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SPRING 2014 Global citizenship and leadership programs in the developing world since 1993






EDUCATION by Simon Hart

15. LIVING BIG by Merete Mueller






HAVE A FAVORITE PHOTO FROM YOUR DRAGONS COURSE? Select student pictures may be featured in Dragons’ upcoming publications, including our 2014 - 2015 course catalog and new materials for prospective students.


JEN@ WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM 1ST ROW: BRAZIL Thomas Bisinger, INDONESIA Michele Ferrari, BOLIVIA Slade Cogswell  2ND ROW: NEPAL Adam Brobjorg, NEPAL Where There Be Dragons archive, CHINA Sabrina Pearson  3RD ROW: INDONESIA Lauren Harper, BURMA Matt Reichel  COVER: PERU  Aaron Slosberg



a letter from our executive director

Chris Yager

In the mid 1980’s, nearly every working adult living in China subsisted on a State-provided income that translated to $34/month. At that time a particular group of people emerged as a first-wave of China’s economic elite: taxi drivers. I was in a cab, in the fall of 1987, when I pulled into one of the few Western hotels that serviced foreign visitors. There, on the periphery of the hotel’s grounds, stood Tom Brokaw, NBC’s news anchor. Mr. Brokaw stood alone gazing over a pile of rubble. In the mid-80s rubble piles dominated the Chinese urban landscape, and much of the country was falling apart faster than it was being built. I had waited for nearly an hour to catch that cab, because there were very few in a city still dominated by bicycles. Throughout the 1980s, you could stand on Beijing’s busiest streets and see several thousand bicyclists pass in quiet commute before seeing a single car. I had traveled to this hotel to change money. For my American Express traveler’s check, I would receive FEC, or Foreign Exchange Currency. A special currency different than the Renminbi - the “people’s money” that was used by every Chinese citizen, FEC was issued to foreigners only, and could be used at specialty stores that were stocked with imported goods. Consequently there was a large black market in which FEC was traded for Renminbi, at a rate of nearly 2:1. The people who were on the frontline of the currency trade were the city’s cab drivers. Because few – if any – Chinese citizens had the resources to take a cab ride, many of the taxis serviced foreigners, and many of those foreigners paid their fares in FEC. The cab drivers could immediately trade their FEC on the black market, adding significantly to their income. The few bars and restaurants that existed at the time were crammed with cab drivers, spending discretional money that no one else had. As I pulled up next to Mr. Brokaw, I wondered if he knew about this black-market that was among the harbingers of the radical commercial shift that was to come, and that presaged a level of corruption that was to become a large part of the storyline in China’s economic growth. Standing in crisp khakis and a pink shirt, Mr. Brokaw, alone in an otherwise bleak post-apocalyptic-looking landscape, was insulated from life outside the hotel’s compound; China’s state-police would make sure that he wouldn’t engage in any meaningful interactions outside the hotel’s grounds. Mr. Brokaw was in China to report on the country’s emergence from decades of closed Communist rule. With such limited access to people on the street, I wondered how much Mr. Brokaw really knew. Seeing him looking out over a landscape beyond the hotel’s gate, I could see in his gaze a desire to truly know and understand what was beyond the hotel’s periphery. I left Mr. Brokaw in his solitude, but I’ve always wished that we had talked, and that I had been given the opportunity to tell him what I had learned from my time beyond the hotel’s gate. Particularly in a state with so many veils (and walls), it felt to me that the Westerners who were beginning to understand China were those young adults who were the first to study there. It seemed to me then, as it is clear to me now, that if you want to know the reality of a place, you ought to connect with the youth who are able to find their way through the cracks, and whose undeterred moxie and inquisitive minds are actively searching for authentic experiences and for truth. Within Dragons, we work with hundreds of guides who have developed their knowledge of place through experiences among the countries’ youth. And our programs themselves facilitate engagements that bring the realities to the surface, in all their beauty and in all their ugliness. Engaging with place honestly is at times a bruising experience. Distinguishing reality from veiled-perception is essential if we’re to pursue a lasting peace through constructive dialogue and engagement. It’s important to know who’s benefiting in a country’s economy. It’s important to know what’s beyond the gate. —Chris Yager Founder and Executive Director | | 800.982.9203








Anil Daai, who came to speak to us this past Friday about development, commanded the attention of a room full of students like no other. Change, he said, his eyes dancing around the room at each of our individual faces, only comes when you step outside of your comfort zone. You must be willing to make mistakes. Few have ever accomplished anything while thinking inside the box. Anil Daai went on to explain that he prefers to refer to things that may be considered a problem as things he wants to change. To me, this is an incredibly important distinction. When you think of issues in this way, you empower yourself to make a difference. Needless to say, I am looking forward to Part II of Anil Daai’s talk this coming Friday. If asked to summarize the significance of Anil Daai’s talk with us, I am struck by an exchange between him and a peer of mine as we sat on our patio, post discussion, enjoying daal bhat. My fellow student Robert inquired, who is the most powerful person in the world? Without hesitation, Anil Daai responded: you.

Today as we drove back from Mahakala, the cave where Buddha meditated, there was a traffic jam. The kind of traffic jam that happens in movies where the world is about to end and everyone is fleeing NYC or Los Angeles and there is chaos in the streets and there are aliens and there is no hope. Or, what they call in India, traffic. We had 10 people in our jeep, with a tractor on one side, an 18-wheeler on the other, and auto rickshaws in every other direction. During such moments of total stillness, you get to know the surroundings outside your window. There were shops selling fresh samosas, gulab jamun, and other fried foods that came straight from a giant cauldron of boiling oil. Next door, a sweet shop, then an Ayurvedic medicine corner store; in front, a fruit stand, a peanut roaster and a cobbler with his tools displayed on a blanket. Really quite a pleasant scene if you think about it. I have been especially grateful recently because of our teachings with Venerable Sarah, and despite the delay, I tried to keep a Buddhist mentality throughout the traffic jam: Go forth with kindness, wisdom and compassion.

