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Central America Semester, Fall 2012


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I keep writing the first paragraphs of yaks and never getting around to finishing them, so I’ve decided I’m not going to delete anything I write from here on in. It’s going to be very difficult for me because I’ve been taught to be a perfectionist in my writing. However, the same person taught me to write home as frequently as possible, and after 3 seasons of summer camp and 0 letters sent home, you can see how well I’ve followed that advice.

I suppose why I keep deleting everything I write is because it’s too… cliché. Every yak is deep and touching and says the same thing. I’m as guilty of that as anyone, I mean, it’s really hard to NOT try to be super-deep about everything but it gets sort of generic when everything is super-deep and philosophical. Besides, I’m really into alternative stylism and I want to break the mold.

…Which I realize in itself is a cliché statement. Dang. It’s going to be hard not to delete that sentence as it stares me straight in the face. Let’s move on.

The Dragons Instructors have informed us that our lack of yaks as a whole has been of concern to… whoever it is that follows the yakyak board. Hard as it is to believe, when you’re living for three weeks in a town that’s only had electricity for a year, there’s likely to be three weeks where you don’t get too many yaks written. I mean, you wouldn’t have any way of knowing about that… because we haven’t been yakking about it…

Have you ever read a book called Catch 22?

(If you haven’t, don’t worry, that was a really bad joke you just missed out on)

Speaking of not knowing what’s going on here, I decided to go on this trip with a bunch of quick-dry hiking shirts and cheap clothes because “they’re going to get ruined anyway.” Well, here’s something I never thought about: It’s a part of the world where people can’t necessarily afford to get an entire new wardrobe every 13 weeks because “it got ruined.” I’ve been washing my own clothes here, and for the most part they haven’t been ruined. Except for all those quick-dry shirts I brought. Which is like, what, all of my shirts? Those start fraying as soon as I hang them up to dry on the barbed-wire fences. Because that’s the only type of fence they have here, seeing as how they have so much of it left over from the various wars*. Of course, it took me coming here to realize that.

Where were we? No yaks. Right. We’ve spent so much time doing so many things, I know for a fact that I just would NOT be able to write about everything that’s happened so far. I’ve calculated that by the time I will have been able to post this, we will have been here for a third of our trip. We may have gone here to have a life experience, but we’re instead having a lifetime of experience. And we’re only just getting started.

...You know what? I’m going to stop with that cliché before I get any further behind.

-Rock, October 5, 2012

PS: It’s October 9 and I’m going to have this posted tomorrow. Time flies.

*The EEUU (US) government sent major amounts of funding and troops to aid in the Samosa government’s failed attempt to stay in power, and sent support to an eventually failed revolution movement to kick the FSLN out of p [post_title] => First Yak [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => first-yak [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2012-10-11 00:00:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=39728 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 285 [name] => Central America Semester, Fall 2012 [slug] => central-america-semester-fall-2012 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 285 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 243 [count] => 61 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14.1 [cat_ID] => 285 [category_count] => 61 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Central America Semester, Fall 2012 [category_nicename] => central-america-semester-fall-2012 [category_parent] => 243 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/fall-2012/central-america-semester-fall-2012/ ) ) [category_links] => Central America Semester, Fall 2012 )

Central America Semester, Fall 2012

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First Yak

Rock Pulak,Central America Semester, Fall 2012

Description

I keep writing the first paragraphs of yaks and never getting around to finishing them, so I’ve decided I’m not going to delete anything I write from here on in. It’s going to be very difficult for me because I’ve been taught to be a perfectionist in my writing. However, the same person taught me […]

Posted On

10/11/12

Author

Rock Pulak

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Hola a todos!

