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    [post_date] => 2017-05-01 07:09:03
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“Mom and Dad,

When I left on this trip, I took with me one of my favorite poems - The Red Son by Carl Sandburg. Part of it goes:

‘I am going away and I never come back to you;

Crags and high rough places call me,

Great places of death

Where men go empty handed

And pass over smiling

To the star-drift on the horizon rim.

My last whisper shall be alone, unknown’

I think I took this poem with me because it really spoke to how I was feeling when I left… yet here I am; having passed over smiling to the star-drift on the horizon rim, I am coming back to you.

It feels unnatural in many ways. I have so well learned to take care of myself in the past three months that I feel more than ready to live on my own. I’m even scared that, in coming home and living with you this summer, I will end up losing this new-found ability and revert to complete dependency. This makes me scared to come home, scared that everything will go back to the way it was, that all my growth will vanish.

Thus, I have one favor to ask of you: please treat me like an adult when I get back. I know I’m your baby, and that I’ve been away from you for so long, but if you treat me like a child, I will become a child.

Please allow me to put all of my new skills to good use. Hold me accountable. Have expectations of maturity and independence.

Re-entry is going to be hard for me. As I said, I left feeling almost as if I was leaving forever, so the reality of returning is something I wasn’t really mentally prepared for… But, I know that with your help, I can take all of the things I have learned and witnessed - the star-drift on the horizon rim - home with me in a successful way.”

 

“It’s been three months and my pockets are full of experiences whether we are fighting off leeches or learning Nepali dances, plowing a field, or attending a puja. I am never so far away that I don’t think of you all and wonder how you are doing. A stream is a stream and the water feels the same. I have not been whisked off by aliens - far from it. The things I am most struck by are not what is strange, but by what isn’t. The little things that speak to me and say the other side of the world isn’t as far from home as you thought!”

 

“Petrichor

Traveling through Nepal I have seen mystical and magical mountains, the full red moon and blistering sun. I have seen twisted trees, streams and streets. Yet, in these unfamiliar lands I am always reminded of home. Seeing the tallest mountains in the world I remember the small humble ones I grew up amongst. Feeling the bark of the Bhodi tree, I have a sense of security. Through Mother Earth I am always at ease, in the safe corner of the world I have never stepped foot on before. The soft smell of flora fill my head and I am embraced by spring memories. Inhaling the fresh rain on cement I hear my mom’s gentle voice and am home.”

 

“In Kathmandu I found creativity and newfound appreciation for clothes through Sapana, my tailoring mentor. In both the rural and urban homestays I realized how quickly you can become part of a family. I reconnected with the earth through farming and planting trees, reminding me how precious food and plants are. I found inspiration through the mighty Himalayas.

    On this trip I’ve gained so much inspiration and motivation through the people, mountains, and culture. I’ve found a light in my life that wasn’t there before I stepped foot on the airplane. Thank you to my amazing family especially my dad and sister for supporting my being on this trip. I love you!”

 

    “The only real change comes from inside. Whether you’re washing dishes, or standing atop a mountain watching 8,000 meter peaks appear suddenly from a veil of clouds only to disappear minutes later, leaving you wondering had you really just witnessed them; you are no more likely to change. It’s from the inside, from an inner burning desire to grow, that one finds change. So plant your roots. Extend your arms as branches, and let your leaves photosynthesize and grow towards the sun, towards the light.”

 

    “At the end, I see our time spent with each other, homestay families, and amidst the culture of Nepal develop new growth in us all. The group’s experiences allowed us insight to ourselves and one another. My perspective of the world forever widens with this course’s travel.

    These mountains, rivers, and cultures showed me how majestic Nepal remains; however, globalization threatens all social and ecological standards held by time. Now all of the points that make Nepal a point of interest on this planet have led to a tilting point for the people, land, water, air, and life. The young flock to consumerism, the land increasingly is covered in waste, the water’s becoming less drinkable, the air less breathable, and the animals are hurt by this rapid globalization. Nepal’s motions in industrialization have made a crucial point for all surrounded by Nepal. These issues enlighten us to the state of this world and created a firm resolve through the group of dissatisfaction in the path our people follow upon. These topics allowed us to take many positives to our world future and what needs to be done. My group allowed for the diffusion of these enlightened motivations.”