Sandinistas drink Somoza’s Blood from glasses. I suppose a Revolution was in order. Though all the tensions along the border Remain unclear, Reagan still screamed “We’re not coming for your Sandinista dreams.” And while Nicaragua needed money, They knew they weren’t no communist honey, But the US said “We won’t give you none.” So what else could they have done? So the US decided to send in the Contras To ensure it wouldn’t be another communist mantra. So the FSLN had no other choice Since they needed to fight to keep their voice. So they asked the Soviets to give them aid With helicopters the currency with which they were paid. Yet normal funds were still in need For the people’s screams they wished to heed. They decided money printing to initiate, But that only caused things to inflate. As children fought brother on brother, Not knowing which had killed the other. But while it seemed like chaos reigned, Everyone jumped aboard the literacy train. And despite a decade engulfed in fight, Nicaragua has emerged to see the light.



THE MAP’S EDGE,   Spring 2014





by CINDY LIU, Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2014


OW CAN ONE YAK EVEN BEGIN TO SUM UP MY IMPRESSIONS OF PERU, or any of my experiences for that matter? But as I think back on the past month, four images wrought with irony and contrast stand out to me. The first is of a taxi driver who drove a group of us from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, and his pouring a sip of his Fanta on the ground as an offering to the Pachamama before drinking from the bottle. The second is of my home-stay mama in the town of Japu in Nacion Q’eros, who pulled a cellphone out of her pocket the night we were there. When I asked her if there was reception, she shyly shook her head no. The third is of a young university music teacher, who presented to Emma and I an entire table of Incan and Pre-Incan instruments at the Inka Museum in Cusco; among them included panpipes made from condor feathers, flutes made from llama bones, and ceremonial whistles in the shape of a hummingbird. He was initially wearing a ‘North Face’ sports jacket, but halfway through donned an indigenous poncho and wool hat ‘in case we wanted to take photos.’ The final one is of reading in the Machu Picchu museum that the terraces at the ancient Incan city were now covered with a type of African weed, because it appeals more to the ‘Western aesthetic.’ These four images remind me of the complicated dynamic between traditional culture and development. It is interesting to

RESPONSE TO CINDY’S POST by MARTINA HILDRETH Andes & Amazon Semester, Spring 2014


 AM SO GRATEFUL TO CINDY for putting so eloquently something I’ve felt unable to express in words. The contrast and complexity within Peruvian and Bolivian society has been very evident, and at times hard to reconcile with how I think things are, or how I wish they were. It is especially difficult when it appears that travelers like me are partially responsible for creating the confusion, as illustrated by Cindy’s example of the grass at Machu Picchu.

see a taxi driver remain loyal to his ancestors’ beliefs, but it is ironic that he did so with a soda produced by a Western company. It was bittersweet to see my home-stay mama with a cellphone, because I didn’t know how often she had use for it, or how much modern technology had touched the people of Q’eros, who still seemed very attached to their land and traditional lifestyles. It was funny to see the young music teacher drape his poncho over his Western-branded jacket, as if doing so would give us a more authentic experience. It was sad to see a site as mystic as Machu Picchu so touched by tourism, and confusing to realize that tourism is probably also what sustains the preservation and continued excavation of the city. What these impressions have taught me though, is that development is not black or white, nor good or bad. The struggle between preservation and development is real, albeit unconscious, as I’ve seen with my very own eyes. I can still remember Fabian, our local guide in Q’eros, who had been the president of the five local communities, sitting in the grass telling us about his wish to preserve the culture and practices of the indigenous people, but acknowledging that he had moved his family to Cusco so that his children could get a better education. The most important lesson I’ve learned in the past month is to feel as equally with my heart as with my mind, so although much of what I’ve seen still confuses me, I know that at least these impressions will stay with me long into the future.

I believe that I am looking for a culturally “authentic” experience with Dragons, but what does that mean? Does it mean bemoaning and overlooking the facts that Peruvian museum workers wear North Face and express their thanks to the Pachamama with Fanta? No, I don’t think so. The best I can do is to stop imposing my own preconceptions upon their reality, and instead embrace what I see, in all it’s complexity and incomprehensibility, with open eyes and a mind free of judgement. I realize that the places we are visiting are impossible to know and understand in just a few months. I will strive to value the questions I have been given just as much as I would the answers I lack. | | 800.982.9203



“No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful the experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” –the Dali Lama

by PARKER FLAUM Instructor - China: South of the Clouds, Spring 2014 AT 9:20PM ON MARCH 1 ST, EIGHT KNIFEWIELDING ATTACKERS RAN INTO THE KUNMING TRAIN STATION AND FOR TWELVE MINUTES, THE LOBBY OF THE STATION DESCENDED INTO INDISCRIMINATE CHAOS. I was not there, but I can fully imagine the confusion, the turmoil and the screams. If you were one of the unlucky people standing in line to purchase train tickets on Saturday night, you would have heard yells; you would have felt people turning around, standing on tip-toes, craning their necks, running away. You might have seen pools of blood and islands of luggage strewn across the concrete, bodies laying face-down, not moving, not breathing. Twenty-nine people were killed that night and over 140 people were injured. This is what tragedy means: an unexpected event causing great suffering, loss and distress. When great tragedies occur they often make us question our reality or at least our perception of the world and our place within it.

