Rwanda Summer Program

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Yak of the Week

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    [post_date] => 2019-12-05 14:16:43
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-12-05 21:16:43
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“Move. Away from wooden rice sifters and thick soil walls. Away from those rice cakes that finished baking on your palette as they steamed and collapsed in your mouth. Away from those sunken paddies and rich landscapes- freckled with cobalt windows and flush with bougainvillea. Move, because you’re in the mountains now. The deep, steep columns that flake under your rubber sole as you climb. Remember to look up- don’t dwell on the shards of Isalo you’re leaving behind. The magisterial pillars you bruise won’t shed off you like flint. Sigh the moment as you climb in the distracted line that is your group because soon you’ll leave it. Just as you left your family in Ambatomanga, and the pousy-pousy drivers before that. Because the more you dip the glorious memories into developer- the more you saturate and remember- the fainter they become. So be careful. Because it’s easy to think Madagascar is a dream. Easy to get swept away by the harsh winds and sparkling oasis’s of Isalo National Park. Easy to lust after campfire nights where the moon winks you to sleep in bug huts as your guides murmur quietly about the group of tents. If ignorance is bliss then ignorance is a shimmering waterfall nestled in rocks and drowned by sandbanks. Ignorance is also, then, a break from our longest hiking day and an exhilarating swim in the sapphire pools of the south. Ignorance is hopping back to camp barefoot to settle for the night and enjoy the laughs of the guides that were now our family. Ignorance is beautiful- until you climb back down. Back the cracked wooden beds of the hotel. Back the debrief we had with our instructor about our head guide’s story- and how he ended up working in Isalo. “He lived in hell.” he said coarsely as he toggled with his hunting knife, “was paid nothing, had to mine ore in nightmare conditions, and was exploited every second he stayed there.” At this point he started flicking bits of wood off the table. “You want to know what they call it? The place where human rights and morality are buried in the same holes Malagasy people are forced to mine? The gemstone village. Pretty name isn’t it.” Move, what’s beautiful isn’t always what’s right.”

- Lula Zeid @lulazeid

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[post_title] => Featured Student Ambassador Reflection [post_excerpt] => “Move. Away from wooden rice sifters and thick soil walls. Away from those rice cakes that finished baking on your palette as they steamed and collapsed in your mouth. Away from those sunken paddies and rich landscapes- freckled with cobalt windows and flush with bougainvillea. Move..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-student-ambassador-reflection-by-lula-zeid-madagascar-summer-19-alum [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-12-05 14:20:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-12-05 21:20:46 [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] => 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] => 37 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 37 [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/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 669 [name] => Engage [slug] => engage [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 669 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. [parent] => 0 [count] => 17 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 13 [cat_ID] => 669 [category_count] => 17 [category_description] => Activism, Advocacy, Leadership & Organizing. [cat_name] => Engage [category_nicename] => engage [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Alumni Spotlight ... )
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    [post_date] => 2019-06-17 18:21:28
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-18 00:21:28
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[caption id="attachment_155057" align="aligncenter" width="555"] Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Andes & Amazon Semester.[/caption]

Overheard on the Yak Board (Bolivia Educator Course):

“The trip challenged my life, my choices, and cemented my commitment to teach my students and make relevant their own dependence on this world of ours, help them realize their privilege, and help them feel empowered to take action for the health of our environment. During my trip to Bolivia, climate change and its effects was not an abstract idea people talked about, it was a lived reality that people had to respond and adapt to. Bolivians are living with the effects of climate change now. They are well aware of how their lives are constantly changing to adapt to new weather patterns. My host “mom”, Rosa told me of smaller crop sizes, and lower yields which directly impact her ability to provide for her son. Pablo, a glaciologist shared his research with us and told us about glacier melts and retreats, and the fact that some communities that depend on the glaciers for their water will fail to survive if the melting rates continue. I learned that a country that relies on mining so heavily as Bolivia does, has irrevocable impact both socially and environmentally. With such tangible evidence of the impact of climate change on real people’s lives, it was hard not to be despairing. I learned that societies are complex and inextricably linked to the place they live in, and how we go about caring for our little piece of the world matters.”

