There is so much to say in introduction…where do I start?! Typically, logically, people begin introductions with things like names and jobs and hometowns, but that is not where I want to begin. Why be typical or logical? Soon, we’ll all be heading to Nepal for a four-month journey full of personal challenge, emotional development, and educational advancement. Beginning this September, we are all choosing adventure and uncertainty and possibility. We are all choosing an unusual, perhaps illogical path, because we each know somewhere inside of ourselves that this less trodden path may in fact lead to greatness and new ideas and success beyond our imaginations. We are choosing to buck the system, to take our lives and our educations into our own hands and our own hearts and our own minds.
And so, in the spirit of challenging the process and stepping into the unknown and not being typical, I will introduce myself without an introduction. Instead, I want to share first with you the top three things that I am looking forward to about being an instructor on our Himalayan Studies Semester….
Number 1: Being a learner as well as an educator. Although I have been an educator, guide, and instructor for over twelve years, this course promises to teach me as much as I can teach. I have led groups of people over and across mountains, through deserts, and down rivers all over the world, but I have never seen or experienced the immensity and power of the Himalayan landscape. I have taught at various schools and semester programs, but I have never taught about Buddhism. There is so much that has prepared me for this course, and there is so much that will be new to me. I am excited to bring my experience and skills as a traveler, a teacher, and an adventurer to our group, but I am just as excited to bring my naivety, my humility, and my openness to learn.
Number 2: Diving deeply into true experience and adventure. I cannot wait for us to both collectively and individually journey into life-changing experiences and adventures. Living in the Kathmandu Valley, each of you will be able to concentrate on an Individual Study Project or Internship. You will be able to learn and study and practice something that really interests and excites you. Trekking through the Himalayas, we will encounter physical and emotional challenges and successes that only great mountains can provide. Visiting and living in places like a Buddhist monastery and a sustainable farming community, we will not only gain unique and special experiences, we will walk away with a revived sense and definition of gratitude, personal adventure, and intrigue. There are so many aspects to our upcoming course and every part of our semester promises experience and adventure, the two things that I believe make for the most inspiring, most rewarding, and longest lasting education.
Number 3: You. Working in the alternative educational world of things for a number of years now, I am consistently amazed by students like YOU who sign up for these programs. I remember back when I was your age…. I was a motivated, out-going, mostly nice individual, but I was not willing to take great risks or seek great challenges. Now, I work with students who do both. Thank you for wanting risk and challenge. Thank you for being willing to step away from your lives and friends and comforts of home. Thank you for grabbing an opportunity with openness and engagement. I have so much respect for each of you already. I can’t wait to meet each of you so we can really begin learning about and from each other.
OK, in the spirit of introduction, I guess I also need to give you a few other important facts and details about me: •I live in a small town up in the high mountains of Colorado. •The last trip I led with Dragons was in Morocco. •Another thing I do is teach wilderness first aid, so I know what to do if someone gets a headache at 15,000 feet or gets bitten by a snake or gets a fishhook caught in his or her elbow. •I know a lot of elephant jokes. •My name is Paul Dreyer.
Without a doubt, I am looking forward to this upcoming semester more than any other professional experience that I have had in the past. As some of my comments above suggest, I (like you) will be new to Nepal – in many ways, we will be journeying side-by-side for the next few months!
I hope that each of you are getting excited for the upcoming semester! Please let Shannon, Sweta, or me know if there is anything we can do to help you prepare, either physically or mentally. Send out a Yak Yak with any questions or thoughts or elephant jokes.
Paul Dreyer,Himalayan Studies "A" Semester, Fall 2009
Hello! There is so much to say in introduction…where do I start?! Typically, logically, people begin introductions with things like names and jobs and hometowns, but that is not where I want to begin. Why be typical or logical? Soon, we’ll all be heading to Nepal for a four-month journey full of personal challenge, emotional […]
The time is quickly approaching when we will meet in the Kathmandu airport and begin a sojourn that will change all of our lives. This journey will present challenges and rewards far beyond your imagination. It is an exciting prospect and one that I’m sure you are all a bit nervous about. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to leave behind what is familiar and to venture out into the unknown. For that, you already have the respect of the instructors and the communities we will be living amongst and working with.
I wanted to take some time to share a bit about this course and about myself. I would also like to invite you all to begin introducing yourself on the yak board and posting any questions you may have. You will soon discover that the yak board is a great way to share, connect and build enthusiasm for the adventure that lies ahead.
My personal sojourn in Asia began over a decade ago. While studying at Middlebury College, I found myself drawn to Eastern religion and philosophy for the emphasis placed on cultivating self-awareness and embodying virtuous emotions such as compassion, generosity and patience. I decided that I needed to journey to the East and follow in the footsteps of so many seekers before me. I have not been disappointed with the decision I made to enroll with the School for International Training in Nepal. It changed my life so dramatically that I have made my home in Asia for the past decade. Among the many lessons that I have learned, perhaps the most potent has been learning to live in the present. Asia can demand your full attention in any given moment and challenge the ways in which you view yourself and the world.
