
  15. Write a lot in your journal and get a good nights sleep.
  16. Be patient, home won't feel the same but that's ok. Travel changes your perspective in unexpected ways.
  17. Home cooked meal and self-reflection.
  18. Have a small "elevator speech" to share until you feel ready to talk about specific experiences.
  19. Look for new ways to explore wherever you are now. Keep being curious!
  20. Tell your families and friends about it. Show pictures!
  21. Stay connected with other Dragons.
  22. Reconnect with all your friends and family and ease back into the Western culture.
  23. Don't feel rushed to reintegrate: take your time and enjoy the experience.
  24. Reach our to your Dragon's friends if you are feeling alone. They can relate and help.
  25. Take time for yourself, reflect, & journal!!!
  26. Cook your favorite food from your host country, keep learning that language, write!
  27. Immediately start planning your next adventure.
  28. Embrace it.
  [post_title] => 28 Bits of Advice on Reintegration from Dragons Alumni [post_excerpt] => This week on Instagram, we featured a story soliciting Alumni student tips on how to deal with the reintegration to life at home after returning from a Dragons program. The answers were so smart and insightful, we've reposted them here... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 28-bits-of-advice-on-reintegration-from-dragons-alumni [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-08-23 09:54:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-23 15:54:23 [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] => 697 [name] => Dragons Travel Guide [slug] => dragons-travel-guide [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 697 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 18 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 2 [cat_ID] => 697 [category_count] => 18 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Dragons Travel Guide [category_nicename] => dragons-travel-guide [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/dragons-travel-guide/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 646 [name] => Alumni Spotlight [slug] => alumni_spotlight [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 646 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [parent] => 0 [count] => 23 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 23 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/alumni_spotlight/ ) ) [category_links] => Dragons Travel Guide, Alumni Spotlight )
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    [ID] => 153102
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-05-17 11:41:09
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-17 17:41:09
    [post_content] => God bless parents, especially moms. At least, especially my mom. Just after I turned 24, in 1992, I returned to my parents’ home in Missoula, Montana, USA, after having spent the academic year teaching English in a medium-sized industrial city in the far, far northeast of China. “Reverse culture shock” is a term I may or may not have heard before that homecoming. Either way, I was utterly unprepared for what was about to hit me…and my mom.
“Reverse culture shock” is a term I may or may not have heard before that homecoming. Either way, I was utterly unprepared for what was about to hit me…and my mom.
I was rude, insensitive, and sometimes even cruel to my mom, who only wanted to welcome her son home and make me feel at home. Nothing she did was enough for me. She tried to empathize, she tried to nurture, she asked questions. Nothing worked. I was just too jumbled. My case may be extreme, but I know that the general sense of instability, of not feeling quite right, is common for people just back from big adventures in new places. And it turns out that the brain has a lot to do with it. Please indulge me in doing a brief exercise. Hold this page at arm’s length. Now, while keeping your left eye closed and your right eye laser-focused on the plus sign, slowly (slowly!) move the paper closer to your face. At some point something will happen to the dot. (If the paper ends up at your face you’ll need to try again. It’s crucial to start with the paper far away, to keep your right eye squarely focused on the plus sign, and to bring the paper in very, very slowly.) How could the dot just disappear like that? It turns out that each eye has a blind spot, where the visual field is blank. The retina gets no information from this part of the visual field. Why don’t we see some kind of hole or emptiness where the blind spot is? Because the brain invents something to “put” there—in this case, the color or pattern of the paper around it.
Volumes of evidence from vision experts have proven that the world we see is a massive illusion.