- WORDS by MARIA ELENA DERRIEN, in her essay, Here Are My Thoughts

[post_title] => Overheard on the Yak Board (from the Bolivia Educator Course) [post_excerpt] => "The trip challenged my life, my choices, and cemented my commitment to teach my students and make relevant their own dependence on this world of ours..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => overheard-on-the-yak-board-from-the-bolivia-educator-course [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-17 18:23:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-18 00:23:54 [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] => 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/ ) [2] => 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] => 37 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 37 [category_description] => Featured Student Alumni and their projects/organizations/visions. [cat_name] => Alumni Spotlight [category_nicename] => alumni_spotlight [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, The Dragons Journal ... )
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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-06-05 10:24:58
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-05 16:24:58
    [post_content] => 

Loving this group reflection from Dragons Spring 2019 Nepal Study Abroad Students....

As our study-abroad program comes to a close, the group wanted to anonymously share some thoughts about that which we experienced, observed, and learned over these many months:

In Nepal I experienced love. Not the eros kind but the philia, philautia and the storge types for sure. When I came here I wasn’t very sure of what to expect, I wasn’t sure of how to feel. However amidst all the discomfort, the pain, the hardship, the cognitive dissonance at times and the deep loneliness that I experienced; what I hold most dear are the times when I truly felt love. I felt belonging, comfort and acceptance and those times are what I remember most.  Maya Angelo once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Those times when I felt love are what got me through.

So I guess this is to everyone: to the friends I’ve made in this group, to the homestay families that I stayed with that are like family now, to the strangers I met in the streets or on ISP, to my instructors who were who held our hands along the way, to myself for making this decision to embark on this journey, thank you and I love you all!

In Nepal, I experienced an intense group experience and significant challenges. I stepped outside my comfort zone in various ways and consequently, experienced many different ways of thinking, viewing the world, and living. We met a diverse range of Nepalis: Tami farmers, permaculture practitioners, young urbanites striving for change, Newari artisans, Kagyu Karmapa Tibetan Buddhist lamas, hiking guides, influential fixers and liaisons, and travelers. That access allowed us to problematize and nuance our understandings of this country that is increasingly connected with the global community and navigating its way through complex questions of modernity and tradition, a democratic transition, rule of law and rule of people and corruption, and industrialization and various developmental paths.

I experienced a supportive, inclusive, and compassionate group culture. I got chances to step up as a leader, take on significant autonomy, independence, and decision-making responsibility. I experienced life in a Buddhist Monastary, hiked in Gaurishankar Conservation Area, lived in Patan in the Kathmandu valley, solo traveled, and much else. I connected with many local people, and hopefully, made some lifelong friends!

In Nepal, I experienced earth-shaking thunderstorms, bruised hips from terrible jeep rides, and countless red rhododendron bushes, growing smaller as the altitude increased. I experienced sharp pain followed by instant relief as I washed my aching feet in frigid opalescent pools, and stifling silence when we awoke to a fresh blanket of snow covering the small Tibetan ethnicity village we were staying in. I experienced wonder as I craned my neck to look at the stars, which reminded me of bioluminescent plankton floating in the sky, and when I watched old women carry impossibly heavy loads on their heads. I experienced sadness as I learned how fast the aquamarine glaciers overhead were receding, and when I sat with women, tears streaming down their faces as they relayed their life’s unimaginable hardships. I experienced gratitude upon receiving endless cups of dudh chyaa, and comfort as I fell asleep next to my sister and her nursing baby, listening to the deafening hail bounce off the tin roof above us.

In Nepal, I witnessed my host father in Patan make 19 silver rings. On the first day, he cut the raw silver stock into thin strips and bent them into little circles, using a blowtorch to solder the ends together. On the second day, he cut little triangles out of the edges and used a hammer to smooth out the surfaces of the rings. On the third day, he used a hammer and curved chisel to carve his designs into the face of the ring. On these rings he carved an endless knot, an auspicious symbol in Buddhism that represents the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth. On the fourth day, he polished the rings and they were finished.

