Rwanda Summer Program

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Yak of the Week

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This Yak offers a lovely reflection from Dragons Instructor Jeff Wagner, on why we study and learn foreign languages. A must read for parents and students on the philosophy underlying Dragons core program element of language study.

In this community, when we speak amongst ourselves, it carries love, care, and power. - Mario
I sat across the table from our host, Mario, as he explained why he returned to the tiny mountain village of Paru Paru from the modern metropolis of Lima. His story of adventure, of travels from the high Andes to the Pacific coast and the Amazon jungles, of heavy work in the mountains and mines centered on language. “In this community, when we speak amongst ourselves, it carries love, care, and power. The words people in the modern cities don’t speak beauty. Their words carry no love or power. Quechua is a language of beauty. It’s so sweet. When we talk in Spanish, it’s not so sweet.” So, after more than a decade, he returned to Paru Paru, that sweeter place, determined to preserve that culture and way of life that had nurtured his heart when he was young. And now, even the way Mario spoke Spanish was like the sweet smell of flowers. His words and his heart still belonged to that gentle eloquence of his first language. [caption id="attachment_152845" align="alignnone" width="755"] Photo by Dragons Instructor Jeff Wagner. South America Gap Year Program.[/caption] Unlike Mario, I grew up in a monolingual world. I took Spanish classes in high school, but it felt like calculus or chemistry: something that I doubted I would ever actually use. I took language classes because they were required for entrance into most colleges I might want to attend. I never really wanted to learn Spanish, just like I never really wanted to learn calculus. And I never enjoyed it all that much. If it was easier to speak fluent English than broken Spanish, why should I learn to communicate in another language? But nobody ever asked me why I wanted to learn Spanish. Here in South America, the reason to learn language is right in front of us every day. And it’s not just to translate our thoughts and communication into a language that people here understand.
We encounter these stories in newspaper columns, love letters, bed-time stories, idle chatter on the street corner, and philosophy.
Across the world, we learn language because each one has its unique stories to tell, and we open ourselves to new possibilities. We encounter these stories in newspaper columns, love letters, bed-time stories, idle chatter on the street corner, and philosophy. They’re told around campfires, written in beautiful curly scripts, and carved into ancient stone walls. Stories in English today have become dominated by the pragmatic, blunt language of global business, capitalism, and material success. Spanish stories express a multi-continental history of struggle and complex identity. Most speakers of Spanish are descendants of colonized people, building a resistance against imperialism out of the language of their former colonizers. Tibetan stories seem to be built around knowledge and understanding of the mind and devotion to a greater purpose. Life in Hindi seems to be a poetic unfolding over infinite time; the words for tomorrow and yesterday are the same in Hindi. A language is made from the stories that its people tell and the manner in which its speakers move through the world.
Life in Peru cannot fit into the English language. Without knowing a few Quechua words, we cannot understand the stories here, even if they’re translated into our own language.
As English-speaking people from the United States, the narratives and stories that we have heard all our lives are simply not large enough enough to accommodate this place, the people we meet here, and the vast history. Life in Peru cannot fit into the English language. Without knowing a few Quechua words, we cannot understand the stories here, even if they’re translated into our own language. Marcel Proust says, “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes, in seeing the universe with the eyes of another, of hundreds of others, in seeing the hundreds of universes that each of them sees.” It’s a beautiful thought, and I share it with my students. But in 2017, I could walk through any tourist market in the world with my eyes wide open and still find somebody to barter with in English, all the while further isolating myself from the place I am supposedly trying to experience. It’s the stories we hear that change the way we know the world.
We don’t learn language to barter in the market for bracelets. We learn language to think and communicate more like the people who have different stories to tell, to understand the world as they perceive it not through their eyes, but through their ears.
We don’t learn language to barter in the market for bracelets. We learn language to think and communicate more like the people who have different stories to tell, to understand the world as they perceive it not through their eyes, but through their ears. We learn language to understand other mindsets and ways of being. Anywhere we travel, there are stories waiting to be told; stories that could never exist in an English-speaking world.  
Read more Yak reflections and posts written by Dragons Instructor Jeff Wagner.
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...this country has great wealth that goes way beyond economics.