After three weeks in rural Nicaragua, living without internet access, we find ourselves going through the tranisition process of returing to a more urban area. It feels very strange to go from a community of 35 families to a bigger town where you don't know anyone, you get around on moto taxis, and are reminded of the sounds of technologly; cell phones ringing, and cars honking. This is another, and very real part of Nicaragua. As we saw yesterday in Managua, the urban area faces very different challenges, which are coupled with responses that manifest themselves in ways that are both similar and different to what we saw in E Lagartillo.Los Quinchos is an organization that works with kids from the streets of Managua, and supports them to join part of the family they have created in San Marcos, where they attend school, play soccor, live on a farm, and are part of an amazing community.Our time so far at Los Quinchos has been impactful, filled with a variety of emotions from joy to saddness and everything inbetween, and on the edges. We have been spending a lot of time as a group processing what all of this means for each one of us.

We will spend the rest of the week here and catch a bus to San Salvador bright and early on Sunday morning. Next week will be spent in the Capital of El Salvador taking Spanish classes, living in homestays, and exploring the history of war in the area. From there we will continue North, and enter into Guatemala, a country whose strong indigenous population creates a very different feel from other parts of Central America.

As an I team we feel so much gratitude to have such a great group of students this semester. The level of engagement and depth of group conversations, creates a very special experience for the not only the students but also for us. We send lots of love a good energy to all our Yak followers!

-The I team

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Central America Semester, Fall 2012

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A note from the instructors

Instructors,Central America Semester, Fall 2012

Description

Hola a todos! After three weeks in rural Nicaragua, living without internet access, we find ourselves going through the tranisition process of returing to a more urban area. It feels very strange to go from a community of 35 families to a bigger town where you don’t know anyone, you get around on moto taxis, […]

Posted On

10/10/12

Author

Instructors

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This will be my first solo Yak posting so I’m easing into the waters of Yakhood like my mother and sister would: pinky-toe first. That’s why I’ve decided to keep it simple:

NEW THINGS I’VE DONE IN NICARAGUA

  1. (Tried to) milk a cow.
  2. Showered in my underwear in the rain.
  3. Said capitalism five times in one sentence.
  4. Sang a song in Spanish in front of what felt like 500 native speakers. (It was more like 50.)
  5. Recounted on the daily the firmness of my excrement.
  6. Witnessed a pig getting slaughtered and skinned and enjoyed eating it the same night (does that make me heartless?).
  7. Walked barefoot basically everywhere.
  8. Helped make an ultra-fertile compost called Bocacchi (and while doing so juggled three relatively large pieces of five-day-old horse shit.)
  9. Read half of Zen in Plain English on a belated observation of Yom Kippur.
  10. Ate oranges picked off a tree, which are green when ripe here. (Still translates to naranja – not verde, in case you were wondering.) Broke my fast that way too.
  11. Intermittently vomited on a volcano at 2 in the morning and wrote a short song about it on my guitalele to attempt to abate the nausea.
  12. Meditated in the rain.
  13. Made (and broke) a necklace pendant out of stone. Five times.
  14. Chopped down trees with a machete.
  15. Learned Folklorica (a traditional Nicaraguan Dance).
  16. Taught English.
  17. Dreamed in Spanish.
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Central America Semester, Fall 2012

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New things I’ve done in Nicaragua

Michael Gellman,Central America Semester, Fall 2012

Description

This will be my first solo Yak posting so I’m easing into the waters of Yakhood like my mother and sister would: pinky-toe first. That’s why I’ve decided to keep it simple: NEW THINGS I’VE DONE IN NICARAGUA (Tried to) milk a cow. Showered in my underwear in the rain. Said capitalism five times in […]

Posted On

10/9/12

Author

Michael Gellman

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recent experiences are contributing to the development of a baby seedling of an idea that has been growing in my head since before taking off:

that it´s all fine and dandy to go out and experience the world, but i have to remember that my mobility is a privilege.

that if i want to do something for the world, the best thing i can do is to go back home to the country i was raised in. we are all natives of some place.

