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Best Notes From The Field
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These pieces of travel writing are reflections by students and instructors traveling all over the world. They exemplify the open-minded spirit of exploration and self-discovery on a Dragons course.

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    [post_content] => Dear Friends and Family,

We are writing this from the airport in Leh, Ladakh where we're waiting for our flight to Delhi. Patience is perhaps one of the most important traits a traveler can possess. Flights and trains get delayed, and especially in India things rarely happen on our schedule. In our busy lives at home, waiting is an undesirable state-the cause of much anger and frustration. If we must wait for something, you can bet we will be glued to our phones. But there are no phones here, no computers, no headphones. The students are curled up in a corner of the waiting room, heads on shoulders or in each other's laps. They're laughing and joking, drinking cups of masala chai and eating samosas and biscuits. We've been here for over an hour and may be here another hour more. No one seems particularly upset or frustrated. Over the past six weeks, we've waited for flights, train, taxis and each other. Waiting has become as much a part of our group as sleeping or eating.

Each day, students ask each other an “x-factor” question which can range from favorite food to places they want to travel. Yesterday, the question was “What advice would you give to students doing this program next year?” Most of the advice seemed to boil down to this “Be present. Be here. Engage with the people, places and experiences you are with now.”

We're often asked what students take home from these programs. Many take home a greater confidence in themselves and their ability to deal with challenging situations. Many take home new skills-packing a backpack, treating a blister, making momos. Most take home new friendships and inspirations. But what's less obvious and harder to qualify is their ability to sit with themselves or others without the multitude of distractions our modern lives throw at us. And how much students come to cherish these quiet moments. Sitting in a remote Ladakhi village among fields of ripened wheat, one student sighed, “I'm going to run over my phone with a car,” and many others nodded in agreement.

At the end of the course, we like to ask our students a few questions about their experience. Below you will find their anonymous answers. As you will see, they have been changed in ways both big and small, obvious and more subtle. As instructors, we are honored that you lent us your students for the summer! We feel privileged to have spent the last 6 weeks traveling around North India with ten such inquisitive, kind and curious young people. They inspire us every day and make us proud to do this sort of work.

Thank you,
Saurabh, Hemant and Rebecca

1) What is one thing you learned?

The people of Ladakh taught me how a remote, sustainable life can be challenging, fulfilling and joyful at the same time.

Learning never stops and it's always possible to keep learning no matter the circumstances.

I finally understand the idea of internal happiness and how to have it anywhere.

One thing? I have learned so much in the past 6 weeks, from how to sit with myself and feel my emotions to how to engage in cultural exchange and form bonds with people who have nothing in common with me and everything in between.

Over the course of this trip, I found that it was impossible to avoid learning something new every day, whether it was how to make momos, phrases in a new language or just more about myself and how I fit into the jigsaw puzzle of the world around me.

I have learned how to sit with myself and my thoughts.

My time in India has taught me more than I'll probably ever know. But as I think back on what I've learned, the paper-thin Ladakhi air cutting through my lungs, I can say one thing of which I've become sure: there is a song that wants to be sung through us. Much of it, we are able to write ourselves-the rest can be heard as a whisper from the mountains.

The emotion or pain or heartbreak has always had the ability to trump happiness and joy. However on this trip I learned that no matter how much pain one may be in, happiness and joy is ultimately more powerful.

2) Who is a person who affected your trip?

My homestay father in the village of Taar showed me his love for the Himalayan mountains by taking me on a hike, starting at daybreak that I will never forget.

Rebecca ji, one of our beloved instructors became a role model for me, not only because of her unique and exceptional leadership style, but because of her courage to always try new things and push her limits and ultimately challenge herself.

Hemant is a person that has affected my trip.

Preet-a fascinating leader, charasmatic, consistent, diplomatic and disciplined. A man whose traits I admire and wish to develop.

My parents have affected my trip, because I am constantly realizing how much they have sacrificed to give me the incredible life I have.