This new year, I’ve taken a lot of time to explore Dakar, and I wanted to share some of my stories with you. Some experiences have been profound, some not. Some fun, some uncomfortable. Sometimes I do touristy things like a local, sometimes I do local things like a tourist. This is (arbitrarily) the first of my Dakar travels. The unfortunate background to our first tale is that Sophie had to leave Senegal early. In light of this, during one of our days off, we decided to take an adventure, exploring a side of Dakar we hadn’t seen before. This included going to the wonderful Espace Maam Samba, a fairtrade boutique associated with an NGO that seeks to revitalise Senegalese villages faced with desertification (Berte, one of our instructors, works with the NGO). There we bought some gifts and spent a little while chatting with the women working at the boutique. After spending a little too much money, we headed towards the sea, trying to figure out how to get to the Ile de Ngor. We walked down some small sandy alleys, tall houses on either side, asking for directions on the way, and just as we were getting skeptical we saw a stunning beach brimming with pirogues, busy with fishers, tourists, vendors. [caption id="attachment_152546" align="alignnone" width="854"] Photo by Benjamin Roberts, Princeton Bridge Year Senegal Program.[/caption] We stood for a moment, stunned by the array of colours, the sheer quantity of boats and the beautiful view out to the island and beyond. And as we stood, a pirogue floated calmly towards the shore, then suddenly a flurry of activity as a large group of men and women, previously sitting untroubled on the beach, leapt into action, hauling the boat onto shore and examining the catch of the day. Having soaked up the atmosphere, we returned to our mission, crossing to the island. As we walked along the beach, I found myself hauling a boat on to shore; it felt only natural as it landed right in our path. Continuing on, we found a man selling return tickets to the island, and as we sat waiting for the boat to come, we saw a few groups of foreign tourists come and take private boats to the island. Sophie and I preferred to wait for the cheaper, more communal option. That gave us time for a little chat with a sunglasses seller called Babacar, who impressed us with his English as we impressed him with our Wolof. Eventually the pirogue came, giving us the cue to don our life jackets and scramble in. Not wanting to get in the way, I hopped on and made my way to the back so that others could come aboard. Once I was seated, I realised that I had lost Sophie (not the tallest among us), for whom the high-sided boat was not so easy to climb as it was for me. Fortunately someone more considerate than myself helped her clamber up, and the boat began its short yet exciting journey to the island. With our feet in the sand on the other side (and a rogue sandal rescued from the quietly thieving tides), we sought to explore. Wary of an offer of a ‘free’ guided tour, we decided to find our own way around the small island. It wasn’t long before we bumped into a local artist. Though we were at first wary, we engaged openly with him, and I’m glad we did so, as we ended up spending a long time talking, with him telling us about the island as well as his home in the southern Casamance region of Senegal. As we parted, he gifted us bracelets, telling us that though he may not travel far, his art will. I assured him that we take his name with us, and reccomend his traditional art to our friends. Barely ten paces along the island and we felt it rude not to chat with a lonely artist at work. After a brief chat about music of all types, Senegalese mbalax, disco, reggae, we took a seat at the tip of the island, looking out to the humblingly vast ocean. Dakar being the westernmost point in mainland Afro-Eurasia, the atlantic here feels particularly vast: sitting there on the Ile de Ngor, only the ocean kept us from being on the beaches of Honduras. At the same time, it really is a world away. There on the cliffs of the Ile de Ngor, with waves crashing on the rocks beneath us, was a spot ripe for reflection, and we sat there for a long while. Eventually came time to move on, and we took a stroll around the picturesque island, taking in some incredible buildings, one house covered in seashells, a Christian school that looked like Noah’s Ark, and many less incredible but still beautiful creations. [caption id="attachment_152547" align="alignnone" width="755"] Photo by Benjamin Roberts, Princeton Bridge Year Senegal Program.[/caption] Eventually came time for our return. We sat on the beach, waiting for the next pirogue to come, eating beignets (a wonderful doughnut-like treat). While not all of my time here is spent going on fun adventures like this one, I have found them to be perhaps some of my most valuable time in Senegal. Seeing the beauty of the world is a treasure in itself, and I encounter a lot of thought-provoking experiences, good and bad. The space that these adventures have given me simply to think has been so far priceless. Days like this one make me realise all that Senegal has to offer. Often in the West, there are incredibly simplistic views of Africa, not helped by some of the de-humanising ‘humanitarian’ advertising campaigns we see. But this country has great wealth that goes way beyond economics. It’s in the art, which abounds in quantity and beauty in Senegal. Even the buses here are a psychedelic explosion of colour inspired by some of the country’s richest and oldest cultural traditions. It’s in the folk traditions that have been built up and preserved for centuries, underpinning community life and providing wisdom from generations past to generations present. It’s in the landscape, from the plateaus in Thies that emerge from nowhere and disappear just as quickly, standing over vast flat plains; to the lush, green waterfallls that dot the mountains of Kedogou; as well as the peninsula of Dakar, where we were sat. And of course, the intrinsic wealth of everyone here. This is a wealth that we have all had the benefit of experiencing in our homestay families, as we are welcomed with open arms, and we encounter it on the street so often with all the incredible people we meet. All of these experiences mean that by the time I leave Senegal, I’ll be a lot richer than when I came.