forces. The authorities vowed to crack down on violent terrorist activities in all forms and guarantee the safety of people’s lives and property2.” With independent journalists silenced, the Xinhua has been able to shape the public narrative around the Kunming tragedy. Commentary published by Xinhua editors has become increasingly divisive, framing the attackers as “anti-China parasites” or “Uighur separatists attempting to fulfill secessionist plots3” through an event that can only be considered “a typical terrorist attack,” “a severe crime against the humanity,” or by one Xinhua editor, “China’s ‘9-114’.” I fear that Xinhua commentary may re-frame the public perception of Uighur minority groups in Kunming even before the Chinese Community Party has collected substantive facts. It’s been over two weeks, and no group has taken credit for the attack. No pictures of the attackers have been released. No evidence has been released that the attackers were even Uighurs. If the Chinese government continues to censor public dialogue and present a narrative that vilifies Uighur minority groups as terrorists from IT’S DIFFICULT TO TELL WHAT ACTUALLY Xinjiang, I fear that the legacy of the Kunming tragedy will augHAPPENED IN THE KUNMING TRAIN STATION THAT ment the sectarian divide between China’s Han majority and the NIGHT. I have Internet access at the Dragons’ program ethnic minority groups in China’s Northwest Provinces. house in Kunming and I have local friends. We can postulate about the motives behind the attack and share speculations THERE ARE MANY IN CHINA THAT WILL CRY OUT about what it means for the future, but for the large part, the LOUDLY THAT UIGHURS ARE DANGEROUS, THAT Communist Party has stymied all public dialogue about the CHINA NEEDS MORE POLICE, MORE ARRESTS Kunming tragedy. The Xinhua, the official news organ of the AND MORE ENFORCED STABILITY. They will decry the Communist Party, released two basic statements immediately lack of security in Xinjiang. They will insist that the Uighurs following the tragedy in Kunming on March 2nd. The first was have benefitted greatly from the Chinese Community Party’s sent to Chinese journalists, stating, “Regarding the stabbing increased economic investment in the Northwest Provinces and incident in Kunming on March 1: When covering this, follow show no gratitude by lodging continuous complaints about a the Xinhua story strictly and [reporting] should be based on the lack of religious and political freedom. information released by the local authority. No big headlines, The Uighurs might denounce the influx of Han migrants to 1 No pictures .” And the second was directed to Chinese public, a region in which the Uighurs are quickly become a minority. “Evidence at the crime scene showed that the Kunming Railway They might yell out that the Han have better access to Station terrorist attack was orchestrated by Xinjiang separatist resources, better political connections, and more educational


THE MAP’S EDGE,   Spring 2014

photo ELODIE FREYMANN, China Comprehensive 2012

opportunities. They might decry the fact that Muslim students are banned from fasting during Ramadan, or that Uighur language instruction is limited in public schools. Whatever their perspectives, these two narratives are quickly diverging. There is little contact between the Han and the minorities in the far reaches of China. There is often no conversation between them. I WANT TO ADVOCATE FOR DIALOGUE. I don’t know who the train station attackers were, where they came from, their past, or what their reasons were for committing this unthinkable, unacceptable and horrible atrocity. We will probably never know the true story, but we can start by sharing our perspectives. In America, we host talks, we write editorials, we call our Congressional Representatives, we

form support groups to help victims of crimes and disasters. The Chinese government should open up a public space for empathy. There is little contact between Han and minorities, and without a forum to share perspectives, it is unlikely that the two sides will ever understand the others’ grievances. Now it seems likely that some Uighur people are going out to maim and kill. Clearly, they feel there is no forum for them to speak, no recourse but to kill. That is not right. We must listen. There is a saying in Tibetan, “Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength;” the Dali Lama says that, “no matter what sort of difficulties, how painful the experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” My hope is that China can begin a new era. An era where people can talk freely, community-to-community, person-to-person, and begin to practice universal love, no matter what part of China you’re from.

  Beech, Hannah. “China Reacts to Terrorism ‘Double-Standard’ After Kunming Mass Stabbing.”, 3/3/2014. Online: http://time.


com/11432/china-kunming-terror-attack-uighurs/   Yi, Yang. “Kunming terrorist attack orchestrated by Xinjiang separatists.” March 2, 2014. Online:


china/2014-03/02/c_133152815.htm   Qing, Shen. “Commentary: High time for West to see the real evil face of “East Turkistan” separatists.” March 5, 2014. Online:

3   Tao, Gui. “Nothing justifies slaughter in China’s 9-11”. March 2, 2014. Online:


depth/2014-03/02/c_133153400.htm | | 800.982.9203


VIVIR BIEN: Is B o l i vi a ’ s g o v e r n m e n t c e le b ra ti ng or e xp l oi ti ng And e a n B e l i ef syst ems?


by  JULIANNE CHANDLER Andes & Amazon Program Director T WAS NIGHTTIME IN THE PERUVIAN ANDESand we had just finished a simple dinner of potatoes and broth. The only light in the small stone hut emanated from a fire in the corner, and the last flames danced wistfully before leaving only the embers glowing in the darkness. Outside we could make out the arch of the great mountains against the night sky and the glow of the first stars painting their way across the darkness; stars that I knew would soon glow in a profusion

that most of my students had never before witnessed. Directing his ‘kintu’ of three leaves towards the ‘apus’, or mountain gods, my host father blew across the leaves then asked permission in Quechua from the earth mother to partake in this ritual. As we huddled together on llama skins in the warmth of the hut, the couple then commenced their nightly conversation with the

‘apus’, the great protector gods of the valley. Their gentle words floated into the night sky like smoke, and I almost sensed the delicate ears of the earth as they sunk in. BOLIVIA IS MY HOMEand I am moved and inspired by this vibrant country every single day. It was only a few decades ago that indigenous people, who make up over 60% of the population, were not permitted to walk on sidewalks or pass through public plazas. Today, indigenous people hold important seats in government, children are learning native languages in schools, and the nation’s development agenda is shaped by centuries-old Andean belief systems, such as ayni. The daily ritual that I shared with a family in the Nación Q’eros region of Peru, a people that trace their lineage


munity and its resources to thrive. lations, through the full complementarity Evo Morales is the first indigenous of the rights of peoples, persons, states president of Bolivia and he values the and Mother Earth.” And in practice, concept of ayni. Morales’ first presidenhe ordered the building of a road that tial campaign hinged on a platform that cut right through the heart of Bolivia’s prioritized the rights and representation largest National Park and indigenous terof traditional Andean cultures over a ritory. Abroad, he is a hero—even awarddevelopment regime driven by foreign ed “World Hero of Mother Earth” by the corporations. And upon election, Morales General Assembly of the United Nations instated a national development initiain 2009. And yet at home, indigenous tive known as Vivir Bien. Understood in peoples have organized brazen demoncontrast to concepts of “living better,” the strations against Morales and a national Vivir Bien model is based on the concept agenda does not protect or prioritize of ayni, and is meant to limit overconMother Earth. sumption and exploitation by prioritizing President Morales is set to run for equality, community systems of produchis third term at the end of this year. In light of the upcoming elections, I’d like In its essence, ayni is the spirit and philosophy to take a moment to share my perception of Morales’ political legacy thus far, and how humans may live on this earth in harmony what his likely re-election will mean for with all that surrounds us Bolivia’s reality in the future.

