Rwanda Summer Program

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Yak of the Week

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    [ID] => 154149
    [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 )
WP_Post Object
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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-11-21 11:49:04
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-21 18:49:04
    [post_content] => 

As our yaks from current programs are usually a week delayed, we're posting this lovely holiday reflection from past participant, Emma, of the Myanmar: Buddhist Traditions & Transformation Semester to celebrate the flavors of thankfulness this week.

I study the menu, running my finger along the laminated sheet as I try to decipher the eclectic assortment of Burmese dishes. Today is Thanksgiving, and I’m determined to have a proper Thanksgiving feast. In the end, I have to substitute a tomato chicken curry in place of the turkey, with a side of steamed white rice for stuffing. I know finding cranberry sauce will be impossible, so I settle for a bunch of grapes. But though I lost my beloved pumpkin pie this year, I have gained so much more to be thankful for.
they have welcomed a bumbling foreigner like me into their country with open arms...
I’m thankful for my fellow Dragons here, both peers and instructors. We’ve shared laughter and tears, germs and endless amounts of curries. They have become my family here, driving me to grow and supporting me as I test the limits of my comfort zone. My experience here would not have been the same without them. I’m thankful for their parents too, for giving me the chance to spend the last three months with their kids. I’m thankful for my family on the other side of the ocean too. Alexander and Cat, Mum and Dad. They believed in me when I first said I wanted to spend 83 days in this mysterious country 16 hours away from home, and helped make my dream into a reality. I’m especially thankful this year for my grandfather. He is the reason I chose to come to this country in the first place. He worked for many years for a charity called Prospect Burma, an organization which is dedicated to helping talented Burmese youth gain access to higher education in renowned institutions all over the world. I recently visited the headquarters of the charity in Yangon, and meeting some of the alumni I know I’m not the only one who is grateful. My grandfather truly loved and believed in this country’s future, even when the world said their was no hope. I’m thankful I can call this incredible man my Fafa. And of course, I am thankful for the people of Myanmar. They have fed me lunch, even though we don’t speak a word of each other’s language. They have offered me their beds, even though it means they will have to sleep on the floor. They have welcomed a bumbling foreigner like me into their country with open arms, even though I still can’t pronounce their names. Myanmar is an unbelievably beautiful country, but it is the warm smiles of the people I met here that amazed me the most. Happy Thanksgiving to all across the ocean! (If you’re interested in learning more about Prospect Burma, check out this their website: prospectburma.org) [post_title] => THANKSGIVING ACROSS THE OCEAN [post_excerpt] => As our yaks from current programs are usually a week delayed, we're posting this lovely holiday reflection from past participant, Emma, of the Myanmar: Buddhist Traditions & Transformation Semester to celebrate the flavors of thankfulness this week.  [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => thanksgiving-across-the-ocean [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-21 11:52:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-21 18:52:29 [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/ ) [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 )
WP_Post Object
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    [ID] => 153377
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-07-24 14:18:03
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-24 20:18:03
    [post_content] => 
i remember thinking to myself, i am pain; pain is all i am.
