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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013


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Now that we are getting ready to leave, packing and thinking of what layers to bring on this beginning part of the trip. I remember reading that we (parents) are to send a heavy jacket later on during the trip. Could you reveiw that information, and should we send the long underwear layers with that jacket, should we send gloves and hat too?

Also, would this be an opportunity to send anything else, like cookies or other small food items?

With the limited space in the backpack, it would be good to send later any heavy winter items not needed now.

Thanks!

Ann Jordan 

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Typical Mom question-whats the weather like?

Ann Jordan,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Now that we are getting ready to leave, packing and thinking of what layers to bring on this beginning part of the trip. I remember reading that we (parents) are to send a heavy jacket later on during the trip. Could you reveiw that information, and should we send the long underwear layers with that […]

Posted On

02/6/13

Author

Ann Jordan

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Your beliefs become your thoughts... Your thoughts become your words... Your words become your actions... Your actions become your habits... Your habits become your values... Your values become your destiny.
 
Good day Mekong explorers,
 
This upcoming three months could be a life-transforming journey if you choose to participate fully and consciously. To facilitate this process, we invite you today to contemplate a personal mantra.
 
To understand the importance of creating a personal mantra, one must first understand what a mantra is. To many a mantra is a way of life. It is the way that you live in order to bring into your life all that you desire. This can be as simple as a personal ritual that you do everyday that helps you feel more successful and confident to face the day and not only go after what you want but helps you achieve it.
 
This ritual or mantra can be actions that are spiritual, mental, verbal or physical. It is agreed by many that a mantra is a verbal word or phrase that means something to the individual. A verbal mantra is a phrase that repeats to you what your goal is and how you will attain that goal and you repeat it to yourself over and over again. A mantra is a gentle reminder to the brain that there is purpose to your action. The purpose is for you to attain your goals.
 
A mantra is considered an ancient sacred formula comprised of spiritual energies that take form in words. A mantra helps to establish a very deep and harmonious connection between the individual and nature. This connection allows us to delve into the divine energies thereby increasing the power of our soul so that we are able to live a masterful life. Having a mantra is the most important element in truly bringing change into your life. Your mantra helps you take control and accept responsibility for your life, and it is through this acceptance change takes place.
 
A mantra should be specifically chosen for each individual person in order for that mantra to be effective for that person. You can create your own mantra to meet your needs at the moment. To create your own personal mantra you need to keep a few important elements in mind as you go through this process.
 
  • Make your mantra a declaration of what you want to achieve as if it already has happened. Live life as if it is so and it will be. This infuses the mantra through each and every cell in your body, there is a different feeling associated with wanting something and knowing that you have it.
  • Your mantra needs to be positive. The focus of you intent needs to be on what it is you want, not what you don't want.
Examples of personal mantra:
 
  • I am a link in the Golden Chain of love that stretches around the world, and must keep my link bright and strong.
  • When you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything.
  • Everything can be good and bad at the same time, when we are living in a relative world. Everything is always perfect, when we are living in the world of Oneness.
  • Be here and now.
  • Come from love, tell the truth, act with integrity.
So to recap: A mantra is a word, phrase, or sentence that serves as a reminder of one's values. Repeated daily, mantras can assist the aspirant in realizing his/her goals. Words are embodiement of power. Take the time to think about what you would like to manifest in this world.
 
Please create your own personal mantra and be ready to share with the group during our orientation.
 
Kindly,
The Sages of Mekong
 
*Article Source: Creating Your Own Personal Mantra By Neil Bartlett
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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Exercise: Personal Mantra

The Sages of Mekong,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Your beliefs become your thoughts… Your thoughts become your words… Your words become your actions… Your actions become your habits… Your habits become your values… Your values become your destiny.   Good day Mekong explorers,   This upcoming three months could be a life-transforming journey if you choose to participate fully and consciously. To facilitate […]

Posted On

02/5/13

Author

The Sages of Mekong

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Su'sday everybody!

 

Your I-team is all in Cambodia now and preparing for your arrival.  We are SO excited to begin our journey together.  

 

Great questions about backacks.  If you already have one...no matter the size then go ahead and use it.  If it is a large one just make sure you stick to the packing list and don't stuff it full with extra gear.

 

If you have any further questions please don't hesitate to yak them!

 

See you all soon,

Mekong Sages 

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Backpack Question Answered

Mekong Sages,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Su’sday everybody!   Your I-team is all in Cambodia now and preparing for your arrival.  We are SO excited to begin our journey together.     Great questions about backacks.  If you already have one…no matter the size then go ahead and use it.  If it is a large one just make sure you stick […]

Posted On

02/3/13

Author

Mekong Sages

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A Few Notes on $$: Dos and Don’ts

 

As travelers, it’s an unavoidable fact that we need to carry around some money.  This yak is dedicated to a few suggestions about what (and what not) to bring along on our trip.