directly back to the Inca, is one example of ayni, or reciprocity. In its essence, ayni is the spirit and philosophy of how humans may live on this earth in harmony with all that surrounds us – on a personal, communal, natural, and celestial level. In practice, ayni is the exchange of resources, labor, and spiritual rites that maintain balance in the universe and allow a com-


THE MAP’S EDGE,   Spring 2014

tion and respect for Mother Earth. Thus far, the concept of Vivir Bien has served President Morales well, however I’ve observed a strong disconnect between how this model is expressed in theory and how it has been expressed in practice. In theory, Morales proclaims, “Vivir Bien is based on the full realization of human happiness of peoples and popu-

FROM A PEASANT BACKGROUND IN ORURO,Morales began his political career as a representative of the Coca Grower’s Association in the Chapare region of Bolivia, and fought fervently against US-sponsored efforts to criminalize and eradicate coca throughout the 1990s as part of the War on Drugs. In 2005, Evo was elected presi-

dent in a landslide victory and immediresources for their own benefit.” A few from over – for now the road project has ately convened a Constitutional Assembly years later, in June of 2011, the Morales been put on hold – Morales is set to run to draft a new Bolivian Constitution, administration inaugurated construction for his third term at the end of this year. giving increased rights and representaon a road project that would cut through There is little doubt that he will win, tion to indigenous populations, enacting the heart of the Isiboro-Sécure National although perhaps with less of a landslide land reforms, and prioritizing state and Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) than his previous election. Recently, as national industries over foreign corpoin the Bolivian Amazon. In the process the campaign takes on more vitality, I rations. Upon assuming the Presidency, the government blatantly bypassed the have noticed a somewhat disturbing postEvo re-negotiated contracts with the new Bolivian Constitution by failing to er hanging on the walls of government oil and natural gas industries, allowing consult the communities that would be offices, on buses, and in the streets. The profits to stay in-country for the benefit affected by the highway. Financed by image depicts a profile of Evo Morales of the Bolivian people. the Brazilian Government and part of a alongside the late 18th century indigeWhile Evo’s economic reforms have larger trans-continental highway project, nous leader Tupac Katari, a man who has not been popular with all sectors of the road promised economic developbecome the primary symbol of the MAS society, Bolivia has reaped the benefits of increased GDP and successful cash “I am convinced that the indigenous people are transfer programs. Since 2005, extreme the moral reserve of humanity. Among them there poverty in Bolivia has dropped considerably. The country has recorded a steady does not exist the mentality of being selfish or international growth rate. And Bolivia individualistic nor an attitude of trying to take over currently has the highest ratio in the and control resources for their own benefit.” world of international reserves compared to the size of its economy. By many measures of success, Morales has knocked the ment and national integration for the 64 movement. The caption reads “Tupac: ball out of the park. indigenous communities living within Insurrection, Evo: Revolution,” the Morales is lauded for his success on the park. According to an environmenimplication being that Evo is fulfilling the international stage as well. He took a tal-impact study, it also promised to leave Katari’s failed attempt to overthrow the strong stand on climate change by rejectup to 64% of one of the world’s most Spanish colonial power over 200 years ing the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, and bio-diverse rainforests deforested within ago. As coopted emblems from the past a year later Bolivia passed the world’s first a 20-year period. continue to proliferate, the government’s “Law of the Rights of Mother Earth,” in A few weeks later, over 1,000 indigpromise of a sustainable and representheory granting nature equal rights to huenous demonstrators initiated a 65-day, tative future based on the deeply-rooted mans. In a country poised to be one of the 500 km march from Trinidad in the tenets of ayni prove increasingly shallow. most vulnerable to the impacts of climate Bolivian Amazon to the highland city of The successes of the current governchange, the government has challenged La Paz in protest of the highway project. ment cannot be undervalued, but the wealthy nations to take responsibility for Several weeks into the march the demcountry continues to be dangerously their increased role in carbon emissions by onstrators encountered brutal violence as dependent upon non-renewable natural paying a “climate debt” to poorer nations. hundreds of Bolivian police tear-gassed, resource extraction to sustain its econWhile this discourse has elevated Morales’ fired upon with rubber bullets, and beat omy. As I observe the ebb and flow of image internationally, the story on the the peaceful protestors. It seemed that change, my mind floats back to my host ground remains glaringly different. Morales’ unyielding support for indigefamily in the remote Nación Q’eros reIn a famous speech delivered at the nous populations and the environment gion of Peru that opens this story. In my pre-Incan site of Tiwanaku in 2007, Evo only went so far. mind, there is no doubt that we have imMorales declared, “I am convinced that portant lessons to learn from the wisdom the indigenous people are the moral IN RECENT YEARSthe MAS governof traditional cultures around the world. reserve of humanity. Among them there ment’s utilitarian understanding of Vivir May that conversation – between cultures, does not exist the mentality of being Bien has only escalated, placing Evo across social sectors, with ourselves, and, selfish or individualistic nor an attiMorales at the center of intense criticism perhaps most importantly, with the earth tude of trying to take over and control at home. While the TIPNIS conflict is far that sustains us – continue. | | 800.982.9203


The Greatest Risk Of All by TIM HARE, Director of Risk Management

photo HILLARY SITES, Staffing Director & Southeast Asia Program Director

Tim Hare is Dragons’ Director of Risk Management. Tim has worked in experiential education since his days as an Outward Bound instructor in 2001. An avid climber and alpinist, Tim has climbed and guided some of the most rugged peaks in the Americas. After 4 years in Bolivia as Dragons’ Latin America Program Director, we’ve been lucky enough to welcome Tim back to Boulder to oversee Dragons’ comprehensive risk management systems. As we look ahead to our largest season of summer programming ever, we asked Tim to share his perspective on the word risk: how to plan for it, how to manage it, and how to optimize its educational value. I met Dragons at a propitious time. I was in Charazani, the cultural center of the Kallawaya healers of the Apolobamba Mountains in northern Bolivia. I was 24 and I had been working as a mountain guide in Patagonia for the southern summer before traveling to Bolivia to buy 3 donkeys and trek across the altiplano (high plateau). At the end of the trek, I sold my donkeys, bid adios to my friend, and made a solo journey to the Apolobamba, where I

