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Central America
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    [post_date] => 2015-05-10 08:09:04
    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-05-10 14:09:04
    [post_content] => Dear World,

Just a quick note to let you all know that our 8 lovely and brave Dragoncitos made it to the airport safely this morning and are departing for Miami as we write this. We are so very proud of all of them, and for sure they have had a powerful and transformative experience these past three months. Families, thank you for sharing your incredible children with us. We hope we have them returned them to you wiser, kinder, fiercer, more open and more worldly.  Take care of them!

Los Instructores
    [post_title] => Adios Dragoncitos!
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Adios Dragoncitos!

Instructors,Central America

Description

Dear World, Just a quick note to let you all know that our 8 lovely and brave Dragoncitos made it to the airport safely this morning and are departing for Miami as we write this. We are so very proud of all of them, and for sure they have had a powerful and transformative experience these past […]

Posted On

05/10/15

Author

Instructors

Category

Central America

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    [post_date] => 2015-05-10 07:23:22
    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-05-10 13:23:22
    [post_content] => These past three months we have been fortunate enough to "ir a conocer"--to "go to know." We know the people who opened their homes to us; we know their names and their stories and those of their children. We know the painful histories of their countries, and we know the role our own country played in inflicting those wounds. We know that with all of this knowing comes an unfathomable responsibility. We must be vessels now, taking all of this knowledge back with us across the ocean, telling the stories we have heard and translating them into meaningful action.

I had always felt, since before leaving for this course, that this vesselhood was the essential purpose of my being here. That meant that especially in the beginning I was skeptical when confronted with all of the other elements of the Dragons experience--the games, the sharing, all of the activities that were meant to facilitate connection and bonding within the group. I felt that they were unnecessary distractions from the real work we were doing of witnessing, of connecting with communities, of "going to know."

And so the relationships within the group sort of crept up on me without my noticing them. I was so entirely concentrated on doing all of this seeing, that I did not realize I was also being seen. And finally towards the end of the course, I came to realize that I had spent the past couple of months with people who had seen me at my best and my worst, that knew all of my stories and all the most essential questions of my existence, and I knew theirs. And yet we were all still there, and perhaps even liked each other.  (On April 22, I received eleven really wonderful birthday cards.) And I am realizing now that perhaps there was, in fact, a purpose to all of this other knowing, this knowing of each other--at a time when I am questioning my own worthiness of this monumental task, the original responsibility, that of taking all of this home:

 

Vesselhood

We have really seen each other,

And still encouraged each other to hold--

That we are worthy of doing that,

We are worthy of being vessels,

And thus are much less likely to break on the journey home.

 

And we have filled each other,

Secured our contents in collective memory.

It happened--these other people saw it.

It was painful--other people felt that.

It is difficult to bring back.

It is heavy, and awkwardly shaped,

And does not fit even in Addie´s seventeen bags,

But other people will always be there

To help carry it.

 

And I have realized that it is much easier

To carry the enormous responsibility of knowing

When one has the equally enormous strength

That comes from being known.
    [post_title] => On Knowing and Being Known
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Central America

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On Knowing and Being Known

Eva Borgwardt,Central America

Description

These past three months we have been fortunate enough to “ir a conocer”–to “go to know.” We know the people who opened their homes to us; we know their names and their stories and those of their children. We know the painful histories of their countries, and we know the role our own country played […]

Posted On

05/10/15

Author

Eva Borgwardt

Category

Central America

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    [post_date] => 2015-05-09 12:59:35
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    [post_content] => Well my fellow friends, it seems our journey has come to an end.

If you asked me where all the time went, I could tell you exactly how it was spent.

Just three short months ago,

we were sipping batidos in El Lagartillo.

We ate rice and beans,

and Yerick and Eduardo were quite the fiends.

Crisula and Emma painted away,

and we walked to the waterfall where we spent the day.

Marina was the sweetest to MC,

and Yelba killed spiders for Tati and me.

We trekked to Emma and Esteban´s

where we chatted and ate on their beautiful lawn.

MC´s poop was like fiya

while she sat on the letrine with Maya.

 

Eventually we made it to CEN

where only Chris had been.

We were sick and it was cold,

but as we hiked through the water we felt like gold.

Crisula and Aislin went to the ER

where they had to pee holding the same bar.

 

Next came two days in Dhyanna´s city

where we were all treated like royal kitties.