On the first full day, I experienced intense altitude symptoms, especially fatigue, nausea and extreme headache. As the group trudged through the final couple hours, i remember crying, screaming and laughing in the course of minutes. i remember thinking to myself, i am pain; pain is all i am. but the pain passed, and by the second day i fell into a rhythm and came to deeply enjoy the hours of walking. i reflected on the parts of my day, the aspects of my life, that i often look forward to at home, especially on an emotionally unfulfilling day: a hot shower, a good meal, my warm and soft bed. on the trek, each of those material comforts was completely unavailable, so to maintain happiness, i learned to look forward to, and take joy in, the walking itself. and to walk for long hours with purpose does indeed provide a singular peace and satisfaction. The Inca people who still live in the vicinity of Ausangate revere the mountain as a god. I understood the logic partially before the trek: the mountain provides water; water is life. But only on the fourth day of the trek did I really grasp it, through a conversation with our instructor Brian: it was snowing lightly and the summit was shrouded in clouds. From our angle the mountain looked a million feet tall. The summit seemed so close and yet completely unreachable and out of this world. I imagined living in the shadow of that giant for decades and seeing the summit everyday in all its glory but being incapable of touching it. I imagined some teenage boys climbing up as high as possible one day and maybe stepping one foot into the unreachable for a moment. The high parts of the mountain like a different dimension, and not unlike a realm of gods.
each of those material comforts was completely unavailable, so to maintain happiness, i learned to look forward to, and take joy in, the walking itself.
After Ausangate we began our first homestay in the city of Urubamba. The homestay has been my favorite part of the course so far. I stayed with a middle aged couple, Beti and Augusto, and their 12 year old son, Andre. Andre, like me, is an only child. Beti and Augu are teachers. They’re a busy family and they live in a small apartment on the Plaza Pintacha near our Spanish classes. In the mornings, Beti woke me up at 7:20 for me to get to our morning group meetings in the plaza at 7:30. Needless to say, I had the most convenient location. I was alone in my spanish class. My teacher, Reiner, is also a very skilled painter, and our classes took place in his fourth floor study, surrounded by his paintings and bookshelves and with a view of the red tile roofs and the surrounding mountains and glaciers. In the afternoons, I studied Cajon for my ISP. The cajon is a peruvian instrument, basically a box that you sit on and play like a drum with two different types of strikes, one higher pitched on the edge and one deeper in the center (see pictures in ISP yak). On the first day, Brian told me to go to to the seviche restaurant Pa Mi Gente with my cajon and ask for Cristian. I arrived at the restaurant and found some people watching the world cup in the back patio. Cristian turned out to be a 25 year old afro-peruvian man. He and his wife, Pati, are seviche chefs. They have a 1 year old son named Gael. At first my lessons with Cristian were difficult because I had trouble understanding his Lima accent and he had a very “just copy what i do” teaching style, and when a customer would come in and he had to serve drinks or help Pati with the cooking, he would make me keep practicing the beat and would yell corrections at me from other parts of the restaurant. Over the course of the week it got easier, and i learned a medley of 4 four typical afro-peruvian rhythms that he and i could play almost perfectly in unison by the end. I also started to feel like part of their small family by the end, given how many hours i spent hanging out in the restaurant, learning, chatting with Pati, and playing with the baby. Pati let me try spoonfuls of a lot of her dishes. In the evenings, I played soccer in the street with five or six boys on the block and my host brother, Andre. I found that sports are sometimes a better way to bond than conversations, and I felt very close with all the boys after a few days. A couple times, we walked to the Charcahualla, a local field, and played soccer, basketball, a strange version of four square, and dodgeball (their name for which literally translates to kill people) with kids we didn’t know. I love sports, and I had so much fun playing four hours on end in the street. Having friends my age was also a bridge to the community. After soccer, Andre and I went inside and had dinner, played video games, and had strangely philosophical conversations. It was wonderful for each of us to have a brother, however short the time. I will miss them so much.