10 THE MAP’S EDGE,   Spring 2014

planned to traverse the range and eventually descend into Madidi National Park in the Amazon. I had a machete, 2 weeks of food, and a journal. As I began my trek from Charazani, I saw another gringo in the plaza and struck up a conversation. His name was Lyle, and he was in town to meet with community leaders on behalf of an oddly named company, Where There Be Dragons. His main task in Charazani was to set up a home-stay for a group of students due to arrive in 4 months. I was

impressed. Here I was, an increasingly seasoned traveler on the greatest adventure of my life, and there was another gringo planning to bring a group of students to this isolated valley to live with local families? We chatted for a while and exchanged contacts. I headed into the high peaks, and vowed to look into these Dragons when I was back in the city. I say this was a most propitious time because I was on a trek that placed me far outside of my comfort zone when I met Lyle, and subsequently discovered

Dragons. One of Dragons’ central goals is to move students from their ‘comfort zone’ into their ‘learning zone’, as such a shift is often cause for the greatest personal growth and discovery. As a 24-year old adventurer, striking out on an unknown trail, I too was growing and discovering more about the world and my place within it. I’ve worked as a professional guide and program director at Where There Be Dragons for nine years now. One of the things that keeps me around is my belief that my vocation is closely aligned with my personal values. In this case, that means designing summer and semester

What are we advocating for? We advocate for exploration and curiosity towards the unknown. We advocate for a healthy amount of unsettling in our lives; a wanderlust in our hearts; a steady agitation that motivates us to shake up the status quo on a regular basis – both individually and collectively. As soon as one veers from the path of the known and towards an unknown realm, they enter an ambiguous space that creates emotional, physical, and even spiritual risk. From my perspective, heading down this path is essential to living a full and interesting life. Students that join our programs tend to agree. We are not just talking about traveling to far-flung

‘What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn’t come every day.’ – George Bernard Shaw programs that offer students the opportunity to take calculated risks to foster personal growth. Risk is often considered a four-letter word. Most conversations involving it are about mitigating or managing it, often about eliminating it. In my new role as Director of Risk Management at Dragons, it is at the forefront of the work I engage every day. Understanding and managing risk is the foundational pillar of all of our programming, with the end goal of creating the safest possible experiences for our students. Let’s look at risk from another angle, though, and turn towards positive language, rather than negative – just as an activist can either choose to fight either for or against, and a complaint can easily be re-stated as a request. Inasmuch as we are managing risks, we are also advocating for taking them. Indeed, we actually find it impossible to untangle our efforts to create transformational learning experiences from the inherent risks involved.

book review ‘Stumbling on Happiness ’ by  DANIEL GILBERT (2007) reviewed by  AARON SLOSBERG

Did this course meet your expectations? Please explain... At the end of every Dragons course, students fill out an evaluation. After reading hundreds of pages of feedback over the years, I’ve noticed a common pattern: many students’ expectations were not “met.” Far from being disgruntled, the vast majority of these students gave their courses the highest marks, but could not report that the expectations formed at home were the ones fulfilled by Dragons. Instead, the common response is more philosophical and prescriptive... typically, What I actually experienced could never have been expected, so just show up with an open mind and leave expectations at home.” In Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert makes a convincing case that how we manage our expectations can be even more important than the experience itself; in fact, our happiness may depend on it.

locales, however. Even greater risks may be found by veering from a value system that we’ve outgrown, or discarding a way of life that doesn’t suit us anymore. I advocate for embracing life’s sharp Gilbert argues that with the evoluedges, rough surfaces and meandering tion of the pre-frontal cortex the hupaths that are increasingly turning soft, man brain gained the unique power of smooth and straight, respectively. I do prospection: the act of looking forward not advocate being reckless or taking in time or considering the future. Our risks with excessive or unpredictable brains are future simulators, constantly consequences. I advocate being smart making predictions about not just what and well prepared before heading out, will happen, but how we’ll feel in our knowing where hazards lie, and then fabricated futures. As Gilbert illustrates stepping courageously into an unknown through dozens of fascinating studies realm to better understand ourselves, and stories, our misguided expectation others, and the world in which we live. for accuracy and control over our proAt Dragons, this is what we call positive jected futures is the source of much risk taking, or leaning into risk. With avoidable discontent. Stumbling on our students we describe it as stepping Happiness is a fascinating scientific outside of your “comfort zone” and into affirmation of that common Dragons’ your “learning zone”. It is likely the only epiphany: show up with in an open way to know and explore our full and mind and leave expectations at home. authentic potential in this life. Check out Gilbert’s TED talk on the Then, there is also the greatest risk “Surprising Science of Happiness.” of all, and that is to live without taking risks. | | 800.982.9203


Global Citizenship Education C a t ch p h r a s e o r p a r ad i gm s h i f t?

by SIMON HART, Director of Custom and Professional Programming


T DRAGONS WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT THE GROWING TREND IN GLOBAL EDUCATION. In a world fractured by cultural misunderstanding, the global citizenship education movement has the potential to cultivate a generation of empathetic, self-aware students that seek connection and understanding rather than isolation from that which is foreign. But widespread popularity and growth is not always good for a movement; like “sustainability”, people struggle to define what it means when it comes in so many different forms. As the Director of Custom and Professional Programming at Dragons, I’m in the unique position of working both for an

–Dragons’ Training in Global Citizenship Education participants stand next to a memorial for community members killed by U.S. backed contra soldiers in Lagartillo, Nicaragua.

–The Rocky Mountain Seminar focuses on Best Practices in Global Citizenship Education, bringing together educators and administrators involved in the design and implementation of effective global programming. Participant titles include, directors of diversity and community outreach, civic engagement, service learning coordinators, and directors of experiential learning.

