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THE DRAGONS JOURNAL Community | Stories | Perspectives

2019


Summer Programs 2018 Photo Contest FIRST PLACE: PHOEBE WONG, Eastern Himalayas (Top Left) “My homestay mother wanted to show me her morning worship. I took this photo in front of the shrine in her bedroom. Our first night, she gave me a Nepali name, Samjana, meaning good memory. She chose it because she said she would remember me. I know I will always remember her.”​ SECOND PLACE: TESSA DENISON, Thailand (Top Right) “We pulled to the side of the road and walked over a bridge to the sanctuary. I looked down and saw this beautiful elephant getting a bath. I watched with tears in my eyes.” THIRD PLACE: ELLIOTT BLOOM, North India (Right) “Prayer flags sending Buddhist mantras off into the wind.” RUNNERS-UP (Bottom 6 images, clockwise from top left): LAILA SKRAMSTAD, Guatemala; PENELOPE THORNTON, North India; JAMES BIRDWELL, China; TEVA CORWIN, Peru; SOPHIA ORTEGA, Peru; RACHEL HORNE, Cambodia

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THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019


What’s In This Issue and Why it Matters... WORDS & IMAGEREED HARWOOD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF WHERE THERE BE DRAGONS

M

y son recently began kindergarten. I went through the classic parental “firsts” of packing his knapsack and lunch, walking him to the bus stop, and choking up as the bus pulled up to

the corner. He leapt onto it and was whisked away. I’m excited for him and his new life chapter, and yet, I also believe that our most profound learning doesn’t happen in the classroom. It comes from meandering up a creek bed, peeking under stones, digging through the muck. It comes from getting into environments that surprise, challenge, and divert us from our everyday context. There’s a story embedded in the name Where There Be Dragons. It’s the story of traveling to our own edges, looking under those unturned stones, and listening carefully. Dragons values the narratives found in the margins, where unlikely relationships and understandings are built. We listen to divergent, challenging, and often marginalized stories as the first step to engaging responsibly and respectfully with the diverse perspectives of our shared world. Therein lies the wisdom of learning beyond the classroom. I want my children, and all children, to hear those stories. To listen and weave them into their own life narratives. In this journal you’ll find a collection of stories from members of our community as they journey into those subjects that are stirred up and reflected back in the mirror of travel. We hope you enjoy meandering up the creek bed with us.

—Reed Harwood

MISSION

IN EVERY ISSUE

ESSAYS & STORIES

The Dragons Journal is a compilation

3 WELCOME

4–5 FESTIVAL DE SANTA MARIA

of stories and images that reflect the

Reed Harwood, Colorado

Rose Fitzgerald, Guatemala

8–13 PHOTO EXHIBIT

6 I’M (not) WRITING ABOUT MY FAMILY

Caleb Brooks, India

Fernanda Romo, Senegal

16–19 OVERHEARD ON

7 DEALING WITH BEING A PRIVILEGED

THE YAK BOARD

FOREIGNER (Learning Service Excerpt)

meaningful intercultural relationships

24 HOW TO: WALK

14–15 EMBRACE THE DETOURS

through immersive travel.

Austin Schmidt, Nepal

Mark Bauhaus, Nepal

25 RECOMMENDED:

20–22 WHEN THINGS GO WRONG

MAFÉ GERTE RECIPE

Jody Segar, China

perspectives, ideas, and experiences of our participants, educators, and international colleagues and communities. It’s a publication of Where There Be Dragons, an experiential education organization dedicated to nurturing

ON THE COVER “Nepal nightscape.”

Megan Fettig, Senegal 30–31 COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT

23 HOMESTAY AT MY VILLAGE Thavry Thon, Cambodia 26–27 BHUTAN: CHALLENGING DEFINITIONS OF HAPPINESS Chelsea Ferrell, Bhutan 28–29 LEARNING SPIRALS

IMAGE BY AMRIT ALE, Dragons Nepal

Program Coordinator and Instructor

Sara Van Horn, Guatemala

WWW.WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM

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Festival De Santa Maria WORDSROSE FITZGERALD, STUDENT IMAGESPARKER PFLAUM, INSTRUCTOR  GUATEMALA SPANISH LANGUAGE INTENSIVE PROGRAM

W

hen I return to my homestay, I am surprised to find the kitchen packed with people. Women are lighting candles and stirring an enormous pot. A man with a mullet uncovers an electric piano. My host mother waves me inside and ushers me towards a plastic

stool near the stairs. She explains to me that this is a celebration, the Festival de Virgen, de Santa Maria. I nod. This explains the people, the statues and crucifixes around the house, the altar full of lights and flowers that has filled the living room for the past two days.

THE CHATTER WINDS DOWN AND THE

house, and spills out like light onto the street.

challah, reciting generous interpretations of a

CEREMONY BEGINS.

We sit and pray and sing for the better part

Hebrew chant as they give thanks.

The women cover their hair with shawls and

of two hours, a dozen worn hands working

kneel before the altar. The mulleted man and

their way through rosaries.

the lights of the city serving as my only

two boys settle down in front of the piano, a bass guitar, and an electronic drum set. They

WHEN IT’S OVER, THE HOUSE FEELS

cross themselves, kiss their palms, and lower

EMPTY.

their eyes.

I am not a religious person. My loosely

through the dark, bearing lights and incense

candles. Below me, the procession weaves slowly

Jewish family never sent me to Synagogue

and an enormous illuminated statue of Santa

voice is a low monotone, soft and reverent

or Hebrew school, never insisted on more

Maria herself. Their songs carry up to the

as she reads from her worn, gold-embossed

than holidays and Sabbath dinners.

rooftops, humming in my ear before they are

The woman in front begins to pray. Her

bible. I am suddenly aware that what I am witnessing is something holy.

But as I watch guests talk and laugh as they file from the house, the flicker of

swept away by the wind. I perch myself on a ledge facing the lake

candles cupped in gloved palms, and the

and take the bread from my pocket, shaking

interrupted as the band strikes up a catchy

slow winding of a parade through cobbled

crumbs from my clothes. The city is silver

song, a hymn, at volumes that reverberate in

streets, I feel oddly lonely.

and shadow below me, and I begin to pray.

Every few passages, her prayer is

my chest. Everyone knows the hymns—even the kids—and the harmony fills the room, the 4 

I stand alone on a rooftop in Guatemala, a piece of bread from the kitchen in my pocket,

THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019

It’s Friday, I remember. At home, my family will be praying over candles and

Normally I am reluctant, too embarrassed to sing on the Sabbath. I rush through the


“EVERYONE KNOWS THE HYMNS, EVEN THE KIDS, AND THE HARMONY FILLS THE ROOM, THE HOUSE, AND SPILLS OUT LIKE LIGHT ONTO THE STREET.”

words, butcher the Hebrew, finish as quickly as humanly possible. Tonight I am not rushing. My words lift up, backlit by starlight, accompanied by an enthusiastic rendition of “La Bamba” from the band playing on the hill.

BARUCH ATAH ADONAI… I have never felt so lonely and alive at the

“La Bamba” is still playing up on the mountain. “Why? We just did.” She rolls her doe eyes. “For like two hours.” She skips over to join me on the edge,

Then, “Can I pray with you?” “¿Puedo rezar contigo?” On a rooftop in San Juan la Laguna, I teach a little girl prayers and we giggle over her pronunciation. I attempt to translate

her eight-year-old legs struggling to hop

Hebrew to Spanish, not really knowing the

up with me. She settles for her tiptoes and

actual translation at all. She recites her

giggles like we’re sharing a secret.

Sunday school prayers. I parrot her words.

I glance at the still unbroken bread in

She tries to teach me to cross myself, which I

same time. I turn from the water, swing

my hands. How do you explain to a kid

somehow mess up every time. We laugh and

back onto the roof, and a tiny figure stands

who’s known nothing but Church that you’re

laugh and can’t stop laughing.

illuminated by the doorway.

praying for something entirely different?

“What are you doing?”

“Because…” I stumble. Because I’m

My host sister Hely looks up at me with

Jewish, because it’s the Sabbath, because I

the biggest pair of brown eyes I’ve ever seen.

miss home so much it’s an ache in my chest.

She blinks once, twice, before I realize I’m

“Because I just need to…”

supposed to respond.

A small hand presses into mine. “Okay.

“I’m praying,” I tell her.

We split the bread—one half each—and say Sabbath prayers over the lights of the city below.

I understand.”

ROSE FITZGERALDis a student living in Ithaca, New York with a sister, several mothers, and a collection of loud cats. She is a writer, actor,

martial artist, and compulsive baker who would like a motorcycle but she can’t drive yet and her mom says, “no.” PHOTOFestival de Virgen de Santa Maria

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I’m (not) Writing About My Family WORDS & IMAGEFERNANDA ROMO, STUDENT  SENEGAL PRINCETON BRIDGE YEAR PROGRAM

M

 ungi dox literally translates to, “it walks.” In conversation, however, one might use it to mean “it’s going,” “it’s fine,” or “it works.” When I set out to write this piece, with the prompt of mungi dox in mind, I immediately thought about my family. After all, I’m living in a

homestay with a total of nineteen people (I think), including three married couples and twelve kids of various ages. This is naturally bound to be a bit chaotic and might seem like a headache for people more habituated to smaller “nuclear family” living arrangements. For this reason, writing about how my household functions, how everyone pitches in, and how living in these big families actually works was sure to be a crowd pleaser. Wouldn’t everyone love to hear the conclusions I’d drawn about African family structures from my experience living with the Mbayes? Regrettably, as appealing as that piece might sound, I’m not

analyzing my homestay family. I don’t want to “report back” on

writing it. Mainly, because I can’t. The more I’ve thought about it, the

what Senegalese families are like, both because it’s not possible

more I’ve realized that the chances of me being able to provide a

to do so accurately, and because these people are, first of all,

fair analysis of this

my family. Not

family’s dynamics

subjects of study,

are about as

not sources of

high as those of

all-encompassing

snowfall in Dakar.

revelations, but

The mere idea of

people who

scrutinizing the

treat me like a

way these people

daughter, a sister,

behave within

a friend. And just

their family, just

as I wouldn’t write

to arrive to the

up a couple pages

conclusion that

about my best

it surprisingly

friend back in

“works,” feels

Mexico and send

foolish at best and

it to an audience

condescending at

of people who

worst.

she will never meet and who will

However,

form their entire

my impending

perception of who

erroneousness is not the only thing holding me back from writing about the people

she is based on my words, I don’t particularly feel inclined to do

in Senegal who are so dear to me. For a long time I couldn’t exactly

that here.

pinpoint why I felt a tinge of discomfort every time I thought about

And maybe that’s a good thing. After all, I think the main

turning the people I consider family into the subjects of my writing,

reason why the Bridge Year Program works, and is so incredibly

especially when said writing is directed to Western audiences.

meaningful, is because of relationships. The moments when I have

I remember once, I considered blogging about Mame Maty, my

felt that my time here has the greatest value have all been centered

instructor Babacar’s 10-year-old daughter, who I love like crazy and

around having strong bonds, familiarity, and overall friendship with

who is definitely one of the people closest to my heart here. I ended

people. It’s really beautiful to think about how my Senegalese family

up deciding against it, because something about it wasn’t sitting

and I genuinely care about each other, and how our lives have been

right with me. And even though I didn’t entirely understand why,

enriched as a result. So I guess if you asked me, “Does it work to put

one thought kept popping up in my mind: she’s my friend.

a random toubab1 in the middle of a household in Dakar, Senegal,

That’s also what I feel today when trying to make myself produce some insightful conclusions or lessons gathered from

and have her be a part of this family for a few months?” I’d say yeah, mungi dox.

