Rwanda Summer Program

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Yak of the Week

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    [ID] => 156805
    [post_author] => 1530
    [post_date] => 2020-05-21 12:23:06
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-05-21 18:23:06
    [post_content] => 

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention,

How to fall down into the grass,

How to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed,

How to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

-Excerpt from The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver.

[caption id="attachment_131040" align="aligncenter" width="676"]Student reflects near a temple Mekong Travel Abroad Photo by Eva Ramey, Student.[/caption] We had just finished dinner in my homestay, and were still sitting on the mat in the center of the main room. The communal bowl of sticky rice had been returned to the kitchen, as well as the bowls of delicately cooked mushrooms and vegetables, and the chicken stew. As I sat, eating a banana and attempting to chat with my host mother, I noticed the two little boys – my host nephews – running around outside with large headlamps flopping up and down on their heads. My host sister seemed to be wandering the house collecting empty water bottles, and her husband, too, seemed to be up to something. I made some hand gestures to my host mom, attempting to gather what they might be up to, and she responded in turn with hand gestures of her own – a motion with her hands and arms, as if to catch something, and a finger pointed in the direction of the rice fields. Kaohi bpai dai boah? Can I go? I asked. She nodded, shooing me towards my host sister, who was now standing outside of the door with a headlamp around her head, her two boys by her side. I hurried to find my own headlamp.

*          *          *

My host sister, her husband, and her two boys, Alek, 8 years old, and Alak, 3 years old, take the lead on this evening expedition; they are joined by my host cousin, a sullen 16-year old, two local girls, both 10 or 12 years old, and me. Each of us is equipped with a headlamp and an empty plastic water bottle. We emerge from a narrow path between houses onto the rice fields, and disperse, headlamps trained to the ground. I follow my sister, trying to figure out what we are looking for. The rice fields are dry this time of year, the mud and earth cracked and the rice grasses chopped short, golden, flat and bent. The dry paddies are still marked by their mounded earth boundaries, roughly delineated squares of varying size. I see tiny frogs, smaller than the size of my pinky nail, leaping among the dry grasses, and spiders whose green eyes glisten in the light of my headlamp. But no one seems to pay any attention to these creatures. What are they looking for instead? I watch my sister’s circle of light rather than my own, trying to see what she sees. Finally, she points, squats, deftly and silently snaps her hand over a flash of black. A cricket. She squeezes it from the earth and into the palm of her hand, slides open the cap of her water bottle, and tips it inside. We are hunting for crickets.
Equipped with the knowledge of what I should be looking for, I spread out. The swell of the uncaught cricket’s chatter fills the night, accompanied by the lilting babble of little Alak, my 3-year old nephew. The evening sky glows purple in the light from neighboring Thailand as our small circles of headlamp light spread across the cracked fields. Orion hangs in the sky above us.
The crickets are nimble and wily. They prance among the grasses, and nestle into the cracks that have spread across the earth, or delve into holes in the paddy mounds, carved by other insects and animals. I know what a cricket looks like by daylight, but that’s not what I’m looking for – in the dim light of a headlamp at night, a cricket looks black, a black dash glinting among the dry mud and grass. I catch one, and then another. My host cousin’s water bottle is half-full already, the crickets piled atop one another, squirming and chattering. But I am learning to look. I follow the low mounds that delineate the paddy borders, and catch a few more. I pluck them by their hind legs, and slide them into Alek’s water bottle, or Alak’s, sharing my goodies; they share theirs, too. I’m learning, from Alek and Alak, from the young girls, and from my once-sullen, now lively 16-year old cousin, how to pay attention – to the night, to the earth, to the grasses, to the crickets, to each other. Tell me, what else should I have done?
Over the course of our travels along the Mekong, I’ve been reminded, as I hope my students have also been reminded, how to pay attention. How to notice the small and curious details in the world around us – the black crickets in the grass; the white porcelain Virgin Mary statue perched atop a red and gold Buddhist shrine; my host father’s arm, tenderly wrapped around his grandson as they watch cartoons together.
How to pay attention to one another – to notice each person in their sorrow, and in joy. How to care for each other. And how to care for ourselves: paying attention to our minds, noticing our thoughts. These are things that no classroom, professor, or textbook can teach us. These are things we learn from a host mother, brother, or nephew, or from the earth, the grass, and the crickets. They are things we learn from each other, and from the world around us. If the Mekong River, if Cambodia, Laos, and China, if the communities that host us, love us, teach us, can leave us with anything, I hope that it might be this –  