12 THE MAP’S EDGE,   Spring 2014

experiential education company in which cultivating global citizenship, self-awareness and leadership define the core tenants of what we do, and with high schools and universities that follow a more traditional model of classroom education. The schools we partner with—Princeton University’s BridgeYear Program, Norfolk Academy, The Hawken School, and Castilleja School—to name a few, have taken important and bold steps to integrate global citizenship education (GCE) into their student experience. All of them have done the important work of defining what GCE is to their community, and have made a strong commitment to pursue these outcomes. However, the critical conversation around how we get students to a place of humility, gratitude, and interconnection requires further clarity and emphasis. Jenny Anderson of The New York Times asks the rhetorical question of Avenues: The World School, in lower Manhattan in a May 2003 article: “How do you build humility at a school that costs $43,000 a year? Where students are tended to by a 10-person success team and are expected to find a passion — any passion — around which expertise, confidence and college admission may come?” For any school working through this paradox, the answer should be sought in examining what types of “spaces,” both literally and metaphorically their students are offered. Are they being supported through an intentional progression of challenges? Are they offered opportunities to be physically and intellectually uncomfortable?


LOBAL CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION IS THE PROCESS THAT ALLOWS THE INDIVIDUAL TO REDEFINE THEMSELVES IN EVER EXPANDING CONTEXTS OF “OTHERNESS,” such as unfamiliar cultural, national, physical and ideological constructs. In my mind, effective global citizenship education programs remove students from the points of reference that they have used to define themselves since birth, and intentionally challenge them through exposure to foreign realities. Such close encounters with “the other,” if carefully crafted, allow students to consider ways of life other than their own, and in turn, help to cultivate a greater sense of humility, empathy, self-awareness, and interconnectedness. But these outcomes are difficult to “teach to,” in the conventional sense of the word. Rather, they must be understood by students through the development of meaningful relationships across barriers of difference. In short, the values of a global citizen must be sincerely lived to be understood.

upcoming courses ROCKY MOUNTAIN SEMINAR:


“Going abroad, or getting students into the woods is a good start, but teachers need adequate preparation to facilitate the experience in a safe and intentional way towards empathy and self-awareness.” –Sara Mierke Director of Experiential and Service Learning Hawken School

Course Dates: 11/6/15 – 11/9/15 Location: Boulder, CO A four-day seminar for educators in the majestic Rocky Mountains of Colorado, focusing on best practices in international global education. Course topics include best practices in risk management, global citizenship education, cross-cultural facilitation, and course design. NICARAGUA EDUCATOR:



LOBAL CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION REPRESENTS A PARADIGM SHIFT, NOT BECAUSE OF WHAT WE ARE TEACHING TO, BUT BECAUSE OF HOW WE MUST WORK WITH STUDENTS TO GET THERE. This relates to both the opportunities student have to authentically engage with real world problems, i.e. the “spaces” that a school offers for learning, as well as how the experience is framed and facilitated by teachers. Hawken School, in Gates Mills, OH, receives widespread acclaim for restructuring their yearly schedule to include 3-week intensives at the end of each semester. These short courses require teachers to offer opportunities for students to engage learning through direct participation and experience. They may collaborate with Burmese refugees on urban farming initiatives, embark on extended wilderness literature programs, or immerse students in the daily life of a rural community in Nicaragua as a part of their regular academic calendar. But as Sara Mierke, the Director of Experiential and Service Learning at the Hawken School acknowledges, “going abroad, or getting students into the woods is a good start, but teachers need adequate preparation to facilitate the experience in a safe and intentional way towards empathy and self-awareness.” For GCE to be effective, teachers need critical professional development in managing students’ physical and emotional safety and offering a depth of engagement that allows students to freely pursue an authentic version of self in relation to the world around them. At Dragons, we’ve been working on this for over twenty years, pouring over student feedback, analyzing courses design, and learning from masters of the trade. Over time, we have come up with our own language and training curriculum to prepare educators to guide students to a safe and deep engagement with “otherness”. We refer to this process as the establishment and

Course Dates: 8/2/14 – 8/11/14 Location: El Lagartillo, Nicaragua A professional guide-training in safe, innovative approaches to traveling with students and fostering global citizenship, awareness of self, and leadership in multicultural exchanges. This course introduces field-educators to best practices in student travel risk-mitigation and emergency response, access to the countries most significant teaching-moments, and methods of realizing optimal student engagement. JORDAN EDUCATOR:


Course Dates: 3/7/15 – 3/15/15 Location: Wadi Rum, Jordan The Jordan Educator Course is designed to provide professional educators with the tools to teach high school students about the multiple narratives that define the modern day Middle East. Course themes include a study of a) the history of land rights and resource management in the Jordan River Basin, b) inter-ethnic conflict and cultural identity, c) gender issues, d) peace-building strategies e) cultural survival and modernity in Jordan. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT OUR WEBSITE: HTTP://WHERETHEREBEDRAGONS.COM/ PROGRAMS/EDUCATOR-COURSES/ OR CONTACT SIMON HART:


maintenance of the “container”. We contribute to the global citizenship education movement by sharing these tools with educators of diverse backgrounds through our Professional Educator Programming. The conversation is ever evolving, and we’re excited for the journey to come. | | 800.982.9203


living BIG


MERETE MUELLER, Himalayan Studies 2001

e “

co-producer of TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL interview by CATE BROWN

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life,

and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

very Dragons student has one thing in common:

– Henry David Thoreau

Although I don’t suspect Dragons alumni Merete Muel-

they’ve left home. Be it for 4 weeks, 6 weeks or

ler suffered from extreme homesickness as a student on the

3 months, participating in a Dragons course re-

Himalayan Studies semester in 2001, Merete has gone on to

quires that you strip down to the essentials, pack

co-produce the award-winning documentary TINY – A Story

everything into one backpack, and hop on a plane. I believe that leaving home can be one of the most power-

ful ways to reflect on what actually defines home for you. Isn’t that perhaps the root of homesickness? Discovering the parts

about Living Small, exploring the essential questions related to home, how we define it, and how it contributes to our quality of life in America. The film TINY premiered in Boulder, CO on February

of home that contribute to your daily happiness; the parts of

16th, and I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Merete

home that you can’t live without?

after her debut.

14 THE MAP’S EDGE,   Spring 2014

Q. Merete, what first inspired you to build a

‘tiny home’? The project started in 2011 when my partner Christopher Smith decided that he wanted to build a home. The added challenge of building a tiny home fit with our lifestyle; it would be environmentally sustainable and more economical. Christopher envisioned building the cabin in Boulder and then moving it up to the mountains. It was a romantic vision, really. Owning a cabin in the mountains, living debt-free, being able to pick up and move should the whimsy strike.