Read MORE from the Princeton Bridge Year Senegal Yak Board.

  [post_title] => Yak of the Week: Dakar Travels [post_excerpt] => Seeing the beauty of the world is a treasure in itself, and I encounter a lot of thought-provoking experiences, good and bad. The space that these adventures have given me simply to think has been so far priceless. Days like this one make me realise all that Senegal has to offer. Often in the West, there are incredibly simplistic views of Africa, not helped by some of the de-humanising ‘humanitarian’ advertising campaigns we see. But this country has great wealth that goes way beyond economics. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => yak-week-dakar-travels [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-16 11:11:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-16 18:11:49 [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] => 57 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 57 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field )
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    [post_date] => 2017-12-08 12:40:43
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    [post_content] => On September 14, I said goodbye to home and got on a plane bound for Nepal. I was extremely nervous but so excited to kick off the adventure of a lifetime. I didn’t really know what to expect or what I would encounter in Nepal. What would my group members be like and would they laugh at my jokes? What about my instructors? How will I possibly fit everything I need for 3 months into a backpack? What if I forget something? What about the culture? Would I stick out like a sore thumb? Will my host family understand anything I say? How will I possibly use a squatty potty for so long? Will I get sick of eating rice for every meal? Am I going to enjoy a week long Buddhist retreat? What about living in a rural village? Can I trek for 8 hours a day for almost 3 weeks straight? What about showers and laundry? Will I ever feel clean again? Am I going to sleep on the floor every night? Will I get sick? How sick? Will I return the same person as when I left? How will this experience shape the rest of my life? Should I have just gone to college?

Little did I know the decision to come to Nepal would be one of the best I’ve ever made. Three months later and it’s hard to process everything that I experienced, but it was more than I could have ever imagined. My 11 fellow students turned into more than friends- they turned into family. Together we explored Nepal and in the process learned so much about ourselves. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve hugged, we’ve climbed mountains, we’ve challenged each other to think differently and to be better humans, and there is no way I will ever be able to repay everyone for their immense impact on my life. My instructors are more so much more than instructors. They are friends, mentors, and some of the most driven and inspirational people I have ever met. They have pushed me to question and to never stop learning. My backpack that once felt so small now feels excessive and I regret bringing as many clothes as I did. The culture in Nepal is very different from home, but I fell in love. Temples and stupas everywhere, a deep respect for others and for the Earth, the happiness that engulfs everyday life. Turns out the squatty potty is not so bad and much of my group has even come to prefer them. My host families may not have always understood me, but they taught me so much about gratitude, compassion, simplicity, and community. Daal bhat power 24 hour is a true statement even if we get sick of it at times. The Himalayas left me speechless and in an indescribable state of awe multiple times a day, and the views made all the hard days of trekking absolutely worth it. We learned to embrace our stink but also to really appreciate the occasional waterfall/river shower or an opportunity to hand wash clothes. We all got sick at some point and it often seemed like we consumed more ORS than regular water, but the support of the group made it better.

I know I have grown and changed in the past three months, and I’m proud of all that I have learned on this course. I have learned to lean in to uncomfortable situations and I have embraced a completely different way of life. I have learned so much about Nepali culture and as a result I have examined my own culture in a different light and really reflected on how I live my life. I have become so much more aware of my immense privilege and learned how I can better use what I have been given to create positive change. I have grown so much in my gratitude, especially for things I usually take for granted like clean air, a constant supply or filtered water, and a bathroom inside my house instead of across the street. I have seen and experienced so much in a short period of time and will forever be influenced by my time in Nepal.