You will all have experiences of intense presence, some that you might like to be forewarned of. Past students have expressed an appreciation for, shall we say, a heads up! So, with that said, be prepared for the potentiality of the following: dramatic changes in schedule, a lack of personal space, phases of too little or too much free time, being hungry, being more tired than you’ve ever been in your life, having to wait for transportation, being asked to do things you’re not totally psyched about, not having clean laundry, not having a toilet or having to use a dirty toilet, having to speak a different language, being laughed at, having sloppy diarrhea, once again, not having a toilet!, having to take a cold, bucket shower or having no shower (for days), hiking until your thighs burn and your lungs are ready to burst, eating unappetizing food, having to drop your expectations. . . and more than anything and perhaps implicit in all stated above, having to be uncomfortable and hopefully learning to extract a valuable lesson in being so!
However, you can also be prepared for the inevitability of the following: feeling your heart spontaneously open to virtual strangers, seeing more smiles in a day than you can count, experiencing acts of kindness and generosity from people who have seemingly nothing, being moved to tears and laughter unexpectedly, hearing words of insight and wisdom from respected members of the community, being accepted into a family as if you were their biological child, playing silly games with the most enthusiastic and curious kids you’ve ever met, holding farm animals, stuttering through a new language, saying “Malaai kushi laagyo!”, being spellbound by chanting monks, feasting your eyes on high, snowy peaks, filling your belly with copious amounts of daal bhat, meeting dreadlocked, ash covered yogis, watching monkeys play, and avoiding cows lounging in the city streets.
What lies ahead is hard to find words for. What is even more difficult is to be prepared for the journey. I imagine this note will find all of you at some stage of preparation. All I can say by way of advice goes beyond anything you can fit in your backpack. It’s important to start this sojourn with your loose ends tied up at home so that you can slip into the presence that awaits you. What I ask for you to all bring is an open heart and mind. Be ready to give up some control and let yourself flow. We leaders are here to provide a safe raft and a paddle to get you through the rapids.
Finally I would like to comment on the program’s shift in itinerary, which is very exciting for me. Having spent a great deal of time in West Bengal, my preference has always been for Nepal and the Kathmandu Valley. This is a particularly exciting time in Nepal’s history with the recent abolition of the monarchy, after 240 years of rule, and the establishment of a federal republic. I am happy to be part of Dragon’s move back into Nepal, once again a stable country. Our fall ’08 and spring ’09 groups really benefited from the shift and felt that they were able to explore Nepali culture and language in more depth. As instructors, we felt that we were able to present a more cohesive and well-rounded course. You can check the yak posts from both semesters to get an idea of what they experienced.
Well friends, we will be checking the yak yak board regularly and are happy to answer any of your questions. We look forward to hearing from all of you by way of an introduction. Please do take the time to get familiar with the yak board. We will be using it regularly throughout the semester to share our adventures with friends and family. For now, use it as a great place to get to know each other.
I hope that this note finds you all healthy, happy and enjoying the summer. Until we meet . . . fare well.
Shannon Harriman,Himalayan Studies "A" Semester, Fall 2009
Namaste Friends, The time is quickly approaching when we will meet in the Kathmandu airport and begin a sojourn that will change all of our lives. This journey will present challenges and rewards far beyond your imagination. It is an exciting prospect and one that I’m sure you are all a bit nervous about. It […]
My name is Sweta and I am very excited to be a part of this Himalayan Semester this fall! I am in a small mountain town of Colorado at 10,152 feet (3094 meters) right now. Air is refreshing up here and the mountains that surround me are comforting. I will be here playing in these mountains for few weeks and then will leave for Nepal in August.
I am Nepali and call Kathmandu Valley my hometown. Born and raised in the Valley, I worked for one of the oldest adventure sports company in the country as an International Trip Coordinator after college. The work involved extensive traveling within the country, which cultivated a strong desire to continue exploring the rural areas and learn more about my own people and their lifestyle.
Traveling puts us in many circumstances and situations when we cannot have answers to our questions instantly. It is a great test of letting go and embracing what is in front of you for what it really is, and let the answer to our curiosities manifest in the future. It is a physical journey taken to come closer to our spiritual-self and allow it to empower us. But the tricky part for people from this part of the world is maintaining that fine balance of independent traveling of self-discovery and keeping the family and community values intact. It is this complexity of one’s role that many women and men in this part of the world either gracefully straddle (or aspire to) that you, my courageous fellow travelers, will get to experience in the days to come. I feel honored to be a translator of this beautiful complexity for you.
I will be looking forward to seeing you all in Nepal in September and beginning our journey together. In the meantime, please do take advantage of this Yak board to post your questions, concerns, interest etc., which will hugely benefit our Himalayan Semester Fall ’09 community. And before I sign off for now, I would like to welcome everyone aboard on the Dragon’s adventure boat and congratulate each one of you for choosing to come and travel with us. You are one of the very few lucky ones to have such special opportunity to explore Nepal the way we are going to. So, get excited!!!
Thank your friends and family for making this happen, and also thank them for encouraging and supporting you in this brave endeavor. I send you all my love and wish you all a safe journey over to Nepal.
Sweta Gurung,Himalayan Studies "A" Semester, Fall 2009
Namaste my soon to be fellow travelers! My name is Sweta and I am very excited to be a part of this Himalayan Semester this fall! I am in a small mountain town of Colorado at 10,152 feet (3094 meters) right now. Air is refreshing up here and the mountains that surround me are comforting. […]