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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014
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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014


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    [post_content] => Andrew left an inspiring note to be found "down the road" by future Dragons students in the book that he just finished and returned to the library here at the Kathmandu program house…
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A Note Left by a Departing Student

Instructors,Picture of the Week, Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014

Description

Andrew left an inspiring note to be found “down the road” by future Dragons students in the book that he just finished and returned to the library here at the Kathmandu program house…

Posted On

05/12/14

Author

Instructors

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    [post_content] => After an emotional farewell at the airport, students are safely headed home.  They are excited to share the extraordinary time they had in Nepal.  They have grown and changed and re entry can be a bumpy landing.  Below are some common experiences students share on return from study abroad.  We have shared them with the students and shared them here with you in hopes that it might help to better understand where they are coming from at first on arrival back home.  Thank you for trusting us with your children.  It has been a pleasure to spend these past 3 months with them.

THE TOP TEN IMMEDIATE REENTRY CHALLENGES

There are lots of reasons to look forward to returning home, but there are also a number of psychological, social, and cultural aspects which can prove difficult, often because they are unanticipated. Interviewing students like you, who have been through the experience and survived nicely, generated the following list. However, they say you should take the process seriously by being realistic and thinking about it and your possible reactions. They offer the following thoughts on reentry for your consideration in the hope they will make your return both more enjoyable and productive.

1. Boredom

After all the newness and stimulation of your time abroad, a return to family, friends, and old routines (however nice and comforting) can seem very dull. It is natural to miss the excitement and challenges that characterize study in a foreign country, but it is up to you to find ways to overcome such negative reactions. Remember a bored person is also boring.

2. No One Wants to Hear

One thing you can count on upon your return: no one will be as interested in hearing about your adventures and triumphs as you will be in sharing those experiences. This is not a rejection of you or your experience, but simply the fact that once they have heard the highlights, any further interest on your audiences' part is probably unlikely. Be realistic in your expectations of how fascinating your journey is going to be for everyone else. Be brief. Find people who DO want to hear, like the study abroad advisor, other study abroad returnees, students considering study abroad in the future or possibly international students on campus.

3. You Can't Explain

Even when given a chance to explain all the sights you saw and feelings you had while studying abroad, it is likely to be difficult to relay these to others. No matter how sympathetic your listener, to convey this kind of experience to others, there must be a similar frame of reference or travel background. It is advised to find one or two key experiences that can be told easily and descriptively which convey the essence of your experience. Sometimes a humorous or touching story can give the impression you want in a short time. You can tell people about your trip, but you may fail to make them understand exactly how or why you felt a particular way. It's okay.

4. Reverse Homesickness

Just as you probably missed home for a time after leaving the United States, it is just as natural to experience some reverse homesickness for the people, places and things that you grew accustomed to as a study abroad student. To an extent writing letters, telephoning, and generally keeping in contact with people from your study abroad country or program can reduce it. Feelings of loss are an integral part of an international sojourn and must be anticipated and accepted as a natural result of study abroad.

5. Relationships Have Changed

It is inevitable that when you return you will notice that some relationships with friends and family will have changed. You have altered some of your ideas and attitudes while abroad. The people at home may have experienced some changes too. Changes may be positive or negative, but expecting that no change will have occurred is unrealistic. The best preparation is flexibility, openness, minimal preconceptions and tempered optimism.

6. People See the “Wrong” Changes

Sometimes people may concentrate on small alterations in your behavior or ideas and seem threatened or upset by them. Others may ascribe any traits to the influence of your time abroad. Jealousy, fear, or feelings of superiority or inferiority may motivate these incidents. To avoid or minimize them it is necessary to monitor yourself and be aware of the reactions of those around you, especially in the first few weeks following your return. This phase normally passes quickly if you do nothing to confirm their stereotypes.