and it´s true that the best leader lets others lead themselves. but simply letting other people and groups do as they please doesn´t protect from imperialism and authoritarianism. it´s all a great balancing act- but maybe we don´t have to choose between freedom and equality.

i am trying to remember this when faced with incomprehensible cruelty: those who are destructive and greedy are afraid; a want of power is fear of death, a fear of the animal self that we humans are; a fear of the dirt that we come from and will all return to. (and that grammar is an invisible system invented to differentiate between the upper, educated class and the lower, uneducated class...)

we cannot be at peace with anything or anyone if we are not at peace with ourselves.

and there is no one right way, there might not even be a wrong way.

right and wrong are whatever we make them out to be.

all there is to do is to go home and plant seeds. and if your home is the universe, to plant seeds wherever you are.

ask anyone in nicaragua and they´ll tell you:

Sandino Vive! La Lucha Sigue!

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Central America Semester, Fall 2012

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god is worms

jackie van der hout,Central America Semester, Fall 2012

Description

recent experiences are contributing to the development of a baby seedling of an idea that has been growing in my head since before taking off: that it´s all fine and dandy to go out and experience the world, but i have to remember that my mobility is a privilege. that if i want to do […]

Posted On

10/7/12

Author

jackie van der hout

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It’s been almost three weeks now since we first arrived in El Lagartillo – we were tired and sweaty from our three day trek from Esteli, but the group gelled quickly with the community and in no time we had made ourselves at home.

We started Spanish classes the following day. Each group of 2 or 3 students (along with their teacher) was given a task to complete and present in Spanish by the end of the week. Sara and I were asked to “tell the history of something,” and our teacher Yomar suggested that we tell the history of the Contra invasion of El Lagartillo, which happened on December 31, 1984. Knowing that this invasion was part of the US-sponsored Counter Revolutionary War, I was hesitant to talk about such a sensitive subject. I would be attempting to present a project about an event, which was partially due to the actions of the country that I’m from, in which six people from this town died to an audience of their relatives and friends …in Spanish.

I love history, but this put me slightly outside my comfort zone. What if I told the story with too strong of a US bias? What if I mispronounced the name of one of the six victims of the invasion, whose brother was in the audience? Despite my reluctance, Yomar had already started scheduling interviews with people who lived through the day of the invasion and piling up books with personal accounts of what happened. It looked as if I had no choice.

It wasn’t long, however, until I was feeling better about the presentation. I was thinking less about screwing it up and more about the amazing history I was learning. Far from studying facts from a text book in classes at school, history seemed to come alive here –not only was I walking through houses in which people defended themselves, but I was also talking with people who had fled the town on the day of the invasion. I felt immersed in this history; for the first time I found myself wanting to spend more time in the library reading primary sources than at the soccer field.

In fact, I was probably a little too immersed. Sara and I had gathered a ton of information and hadn’t even started to figure out how the presentation would unfold. In usual fashion, we hashed out some bullet points a few minutes before we made our way on stage, and the presentation went surprisingly well. We had spent so much time learning the history that we were able to just talk about it without a script and without having to look at any notes either. That’s not to say we didn’t make a few mistakes; the Spanish wasn’t always smooth and we didn’t tell the history anywhere near perfectly, but the Nicas were happy about the effort and I was excited to have gotten so close to such a fascinating history.

So thanks, Yomar, for choosing this topic for the project, thank you citizens of El Lagartillo for your forgiveness and willingness to share this story, thanks to Dragons and my family for this opportunity, and thank you for reading.

Ian

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Central America Semester, Fall 2012

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Learning in El Lagartillo

Ian Kelly,Central America Semester, Fall 2012

Description

It’s been almost three weeks now since we first arrived in El Lagartillo – we were tired and sweaty from our three day trek from Esteli, but the group gelled quickly with the community and in no time we had made ourselves at home. We started Spanish classes the following day. Each group of 2 […]

Posted On

10/3/12

Author

Ian Kelly

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Last night I made a decision. I’m not going to call it “life changing” or anything as pretentious as that; but it was existence altering for sure. And I’m not saying it represented the totality of my educational and spiritual growth, nor all the recent breakthroughs and outlooks on the world and myself that I have reached in the past 3 ½ weeks. But…basically… yeah, let’s just say I made a decision.