I began to realize that every single person I spoke to, whether is was a random Ladakhi villager walking by, an instructor, or my roommate for the night helped to shape the cherished experiences; they all added a little more to the epic story of my time in India.

Rebecca ji, Saurabh ji, Hemant ji.

Every single person I encountered on this trip has changed me in their own unique way and I am endlessly grateful that they have opened their hearts to me and helped me to discover so much about this life.

3) What should people at home know?

I would like them to know that I aim to make some sustainable lifestyle changes modeled after ways that I have lived over the last six weeks.

Grateful and thankful to be able to visit to such a great country.

I will find joy in the smallest things.

No matter how much or how often you travel, even if it is to the same location, there is no way to leave as the same person you were upon arrival. Every person you meet, whether a mother who cared for you as her own for weeks or months, or a street vendor who is excited to share a language, or one who is exacerbated that you don't, teaches you something new and unique. No lesson is too small or interaction insignificant; with experience comes sensitivity and the ability to bring awareness to your own growing wisdom and change of character. Don't expect the same daughter, sister, or friend when I come home, but please be ready to welcome whoever walks through your door, because she is full of love and new life.

I guess I just feel like I've changed in ways that may not be obvious on the surface but are a deep part of me now.

Every experiences brings its own uniqueness and hence I wish each parent/guardian welcomes their child back with an open palm and respects how they have changed.

I will try to explain all that I have lived for the past six weeks, but know that my words could never quite do the mountains of Ladakh or all of the laughter or the million starts we all saw together, justice.

I'm prepared to not let other people's perceptions of ideals, values, and people dramatically affect my own conclusions. I will also be location the nearest Indian food shop as soon as I get home.

I am not the same as I was when I left six weeks ago-just as I'm not the same as I was when I woke up yesterday or even when I started writing this. Please don't worry or be alarmed. Just be with me and breathe with me on this journey. “Is not impermanence the very fragrance of our days?”
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There Is a Song That Wants to Be Sung Through Us

North India 6 Week,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: North India 6-Week

Description

Dear Friends and Family, We are writing this from the airport in Leh, Ladakh where we’re waiting for our flight to Delhi. Patience is perhaps one of the most important traits a traveler can possess. Flights and trains get delayed, and especially in India things rarely happen on our schedule. In our busy lives at […]

Posted On

08/7/17

Author

North India 6 Week

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Video Nepal A 2017

Hernán Belden,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Nepal - Group A

Description

Posted On

08/6/17

Author

Hernán Belden

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The day before we reached Machu Picchu, I was walking Andrew Forsthoefel-style along train tracks with Raquel, one of the instructors.  At one point, Raquel said to me, “It’s interesting hearing all these varieties of languages of accents.”  We’d heard a variety indeed.  Just during that day we’d heard French, German, Deutsch, Spanish, Chinese, and English from Australia, Britain, and America.  The influx of all these foreign languages and cultures was pretty cool, but it’s also quite sad because it has worn away the culture that was once here.

The next morning while surrounded by misty clouds and the sun coming up over Machu Picchu, some tourists from Israel repeatedly crossed into restricted areas and taunted the llamas with bananas just to take a photo with the llamas with their selfie stick.  I was disgusted, but then I realized that I’m not much different than them.  I too am a foreigner who speaks a different language and was taking photo after photo of the ruins of an ancient and complex civilization.  I like to think of myself as a curious traveler and viewed those people as ignorant tourists, but in reality, how different are the two?  How distinct is the line between traveler and tourist, and is there even a line at all?  Later that day during lunch, we partook in a ceremony with our guide Fabian, thanking Machu Picchu for our health and safety.  How many people come to a place like Machu Picchu and give thanks like we did with Fabian and how many people come obnoxiously waving selfie sticks?  I’m afraid the latter is much more common.