Q. What did you discover while building your new home? Well, 2.5 months wasn’t exactly a realistic



Q. What are some of the most innovative feats

of engineering that you observed during your research? We saw everything—just use your imagination: a later, we’re still intimately involved with both the ‘tiny homes’ floating teepee, a solar-powered yurt, a home built out of recommunity and TINY-the film. purposed pine beetle kill, lots of repurposed trailers. Inside, many Christopher and I took several trips across the country of the homes used composting toilets, portable solar-generating when we were first researching the tiny homes movement in systems, pop-up tables, kitchen utensils as art displays, really America, and the most interesting thing we discovered was that innovative stuff. If you ever want to learn more about how to use most people who opt to live ‘tiny’ do so for financial reasons. space at home efficiently, start browsing tiny home blogs. I had expected people to make the switch for environmental reasons; you know, to reduce their carbon footprint, live off Do tiny homes tell a bigger story about the the grid, limit consumption... Instead, we met couples that American Dream? I think the tiny homes movement wanted to get out of debt. Many of them had lost their homes reflects a shift in the American Dream. People no longer dream during the housing crisis in 2008. Others felt overburdened of settling down in the suburbs with 5 kids and a Subaru. by debt and wanted a quick escape from lifelong mortgage People are more and more motivated by connection—to people, payments. An added sense of environmentalism came second. to their passions, to the freedom to pick up and move. The Interestingly enough, every couple we met unequivocally internet has allowed us to maintain close connections across agreed that downsizing their home had increased their quality space and time, and I think that both the economic benefits of timeline… It took us a year to finish construction, and 3 years


of life.

living ‘tiny,’ as well as the ability to put your home on wheels

Q. In your opinion, what about living ‘tiny’

and join a new community are very desirable.

correlates to a perceived increase in ‘quality of life’? I think it’s easy to equate ‘stuff’ to feeling at home. You

Q. If you could put your home down anywhere,

where would you put it? I am from Maine, so the ocean is accumulate belongings and start to identify home by the familiar in my blood. If I could put my home anywhere, I would put it on line-up of objects on your windowsill. When you convert to a a cliff overlooking the ocean somewhere along the East Coast. 1000ft2 home, your definition of home hinges on relationships

and life experience. Many of the couples we met cited spending more time in their communities since the switch. They also

Q. Any final thoughts? One of the other big takeaways from the film was that we never wanted to say, “everyone

described an increased sense of freedom, as they could spend

should live in a tiny home.” Instead, I believe that tiny homes

more money on their passions rather than on their monthly

are an extreme case study that can help us examine the

payments. In many ways, the idea of ‘stripping down to the essential’ is linked back to my experience with Dragons. When I first left for Nepal in September 2001, I had to fit my entire life into one backpack. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, and as a result, I found that my experiences were more genuine and more direct.

essential questions, like ‘what contributes to a high quality of life?’ and ‘what defines our sense of home?’ These lessons can be applied to any square footage. As part of their documentary TINY: A Story About Living Small, filmmakers Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller built a Tiny House from scratch with no building experience. | | 800.982.9203




Biking West to East:

BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN WASTE AND WANT JORDAN PERKINS, Visions of India, Spring 2008 GUS PERKINS, Andes & Amazon, Fall 2013 Jordan’s voice sounded slightly faint. Not from the connection on my cell phone, but perhaps from his full-body fatigue. He had called from a playground behind an elementary school in California’s Central Valley, finally out of the saddle after day two of his 90-day bike trip across the country. “Have you had dinner yet, Jordan?” “Yea, we found a Trader Joe’s yesterday and stocked up on food. Both Gus and I ate 20 pieces of sushi on the spot, and then we loaded our panniers up with almond butter, peanut butter, Larabars, meat sticks…we’re still trying to find a good balance between meeting our caloric requirements and meeting our nutritional requirements. And of course, we’re both unemployed, so economy counts too…” Jordan and Gus Perkins are brothers. They’re food enthusiasts, and they’re currently riding bikes across America to raise money for a Cambridge, MA-based non-profit Food for Free (FFF). FFF collects fresh produce from local farms, either gleaning the excess or collecting donations, and distributes it to 80+ food programs in Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Medford, Peabody, and Somerville. In 2012, FFF donated

over 998,000lbs of food and fed over 25,000 people. “I studied food and sustainable agriculture at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont, and I spent my summers working at Lindentree Farm in Lincoln, Massachusetts. School gave me an academic understanding of the issues related to food access in America; working at Lindentree Farm connected my heart to the cause.” Lindentree Farm is one of the oldest community-supported agriculture enterprises (CSA) in America, and along with supporting 220 local CSA accounts, the farm donates ¼ of its produce to Food for Free. “I respect Food for Free because they address the sustainability of our regional food network from two angles. First, they reduce excess food waste by mobilizing volunteers to collect excess produce from local farms, local grocers and wholesale produce distributors.” “And then; Food for Free redistributes excess food that is fresh, local and nutrient dense. Securing nutrient dense food is often a challenge for food shelves, and I think that providing lower income families with healthy options is incredi-

16 THE MAP’S EDGE,   Spring 2014

bly important.” According to the National Resource Defense Council, over 40% of the food in America goes to waste each year, amounting to more than 20lbs of food/person per month. That translates to $165 billion/year, 25% of our freshwater resources, or a 16% increase of methane production in our landfills. If we are serious about reducing global greenhouse emissions, preserving freshwater resources and reducing our national budget deficient, addressing food waste and re-distributing food to some of the 16.5% of Americans that lack access to secure food networks, is a great place to start. “Eventually Gus and I will make it back to our home Lincoln, MA, and before we do so, our goal is to raise $5,000. We’ve raised $700 in two days, so we’re not doing

too bad.” If you’d like to follow Gus and Jordan’s route across America, you can find their trip notes on http://evenbikersgettheblues.tumblr. com/. To donate to their cause, please find their fundraising page at http://www. across-the-country-to-support-food-for-free/145345 . Jordan and Gus will be biking for 2.5 more months. Be sure to tune in for their adventure as they head south and bike through Zion National Park, past The Grand Canyon, into New Mexico, across Texas, and due east through the Louisiana Bayou. And if you have friends who would like to save their leftovers and serve up an extra plate of food, I’m sure they’d appreciate it! –CATE BROWN



Sometimes Life Just Adds Up CHRIS TEMPLE, Andes & Amazon, Fall 2013 Chris Temple did not start his gap year expecting to be moved by ‘global poverty’ and eventually inspired to found an independent film studio, Living On One.