7. People Misunderstand

If you adapted and integrated well into your host culture, you may find communication difficult upon your return. A few people will misinterpret your words or actions. For example, what you may have come to think of as humor (particularly sarcasm, banter, etc.) and ways to show affection or establish conversation may not be interpreted as such. Others may see you as showing off or aggressive. New clothing or hairstyles may be seen as inappropriate or provocative. References to the country in which you resided or use of foreign words or phrases may be interpreted as boasting. Be aware of how you may look to others and how your behavior is likely to be interpreted.

8. Feeling of Alienation / Critical Eyes

Sometimes the reality of being back home is not as natural or enjoyable as what you had constructed mentally. When daily life is less enjoyable or more demanding than you remembered, it is natural to feel some alienation, see faults in society you never noticed before or even become quite critical of everyone and everything. This is most likely no different than when you first arrived in your new country and found it strange or lacking. Mental comparisons are fine, but it might be best to keep them to yourself until you regain your cultural balance and a balanced perspective.

9. Inability to Apply New Knowledge and Skills

Many returnees are frustrated by the lack of opportunity to apply newly gained social, linguistic, and practical coping skills that appear to be unnecessary or irrelevant. To avoid ongoing annoyance: adjust to reality as necessary, change what is possible, be creative, be patient, and above all use all the cross- cultural adjustment skills you acquired abroad to assist your own reentry.

10. Loss

Being home, coupled with the pressures of school, family and friends often combine to make returnees worried that somehow they will lose the experience of being abroad. They fear it will become compartmentalized like souvenirs or photo albums kept in a box and only occasionally taken out and looked at. You do not have to let that happen. Keep something acquired while abroad as part of your daily life or start a new tradition for a special holiday. Maintain your contacts. Talk to people who have experiences similar to yours and encourage others to go abroad. Practice your skills. Remember and honor both your hard work and the fun you had while abroad.

Courtesy of IES (Institute for the International Education of Students)

 
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Students are headed home!

Instructors,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014

Description

After an emotional farewell at the airport, students are safely headed home.  They are excited to share the extraordinary time they had in Nepal.  They have grown and changed and re entry can be a bumpy landing.  Below are some common experiences students share on return from study abroad.  We have shared them with the […]

Posted On

05/10/14

Author

Instructors

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While in our rural village stay in Chaukati we ran a dental camp.  We brought dentist friends who helped us plan and run the camp to serve the village of Chaukati and its surrounding villages.  Most medical posts do not provide dental care or education, and although Chaukati has a medical post, they have no local resource for dental care or education.  A majority of patients seen do not brush their teeth regularly.  Students helped to sanitize equipment and pass it to the dentists as needed, ran registration and an oral hygiene demonstration, and a few students even extracted teeth!  The camp was a huge success with over 100 people seen and treated. [post_title] => Dental camp in the village of Chaukati [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => dental-camp-village-chaukati [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-05-09 08:06:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-05-09 14:06:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://wheretherebedragons.com/?p=100623 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 30 [name] => Picture of the Week [slug] => picture-of-the-week [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 30 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 483 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 1 [cat_ID] => 30 [category_count] => 483 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Picture of the Week [category_nicename] => picture-of-the-week [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/picture-of-the-week/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 188 [name] => Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014 [slug] => himalayan-studies-semester-spring-2014 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 188 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 238 [count] => 155 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 9.1 [cat_ID] => 188 [category_count] => 155 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014 [category_nicename] => himalayan-studies-semester-spring-2014 [category_parent] => 238 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/spring-2014/himalayan-studies-semester-spring-2014/ ) ) [category_links] => Picture of the Week, Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014 )
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Dental camp in the village of Chaukati

Instructors,Picture of the Week, Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014

Description

While in our rural village stay in Chaukati we ran a dental camp.  We brought dentist friends who helped us plan and run the camp to serve the village of Chaukati and its surrounding villages.  Most medical posts do not provide dental care or education, and although Chaukati has a medical post, they have no […]

Posted On

05/9/14

Author

Instructors

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    [post_content] => We have just arrived back in Kathmandu from our village stay in Chaukati.  We were fortunate to have cool weather there and spent relaxing days with our host families, working in the fields, and presenting "transference".  Students are now busy making plans to see their home stay families one last time here in Kathmandu, bathing, packing, and doing some last minute shopping before they fly out tomorrow evening.  All are excited to be seeing their loved ones shortly!  This photo was taken this morning on our departure from Chaukati.  Best Wishes to all!

