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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2009


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    [post_content] => Namaste Visions of India Dragons!

I am writing to you from a very small town in northern India called Kaza. Currently I am leading the 6-week Identity in Exile program which will keep me in incredible India until you all arrive.

Dan, Bantu and I spent 2 weeks together at the Dragons orientation in late June planning a fantastic semester for you. This will be my fourth Dragons program, and my second (consecutive) Visions of India semester.

Bantu and I led the semester together in the Spring and I must tell you, you couldn't have signed up for a better cultural immersion course than Visions. Bantu has been leading this course for 21 semesters! The warmth and committment that his family and extended family and network in Varanasi is unsurpassed. I am very privileged to be working with him again, and very excited to work with Dan for a first time! Dan and I first met in a small village in India at 17,000 feet while I was leading the summer Tibetan Cultural program last year.

Visions of India will take you on a beautiful journey through the lush mountains of the Garwhal on our trek, then plant you in the most fascinating city on the planet. Banaras, as it is referred to by Indians, is the home to the most sacred stretch of the river Ganges. Our homestays are all within walking distance of this magical river, that holds most important religious and cultural significance to Indian people of all religions. We spend a great deal of time not only studying the culture and history through guest speakers and immersing you in independent study progects, but most importantly we experience life on the Ganges with our deep engagement with local families and our own adventures. We are super fortunate that we will be in the holy city of Banaras during India's most exciting holiday of Diwali the festival of lights, in the city of festivals! Last semester we experienced Holi with our Indian families and the celebrations in Banaras in particular were like no other around India.

The most recurring question I am asked in my life these days is how I came to be a Dragons instructor in India? So I'll give you the LONG of it since we will be spending so much time together, and I'm sure your families are just as curious as to who we are and how we got here...

I grew up in Los Angeles and went straight into the work force after high school. I was good with numbers and loved math, so I dreamed of working as a tour accountant for my favorite rock bands in the music industry but as fate had it I became a bookkeeper at amodeling agency instead. I ended up staying with them for nine years. During that time, my boss bought another agency in Sydney, Australia and sent me there to train the staff. I was meant to stay nine months and ended up extending for two years. After traveling all over Australia and a lot of Southeast Asia I decided I wanted to return to America and finally go to college and study aboriginal folklore. I enrolled in classes at Santa Monica Community College determined to transfer to University of California, Berkeley. I was told it was a long shot but I took every general education plus social science class available and continued to work full time at my bookkeeping job. After a year and a half of hard work and good grades, I was accepted to Berkeley.

After a semester of folklore as my focus I realized that my true desire was to travel and work with people in their daily lives, to document their oral histories and cultural norms. I signed up for the study abroad program and chose to go to Indonesia. Two weeks before departing the Indonesian government was overthrown and all foreigners were expelled from the country. My new options were Thailand or Denmark. I had a great experience a few years earlier in Thailand so that became my choice.

I spent the next 8 months studying Thai language and history in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. After the study abroad program was over I took a year off college and stayed on to work with a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) that supported Burmese artisans, particularly women textile weavers. I volunteered in the refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border for a half year and then continued on to India to work with Tibetan refugee nuns to establish an income generation program to promote self-sufficiency in their nunneries. After a year I went back to Berkeley to finish up my BA in Anthropology and head off to graduate school.

My first graduate degree began right after completion of my undergrad at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, VT. I completed an MA in International and Intercultural Management. My research was on anti-caste education in India. I spent six months in southern India at a school for low caste children. On return to the US, I entered a doctoral program in Anthropology at Brandeis University in Boston. However, while I was teaching and researching at Brandeis I missed being in the field and working directly with the people I was writing about.

After completing another MA I took a position back in Berkeley with the Tibetan Nuns Project (TNP) and worked in collaboration with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s sister-in-law, Rinchen Khando Choegyal, to raise funds and establish infrastructure to support over 700 refugee Buddhist nuns living in exile in India. For the past six years I have worked for TNP in the US and India planning events and raising money. In addition to fundraising, I led donor tours to India to visit the nuns. My last project before leaving TNP was to help the nuns to develop their own handicraft income generation project.