And then we had to say goodbye to Nica

and all of the scorpions that pica.

 

El Salvador was big and bright--

filled with malls and grocery stores to delight.

Fajitas and papusas were always yummy,

despite the dubious effects on our tummies.

We listened to Doña Bertha´s past,

and upon us truth and tragedy were cast.

 

After a lovely few days,

we left El Salvador for the Guate phase.

We spent mid-course at the lake,

and celebrated Erick´s birthday with a subpar cake.

Maravilla and Felipe were kinder than kind,

and they cooked great food on which we dined.

Eva introduced the foot game

and luckily none of us ended up lame.

 

Then the group split and we lived apart for a bit.

At IMAP we saw the light: we must trust permaculture with all of our might.

We spent the days planting seeds,

then at froyo to fulfill our needs.

In San A the group painted pottery,

and Aislin strangled a big turkey.

When we came back together anew,

all was good except we were minus two.

 

We continued on just us girls,

to trek through the mountains and all of its whirls.

We ate canned beans and bread and jam,

as we sat on the mountain, one big fam.

Our guide Roberto was on the ball,

except when he spent an hour in the Te Mascal.

On day four I had a great tumble,

and the laughter that came was hardly a mumble.

 

We arrived in Cotzal to planks made of wood,

and tiny voices that told us we could.

Eva wove like a badass

and we watched the women harvest with all their sass.

Emma played master chef

while we ate tomales until none were left.

Vanilla Galleta kept our muscles strong

while we sat in the park all day long.

MC got many a flea bites,

and so began the saga of the stubborn little mites.

 

All in all, we left with new mindsets

and arrived in Rabinal to beds with bugnets.

We ate tons of amarynth plants

and emma experiencecd explosions in her pants.

Rio Negro was eery and sad,

we learned about people who lost their mothers, brothers, and dads.

We hiked to the massacre site

where hundreds suffered a merciless plight.

Upon returning to old Rabinal,

we got together with the boys to play ball.

 

On Sunday the bus arrived without a green frog,

MC was as happy as a dog.

Our driver took us all the way North,

but not before stopping for muffins, of course.

When we arrived at the co-op at last,

it was really freaking hot and we were sweating fast.

We got used to the heat

but not the tarantulas that crawled at our feet.

Visiting Tikal was truly a ball,

especially due to our guide´s bird calls.

 

We soon made our way to El Remate,

where we swam and read and chilled all day.

Chris was sad when there was bread on the table,

tortillas had truly become our staple.

The French Cuisine was nonetheless great,

if only we all had had a date.

Instead we worked late into the night on our ISPs,

and presented the next day on the issues that be:

immigration, development, and bananas, you see.

 

Out time in that small paradise soon came to an end,

which brings us right up to here, my friends.

You can´t deny we´ve all been through a lot,

diseases and bacteria we have bravely fought.

Histolitica, Hominus, Ecoli galore,

parasites don´t faze us no more.

 

On a more serious note, there´s something I want to say,

so sit back while I send these words your way.

As I sit around this fire and look you all face to face,

you must know how lucky I feel to have shared in your grace.

You are all so special, so different, so bright,

and living without you will be a true fight.

But I promise to remember you always--

the dragones who were there for the best of days.

Please come visit if you´d like,

we could play cards, share energies, maybe go for a hike.
    [post_title] => Ode To My Dragoncitos
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Central America

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Ode To My Dragoncitos

Addie Gilson,Central America

Description

Well my fellow friends, it seems our journey has come to an end. If you asked me where all the time went, I could tell you exactly how it was spent. Just three short months ago, we were sipping batidos in El Lagartillo. We ate rice and beans, and Yerick and Eduardo were quite the […]

Posted On

05/9/15

Author

Addie Gilson

Category

Central America

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    [post_date] => 2015-05-09 11:37:12
    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-05-09 17:37:12
    [post_content] => Months have become weeks, and weeks are now days.  As our time here inconspicuously slips away, I am forced to face the daunting task of returning home.  While I long to be in the company of my family once more, I realize that in doing so I must leave behind the Dragons family I now find myself very much a part of.

We have grown with each other for nearly ninety days now, experiencing numerous homestays, hiking steep treks, cramming into hundreds of microbuses, and visiting nearly every women's cooperative in the whole of Central America along the way.  We have shared fleas and parasites and the intricate details of our bowel movements, and we have shared our own weaknesses and shortcomings and loved each other more for it.  We have stomached heaps of rice and beans and tortillas, and we have stomached the painful testimonies of those who suffered at the cruel hands of US-funded injustices.  We have faced bitter cold showers and families of tarantulas and communal tamascal baths, and we have faced the fact that all good things must eventually come to an end.