Now I knew it was bound to happen eventually. With all the spiritual shenanigans of my recent life (not to mention an especially profound moment outside the latrine with a particularly amiable turkey) on top of the fact that I’ve been debating about it for…maybe the past 3 months or so, in the end it was inevitable. Nevertheless, the fact that it was last night was important. Last night meant I was ready. Last night meant I had changed. Last night meant I was becoming the person I wanted to be.

Why? Because last night not only did I make a decision but I took action.

So what did I do? Did I decide to live as a hermit? To not go to college? Did I give away all my possessions? Or perhaps did I decide to devote my life to staying in Nicaragua and working with the people here?

No. What I did was far more bold, more brave, more profound, and most of all, more meaningful.

I decided to

Cut.

My.

Hair.

I know, I know. You’re shocked. How can one girl have so much selfless confidence? It’s a tough life. I ask myself the same thing every day.

So there I was. Scissors in my hand, pressed up against my long, thick, rib-length hair. No mirror, no idea what I was doing, no going back. Only my soul to guide me. Let’s just say “intense” doesn’t even begin to cover it. I was on the cutting edge. (ba-dum-chhh)

And then…my fingers slowly closed and the ckkkkkkkk of my own hair, my past identity, leaving me rang in my ears. And then it was in my hand. I felt empowered! I felt Free!!! Soon my fingertips were racing, snipping, itching to be rid of what had held me back and defined me in society for so long. The scissors got closer and closer to my scalp. Short was not short enough. And as I cut I understood. And as I understood I spoke. I said, screw mirrors (coincidentally a cool band name), screw overheating all the time, screw freaking out because I thought bugs were on my neck and shoulders, screw being objectified, Scew Societal Ideas of Beauty, and Screw The Capital Mainstream!!! (because why not throw that in for funzies, right?)

I put my scissors down and felt my head.

I put my scissors down and I felt freedom.

My head felt awesome and I know I just said screw societal Ideas of beauty and mirrors a few minutes ago, but come on. I had to see how good I looked. I had to know my hair was as badass as I felt. Unfortunately, as I stated, I didn’t have a mirror. I did, however, have a camera. (In retrospect it would have made so much more sense to set the camera timer instead of failing over six times to get a decent shot of the back of my head.)

After a couple of miss-shots I finally figured out the right angle to see my masterpiece. As soon as the shutter flashed I knew I had it. My perfect shot. I held the camera to my breast for a few moments and took a deep preparatory breath.

The moment of truth. (bumbum) The moment I discovered if all my hard work, all my passion, had paid off. (bumbum) I shut my eyes and slowly brought the camera away from my body. (bumbum) One more breath (bumbum) ….eyes open.

It. Looked. Horrible.

As in I have never seen a worse haircut in my life. If I had seen myself on the street I would have assumed I knew a 4 year old with a horrible sense of revenge. There were bald spots, there were 4 inch spots, tangles and tears, diagonal cuts and straight ones. Every possible thing that could go wrong with hair was the state of my scalp. The back of my head was truly ridiculous.

My spiritual journey, my physical embodiment of all my ideals, my “new self,” my supposedly glorious mane…was awful. I had moved from badass to dumbass in the amount of time it takes a shutter to click.

And I couldn’t stop laughing.

I laughed so hard my cheekbones still hurt as I write this, so hard I think I peed myself a little. I laughed so hard my host mother came in because she thought something was seriously wrong with me…which to her credit there might be. This thing that I had taken so seriously, thought about for so long and cared so much about- just made me an idiot. In this moment I was the butt of the cosmos’ joke, and at the same time totally in on it, laughing along.