Over the years and travels I became very involved everywhere I went with artisans. After a trip to India, Burma and Laos in 2005, a former schoolmate and I began a small importing company to help support traditional artisans in developing countries to create self-sustaining projects with their crafts and art. In 2007 I left TNP to pursue my fair trade importing business. I now live in Seattle and am running my company Playfair Trading Co. I work with toy carving castes in southern India, bamboo artisans in Vietnam, Burmese women textile weavers, Tibetan brass artisans and of course my nuns in prayer bead and prayer flag production.
My work allows me the freedom to take chunks of time and work with Dragons courses. I am very lucky to be able to devote a greater part of this year to sharing my experience and knowledge of a land that I know will change your life forever!

If I've learned anything from all this it's that I can only continue to make a difference by sharing my knowledge and experiences and with you all and encouraging young people to get out there and make it happen – make something happen! We live in such an amazing time and we've seen that when we band together as a team we can make all kinds of change happen.

I am very much looking forward to banding together as our Visions of India, Fall 09 team and learning where your individual knowledge and interests lie and help shape your academic and life goals through experiencing the world together.

I will be in India until we meet you at the airport in Delhi in September. Please feel free to contact me by email any time with any questions and please please please post loads of Yaks! I can't wait to meet you all!!

See you very soon.

All the best,

Debi Goldman
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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2009

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Namaste from India!!

Debi Goldman,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2009

Description

Namaste Visions of India Dragons! I am writing to you from a very small town in northern India called Kaza. Currently I am leading the 6-week Identity in Exile program which will keep me in incredible India until you all arrive. Dan, Bantu and I spent 2 weeks together at the Dragons orientation in late […]

Posted On

07/10/09

Author

Debi Goldman

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Greetings Fellow Mekong Meanderers!
These words unfold from Chengdu, Sichuan Province. I am currently instructing the China Comprehensive summer program and eagerly looking forward to our rural home stay later this week, four hours south of Chengdu. After the homestay we will head to Yunnan Province, the land South of the Clouds, hoping to catch a glimpse of the upcoming full solar eclipse, which last occurred in this region during the Ming Dynasty 1575!
Southwest China is a breathtaking and humbling environment, and it is where I find myself feeling the most comfortably out of place. I can't wait to share the wonders of this region with some intelligent, outgoing travel enthusiasts. I was drawn to this part of China by the dynamic nature of the area, both culturally and environmentally. After sleeping in the mountains' shadows and biking through twisting roads I fell in love with the people and landscape, deciding that I would return to become involved in a deeper way. I embarked on thesis research focusing on the Mekong River's hydroelectric development in Yunnan Province and spent over a year absorbed by the project. I found grants and scholarships while in the U.S. that funded research travel through the Upper Mekong Basin collecting interviews from locals, non-profit organizations, electric companies, and the Mekong River Commission in Vientianne, Lao. What originally began as a thesis paper mutated into a career path and I currently reside in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, where I work with the Chinese NGO Green Watershed. Our organization works with community organized sustainable watershed management. In Kunming I continue to study and improve my Mandarin, building off a six month language intensive program that I completed in Beijing in 2006.

Prior to my time in China I attended The Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO, where I majored in Chinese Studies, pursuing environmental science on the side. While in Colorado I had many opportunities to venture around the southwest U.S., having the most memorable backpacking experience in Utah's slot canyons, New Mexico's Gila Wilderness, and Colorado's Weminuche region. My backpacking experience was put to the test last summer, when three friends and I planned and executed a month long expedition in Alaska's Wrangell-St.Elias Wilderness Area. While at Colorado College I guided wilderness orientation trips for freshmen, and hold a Wilderness First Responder medical license.

We will cover a lot of terrain over the course of the program and it is highly advised that you travel lightly and with great flexibility. Edward Gargan followed the Mekong River from its Chinese origins all the way to the Vietnam Delta, and many sections of our trip will overlap his route, The River's Tale: A Year on the Mekong. This is one idea of a summer read you could undertake, as the book would be a weight and space hog to bring on our journey. If you are intrigued by political ties in the region relating to the river's development, Evelyn Goh's Developing the Mekong: Regionalism and Regional Security in China/Southeast Asian Relations is a quality read and only around 100 pages, but can be technical at times.