Being at Machu Picchu, it was hard to miss how much of the indigenous culture had been sacrificed for foreigners.  For example, the language of the Inka and most prominent indigenous language in South America is Quechua.  Yet every sign at Machu Picchu labeled things in two languages: English and Spanish.  English always came first and was larger than Spanish, and Quechua was nowhere to be seen in the entire park.  It’s a shame how much the local culture has given to outsider and how much outsiders have taken from the local culture.  Attending Machu Picchu was almost like seeing a re-enactment of the conquistadors arriving in South America.

 

I repeat the question I asked earlier, how many people come to a place like Machu Picchu and give thanks like we did with Fabian and how many people come obnoxiously waving selfie sticks?  Or simpler than that, how many people are forced to give like the indigenous people and how many people unconsciously take and take and take?  What’s scary is that I’m not sure who I or who anyone is more like, the taker or the giver, and I’m afraid the taker is more common.  How can this change?  Frankly, I have no idea, but I do know that when I get home I’m going to throw away my selfie stick.

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Giving and Taking

Will LeVan,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Peru 6-Week

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The day before we reached Machu Picchu, I was walking Andrew Forsthoefel-style along train tracks with Raquel, one of the instructors.  At one point, Raquel said to me, “It’s interesting hearing all these varieties of languages of accents.”  We’d heard a variety indeed.  Just during that day we’d heard French, German, Deutsch, Spanish, Chinese, and […]

Posted On

08/6/17

Author

Will LeVan

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    [post_content] => Hi everyone!

Sorry for the lack of yaks, we have just been busy doing so many cool things. Because of this, I think I'll give a summary of what we've been up to since Langa. The morning we left we took a 10 hour bus ride to Labuan bajo for X-phase. We decided to book a two day boat tour to see Komodo Island and go snorkeling! We also spent the night sleeping on the roof of the small wooden boat and stargazed the whole night! That morning we saw an amazing sunrise and took a hike to see an island of three beaches. Basically, the boat was A LOT of fun! After X-phase was the Pelni boat ride. To sum it up, it was an 18 hour boat ride where we slept on the deck floor, got soaked in the rain, and made friends with the coffee guy and a lot of other Indonesians. I may have smelled like old cigarettes and rain afterwards, but it was worth traveling with the locals throughout Indonesia. Even though for most of them it was only a small part of their journey on the Pelni. Once we arrived in Makassar, a city in southwest Sulawesi, we flew to Wakatobi, took a truck ride to the coast, and finally took a two hour boat ride to Sampela for our last homestay! Sampela is a village off the coast of Kaledupa in the middle of the sea that is built up by rocks and corals. The first day I took a ride in my homestay mom's boat to the market, and went fishing. I caught one small fish, while I watched my homestay mom pull in about 20. Yesterday the group and other kids from Sampela rode to the beach called Hoga. There we swam in the warm the water, watched the sunset, went snorkeling, and caught some fish with a speargun. Here, fishing is how most of the people make a living. They use all different techniques like line fishing, net fishing, and spear fishing. Pretty much everyone here is an incredible swimmer, and it's an art watching them use their well crafted spearguns. We have only been here for a little, but I have learned a lot about this community. About their dependence and dedication to the fish, their hardship from the land people and the government, and problems their facing with their environment. I am continuing to learn more through talking to the the locals, and in the meantime improving my Bahasa.

Sampela is our last homestay here in Indonesia. We have traversed across Indonesia through the jungle, the city, the mountains, and finally the sea. We have tasted A LOT of good food, made many memorable friends through all of these places, drank maybe too much coffee and tea, had some cool conversations in Bahasa, learned a good amount of palm oil facts, a lot about the environment, and finally made a strong connection to this place. Thanks for the overwhelming generosity Indonesia.