In Nepal, I experienced so much that it is hard to pin-point any one single moment. But I can talk about the overall emotional experience that I had. When I first met the group in Patan we were unsure of each other, but by the time we began orientation our group culture began to form. We were immediately open with each other and willing to be vulnerable in order to bridge the gap of our differences. This culture of open-mindedness allowed us to relate to each other in ways that we could not have imagined if we took each other at face value. Despite our different backgrounds and virtues we began to see connections and similarities in very intimate parts of our life. Struggles and fears that had previously been kept locked away, were divulged to each other. We found commonalities in our group and once we established this among us we applied this attitude to the rest of the trip. During homestays and outings I was able to relate to the many individuals we met despite our geographical and lifestyle differences. My Patan family felt so familiar to me after staying there for a month that it felt as if I was staying at a longtime friend’s house. This is not to say that our lives were analogous but we were able to bridge the gap with small stories and experiences that brought us closer. Even in the more foreign space of Chokati, I was able to feel a strong sense of connectivity with my host family. Our communication was limited but this made what was understood even more meaningful. Not one meal was quietly as we laughed with each other over my sloppy Nepali and obtuse use of my hands while eating. This approach to my surroundings was forged by our group culture which was established during our early orientation. If it was not for this, my trip would have been immensely more shallow and my take-a-ways greatly limited.

In Nepal, I witnessed:
  • Stray puppies huddled together on sheets of cardboard in the middle of the street.
  • Trash burning in piles along the side of the road.
  • Traffic intersections clogged with motorbikes and taxis and clouds of dust; women pulling the edges of their scarves over their mouths and noses.
  • Fruit vendors on bicycles selling oranges and grapes from the Terai.
  • Cows wandering the streets, sometimes crouching right in the middle of a busy road, so traffic parted around them like the water of a river parts around a stone.
  • Women in bright red saris, smudging the foreheads of their children with vermillion powder.
  • My aama burning incense and spreading rice on the stone markings on the roof.
  • Dishes of spices; yellow turmeric; burnt orange cumin.
  • The white peaks of the  mountains peeking out from behind the clouds.
  • The golden carvings of temples half destroyed by the earthquake.
  • Children in soiled clothes,  following tourists down alleys, begging with open hands for spare rupees.
  • Boudhanath Stupa at dusk, ringed by prayer flags and hundreds of people prostrating at its base.
  • Yaks with bells tied around their necks on the high mountain trails near the border of Tibet.
  • A dead daphey, the national bird of Nepal, lying limp at the river bank.
  • A storm rushing in through the valley, enveloping us in cold mist.
  • My aama washing laundry on the roof by hand, crouching over the buckets of soap water, her hands plunged elbow deep.

In Nepal, I experienced:

  • Getting lost in the streets of Patan and asking a shopkeeper if I could use his phone to call my host family; my host dad arriving on his motorcycle with my sister on his back, laughing at me because I was only ten minutes away the whole time.
  • How it feels to sit in the middle of a room of people and not understand what anyone is saying and smile and sit and eat the food that is given, and to be content with that.
  • Singing karaoke with my host family in their living room.
  • Sitting on the front porch of my home in Chakoti, staring out at the valley as the sun rises.
  • Early morning tea so sweet it stings my tongue.
  • Arriving in the shelter of a tea house in the Himalayas, after a long day of trekking through ice and rock, pouring thermoses of hot duhd chiya into cups that we pass around the table and drink with such pleasure, it’s like the tea is no longer tea, it’s a magic brew imbibed with the power to revive us from the stupor of cold and tiredness.
  • The reality of development; unpaved roads; tangled lines of wires; limited water.
  • Being ignored or looked down upon by men because I am a woman
  • Learning about the dharma from a Tibetan Buddhist Lama; meditating for the wellbeing and liberation of all sentient beings; hanging prayer flags for our loved ones on the hill.
  • Getting dragged down the road by a group of little girls in the village on Holi to play with balloons.
  • Eatings so much dal bhat for dinner I think I’ll be sick if I ever eat another bite of dal bhat again – and then eating more dal bhat for breakfast.
  • Walking down the narrow streets of Boudha in the midst of a mob of monks, sandwiched so close together we can smell each other’s breath.
  • Haggling with taxi drivers; getting ripped off.
  • Getting scolded by my host family for coming home past 8pm.
  • The strength of the women of this country; how they wake up and cook and work, carrying loads of stones in baskets on their backs they secure around their heads, and still manage to smile and laugh and welcome me into their homes, offering tea and biscuits. How grateful I am.