I am ecstatic to be traveling with you along the Mekong, and I congratulate you for choosing to explore one of the most interesting and dynamic parts of the world. Please don't wait to prepare yourselves for what will undoubtedly be the trip of a lifetime. Challenge yourself to arrive in Kunming ready to break routine, shatter personal boundaries and absorb the sensations of the "Mother Khong".

See you in Kunming,

Stew Motta
stewart.motta@gmail.com
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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2009

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Instructor Introduction

Stewart Motta,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2009

Description

Greetings Fellow Mekong Meanderers! These words unfold from Chengdu, Sichuan Province. I am currently instructing the China Comprehensive summer program and eagerly looking forward to our rural home stay later this week, four hours south of Chengdu. After the homestay we will head to Yunnan Province, the land South of the Clouds, hoping to catch […]

Posted On

07/8/09

Author

Stewart Motta

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Namaste Visions of India Semester Students,


In 8 weeks you will embark on a life changing journey. Sounds like a cliché, but this is the real deal. In my experience, some people are pulled to India, and once they step onto her rich soil, they are hooked for life. I remember my first cab ride from the Kolkata airport: it was midnight and the air was hot and thick, and had a unique smell that I can only now describe as India: a dense brew of cow dung, spices, sweat, asphalt and incense. This may not sound enticing, but I assure that you will be forever taken by this breath of India. The moon was distorted by haze, and the city was dark and asleep, but I could feel a pulse of life beneath its slumber. It made my blood pump. As we careened from wide streets to narrow alley ways, India captured my heart, and I’ve been committed ever since.


So, needless to say, I am very much envious of you all; however, I will be living vicariously through your experiences from the Boulder Admin office. I am the Program Director for your semester, which means if you have any questions or concerns, I encourage you to call me at the office. I LOVE talking about India. I have traveled throughout India since my first trip in 2000, and led the Visions of India semester programtwo years ago, and know it intimately. Even now from my office, I can see the snow capped Himalaya peaks and tiny hillside villages that you will travel through. My mind can travel into the Taj Mahal and its massive white marble, with sacred Arabic Quran verses carved in relief, and then onto Banaras (or Varanasi), the most sacred city in India, and feel the Ganga (Ganges River) sliding by since time immemorial, containing unfathomable wisdom. I source great meaning from my experiences in India, and the memories that are vividly alive in me.


Your three instructors are amazing people and educators: Bantu Pandey lives in Banaras where you will be spending most of your time, and has instructed this semester over 20 times! Debi Goldman &Dan Meyerare phenomenal indivuduals with a tremendous amount of experience in India, and will profoundly share with each of you their love and passion for this sacred land. You can find their bios on our website under the "staff" tab, "India& Himalaya Instructors." They will also be introducing themselves shortly, however, both are currently leading summer courses in India and willhave limitedcommunication. Dan's summer course ends August 1st, Debi's course ends August 10th, and Bantu is traveling the Untied States with his family. Thus, for now, I will answer many of your questions until they become more available in August.


As your anticipation grows, peruse through the materials we have sent you. They are excellent resources to thoroughly prepare you both physically and mentally. Also, take advantage of this Yak Yak board! Share your excitements and anxieties; hopes and goals. It is a wonderful forum for us to get on the same page. We will use the Yak Yak board to communicate important inforamtion and updates, so bookmark it and check in regularly (under "Current Courses" be sure to choose "Visions of India Semester, Fall 2009" found near the bottom, as there are a number of India courses).

India may seem far away, but before you know it, you’ll be at her doorstep, waiting to absorb her infinite wisdom!


- Reed

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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2009

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Welcome to the Visions of India Semester!

Reed Harwood,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2009

Description

Namaste Visions of India Semester Students, In 8 weeks you will embark on a life changing journey. Sounds like a cliché, but this is the real deal. In my experience, some people are pulled to India, and once they step onto her rich soil, they are hooked for life. I remember my first cab ride […]

Posted On

07/7/09

Author

Reed Harwood