It was 11:00 in a place where everyone goes to sleep at 9. I had no hope of fixing it that night so I did the only thing I could- hopped in bed and fell asleep smiling to myself. Praying that MAYBE if I was lucky Luis would be able to buzz it back to something semi-respectable in the morning (after we’ve all had another good laugh at my expense, of course.)

Yet through my entire absurd, untraumatic, emotional trauma I feel like I learned something; there’s a moral to my story yet. Never take yourself too seriously and when you do something dumb or if something in life just goes bad, go with the flow. Take a minuteto step back, look at yourself, and just laugh.

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Central America Semester, Fall 2012

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Last night I made a decision

Claire,Central America Semester, Fall 2012

Description

Last night I made a decision. I’m not going to call it “life changing” or anything as pretentious as that; but it was existence altering for sure. And I’m not saying it represented the totality of my educational and spiritual growth, nor all the recent breakthroughs and outlooks on the world and myself that I […]

Posted On

10/3/12

Author

Claire

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excerpt from journal entry, 1st night of trek from Estelí to El Lagartillo

This may be the first time we have all sat together in silence. It is raining, and we have one roof to sit under. This is enough.

Earlier, I was talking with Maura and Sarah about the amount of auditory space that people from the U.S.1 take up and how we, in our culture, use language. We discussed the phenomenon in which words are used, not as medium for expression or communication, but as fillers for what would otherwise be silence. There is a discomfort surrounding silence; it is often assumed to be awkward and stupid. Because of this, we use words used mindlessly, preventing a break in conversation at the cost of meaningful communication.

Here in this moment in the hills of Nicaragua, the loudest noise is the rain as it hits the tin roof above us. The family in the kitchen talks together as they prepare the day's harvest for storage. They don't yell at each other from opposite ends of the house like we do in my family, they speak just loud enough to hear one another over the incessant pattering of the rain on the tin roof. As if it were a member of the conversation. The guitalele strums in accidental harmony with the raindrops as they start to lessen. We are quiet, and there is nothing to improve upon.

Today was also our first day of trekking. It was, for me, a most welcome change of pace from the chaos and noise of the city of Estelí. The green mountains welcomed us onto their paths, and we were on our way. Before leaving, Ariel read us the first part of a commencement address given at UPenn, written by a man who had walked across India on a dollar a day. His advice to the graduating class centered around the acronym W.A.L.K.

Witness

Accept

Love

Know Thyself

Today, we witnessed. We walked an hour in silence. The first thing I noticed was my heart beat, the second the howling wind. Air is all around us at all times, shaping landscapes and changing the weather. But because it cannot be seen, it is often forgotten. When we emptied our mouths of words and our minds of distractions and walked in the now, the wind commanded all of our attention. An absence of words does not equate to silence. In our own silences, we could recognize the earth as a living entity and listen to noises outside of ourselves, losing our anthropocentrism, if only for a moment.

We spoke of the walk that night under the same tin roof. As a group, we are a very lively, opinionated and boisterous bunch. This is great in a lot of scenarios, but it often comes back to bite us in the culo2 when we try to have organized group discussions. We are working on ways to be able to hear other people's points of view and opinions without having to shout over one another (guilty as charged). In other words, we are working on practicing patience and mindful speech.

Language mediates almost all human experiences, and hugely affects the way in which we perceive the world. I am of the belief that the language we chose to use in our daily lives structures the way we interpret the world in ways which we cannot understand. (That might be why I'm already known as the group's language police, calling people out on their use of current and historically oppressive language3.) This becomes even more evident speaking a second language. Despite having attended a bilingual elementary school, I still have to put quite a bit of conscious thought into the words I choose to use in Spanish. The amount of attention put into my use of Spanish makes me think about how much attention I give to the English language as well. (Some old white guy said something once about not truly knowing your own native language until you learn another).