In Nepal, I experienced what it feels like to stand in the presence of a receding glacier and be immersed in its beauty, knowing that what I see in front of me will no longer exist in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, as it exists today. I experienced family and compassion. I experienced the earthy scent of homemade fertilizers and the gift of growing food. I experienced confusion, anger, tears, joy, excitement, and more confusion about the human experience.

In Nepal, I experienced what it is like to be a part of a true community. Everyone addresses each other as “brother” or “sister” even if they are complete strangers, and they will not hesitate to go way out of their way to help each other out. The communal mentality reminded me how important it is to be connected to others, and it was refreshing to see that there really are people out there who are selfless, caring, and altruistic.

In Nepal, a poem:

The sun is setting.

The sky is a shade somewhere between grey and blue. The breeze is cool, as is the grass, and speckled with violet petals falling from the large tree in the yard. Behind me is Kathmandu, sprawling and smoky. It is behind me in more ways than one.

The sun is setting on our time here. It sets in shades of vermillion and saffron, like dried tika smearing across a forehead. It fades like the clang of a brass bell hanging in a temple, echoing in the air. But there’s still light left- enough to see the page- enough for me to write and rewrite everything I want to say about this place. To try and find the words for that which I have only ever found wordless.

Nepal is a sensory country. It presents itself in sights and sounds, touches, tastes and smells. It is alive in a way I have not experienced before. It’s this spark I struggle to name. But it is surely there, and, because of it, I have learned many things I wasn’t aware I didn’t know.

I have learned that the pagoda was first designed by a twenty-year old artist brought from the valley to the court of a grandson of Genghis Khan.

I have learned that goddess Annapurna is not a woman but an overflowing pot of grain, symbolizing prosperity and success. And it is a stunning snow-covered massif that dominates the pale sky.

I have learned that if you’re too loud, too cocky, too bold– the mountain spirits will come for you. I still have not learned why they came for me.

I learned how to braid momos, how to cut tiny tomatoes with a very dull knife, and how to walk along the edges of a terraced bean field, holding up the hem of a scarlet sari.

I have learned that “Namaste” means “I recognize the divine in you”, and I have learned to recognize the divine in the worn faces of millions of gods I have met here.

I have also learned to recognize the divine in the only god I knew before.

I have learned that I am a very accommodating person. That I will eat anything you serve me, however you serve it. Against my better judgement, I’ll finish the whole plate and I’ll even try to eat with my hands until someone takes pity and gives me a spoon.

I have learned how to accept help.

I have learned that culture exists in the grit and grime. In the dust created by civilizations. Its in the magenta and bright coral smeared across my hair playing Holi. In the cracks between stones of a temple, in the carved hands a goddess on a roof strut. It’s in the crimson, auburn, and ocher spices thrown over chopped potatoes frying in a pan of sunflower oil. It’s even in the dust over Kathmandu, a specter so vast and omniscient and sentient that it has become its own character in the story.

I have learned to search for that which makes this place so alive and I have found it wherever I have looked.

It’s in the spread of rhododendron petals, the glow of a marigold. The pound of a mandal to the repeating versus of a song I do not understand. In the braids of school girls and the sparks showering a boy cutting metal in the streets. In the cry of a rooster hours after dawn. In the flutter of prayer flags, and the long, steady ring of a bell.

But ringing bells is for the morning and night is falling. With night comes stars, and in stars, constellations. Memories. Images that will always glimmer. A tiny goat jumping onto the table. The mist over a sacred mountain. My sister sliding a dozen silver bracelets onto my narrow wrists. A crinkled old woman, crouched in hazy, silvery darkness, smoke from her cigarette unfurling around her head, the rain on the tin roof so loud her mouth seems to move silently. And her friends, wrapped in patterned scarves and wreathed in a gentle light, sitting around her, listening and replying. They hear what she is saying. I can forever only wonder.

