Rwanda Summer Program

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Yak of the Week

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    [post_date] => 2017-07-24 15:59:00
    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-24 21:59:00
    [post_content] => Hola from the heart of the Incan Empire. Your favorite Peru 6-week course is currently approaching our midway point, which happens to be hitting a few of us kind of hard. Midway points are a time for reflection, as my 50-year old parents might agree (right guys?).

Today, my lovely instructor Matt recommended that midcourse would be a good time to think about the following question in particular: “Who was I before I got to Peru, and who will I be after I go home?” As standard as this question may seem, Matt, I’m kind of mad at you for making me look so deeply inside of myself… because I found quite a hefty amount to unpack.

But even so, my answer came to me pretty instantly: Before I left for Peru, I lived in the United States… When I return, I will live on planet earth.

The difference is incredibly substantial, and not to be overlooked. I have met so many incredible people here, and they have taught me that we are part of a shared seven-billion person family that transcends borders, as cliche as that may sound. We hear a lot about the importance of our place within our country: how to serve it, how to better it, how to learn about it, and all of these things are certainly important… but they also leave billions of brothers and sisters out of the equation.

For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about social and humanitarian work, and I looked at this work in two categories: at home, and abroad. At home, I saw opportunities to actively participate in politics and tackle systems of injustice. Abroad, I saw a different kind of set up: “service” trips, “development” work, that whole lot. I now understand that these two categories have no basis in reality. There is no need for there to be a difference.
Before I left for Peru, I lived in the United States… When I return, I will live on planet earth.
To serve individuals in one country is to serve the entire world, because all humans are connected. Right now as I write this post, my host mother is across the room playing with her two year old son, and when I look at them I know that we are connected in a way with which borders can not meddle. To participate in mutual acts of kindness with her will not only benefit the two of us, but the entire world. Perhaps our good energy will seep into interactions with others, perhaps she will teach me something that I will use positively for the rest of my life, or perhaps there will be a positive effect that is too abstract for us to even wrap our heads around. But no matter what, that goodness is going to spread far and wide. These effects may seem relatively small, but the catch is that this global human connection is not only true on a metaphysical and emotional level, but on a systemic and institutional level as well. For one thing, institutions and individuals come intertwined in a knot that can not be broken; social systems and personal emotions exist to define each other. Always. But to speak even more specifically, the past century has seen an incredible rise in globalization, and because of this, choices that I make in the United States touch every corner of the globe. I notice this the most every time that I reach for my wallet. This is something that I think American culture has us doing a little too often, which was made clear to me when I saw what my consumer’s footprint looks like in the Amazon Rainforest. There, I saw the trees that were destroyed in order to bring me the dinner table that I frequently find myself missing, and I learned that along with those trees fell entire cultures, economies, well beings, and ways of life. The fact is: every action that I do touches every stretch of the earth, and within that statement comes incredible power. I can use it for good and I can use it for bad, and it might take me an entire lifetime to figure out what that looks like… But to get back to Matt’s prompt: my time in Peru has made me a person who is going to embrace that journey with open arms. [post_title] => Yak Of The Week: So Who Am I? [post_excerpt] => "For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about social and humanitarian work, and I looked at this work in two categories: at home, and abroad. [...] I now understand that these two categories have no basis in reality." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => yak-of-the-week-so-who-am-i-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-25 10:15:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-25 16:15:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [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] => ) ) [category_links] => From the Field )
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    [post_date] => 2017-05-03 11:17:24
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    [post_content] => 