Read more Featured Yaks

[post_title] => The Line Between Heaven and Earth - Yak of the Week [post_excerpt] => A student reflection from a day in the life on the Peru 6-week program... "As the group trudged through the final couple hours, i remember crying, screaming and laughing in the course of minutes. i remember thinking to myself, i am pain; pain is all i am." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-line-between-heaven-and-earth-yak-of-the-week [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-24 14:21:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-24 20:21:22 [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] => 153331
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-07-12 11:00:16
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-12 17:00:16
    [post_content] => My home in New York. A place where appearance is valued and looking good has been ingrained in me by society since I was young. As I first arrived in Cambodia, I made sure my hair looked nice, my clothes were clean and looked flattering. First impressions matter, and I have always known a world where first impressions are based not on who you are, but how you looked.

Continuing throughout the first day, I felt vulnerable without my usual makeup and nice clothing. Then that evening, my first bucket shower. Standing in the bathroom with just myself, a few buckets of water, and my travel size shampoo, conditioner and travel wash, I had never felt so out of my element. However, after I took a deep breath, and poured the water on my head, the cold water in the warm air, I felt amazing. With each successive bucket, I forgot what it was like in my old shower at home. I began to prefer this one.
As I instinctively turned to the wall looking for a mirror, I noticed there wasn’t one.
As I instinctively turned to the wall looking for a mirror, I noticed there wasn’t one. I had never felt so liberated. I just didn’t care. I didn’t care that my clothes were a little dirtier, for I had hiked to a beautiful waterfall in them. I didn’t care that my clothes were extremely conservative and ill-fitting, because that way I was able to gain the respect of local people. I didn’t care that there was no hot water, for the cold water felt better than my shower at home ever did. And I didn’t care that there wasn’t a mirror, for I had never felt as confident or as secure in myself as I have these last few days. [post_title] => Where is the Mirror? - Yak of the Week [post_excerpt] => A student reflection on a homestay experience in Cambodia: "I took a deep breath, and poured the water on my head, the cold water in the warm air, I felt amazing. With each successive bucket, I forgot what it was like in my old shower at home...." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => where-is-the-mirror-yak-of-the-week [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-12 11:02:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-12 17:02:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 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] => 153260
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2018-06-14 09:34:19
    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-06-14 15:34:19
    [post_content] => 
...for many students, the fundamental shift in perspective and personality does not take place right away.

Dear Parents of Team India Students,

I am writing with a note of gratitude. Perhaps it is unconventional in nature, but I hope you are able to enjoy a cup of chai as you read these words written from a small village in the Indian Himalayas. I am sitting looking at a mosaic of words that your child and their peers wrote during our mid-course reflection earlier in March. In front of me sits over thirty small slips of paper that share anonymously written fears & excitements, challenges faced and lessons learned:

I am excited for breathing in clean mountain air, star gazing, looking out train windows. I am afraid of leaving India without a clearer sense of who I am. I’ve learned that health and cleanliness are very important. I am nervous about time going by too quickly or too slowly. I have learned I love taking my time. It has been a challenge for me to open up in a way that I am most comfortable with, so that I am not bottling up my emotions. I fear that I won’t be able to do everything I want to over the next month. It has been challenging being sick in such a new environment. I learned that life at home continues when you’re away and that’s okay. It is most challenging for me to be present. I have learned that there are more Indias that the one I am witnessing.