On December 9, I will board a plane in Kathmandu and wave goodbye to Nepal. This time, I’m also nervous, but in a way I’ve never felt before. This time, I’m nervous to go home. I’m nervous to return to the place and the people that have shaped the past 18 years of my life. I’m so excited to see my family and friends and share about my time in Nepal, but I’m nervous. I’m nervous about adjusting to a way of life that now seems so foreign to me. I’m nervous I will feel overwhelmed and out of place. I can show my friends and family pictures of where I’ve been and tell countless stories, but there is no way I will be able to completely describe how I felt. How can I describe the feeling of and early morning puja with hundreds of monks at Namo Buddha? How can I share the feeling of complete awe as I looked up at the thousands of stars in the tiny village of Na? How can I reciprocate the strong communities I observed in Chokati and at the Ashram? There is so much I want this share, but I know I will never be able to encapsulate everything that my time in Nepal has taught me and how I’ve changed in the process, and I’m okay with that. At first this thought really freaked me out- would it be hard to prove the validity of experiences that I can’t even describe? I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe the best memories aren’t meant to be shared. And I always know that should I find myself overwhelmed by the transition back home, there are 14 amazing people who understand what a journey this has been and who I can always count on.
    [post_title] => WHEN HOME SEEMS FOREIGN
    [post_excerpt] => I know I have grown and changed in the past three months, and I’m proud of all that I have learned on this course. I have learned to lean in to uncomfortable situations and I have embraced a completely different way of life. I have learned so much about Nepali culture and as a result I have examined my own culture in a different light and really reflected on how I live my life.
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    [post_date] => 2017-09-18 14:23:38
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    [post_content] => On my Bolivia course this past summer, one of my students posed the question “Why should we care about diversity?” (thank you Rebecca!). Initially, I had a knee-jerk reaction to the query, thinking about the myriad and strikingly apparent reasons why diversity is something that we inherently want to value. But the more I considered Rebecca’s sincere and honest inquiry, I found myself increasingly tongue-tied. My efforts to produce an eloquent and comprehensive response to what seemed a self-evident human truism tugged at the very core of my being and values as an individual and as an educator. Rebecca’s question has remained ever-present in my mind these past months, and I have come to realize that it speaks to the fundamental nature of the work that we do as educators.

Over the past four years, I have spent approximately 610 days in the field as an instructor with Dragons. That works out to be just over 40% of my life in that period, not counting the additional days and weeks that I’ve spent preparing for courses, pouring over paperwork, doing administrative work at the office in Boulder, scouting new program areas, staffing instructors, liaising with potential students and families, outreaching with our local contacts, and participating in Dragons orientations and trainings. I think I can safely speak for our wide community of instructors and administrators when I say that we do this work for reasons that drive us spiritually, emotionally, and intuitively as human beings. We work long hours, late nights, we get sick and exhausted, we travel and sweat and sometimes pull off feats of theatrical and improvisational educational acrobatics in rugged cross-cultural settings. And we love what we do.