I Need You to Know

My time spent in China was not wasted and I don’t regret a moment. I have built memories, relationships, and values that I will carry with me for as long as I can. In these months I have come to value and appreciate a more simple life, more than that the immense feeling of community in small and large ways that we have seen throughout our travels. I have learned that communities like this can exist anywhere, but it does not come naturally – it is built with understanding, perseverance, and love. When I return I hope to continue to build and make use of the skills I have focused on through our trip: relationship building, self awareness, and leadership. These months have been a real adventure, and know that this trip hasn’t changed me, but I have grown. I can’t wait to come back to spend some time with everyone and share stories of our adventures, then we can embark on some of our own. Love you all. ***** Going to China was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and these past few months were some of the most enjoyable in my life. The perspectives, knowledge, and relationships I’ve gained are priceless in value. When I return to the states I hope to apply these new perspectives to my daily life and continue pursuing new found passions I have discovered here in China. In such a short amount of time, I have discovered paths, opportunities, and contacts that open up a whole new world of possibilities for my future that I had never seriously considered before this trip. I hope that my Chinese and interest in China will remain adamant through college and into my professional career as I utilize new found skills and abilities gained over the trip. These past three months have been some of the most memorable, and I hope to cherish the relationships and memories I have accumulated over the course of the trip as I return home. Thank you Mom and Dad for supporting me on this journey, it was worth it and so much more. ***** …that despite the expectation that I will have a lot to say, I don’t yet. As of this writing, I haven’t even left China yet. I am not full of pent-up things waiting to be shared, or things that I “need” others to know right now. I have had a great time here and I am more than happy to answer questions, but I most likely won’t initiate conversations about my experience here unless I am asked. That said, I need you to know that I have missed all of you and I am excited to see everyone soon. ***** I want to improve myself. I really like China. I want genuine relationships with the people I know. I want to enjoy home more. I hope I have changed as a person. I will be more appreciative of what I have. I will reconsider my ambitions. I will try to understand your thoughts no matter how little they reconcile with mine. I want to take an interest in you. I miss you. The U.S. seems boring to me now. ***** I am so grateful to have grown up in such a loving and supportive environment. I would like to thank my mom especially for being the most stubborn, strong minded and down to earth person I know. You are my rock and my inspiration; I would be a completely different person if it weren’t for all the advice and help you’ve given me throughout the past 19 years. At times we get into arguments, but I mostly think you’ve passed your wits onto me (not complaining) and I don’t say how much I appreciate and respect you. As for my Dad, thank you for being such a hard working yet loving individual, your dedication and determination is truly an inspiration. I appreciate you both for raising such a beautiful family. After being away from home this past year for school then dragons I’ve had the opportunity to grow as an individual and I can’t go without saying I miss being little. You made life so easy, and words can’t express how grateful I am for that. I know this summer will go back to things being unsaid and we will all grow annoyed with each other but for now I’m happy to say I miss my parents, brothers, and mei mei. See you all really soon. ***** Read More Yaks of Week [post_title] => YAK OF THE WEEK: I Need You to Know [post_excerpt] => We are enjoying our last full day in China, at a village by the Great Wall. We hiked a ‘wild’ (not restored) section of the Wall yesterday, and today we are talking about going home – what it means, what to expect, how to make sense of this semester in China. Thank you to all families and friends for your support in making this semester a great success! The following is a collection of responses from all five students, for what they need YOU to know. 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    [post_date] => 2017-04-20 14:10:32
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    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_150979" align="alignnone" width="806"]IMAGE: FIONA SHERMAN IMAGE: FIONA SHERMAN[/caption]

Dragons is a good teacher for the community of Langa. I am a writer, and still it is difficult to find the words to describe my experience with Dragons. Even if I could use numbers, I couldn’t count the ways to say thank you, to express the sum total of my gratitude. Words cannot adequately describe the feeling, the spirit that has been cultivated in the creation of such a masterpiece. I am just a countrywoman who lives in a small village in Indonesia.

I am just a countrywoman who lives in a small village in Indonesia. Our village is called Bomari, and it’s located at the foot of Mt. Inerie, the highest volcano in Flores, which rises above us like a grand pyramid. It is hard to believe that it’s already been four times, four times living with foreigners who we would normally just call “

It is hard to believe that it’s already been four times, four times living with foreigners who we would normally just call “bule,” sharing a life together for two weeks. It all started in February 2015 when Aaron Slosberg surveyed my village and came to an agreement with my parents to use our family as a homestay for Dragons students.