Sempai Nanti(See you later),

 

Liana
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Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Indonesia

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Sampela

Liana Hess,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Indonesia

Description

Hi everyone! Sorry for the lack of yaks, we have just been busy doing so many cool things. Because of this, I think I’ll give a summary of what we’ve been up to since Langa. The morning we left we took a 10 hour bus ride to Labuan bajo for X-phase. We decided to book […]

Posted On

08/1/17

Author

Liana Hess

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    [post_date] => 2017-07-27 09:29:09
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    [post_content] => At 18 I first landed in the Nepali Himalaya, butterflies fluttering wildly in my stomach as I deliberately adjusted to the sight of lung-ta flapping in the monsoon winds.

At 19 I returned to the Ladakhi Himalaya, heart racing excitedly as I effortlessly became synchronized with the sounds of the coursing rivers and cooing livestock that create the melody of life throughout these jagged mountains.

There is something intensely compelling- perhaps even magical-that drives me to seek growth, ask large questions, and be unapologetically vulnerable when yanked into the great Himalayan embrace. Somehow, it feels as if the rough, unforgiving landscape forces me to soften internally- rethreading notions of compassion, laughter and play back into my daily life.

Perhaps this stems from the fact that each and every time I glance upward at the 6,000 meter peaks that form the spine of this high-desert landscape- what our lovely Ladakhi instructor laughingly calls "hills"- I am instantly dwarfed in size, along with the size of my worries, burdens and complaints.

Briefly put, I am deeply grateful for these mountains and the experiences and emotions I've woven deep into the Himalayan fabric throughout the past two summers.

These peaks have jutted deep into the crevices of my brain, ripping through the cobwebs that cloak forgotten senses of adventure, insatiable curiosity and childlike naïveté.

Their valleys have acted as buckets, indiscriminately collecting the tears of grief and bliss that have rolled down my sand-crusted, sun-blistered cheeks.

I am deeply grateful for the people I love most who support me and understand my need to get lost in this landscape, falling deeper in love with its people and their warm, welcoming energy.

Truth be told, mom and dad, I'm not ready to come home. A couple of weeks ago, when I threw back my head--hair dripping with the cold stream water that etched a snakelike pattern next to our tent--exhaled, burst into a wide smile and told my tent mate: "Wow, I could live like this for a while" I wasn't kidding.

The other day, I confronted my instructors with an ineloquently worded question that has been in the forefront of my mind during every transitionary period in my life, no matter how major or minor the shift.

"How do you get good at saying goodbye to things that you're not ready to leave?"

John let out a sigh of sorts and then proceeded to say something along the lines of "You just have to go," putting his left arm in the air and simulating a wave motion, adding that "life is like a wave you have to continue to ride out."

So mom and dad, I'm anxiously riding that wave all the way back to Chicago, back into the familiarity of your loving embraces and into the comfort of the home we share. I'm so eager to sit at our kitchen counter and attempt to craft some semblance of a pseudo-Himalayan landscape through stories and photos, even if only for a fleeting moment.

To my peers and instructors: thank you for pushing me to express my emotions with no inhibitions, for trekking alongside me when I was ill and for letting me drink from your bottles when I was too lazy to carry my own. For pestering me to take care of my sunburn and for finally-days later-assuring me that the skin on my face no longer resembles plastic. For letting me listen to your most personal anecdotes and for trusting me enough to know that your stories will never slip past my lips. For learning with me, laughing at me and caring for me. For letting me plant the seeds of each of our friendships in a landscape that is as strong and humbling as the Himalaya. This land is powerful.

See, at 18 I learned how to fall into and out of love in these mountains; how to mend deep tears in my mental fabric, how to ask heavy questions and how to laugh without boundaries.