FERNANDA ROMOleft her home in Mexico in 2017 to travel to Senegal for nine months as part of Dragons Princeton Bridge Year Program. She

is currently a freshman at Princeton University, where she spends her days looking at pictures of her time in Dakar at 3am, facetiming her five dogs, and going on rants about the fake Mexican food in the dining halls. PHOTOFernanda and her homestay mom, Ouleye; dad, Ibou; and brothers, Sidikh, Rassoul, and baby Mame Cheikh.

Toubab is a word widely used in Senegal and other West African countries to refer to foreigners.

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THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019


Dealing with Being a Privileged Foreigner WORDS & IMAGEDANIELA PAPI-THORNTON & CLAIRE BENNETT, INSTRUCTORS

THIS EXCERPT IS FROM A NEWLY RELEASED BOOK ON INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEERING: LEARNING SERVICE: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO VOLUNTEERING ABROAD.

W

hen you are abroad, the first thing that almost everyone you meet will know about you is that you are a foreigner. There will be many assumptions tied to your foreign status, which are different in different countries, but in most places the very fact that you have the

ability to have traveled so far implies wealth and privilege. “Everyone assumed I was rich just because I am from the UK,” said volunteer Katy Vidler. “Although I recognize that I am wealthy in some ways, I have student loans I need to pay each month and less money in my bank account than many of the local staff!” Many foreign volunteers, especially those who saved up their own money or took out loans to be able to go abroad, might resonate

different proposition than for the locals.” Recognize that, even though you may be living at a level that

with Katy’s comments, as it can be frustrating when people have

would be well below the poverty line at home, you will most likely still

expectations of your financial capacity. However, if you look at your

be living far above the level of working families in the place where

opportunities in a different light, you can start to understand how

you are volunteering. You may

they might be perceived by others. As she recognized, although Katy

be asked for money by someone

had fewer financial resources at her immediate disposal than her local

you know just because you are a

peers, her wealth is not just measured by her possessions but also by

friend, not because they thought

her contacts and freedoms. Her ability to use her credit card or bank

you were rich. Such experiences

overdraft, her university degree that gives her future earning potential,

can be disheartening but the

her access to supportive and relatively wealthy family and friends, all

wider inequality is a reality that

open up opportunities many of her colleagues would not have had.

must be faced. In fact, some host

Even her British passport was a major factor in her ability to volunteer

organizations see that as a major

overseas in the first place, as it meant she could choose from nearly

benefit of volunteer travel. One

every country in the world, with little hassle getting a visa.

host told us: “It is important for

Merely having the time and resources to travel, and not having

(typically) financially privileged

to work to meet your family’s basic needs, is a luxury some of your

westerners to explore the world

local colleagues may never have the opportunity to enjoy. As Rani

in order to better understand the

Deshpande, who volunteered in West Africa, commented, “The very

factors contributing to the major

ability to take a few months or years of one’s life, usually unpaid, to

misdistribution of resources

work supporting social change outside of one’s own community must

across the globe.”

be recognized as a form of privilege.” Volunteers often think this kind of privilege is invisible. But their

Volunteers must avoid assuming that a stint as a volunteer learning from and supporting the communities in which they work

possessions, food, and clothes, as well as the vacations and short

enables them to truly understand the challenges faced by people in

excursions they take, are all part of the “umbilical cord of privilege,”

those communities. You may be able to gain awareness, get angry

a term coined by Kelly Reineke, who volunteered in Brazil. Even if

about the root causes of poverty, and cultivate empathy, but that

you live simply and in a local style you have this umbilical cord, and

umbilical cord, which acts as a safety net, means you will not be able

at a moment’s notice can meet your desires for comfort, healthcare,

to experience the effects of such problems in the same way. Andrea

and entertainment: an option the majority of your local friends

Foster, who volunteered in Guyana says, “Our economic background

and colleagues will not have. This umbilical cord also provides you

makes it hard for us to understand the degree of financial struggle

with an escape route if things get uncomfortable, overwhelming,

most people in developing nations endure. Volunteers eventually

or dangerous—you can always pull on the cord and bounce back

come to realize how fortunate we are and usually how spoiled we

to life at home. A volunteer who spent two years in Kyrgyzstan had

are.” The most important advice we have about the umbilical cord

this important reminder, “Even as volunteers, we are just long-term

of privilege is to be aware it exists and realize others can see it, even

tourists. Do not lose sight of that. For us to leave is a significantly

when you cannot.

CLAIRE BENNETTlives in Kathmandu, where she owns her own training company. She works freelance in development and education, and is an

instructor for Dragons Adult, Educator, and Student programs. DANIELA PAPI-THORNTONworks in education and leadership development and has taught university courses at Oxford, Yale, and Watson Institute. Daniela helped design and run Dragon’s first Educator courses and is still very invested in the Dragons community in Boulder, Colorado. READ MORE about Learning Service: The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad at www.learningservice.info. Or you can order the book from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2NMXZor.

WWW.WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM

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Fathoming One Another WORDS & IMAGES CALEB BROOKS, INSTRUCTOR  INDIA

I

was well into adulthood with a growing collection of passport stamps before I

owned a camera. For a lot of that time I feared photography might sap my motivation to write about what I was seeing and experiencing, the written word inhabiting some higher plane in my mind. When I finally decided that notebooks full of scribbled observations didn’t quite capture the fullness of my experiences, I picked up a Canon point-and-shoot from an electronics vendor outside Phnom Penh’s Central Market. For whatever reason, I decided early on that pictures were better without people in them. I remember spending most of a morning perched above one of the sandstone parapets of Angkor Wat’s inner chamber with all of my 8-megapixels pointed toward a certain pattern of shadows being cast across the floor. With the inverted patience of a birdwatcher, I finally caught a break in the ebb of tourists just long enough to frame the sudsy dawn light sans tourists. When I moved to India with Dragons in 2014, I took with me a slightly more sophisticated camera but with ideas for its use that hadn’t evolved. I still held high the purity of capturing the lines of places without the interruption of human forms, unpredictable and prone to irregularity as they can be. Those of you who have spent even a day in an Indian city will know that the effort to point your camera in any direction and not frame a person is an act of futility. Stymied by the sheer volume and pace of life, the Indian subcontinent, as it is wont to do, forced me to rethink my way of being/seeing/thinking. Did that alley with crumbling bricks and the faded remains of an advertisement for a cement manufacturer look exactly the way your heart felt sometimes at sunset? Of course it did. Was it possible to take a picture of it without a goat, or a cow, or a child, or a chai walla, or a monkey, or a religious pilgrim, or all of the above, in it? Absolutely not.

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THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019

A guard at Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort caught in a moment of contemplation.


A Ladakhi mother feels shy in front of the lens while her daughter experiments with echoes in a disconnected water pipe.

A fisherman organizes his nets with the help of a trusted sidekick along the Ganges in morning fog. This work takes patience, dexterity, and occasionally fluorescent orange horns.

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Saris blossom in afternoon light at Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort. Our group got an exclusive tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site through the connections of a local program mentor and before we knew it we were sitting along the field at the Maharaja of Jodhpur’s exclusive polo match.

“NOTHING HAS EVER FELT SO IMPORTANT, OR SO URGENT, AS HUMANIZING THE PLACES WE ARE SO PRIVILEGED TO GO.” I had to adjust. Rather than just tolerate all these figures in my pictures, I began to think of them as subjects. I was forced to embrace the presence of all these beautiful, unpredictable living things. I especially like that word embrace in this context, because when you’re taking a photograph you really are wrapping your subject in something, in this case a rectangular box lapping with light. That word embrace also resonates because at one point in its history it was used interchangeably with the word fathom, which just meant “the length of an outstretched arm.” Once a unit of measure, we now mostly think of it as getting to the bottom of something. And isn’t that what we all we really hope to do, after all? To understand one another, to understand ourselves, to take soundings in the bewilderment of existence and feel something discernible bounce back? To

In the heart of the Blue City this man decided to zig (with his bright red doorway) while

embrace the world around us with a spirit

everyone else zagged. I’ve never felt as charmed by the use of color as I was in the many

of mutuality, tolerance, and equality. That

alleys of India’s ancient cities.

same desire to know and be known, to 10  THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019


The walking stick, the flannel, the vest, the beard, the boiled peanuts, the swagger. This Banarsi man came down to the ghats on Diwali to take in the holiday with style.

Two old friends don their technicolor bathing robes after an early morning dip in the sacred Ganga Ji.

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A sun-drenched flower-seller at Kolkata’s famous market waits to balance more blossoms.

understand deep down, is why I started traveling. It’s why, I suspect, many of you reading this did also. As an international educator, nothing has ever felt so important, or so urgent, as humanizing the places we are so privileged to go. It has been a joy to look back through pictures and choose a few that might fit well in these pages. It was an honor to photograph the strangers, friends, and pilgrims of various stripes found here, to fathom them for a moment in all their asymmetry and wonder and perfection. Their faces tell the story of those days better than I ever could. CALEB BROOKSspent the better part of a

decade taking the poetry of Jack Gilbert very seriously before he was introduced to Dragons in 2012. Over several years he led courses in Cambodia, Laos, China, Indonesia, India, and Brazil. He used to speak Khmer exactly like a rice farmer from Kandal province. He’s now back in his hometown learning about generational urban poverty firsthand and working as the Director of the

One learns quickly that cricket can be played anytime and anywhere. These boys set up an

International Service Learning Program at

uneven pitch on Varanasi’s Chet Singh Ghat in winter fog thick as daal.

the University of Louisville. 12 

THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019


Security forces are ubiquitous in the holy city of Varanasi. This troop of female soldiers were brought in to provide extra support during a time of increased pilgrimage to the city’s infamous ghats. They took their jobs seriously.

A trusted tailor works on a custom kurta in Varanasi’s Assi Ghat.

WWW.WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM

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Embrace The Detours WORDS & IMAGEMARK BAUHAUS, PARTICIPANT  NEPAL: ASHRAMS & ARTISANS PROGRAM FOR ADULTS

W

e arrived jet-lagged and in darkness. Through our bouncy taxi windows we spied piles of rubble and toppled buildings erupting into the narrow alleys of Bhaktapur, Nepal. The ancient Newari city in the east corner of the Kathmandu Valley was still ravaged two years

after the 2015 earthquake. What have we gotten ourselves into?, I thought in arrival-shock as we climbed four steep ladders, ducked into three-foot tall doorways, crossed the roof, clambered down another ladder, and closed ancient wood-latticed windows against mosquitoes. What is this version of hot, muggy, and under-developed Nepal going to do for us? Why again did we choose this?

“OUR HOST FAMILIES THOUGHT IT WAS HILARIOUS THAT A MARRIED COUPLE WAS GOING TO BE LIVING WITH SEPARATE FAMILIES. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THIS HUMOR BROKE THE ICE ALL AROUND.”