How to fall down into the grass,

How to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed,

How to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

 
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[post_title] => FEATURED YAK: HOW TO PAY ATTENTION [post_excerpt] => Dragons Instructor, Angelica Calabrese, wrote this yak while leading a Mekong Gap Year semester. Over the course of our travels along the Mekong, I’ve been reminded, as I hope my students have also been reminded, how to pay attention. How to notice the small and curious details in the world around us – the black crickets in the grass; the white porcelain Virgin Mary statue perched atop a red and gold Buddhist shrine; my host father’s arm, tenderly wrapped around his grandson as they watch cartoons together. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-yak-how-to-pay-attention [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-23 17:10:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-23 23:10:58 [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] => 37 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 37 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 47 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 47 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [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] => 12 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 12 [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 ) [3] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1 [name] => Uncategorized [slug] => uncategorized [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 31 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 16 [cat_ID] => 1 [category_count] => 31 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Uncategorized [category_nicename] => uncategorized [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Global Community ... )
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    [post_date] => 2020-04-09 11:35:17
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-04-09 17:35:17
    [post_content] => 

OVERHEARD ON THE YAK BOARD

BYP Indonesia Where There Be Dragons Gap year
Something I never could have anticipated for this year is the amount of small daily surprises I encounter here in Jogja. These surprises—little moments of joy—come upon me at any time in the day. They break up the routine and remind me that my year here is not replicable. They make the mundane feel joyful, new, and human. They color my experiences in Jogja and persist in my memory, so as I reflect, I keep thinking of these interactions.
I wanted to share just 9 of those delights: 1. A few Sundays ago, I found myself folding boxes with 30 ibus. I just got out of the shower and entered the kitchen when my Ibu said, “Our neighbor died,” with a frenzied look in her eyes. I wished her my condolences, but as soon as the words left my mouth, she ran to the nearby house, broom in hand. My ayah came over to me and explained that our house was turning into the center of cooking and food for the funeral. In Muslim culture, the newly deceased must be buried if possible within 24 hours, and in Javanese culture, everyone must help with the ceremony. My Ibu set mats all over the kitchen floor, and the neighborhood women came and went, bringing boxes that I helped fold and food that I helped serve. Jacqueline joined in on the effort, and we spent the Sunday chatting and helping. I felt part of my neighborhood community, although not an ibu by any means. The man who died was beloved in the area, and around 100 or more people came and went through my house and the street in front to support the ceremony and pray for the dead. At the end of the preparations, everyone shared a meal together that Jacquline and I helped plate. There is a phrase for this type of communal effort: gotong royong, translating roughly to “mutual cooperation.” The feeling of gotong royong, a feeling of comfort and security that people will care for me as I care for them, was delightful. 2. The moment I appear at the doorway of my NGO office, a chorus of  “Halo Allie!” rings out. My coworkers’ greetings are a delightful daily reminder that I am welcome and supported at the office, despite the language barrier. 3. Putri, a staff member of UNALA (my NGO), ran out of her office on Thursday, yelling out, “Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku bermain di Plaza Ambarrukmo hari ini sore! Ayo!” (“Memories of My Body” will play at the Plaza Ambarrukmo mall this afternoon! Let’s go!). The interns and volunteers turned from their computer and called out, “Aku mau ikut!” (“I want to join!”). I couldn’t understand what the fervor was about—most of the conversations took place in Javanese—but the excitement of the office was tangible. Anggita, my coworker, turned to me and asked if I wanted to join. She explained how this movie is censored, being about a non-binary person’s journey through traditional Javanese culture and dance, but allowed to play only at this movie theater once at 4:00pm on that day. I came along and soon realized the movie lacked English subtitles. Even though I was only able to understand 60% of the movie, it was a delight to join them and watch this story.   