And again, at 19 these mountains granted me the space I needed to remind myself of how far I've come and how far I have to go. I've learned how to more effectively engage with others, express gratitude better and saunter more mindfully towards my future, actively I'm pursuit of what moves me in this world...and move I must.
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Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: North India 4-Week

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…and move I must

Olivia Sotirchos,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: North India 4-Week

Description

At 18 I first landed in the Nepali Himalaya, butterflies fluttering wildly in my stomach as I deliberately adjusted to the sight of lung-ta flapping in the monsoon winds. At 19 I returned to the Ladakhi Himalaya, heart racing excitedly as I effortlessly became synchronized with the sounds of the coursing rivers and cooing livestock […]

Posted On

07/27/17

Author

Olivia Sotirchos

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    [post_date] => 2017-07-22 21:59:01
    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-23 03:59:01
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Music exists in every small corner of this big world. However, very few kinds can be compared with Nepali music: traditional, cultural, yet entertaining for all. The integral traditional Nepali instruments, Madal, Bamboo Flute, Sarangis, (Nepali) Tablas, etc. were first exposed to us by the band that fuses the soupy flavor and culture of Nepali folk music with the widely appreciated and well known western elements--Kutumba.

 

Such good music delivered something more than the pleasant feeling western music tends to bring. In fact, we found ourselves exploring in the oceans of inspiration, curiosity, time traveling, and simply -- happiness. Happiness not only in the experience of perceiving, but most importantly, happiness in the process of delivering and creating. As musicians, we recognize and acknowledge that such powerful and chemically fluent connection between one another does not easily manifest. It is impossible for us to resist the urge to possess such rare connection between the performers, and the rich culture of Nepal; which is why we decided to start our studies in Tablas and Madal for our ISPs.

 

All music productions leech the essence of the connection between performers. However, Nepali music -- the product of culture and wisdom of millenniums requires a “next level” of such interwoven understanding. Most popular Western music currently lacks an authentic understanding and acknowledgement of the importance of such connection, not only within the group, but with their true heart and soul. It is evident that the goal of most Western music right now aims to enlarge the mass of popularity and hits, instead of an soul-connected purpose of art.

 

So much emotion and spiritual communication are behind Nepali music, unlike most Western music, where one song is limited to only one set experience. The comparison between Western music and traditional Nepali music brings out a key difference between the Eastern and Western cultures: the degree to which emotions are accepted. On the contrary, emotions are almost seen as negative things in the West that are considered a weakness to show. Therefore, people hide behind masks in order to protect themselves from the cruel western society. Here, emotions are not suffocated by cultural stigma, they are vibrantly alive in nearly every element of daily life. Everyday we see men and women walking arm in arm, hand in hand equally affectionate. Same sex affection is one positive product of an Eastern social sphere of life that isn’t jailed by the stigma of emotions.

 

Religion, too, flows into one accepting culture overwhelmingly free from judgement, pride, and hate in which each individual is encouraged to create and seek their own spiritual path. Coincidentally, Buddhism, Hinduism and a variety of other religions beautifully mold together in homes, temples, and even the city streets in Nepal. It is no hidden fact that religions in the U.S. are more secular, in which most of the time one person is boxed in only one religion, and practicing on multiple spiritual paths is often criticized as being religiously unfaithful or confused. Moreover, in Western society, the idea of individuality is overly romanticized and pressured, which visibly affects the religious climate of the nation. It is not commonly recognized that all religions thrive off one another, where similar teachings and beliefs are shared within different religions. Often, conversations on the comparison between teachings in religions has the tendency of instead debating not what are truths, but more of which are “right”. Different from Nepal, where a communitarian society and ideology is widely encouraged, the West teaches and supports the idea of individuality and the “preciousness” of oneself.

 

The stark contrasts in the manner in which Nepali society approaches the core human element of emotion versus our experience with it back home has caused us to be more aware of the “dream” that we live in the U.S. Our dreams have shifted away from the ideology of individuality towards the goal of an authentically connected community. Music has been a foundation of connection with locals despite our language barriers. Music has been a set of eyes, that helped us to see through a fabricated ideals of the West, and for this we are eternally grateful.