 
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Final day in Nepal!

Instructors,Picture of the Week, Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014

Description

We have just arrived back in Kathmandu from our village stay in Chaukati.  We were fortunate to have cool weather there and spent relaxing days with our host families, working in the fields, and presenting “transference”.  Students are now busy making plans to see their home stay families one last time here in Kathmandu, bathing, […]

Posted On

05/9/14

Author

Instructors

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    [post_content] => Kopan monastery. Not so long ago it felt like something that was so far away and somehow that time has already come. We had just gotten back from our trek with one day in the city then off to our ten day meditation retreat we went. The first days were full of wonder, finding out where people were from all around the world, why they decided to do a Buddhist retreat, exploring the beautiful space that was in Kathmandu but felt like a whole other world and getting into our new slower paced meditation and teachings schedule.

Mornings were spent in silence, definitely one of the things I enjoyed the most, being able to look out over the valley watching the sun rise and sip on milk tea not feeling any obligation to speak and just soak in those moments. Our main Buddhist teacher was a nun who was originally from Sweden and ended up never really leaving kopan after she discovered it. She was one of the best teachers I've ever experienced. Every word was spoken with such love and genuine passion for what she was speaking about, no matter what an individual would think about what was actually being said the delivery from her made things easier to accept and understand. The way she spoke is actually impossible to explain maybe the best way would be to say she sounded like an angel? Her story of how she ended up there was inspiring and I'm truly so grateful to say she was my teacher even if it was only for ten days.

The things I learned I will take back home with me and hope to use in my everyday life. Our meditations always had a different point of focus, some being on attachment, self cherishing vs cherishing others, and even going through the process of our own death. What I found funny was during the attachment one I felt so uncomfortable I could barley sit still or even try to think about that, but while going through our own death process afterwards I felt the most uplifted and happy I had felt the whole coarse. It sounds strange but funny things happen when you take the time to sit and just be with yourself and when your listening to something you've never truly thought about. The days felt slow but the time passed so fast. The last two days were spent in full silence, which I recommend everyone to try just being silent for a day or two and see what arises. Kopan was such a special place and I'm so grateful to have experienced it. Now off to our last part of our journey here in Nepal. The rural village home stays!
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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014

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Shhh be quiet, the mind speaks louder when its silent

Maddie Grose,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014

Description

Kopan monastery. Not so long ago it felt like something that was so far away and somehow that time has already come. We had just gotten back from our trek with one day in the city then off to our ten day meditation retreat we went. The first days were full of wonder, finding out […]

Posted On

04/30/14

Author

Maddie Grose

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    [post_content] => Recently, I had the immense pleasure of participating in a 10-day Buddhism retreat at the beautiful Kopan monastery. Being interested in the teachings from both a personal and academic point of view, I was eager for this in-depth opportunity to explore the tradition. I quickly became an information-absorbing sponge, with my eyes happily glued to teachers and books alike. I felt like I was in another world. Because I took a vow of silence for all 10 days, I was able to spend my downtime reading 4 books and writing extensively in my journal. I was in my own personal world of delight, separated from both idle chatter and pressing worldly responsibilities. I was able to fully engage myself in a subject that I'm extremely passionate about, without distraction.