 

1)  Everyone will need $100 cash (no old bills) to pay for a visas on arrival to Cambodia and Laos.  You will also need 4 passport photos.

 

2)  If you’re into buying cool souvenirs (clothes, scarves, shoes, hats, bags, candles, bracelets, earrings, paintings, carvings or whatever else you might find in one of the many markets we’ll visit) then you should plan on bringing an extra $100 - $200 in cash, which you’ll be able to change in Cambodia, Laos or China.

 

**NOTE**  Please don’t show up with thousands of dollars in cash.  Not only will you not need it, you’re more likely to misplace it.

 

3)  NO traveler’s checks please!!  Surprisingly, these are rather a thing of the past.  A large portion of banks do not accept them, and where they are accepted, rest assured you’ll spend a whole lot of time waiting in line.

 

4)  An ATM card (with a 4 digit PIN).  International ATM’s are springing up everywhere, and it’s not difficult to find a place to draw out local currency if you find yourself running low on dough. (Cambodian ATMs actually dispense USD, but changing houses are available).

 

**NOTE**  Please notify your banks of where you’re going.  Definitely plan on doing this. If you don’t tell them beforehand it is very likely that they’ll cancel your card, mistaking you for an identity thief in a foreign country.  It’s difficult and costly to have a new one shipped our way.

 

5)  Credit Cards, bring one or two along if you’d like, as backup.  Drawing on credit sure is nice, but don’t count on being able to use them in most (almost all) places.  Often in foreign countries the only spots that accept credit cards are high-brow resorts and hotels. Shops, restaurants or otherwise are usually cash only.

 

6)  Money belt, secret zipper pockets or necklace pouch.  It’s a good idea to carry in your normal pockets only a small sum of cash and to keep the rest hidden away in places only accessible by you yourself.  Though petty theft is an unlikely occurrence, it is always nice to know you have you ducats safe away.

 

That about does it for monetary recommendations.  If you have any more questions about the above points, please don’t hesitate to make it public on the yak board.

 

Thanks!

Mekong Sages

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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A Few Notes on Money

Mekong Sages,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

A Few Notes on $$: Dos and Don’ts   As travelers, it’s an unavoidable fact that we need to carry around some money.  This yak is dedicated to a few suggestions about what (and what not) to bring along on our trip.   1)  Everyone will need $100 cash (no old bills) to pay for a visas on arrival to […]

Posted On

02/3/13

Author

Mekong Sages

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-31 00:00:00
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Hey, So I've got a question regarding backpack sizes. The packing list says that our backpack which carries everything should be between 30 and 45 liters. I already have a heavy-duty backpacking one that's 65 liters that I'm used to carrying and that I've been using for a while. Would it be a problem if I brought that one, even if I didn't fill it up? Is that one way too big?

 

Elise 

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Backpacks

Elise Emil,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Hey, So I’ve got a question regarding backpack sizes. The packing list says that our backpack which carries everything should be between 30 and 45 liters. I already have a heavy-duty backpacking one that’s 65 liters that I’m used to carrying and that I’ve been using for a while. Would it be a problem if […]

Posted On

01/31/13

Author

Elise Emil

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Hey travel buddies! I am so excited to meet all of you! I am from Valley Forge, PA and went to a boarding school in the beautiful state of Montana, and it has been crazy transitioning back to the east (people are so different!). I just recently graduated high school in December and have been thinking about this trip pretty much non stop since then! I have not done much travelling so I am more than excited to be going on such an exotic adventure and see how even more different people can be! WOOHOO SOUTHEAST ASIA!

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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hey hey!

Sarah Brodsky,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Hey travel buddies! I am so excited to meet all of you! I am from Valley Forge, PA and went to a boarding school in the beautiful state of Montana, and it has been crazy transitioning back to the east (people are so different!). I just recently graduated high school in December and have been […]

Posted On

01/30/13

Author

Sarah Brodsky

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-28 00:00:00
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Hey Everyone,

 

My name is Neel and I'm writing this from Fort Collins Colorado! I grew up here and I've never lived anywhere else. I've never been to Asia but 'm excited to see what it's like. I am in the middle of my gap year right now, during the first half I worked on a presidential campaign and I had a great time doing it. I think I'm more excited about this half to be completely honest. I'm excited to travel through Asia and a little nervous. I can't wait for all the experiences that we'll have. 