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Music: A tool to help see through the West, an ability to comprehend the East

(Eric) Meicheng Lu and Eliana Salinas,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Nepal - Group B

Description

Music exists in every small corner of this big world. However, very few kinds can be compared with Nepali music: traditional, cultural, yet entertaining for all. The integral traditional Nepali instruments, Madal, Bamboo Flute, Sarangis, (Nepali) Tablas, etc. were first exposed to us by the band that fuses the soupy flavor and culture of Nepali […]

Posted On

07/22/17

Author

(Eric) Meicheng Lu and Eliana Salinas

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Hola from the heart of the Incan Empire.

Your favorite Peru 6 week course is currently approaching our midway point, which happens to be hitting a few of us kind of hard. Midway points are a time for reflection, as my 50 year old parents might agree (right guys?). Today, my lovely instructor Matt recommended that midcourse would be a good time to think about the following question in particular: “Who was I before I got to Peru, and who will I be after I go home?” As standard as this question may seem, Matt, I’m kind of mad at you for making me look so deeply inside of myself... because I found quite a hefty amount to unpack. But even so, my answer came to me pretty instantly: Before I left for Peru, I lived in the United States... When I return, I will live on planet earth. The difference is incredibly substantial, and not to be overlooked. I have met so many incredible people here, and they have taught me that we are part of a shared seven-billion person family that transcends borders, as cliche as that may sound. We hear a lot about the importance of our place within our country: how to serve it, how to better it, how to learn about it, and all of these things are certainly important... but they also leave billions of brothers and sisters out of the equation. For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about social and humanitarian work, and I looked at this work in two categories: at home, and abroad. At home, I saw opportunities to actively participate in politics and tackle systems of injustice. Abroad, I saw a different kind of set up: “service” trips, “development” work, that whole lot. I now understand that these two categories have no basis in reality. There is no need for there to be a difference. To serve individuals in one country is to serve the entire world, because all humans are connected. Right now as I write this post, my host mother is across the room playing with her two year old son, and when I look at them I know that we are connected in a way with which borders can not meddle. To participate in mutual acts of kindness with her will not only benefit the two of us, but the entire world. Perhaps our good energy will seep into interactions with others, perhaps she will teach me something that I will use positively for the rest of my life, or perhaps there will be a positive effect that is too abstract for us to even wrap our heads around. But no matter what, that goodness is going to spread far and wide. These effects may seem relatively small, but the catch is that this global human connection is not only true on a metaphysical and emotional level, but on a systemic and institutional level as well. For one thing, institutions and individuals come intertwined in a knot that can not be broken; social systems and personal emotions exist to define each other. Always. But to speak even more specifically, the past century has seen an incredible rise in globalization, and because of this, choices that I make in the United States touch every corner of the globe. I notice this the most every time that I reach for my wallet. This is something that I think American culture has us doing a little too often, which was made clear to me when I saw what my consumer’s footprint looks like in the Amazon Rainforest. There, I saw the trees that were destroyed in order to bring me the dinner table that I frequently find myself missing, and I learned that along with those trees fell entire cultures, economies, well beings, and ways of life.

The fact is: every action that I do touches every stretch of the earth, and within that statement comes incredible power. I can use it for good and I can use it for bad, and it might take me an entire lifetime to figure out what that looks like... But to get back to Matt’s prompt: my time in Peru has made me a person who is going to embrace that journey with open arms.

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Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Peru 6-Week

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So… Who am I?

Nina Saligman,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Peru 6-Week

Description

Hola from the heart of the Incan Empire. Your favorite Peru 6 week course is currently approaching our midway point, which happens to be hitting a few of us kind of hard. Midway points are a time for reflection, as my 50 year old parents might agree (right guys?). Today, my lovely instructor Matt recommended […]