The ethnosphere, a notion perhaps best defined as the sum total of all thoughts, beliefs, myths and intuitions made manifest today by the myriad cultures of the world. The ethnosphere is humanity’s greatest legacy. It is the product of our dreams, the embodiment of our hopes, the symbol of all that we are and all that we have created as a wildly inquisitive and astonishingly adaptive species. -Wade Davis, Light at the Edge of the World
Over the course my years as an instructor, my work with Dragons has poured over into other elements of my life, influencing my relationships and community, driving my schedule, and molding in significant ways the manner in which I perceive and interact with the world around me. My husband would say that I live and breath Dragons and, in that regard, I am very much not alone. There are many of us, some much more devoted than I, who are dedicating their professional lives to living against the grain, jumping from course to course and continent to continent, traversing cultural and conventional boundaries and redefining, every single day, the potential of experiential education and meaningful cross-cultural engagement to touch and (hopefully!) transform the lives of young people. Every single one of us is engaged in this work because we believe that it has the power to break down prejudice, to connect the sometimes seemingly disconnected threads of our planet, to redefine the contours of our human relationships and global interactions in ways that are more compassionate, meaningful, and productive for humanity and the planet that cradles us. I know that for me personally, my early travels left a profound mark on my identity and life trajectory, and contributed in countless ways to the path that led me to my home in Bolivia. As instructors, we do not claim to change lives, but we believe that placing young people in situations of inter-cultural dialogue, reflection, and exposure to the planet’s mind-numbing diversity – and vulnerability – can do just that. We are motivated by living a life of intention, constant exploration, boundless curiosity, and a profound respect for difference. As instructors, educators, mentors, guides, teachers, friends, and cultural translators we work ceaselessly, improvise daily, and demand incredible resiliency from ourselves and from our students. The work of an instructor with Dragons is an incredible leap of faith. Each student arrives to our programs with different life experiences, perspectives, expectations, world-views and ways of absorbing and making sense of new experiences. Over the course of our programs, we consciously and intentionally challenge those world-views and push our students out of their fields of physical, mental and emotional comfort. In return, we hope the places and experiences they encounter will plant a small seed of understanding that may in some way influence their future attitudes, decisions, and interactions with the world around them. On a basic and aspirational level, the seeds that I would like to scatter into this world have one elemental goal: respect for diversity, both human and natural, and the right of all beings to dance, to dream, to flourish in ways that cherish the magical and dizzying colors and variations of our planet. More often than not, we have no idea if those seeds will ever take root, if the experience will stay alive and resonate out into the world or be swallowed by other forces beyond our reach. It is impossible to measure the impact of our work, to quantify our accomplishments, and at times, the meaning of this journey may only manifest months or years down the line. But that leap of faith keeps us going in forests and villages, on buses and riverboats and across mountains and deserts around the globe. It is a daunting and sometimes terrifying task. We seek to build moral characters while knowing full well that we are flawed and fallible individuals ourselves. We teach to and probe some of the fundamental questions around human nature and difference. We challenge conventions around privilege and prejudice, legacies of violence and oppression, and our role and responsibility as engaged human beings in a fragile and complex natural and socio-economic landscape. And we ask ourselves, at every turn, how we can be better teachers and educators and more compassionate human beings. It is a constant dance of perpetual planning, experimentation, big questions, and the winds of spontaneity. Was I patient enough? Did I ask the right questions? Are my students being awakened by the beauty and tragedy at every turn? These themes were thrown into stark relief this past week during our excursion into the Amazon, a place where the myth of our isolated human experience is lifted at every turn. There is perhaps nowhere on the planet where you are more immersed in diversity and fragility, where the minute interconnectedness of our natural biosphere washes over us, where the delicate threads that make up the texture and brilliance and intricate quilt of our world wrap around us in a suffocating and at once liberating embrace. The Amazon rainforest is the apothecary of our world, the source of so many of our remedies and resources, while also posing exhilarating threats. It is a place where the fate of the planet and our place within it stands on a precarious and unfathomable precipice. As young people in the face of unprecedented challenges, it is our lives in this ultimately miniscule moment in time that may determine the winds of that scale. The healers of the Amazon forest claim to be intermediaries between our species and the secrets of the animal and plant world. They unlock the healing properties of the forest while reminding us of our beautiful and fragile condition as humans. Traditionally, those healers have navigated and in some ways maintained that intricate and invisible balance – between humans and the natural world, and between the spiritual and physical realms of being. If you ask an Amazonian healer how they learned of the healing properties of the forest, he or she will tell you that the plants spoke to them, that ultimately we are an integral part of the forest and it will speak to us if we only know how to listen. On one of our last days in the jungle, the sky opened up and we were relieved, for a time, from the oppressive heat and insects. A group of us found ourselves out on an excursion to a nearby lake, and we were swallowed up by a torrent unlike anything we’d ever experienced. Engulfed by the depths of the tropical rainforest, we were humbled and overwhelmed by this majestic force of nature. We stripped off the layers that were nominally protecting us from the insects, and allowed the water to wash over us. I was struck by the