During each morning meeting, the Linguist shares a piece of local slang with the group. One day, we came upon the phrase ¡que salvaje!, which means colloquially "how cool" but literally "how savage." As soon as it was shared, Ariel helped us unpack the historical baggage surrounding the term. To equate savagery to coolness in a country (and world) living out the aftermath of colonialization and the continuing reality of imperialism is insensitive to say the least. The term savage has been used as a way to dehumanize native peoples worldwide, and a casual usage of the word may subconsciously reinforce the worldview that native peoples are inferior to colonialists.

Subconscious thoughts and assumptions can be challenged or instilled by the use of certain types of language. Knowledge of where words come from and what they mean in a literal sense instead of the colloquial context we use them in is a way of effecting (positive!) change within ourselves and the people around us.

Sitting under the tin roof, the conversation moved to the subject of friendship. We’d talked about words and their power, but all our experiences pointed to this: the people you can be silent around, from whom you don't need anything but their presence, those are the ones that stay in your life, and those are the ones worth keeping.

1 I've learned now from my Spanish teacher Alcides that the use of the word "American" is most often wrongly confined to those who are citizens of the United States. In fact, American is a term that is applicable to all who live in the Americas. While I was previously aware of that fact, I realize now that my use of the word American to only describe U.S. citizens and residents was a kind of linguistic incarnation of U.S. imperialism.

2 That means ass.

3Not to toot my own horn (toot TOOT).

[post_title] => Yak Attack [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => yak-attack [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-08 16:17:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-08 23:17:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=39886 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 36 [name] => Best Notes From The Field [slug] => best-notes-from-the-field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 36 [taxonomy] => category [description] => 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. [parent] => 0 [count] => 503 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 0 [cat_ID] => 36 [category_count] => 503 [category_description] => 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. [cat_name] => Best Notes From The Field [category_nicename] => best-notes-from-the-field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/best-notes-from-the-field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 285 [name] => Central America Semester, Fall 2012 [slug] => central-america-semester-fall-2012 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 285 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 243 [count] => 61 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 14.1 [cat_ID] => 285 [category_count] => 61 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Central America Semester, Fall 2012 [category_nicename] => central-america-semester-fall-2012 [category_parent] => 243 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/fall-2012/central-america-semester-fall-2012/ ) ) [category_links] => Best Notes From The Field, Central America Semester, Fall 2012 )

Best Notes From The Field, Central America Semester, Fall 2012

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Yak Attack

Jackie Van Der Hout,Best Notes From The Field, Central America Semester, Fall 2012

Description

excerpt from journal entry, 1st night of trek from Estelí to El Lagartillo This may be the first time we have all sat together in silence. It is raining, and we have one roof to sit under. This is enough. Earlier, I was talking with Maura and Sarah about the amount of auditory space that […]

Posted On

09/21/12

Author

Jackie Van Der Hout

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    [post_date] => 2012-09-21 00:00:00
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This may be the first time we have all sat together in silence. It is raining, and we have one roof to sit under. This is enough.

Earlier, I was talking with Maura and Sarah about the amount of auditory space that people from the U.S.1 take up and how we, in our culture, use language. We discussed the phenomenon in which words are used, not as medium for expression or communication, but as fillers for what would otherwise be silence. There is a discomfort surrounding silence; it is often assumed to be awkward and stupid. Because of this, we use words used mindlessly, preventing a break in conversation at the cost of meaningful communication.

Here in this moment in the hills of Nicaragua, the loudest noise is the rain as it hits the tin roof above us. The family in the kitchen talks together as they prepare the day's harvest for storage. They don't yell at each other from opposite ends of the house like we do in my family, they speak just loud enough to hear one another over the incessant pattering of the rain on the tin roof. As if it were a member of the conversation. The guitalele strums in accidental harmony with the raindrops as they start to lessen. We are quiet, and there is nothing to improve upon.