It has been an experience that cannot be replicated, matched, or even adequately described, and now the sharp prick of reality lurks, threatening to pop our small, safe Dragons bubble as we prepare to part ways.  Soon I will return to a life void of Erick's questionable but creative take on common English phrases, Emma's "push, pull, give" food terminology, and Eva's ever-flattering vomit pants.  I will return to a life without ten people who have become my community, my support system, and some of my closest friends.

So, while I arrived on this trip with just the weight of a backpack on my shoulders, I leave carrying a much heavier load.  It is not one of anger or indignation, but one of responsibility - responsibility to continue living in a way that will honor the warmth and resilience of the people I've encountered on this journey, and, perhaps more importantly, will honor those whom I have journeyed with.
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Central America

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The Dragons Bubble

Samantha Jannotta,Central America

Description

Months have become weeks, and weeks are now days.  As our time here inconspicuously slips away, I am forced to face the daunting task of returning home.  While I long to be in the company of my family once more, I realize that in doing so I must leave behind the Dragons family I now […]

Posted On

05/9/15

Author

Samantha Jannotta

Category

Central America

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    [post_date] => 2015-05-09 11:36:21
    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-05-09 17:36:21
    [post_content] => Palm plantations fly past our open windows in spiny blurs. The sunlight catches in wisps of blowing hair.

The two dusty boys sit together on the cement corner, beneath the awning of the white church's porch. Their heads turn as they watch our van pass. The drunk man lies motionless on the ground beside them. He wears a black and red striped shirt, one leather shoe on one limp leg dipping into the sunlight.

When we ask the driver if we can listen to the radio he pauses and sighs no. The radio from his van was stolen he says. Would we like him to sing? Excited eyes meet as lips crack over pearly teeth. Well driver, what songs do you know?

Heat in the air like the sweat between the couple's clasped hands who walk on the path beside the road. Habitually unavoidable and excused with a shy smile.

Between the banana trees on the side of the road stands a man in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle boxers. Michelangelo's neon green head placed precisely over the spot where the man's hairy legs meet. I watch him through the window as his mouth moves in large, undulating shapes before the speaker of his small cell phone. He stares as we pass and hacks, spitting a glob of saliva into the dirt beside his bare toes.

On the car ferry we meet the 11 year old salesman, Levitz who guesses our ages and steals our hearts. He practices his days of the week in English with us and shakes all of our sweaty hands before closing the door to our van. The wheels roll from the wooden planks of the vessel and onto the rocky surface of land. Our journey begins once more, only now with a plastic bag stuffed with fried and sugared bread from our new and charming friend.

In the green field a white cow scratches its neck against a short wooden post, its layers of neck skin swinging side to side like a pendulum, flies abandoning their moist homes about the cow's eyes.

Our driver stops at a tienda on the side of the river. Men with Gallo cervezas glare at our car, seeing themselves in the window's reflections. He returns with a Coke in one hand, condensation gathering on the cool plastic and wipes his eye with the other.
    [post_title] => En Route to Peten
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Central America

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En Route to Peten

Emma Newman,Central America

Description

Palm plantations fly past our open windows in spiny blurs. The sunlight catches in wisps of blowing hair. The two dusty boys sit together on the cement corner, beneath the awning of the white church’s porch. Their heads turn as they watch our van pass. The drunk man lies motionless on the ground beside them. […]