How does this work? The brain just invents it. Volumes of evidence from vision experts have proven that the world we see is a massive illusion. Just twenty percent of visual information comes from the retina; the remaining eighty percent is pure fiction, manifested by the brain in order to create a sense of coherence. Think about that: four-fifths of what we see is just the brain’s best guess. It’s not actually there. I love this simple exercise because it gets right to the heart of two key issues when it comes to human identity. First, reality is a product of our own brains, based on our particular set of experiences. Second, our brains have a primal need to create coherence. They are doing this constantly, in the background, completely out of our conscious awareness. Another thing our brains do all the time, automatically, is warn us of threats in the environment. One part of the brain in particular—the amygdala, or “lizard brain”—gets highly active when it thinks we’re being threatened. And when the amygdala is active, it inhibits activity in the prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain that govern our “higher” functions. The amygdala is fast but coarse: it knows nothing about nuance or subtlety. In one important sense this is a good thing: it keeps us alive. If a tiger jumps out of the bushes, we really don’t have time to consider the tiger in all its uniqueness. We just need to know right away that it’s a tiger and that it’s dangerous. The problem is that the amygdala does its thing even when we don’t need it to. It sees almost anything new as a potential threat, and since difference is a form of novelty, we tend to see people different from us as threatening. This leaves us with a rather bleak picture of humanity: If our brains are busy inventing coherent realities about the threats posed by groups of “other” people, then we don’t stand much of a chance of getting along. And isn’t this, when it comes down to it, the story of humanity’s dark side? Now for the good news: we can relate to difference in ways that aren’t dominated by threat. It just takes a lot of awareness and hard work.
We can relate to difference in ways that aren’t dominated by threat. It just takes a lot of awareness and hard work.
When I returned from China in 1992, I had a lot going on in my brain. During my year in China, my brain had started out in full-on threat mode, reacting negatively to the confusing behaviors all around me. Over then next nine months, my brain gradually created a sense of coherence, as I began to understand all the new patterns I was seeing, and to empathize with the people around me. I was starting to understand why people did what they did, and even though it was different from what I was used to, I could at least see the logic. New worlds were opening up to me, and it was thrilling. I was a new person in a new world, eager to return home and share my bounty. But when I came home I found a place that looked exactly as it always had, inhabited by people whose worldviews hadn’t budged an inch. The “mistake” I made is a common one for returnees from abroad: I had replaced a single view of the world with a different, single view that I’d judged to be better than the “old” view.
The “mistake” I made is a common one for returnees from abroad: I had replaced a single view of the world with a different, single view that I’d judged to be better than the “old” view.
And this is where the brain’s good news begins to come in handy. Thankfully, we’re not slaves to the amygdala and to our brain’s tendency to create a single, coherent story. As humans we have the ability—thanks to the prefrontal cortex and other more recently evolved regions of the brain—to see the world from multiple perspectives. And it turns out that this is the key to reintegration—indeed, to what reintegration is all about. Joseph Campbell wrote, “‘The Cosmic Dancer,’ declares Nietzsche, ‘does not rest heavily in a single spot, but gaily, lightly, turns and leaps from one position to another.’” We don’t have to fear “other” ways of being. Fear is natural, but we don’t need to let it rule us. What we need is to thank our amygdala for keeping us alive, and to ask it to please quiet down while we listen and look for what there is for us to learn.
What we need is to thank our amygdala for keeping us alive, and to ask it to please quiet down while we listen and look for what there is for us to learn.
We all can, in Walt Whitman’s famous words, “contain multitudes.” Indeed the future of our species depends on it. So let’s keep asking, keep reaching, keep learning.

JASON PATENT, Ph.D., is a leading cultural interpreter on China-related issues and previously served as American Co-Director of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing, China. He is a former Dragons instructor (China ‘98-’01) and co-founder of the Dragons China Semester Program. Currently Jason is Chief of Operations and Director of the Center for Intercultural Leadership at UC Berkeley’s International House. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife, Colette Plum, and their two daughters.

  [post_title] => A Blind Spot...Obviously; A Reflection on Reintegration [post_excerpt] => "God bless parents, especially moms. At least, especially my mom. [...] “Reverse culture shock” is a term I may or may not have heard before that homecoming. Either way, I was utterly unprepared for what was about to hit me…and my mom." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => blind-spot-obviously-reflection-reintegration [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-17 11:57:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-17 17:57:01 [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] => 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] => 30 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 700 [category_count] => 30 [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/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 675 [name] => Map's Edge Newsletter [slug] => mapsedgenewsletter [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 675 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Archives of Dragons Map's Edge Newsletter [parent] => 0 [count] => 14 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 14 [category_description] => Archives of Dragons Map's Edge Newsletter [cat_name] => Map's Edge Newsletter [category_nicename] => mapsedgenewsletter [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/mapsedgenewsletter/ ) [2] => 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] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 20 [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 ) ) [category_links] => For Parents, Map's Edge Newsletter ... )
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