 

See ya in Cambodia. 

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Hello!

Neel Cole,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Hey Everyone,   My name is Neel and I’m writing this from Fort Collins Colorado! I grew up here and I’ve never lived anywhere else. I’ve never been to Asia but ‘m excited to see what it’s like. I am in the middle of my gap year right now, during the first half I worked […]

Posted On

01/28/13

Author

Neel Cole

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Hello everybody!  

 

I'm writing to you from a camp in Krabi, Thailand, on the coast of the Andaman Sea where I'm doing some marine conservation work before I come to Dragons.  I'm SO excited for this trip and to meet all of you!  I'm bummed that I won't get to meet up with you all in LA (seemed silly to fly back to the states just to fly back here) but I'm really looking forward to meeting you all in Cambodia!  I really have no idea what to expect from this trip, but I think that's why I'm so excited.  I feel like high school was pretty much just waking up every day knowing exactly what would happen every day for the next three months, so I'm excited for new adventures and unexpected things.

 

Anyways, can't wait to meet you all in Cambodia!

 

Katherine 

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Hello!!!

Katherine Krey,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Hello everybody!     I’m writing to you from a camp in Krabi, Thailand, on the coast of the Andaman Sea where I’m doing some marine conservation work before I come to Dragons.  I’m SO excited for this trip and to meet all of you!  I’m bummed that I won’t get to meet up with […]

Posted On

01/26/13

Author

Katherine Krey

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Mekong Semester Tentative Itinerary for Spring 2013!

 

Hello students and families. Following is a week-by-week tentative itinerary, which portrays the general flow of our upcoming journey. Please note that we design our courses to be flexible and dynamic and that the itinerary below is subject to change!

 

Week 1 - Orientation in Angtasom

Students fly into Phnom Penh where the leaders Jesse, Hillary and Jacky offer warm greetings, hugs and welcome all to Cambodia. Orientation begins! We will head to Angtasom, our orientation site, where we will meet our Cambodian coordinator Mara and ease into introductory Khmer language lessons. We will go over our itinerary, learn about the Mekong, orient ourselves to Cambodian culture, and most importantly, get to know one another.

 

During orientation we'll look into our course themes that will guide us throughout: Turbulent River, Mind Like Water, Bombs and Bureaucracy and Daily Rhythms. At the conclusion of the first week, we'll have a good idea of where we're going, course curriculum, goals and what we'll be able to contribute and draw from our wonderful journey and experiences to come. In Angtasom we will have the opportunity to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Hope for Happiness, which organizes education programs for young children in the area. We will embark a day trip Takeo market, play basketball with local kids, and enjoy the beauty of the Cambodian countryside.  We'll also delve into issues surrounding human rights, development, and comparative religion in Southeast Asia. Students will develop ideas for their ISPs (Independent Study Projects).

 

Week 2 – Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

Siem Reap will be filled with early mornings, waking up for the rising sun over the famous Angkor Temples at Ankor Wat and Ta Phrom. We will visit Beng Melea (Hillary’s favorite!), Bayon, Temple of the Leper King and Takeo. We will also visit Siem Reap's Children's hospital, the Landmine Museum, Tonle Sap Lake, and have time to explore Siem Reap. Fancy a fish foot massage, anyone?

 

Week 3 - First Cambodian Homestay

After our empowering homestay briefing we will go to Mara's village, Prek Pdao. Students will have meals with their homestay families and rejoin as a group for language lessons and other activities. Students will have time to work on their ISP (Individual Study Project). Typically, students grow very close to their homestay families here and shed tears upon having to say goodbye. This week we will delve into Buddhism and talk about the values that Americans share (from a Southeast Asian prospective).

 

Week 4 – Phnom Penh

We will journey to Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city, where we will learn more about Cambodia's history and witness first-hand the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng prison, S-21. This will surely be a heavy experience, and we'll spend ample time reflecting, briefing and debriefing our experiences and reactions. In addition, Phnom Penh is nicknamed the NGO capital because of the high concentration of NGOs working there. We will visit many organizations that work for causes such as street children, justice and memory, development, education, and giving technical skills to workers.  Students will also have time to grow their city legs and exercise newly acquired language skills on a scavenger hunt, which includes the National Palace, Silver Pagoda, Wat Phnom and Psar Themi Market. This week's lessons will include: An intro service and development. Justice and Memory: How do you rebuild your society after genocide? We will learn about various NGOs, their goals, and do a comparative NGO study, what is effective or not effective locally and globally.