Posted On

05/9/15

Author

Emma Newman

Category

Central America

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    [post_date] => 2015-05-09 11:35:34
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    [post_content] => Their faces are in the curtains watching us sleep and their wrinkled hands, flaked with masa are on our faces willing us to remember.
Remember what? I ask them. How can I remember something of this place I have never been?
They follow us as we walk past the shadowy street vendors through the alleyways in town, the sunscreen in white streaks of sweat down our arms, the soldiers meandering about the sidewalks. They don't look at the soldiers.
They look at us. Their tired dark eyes plead indifference but the weight shifts upon our shoulders like the ice melting and swirling in our 20Q cups of ice cream; I shove against it with disdain.
These people are stuck.
Stuck in a whirlpool that is as undefinable as trauma and as deep as the machete that once cut through the colorful huipils into the stomachs of their pregnant mothers.
They are stuck and being here feels sticky, and I know sticky because I have become free.
I want to pull them out with me.
I want to open the door for conversation and let their testimonies spill like blood and the alcohol that has been numbing generations of families as they kill their oppressor's malintentions. Let them speak out against their meager wages and tell of the sun which in its fire still cannot pound upon their backs harder than the mano duro that runs this country.
Let them walk in their shoes of all colors and arrive at a place in their hearts where they can discover support amongst themselves and where their wounds will finally heal. Where there is more honesty than fact. Where there is more courage than fear.
This is the hottbed.
This is where change begins.
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Central America

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Rabinal

Emma Newman,Central America

Description

Their faces are in the curtains watching us sleep and their wrinkled hands, flaked with masa are on our faces willing us to remember. Remember what? I ask them. How can I remember something of this place I have never been? They follow us as we walk past the shadowy street vendors through the alleyways […]

Posted On

05/9/15

Author

Emma Newman

Category

Central America

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    [post_date] => 2015-05-09 11:34:11
    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-05-09 17:34:11
    [post_content] => The sun hangs noon over the farm and the fields empty of their workers. The men flock to the shade alone and in groups of two, silent, the promise of homemade tortillas and something to nourish their near-empty stomachs waiting beneath the lines of trees.
I walk down the cobblestone path and into the relentless sun of the unpaved road, my flip flops kicking up dust with every unbalanced step. I notice the shadows like threatened animals skirting the edges of the waist high shrubbery, hanging beneath the eaves of the yellow church, making sandcastle patterns on the cement far below the red roof tiles.
My own shadow pools about my feet when I pause in the square between the church, the comedor and the kitchen, eyeing the porch's wooden chairs.
I listen to the creaking and thumping of the screen door as each fellow Dragon makes their way to lunch while reclining blissfully in the shade of the porch against the abode wall.

The men gather in the shade once more around 3pm. They stand in their rain boots and lean languidly against the white fencing, their slim muscles stretching and taught from a long work day, their tongues clicking quickly in their native language. No one moves. Beyond them in the field pockmarked by green puffs of grass the sprinkler system chugs on, launching water droplets this way and that from sunrise till sunset and through the heat of noon.
I observe this all but am not struck by anything 'worth Yakking about'. Through requesting a final Yak about how this trip is going, what special events have occurred, it as if someone has asked me to describe to them the view from my bedroom window, or my daily routine; something that changes with every moment but which I find myself so nonchalantly accustomed to.
I'm accustomed to the familiar ache in my muscles after a pickup futbol game with the workers whose own muscles are never too tired for a match before walking home. I'm used to knotting the grass between my fingers as I lean back to look at the sky the color of a ripened peach, listening to the grunts and shouts of the men who continue the game.
I'm accustomed to our groups constant movement and the smell of my Dr. Bronner's lavender soap in our latest accommodation's bubbly sink bowl, doing emergency laundry. I'm used to carrying my home on my back and unpacking and packing so methodically it could be meditation. The bumpy roads on which our microbuses climb no longer phase me and instead lull me into a state of pensiveness during which I only have the capacity to stare out the window and absorb the mirage of images flashing before me.
I'm accustomed to the river of stars that fill the heavens after sunset. The river of stars under which I've danced and said goodbye, observed lightning flashing from a distant storm and hid beneath my homestay sister's thick woolen blanket, talked, and sat in a silent mesmerization as they flowed above us.
I'm used to latrines and pilas and no running water and I'm frightened of how quickly I may forget the privilege of a warm shower on a cold morning when it becomes so readily available to me.
I'm accustomed to this lifestyle of change but I have to remind myself that this impending goodbye, this plane flight home, is just another day. Another day in a long sequence of days, some of which I was fortunate enough to spend surrounded by the most inspiring group of fellow young women I have ever known. Another day of travel, only this time to somewhere more permanent, more familiar. Another day in which every moment contains a small surprise if I remember to look for them. Another day with opportunities for growth, sadness, and unlimited joy.
So here I am looking for something to Yak about, sitting on the porch of our cabaña, a breeze blowing between my bare toes. Mango carvings stain the bench beside me as I lick the sweet juices from my fingers, discovering by taste an invisible cut. I close my notebook and set down my pen, looking out across the working farmlands, a taste of blood and paradise fresh on my tongue.
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Best Notes From The Field, Central America

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Transference

Emma Newman ,Best Notes From The Field, Central America

Description

The sun hangs noon over the farm and the fields empty of their workers. The men flock to the shade alone and in groups of two, silent, the promise of homemade tortillas and something to nourish their near-empty stomachs waiting beneath the lines of trees. I walk down the cobblestone path and into the relentless […]

Posted On

05/9/15

Author

Emma Newman

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    [post_content] => The Paradox of Our Age

We have bigger houses but smaller families;

more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees but less sense;

more knowledge but less judgement;

more experts, but more problems;

more medicines but less healthiness.