BYP Indonesia Where There Be Dragons Gap year   4. When the skies open up, the rain pours down, and a breeze flows through the city. I feel relief all through my body as the humid pre-rain pressure fades away. At night, the streetlights and motorbikes reflect against the puddles, staturating Jogja in a haze of reds, yellows, and greens. 5. A later Saturday, I photographed my NGO’s promotion in Bantul, south of the city. They gave a presentation to a Muhammadiyah youth group (a Muslim group) on reproductive health including issues of menstruation, self-love, and gender issues. I raised my camera up and tried my best to capture the expressions on the girls faces: their eyes followed the speaker, smiles tugged on their faces, and they sat forward. The girls were stuck to every word. It was empowering for myself to see them, who were all almost the same age as me, so focused and engaged. I felt pride in my work there, happy I joined this NGO to do what I can to help them. After the promotion, we squeezed into the organization’s car. Everyone was hungry—we already ran out of snacks. Putri called out, “Sate klathak!” The energy rose as if everyone downed a cup of coffee. Brokir, the driver, did a U turn then and there and drove until we found the restaurant. Sate klathak, some sort of goat sate, is originally from that area of Bantul and best served there. I unfortunately could not eat the sate klathak (I’m a vegetarian), to which Putri continually said “Kasian” (Too bad) about. Still, eating nasi goreng (fried rice) as they ate the sate klathak added to the many moments of joy that day.   BYP Indonesia Where There Be Dragons Gap year   6. On Sunday, I carved away the contours of faces from my woodblock board. Olivia came along that weekend, and we drank tea and chatted with my IEA mentor Fitri. I worked on my piece on female reproductive rights, Olivia created a piece on body image positivity, and Fitri completed her pieces on solidarity and activism. Time faded away, and soon it was already night. I got in my Gocar back to the program house, feeling as confident and calm as the women from my woodblock. 7. Jacqueline and I sit atop the Lippo Plaza mall, where street food stands, outdoor lamps, and cafe style tables and chairs decorate the area. We chose to sit a level above the main area, able to watch both the scenes below us and the nighttime view of Jogja. A low, distant murmur of voices created an ambience I had only before heard in recordings. As the purple and pinks of the sunset finally faded into the deep blue of the night, a breeze pushed out the usual heat of the day. This moment only lasted for 15 minutes, but it was delightful. BYP Indonesia Where There Be Dragons Gap year   8. Every Friday, I give an English lesson to my NGO as a means of preparation if the European donors visit the office. I don’t know how useful my lessons end up being, but I teach about American culture and lifestyles, and we discuss the differences and similarities with Indonesian cultures. Given the lesson is always full of generalizations and mostly from my perspective about American culture, the lessons are mostly just fun. A couple of Fridays ago, per their requests, I decided to teach them slang. I included around 30 words, ranging from “ASAP,” “vanilla,” to “queen” (I did mention that some of these are only used with young people while others like ASAP are more general). It was fun to teach them, but the weeks ahead were more fun: my coworkers called shotgun for the front seat of the car when we went to promotions, said “cool, cool, cool” when commenting on something they like, and replied “RIP” when I couldn’t make it to an event. We bonded by laughing over the English language and made fun of words that took on alternative meanings. Delightful. 9. As silat (Indonesian martial arts/self-defense class) wrapped up on Monday, I mouthed to Aneekah, “What about doing zumba after this?” Before our silat instructor even left, Aneekah, Elliott, and I began to move our bodies along with the high intensity YouTube video. 10 minutes in, as sweat pooled down our faces, Jacqueline walked into the program house, coming from a meeting at a nearby NGO. We yelled out at her to join, and she too started the workout without changing out of her day clothes. There we were, the four of us with our hearts pounding and muscles aching. Then, the 30 minutes were up. The video finished. But, we kept going. We got on the ground, got into plank formation, and sang out “Cause baby you’re a firework!” at the top of our lungs as we waited for a minute to pass. We were determined to push our bodies, embracing the sweat, muscle ache, and eventual tiredness. I began playing Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” as each of us started a new exercise. From the outside, we probably looked like a mess, our faces red and bodies giving up under the intensity of zumba.  But, endorphins pumping through my blood, I thought: this is delightful. BYP Indonesia Where There Be Dragons Gap year
I do not know if it is because I am looking for these moments of delight, but I find myself feeling so much gratitude recently for being able to experience life in a way I’ve never experienced it before. The humdrum of the everyday no longer seems as overwhelming as it once did. I am excited by living moment to moment, knowing I can stumble into a moment like the ones I wrote about above again.
 