Naturally, I ended up taking away a lot from the retreat. I gained a deeper understanding of Buddhist belief, and, from that, I filtered out a great deal of teachings that strongly resonated with me and are directly applicable to my life. I understood the more non-applicable teachings from an open-minded, academic standpoint. This allowed me to gain a greater understanding about the Tibetan Buddhism community and their interactions with their students. I gained further insight about that by observing all of the monks scattered about the monastery engaging in their daily practices. In addition, all of the books I read eloquently supplemented the Buddhist teachings. They deepened my understanding of the nature of the universe, and also provided new philosophical points of reference. Being silent was the cherry on top of this experience, allowing me to continually observe my surroundings without tainting them with my own vocalized opinions.

When I first opened my mouth on the ending day of the retreat, I still felt all of the positive energy from the previous days of the course bubbling inside me. I had been in a wonderful mood the vast majority of the time, and I predicted it would carry a reasonable distance into the future. However, as more and more words were said and the breath-taking landscape of the monastery became further and further from us, I realized I was sinking back into my old state of mind more quickly than I would have preferred. This feeling only increased when I checked my email for the first time in one and a half weeks and was confronted with multiple responsibilities from back home. As I set off into the polluted streets of Kathmandu to preform errands, a familiar feeling of worry set in. I had to do A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, and it all had to be done by yesterday. I realized I would not be able to continue my life in the blissful state of learning and insight I had experienced during the retreat.

Now, I am frantically sending emails, doing necessary shopping, downloading forms, checking updates, doing homework, and everything else my American productivity-oriented upbringing has enforced throughout the years. I thought it would be challenging to transfer what I learned at Kopan to my life in the United States, but it proved remarkably challenging to bring it just a few minutes drive beyond the doors of the monastery. I am faced with the dichotomy between external and internal expectations and desires. I can only hope that I will achieve a more livable balance of these two aspects of my life in the future. However, if my own history has taught me anything, I am hesitant to raise my expectations.
    [post_title] => A Lesson from my Surroundings
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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion

View post

A Lesson from my Surroundings

Saqrah Houck,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion

Description

Recently, I had the immense pleasure of participating in a 10-day Buddhism retreat at the beautiful Kopan monastery. Being interested in the teachings from both a personal and academic point of view, I was eager for this in-depth opportunity to explore the tradition. I quickly became an information-absorbing sponge, with my eyes happily glued to […]

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    [post_date] => 2014-04-29 09:01:48
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-04-29 15:01:48
    [post_content] => Coming on this trip, the component I was most excited for was our 10-day stay at Kopan monastery. And, having just returned from said stay, I can say full well that it did not disappoint. Allow me to share some highlights:

-- Meditation, when I was in the right headspace for it, was AWESOME. Focusing on my breath slowed my mind down, allowing me to look at myself without the distractions of everything around me. Admittedly, there were times in meditation where my mind wandered to thoughts such as, "I wonder what I'm gonna do when I get home" and "man, that Israeli monk looks like a sad Vin Diesel," but when I was on it, I was ON IT.

-- Breakfast every morning consisted of three options: rice porridge, muesli, and Kopan's signature chunky peanut butter (my personal favorite). I developed my own personal recipe of lumping them all into a bowl and shovelling the mixture into my mouth like it was Buddha's nectar itself (See also: tofu at lunch).

-- Ani Keren's teachings. Oh my lord, that woman is a Scandinavian pixie goddess sent from the forests of Stockholm to impart wisdom to all of us. The way she took concepts that I'd always felt were right but had never been able to express and made them so simple was amazing. To quote Wardell, "I want to hire her as my personal therapist."

-- Hanging out on the balcony of Wardell's room, talking to the guys about life, was the most perfect way to spend my afternoons.

-- 5:00 tea was a fantastic time to release my inner Oscar Wilde and mingle with all the other travellers. There was Tom from Oxford, Yvonne the Swiss astrologist, fellow gap-year student Abi, Brian and Terri from New Mexico, and many more.