Posted On

07/21/17

Author

Nina Saligman

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    [post_content] => In the past three weeks, I have been flipped in every direction I can imagine. I have pushed my body up the roaring Andes and through the scorching avenues of the Amazon. I’ve created individual relationships with ten students who have taught me each of their unique values and beliefs. Because of the intensity of my interactions, it’s difficult for me to remember the version of myself that I presented three weeks ago within the somewhat mundane community of my hometown.
When I left home for the airport, I was anxious to see what Peru was going to present to me. I was naïve and believed that my westernized version of the world would translate into Latin America. I had imagined freshly trimmed grass, street vendors serving my favorite foods, and conversation in every direction. In some ways, as I have seen, westernization has carried over, but in other more important ways, Latin America has presented me with a culture of its own. I have been extremely blessed in my ability to explore such a diverse country in a very personal way. Each day I am presented with a beautiful sight that is unparalelled within my group. To me, each sight personalizes itself for its visualizer.
With each sight I see, I become a bit more introspective. I have begun to look harder for the beauty and lack thereof inside of me. Through endless journaling, conversation, and observation, I am beginning to glimpse a different version of myself that I have cultivated here. A version of myself that fumbles with language and smiles with every mistake. A version of myself that recognizes happiness in nontraditional and often impoverished settings. A version of myself that I have come to love and respect in an enriched manner.
When I leave Peru, I will not be as naïve. I will continue to lead an introspective lifestyle centered on self-improvement. I will continue to look for beauty within my country and within myself, despite the ever present turmoil of our nation. My physical location will no longer be whole, because Peru will always have a part of me, and that is one version of myself that I will never neglect.
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Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Peru 6-Week

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Introspection

Emma Bailey,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Peru 6-Week

Description

In the past three weeks, I have been flipped in every direction I can imagine. I have pushed my body up the roaring Andes and through the scorching avenues of the Amazon. I’ve created individual relationships with ten students who have taught me each of their unique values and beliefs. Because of the intensity of […]

Posted On

07/21/17

Author

Emma Bailey

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    [post_date] => 2017-07-18 20:03:36
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    [post_content] => Hello from Urubamba!

We have just finished our homestay in Paru Paru, one of the six communities in Parque de la Papa. Jack and I stayed in Rosa's house and we had a spectacular time. The meals were some of the best we have had during the whole trip. And, no, they were not lying about having more than 1,000 types of potatoes. However, we learned so much more than how to distinguish different types of potatoes. While Rosa certainly has had more visitors before us, she and her family had not changed around their schedules for us, so we were lucky enough to participate in their daily activities and hang out with her energetic seven year-old daughter, Flor. Flor did her own share of the cooking, animal herding, and schoolwork everyday. Due to countrywide teacher strikes, Flor has not been in school for about a month now. Her extra time at home means that she shares an equal burden of chores with the other family members. I learned a lot from Flor, but the biggest thing she taught me was patience. It seems simple, right? Not exactly. First of all, the only way that Rosa's family can tell the time is with a dusty clock that is only checked when they have visitors with tight schedules. This means that their family rarely has time frames. Just tasks and daylight. Coming from New York City, the idea of not checking the time every five minutes scares me. Yet for Flor, time is irrelevant. In fact, that same dusty clock is too high up on the wall for her to even read it. Instead, she just gets to work with no knowledge of the time. As we lead the donkey over the pile of haba beanstalks, Flor reprimanded me for checking my watch and told me lunch would be soon enough. I laughed it off, but when I think about it now, I had such a more fulfilling experience picking Haba beans with no worries about being late to somewhere. I don't know if I will be able to take this level of patience home with me to New York City because of how important punctuality is there, but I will definitely implement it into some of my daily tasks. How different would a bike ride be if I gave myself the whole day to explore with only the sun as my clock? How much better would scrambled eggs taste if I didn't scramble to make them every time? How much better would my schoolwork turn out if I didn't give myself specific time slots for each assignment? I think Flor knows the answer to those questions. I still have a lot to learn, but this is a start.