sensation of feeling like a tiny, insignificant drop of rain on this infinite and multi-chromatic planet. I think that all of us that day also felt connected, awakened, involved in something beautiful and fleeting and altogether significant. It was a moment that cannot be planned or scripted, when forces beyond our control come together overwhelmingly to remind us to be grateful, to dance in the joy of a magical and unrepeateable moment, to revel in the abundance and diversity around us. A moment when feeling small also means feeling a part of something greater. As the strength of the storm diminished and the rain settled into a steady rhythm, the six of us trudged through the jungle soaked to the bone, knee deep in water, but also with a bounce to our step. Nothing significant was said, but we all knew in our silence that something special had passed between us. And I realized that those magical, unplanned, irresistible moments are the real joys and lessons in this life, the seeds that we hope to plant but sometimes just fall over us like water from the sky. We were cleansed, invigorated, exhilarated by the storm, by the majesty of the jungle, and by our utter gratitude at being here, together, on this altogether mundane and extraordinary day in the Amazon. Nature spoke, and for an ephemeral moment in space and time, we listened.   [post_title] => Confessions of a Dragons Instructor [post_excerpt] => We work long hours, late nights, we get sick and exhausted, we travel and sweat and sometimes pull off feats of theatrical and improvisational educational acrobatics in rugged cross-cultural settings. And we love what we do... [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => confessions-of-a-dragons-instructor [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-07 08:36:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-07 15:36:00 [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] => 700 [name] => For Parents [slug] => for_parents [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 700 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [parent] => 0 [count] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 700 [category_count] => 39 [category_description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [cat_name] => For Parents [category_nicename] => for_parents [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/for_parents/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 641 [name] => About Dragons [slug] => about_dragons [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 641 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. [parent] => 0 [count] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9 [cat_ID] => 641 [category_count] => 39 [category_description] => Press, Essays from Admin, and Behind-the-Scenes HQ. 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    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2017-08-11 16:11:12
    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-11 22:11:12
    [post_content] => The first thing I noticed about Ritu was the rhythm that she seems to move to. When Ritu milks the buffalo in the morning, there is a calculated pattern to the way she tugs and switches her hands. When she tailors clothes on an old-fashioned sewing machine, she swings the fabric this way and that with ease. Even when Ritu speaks to me in Nepali, she says her words slow and deliberately, like she is speaking to a beat. Other people have commented as well on the fluidity that Ritu does her daily tasks with, the way she seems to float through the day.

Ritu is somewhat of a Jack-of-all-trades. Some days, she goes into the jungle and brings back grasses for the buffalo to eat. Other days, she is in the field, harvesting potatoes for her family and for her neighbors. But Ritu’s favorite thing to do is weave on her loom. Ritu lets me help sometimes (even though it would be much quicker if she did it on her own), but I think I prefer watching her weave. The machine has so many moving parts, but Ritu has control over all of them. Her feet press the pedals in time with her hands, pulling and pushing and swinging to create a little song that sounds like “thud tha thud tha thud tha thud…”
Even when Ritu speaks to me in Nepali, she says her words slow and deliberately, like she is speaking to a beat.
Ritu is truly one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. She does whatever chore is at hand with a jolly readiness. She is extremely giving and nurturing. She loves sharing anything and everything with me, whether it is pictures and stories, words in Nepali, clothing, berries, tea, or even some of her chores. But my favorite thing about Ritu is that she loves being an older sister. Whenever I call her “Didi”, her face lights up. When I follow her around in the morning to watch her work on her loom or milk the buffalo, she loves the company and will repeatedly say “Maya Didi madat!” (Maya helps her big sister). Sometimes, we don’t say anything at all, but just smile at each other and share the time together. The more time I spend with Ritu, the more clearly I am able to see the smooth rhythm she follows throughout the days. With her constant positivity and beaming smile, it seems as if Ritu is dancing through life. It seems only appropriate that Ritu, in Sanskrit, means rhythm. [post_title] => Yak Of The Week: Rhythm [post_excerpt] => "When Ritu milks the buffalo in the morning, there is a calculated pattern to the way she tugs and switches her hands. When she tailors clothes on an old-fashioned sewing machine, she swings the fabric this way and that with ease. Even when Ritu speaks to me in Nepali, she says her words slow and deliberately, like she is speaking to a beat." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => yak-of-the-week-rhythm [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 16:13:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 22:13:08 [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] => 57 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 57 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field )
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    [ID] => 151576
    [post_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2017-07-28 10:10:51
    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-28 16:10:51
    [post_content] => 
...even though it may seem like there is nothing better in the whole world than your dog, your bed, or the front door to your house, a hot bath, a Chipotle burrito, or getting re-connected on social media or with friends, I hope that I can convince you that those things won’t be what you actually care about when you get home. You will care about sharing your experience and your changes.