--The monastery itself was one of the most beautiful places I'd ever seen. The views of the valley were so serene that it made me want to never ever leave.

-- Walking kora around the stupa in the garden. I had some pretty amazing conversations walking kora with Wardell, Robert and even myself. Hey, I needed to get through the silence somehow...

All in all, I had a fantastic time at Kopan and I know for sure it won't be my last.
    [post_title] => BUDDHA BUDDHA BUDDHA BUDDHA ROCKIN EVERYWHERE
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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014

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BUDDHA BUDDHA BUDDHA BUDDHA ROCKIN EVERYWHERE

Andrew Becker,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014

Description

Coming on this trip, the component I was most excited for was our 10-day stay at Kopan monastery. And, having just returned from said stay, I can say full well that it did not disappoint. Allow me to share some highlights: — Meditation, when I was in the right headspace for it, was AWESOME. Focusing […]

Posted On

04/29/14

Author

Andrew Becker

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    [post_date] => 2014-04-29 09:00:39
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    [post_content] => It would be easy to say that I did not quite know what to expect when starting the Kopan Monastery retreat. For 10 days we would be in this monastery on a hill above Kathmandu, not speaking until lunch, meditating for at least 3 sessions of 45 minutes to 1 hour long each, and spending our days dedicated to learning about Buddhism. I knew it was going to be challenging and hoped to learn something, but besides from that it was an experience, like with this entire trip, that I would just have to go with the flow.
It was really interesting. While the thought had not fully grasped my mind until getting to the monastery, Western Buddhism is very different from Tibetan Buddhism. While both are based on the same basic principles, Western Buddhism focuses mainly on the philosophy and psychology of Buddhism, while Tibetan Buddhism really also focuses on the spiritual aspects. For a very brief example: Western Buddhism - live your life with compassion so you help others and reduce your own discontent. Tibetan Buddhism - live your life with compassion so you help others, reduce your own suffering, and so that the bad karma you would otherwise create does not send you to the Hell, Hungry Ghost or Animal realms. As a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, this makes a lot of sense that it would be more spiritual in ways that you don't hear about in the West, but hearing some of the teachings and catching myself being slightly surprised was interesting.
Overall, I found the retreat very calming and enjoyable. Contemplating for 10 days on the necessity of living with compassion, kindness and love for all sentient beings (including the smallest insect), as well as the necessity of reducing my attachment, desire, anger and ignorance for the sake of a better world and self, created an internal sense of peace. The course reiterated some things I knew, such as we should live with compassion towards others, but put things in new ways and connotations - such as the smallest sentient beings, like gnats and flies, which are often seen a menace to be squished in the west, should ideally be loved as much as your friends and family - that shifted how I think about the world, at least a little.
Several of us in the group were mentioning how weird it is to have left Kopan Monastery today. At the beginning of the course, each day moved so slowly, yet the last several days flew by. It will be odd moving from such a supportive, kind community back into regular life. From switching from being around roughly a little more than 100 people all trying to practice the Dharma, or components of it, back to regular society.
While I learned a lot in the last 10 days, I think I will learn almost as much trying to practice what I learned and seeing how much of it I can make stick in my daily life.
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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion

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A Brief Reflection

Virginia Flurry,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion

Description

It would be easy to say that I did not quite know what to expect when starting the Kopan Monastery retreat. For 10 days we would be in this monastery on a hill above Kathmandu, not speaking until lunch, meditating for at least 3 sessions of 45 minutes to 1 hour long each, and spending […]

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    [post_date] => 2014-04-29 08:59:20
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    [post_content] => Greetings from Kathmandu!  We have just finished our 10 day meditation course at Kopan Monastery and have returned to our program house today for the night before we leave for our village stay tomorrow morning.  Amar celebrated his 19th birthday at Kopan and is seen here recovering from his birthday cake in front of the group.  We are looking forward to hearing reflections on everyone’s time at Kopan tonight around a bonfire in the backyard before we look forward to this last component of our program.