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[post_title] => FEATURED YAK: 9 DELIGHTS OF JOGJA [post_excerpt] => OVERHEARD ON THE YAK BOARD: Something I never could have anticipated for this year is the amount of small daily surprises I encounter here in Jogja. These surprises—little moments of joy—come upon me at any time in the day. They break up the routine and remind me that my year here is not replicable. They make the mundane feel joyful, new, and human. They color my experiences in Jogja and persist in my memory, so as I reflect, I keep thinking of these interactions. I wanted to share just 9 of those delights: [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-yak-9-delights-of-jogja [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-23 16:49:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-23 22:49:18 [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] => 37 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 37 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 47 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 47 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [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] => 17 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 11 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 17 [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, Global Community ... )
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    [post_author] => 1530
    [post_date] => 2020-03-26 13:07:28
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-03-26 19:07:28
    [post_content] => homestay indonesia 

The following has been translated by the Instructor Team on behalf of Kat’s host mom, Ibu Suparmi

Let me introduce myself, my name is Suparmi, I am 55 years old. My husband is Agus Hartono, he is 56 years old. I have two children, Adibah (25) and Arwana/Awa (24).

The first time I heard that our family would host an American Dragons student, I felt doubtful and unconfident. I was not sure whether I could host our guest well because everyone in our family has their own responsibilities outside our home. We are a new Dragons host family, and this was our first time hosting a guest from abroad, so we didn’t know what to expect or how we would do.

When I learned that our new family member’s name would be Katherine, I felt nervous and excited. But in retrospect, I shouldn’t have worried because over the last three week we have had a lot of fun and interesting times while hosting Kat (that’s what I called her).

During my first week with Kat, I had difficulty communicating with her. Every time I spoke Indonesian with her, she just moved her eyes and said “I am confused.” However she is a very curious person. She always asked a lot of questions and shared stories. One morning, when she got up from bed, she asked me “Ibu (mom), do you like my hair?” (while she was playing with her curly hair). I told her, “I like your hair”, everyone in the house was laughing. In this first week we learned that Kat is just 17 years old, she is very young, but she is already independent, and she always wants to help around the house.

homestay indonesia I remember one morning during that first week when Kat was in the kitchen. She asked me about the many different types of ingredients that we had there, and afterwards she said she wanted to make her own drinks. I watched her as she made her own ginger and lemongrass drinks. I was so proud of her, she was able to take care of herself. No wonder, I think this was because she had a part time job in a coffee stall in America. Wow! The next morning, while Kat was helping us with the dishes, she made her own coffee and tea. I was so impressed 🙂 And once in a while she would happily help me with cooking (as I mostly bought food from outside, hehe).

During the second week, I didn’t want to waste my time with Kat. We met every morning and evening. We talked and talked about politics (both in Indonesia and in America), about Kat’s family, and a lot of other things. Her stories made us become closer. Saturday and Sunday are our family days and I invited Kat to join me at my work where we had organise activities for “National Garbage Day”. On this occasion we had many activities such as river cleaning, a talk show about the environment and garbage waste, a village clean up competition, and even a flash mob! I could see that Kat had enjoyed those days. She was a celebrity! Almost everyone that she met wanted to take a selfie with her.

homestay indonesia Kat would always tell me about her cooking ISP (Independent Study Project) too. In the morning she would go to the local market and then in the afternoon she would cook alongside her mentor. One evening, Kat brought us some food that she made at her cooking class and said in Bahasa: “Hari ini saya masak lemet dan pisang goreng (today I cooked traditional snacks wrapped in banana leaves and fried banana).” I told her that in my whole life I had never cooked lemet, and I am Indonesian! Kat said ” I am American, and I do cook lemet”. Everyone laughed. And then we all tasted her food.