In these moments I will carry what I have learned– just as I have carried cookie crumbs and tattered rupees all across these hills- back to where I came from. Because, most importantly, I have learned that wise men say only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love- in love with this country, this once forbidden kingdom, a place of great history and great promise.

The navigators of old used the stars as maps, and someday I hope the constellations I have will guide me back. Back to the gentle, cerulean mist of morning on the side of mountain. Back to the vivid burn of midday in narrow back-alleys and bricked squares. And back to the pitch darkness, just past midnight, standing outside in the high, snow-bound village of Naa. When I looked up at the diamond-crusted sky and breathed slowly to make the time last. When I knew here, I wasn’t alone. Here, I could never really be cold. And here, I was alive.

—-

In Nepal, I learned:

  • That if I think I understand something, that I have gotten to the bottom of it and reached a sound conclusion, then I have most likely missed the point entirely.
  • That people’s lives are not postcards; villages are not rarefied or isolated places that exist solely for my desire to help, or my scrapbook album of exotic places I’ve been, and just because a culture is unfamiliar to me, doesn’t mean it’s a product meant solely for my consumption.
  • That development can look different depending on what a society values and what they need.
  • That it is far better to stop and ask questions, than to act without listening.
  • That the people of Nepal are incredibly kind and generous!
  • That learning the language of another country not only opens up doors of communication, but is also an act of great respect – that humbling yourself in the face of things you don’t understand is a vital part of growing as a human being.
  • That dal bhat is delicious.
  • That everything I’ve bought, sold or thrown away is still on this planet, somewhere.
  • That everything has a cause and an effect, and my actions are never isolated incidents.
  • That I am incredibly grateful for everything I’ve had the chance to experience in my life; for my parents; my education; the abundance of resources in my country. That despite everything, I appreciate my country more now than I did in the beginning of this trip.
  • That I want to be more involved in the world; in politics; in my community; that even though everything feels very vast and convoluted and confusing, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make a difference.
  • That people are people wherever you go; that everyone laughs and cries, and shits, and dreams.

In Nepal, I learned that there are many different ways of looking at the world, and many different life paths. I learned about Nepali history, politics, economics, language, religion, society, development, women’s issues, and much else. We got access to speak with many, many different folks from here and so we learned about their lives and their issues and their thoughts. I learned how to navigate the sometime chaotic streets of the bustling capital, and also how to graciously accept countless offers of milk tea. I came to learn that simple dal bhat meals are what my body needs.

I learned to design curriculum and to teach. I learned how to balance my own needs with group needs in order to stay present, engaged, supportive and positive. I learned how to interact successfully in a different cultural context, from the small daily interactions to the complex conversations and events that make up our lives as human beings.

From my students I learned many things. I learned about yoga, and building with bamboo, and permaculture, and reggae and other music genres in Nepal. I learned about the tensions between tourism and conservation and the challenges of different perspectives on holy peaks and places, I learned about women’s issues, healthcare, and pregnancy and birth in rural areas, and about traditional Poubha painting and its history in the valley.

I learned about development issues and social justice issues. I learned about the problems of service tourism and “do-goodery”. I learned about the hard decisions that Nepali young people are having to make in order to make ends meet. I learned about challenges in doing heritage conservation while continuing to develop and strive towards “modernity”, whatever that word means. I learned how to get around the city (which isn’t easy!). I learned about different ecosystems and environments in Nepal and the diverse flora and fauna here. I learned about different class and caste issues here. I learned so much!

In Nepal, I learned how to weave a basket from long wet strips of green bamboo. I learned how to fill that basket with rice or flour or bricks and load it onto my back, wrapping the sling around my head and supporting the weight with my strained neck muscles. I tried to learn the grace with which my host mother carried her load up the steep terraced hillsides, but my steps were clumsy on the bumpy footpaths and my basket wobbled precariously on my back. I learned that my mother’s grace was the product of decades of practice, carrying her baskets up the hill day after day, month after month, year after year.