 

We will drive tomorrow to the rural village of Chaukati where we will stay until returning to Kathmandu on May 9th in time for students’ return flight on the evening of May 10th.  Chaukati is a beautiful rural village in the mountains of Sindupalchowk inhabited by the Thami people.  Students will be placed individually in homestays where their hours of study of Nepali language will prove indispensable.  We will be bringing dentist friends from Kathmandu and running a dental camp for several days while in Chaukati.  Students will assist in registration, teaching oral hygience, and even passing instruments to the dentists.  Word has spread to neighboring villages as well and we expect to see and treat several hundred people.

 

In addition to the dental camp and spending time with our host families we will be engaged in our “transference” as we prepare for the transition home.  We also will be cooling off in the afternoons at the local swimming hole and celebrating these extraordinary months we have spent together.

 

We will not have email access during our time in the village but will be in touch with the Boulder office by phone as usual.

 

Best Wishes and Namaste to all,

Adrian, Wardell, Briana and Sweta

 
    [post_title] => From Kopan Monastery to our village stay
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From Kopan Monastery to our village stay

Instructors,Picture of the Week, Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014

Description

Greetings from Kathmandu!  We have just finished our 10 day meditation course at Kopan Monastery and have returned to our program house today for the night before we leave for our village stay tomorrow morning.  Amar celebrated his 19th birthday at Kopan and is seen here recovering from his birthday cake in front of the […]

Posted On

04/29/14

Author

Instructors

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    [post_date] => 2014-04-28 09:59:21
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-04-28 15:59:21
    [post_content] => Namaste!

Last fall as my long standing desire to guide the Dragons course in the Himalayas came to fruition I found myself amidst the stark blue autumn skies of Nepal and welcomed by our crew of inspirational staff and friends.  It was a journey of three months that doesn't seem to escape my daily musings and as news came last week of the Sherpa deaths on Everest I found myself touched immensely by the way in which we get to know another culture through a program such as Dragons. At the sense of inter-connectedness that arises when one travels in a manner of intimate connection with both the beauty and suffering of people who at first seem incredibly different and who, with time, become friends on the very same path of humanity. How we can be so touched and heart broken of lives lost thousands of miles away in an avalanche on the highest peak in the world, the loss of men we've never met, of their children we've never held, of the village communities in the Khumbu we've likely never visited. And yet, after having spent last autumn in Nepal with a crew of 13 young adults in tow, my students stumbling and growing through their own personal and group and cultural adventures, after having sat and sipped yak butter tea with that elderly Yak herder in the barren and lonely high desert under peeks jutting 25,000 feet into the atmosphere, and after having navigated the bustling and overwhelming streets of Kathmandu, and celebrating Bhai Tika with one of my students' families, I feel like those lives are much much closer than they would have been had I not found myself in Nepal with Dragons last fall. 

My hope for you, the spring 2014 Himalayan Dragons crew, is that in your final weeks in Nepal you let yourself be really there. That you don't hurry to what's next in your mind, that you keep your heart open to the nuances of Nepal and the nuances of yourself that are wanting to be revealed, and that you enjoy this time with a touch of lightheartedness knowing that all things are impermanent and that soon this too shall pass.

And for those of you interested in learning more about the predicament of the Sherpa men working on Everest, I found a beautifully written article in Alpinist magazine last night: http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web14s/wfeature-three-springs-everest

Namaste,

Megan
    [post_title] => Never far from my thoughts
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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014

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Never far from my thoughts

Megan E. Fettig,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014

Description

Namaste! Last fall as my long standing desire to guide the Dragons course in the Himalayas came to fruition I found myself amidst the stark blue autumn skies of Nepal and welcomed by our crew of inspirational staff and friends.  It was a journey of three months that doesn’t seem to escape my daily musings […]

Posted On

04/28/14

Author

Megan E. Fettig

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