Caroline and I had spontaneously opted

announced a personalized act of devotion.

into an adventure to bridge “otherness” on

Goats, birds, motorcycles, Chinese diesel

an adult Dragons course called, Ashrams

2-stroke tractors, and the chatter of people

and Artisans of Nepal. It wasn’t our first

all mingled in sensory waves that washed

time to the Kathmandu Valley. We had done

over us.

a “walkabout” in Nepal just after college in 1986. But this was 2017, and in the half

dissipated. Our group motto became

millennium-old Hindu sadhu roadhouse, we

“Embrace The Detours” as unexpected

tumbled into fitful sleep as our brains caught

adventures yielded fodder for insight and

up with our traveled bodies.

connection. Soon it was time for the acid

Dawn emerged from an unfamiliar

THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019

test of bridging archetypal “otherness” by

cacophony of gongs, prayer wheels spinning,

way of homestays with Newari families.

bells ringing, and metal ding-ing. Each sound

With nervousness that’s surely the same for

seemed like a call to the heavens, a prayer

20-somethings as 50-year olds, we met our

to gods who were intimate with everyone

new host families.

here but us. Each ringer’s pattern and style 14 

A few days later, the initial shock

Thunder clapped outside as we sat on the


floor joking uneasily. I was finally introduced

humans can thrive as newfound brothers if

to my host “father,” Rajendra Shakya. He

we let that spirit dwell.

immediately declared himself to be my Dai (big brother). I bid a laughing, goodbye,

ONE GENERATION

namaste to Caroline for the next few days.

Rajendra was born in the same house as his

Our host families thought it was hilarious

father. He played marbles on the ground,

that a married couple was going to be living

joined his family for daily offerings to an

with separate families. The universality of this

ancient Buddhist statue, and ran around with

humor broke the ice all around.

his friends to temples nearby.

As we walked away through the rain,

Rajendra and his wife were married right

“WE FOUND SYNCHRONICITY AND FORGED A RAPID AND HEARTFELT CONNECTION. IT ALL SERVED AS IN-MY-FACE PROOF THAT WILDLY DIVERSE HUMANS CAN THRIVE AS NEWFOUND BROTHERS IF WE LET THAT SPIRIT DWELL.” My mind drifted to my own children’s

drizzle and mud, I wondered how we would

in his own brick courtyard the exact same

lives and how modern conveniences will

traverse the rickety bridge of awkward

summer I married Caroline in California

again shift and change ways of living in

silences. But it didn’t take long for me to

thirty-five years ago. When Caroline and I

unforeseeable ways a generation from now.

forget that concern. We passed the school

had cycled into the town of Patan as 20-

where Ramilla, my host “mother” worked as

year olds, unbeknownst to us, my extended

CARRYING CONNECTION HOME

the principal. We visited Rajendra’s social

host family was living but a block away

These deeply human encounters lit my

impact business, Third Eye Group, and met

in their 450-year family brick house. But

journey like unexpected campfires on an

the collectives’ knitters of hats, scarves, and

their newlywed daily life was quite different

icy night. As I delighted in the warmth

sweaters. We arrived at Rajendra’s house

from ours. They cooked food every day

of genuine smiles, welcoming hosts, and

where he lived with his two daughters, a son,

over an open fire with wood carried up four

light humor, the cold chasm of “otherness”

and his mother. This building, I would learn,

flights of ladders. They carried all bath,

melted. Thirty-one years after my first visit

was his ancestral family home, where he

washing, cooking, and drinking water for

to Nepal, I still feel like an apprentice to this

and past generations were born. It was also

the extended family from a public water

place and people. My homestay experience

where Rajendra lived a surprisingly parallel

grotto across the street that was shared

anchored a visceral truth: Mountains and

universe to mine.

by hundreds. The neighborhood toilet was

cameras don’t do Nepal justice. On this

down the street. Ramilla spent one day of

journey, I embraced our detours and returned

PATAN SYNCHRONICITY

every week exclusively washing clothes.

home determined to bring the warmth of

Rajendra and I discovered many shared

Rajendra’s father wrote Buddhist scholarly

Nepali human spirit back to help thaw the

touch points: We were nearly the same age,

texts upstairs, by an open window, entirely

roiling divides and otherness frosting my

both businessmen, both married 35 years

by hand.

own home land lately.

ago, both had two daughters, both worked

Just a couple decades later, Rajendra

on social impact enterprises. And our wives

and his family are still known to everyone on

were both educators. Who knew?

the street. They still live with their extended

Rajendra showed me six ancient Newari

family. They still offer the same greetings as

Buddhist temples on the five-minute walk to

they make daily rounds to Buddhist temples

the Dragons program house. He brought me

just like their ancestors did centuries ago.

to hidden tears by lighting a yak butter lamp

But now there’s electricity, indoor plumbing,

at the altar in offering—and then lighting

filtered water, and gas-cooking. Now there’s

mine in turn. Bells tinkling, we passed on

a refrigerator, rice cooker, washing machine,

the light from one to another with mutual

a car, stereos, and Internet. These innovations

prayers for good luck between newfound

enabled Rajendra’s wife to have the time to

brothers standing side by side before the

become a school principal, raise kids, and

centuries-old shrine.

solar-dry lemon slices to serve with tea for

We found synchronicity and forged a

Dragons students. They enabled Rajendra to

rapid and heartfelt connection. It all served

build a business and send all three children

as in-my-face proof that wildly diverse

to college with smartphones in their pockets.

MARK BAUHAUSand his wife Caroline visited Kathmandu Valley, Nepal on Dragons inaugural program for adult participants, “Ashrams &

Artisans,” in the Fall 2017. They live in California where he’s a former Silicon Valley technology executive and now a Thought Leader to for-profit ventures that bring dignity to people and the planet. PHOTOA reflective moment from the third floor of a 500-year old Newari house. Mark says, “From this seat, pre-sunrise to post-sunset, I could

watch villagers and families attending both Buddhist and Hindu temples on the 14th Century Newari Square below.”

WWW.WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM

15 


Overheard on the Yak Board THE FOLLOWING ARE ALL EXCERPTS FROM THE DRAGONS YAK BOARD WHERE STUDENTS AND STAFF SHARE PHOTOS, STORIES, REFLECTIONS, AND GROUP UPDATES WHILE ON COURSE. TO THE ITALIAN MAN SITTING NEXT TO ME ON THE PLANE

the experience. Sometimes it feels like the

YOU CAN BECOME FAMILY FAST

engine’s broken and I’m not going anywhere;

WORDSSEAN DOHERTY, STUDENT

WORDSELLIOTT BLOOM, STUDENT

like I’ve lost the anchor and I’m drifting

 INDONESIA SUMMER PROGRAM

 NORTH INDIA SUMMER PROGRAM

through open water with no direction and no

wtbdragons.com/djy1

idea how to get back to land. But I’ve learned

I will explain how the beginning of a

On my flight home, I cried about 15 times. And

that it’s okay not to have all the answers and

homestay usually goes down. You arrive in a

the poor middle-aged Italian businessman

that sometimes the best outcomes come

community. You and the rest of the group are

sitting next to me could not understand why

from drifting and letting the current carry me

taken to one of the houses in the village. You

the young teen girl near him was sobbing.

to a place I’d never expected.

are picked up by your host family and taken to their home. You are sitting in their house

Didn’t know of a way to ask. So to the Italian man who sat next to me on the plane: I cried

NEW PATHS

with them, trying to carry a conversation, and

because I miss home. And I cried because

WORDSMICHAEL BROWN, PARTICIPANT

the thought creeps up on you that you are

 NEPAL EDUCATOR COURSE

I just left a home. I cried because, after a because I just left 14 people who I loved, a

thousands of miles away from home with

wtbdragons.com/djy3

month, I would see my family. And I cried

complete strangers in an unfamiliar place.

As I’ve gotten older, my motivation to travel

You get a little worried that you won’t be able

different family. I cried because I missed

and what I notice have shifted a bit. Instead of

to connect at all over the next week with the

coffee in the morning. And I cried because

seeking out the deepest, wildest jungle with

people sitting in front of you. You are starting

I would not drink milk tea every hour of

all its complexity and menace, I look for the

to get a little anxious, but then your homestay

the day anymore. I cried because my home

complicated relationships between people,

sister Refa throws a playful jape at you that

has changed while I was away. And I cried

culture, and economics. Instead of climbing

everyone laughs at, and then you smile.

because Ladakh will continue to change

mountains, I settle in more deeply to see how

without me. I cried because I just finished a

people live their lives. Of course, I have always

HOLA DRAGONES!

journey. And I cried because another one lies

done these “new” things, but they have taken

WORDSERICK TORRES, INSTRUCTOR

ahead. I cried because I missed who I once

on a deeper resonance now that I am a hus-

was. And I cried because I finally found who I

band and a father, creating a home and family

am. And finally, I cried because, as one of my

of my own. The rhythms of work and food in

Guatemala has great opportunities to explore

instructors said, “It’s better to be affected by

the house, the gentle touch of a mother to her

nature, it has the most beautiful lake in the

son, a whispered word by a father, the little

world (according to Nat Geo last year, and

girl running to catch her brother; there seem

to Guatemalans since forever) called Atitlan

the world than indifferent to it.

NEW HORIZONS WORDSJIWON YUN, STUDENT

 GUATEMALA SUMMER PROGRAM

wtbdragons.com/djy6

to be a whole class of experiences that I can

Lake, or T’zunun Ya’ in Maya T’zutujil lan-

understand and relate to more deeply.

guage, which means: “House of Birds.” There

 INDONESIA PRINCETON BRIDGE YEAR

are three volcanoes that are active every day

wtbdragons.com/djy2

in Guatemala and it’s incredible to see them

Sitting in a small wooden boat in the middle of

HOSTING OUR HOMESTAY FAMILY

the ocean, we lost the anchor and the engine

WORDSSAURABH PANDEY, INSTRUCTOR

whole country. A lot of green mountains, riv-

in action. There are about 32 volcanoes in the

 NORTH INDIA SUMMER PROGRAM

suddenly stopped working. We began to drift

ers, and wildlife are also part of this beautiful

wtbdragons.com/djy4

into deeper water, the rocking movement

16 

wtbdragons.com/djy5

country. Guatemala has some of the largest

of the boat slowly becoming more frantic.

Our

our

indigenous populations in the American Con-

Powerless in nature’s hands, I learned that

relationship with our job—they are what we

tinent which makes it a very special and pow-

homestay

families

strengthen

sometimes the only way to have control is to

do and why we do it. They open their doors

erful place, you will be able to experience and

give it up. To just trust in the process. Using

for students who they never have met, and

constantly interact and learn from the Mayan

long bamboo poles to pull ourselves against

give them their time and teach them about

people and culture every day. There are about

the current and working together to restart

their lives and culture. The work they do, they

23 Mayan languages around the country and

the broken engine, which finally sputtered

never get to see, but they are the ones who

every Mayan community has its own tradi-

to life after half an hour of drifting, we were

bring the knowledge of the lotus flower into

tional clothes, their own special dishes and

able to return home. In a way, this adventure

our students’ lives. So we just want to say

celebrations throughout the year. With all that

reminds me a lot of Bridge Year. Thrust into

thank you to them and show our gratitude

diversity, cultural richness, beautiful people,

a situation so far outside of my comfort

to them for the work they do. Thank you to

and nature also comes different realities and

zone, it’s easy to become disillusioned with

each of our homestay families!

ways to see and understand life.

THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019


•F

OTO•

E AT

RED P H

U

DECONSTRUCTION TO RECONSTRUCT IMAGE ARVIN SINGH UZUNOV-DANG WORDSTHE NEPAL SEMESTER INSTRUCTOR TEAM FALL 2018  NEPAL SEMESTER

wtbdragons.com/djy7 Light

has

been

an

important

thread

we have followed. We began our time together settled around candlelight, where we expressed our fears: of not being as present as we could be, of not expressing adequate gratitude to those we care about, of not trusting our inner voices, of being too controlling of outcomes, of not being enough. Our voices filled up the darkness and shed light on the commonalities of our apprehensions. It was a powerful way to introduce ourselves to one another; by exposing our vulnerabilities and sharing our questions, we found connection…

MINDFULNESS

CHANGED

ALLILLANCHU MIS DRAGONES!