So much variety in such a small group. An accurate representation of the diversity of thought, need, and lifestyle within our community. I am not a parent in the sense that I do not have a child who depends on me regularly for emotional or financial support. I have not witnessed my child’s first breath or tracked him/her/them through the phases of life: crawling, walking, talking, fighting, pushing boundaries, experiencing heartbreak, developing strengths, acknowledging weaknesses, discovering their identities in this fast-moving world. I can imagine it is a slow, beautiful, complicated, process to witness and be a part of. I look forward to when that is my reality. For months of each year, though, I do have the opportunity to be in loco parentis; to act and react as a parent may, to advise and counsel, to listen and hear, to inspire and frustrate, to discipline and let go of. Thank you, for giving me the chance to act and live in this way. I could not do it without you–truly and literally. Witnessing your child’s tears when she/he/they came home from school having been wronged by a classmate during the day; experiencing utter joy at watching them play in mud puddles, their fascination with the–what to us adults may be–seemingly mundane; sharing moments of vulnerability as you offer stories of your own high school hardships: I bet that each of these moments offered to you powerful insight into parenthood and its complexity. While not comparable, I have experienced many of these same emotions over these past three months. I have felt fiercely protective when my students have felt discomfort in crowded situations; I have laughed to the point of tears listening to stories about misunderstandings in how to use squat toilets; I have been frustrated by their lack of punctuality; I have felt tenderness in listening to tearful worries and concerns. I have lay in my bed, late into the night, wondering: are my students (read: children) healthy? Safe? Motivated? Happy? Sleeping well? Scared? Excited? Confused? If this is not parenthood, I am not sure what is. The timeframe post-high school is a fragile, complicated period. Young adults are told by our American and Canadian societies that after living 18 years on this earth they can vote in elections, purchase and smoke cigarettes, enlist in the military, give consent to marry another, drive a vehicle, work a full-time salaried position, and gamble away their money. They have legal freedom, if they choose to take it. Yet many, upon ending high school, do not have a sense of awareness for the future: they are unsure if they want to go to college, or more realistically why they want to go to college. With newfound privileges and real legal rights, these newly deemed adults have, in a sense, ultimate opportunities. But how to navigate the multiplicity of paths that are lain before them, to tease apart the meaning of a high-school education, to understand the next path that presents itself is neither a straightforward nor an enviable task. You, as parents, have experienced this time. You know the nights fraught with anxiety and confusion. The pull between wanting to do what your peers do, wanting to please your family, and wanting to understand a little more fully who you are and what your purpose on this planet is. Taking a Gap Year is a more recent phenomenon that is gaining popularity. This year away from formal academics does not mean a year away from learning; quite the contrary. I have only had the privilege of knowing your sons and daughters for 70 days, however I have witnessed them learn skills valuable for living: from technical skills like how to cook meals and clean clothes to interpersonal skills like how to provide feedback to a peer and self-advocate for personal needs. While I do not yet have a system in place to check, I would bet that if I spoke to each of these students in five years, they will not be able to remember significant dates from the US Civil War–excepting they become a US historian–or apply the Pythagorean theorem to an every-day life problem. Engrained within them, though, they may have the lived knowledge of how to have their basic needs met when in an unfamiliar place or how to have a hard conversation with someone they care about. That is my hope, at least. Critics of Gap Years think this time away traveling has merely been an experience of being transported from one hotel to another, eating at restaurants, and shopping. I would be lying if I said we have not partaken in these activities. But below the surface of these statements lies an experience that is not as easily shown: like when your hotel is actually a guesthouse that sits at 11,000 feet and took five hours to walk to, and you share a room with seven others, all of you sleeping on the floor, hugging waterbottles of boiled water– that you used your broken Ladakhi to ask for–so that you can stay warm while sleeping. Or when shopping means buying enough food for a group of fifteen so they have sustenance on their 24 hour travel day, 15 of those hours are confined to a moving train, which has the potential to be delayed for an unspecified amount of time. Sure, we partake in consumer culture, but there is intentionality behind it. The critics can look at this time and make assumptions, but they cannot know the worth of these experiences. Even you may not recognize the value of them, but for many students, the fundamental shift in perspective and personality does not take place right away. As your children physically re-enter your lives they will appear the same. But there will also be differences. They have had experiences that they will not be able to explain because they have not yet had the chance to make meaning of them. There will be moments of excitement to see old friends, sleep in their beds, and eat comfort foods. But there will be moments of sadness and confusion as well, as awarenesses begin to surface and take root, and newly acquired values are applied to old spaces. For some this time-frame may take days, others months, many years. Even I, at 27, am