 

Week 5 - Travel up the Mekong to Kratie and into Laos

This week we will have to say goodbye to Mara, our Cambodian homestay coordinator and language teacher. We travel up our Mother River into the wilds of Eastern Cambodia then into Southern Laos where we meet Somsanid, our amazing local guide!  Don Daeng is a beautiful island where we relax and get acquainted with the very slow place of this incredible country.  We will be introduced to Laos, its history, its people and its customs.

 

Week 6 - Travel through Laos

We will spend time trekking through the gorgeous karst countryside of this landlocked country, learning about the flora and fauna and hoping for a glimpse at some barking deer and other wildlife. We then travel over land to Vientiane, the capital city, here we learn about Laos' Secret War while we visit the COPE visitor center, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Nam Theuan II dam. We then make our way to Luang Prabang, a United Nations UNESCO Heritage Site, famous for its wats. We will explore the dawn monk procession, Pac Ou Caves, and Kuang Si Waterfalls. Lessons for this week include ecology and development around dam sites, endangered species, and the complex relationships that evolve around these themes. What is a tourist and what is a traveler (and is there a difference)? 

 

Weeks 7 to 9 - Homestays in Ban Xieng Mene

Students will settle into their third host family stays, with whom they will live for three weeks. During this time students take language classes with Somsanid, work on their ISP projects, explore the area, and become a firm part of their family's life. Our homestays will end on a bang! We will celebrate the New Year's Festival, which students will celebrate with their parents and siblings. Lessons these three weeks include diversity on the Mekong, including SE Asian and Chinese migrations, both historical and contemporary. We will look into Human Rights and the UN in the context of Laotian politics. We also look at labor and sex trafficking across borders and the issue of undervaluation of education for women.

 

Week 10 - Jungle Trekking in Laos

From Pak Ta to Xuayxai we will make our way to Luang Nam Tha, a magical part of Laos. Here we will do a Jungle Trek with the incredible Mr. Bouakhet, who is recognized as perhaps the best jungle guide in Laos. Students will learn survival skills, such as how to set a trap and make a bow and arrow, as we trek through the jungle. We'll engage in a "Meeting of the Sages," a round table debate among Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian and Legalist students-become-erudite scholars.

 

Week 11 - To China

We will cross into China and begin our time there on Kunming's vibrant streets. While living in the City of Eternal Spring, we'll begin our introduction to China and discover its history and variegated cultural facets, walking through markets and museums, biking to monasteries and discussing the recent explosion of China's urban hot spots. Given our urban environment we will delve into modern environmental issues, discussing "China Versus Mother Nature" for the present and future, and a historical glance at Chinese Landscapes through the mediums of painting and poetry. We end the week embarking upon a trek, perhaps on the sacred hills of Meili Xueshan or along the winding paths of Tiger Leaping Gorge.

 

Weeks 12 - 13 - Trek and Rural Homestays

From trekking we move into our rural homestays with traditional Tibetan families. Hunkering down in the beautiful mountainous scenery surrounding Lijiang, very near the source of the Mekong in the mountains of Tibet we'll learn about Sino-Tibetan issues (Conflict at the Source) and the rich culture of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. In addition we explore Culture as a Commodity, which includes a hunt for the strangest trinket from the multitudinous shops lining the crowded cobblestone alleyways of Lijiang.

 

Our last week includes what Dragons calls Transference - activities that highlight the lessons we have learned and ways to incorporate our newly acquired knowledge into our lives at home. We will come together in the peaceful area of Dali, which will be our backdrop for this introspective time.

 

Finally and tearfully, we will return to Kunming for our international flight and say farewell.

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Mekong Tentative Itinerary

Mekong Sages,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Mekong Semester Tentative Itinerary for Spring 2013!   Hello students and families. Following is a week-by-week tentative itinerary, which portrays the general flow of our upcoming journey. Please note that we design our courses to be flexible and dynamic and that the itinerary below is subject to change!   Week 1 – Orientation in Angtasom […]

Posted On

01/25/13

Author

Mekong Sages

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-25 00:00:00
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Sus’day!

 

ISPs stand for independent study projects. Here, we will tell you what that means for us on our trip and will give you suggestions for what you can pursue.  

 

Students ISPs are one of the areas where students can delve deep into a topic, take ownership over interests, flex their independence and have a lot of fun! It is a chance to learn a new skill and explore a new aspect of our host countries.

 

Students should choose a topic that they are passionate about and that they will be able to successfully explore within our three months together.  One crucial aspect is that as much as possible, we ask that students choose a topic that makes sense given the context of our Mekong Semester trip. (So, Andean flute playing would not utilize the resources around us, for example.)