As a young person, I like challenges, however, I was really doubtful about trying the homestay program. It seemed like such an impossible task to host a foreigner.

“Why would a bule want to stay here?”

“Their life is so different from our life here!” “Can they eat rice every day?” “What will they do about the food here?” “Oh, our house is too ugly for them!” “Our bedroom is so tiny!” “We do not even have a nice bathroom.” All this negative energy spiraled in my head. My nerves became so intense I almost backed out of our agreement to host a student, but the support and the spirit of the youth in my village convinced me not to change my mind. I was so nervous when the first Dragons group arrived to our village in April 2015. The students of Rita Sri Suwantari, Matt Colaciello Williams, and Rachel Russell were physically so different from us. These bule had white skin. Their bodies were twice as tall as ours. They seemed really intelligent. There were so many facets to our difference that it made me even more anxious to interact with them. Before they arrived, we had prepared everything. Every home in the village was busy getting ready for the arrival of the students, prepping our houses, preparing to communicate, even consulting “Mr. Google” in case of a communication emergency. Despite all this, we knew most of the time we would have to rely on non-verbal communication. Living in one home with two different cultures there surely would be so many things we both couldn’t understand. However, over time, I came to realize, all these small differences, even though seemingly insignificant, began to deeply affect my way of thinking. Bule always say thank you and show appreciation for everything, even though they may not like every situation. This is so different from our own people. In our society, we feel awkward or shy saying thank you or showing appreciation to others for small things. I believe this is the reason why sometimes we can be held back in our way of thinking. I’m sure when someone shows gratitude to someone else, even if it’s not expressed perfectly, this practice will build self-confidence in that person and improve the quality of his or her work. Lately, I’m starting to see our community show gratitude to others, which has been an amazing revelation. In addition, there is the matter of discipline. Bule seem very disciplined with time, while the local community lacks punctuality. I have come to believe that being aware of timing is very important in leadership. Bule love cleanliness; they won’t just throw trash on the ground. The local people still throw their trash wherever and this negatively impacts our health. Bule also seem very intelligent and like to master their skills. I have learned so many wonderful things from hosting Dragons students, about their country, about their lives, and about myself. I think Dragons is an extraordinary organization that provides exceptional experiential education to young people. Many people in my village lack higher education, and most of us don’t even speak English. There are so many things about our lives that aren’t the way we wish they were. Still, I feel we have something to teach Dragons students. I hope both the good and bad experiences from staying in our village will affect the students: make them stronger individuals, who are better prepared to care for others in their own communities and environments. I hope the students can use our shortcomings as the basis to become individuals who want to create change. As just a simple village woman, I feel so proud to have this friendship with the students who have stayed with us. I’m sure they are not just ordinary students that choose to come to Langa. I believe they want to become part of our family—we become friends to make both of our lives complete. There are so many people in our community who can’t hold back tears when it comes time to say goodbye. Even I will always have tears in my eyes each time I have to say goodbye to my new friends. They may never know this, as it is a secret that as a community we keep. We do not know when or if we will meet again, maybe for the rest of our lives we will never meet, but the students will always be in our hearts. When we think of the students here, when we miss them, we will sift back through all the beautiful memories we shared together. Like family, far away from us, it is all we can do. I hope, as the years roll on, we will maintain a strong relationship with Dragons. I truly believe Dragons is an amazing organization. You have a great mission to make people into human beings, even a village woman like me. I want to thank Rita Sri Suwantari, honestly you are one of my greatest inspirations. Thank you also to Matt Colaciello Williams and Aaron Slosberg, both of you are amazing leaders who have inspired your students to become part of this community and feel comfortable relating to everyone here. Thank you to the students who have become my teachers, my friends, and my family: Spencer Hardy, Eleni Fernald, Benyamin Yih, and Katherine Georgia Comfort. Thank you Dragons, whoever you are, I am your family. (This article was featured in the Spring 2017 edition of Dragons bi-annual Newsletter, The Map's Edge. Each newsletter explores a subject of interest to the Dragons community through the voices of our Alumni, Instructors, Partners, Parents and our International Staff and contacts. Feel free to view our archive of editions of The Map's Edge or even submit a piece to be featured in our next issue by sending an email to [email protected]) [post_title] => YAK OF THE WEEK: Reflections from a Homestay Sister [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => reflections-from-a-homestay-sister [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-20 21:41:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-21 03:41:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 4 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => 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. 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    [post_date] => 2017-04-02 14:29:19
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    [post_content] => Here we are, closing another chapter of our story and our time together.