During our third week, I noticed that Kat was tired. She was busy with the Dragons group. Every time I asked whether she was tired, she answered: “Sedikit (a little bit)”, and then she would laugh afterwards.

For me, Kat is a special person. She is polite, curious, and a fast learner. At our home, Kat is already part of our family, she is my youngest child. Adibah, Awa and my husband always want to invite Kat to eat outside. Last time we went to a Javanese noodle place, then Japanese food, and we even tried Pizza Hut. We also took her to some bookstore here in Jogja too.
In a few days Kat will leave us and I thought, why does time have to go so fast? I had tears in my eyes… I was just getting closer to Kat, and she already had to leave soon. When there is a meeting, there is always a time to say goodbye. “Sampai jumpa lagi, Kat” (until we meet again).
homestay indonesia   by Ibu Suparmi (Kat’s host mom), translated by the Instructor Team.  

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[post_title] => OVERHEARD ON THE YAK BOARD: A LETTER FROM KAT’S HOST MOM [post_excerpt] => A homestay host in Indonesia reflects on her time with a Dragons student. "In a few days Kat will leave us and I thought, why does time have to go so fast? I had tears in my eyes… I was just getting closer to Kat, and she already had to leave soon. When there is a meeting, there is always a time to say goodbye. 'Sampai jumpa lagi, Kat' (until we meet again)." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => overheard-on-the-yak-board-a-letter-from-kats-host-mom [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-06-21 17:52:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-06-21 23:52:36 [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] => 37 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 37 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 47 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 47 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, Global Community )
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    [post_date] => 2020-03-06 09:47:50
    [post_date_gmt] => 2020-03-06 16:47:50
    [post_content] => 

