Rwanda Summer Program

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Yak of the Week

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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_author] => 21
    [post_date] => 2017-09-18 14:23:38
    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-09-18 20:23:38
    [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... 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    [post_date] => 2017-08-11 16:11:12
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    [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] => 78 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 78 [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] => 2017-07-28 10:10:51
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    [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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    [post_date] => 2017-07-24 15:59:00
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    [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] => 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] => 78 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 78 [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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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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