APRIL 2013 Sonoma International Film Festival Living on One wins Best Documentary at the Sonoma International Film Festival


JANUARY 2008 Microfinance Intern at Grameen America Dedicated to helping women who live in poverty build small businesses to create better lives for their families.

SEPTEMBER 2008 Freshman at Claremont Mckenna Meets Zach Ingrasci, his partner in crime.

OCTOBER 2008 Founds MFI Connect An online resource for student microfinance organizations to learn, collaborate, and take action to help the poor.

JUNE 2012 The 1978 Tour Bus Chris & Zach spend 4 months traveling around the States to share the film. GOOD TRIP? It was awesome! We traveled for 4.5 months and we didn’t stay in a hotel once. We gutted the tour bus, built two beds, installed desks and drove it around. Friends could track our journey on Facebook, and our supporters donated

AUGUST 2010 Youtube short gets 700,000 views Shocked and inspired, Chris and Zach decide to complete a feature-length film, Living on One Dollar.

JULY 2010 Living on One Spends 1 month in a rural Guatemalan village living on $1/day with Zach Ingrasci

gas money, driveways, and plates-on-plates of hot food along the way. My favorite moment occurred in Seattle. We’d booked a slot at a local theater. and when we pulled in, there were 650 people waiting to greet us, along with Charlie Rose, the anchor from CBS. That moment taught me that “if you tell a story in the right way, you can mobilize our generation to have a positive impact and engage with big issues.”

SEPTEMBER 2013 Change Series Living on One partners launch an 8-part video series for high school students examining major global issues, including water scarcity, nutrition, and disaster relief JANUARY 2014 Salam Neighbor Living on One’s next documentary on the Syrian refugee crisis

MARCH 2014 Chris & Zach move into a production studio in LA and start working for Living on One full-time! Look for the debut of Salam Neighbor in August 2014.


a non-profit production and impact studio that uses immersive storytelling to create films that inspire action around pressing global issues. For more information, look up Contact: Donate: | | 800.982.9203




MARCH 22ND WAS WORLD WATER DAY, AND WE’D LIKE TO SHARE A FEW FACTS: For those of us who are fortunate enough to have access to abundance freshwater resources, there are many ways that we take water for granted every day. Over

768,000,000 people in the world do not have this luxury.

7,000,000,000 2,800,000,000 people live on earth today.


of people who lack safe drinking water live on less than $2 a day; 33% live on less than $1 a day.

live in areas of high water stress. That’s 1 in 9 people on earth.

Women spend

200,000,000 By 2030 we will need


hours/day collecting water.





seconds a child dies from a water-related illness.


of our freshwater resources support agriculture.

of global wastewater is treated.

1 lb of chocolate requires


gallons of water.

1 gallon of coffee requires


gallons of water.


of our global disease burden could by solved by improved water sanitation systems. 1 lb burgers require


gallons of water.


more water, 40% more energy, and 50% more food to support our population.


5-minute shower equals the daily water supply for 1 person in the developing world.


DIY SOLAR WATER PUMP SYSTEM - The only solar-powered water pump that

requires no maintenance. RAINCHUTES,


PARACHUTES - One parachute can harvest 25,000 liters of water/year. This is enough

to provide water for 14 people/day if coupled with basic water storage systems.

18 THE MAP’S EDGE,   Spring 2014

You can live


days without water.




IN NEPAL – Sattya Media Arts Collective IN THAILAND – International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice (IWP) IN SENEGAL – Tostan: Dignity for All IN RWANDA – Gardens for Health International IN JORDAN – Friends of the Earth Middle East



THE SQUARE – on the 2011 uprisings in Tahrir Square GOD LOVES UGANDA – a look at evangelical churches and gay rights in Uganda GASLAND II – Josh Fox’s revolutionary call to action on fracking in America MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS – behind the scenes with the band The National BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD – on the world’s greatest chess player, Bobby Fischer


Course: Bolivia: Culture and Ecology, 4-week Summer, 2013 Hometown: Anchorage, AK My next big project is to improve educational opportunities for the indigenous people of Alaska.


Course: Himalayan Studies Semester - Fall, 2013 Hometown: Nashville, TN The wildest thing I’ve ever done is race the sun up to Machu Picchu.


Course: The Silk Road: Linking People & Traditions Summer, 2013 Life Along the Mekong Semester - Fall, 2013 Hometown: Lagrangeville, NY The happiest I have ever been was watching a sunrise on the outskirts of a Buddhist Monastery over the Shaxi Valley.


Become an alumni ambassador. For more information, please contact Admissions Director Eva Vanek, eva@, or fill out an online application at: apply-alumni-ambassador/


SUBMISSIONS DUE BY MAY 18 Please submit digital photographs to: Top three photographers will receive Dragons’ customdesigned Patagonia swag. Top photo submissions may be re-printed in Dragons future online/print materials. photo NAYA HERMAN | | 800.982.9203


Where There Be Dragons 3200 Carbon Place #102 Boulder, CO 80301





Exploring peace studies, comparative religion, sustainable development, and best practices in international service

Exploring Jordanian culture through Arabic language study, service learning, home-stays, and a comprehensive development studies curriculum

Exploring cultural and biological diversity through service learning, home-stays, language study, and community development

Studies in Development and Peace Course dates: June 29 – July 28 12 students : 3 instructors Ages 17–20

Arabic Language and Culture Course dates: July 1 – July 29 12 students : 3 instructors Ages 17–20

The Island of Biodiversity Course dates: June 28 – August 8 12 students : 3 instructors Ages 15–17


The Map's Edge - Spring 2014  
The Map's Edge - Spring 2014