Today was also our first day of trekking. It was, for me, a most welcome change of pace from the chaos and noise of the city of Estelí. The green mountains welcomed us onto their paths, and we were on our way. Before leaving, Ariel read us the first part of a commencement address given at UPenn, written by a man who had walked across India on a dollar a day. His advice to the graduating class centered around the acronym W.A.L.K.

Witness

Accept

Love

Know Thyself

Today, we witnessed. We walked an hour in silence. The first thing I noticed was my heart beat, the second the howling wind. Air is all around us at all times, shaping landscapes and changing the weather. But because it cannot be seen, it is often forgotten. When we emptied our mouths of words and our minds of distractions and walked in the now, the wind commanded all of our attention. An absence of words does not equate to silence. In our own silences, we could recognize the earth as a living entity and listen to noises outside of ourselves, losing our anthropocentrism, if only for a moment.

We spoke of the walk that night under the same tin roof. As a group, we are a very lively, opinionated and boisterous bunch. This is great in a lot of scenarios, but it often comes back to bite us in the culo2 when we try to have organized group discussions. We are working on ways to be able to hear other people's points of view and opinions without having to shout over one another (guilty as charged). In other words, we are working on practicing patience and mindful speech.

Language mediates almost all human experiences, and hugely affects the way in which we perceive the world. I am of the belief that the language we chose to use in our daily lives structures the way we interpret the world in ways which we cannot understand. (That might be why I'm already known as the group's language police, calling people out on their use of current and historically oppressive language3.) This becomes even more evident speaking a second language. Despite having attended a bilingual elementary school, I still have to put quite a bit of conscious thought into the words I choose to use in Spanish. The amount of attention put into my use of Spanish makes me think about how much attention I give to the English language as well. (Some old white guy said something once about not truly knowing your own native language until you learn another).

During each morning meeting, the Linguist shares a piece of local slang with the group. One day, we came upon the phrase ¡que salvaje!, which means colloquially "how cool" but literally "how savage." As soon as it was shared, Ariel helped us unpack the historical baggage surrounding the term. To equate savagery to coolness in a country (and world) living out the aftermath of colonialization and the continuing reality of imperialism is insensitive to say the least. The term savage has been used as a way to dehumanize native peoples worldwide, and a casual usage of the word may subconsciously reinforce the worldview that native peoples are inferior to colonialists.

Subconscious thoughts and assumptions can be challenged or instilled by the use of certain types of language. Knowledge of where words come from and what they mean in a literal sense instead of the colloquial context we use them in is a way of effecting (positive!) change within ourselves and the people around us.

Sitting under the tin roof, the conversation moved to the subject of friendship. We’d talked about words and their power, but all our experiences pointed to this: the people you can be silent around, from whom you don't need anything but their presence, those are the ones that stay in your life, and those are the ones worth keeping.

1 I've learned now from my Spanish teacher Alcides that the use of the word "American" is most often wrongly confined to those who are citizens of the United States. In fact, American is a term that is applicable to all who live in the Americas. While I was previously aware of that fact, I realize now that my use of the word American to only describe U.S. citizens and residents was a kind of linguistic incarnation of U.S. imperialism.

2 That means ass.

3Not to toot my own horn (toot TOOT).

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Central America Semester, Fall 2012

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excerpt from journal entry, 1st night of trek from Estelí to El Lagartillo

jackie van der hout edited by michael gellman,Central America Semester, Fall 2012

Description

This may be the first time we have all sat together in silence. It is raining, and we have one roof to sit under. This is enough. Earlier, I was talking with Maura and Sarah about the amount of auditory space that people from the U.S.1 take up and how we, in our culture, use […]

Posted On

09/21/12

Author

jackie van der hout edited by michael gellman

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Ukulele strumsand thunder roars

Political banter and broken doors

This is how I will remember orientation,

meeting people for the first time in a new nations

The nightsmay bedark but our spirits are light

Dyllan´s voice reading the hobbit feels just right

It´s only been three days and I feel like I´ve known them forever

although its early I can´t imagine forgetting them´, or this, never

The goats bleet, vacas mu, and the cocks a doddle do us awake

we take giddy showers in the rain, for no reason but the sake

With each breaking day we push ourselves more and grow

from the hike, oli´s animals, michael letting go, it shows.