In Nepal, I learned to approach life with empathy and open-mindedness. There is so much time dedicated on the differences in this world, because people are too entrenched in their “way”. To live this way is to live your life with limits. When someone’s perspective is challenged it often causes them to become frightful as if their world is ending. What I have learned throughout my life and over the course of this trip is that gaining a perspective is broadening your world and it will expose you to so many new, and wonderful experiences and relationships. I was blessed to be a part of a group that felt the same way, which is why this trip was so enriching. I hope I am able to bring home this mindset and spread it to just a fraction of people, because a world of empathy is a world without hate.

In Nepal, I learned that you can never get tired of dal bhat.

In Nepal, I learned a lot about a lot. From Nepali language, culture, history, norms and religious practices to development issues, colonialism and consumerism  as well as class, caste and the injustices surrounding that. We also dabbled in some outdoor education and learned about and discussed environmentalism; the list goes on and on.

The more I learned, the more I realized that there was more to know. In fact, there will be always more to know. The quest for knowledge has always been exciting to me, the process of gaining new knowledge and getting a greater understanding of the world around me has always been thrilling. The knowledge I gained on this trip  has undoubtedly impacted me greatly and has caused me to reconsider a lot of my previously held-beliefs and views. The more I learned on this trip the more I realized I knew little about my own history and my leaning here has ignited a desire to learn more about that.

In Nepal, I learned that bar-headed geese can fly at higher altitudes than any other animal and that red pandas poop the equivalent of their own body weight every week.

[post_title] => Featured College Study Abroad Refection: "In Nepal I learned..." [post_excerpt] => "As our study abroad program comes to a close, the group wanted to anonymously share some thoughts about that which we experienced, observed, and learned over these many months..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-college-study-abroad-refection-in-nepal-i-learned [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-03 12:56:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-03 18:56:39 [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] => 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] => 37 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 37 [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_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-05-02 11:50:09
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-02 17:50:09
    [post_content] => Dear friends and families,



We are in our second of three days in Ayacucho. We have been trekking in the valley of Sondondo for the past six days. The experiences in this part of Peru have been totally breathtaking. We saw so many beautiful landscapes, but most importantly we learned so much about Peruvian history. The presence of the Wari in this part of Peru has been a constant during our time in Sondondo. We visited some ruins that had not been explored by archeologists and only the community works to maintain them. We also visited the house of one of the most important chroniclers of this part of the world, Guaman Poma de Ayala. This was such a grounding experience. I have learned for so long about Guaman Poma and being in his house just made me feel much more connected to my history.
I started to question my own values, the reasons for my actions and the things that I am focusing in my life.
Personally, the most powerful experience came from an interaction with two people. While we walked the route, we encountered many people. One lady that we crossed on the road, offered me a liter of milk for free just out of the desire to make us feel welcome. I was touched by this act, but it was that same night that I had an even stronger interaction. My co-instructor Sandy and I went to the store to buy a couple of things. I was waiting for Sandy, when an old lady came to the store. Her name was Isabel and after a short conversation about our reason for visiting the area, and her giving us a welcome talk to the region, I listened to her interaction with the owner of the store. Dona Isabel wanted to buy one Sole (Peruvian currency) of bread and one Sole chocolate powder. The owner of the store told her that she didn’t have any chocolate, and only had coffee, the coffee was one sole and fifty cents. Dona Isabel told her that she didn’t have enough money. She left saying goodbye with a big smile. Minutes after, she came back with a big piece of cheese that she offered me for free. When I insisted to pay her, she just said that it was her cariño (love for me), even though we had not talked for more than 10 minutes.
I think that these are the types of experiences that Dragons is about. Situations that make you reflect on your own life.
I left the store very touched. I actually started to tear up. I started to question my own values, thereasons for my actions and the things that I am focusing in my life. I felt so cared for and embraced by this person and I started to think about my own grandparents, and about the things that I am teaching to my students and questioned their validity. I think that these are the types of  experiences that Dragons is about. Situations that make you reflect on your own life. I am so happy that we came to this part of Peru. We decided to dedicate three days to Ayacucho and learn about the historic importance of this city, not only for Peru, but for all the continent. It is here where the last battle of the independence of South America was fought. Incredibly thankful, Jhasmany [post_title] => The Magic of Sondondo - Featured Instructor Reflection from the South America Semester [post_excerpt] => "We have been trekking in the valley of Sondondo for the past six days. The experiences in this part of Peru have been totally breathtaking..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-magic-of-sondondo-featured-instructor-reflection-from-the-south-america-semester [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-02 11:55:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-02 17:55:00 [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] => 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] => 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/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Dragons Instructors )
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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2019-04-03 11:11:49
    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-03 17:11:49
    [post_content] => 