WORDSARWYN DREW, STUDENT

WORDSKYLIE BLITZER, STUDENT

WORDSVANESSA LUNA, INSTRUCTOR

 THAILAND SUMMER PROGRAM

 CAMBODIA SUMMER PROGRAM

PERU SUMMER PROGRAM

wtbdragons.com/djy8

wtbdragons.com/djy9

wtbdragons.com/djy10

We have been asked to sit on paper thin,

I left as someone perfectly happy in my self-

As a scientist, one of my biggest pleasures

brown cushions in rows of 15 while we direct

created comfort zone. Floating around in a

is to explore and answer questions, to

our gazes at three giant gold buddhas. He

default setting, not always aware of decisions

which those responses arise more and more

stares right back at us. It feels as though his

I was making. Daring to step outside of that

questions. The Amazon, where I have spent

eyes peel each and everyone of us, like an

comfort zone and becoming more conscious

much time over the past few years has

onion, not stopping until reaching the raw

in my actions has helped me to see the world

sparked my interest in ecology research. I

fleshy core within us all. We wear clothes of

from more angles, not just the perspective that

have done studies relating to the dynamic

white and some lavender. Women’s hair must

my umbilical cord of privilege took me to. This

populations of large mammals like the

be tied in a knot at the base of our head

is not to say that now I have completed this

spectacled bear and Amazonian monkeys.

while no voices are allowed above a whisper.

course I have become enlightened about the

That was only the beginning. While studying

I was awoken this morning by Willow. She

world outside of the bubble I often find myself

the various species of mammals, I fell in

told me it was time to start the day. It was

in. In fact, I’m left more confused than ever. I’m

love with the Amazon. Then, I became more

5am. We walked in a straight line with our

scared that I won’t be able to implement the

and more interested in learning about the

umbrellas in hand to the Dhamma Hall. There

beliefs that I have gathered into my life—or

various mechanisms that exist to preserve

we started our meditation. I felt as though,

that I will, until I decide that my priorities lie in

this highly diverse and vulnerable ecosystem.

when I closed my eyes and stopped thinking,

the short term future, such as school, college,

By being willing to understand the cultural

I was going mad.[...] During our break time

friends, etc. But I am going to try my hardest

issues of the ecosystems we wanted to

we gathered at a rocky overhanging to do

to change that mold, not to fit into that Kylie-

preserve, myself and my colleagues were

our usual check-in. Still in a trance, I listened

shaped hole that everyone expects me to slot

able to participate in conservation projects

to the words fall from mouths and I couldn’t

right back into. I believe that I, in this moment,

more effectively. From there I learned about

help but cry. I buried my face into my knees

at 2:50am in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on our

the importance of approaching other worlds

and felt a hand in mine. It was Teresa. My

last night, feel different, and I’m going to do

with open eyes and with a curious heart to

other hand was taken by Kate.

whatever it takes to make that feeling stay.

explore what is different with great respect.

WWW.WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM

17 


HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS

to my experience as the excitement and the

AT THE END OF IT ALL

WORDSMARIA ELENA DERRIEN, EDUCATOR

thrills. These things teach me about who I

WORDSROSE FITZGERALD, STUDENT

 BOLIVIA EDUCATOR COURSE

wtbdragons.com/djy11 The trip challenged my life, my choices,

am, and challenge me to find a version of myself independent of everything I’ve ever known.

wtbdragons.com/djy14 There are new scars on my body: long thin

and cemented my commitment to teach

scrapes up my leg from a fall while swimming,

my students and make relevant their own

HOW TO WRAP A SARI

permanent rub marks on my ankle from when

dependence on this world of ours, help them

WORDSJANE MENTZINGER, STUDENT

I was too stubborn to tie my boot right, a sin-

realize their privilege, and help them feel empowered to take action for the health of

 INDIA PRINCETON BRIDGE YEAR

wtbdragons.com/djy13

gle line on my right arm burned from an iron the first night in the Miami airport. Along my

our environment. During my trip to Bolivia,

I began walking towards the stairs, figuring

stomach, thighs, and back, hundreds of fad-

climate change and its effects was not an

I would need to ask my homestay mother

ing bites dot my skin and I grimace, remem-

abstract idea people talked about, it was a

for help, when a Banaras Hindu University

bering the flea fiasco in Cotzal. And all over

lived reality that people had to respond and

student named Kanchan, called out to me

my body is the patchy, uneven tan that comes

adapt to. Bolivians are living with the effects

as I passed her room. I had hardly spoken to

with wearing a strange mixture of swimsuits

of climate change now. They are well aware

her at all before this. She spoke Hindi, with

and hiking pants every day. The final thing I

of how their lives are constantly changing

a little English. Unsurprisingly, she looked at

notice is the way I hold myself has changed. I

to adapt to new weather patterns. My host

me in confusion, given that I was wearing

can picture the me of a month ago, stooped

“mom,” Rosa, told me of smaller crop sizes,

the sari blouse, which looks like a crop

beneath the weight of a bag, wringing her

and lower yields which directly impact

top, the petticoat, a long skirt that goes

hands, and talking everyone’s ear off from

her ability to provide for her son. Pablo, a

under the sari, and the sari itself, which was

nerves. Now, my back is straight, and when

glaciologist shared his research with us and

only half tucked into the petticoat. I was

I squeeze my thigh I feel muscle, most like-

told us about glacier melts and retreats, and

carrying the rest of it in my arms. “Ye sari

ly from carrying that same heavy bag every

the fact that some communities that depend

hai,” I said, which translates to “This is a

single day. I feel stronger than I’ve ever been.

on the glaciers for their water will fail to

sari.” She looked at me with a smile. It was

survive if the melting rates continue. I learned

pretty obvious that it was a sari but I didn’t

A WRINKLE IN TIME

that a country that relies on mining so heavily

know how else to explain that I needed help

WORDSCHERYL, PARTICIPANT

as Bolivia does, has left irrevocable impact

wrapping it. “You wear?” she responded. “Ha,

 NEPAL ADULT PROGRAM

wtbdragons.com/djy15

both socially and environmentally. With such

lekin mujhe nahin aatee hai,” I responded,

tangible evidence of the impact of climate

which meant “Yes but I don’t know.” She

I’ve been trying to describe to friends and

change on real people’s lives, it was hard not

understood what I was asking and pulled

family the time spent with a Buddhist lama,

to be despairing. I learned that societies are

me into her room to begin wrapping my sari.

three reclusive Hindu sadhus, a swami on

complex and inextricably linked to the place

[...] As I hurried to catch a rickshaw to the

an ashram and each other talking deeply,

they live in, and how we go about caring for

event, I couldn’t help but feel surprised at

curiously, respectfully and lightly, too, about

our little piece of the world matters.

how much she had worked to help me. She

the spirituality of Nepal. I’ve been sharing

had offered to wrap my sari even though

photos of my homestay with the family of

THE THINGS YOU DON’T DO

we never talked. She kept working to

Paubha master painter, Lok Chitrakar, who

WORDSNOAH DANIEL, STUDENT

make it perfect even when she could have

taught me about the spiritual foundation

 PRINCETON BRIDGE YEAR BOLIVIA

wtbdragons.com/djy12

18 

 GUATEMALA SUMMER PROGRAM

just stopped. She was excited to help me

for his work and whose family warmly

even though we could barely communicate.

welcomed me, including me in the festival

When my friends and family tell me how

Recently we have been talking about gift

of Ganesh and dressing me in a sari and

excited they are and how much fun I’ll have,

culture in our group. In a gift culture, people

bling for the final celebration dinner. I can

they aren’t picturing the tears I’ve shed

give without expecting anything in return.

still feel the warmth of the sun that rose

during the days I sit in my room, playing

It’s very present around India. Strangers will

as we met for yoga in the mornings at the

guitar and missing home. They aren’t

invite you in for a cup of chai, workshops

foot of a beautiful mountain, and am still

picturing the days when I’m not sure why

will ask that you pay what you can give,

resonating with all the facets of our hike up

I would ever embark on an experience

and people will help you with anything

to Chandragiri temple: the difficult climb, the

which holds such gravity, which takes

whenever you need it. I’ve found that both

steady support and encouragement of the

such a staggering mental toll. They aren’t

wonderful and nerve racking. I’m not used

group, the gorgeous views, a moment in the

picturing the regular days: days when I’m

to being given things without expectations

clouds of true presence, the surreal arrival at

not ecstatic or depressed, but am just

of reciprocation. Though I continue to feel

a Disney-like park around the ancient temple,

average. Days when I just go to work, eat

awkward at times, I’ve started to embrace

and the descent in a Swiss-worthy gondola;

three meals, read a little, and sleep. Yet

this culture.

a perfect metaphor for the many co-existing

these things are as integral and formative

P.S. I finally learned to wrap a sari.

truths we discovered during our travels.

THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019


JUNGLE PERSON

India is where that journey slowed down,

RHYTHMS UNAWARE

WORDSJENNY BATTYE, STUDENT

and I am oh-so thankful for every light and

WORDSMARK BAUHAUS, PARTICIPANT

 INDONESIA SEMESTER

wtbdragons.com/djy16

serendipitous stumble that led me here. As we walk on this land and move among those

 NEPAL ADULT PROGRAM

wtbdragons.com/djy20

A small orangutan baby leaps from its

who keep the memory of ancient wisdom

Out our window on this last morning in Nepal,

mother’s back to dangle from a thin branch.

alive today in their cultures, languages,

life in the 700-year old square starts about

It munches berries as it eyes our deet-

practices, and traditions, it behooves us

4:30am. Bells ring, chants start, drums and

slathered, leech-socked troop. The morning

to pay attention to these different ways of

symbols clang, and the murmur of neighbors

sun illuminates the baby from behind, so

being and living. The young traveler who

chatting rises up inside and outside the

it looks like a furry little angel with gaping

encounters cultural difference with intention

ancient temple. [...] Women bring offerings

black eyes. With a giant leap, it hurdles itself

may see beyond culture as decorative and

of rice, flowers, fruit, and yak butter lamps

to the branch above us to peer down and

may use that experience (in the words of

to give and receive the abundance of life.

mimic our motions. It looks like a human. In

one of my anthropological foremothers), “to

Incense wafts about. Old women anoint the

fact, orang hutan means “jungle person” in

make the world safe for human differences.”

ground, the temples, their foreheads. Flames

Indonesian language. The local guides treat

The urgent challenges of the 21st Century

are lit to remove impediments to happiness.

these gentle creatures with respect, unlike

are stubborn and extremely divisive. It is my

[...] Maybe sometimes we Westerners dismiss

the rest of the world. Gunung Leuser is one of

hope that on this journey you will become

such activity as out of date, old fashioned,

the last habitats on earth for the orangutan.

inspired and empowered to find your agency

or superstitious. But these daily rituals also

Mass deforestation and the palm oil industry

in the narrative of global citizenship.

connect the trials and suffering of life to

have destroyed most primary rainforests

timeless human values of respect, mutual

like this one, and left the orangutan an

A CRITICAL EYE

care, gratitude, and aspiration to be the best

endangered species. These precious forests

WORDSSAM COHN, STUDENT

(people or incarnations or manifestations)

and all of their diverse, beautiful wildlife are burned, poached, and illegally logged.