We've been all the way to the moon and back,

but have trouble in crossing the street to meet our new neighbour.

We built more computers to hold more copies than ever,

but have less real communication;

We have become long on quantity,

but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;

Tall men but short characters;

Steep profits but shallow relationships.

It's a time when there is much in the window

But nothing in the room.

-His Holiness the 14th Dali Lama
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Central America

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The Paradox of Our Age

Aislin Roth,Central America

Description

The Paradox of Our Age We have bigger houses but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgement; more experts, but more problems; more medicines but less healthiness. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble in crossing the street to […]

Posted On

05/7/15

Author

Aislin Roth

Category

Central America

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    [post_content] => I could not have asked for a more diverse experience, one that made me question everything I thought to be true, something that was a world of difference from my life at home. I could not have asked for better people to travel with, and those we met. Each and every one of you taught me something valuable. I could not have asked for more eye-opening lessons. Each time I realized how much less I know, I perservered to learn more. When I saw the injustices of the world, it saddened me, but it hit me how grateful I am for the opportunity to have seen those places and had the experiences. I learned to treasure the small things, interactions with locals, how just eye contact and a small smile can touch my heart. I could not have asked to travel to better places, I took away something important from each place we went, as well as being touched by the beauty of the landscape.

I could not have asked for anything different than exactly what this course gave me. The knowledge, insights, experience, and also compassion has changed me for the better.
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Central America

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Last Yak

Tati Caine,Central America

Description

I could not have asked for a more diverse experience, one that made me question everything I thought to be true, something that was a world of difference from my life at home. I could not have asked for better people to travel with, and those we met. Each and every one of you taught […]

Posted On

05/7/15

Author

Tati Caine

Category

Central America

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    [post_content] => The morning here is tranquil and mild, and prime for contemplation. I want to paint a picture for my future self, a reminder of this very moment, and, on a grander scale, a reminder of what it means to be present, to be awake to the simultaneously simple and complex beauty of one's surroundings. I sit under the ample shade of a red patio umbrella that glows bright with the sun's angle overhead. The slight, caressing breeze wafts through at intervals, gently rustling the leaves and carrying on it the rich odors of the resident cattle. Periwinkle-colored agapanthas sway ever-so-slightly by me and remind me of those same flowers that line the driveway to my grandmother's home. How distant now home seems after nearly three months on the road, a distance borne not only out of passed time but also out of gained experiences. Magenta bougainvilleas sprinkle the tall grass, the blossoms like little gems, triggering memories of my father. Caramel-colored cows pass by slowly to my left. The sky shines a rich, light blue, dotted here and there with wispy, cotton-ball clouds. My stomach is full of a breakfast of cauliflower, corn, and chayote, and my mind is open to the metaphorical bridge that approaches ever-closer on the horizon, taking me back home. I let my feet dangle freely off of the edge of the stone bench, and as I watch them, I see my hiking boots as a representation of my journey, caked in the soils of three nations and in memories. A banda song that I recognize drifts its heartfelt melody on the air, striking a chord of familiarity in my mind. I smile and sing the lyrics silently to myself, compelled by the serendipity of this moment as a metaphor for the junction of my past, present, and future. I return here in the evening and watch as the clouds glow a golden-pink with the setting sun; and I comfort myself in knowing that although one journey ends, another has already begun.
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Central America

View post

Reflections from Ruta del Yalu

Crisula Markoulis,Central America

Description

The morning here is tranquil and mild, and prime for contemplation. I want to paint a picture for my future self, a reminder of this very moment, and, on a grander scale, a reminder of what it means to be present, to be awake to the simultaneously simple and complex beauty of one’s surroundings. I […]

Posted On

05/7/15

Author

Crisula Markoulis

Category

Central America

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