And then when it rains- not a rat-a-tat but an attack on the tin panroof

we sit huddled- during permaculture and communication lessons no one is aloof

We will expole the world as well as ourselves- dragons puts us to the test

guided byaudenticity, humility, curiosity and interconectedness

As we step into ourfuture, none of us can be sure what it may hold

but what I am sure: cherishedincredible experiences will betold

I hope you enjoy them along our journey

Somos Dragones

Hasta Luego

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Central America Semester, Fall 2012

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Our Beginnings

Claire Bostock,Central America Semester, Fall 2012

Description

Ukulele strumsand thunder roars Political banter and broken doors This is how I will remember orientation, meeting people for the first time in a new nations The nightsmay bedark but our spirits are light Dyllan´s voice reading the hobbit feels just right It´s only been three days and I feel like I´ve known them forever […]

Posted On

09/13/12

Author

Claire Bostock

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DISCLAIMER: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE UPCOMING MOVIE ¨THE HOBBIT¨

¡Hola EEUU!

It´s my first time leaving home on an adventure of this caliber and length, and I (Ian) knew I´d feel more comfortable traveling with a good book. The Hobbit was perfect -- the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, embarks on the first real adventure of his life, and has no idea what he´s in for. I read a few chapters on the plane from Miami to Managua, and it had me hooked. So I was happy when on the second night of our trip, we chose The Hobbit for our nightly reading circle. And it was only after hearing the tale read aloud (in Dillon´s sweet sultry tones) that we (Michael and Ian)truly began to appreciate the similarities between Bilbo´s journey and our own.

For starters, the two hour trek we took as a group seemed to be ripped from Tolkien´s pages. As we hiked along pine trees and under cloudy skies, we couldn´t help but remember the nearly identical forest depicted in the novel. So it was no surprise when our insanely knowledgeable instructor Luis informed us that this very region of Nicaragua was almost picked as the Lord of the Rings film site. After seeking shelter under the mouth of a cave - just as Baggins had - we couldn´t believe our ears. According to Lolo (our guide) and local legend, the bat cave had once been home to elves. (For those unfortunate souls who have yet to read the novel, elves play a pretty major role in The Hobbit.) When we lit our torches and entered the cave, we realized that, just like in Bilbo´s party, there were exactly fourteen of us. And later that night we spent an hour solving each other´s favorite riddles, only to read about how Baggins was forced to bet his life on his ability to do the same.

Despite the already overwhelming similarities, we keep discovering new ones each night our reading circle meets. But one thing we just can´t relate to are Bilbo´s constant complaints of hunger. (Thrust into the wild, he´s forced to severely cut back on his decandent six meals aday diet.) Unlike him, we´ve dined like kings, eating four meals of authentic Nicaraguan food daily.Each night-time reading circle has gotten us more and more curious to find out what will unfold as Baggins gets closer to reclaiming the treasure stolen by Smaug, the evil dragon. We´re excited to see what our Dragons trip has in store for us as well.

Thanks for reading!

Michael y Ian
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Central America Semester, Fall 2012

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The Surprising Link Between The Hobbit and NIcaragua

Ian and Michael,Central America Semester, Fall 2012

Description

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE UPCOMING MOVIE ¨THE HOBBIT¨ ¡Hola EEUU! It´s my first time leaving home on an adventure of this caliber and length, and I (Ian) knew I´d feel more comfortable traveling with a good book. The Hobbit was perfect — the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, embarks on the first real […]

Posted On

09/13/12

Author

Ian and Michael

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