still discovering the immense value my Gap Year–which I took ten years ago– played in shifting my identity as a woman in this world. Just as you have done before, do again: be patient. Give space. Ask questions. Give hugs. That is, really, all I have been trying to do during our three months together. In moments of confusion or uncertainty, your children have had the answers within themselves; they have just needed the time and space to discover what those answers are. They will continue to live out the answers, especially to questions they have not even discovered yet. So, all of this to say: thank you. Thank you for trusting your daughters and sons to listen to their needs. Thank you for trusting me to be a witness of their transition into adulthood and to offer guidance, when it has been solicited and when it has not. I am merely a small piece of the puzzle in their life’s tale, as they are in mine, however there is a symbiosis to this experience that is bigger and more significant than our defined period of time together. I would not be able to exist as I do without your support of your children’s well being. I would not be able to live life as a learner and educator, both existing at once, every day. I am grateful for your generosity, your support, your willingness to raise engaged, aware children. In the first few days of our course I shared these words of Ranier Marie Rilke with your sons and daughters:
I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Their decision to take a Gap Year has only helped launch them into the abyss of living everything. I feel immense privilege at sharing in that experience, and I wish you all the best in helping to facilitate the next phase of this journey. With the most sincere of intentions, thank you, dhanyavad, jullay. With gratitude, Anna G. Stevens [post_title] => To Parents: A Gratitude - Featured Yak [post_excerpt] => Even I, at 27, am still discovering the immense value my Gap Year–which I took ten years ago– played in shifting my identity as a woman in this world. Just as you have done before, do again: be patient. Give space. Ask questions. Give hugs. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => to-parents-a-gratitude-a-featured-yak-by-anna-g-stevens [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-06-14 15:23:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-06-14 21:23:32 [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] => 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/ ) [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] => From the Field, For Parents ... )
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In South America, I…
In South America, I learned that there is more than one way to live a “rich” life. I learned that indigenous groups can be a powerful voice in political movements. I learned that not every bathroom has toilet paper. I learned that dogs can be scary. I learned that we don’t need verbal language to communicate. And I saw a vast variety of new and beautiful climates. In South America, I gained clarity on some things and became much more confused about (or at least more aware of the complexity of) other things. The term “big picture” gets tossed around a lot. I think what I’ve really found are thousands of small pictures, like flaming sugar butterflies offered to the Pachamama and a perfectly intact sheep fetus and happy people living with less wealth than is lavished upon your average American golden retriever, which have interwoven like the figures in an Andean tejido and left me with the vague image of a massive tapestry whose meaning and purpose I’m still not totally clear on. Even if I never fully figure out the meaning, to be in possession of clues to forbidden knowledge is still a powerful thing. In South America, I learned to love a new culture, ate new foods, stayed with many incredible host families, developed new relationships, grew personally, learned about indigenous cultures, rediscovered my love for music and dance, began learning an indigenous trade, became more spiritual through the Pachamama, and began questioning my purpose in life. In South America, I learned of different ways to live life. I learned to much about the basics of living and where things come from. I learn there is so much to learn! In South America, I learned about things I didn’t know I needed to learn or could learn. In South America I learned how to truly be a good guest and how to make real relationships with the people here. I learned how topics like child labor and child discipline aren’t black and white and how American solutions or responses aren’t helpful or understanding. I actually understand the dangers of monoculture and its harm. I learned how to be uncomfortable but more importantly how to not be. Like how to fit in with the different rhythms of living. I learned just how amazingly nice Bolivians are. In South America, I walked and walked and walked over some of the highest mountains in the world. I figured out the best juice combination to order in the mercado. I became a part of a family that didn’t speak my native language. I confronted my own privilege countless times and was humbled and inspired by diverse indigenous communities. I learned how to do my laundry in a sink, and I also learned hot to not do laundry for weeks at a time. I healed a cut on my finger with an eggshell, held a cayman on a boat in the Amazon, and rode in the front seat of a military vehicle while pooping myself. In South America, I felt a strong connection with the environment. I learned to live with less, climbed mountains, and knew where my food came from. In South America, I I challenged myself in ways I never had before. From learning how to cook to making new music on the guitar to trekking for over a week at high altitude, I had an unforgettable experience. In South America, I made great friends, saw cool sights, learned culture, grew as a person and stepped out of my comfort zone. In South America, I learned how to weave, sleep on a bus, use sarcasm in Spanish, tie a trucker’s hitch, harvest, peel, & eat