 SENEGAL SUMMER PROGRAM

wtbdragons.com/djy18

that we can be. They tend to be social, historic, and looking upward. I wonder where

Chainsaws are cheaper than ever, and with

Developing a critical eye and anger towards

my pattern leads when I rush daily to run,

little governmental protection, the rainforest

a place I have called home my whole life after

coffee, traffic, maybe even meditation, and

is in critical condition, with a pack of local

being away for just 29 days was one of the

focus on just DOING things.

guides as its only advocate. It’s easy to

hardest mental struggles I’ve faced. After

blame Indonesia, for “allowing” their natural

learning so many incredible aspects of a

LIGHTS OUT

treasures to be stripped away and destroyed,

culture that had been largely unfamiliar, I had

WORDSFRANNIE, STUDENT

but as Romi’s father reminded us, America is

a whole new outlook on the world. There was

one of the world’s largest consumers of palm

a pool of new knowledge in the palm of my

 CHINA PRINCETON BRIDGE YEAR

wtbdragons.com/djy21

oil. I challenge you to go to your own local

hand; the question became, what would I do

It has now been almost three days since

grocery store and take a peek at the shelves.

with it? Azar Nafisi said it best, that “you get

the power first went out, and I can’t help

How many of your favorite products contain

a stranger feeling when you leave a place...like

but reflect on how little the villagers rely

palm oil?

you’ll not only miss the people you love but

on electricity in their daily lives. While I

you’ll miss the person you are now at this time

mourned the death of my phone battery, Ayi

HELLO, JULLEY, NAMASTE!

and place because you’ll never be this way

and Shushu adjusted to life without power

WORDSMARIJA (MJ) UZUNOVA-DANG,

again.” The stories I returned with are what

with ease. They simply reverted back to how

keep me connected to that version of me.

things were done before power was installed

INSTRUCTOR  INDIA SEMESTER

wtbdragons.com/djy17 The banks of Ganga and the peaks of Ladakh are a long way from the small corner in the south of Macedonia where I spent my

in the village a short 20 years ago. Growing

ON THIS COURSE I WITNESSED WORDSANONYMOUS STUDENT  EASTERN HIMALAYAS SUMMER PROGRAM

wtbdragons.com/djy19

childhood. A few days after my 15th birthday,

On this course I witnessed two sides of life.

up in such an electronically-dependent world, it is refreshing to be in a place that so highly values interacting with others and staying present rather than Instagram posts and Facebook updates. I am frightened to

I left home in a cargo van carrying my piano

The side of life in which you recognize you

think about how easy access to electricity

and little else, blasting a mixtape my sisters

are really lucky in the life you live. And the

controls my daily life and how often I use

had made, and interchangeably holding

other side in which you realize you are not

technology as a distraction from the world

back tears and massively grinning. I have

always grateful for all things in your life. I

around me.

spent the past 15 years in relentless pursuit

have seen a lot of beautiful things and sad

of an education and adventure across four

things, but these sad things make my mind

continents (the piano did not come with),

work and think about what I want to do

leaning into the delights and discomforts.

differently in my life.

WANT TO READ MORE?Visit our Yak

Board for the most up-to-date field posts: yak.wheretherebedragons.com

WWW.WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM

19 


When Things Go Wrong WORDS & IMAGESJODY SEGAR, CHINA PROGRAM DIRECTOR  CHINA

T

wenty-two years ago I walked into a small town in southwestern China near dusk and realized I was in trouble. I had the equivalent of just a few dollars left in my wallet and the only bank in town was closed (there weren’t any ATMs). I had no place to stay for the night,

no ticket onward, and knew no one in the area. Like most people at that time, I didn’t have a cell phone—even if I had, I’m not sure who I would have called. I stood on the steps of the (closed) bank, one of the larger buildings in town, and watched the warm, late spring sun sinking lower in the sky, considering my options and feeling angry with myself. I was also exhausted and hungry after walking all day. This wasn’t my first brush with the consequences of failing to think ahead (nor would it be my last!) but in a completely unfamiliar place, in a country then still very new to me, with Chinese language skills that might be generously described as “intermediate”, traveling solo… I was feeling both stuck and stupid. The days and weeks leading up to this moment had been some of the happiest and most exciting of my life. I’d taken a year off from college and worked all fall so that I could join a study program in China in the spring. This kind of travel, which was never in the cards for my family growing up, was something I’d always dreamed of. To explain why, I have to tell another story first…

WHEN I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD...

So, many years later, when Chinese was introduced as a language

The town where I grew up sponsored a group of Cambodian refugees

option at my high school (a rare opportunity at a public high school

who had fled the genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge. One of

in 1991), I jumped at the opportunity. I loved languages, but even

these refugees, a boy a couple of years older than me, named Kiri,

more so, I loved the idea of being able to communicate with people

became my friend, and something like an idol. Kiri’s life experiences

whose lives and cultures were profoundly different from mine.

were different from mine in pretty much every way. I grew up in

Eventually, in the spring of my junior year in college, I landed in

small college towns in New England where life was mostly quiet and

China’s Yunnan Province—a place that felt to me like a wonderland:

peaceful. Kiri’s family had all been killed in the chaos that enveloped

more than 30 different ethnic groups, biodiversity with ecosystems

Cambodia at that time and he fled with other children through the

ranging from snowy mountains higher than any I’d ever seen to

jungle, arriving eventually in a refugee camp before coming to the US.

dense tropical rainforests, a long list of religious traditions, foods as

Kiri’s childhood experiences left him with scars I couldn’t see, but had some sense of, even as a kid. His experiences also left him with great survival skills—including what, to my seven-year old ears,

familiar as fried potatoes and as unfamiliar as roasted cicadas. I was in paradise. The culmination of my semester was a month-long “independent

was a knockout sense of humor. Kiri was still learning English, and

project.” Working with my program advisor, I set out to follow

one day when he was over at my house, he discovered the power of

the Mekong River along its entire path through Yunnan, from the

the phrase, “never mind.” From that moment on, every time Kiri and

Tibetan region of Kham in the northwestern corner of the province,

I needed a boost of extra entertainment as we played upstairs, Kiri

downstream and south through ethnically Hui, Lisu, Pumi, Yi, Naxi,

would call to my mother downstairs.

Bai, Wa, Dai (and the list goes on) areas to Xishuangbanna, bordering

“Hey, Susan?”

Myanmar and Laos. Carrying letters of introduction that I hoped

“Yes, Kiri?” my mom would answer knowingly.

would allow me to enter many counties then closed to foreign

“Never mind!” (cue cascade of two boys laughing).

travelers, and cartons of cigarettes needed to win over skeptical local

My mom was very patient.

officials, I set out with the goal of covering as much of the route as I

Kiri also had concrete survival skills as a result of the time he

could by foot—a goal I soon realized was totally unrealistic given the

spent escaping war in the wilderness. One day, Kiri came with my family for a walk in the woods and he and I went down to a stream

distance I had to cover and the month I had available. Walking is still my favorite mode of transport. It’s the only way to

below the path. I watched him pull a live fish, about six inches long,

move from one place to another slowly enough to really see things.

out of the stream with his bare hands. From that moment on, I did

It’s also the only way to move that leaves you with no choice but to

everything I could to emulate Kiri. Kiri had a habit of carrying photos

stop and talk with people along the way. I discovered quickly how

around with him inside his t-shirt, “close to the heart.” One was of

friendly, hospitable, and curious the people of rural Yunnan were,

his parents. Another was of a tank. After he showed me the photos, I

often stopping to offer me rides, and inviting me into their homes for

asked my parents for some photos to put inside my t-shirt.

meals. In the Meili Snow Mountains of northwestern Yunnan, a family

Through Kiri, I got to know other kids and families in the

pulled me into their shack near the road to offer me a small piece of

Cambodian refugee community in our town. Although I wouldn’t have

fried fat and a plastic cup of orange soda—the most luxurious things

been able to explain it quite this way at the time, I began to fall in love

they had to offer. In another town, I asked a girl on the street how to

with people and things that were different from those I knew. I began

get to the post office. She looked at the items I wanted to mail back

to wonder about life in places far away from home. I began to dream

to my advisor’s home in Kunming and told me I’d need to have a

about seeing the world.

container to mail them in. She then brought me back to her family’s

20  THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019


“KIRI HAD A HABIT OF CARRYING PHOTOS AROUND WITH HIM INSIDE HIS T-SHIRT, “CLOSE TO THE HEART.” ONE WAS OF HIS PARENTS. ANOTHER WAS OF A TANK. AFTER HE SHOWED ME THE PHOTOS, I ASKED MY PARENTS FOR SOME PHOTOS TO PUT INSIDE MY T-SHIRT.” home for lunch, found an empty grain sack, and carefully packed all

from another country. I know you would help me if I were a visitor to

of my things in it. I repeated all of the ways I knew to say “thank you”

your country.”

as she stitched up the sack and walked with me to the post office.

I wondered if that last part was true. I hoped so. I wasn’t sure.

When we arrived, she helped me navigate the maze of counters, fees,

Unfortunately, I didn’t think too many foreign young men in small

forms, and surly officers with red stamps that run the engine of the

towns in the US were approached by strangers offering assistance

world’s oldest bureaucracy. Again and again, I was stunned by the

and cash.

level of hospitality and generosity I was shown.

Then, the stranger spoke a Chinese phrase that was, by then, starting to become familiar to me.

WHICH BRINGS ME BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF THIS STORY...

“It’s what I should do,” he said.

As I arrived in a small town, at the end of a long day’s walk with no

I was tired, stress had been building, and I was choked up as he

money, not even enough for a meal, and no place to stay. As I stood

handed me the 100 kuai bill. I asked him to write down his address

there on the steps of the bank, a man walked over to me.

and promised (though he said it wasn’t necessary) to send him

“Hello, can I help you with something?” he asked, “Are you lost?”

the money he’d given me once I could get to a bank. I thanked him

Startled out of my own thoughts of how foolish I’d been, I

profusely. I imagined how much better things might be for people

explained I was looking for a bank.

everywhere if we all did what we should do.

“This is the only bank around. It’s closed now.” “Too bad,” I said, then, thinking of another priority, “Can you recommend any very cheap places to eat nearby?” The stranger asked me more questions and I eventually began to explain my predicament, but before I had even finished, he opened his wallet and pulled out 100 kuai—at the time equal to about twelve

WHAT’S THE MORAL OF THIS STORY? I suppose the obvious answer might be: plan in advance and be prepared. Yawn. You’ve heard that before. If I hadn’t set out to “walk the Mekong in a month” (I mean, come

US dollars, and more than enough for a room and a meal. He insisted

on, really, kid?) I might not have been gifted the realization of my own

I take the money.

incompetence and lack of knowledge, or the truth of my reliance on

“Chinese people are hospitable,” he said, “and you are our guest

others. I never would have met that stranger who showed me such

WWW.WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM

21 


“IT’S MY WISH THAT THEY’LL TRULY CHALLENGE THEMSELVES, AND THAT SOMETIMES THINGS WILL GO WRONG, AND THAT WHEN THINGS DO GO WRONG, THEY MAY LEARN SOMETHING POWERFUL AND UNEXPECTED.” pure generosity, or been faced with the uncomfortable question:

town in New England when I was seven years old. As I wrote out this story,

Would this ever happen where I’m from?