Overheard on the Yak Board (Guatemala Independent Spring Experience

Guatemala homestay independent spring experience ISE If you had happened to be walking down 4th avenue in San Miguel Escobar last Saturday around noon, you would have seen me and my Spanish teacher Blanca carrying a massive, scalding frying pan in a Guatemalan swaddling cloth woven for newborn babies. This strange event was only one of many misadventures that day. As my time in Guatemala began to come to an end, I wanted to cook a thank-you lunch for my host family, my instructor and his family, Biz and Nell, and my Spanish teacher. I settled on an overly-ambitious menu of avogolemono (a Greek chicken soup), a massive Greek bread, two salads, and strawberries with cream. I wanted to share a few of my favorite foods, like the Greek cuisine I eat with my grandmother at Christmas, the strawberries I associate with summers in New Hampshire, and the obligatory kale salad I must like as a Brooklynite. Guatemala homestay independent spring experience ISE The adventure began on Thursday, when Biz, Nell, and I went to Antigua to buy ingredients. Our first stop was La Bodegona, a massive grocery store that caters to locals and tourists alike, resulting in an overwhelming maze of food. We found three separate pasta aisles, went on a several-minutes long quest for powdered sugar, and even stumbled into a whole separate building dedicated to clothing, which felt a little like stepping into another dimension. After La Bodegona, with our iPhone translators at the ready, we crossed the street to the municipal market where we spent an equal amount of time finding our way to the vegetable section as we did actually shopping. On Friday, I spent the whole morning cooking the soup, and prepping the other dishes for lunch the following day. My grandmother helped me start the wood stove for the soup, and then watched in horror as I put my chickens directly into boiling water without washing them. She efficiently helped me rescue the birds and run them under the tap, and although a crisis was averted, she and my host mother asked me if I had washed just about everything else every time I added it to a dish. Whoops! Guatemala homestay independent spring experience ISE Guatemala homestay independent spring experience ISE A few minutes after chicken-gate, I ran into soup crisis number 2. In Greek, the name of the dish means egg-lemon soup, and although fresh eggs abound here, it turns out there’s not a lemon to be found in all of Antigua. As I later learned, lemons require cooler temperatures than limes, and are thus not well suited to tropical, warm countries like Guatemala. Fortunately, my instructor Juancho brought me an alternative citrus fruit he grows at home, and combined with lime, I used that to replace the lemons. Satisfied with my soup, I put it in the fridge, and called it a day. On Saturday, I woke up very early to start the bread dough. Guessing roughly how much yeast to add in absence of the rapid-rise packets I’m used to, I got the dough rising right about when the rest of the family woke up. The mornings here are quite chilly, and as a result, I was having a hard time getting my bread to rise. I tried putting it various parts of our patio and kitchen, boiled water to heat the bowl, and finally settled on an elaborate system of heating and cooling the dough on our stove, around the boiling coffee, beans, eggs, and tortillas my host grandmother was preparing for breakfast. Eventually, I was satisfied with the dough, and enlisted the help of my host sisters to braid it.
The lunch ended up being a huge success. The food (against all odds) turned out well, but the best part about the meal was spending it with all of the people who have made my two months here magical. I’m so sad that I only have one more week in Guatemala, but the lunch reminded me that the connections I’ve made here will last a lifetime.
Once the bread was set, my host sister and I carried it down the street to my Spanish teacher’s house to bake. The oven in my kitchen doesn’t work, so Blanca generously volunteered hers. When we arrived, however, we discovered that the massive frying pan we were using for the bread didn’t fit into her oven. Fortunately, she had a larger oven in a different part of the house, and her husband kindly dragged it to the kitchen and connected it to the gas. Unfortunately, however, this oven only had two markings to measure temperature, a plus sign and a minus sign. I took a guess and selected plus, and then told Blanca I would return in an hour. I guessed wrong. 20 minutes later, Blanca texted me a photo of some very crispy looking bread, and asked me if this was what I was going for. I sprinted down the street (my host sister led the way on her bike) and found my bread several shades darker than it should have been. Fortunately, with some scraping, we managed to salvage the bread, and the inside was just as tasty as usual. The final challenge, however, was getting the bread back to my house. Blanca volunteered her baby swaddle, and that’s how I found myself on fourth avenue with a piping-hot Greek holiday bread. Guatemala homestay independent spring experience ISE Meanwhile, a situation was developing at home. Before picking up my bread, I had put the soup on the stove to heat up. As I was walking home, my host mother called me to say that the soup smelled horrible, and had separated overnight. Disappointed, I was resigned to cooking spaghetti as a last-minute replacement, but my host mother would hear none of it. “We’re going to remake the soup!” she declared confidently, even though we had less than an hour until our guests were going to arrive. I tried to reason with her, but she had already fired up the wood stove and enlisted her mother to help us. “¡Manos a la obra!” she declared, and went into a frenzy of buying replacement chickens, helping me chop ingredients, and heaping wood into the stove to speed up the cooking. One second I would see her at the woodpile, and the next she would be stirring the soup side-by-side with my host grandmother who was picking apart chicken carcasses like it was an Olympic sport. And, about 45 minutes later, just as our guests were walking in the door, we had a fully-completed soup! The lunch ended up being a huge success. The food (against all odds) turned out well, but the best part about the meal was spending it with all of the people who have made my two months here magical. I’m so sad that I only have one more week in Guatemala, but the lunch reminded me that the connections I’ve made here will last a lifetime.  

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[post_title] => FEATURED INDEPENDENT SPRING EXPERIENCE REFLECTION: “SUNDAY LUNCH” [post_excerpt] => Guatemala ISE student, Zoe Davidson, reflects on the time she cooked a meal for her homestay family and everything seemed to go wrong. But in the end, "the best part about the meal was spending it with all of the people who have made my two months here magical. I’m so sad that I only have one more week in Guatemala, but the lunch reminded me that the connections I’ve made here will last a lifetime." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => featured-independent-spring-experience-refection-sunday-lunch [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-04-23 16:47:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-23 22:47:47 [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] => 37 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 37 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 653 [name] => Global Community [slug] => global_community [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 653 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [parent] => 0 [count] => 47 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 653 [category_count] => 47 [category_description] => Featured International People, Places, Projects. [cat_name] => Global Community [category_nicename] => global_community [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/global_community/ ) [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] => 17 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 11 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 17 [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, Global Community ... )
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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] => 2022-04-23 16:40:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-04-23 22:40:44 [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] => 37 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 37 [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] => 17 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 11 [cat_ID] => 646 [category_count] => 17 [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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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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