Next up on our itinerary is the Lares Trek! This will be our last major test as a group and I am excited to see all of our hard work and preparation pay off when we hit the beautiful hot springs at the end of the trek. But the rewards don't end there. Just two days after the trek we are scheduled to see Machu Pichu! There is a slight possibility that the same teacher strikes that are putting Flor out of school could block the entrance to Machu Pichu, but we are hoping that we will not run into any of those and that we will be able to watch the sun rise at one of the most beautiful places on earth. See you all soon!

Best,

Ned
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Time and Patience (Parque de la Papa Reflection)

Ned Rossman,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Peru 4-Week - Group A, Homestay

Description

Hello from Urubamba! We have just finished our homestay in Paru Paru, one of the six communities in Parque de la Papa. Jack and I stayed in Rosa’s house and we had a spectacular time. The meals were some of the best we have had during the whole trip. And, no, they were not lying […]

Posted On

07/18/17

Author

Ned Rossman

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2017-07-18 19:56:44
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    [post_content] => Yesterday was one of the saddest and happiest moments of this trip. As I hugged my homestay family to say goodbye, half of me really wanted to stay and learn more about this foreign lifestyle, while half of me was happy to learn new lessons and values and was eager to keep them in my mind and share them with others.

When we first got there, I did not really know what to think. They told us that for the next five days we would be eating a lot of potatoes, and that we would only be able to speak in Spanish, a language that is not too familiar to me. I stayed with two other girls, June and Emma, who were also going to be facing the language and cultural barrier with me. Our homestay parents were incredibly welcoming, our dad Cesar being a hardworking man both in the kitchen and in the field, and our mother taking care of her newly born son Diego. It was a little intimidating at first to know that I had to communicate in a language that was extremely foreign to me, but I soon realized that there are so many ways in which to communicate with one another. A perfect example was through our homestay dad´s cooking. He made the most amazing and creative meals out of the food they grew in their communities, like maiz pancakes, omelets made from fresh tomatoes and broccoli, as well as papas, papas and more papas in ways that i never imagined such as potato pasta and porridge. People in Parque de la Papa pop potatoes like its candy, and when tasting the potatoes myself, I understand why. They are so fresh, completely organic, and in the end I did not get sick of them, but only wanted more.

But the papas was not the main thing that impressed me, but how my family expressed care for each other, and how the community all worked together to be stronger as a whole. One of the days we helped our father build a house out of mixing dirt and straw, what all of the houses there are made of. When I asked him why he was building the house, he said that it was for his daughter, and that his wish is to build his daughter and his newborn son their own places to live. This is a tradition in the communities for many many generations, and hearing that made me amazed at the fact that he is working night and day to express his love to his family like that. And our dad does not have to hesitate for help, for I saw so many people of the community constantly care for each other, even if they had to walk a mile to stretch out their arm.

This kind of love is was so special to observe, for they did not depend on their possessions to express their love, but as a community and their self sustainability, they are able to express a strength that i have never seen before in a group of people. Being at Parque de la Papa was truly a privilege to me, and it made me question so much about my life and home and what is really important in ones short short lifespan.

I hope to bring home some of these things I saw in Parque de la Papa, from the food, to the way the people valued the world around them. It was an experience that was truly special and one of a kind,and as unique as each of the 1,400 kinds of potatoes they grow there. They told me to come back in 5, 10, 15, or 25 years to see them, and this is an offer that is both tempting and heartwarming. I know that as a group we learned a lot about ourselves and others we would have never gotten the chance to meet in our little bubble we call home. I am very excited for the next step of our trip, our Lares trek, giving yet more and more opportunities to learn something new and valuable. Until then!

With love,

Lilli
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Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Peru 4-Week - Group A, Homestay

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Parque De La Papa

lspecter,Best Notes From The Field, SUMMER: Peru 4-Week - Group A, Homestay

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Yesterday was one of the saddest and happiest moments of this trip. As I hugged my homestay family to say goodbye, half of me really wanted to stay and learn more about this foreign lifestyle, while half of me was happy to learn new lessons and values and was eager to keep them in my […]

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07/18/17

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lspecter

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