I had the inclination to do something that wasn’t an option back then:

If I hadn’t overshot in what I thought I could do, I wouldn’t have

I Googled Kiri. Kiri is not his real name. His real name is unique enough

felt what I did in the moment that stranger said, “It’s what I should do.”

that on my first search, to my astonishment, I found a news story about

And that’s a moment that I have always remembered. I remembered it

him. It turns out life got complicated for Kiri as he got older and he

through what turned into eleven years of living in China, and a lifetime

became involved in criminal activities. His actions weren’t violent, but

of involvement with China and with Chinese people. I remember it,

drug-related crimes led to years in jail. As a result of changing policies and

sometimes, when I send groups of students to the high mountains

more hostile attitudes towards immigration in the US, Kiri was deported.

and deep river valleys of Yunnan Province, and to live with homestay

After growing up, marrying, and having children in this country, he was

families in villages just a short distance away from that small town

sent back to the country from which he had originally fled as a refugee.

and the steps of its only bank (no doubt, there are many banks and

I felt tears come to my eyes as I read about Kiri being separated

ATMs there by now!). These days, it’s my job to help those students

from his children in the US, and sent back to a place where he had no

and their instructors prepare, and plan, and manage budgets, and risk,

living family members, a place now as unfamiliar to him as the US had

and logistics. But it’s my wish that they’ll truly challenge themselves,

been when he first arrived.

and that sometimes things will go wrong, and that when things do go wrong, they may learn something powerful and unexpected.

Because of what I learned, the process of writing this story down took a different turn for me. Since I learned about Kiri’s deportation, I’ve been trying to get more information, and to contact Kiri, trying

AND WITH THAT IN MIND...

to find out if there’s anything I can do to help. In short, I’m trying to

I want to turn this story back in a circle. It has been many, many years

return some of the favors the world has granted me and to figure out

since I lost touch with my friend Kiri. My family moved away from that

what I should do.

JODY SEGARis China Program Director at Where There Be Dragons. He wants readers to know that he did get around to mailing that stranger’s

money back, plus extra. PHOTOSNorthwestern Yunnan, 1996

22  THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019


Homestay at my Village WORDSTHAVRY THON, INSTRUCTOR IMAGE PISITH YEEN  CAMBODIA

W

hen I first arrived at my village with the mission of organizing student homestays, I felt excited and nervous at the same time. My hometown is called Koh Ksach Tunlea and is located in the middle of the Bassac River. It is just one of many remote islands in

Cambodia. Upon arrival, I was anxious because I was not so sure if bringing Western people to stay with the villagers would be good or bad. Especially as this group would stay longer than any other group I had brought. I sometimes question whether our local traditions and the culture will change if there are too many foreign people coming and going in my village. I have to be careful with this and balance the relationship I play in the role of the middle person. However, when the students arrived at the ferry I already felt

excited about how much they were going to learn and how they would experience a completely different culture and lifestyle. The host families all came to my house with big smiles to pick up their potential “daughter” or “son.” After I matched the students to their new “parents,” they all went off to their homestays. I was still anxious about how they would settle in and adapt to things like eating rice most of the time—all while being able to speak so little Khmer and sleeping in a foreign house. How would the students overcome those challenges? It worried me. But it worked out better than I expected. After a week with their host families, the students were challenged to try harder at speaking Khmer, so that they could communicate with the local community and children. Both students and host families used body language in order to learn more from each other and share different aspects of culture, foods, experiences, and memories. The students were able to see first hand, and learn so much from experiencing a real Cambodian lifestyle. Most of the host families had never hosted any foreigners before. It is more than just money we contribute to the host families, but also friendship. I found it sweet when Fiona’s host mum called me asking, “Can she eat this?” just to make sure it is safe for her. Flora also did a family tree for her host family in Khmer. At Harry’s homestay, his brother and sister had taught him Khmer and were practicing Khmer conversation. At Ava’s house, on the fifth day of the homestay, her neighbors were already saying, “We are going to miss you!” When I passed by Izzy’s house, I often saw her hanging out with Khmer people and children, sharing stories about her family at home or practicing her Khmer. And whenever I met Noe, he reported, “My

together. Although I am looking forward to the party, I don’t want the

family’s food is just amazing and I love my family.” I have a strong

homestay to end. I have been enjoying watching the students learn

feeling that all of them have been doing so well with the homestay.

and grow. We had a lesson on the theme of “power and privilege”

I know the families are going to miss the students after they are

with the students today. And I see how all these experiences

gone. Especially after sharing their homes and daily lives. Tomorrow,

somehow tie into these themes. The students have so many more

we are going to have a party at the program house. All the host

privileges than the kids in my village. And I hope they reflect on how

families are invited. We are going to eat, share the moment, and dance

lucky they are to live with such high standards of living and freedom.

THAVRY THON(pictured above) was born into a farming family. She graduated from high school in 2007 and continued her university studies

in Phnom Penh until 2009, when she received a scholarship to study in the Czech Republic and earned her Bachelor’s degree. Her dream of being an author came true in 2009 when her very first children’s book was published. She now has four published books. She most recently published a Khmer novel, “A Captain of Life” which is semi-autobiographical and combines real life stories of women in her life. One of her books, A Proper Woman: The Story of One Woman’s Struggle to Live Her Dreams, is available on Amazon at: http://a.co/d/5XyfaDc. You can learn more about Thavry and find all her books at www.thavry.com.

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23 


How to: Walk WORDS & IMAGEAUSTIN SCHMIDT, STUDENT  NEPAL: HIMALAYAN STUDIES SEMESTER

O

ver the past few weeks, we have done a lot of walking. Walking is the most basic form of human transportation and there is something so unique about relying only on our own legs to take us places. We have walked from elevations as low as 1100m and as high as

5000m. We have walked up mountains, down valleys, across landslides, over suspension bridges, across rivers, and through villages. We have crossed over mountain passes and walked through the jungle, forest, and the high alpine climates of northern Nepal. One thing that I’ve noticed in particular is some of the different types of walking that have characterized this trek.

THE “I CAN SEE CAMP” WALK

THE STEEP DOWNHILL

At the end of the long day, even our group

As they say, what goes up must come

has a drop in energy. Backpacks feel

down, and our group is no exception. This

heavier and the designated “stokenator”

type of walk is mostly characterized by

struggles to crack jokes during breaks.

intense knee pain and thoughts of just rolling

But with that first glimpse of the blue

down the mountain instead. This walk is

dining room tent, the big red tarp or the

done fast, in an attempt to minimize the time

smiling porters, suddenly it is possible to

each knee bears weight, but slow enough

skip, dance, prance, sing (mostly just the

THE SUSPENSION BRIDGE

Wii theme song) and maybe run the next

Some of the bridges here contribute

few meters as thoughts of tea and warm

to moments of intense stress. You

clothes fill our minds.

take the first step onto the wooden

not to tumble 1000m into the valley below.

planks, alone because the bridge can support only one person (or maybe

THE MIDNIGHT PEE

you’re just the group guinea pig).

It’s freezing in your tent. It’s even colder

The bridge is long and narrow and

outside. You are wearing every layer you

THE 5000m “WALK”

hundreds of feet above a river rushing

own and wishing the sun would come up

When you are above 5000m, walking is a

down valley. The bridge swings with

already. Then it hits you—you have to pee.

little bit different, and it goes something

every step and the wooden planks

Everything in you is telling you to just stay

like this: walk five steps, stop, gasp for air,

creak and seem just about ready to

in your sleeping bag and hold out until

take a sip of water, repeat. This is what

collapse. You grasp the side of the

morning. The toilet tent is too far away

the Instructor team calls Type 2 Fun: it

bridge, knuckles turning white, and

and you regret drinking so much water.

sucks at the moment but as soon as it’s

walk slowly, hoping your feet don’t

But there is no other option. You stumble

over and you’re at the top of a mountain

slip off the side. You wonder how it

out of your tent and walk quickly. Leaving

with a 360-degree view of the Himalayas,

seems that you have been on this

the toilet tent, however, is different. A

it’s worth it. However, in classic Nepali

bridge forever yet you aren’t even

quick glance up reveals thousands of stars

fashion, reaching 5000m really just means

halfway across. For a second, you

and a full moon illuminating the snow

you’re at the base camp of another much

look up and all the fear leaves. In its

covered mountains. You stop for a few

taller mountain. But you accept your

place, comes amazement of your

minutes and just look. In a rare moment of

accomplishment for the day and head

small presence among the tallest

total silence and awe, the cold

downhill in search of sufficient oxygen.

mountains in the world.

doesn’t seem too bad.

AUSTIN SCHMIDTsplit her 2017-18 Gap Year between a semester with Dragons in Nepal, shadowing doctors in Bolivia, and working on a

research project in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is currently a freshman at Johns Hopkins University studying Public Health. She loves skiing, hiking, The Office, and Dave Matthews. 24  THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019


Recipe for Senegalese Peanut Sauce Mafé Gerte WORDSMEGAN FETTIG, CO-DIRECTOR OF ADULT PROGRAMS IMAGESELKE SCHMIDT, INSTRUCTOR  SENEGAL

A

s a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, I grew quite fond of mealtime. Each afternoon and evening, my host family and I would gather around a large silver bowl placed upon a plastic mat. Squatting in the shade of the wide green arms of a mango tree, we scooped

delicious fistfuls of savory sauces and white rice into our hungry mouths. Meals were completely satisfying. In my reflections, I realize that I was being nourished not only by the food, but also by the company I kept. Meals were a communal pause in our day, often followed by napping, drinking sweet mint tea, and braiding hair. Upon returning to the States, I processed my experience in Senegal by attending West African cultural events, printing a myriad of black and white photographs, and cooking Senegalese food for friends. One of my favorite dishes to make was mafé gerte, or Senegalese peanut sauce. Simple yet scrumptious, this dish has served as one of the bridges between my Colorado mountain life and the years I resided in a round, earthen hut, gathering each day for the ageless ritual of sharing a meal.

MAFÉ GERTE SERVINGS4 PEOPLE TOTAL TIME45 MINUTES

INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS:

VEGGIES

STEP 1

1 onion (large white)

Cook rice while preparing sauce.

1 sweet potato (medium sized) 2 carrots (medium sized)

STEP 2

1–2 white potatoes (medium sized)

Sauté onion (and goat meat if desired)

3 cups cabbage (chopped)

in oil on medium heat until golden. Add vegetables and sauté for about 5 minutes.

SPICES & SEASONING

1 Habanero pepper (leave whole)

STEP 3

1–2 garlic cloves

Add 4–8 cups of water or broth (depend-

2–3 tsps. oil of your choice

ing on how thick you like your sauce). Once

1/2 tsp. cayenne

water is boiling, add peanut butter, tomato

Black pepper (Lots of it! A few tsps.)

paste, and spices. Turn to a low simmer and

Salt and pepper (to taste)

cook until sauce is reduced and vegetables

1 cup peanut butter

are cooked (10–20 minutes).

OTHER

STEP 4

2 tsps. tomato paste (cuts the sweetness)

Serve over rice and enjoy! Make sure to

4–8 cups water or broth

remove the habanero pepper so someone

Rice (4 servings)

doesn’t get a hot surprise In the village, the pepper is passed around and dabbed on

OPTIONAL

each person’s portion (yes...it’s that hot!)

This dish is traditionally made with goat meat, which can be added with the onions

Bon appétit!

if you prefer meat in your sauce.