 

We leaders will be calling students in the coming weeks to talk to you about your ISP ideas and answer any other questions you may have before setting off. Please read through this text, choose a topic or two that interest you, and be prepared to talk about ISP ideas when we call. This way we can start working on making possible connections even before students arrive in Cambodia.

 

At the end of our semester, students will share with their group, experientially if possible, a taste of what they did for their ISP. This culmination of the project are our ISP Presentations.

 

To have a successful ISP, students must be active in the following things:

 

1) Selecting in the first week of the course their ISP topic;

 

2) Taking initiative with the project's creation and direction; and,

 

3) Committing to the project through all its challenges until its conclusion.

 

The ISP presentations are our favorite part of the curriculum, because students always shine in showing off where their passion and interest have led them over the 3 month course.

 

One way to think about the ISP is to consider: Head, Hands, Heart.

 

If you want, you can follow your Head, and choose a topic that is intellectually interesting, such as politics or corruption. You can utilize your Hands to do something skill-based such as learning meditation, learning cooking techniques, studying more deeply a language, or local handicrafts or a musical instrument. You can choose Heart and do something you are passionate about such as doing service work with an organization or teaching in a school.

 

We would love to incorporate “Hands” in some way into each ISP - it is after all an experiential project.

 

Lastly, one more thing to consider: Our itinerary is expansive - we will be visiting three countries in three months! We recommend choosing an ISP that is COMPARATIVE in scope. This means as we travel, students can pursue the same ISP topic in each of the three countries, providing a broad view of this issue in the region as a whole.

 

Looking at how one simple thing  - like a bowl of noodles - changes over the course of the river would be a fun, fascinating, and delicious ISP! 

 

Please take a look at the following list to get some juices flowing. It is not comprehensive! It’s OK if you aren’t completely sure what you want to study at this point. At the end of the 1st week on course we will help you draft your ISP proposal.

 

Economy / Development:

Telecommunications (mobile phones)

Prices of food – comparative study

What is rural development?

Visions of “the good life” – how development is portrayed in advertising.

Local benefits / drawbacks of major infrastructure projects

Gross Domestic Product and social well-being

Developed internet access

Role of the World Bank and/or Asia Development Bank

China’s influence in SE Asia

Comparison of local food markets

Public services (or lack thereof)

Trash collection

Public transportation

Utilities

Education (primary, secondary, development of, etc)

 

 

Politics:

Modern SE Asian politics – a survey

Pay for public servants

Corruption  

Legacy of colonialism – French, British, Japanese

Asian communism in theory and practice

Politics of tourism

China / Laos / Cambodia relations

Role and limitations of domestic and foreign NGOs

Censorship and taboo

Impressions of America and Americans

Political borders v. on the ground demographics

Ethnic minority issues

Mekong River Commission

Women in politics

Legacy of conflict

 

Religion:

Animism

Spirit houses

Islam

Daily monastic life

Comparison of Tibetan / Lao / Khmer Buddhism

Temple architecture and daily structure

Superstitions and taboo

Government repression

Individual meditation

Religion v. materialism

Ghosts/spirits

Folklore

 

Environment:

Rubber plantations

Deforestation

Slash and Burn

National Protected Areas

Ecotourism

Potential impacts of climate change

Tigers, bears, large predators

Wild animals in the local markets

 

Transportation:

Use of horns/headlights

Methods of transportation (especially a photo-essay)

Methods of transporting animals

People to wheel ratio in forms of transport

Gasoline/filling stations and their role in the community

Tourist vs local transportation

 

Tourism:

Mapping the tourist flow

Attitudes towards tourists

Economic impacts of tourism

Tourist space vs. Local space

Dangers of tourism

Effects of declaring a UNESCO site

 

Language:

Reading/writing/tones

Idioms

Songs – traditional / popular

Mapping linguistic zones

 

Trafficking:

Sex trafficking

Labor trafficking

 

Food:

Family cooking

Edible flora/fauna

Tea and Coffee

Food packaging

How rice is grown

Irrigation

Local food v. imports

 

We look forward to talking to you on the phone in the coming weeks about your ISP ideas!

 

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Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

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Let’s talk ISPs!

Hillary Sites,Life Along the Mekong Semester, Spring 2013

Description

Sus’day!   ISPs stand for independent study projects. Here, we will tell you what that means for us on our trip and will give you suggestions for what you can pursue.     Students ISPs are one of the areas where students can delve deep into a topic, take ownership over interests, flex their independence […]

Posted On

01/25/13

Author

Hillary Sites

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