We hope you enjoy this featured yak written by Fernanda Zorrilla, a student on the Mekong Semester:

 

For a short period of time I worked as an assistant teacher in a Montessori school, the same school that I went to as a child. I was working with kindergarten kids, children from four to six years old. Everyday was a little adventure, somehow they managed to fill every hour with drama, tears, and fights, and then quickly switch to laughter, games, and a lot of love.

I really believe I learned more from them that they did from me. One day, the teacher made a circle with the students and placed a pencil in the middle. Then she simply asked, “What is this?”

They all answered the logical way and said it was a pencil, then kept silent. The teacher asked again, “What else is this?” The 5 year old students where thinking, some where questioning what she meant, and some others started to get distracted with whatever they found.

Suddenly a boy said, “It is also wood!” Then another added that it also has yellow paint. And so on, and so forth, with all the materials and elements of the pencil. Another kid screamed (he even stood up from his chair), that pencil needs a tree because it’s wood, and that tree needs water to grow.

One clever kid concluded: This pencil is everything.

With little help from the teacher, the children where able to imagine the trees that needed to be cut down by a lumberjack, who needed food to be strong, so therefore someone had to grow the food and transport it to a supermarket so the lumberjack could buy it and eat it to cut the trees and make the wood to have a pencil. They imagined more and more. They had no limits, they started to question each other on what else needed to exist for that pencil to be there. Their imagination went so far that they ended up talking about planets. One clever kid concluded: This pencil is everything.

Watching 5 year olds explore and understand the concept of oneness left me in complete awe. Most people may not think about this in their entire life, and others (including me) tend to forget easily. This past month has constantly reminded me of this exercise, watching those kids understand something so complex, and yet so simple.

My time here has made me see this more clearly and closer than ever. It has also made me realize how frightening this idea is, especially since we act like individuals that are not integrated. When in reality, it is inevitable that everything is connected, and everything to be one. But it is beautiful too, being here in this little piece of land surrounded by water, that same water that marks the border between Laos and Thailand, that same water that feeds millions and kills some others, the water we pollute and then consume. The Mekong River is one, but it is not been treated as that.

how would we treat a pencil if every time we used it we saw the entire world participating on its existence?

So then I wonder, how would we treat a pencil if every time we used it we saw the entire world participating on its existence? How would we treat our rivers and resources? How would we treat each other and ourselves? I really don’t know the answer to this, but I’m a challenging myself to be more conscious, and right here and right now is the perfect time to practice. To be aware of this beautifully fragile concept of oneness. And I think to myself that if kindergarten children where able to do it, I must be capable too.

You can read more from the Mekong participants on the program Yak Board.

[post_title] => What is a pencil? - Featured Student Reflection from the Mekong Semester [post_excerpt] => "For a short period of time I worked as an assistant teacher in a Montessori school, the same school that I went to as a child. I was working with kindergarten kids, children from four to six years old. Everyday was a little adventure, somehow they managed to fill every hour with drama, tears, and fights, and then quickly switch to laughter, games, and a lot of love." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => what-is-a-pencil-featured-student-reflection-from-the-mekong-semester [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-22 11:30:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-22 17:30:41 [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] => 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] => 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/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Recommended )
WP_Post Object
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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] => 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] => 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] => 37 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 10 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 37 [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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