MEGAN FETTIGco-created and guided Dragons first program on the African continent in 2005, bringing students to her Peace Corps village in

southern Senegal. The holistic, community centered, and off-the-beaten-path style of Dragons captured Megan’s heart. In the past dozen years, she has continued her involvement in several capacities, the most recent as Co-Director of Adult Programs.

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25 


Bhutan: Challenging Definitions of Happiness WORDS & IMAGECHELSEA FERRELL, INSTRUCTOR  BHUTAN

I

f you say you’re going to Bhutan, be prepared for a wide range of

each. Bhutan often feels like a neighborhood block party that might

reactions. From the skeptical bank-teller (“Hold on, let me make sure

take place on a street in the US suburbs. You meet people you’ve

that’s a country before I authorize your credit card.”) to the confused

never seen but somehow, they seem to know all about you. By

listener (“Oh, that’s in Africa, right?”) to the awestruck fan (“Isn’t

virtue of merely being in the country, you are incorporated into the

that the happiest country in the world?!”). While you can’t anticipate

community and your presence alone makes you a valued member.

others’ reactions, one thing is certain: Once introduced to the country,

I’ve felt this same way about the Dragons community. No matter

the people, and the concepts of Bhutan, your perspective won’t be

where I go in the world, I can be sure of one thing: I’ll likely run into a

the same.

Dragons instructor, student, or alum.

In June 2018, after months of planning and relationship building, Dragons launched its inaugural summer program in Bhutan. For

CHALLENGING DEFINITIONS OF HAPPINESS

someone familiar with the country, it’s impossible to miss the many

My personal journey in understanding happiness in a Bhutanese

ways Bhutan and Dragons are alike. Both are small. (Bhutan only has a

context began in 2012, when, as a graduate student of Social

population of 750,000 people!) They are both decidedly independent

Anthropology and Tibetan language, I spent a month traversing the

and not afraid to be different. And both Bhutan and Dragons are loyal

country. At that point in my life, I’d lived in several countries and

to their principles, regardless of the climate among peers.

was slipping towards the feeling like I had nothing new to learn or

While many countries focus solely on capitalism and generating wealth, Bhutan uses Buddhist ethics in its governance and economic

experience in another culture. A few days in Bhutan, however, was enough to jerk me out of the

policies. As one of the world’s newer democracies, Bhutan is

cocoon that I’d formed around myself. The remoteness of the country

often cited as an example of a country that is doing development

and the lack of Western ideologies enforced a need to unplug and

differently. Bhutan has managed to adapt to modern life even while

naturally created an environment that led me to re-evaluate what I

preserving its heritage and remaining faithful to core values.

thought I knew.

But my favorite similarity between Bhutan and Dragons is the informal, dependable, tight-knit communities entwined throughout 26  THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019

Bhutan called into question some of the core assumptions in the West so fundamental to our thinking that many of us no longer


recognize them as value tradeoffs, such as, “bigger is better”

unplugged that social interactions naturally arise from an unavoidably

and “nature should be commodified.” My time in Bhutan also led

interwoven community.

to a recognition of the values of silence, slowness, and a lack of

With all this in mind, what could be more fitting than Dragons

instantaneous gratification. It led me to see the value of technology

offering a program in a country whose name in the native language

should not be blindly assumed, but evaluated in this context.

literally translates to the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”?

BUILDING THE PROGRAM IN BHUTAN

MAYBE THE BEST WAY TO SUM IT ALL UP IS WITH QUOTES

In planning the Dragons program in Bhutan, we incorporated

FROM THE SUMMER 2018 BHUTAN PROGRAM YAK BOARD:

Bhutanese and Dragons ideals not only into program themes, but into the methodology of how we set up the program. During each step

“Life is very different here. The day starts just before 6:00am in the

of program development, we were conscious of our impact, securing

morning. Everyone works together to make breakfast. It is very much

local input through joint brainstorming sessions and attempts to find

unlike the United States. Back home we usually wake up, eat, and go

service activities that would provide value to the communities with

about our day on our own. Here, they all eat together and get along

whom we worked.

extremely well. There is a sense that even when they are not talking,

Seeking an alternative way to chart the country’s progress, Bhutan became famous for coining the idea of Gross National Happiness as

they are having a conversation. “ –Jake Zivkovic, Student

an alternative measurement to Gross National Product. The country is especially unique because of its variety of public policies related to

“Bhutan is a small country, but it contains such a vast wealth of history

environmental conservation and cultural preservation.

and culture—its diverse peoples, geography, religious traditions, and

The Focus of Inquiry (FOI) for each trip is designed to look

cuisine are all so colorful and full of spice! Traveling in places like

at themes that will be woven through all program activities and

this is difficult, surreal, heavenly, overwhelming, and everything in

experiences. As we formed the program, we also discussed possible

between all at once.”

program themes, both with one another and with Bhutanese friends

–Nick Gredin, Instructor

and former colleagues. These conversations often circled back to the idea of happiness because with Bhutanese and Buddhist lens,

“Some of the first icebreakers my homestay brother had in store

happiness is often viewed differently than it is in the US.

for us: ‘Have you been following the World Cup?’ and ‘What is your

Our FOI allowed us to explore the factors that contribute to

favorite soccer league team?’ When I went to play later with the

happiness, including the use and value of natural space, community

Bhutanese teenagers and young adults, they seemed to be shocked

life, and the ways that happiness is embedded in and practiced

when I could barely dribble without tripping over myself.”

through spiritual philosophies and traditions. The FOI was designed

–Jack Holmgren, Student

to encourage students to look closely at their own lives and experiences, and to explore their tacit assumptions about happiness.

“I’m convinced of how special this country is and would like to proclaim myself as Bhutan’s official biggest fan. Why am I so confident

COMMUNITY IS EVERYTHING

about that statement? Almost anybody would feel the same if they

In Bhutan, connections stretch out like long games of telephone,

could come smell the air and listen to the birds. As I sit in the back of

particularly as families move between regions with seasonal change.

the farmhouse where we are taking residency, I can’t help but stop

Visualizing how community connections are fostered is best

writing to look at the vast rice fields and clouds gently rolling over the

illustrated by picturing a road trip across Bhutan during the summer.

mountains.[...] This may be the quietest place I’ve ever experienced...”

Monsoon rains, landslides, and mud on the national highway might

–Raif Wexler, Student

cause roadblocks that can last anywhere from hours to days. In the West, this time might be written off as “wasted,” a detriment to

“Every meal that we have had at our homestay has concluded the

productivity. However, in Bhutan, these roadblocks often become

same way; with our homestay mother and grandmother commenting

social gatherings, a time to meet new people and sip hot butter tea

on how little we eat. While attempting to plop more food on our

together while watching bulldozers lift massive stones and level out

plates, they say that if we don’t eat we will get thin and also point out

dirt. What seems an annoyance can morph into the best part of the

that we don’t want an empty stomach because that will make us miss

trip. Bhutan is remarkable in this way: It’s a country so small and

our parents.” –Delaney Bashaw, Student

CHELSEA FERRELLworks in Global Operations at Tufts University. She received her MA in Social Anthropology from the School of African

and Oriental Studies (SOAS) and her BA in Political Science from Swarthmore College. She has led academic and service programs in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Colorado and presented at national and regional conferences on topics of the Himalayan Studies and University Risk Management. She believes that intercultural community experiences are powerful sites of personal transformation. PHOTOA farm and house built in traditional Bhutanese architecture located outside of the UWICER environmental institute and research

station outside Jakar, Bhutan. P.S.Dragons is now building and running a Bhutan Semester! Visit our website to see the itinerary and details of our newest Gap Year program.

WWW.WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM

27 


Learning Spirals WORDS & IMAGESARA VAN HORN, STUDENT  GUATEMALA

SARA VAN HORN PARTICIPATED IN THE DRAGONS 2016 CENTRAL AMERICA SEMESTER AND RETURNED TO GUATEMALA THE FOLLOWING SPRING TO STUDY SPANISH, GUATEMALAN HISTORY, AND TZ’UTUJIL.

0 

They say that they say that they said that the caracol

tortilla, and the word for fish. But in my grandmother’s kitchen, for

represents entering into the heart, that this is what the very

hours and hours, I sit and cannot understand. My eyes memorize

first ones called knowledge.

the order and texture of the wooden slats. I play with the folds of my factory-made skirt. I focus on her expressions, on the familiar

1

A teacher asks me to draw—with magic marker on scrap

emotions that pattern my mother’s face; I imagine what stories she

paper—my culture’s conception of time. We sit cross-legged

tells. I am excluded from the source of their laughter, their wide eyes,

on the terrace, sheltered by lemon trees, warmed periodically by

their groans. But this is as it should be. I have been here only a few

a hesitant Guatemalan sun. My answer rises through me quickly;

months: at least, this way, I cannot pretend to understand.

I lean down and draw one swift stroke: a diagonal, upward line, increasingly positive and perfectly straight. After a week, I leave the town of San Juan, crossing a lake filled

I am trying to write what I have learned from this past year. In my walks through town, I feel the deep-stomach shock of nonchalant guns: a whole truckload of them, held by uniformed men with hard

with soft light and slender fish in the hush of early morning. I am aware,

mouths, on street corner after street corner. Every time, my eyes

suddenly, of how much I could miss the handheld walk-skip-run-rest-

drop to my feet, panicked and fluttering. The state hasn’t removed its

run with my host sister on the way to the mill, holding the soaked corn.

soldiers from the streets of these indigenous towns. As my teacher

2 

talks of this injustice, I imagine the sickening trauma birthed again

I return to my host mother’s kitchen. She is making tortillas over

and again at the glimpse of these men on the street corner, holding

the wood stove, clapping and flipping the dough between her

the tools of an asesino, wearing the legacy of violación, some of

palms, and chatting rapidly to her sister-in-law. She greets me in

them, perhaps, the same men—The Unites States supported an

Tz’utujil, bathed in slight smoke, and smiles at my stumbling reply.

Internal Armed Conflict that lasted from 1960 to 1996.

I am trying to write what I have learned from the past year: the

Think of the Mayan calendar system, my teacher tells me, think of

United States supported an Internal Armed Conflict that lasted

all those cycles. The solar calendar has 365 days, one full rotation of

from 1960 to 1996. My teacher stands in front of paragraphs and

the earth around the sun, and within it, the lunar calendar cycles, with

paragraphs of notes written in magic marker on scrap paper; I learn

260 days, and both of these turn within the long count calendar. It is

the names and dates from these 36 years; I learn about NAFTA, about

like the simultaneous circling of three different gears.

US-backed coups, about genocide. My teacher leans down and draws a slow spiral on the paper

And think of the Zapatistas, she reminds me and I remember our conversations about the revolutionary movement in southern Mexico,

between us. She is Colombian, but spent most of her adolescence by

think of their communities. They built them in spirals, like snail-shells,

this same Guatemalan lake. She wants me to understand the varying

caracoles. The leader of this movement once told a story that he

cultural conceptions of time, something that is, ironically, seemingly

attributed to indigenous lore: “The wise ones of olden times say that

so fixed. Time, my teacher tells me, pointing to her drawing, can be

the hearts of men and women are in the shape of a caracol. They

understood as spiraling outward. It is an idea intimately tied to nature,

say that they say that they said that the caracol represents entering

to the cycles of the sun, moon, and seasons. And it is tied to the

into the heart, that this is what the very first ones called knowledge.

importance of ancestors, to the idea of inherited wisdom.

They say that they say that they said that the caracol also represents

After a month, I leave early in the morning and cross the lake, thinking of fluorescent light conversations over rice dinners and the tender hesitation before my father gets up, thanks us, and clears his plate.