Leaving Tiquipaya for the last time meant more this go round, it meant we were actually saying our final farewells to our incredible families. These people that essentially adopted us for a month, providing food, comfort, love, and protection to total strangers, and they did so completely, with their whole hearts. I think back on all of my time in Tiquipaya, with my family, and I truly think that out of our whole journey so far, our time in Tiquipaya has been the time that meant the most to me. When I returned to my family with some sort of sickness I picked up in the Amazon, all I can think of is the look of deep concern on the faces of my host parents, the mint tea Dona Pilar brought to me in bed, how she kept checking on me, every hour or so, and when we sat down to eat dinner, she spent the whole time trying to figure out exactly, down to the fruit, what it was that could have made me sick. This kind of care was something that I recieved everyday from my family, and I really don’t know how to express how much I care about them in return, so I would like to share some gratitude for all of the little things. I am grateful for the first time I saw Dona Pilar and saw her adorable smile, for Nadite, slowing things down for me, for family dinners, for Sergio introducing me to every plant in their garden, for picking figs before dinner with Nadite, Alfredo, and Sergio, for the gatitos that are tough as nails and cute as ever, for Dona Pilar showing me how to do laundry “properly,” for the Simpsons and all of the laughter, for all of D. Pilar’s “how to survive in the streets” facts, for connecting with Don Felix over the loss of our mothers and how important it is to remember the people we love, for all of the intensely concerned faces waiting outside my door when I was sick, for Dona Pilar always being worried about when, where, and with whom, I am going anywhere, for Alfredo’s dedicated explanation, in spanish, of the space/time continuum as it pertains to time travel, for Uno and Jenga, for Nadite, Sergio, Alfredo, Don Felix, and Dona Pilar, and most of all for all of the love and laughter. I felt like I truly found a place in Tiquipaya and leaving was probably the hardest moment I have had so far on this journey.

We have done a lot of traveling over our course, to try to make the most of our experience in only three months, and with that traveling we have constantly tried to be more than tourists just visiting and leaving. Dragons focuses on making and maintaining personal connections in the places we visit, but the truth is, we are outsiders and foreigners and sometimes it is inevitable to feel like an outsider. However, in Tiquipaya our experience was so unique, I felt like we had time to settle into a community, to form a daily routine, to form strong, meaningful connections, and to just live in that community for a while. That is what made it so difficult to leave and the time there so precious. I will always hold that place and those people in my heart and I know that they have had a strong impact on my life that I will carry with me forever.

The end of Tiquipaya also marked a new change for us in the way that it marked the transition into our last phases, expedition and transference. Leaving Tiquipaya meant that we are that much closer to parting as a group and ending our journey. We transitioned into expedition phase which is our last big adventure, and we only have ten days. The time is really moving quickly now and there is a lot to reflect upon and analyze before the end, but I still can’t wait for what we have in store for the little time we have left and I look forward to all of the memories we have yet to make.

    [post_title] => YAK OF THE WEEK: Saying Goodbye to Tiquipaya
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