hella potatoes, catch reptiles, be sick, talk to strangers, get lost & unlost, chew coca, dekernel choclo, decolonize my body, and live with less. I learned about reciprocity, Pachamama, matrifocal societies, Evo, cacao & quinoa and what they look like when they grow, neoliberalism, how much I consume, and seeds. I learned that tuna isn’t just a fish, strangers are kind, the World Bank is pretty evil, cholitas are badass, poverty is relational, and I want to come back someday. In South America, I started with grand expectations, as first-time travelers often do, and instead the experience I found was rather grounding. I found that questions were easier to seek than answers, and that behind cultural difference there is always human similarity. I found that being overwhelmed by a place is a response to feeling like there is too much I don’t know, and being underwhelmed by a person means I haven’t asked enough questions. If I had a good experience here, it’s because I tried, not because I showed up. In South America, I learned how to be okay with being by myself. I learned how to navigate foreign markets, transportation, and language barriers. I don’t panic now when I’m alone and not sure which direction to head towards or how to communicate with body language to non-English speaking locals. I am confident now in my own skills to take care of myself, at home and abroad. Virtually, In South America, I grew up.
As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know…
As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know that I’m going to miss this place. I’m going to miss market breakfasts and coca culture, fumbling over my Spanish, and being wholeheartedly welcomed into strangers’ homes like family. Please be kind and patient with me as I figure out how to be in the U.S. again; listen to me, laugh with me, & cry with me. As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know that Peru is more than just a country. Peru, Like Bolivia, is made up of dozens of different indigenous groups and the dozens of different cultures that complement them. As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know I refuse to be materialistic and environmentally-ignorant. I will learn where my clothes and food come from, and if I don’t like what I find out, I will change my habits. As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know that it’s very hard to express all of the things, concrete and non-concrete, that I have learned during this trip! This may be frustrating for me at first, but I’m sure with time and perspective my thoughts and actions will become more clear. With new views on life back home, it is also likely I may appear critical or withdrawn during the transition, but I still love and appreciate those close to me just the same. A I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know how much this trip changed me. I learned so much about Peruvian and Bolivian culture, but more importantly, about myself. I learned a lot about who I am and why I am the way I am and will bring this knowledge back home with me. As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know that I’m excited to live now. I’m so much stronger. I’m so much more competent. I can’t wait to be actively curious. As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know that coming home will mark the last and probably most difficult stretch of the entire trip. In some ways I’ve changed, in others I’ve unchanged; I’ve even kind of changed the way I change. I’m nervous and excited to be a little different while doing largely the same things in the same place with the same people. I just hope there’s more synergy than friction—I think there will be. As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know that I am growing but I am more confused than I used to be. My mind has expanded which means it is more excitable but more scattered and conflicted than it was before. I want you to know all of the strangers who have shown me kindness and landscapes that have left me speechless, but I know these things will be impossible to communicate. As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know that I am excited to come home but I don’t really know how to go back to American life after this. I might not be the same girl who left 3 months ago. I had an amazing time and memories to last me forever, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to go on this grand adventure. As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know that I don’t really know how to integrate back into U.S. society and that I might need a bit of patience while I re-learn my place in it. I also want you to know that I want to share my experiences in some way with you all but I don’t really know how to do that. As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know that I will be coming back to South America. I’m going to take Spanish classes and save up money to try to come back before this year ends. I want you to know that it is the most diverse place, in every single way. I want to learn way more about Peru. I want this country to be familiar to me. I want to be able to call it home. As I prepare to leave Peru, I want you to know that I am so grateful. I am grateful for this opportunity to get to know different South American cultures, and also for the chance to get to know myself better. My eyes and my mind have opened up in unimaginable and unexpected ways. I am also grateful for the life I will come back to in the US. I am grateful for the 4 years of college I am about to undertake. I am grateful for the supportive family I am coming home to. And to Bolivia and Peru, I am so grateful for helping me to realize why I am and why I should be so grateful. Thank you!   [post_title] => Course End Thoughts from the South America Group - Yak of the Week [post_excerpt] => "From our students, to those who they love dearly: some thoughts on departing from our space here in Bolivia and re-integrating into an environment that may now seem foreign." 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