3 

I return to my host grandmother’s kitchen, to my mother spinning long monologues to her sisters as she makes tortillas

over the wood stove. Hers is a task done so often—many times daily for years upon years upon years—that this clapping and flipping feels

exiting from the heart to walk the world.” After six months, I leave early in the morning and cross the lake, thinking of spitting jocote pits into the backyard and watching the closed-eyed, patient face in the mountains, dreaming skyward, caressed by kites.

4 

I return to the kitchen of the women’s weaving cooperative. My mother has long since shown me how to pull the lump

of dough from the basin, how to flatten it, how to rotate it, where

woven into the fabric of our meals. A woman making tortillas by the

to place it on the hot metal, when to flip it. My tortillas come out

stove feels as normal and crucial as breathing. My young cousins,

misshapen and crude, too small or too thin or too full of holes. My

laughing irreverently in sweatshirts and sandals, come in from

joke is that I make my tortillas into squares. They laugh. No one’s

outside. A white moon bleeds slowly through the wooden slats. I am

dinner depends on my ability to master this skill.

made to wait, eyelids fluttering, for my mother to finish her story. I have learned greetings in Tz’utujil, basic verbs, the word for 28  THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019

I am trying to write what I have learned this past year. In the women’s weaving cooperative, I listen to two women speak of the death squads


in the early ‘80s. They talk in Ixil, another Mayan language, and I can only

incredible amount of indigenous land. The “third invasion,” then, was

watch their expressions, their visible unclenching of memory, and the

the genocide and scorched-earth campaigns of the Internal Armed

trauma written into the hardened lines of their faces. Their stories are then

Conflict. She looks back down at the spiral. Last year, Rigoberto Juarez

translated into Spanish. To learn Spanish here is to learn the weight of

was jailed for protesting the mining projects of US and Canadian

asesinado, of violencia, of violación. I have not grown up with these words.

companies. He calls these corporate projects the “fourth invasion.”

They carry little context. But these are the words that are used and I must

I can hear a pot of tea begin to whistle in the kitchen. Think

feel them. Guerra, guerra, guerra. The women talk of how they made tor-

of your host uncle, she says, I remember the afternoons I spent

tillas for the guerilla fighters in the mountains, how the military came for

in his backyard under his colored umbrella. Think of his anger.

their husbands. They talk of how their husbands died, and their brothers.

Political history, political anger, and political suffering are integral

They talk of how, marched in mourning down the streets, they were

to his teaching of Mayan cosmovision. It is a Western idea to divide

forced to be silent, how they were shot if they cried. The United States

another’s culture from its politics, its spirituality from its struggle.

supported an Internal Armed Conflict that lasted from 1960 to 1996.

She looks back down at her spiral. It’s not ethical to learn Mayan time

My teacher and I sit cross-legged on the terrace, facing each other under lemon trees and fractured sunlight and a heaviness I cannot shake. She waits for my questions, searching my face with quiet eyes,

without learning Mayan history. It’s not ethical to learn about Mayan culture without also fighting against the exploitation of their land. She pauses, sensing the thread of doubt rising through me, and

idly tracing the inked spiral on the paper between us. The United

waits for my question. So then how is it ethical, I say, that I am going

States supported an Internal Armed Conflict that lasted from 1960 to

to leave? She looks up at me. Sara, the United States supported an

1996. I look down at the paper, thinking of soldiers on street corners

Internal Armed Conflict that lasted from 1960 to 1996.

and street corners and street corners, then back up at her. Why?

After a year, I leave all my memorized things: the reluctance of these

Let me tell you, she says, about Rigoberto Juarez, an indigenous

clouds, the texture of this language, my mother’s golden teeth. I leave my

activist who, last year, was arrested by the Guatemalan government

sister sleeping under fleece blankets, raw dawn in the coffee trees, the

and jailed without trial. He calls the Spanish conquest in the 15th and

embers still smoldering in the wood stove. I leave early in the morning and

16th centuries the “first invasion.” The “second invasion” was the cre-

cross the lake. The United States supported an Internal Armed Conflict

ation of plantations in the 19th century where US corporations stole an

that lasted from 1960 to 1996. I am trying to learn what I have written.

SARA VAN HORNis a sophomore at Brown University studying American Studies and Literary Arts and focusing on corporate exploitation in Central

America. This piece is a product of the wisdom of Irene Platarrueda, Richard Brown, Viviana Mendoza, and Javier Mendez, among many others.

WWW.WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM

29 


CO M M UN I T Y S P OTLIGHT JEFF WAGNER South Asia & Latin America Instructor

ALUMNI REUNION Madagascar/Senegal Semester Fall 2017

Teaching To The Environment: In col-

Jennie Adler sent us this photo in which seven of the original nine students in her

laboration

with

other

veteran

Dragons

Dragons program were able to meet up in Amsterdam for a 10-day reunion.

instructors, Jeff is developing resources for educators to learn and teach about environmental issues including readings, lesson plans, articles, guided reflections, online courses, and book/film recommendations. The project is just getting started, and more will be added each week. Check it out at www.layinggroundwork.org

FEATURED NGO: DHARTIMATA & THE HER TURN INITIATIVE Dragons Community Grant Awardee Dragons awarded Dhartimata a grant to support workshops that teach Nepali women in Chokati how to hand-stitch reusable sanitary pads in order to promote healthy menstruation attitudes and practices. Follow their impressive initiative at: www.facebook. com/loveladypads or learn more about Dragons Community Grant Fund at: www. wtbdragons.com/cgf

NEWLY PUBLISHED:

“When we said goodbye in the airport no one anticipated that we were just seven weeks

DANIELA PAPI & CLAIRE BENNETT Southeast Asia & South Asia Instructors

from meeting again! In the Netherlands, our celebration increased each time one more

Learning Service is an introduction to

highlight of our trip was not the museums or the canals, but just being able to go to sleep

international volunteering. (Sample excerpt,

and wake up to each others faces again like we did on our Dragons trip. Our time was

of us walked through the gates and into our arms. Amsterdam is a great city, but the

page 7). Purchase the book on Amazon

filled with smiles and laughter, as though no time had passed. This isn’t our last reunion,

or through Dragons for $20 (email: info@

and I can’t wait to all be together again by a fire laughing and keeping our stories alive!”

wheretherebedragons.com).

If

purchased

through Dragons, proceeds will be donated to the Dragons Global Education Fund.

P.S. If you’d like to have your group reunion featured, tag your photo and caption on Instagram with: #DRAGONSREUNIONS so we can find and re-share it!

NEW PROGRAMS IN 2019 SEMESTER: BHUTAN

SUMMER: MEKONG

ALUMNI: ANDES LEADERSHIP SEMESTER

Bhutan has long been inaccessible, but

This new program carves its way through

An advanced level course for alumni of

Dragons has newly forged partnerships

the Tibetan Plateau, past the steamy

expedition, leadership, and international

that allow us to bring students into this

jungles of northern Laos, and into the

experiences. This course includes

secluded Buddhist kingdom. The new

heartland of mainland Southeast Asia.

wilderness exploration, the study of

semester highlights the country’s rich

The program features captivating

Andean culture, Spanish language

cultural heritage, incredible biodiversity,

landscapes, homestays with traditional

immersion, rock climbing, and an outdoor

and explores the Bhutanese-coined term

ethnic communities, and a study of the

leadership curriculum. The semester was

modern political and environmental

created in partnership with the High

“gross national happiness” as an indicator of development.

challenges of the Mekong River.

Mountain Institute. More details at:

www.wtbdragons.com/gyb

www.wtbdragons.com/smm

www.wtbdragons.com/als

30  THE DRAGONS JOURNAL 2019


WHAT’S NEW AT W H E R E T H E R E B E D R AG O N S

GLOBAL SPEAKER SERIES

1

Did you know you can bring a Dragons

 DRAGONS GLOBAL EDUCATION FUND

instructor right into your classroom to spark

The Dragons Global Education Fund, a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity of the Common

engaging conversations on critical global

Foundation, awards need-based scholarships to help students participate on our

issues? Topics include: The Forces Behind

programs, ensuring that all people have access to a global education. Dragons then further reduces tuition, lessening economic barriers to global travel. To learn more visit dragonsglobaleducationfund.org

Migration from Central America; Introduction to Islam; Feminism: Bettering the Lives of All. We call it our Global Speaker Series and best of all, it’s free! More details: wtbdragons.com/gss_topics

 2

 NEW DRAGONS HEADQUARTERS

In August, Dragons relocated its HQ office to a three-story Victorian home in downtown Boulder. Built in 1896, The Montgomery House sits right between the Pearl Street walking mall and the open space marking the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. Like the Dragons community, the space is funky, spirited, and has many stories to tell. Our new address is: 741 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302

DRAGONS INSTRUCTORS ARE IN YOUR AREA Meeting a Dragons instructor is often the best way to learn more about our program opportunities. We place a premium on human connection, both at home and in the field, by sending instructors across the country each year to meet with prospective students and their families. If you would like to learn what it means to go “Where There Be Dragons,” invite us over.

  3

Email: info@wheretherebedragons.com

 DRAGONS REGIONAL TRAININGS IN CROSS-CULTURAL

Phone: 303.413.0822

EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION Each year, Dragons holds trainings for educators exploring the critical skills related to student group management, risk management, and ethical community engagement. These workshops are designed for all teachers and administrators working in cross-cultural programming environments and, particularly, for leadership teams who work together on student programming. Look for upcoming regional trainings in your area or be in touch to learn more: simon@wheretherebedragons.com

10% OFF ALL PROGRAMS FOR ALUMNI Ready for another Dragons experience? Did you know we also offer College Study Abroad Courses, adventures for adult travelers, and professional development programs for educators? All Alumni receive 10% OFF future

WHERE YOU CAN FIND

programs. Just mention you are alumni during the application process.

@ W H E R E T H E R E B E D R AG O N S Don’t forget to tag your reunions, inspired projects, international photos, and travel reflections with #WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS on social media. We’re always looking for news of your continued adventures!

SUBMIT TO THE DRAGONS JOURNAL Do you have an essay, poem, photo gallery, reunion update, Yak, or anything you’d like to submit for possible publication in The Dragons Journal? We’d love to see your contributions. Email: christina@wheretherebedragons.com

WWW.WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM

31 


741 Pearl Street Boulder, CO 80302

t: 303.413.0822 e: info@wheretherebedragons.com

WATCH

LIKE

LOVE

wtbdragons.com/videos facebook.com/WhereThereBeDragons instagram.com/WhereThereBeDragons

MEANINGFUL JOURNEYS FOR ADULT TRAVELERS 2019 OFFERINGS: Cambodia | Guatemala | Nepal | India | Peru | Senegal

These deeply human encounters lit my journey like unexpected yet welcome campfires on an icy night. As I wallowed in the warmth of genuine smiles, welcoming hosts, and light humor, the cold chasm of “otherness” melted. Thirty-one years after my first visit to Nepal, I still feel like an apprentice to this place and people. My homestay experience anchored a visceral truth: Mountains and cameras don’t do Nepal justice.” MARK BAUHAUS, DRAGONS PARTICIPANT Read more of Mark Bauhaus’ reflection on his trip to Nepal with Dragons, inside, on Pages 14–15.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ADULT PROGRAMS, CONTACT MEGAN@WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM FOLLOW OUR ADULT PROGRAMS ON INSTAGRAM @DRAGONSADULTTRAVEL

The Dragons Journal 2019: Community I Stories I Perspectives  

New