It was finally over. I’d been in China a month, and my life had turned upside-down. My perspective, my experiences, and how I saw myself and others. They’d all changed. It was one of the best things I’d ever done, but I was also ready to be home. I couldn’t wait for cold water (to drink), western toilets, my own shower, and, at the top of my list, some Jamba Juice. Also, I wanted to see all of my friends and family and tell them about my many adventures. These were the type of things I was constantly thinking about one year ago at the end of my first Dragons trip. But then my instructors began to mention a word I had never heard before: transference. At that time, it seemed pointless to help transition us BACK to the United States. Why would I need help with that? That was home; that was what is normal. One year later, and I’m preparing for my second round of Dragons transference. Just like before, I’m having those same fantasies of my own shower, bed, and being able to Google anything anytime I want, but I’m also thinking back on the experience of returning home last time, and I can only describe it as mania. I was given my cell phone back in Hong Kong International Airport, and I immediately and obsessively updated myself on all the most recent happenings, as well as posting on Snapchat and other social media. I only relaxed when I got into my best friend’s car at the Denver International Airport, and then I realized that it was truly over. The transition had happened fast; too fast. My mom and my best friend bombarded me with questions and told me about what had been happening in their lives for the past month. I think I was in shock, and I think that at some point I told them to shut up. I couldn’t make myself be interested in anything that they were saying. I felt awful. I know now that this was the reverse culture shock that my instructors had tried to prepare me for. I hardly remember my first few days back, but I do remember publicly crying at a Jamba Juice. I finally took that hot shower I had been wanting so badly too: it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. Everything I had been dreaming for was right there in front of me— smoothies, hot showers, Western toilets, fresh salads— but I suddenly didn’t crave it the same way I thought I would. I understood then that those 13 strangers that I had just spent a month with, along with other Dragons alumni, might be the only people in the world that could understand what I was going through. On my way home from my previous Dragons program, I had a layover in LAX on my return journey. There was another Dragons student there who had just finished a different Dragons program. I had only said two words to this guy before, and I didn’t know him at all, but we sat together in the LAX airport California Pizza Kitchen as if we had known each other for years. We asked each other “So, how was your trip?”, a question that we would both get asked many more times soon thereafter. But unlike when non-Dragons folks asked me, it was easy to answer him. We had a bizarre common language and a common motivation and objective in traveling to the other side of the world: Where There Be Dragons. I didn’t have an answer for him exactly, but the struggle in trying to package my experience for him, he understood that. Even though I couldn’t fully express it, the trip was life changing. It was spectacular. I could go on and on for hours talking about it, but as I found out during my transition home, people didn’t really want to hear about it. Dragons had told me that when people ask me how my trip was, depending on the person and the circumstances, they will either be looking for the 10 second account, the 30 second account, or, perhaps, an even longer version. The person that wants a full account, a true account, and can understand the account, that type of person is very rare. To this day, a year after the end of my first Dragons course, I’m not sure I’ve really told anyone about it in its entirety, not even my own mother. So this is what I want to share with my current fellow Dragons students: even though it may seem like there is nothing better in the whole world than your dog, your bed, or the front door to your house, a hot bath, a Chipotle burrito, or getting re-connected on social media or with friends, I hope that I can convince you that those things won’t be what you actually care about when you get home. You will care about sharing your experience and your changes. Although your formal Dragons course is soon coming to an end, your experience has just begun. Savor your last few days abroad and welcome into your life the possibility of a new way of looking at the world, because you won’t fit the same in your old one.   NICOLETTE GORDILLO-LARIVIERE is on Dragons Summer: China Language 4-week Program (Group B). She is also a Student Ambassador for Dragons. You can read more on Nicolette's Ambassador Profile.   [post_title] => TRANSFERENCE [post_excerpt] => "...my instructors began to mention a word I had never heard before: transference. At that time, it seemed pointless to help transition us BACK to the United States. That was home; that was what is normal. Why would I need help with that?" 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