 

“Dear Mom, Dad, and Alex,

    My time in Nepal has not been easy, but I have changed and learned a lot about myself. There have been many times where I felt unsure about where I belonged because of the nostalgic feeling of my time in Pyuthan. When I lived at the rural home was when I felt the most homesick.

    I now know how proud I am to be your daughter and how thankful I am toward you guys for the past 11 years.”

 

    “For 81 days I’ve held this disillusion that from the moment that I stepped on my flight to Kathmandu that my life back in America would freeze in place and when I return that my life would continue as I left it. This disillusion has entertained me through the long days where my mind grasped for something to comfort. The truth is that I’ve experienced substantial change, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The things I’ve seen have influenced my perspective, from the mountains covered with light snow, peeking out from the clouds of pollution and dust, to the humble village life that makes you think about all the amenities that surround our daily life back home. It has taken me a long time, but I’ve realized that everyone back home has experienced the same change I have but in their own way. This disillusion has evaporated, I understand now that the environment I occupied has changed…”

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End of Trip Thoughts

Himalayan Studies A,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

Description

“Mom and Dad, When I left on this trip, I took with me one of my favorite poems – The Red Son by Carl Sandburg. Part of it goes: ‘I am going away and I never come back to you; Crags and high rough places call me, Great places of death Where men go empty […]

Posted On

05/1/17

Author

Himalayan Studies A

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    [post_content] => The students with Nima Didi at the program house before heading to the airport.
The students at the airport.

Please note that Sarah, Thomas, Mirabel and Sushila had different travel timings and left the group early.
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Final Photo from Nepal

Him A,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

Description

The students with Nima Didi at the program house before heading to the airport. The students at the airport. Please note that Sarah, Thomas, Mirabel and Sushila had different travel timings and left the group early.

Posted On

04/30/17

Author

Him A

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    [post_content] => Him A students have all passed through airport security. We had a beautiful closing circle and a wonderful last day. Everyone seems to be in great spirits.

Yak with pictures coming soon!

 
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Homeward Bound…

Instructor Team,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

Description

Him A students have all passed through airport security. We had a beautiful closing circle and a wonderful last day. Everyone seems to be in great spirits. Yak with pictures coming soon!  

Posted On

04/30/17

Author

Instructor Team

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    [post_date] => 2017-04-26 18:38:49
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    [post_content] => Holi started the moment I stepped out my front door; just as the latch clicked, a red-dyed water balloon came flying at me from the rooftop of the building across the street. I looked up, my shirt soaking, to see two kids ducking down out of view.

My walk to the program house usually takes about 30 minutes, but on Holi I made it in half the time, due to the fact that I was sprinting the whole way, dodging the missiles flung at me from roofs and around corners. I was hit four more times.

I met 8 other students and 2 of our leaders at the house and we all headed out to Basantapur Durbar Square, clutching little bags of colored powder.

It started off slowly. As we approached the Square, people turned our way, smiling, cheerfully saying "Happy Holi!" And gently smearing color on our cheeks. We reciprocated. As we ventured on the waves of people became stronger. Whoops and cheers were audible. Groups of high school and college students descended upon us, trying to smear us (our faces, shirts, ears, necks) with as much color as possible. It felt like the world's biggest game of tag, except everyone was It. I dove at strangers, streaking cheeks and rubbing powder into hair, ducking their retaliations. Water was dumped on us and water guns sprayed.

By the time we got to the center of the square, it was nearly impossible to tell who was who. Our clothes, features and hair were covered in thick layers of powder.

The Square pulsed. It was like a mosh pit.  Cymbals crashed and people chanted, throwing puffs of color in the air.

When I got home that night, it took me 45 minutes of intense scrubbing to feel adequately clean. I had to remove and clean my piercings, wash my hair three times, and deep clean my ears. Even then, for days after, red and purple dye stained my skin. I still have some small pink streaks in my hair that make me smile every time they slip into view.
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SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

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Late Holi post

Sarah Leuttgen,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

Description

Holi started the moment I stepped out my front door; just as the latch clicked, a red-dyed water balloon came flying at me from the rooftop of the building across the street. I looked up, my shirt soaking, to see two kids ducking down out of view. My walk to the program house usually takes […]

Posted On

04/26/17

Author

Sarah Leuttgen

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    [post_date] => 2017-04-26 18:37:23
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    [post_content] => My days in the village of Balamchaur have been a constant intake of alien sights, sounds, and smells, but at the same time, the slower pace of village life has gifted me the time and space to reflect on some ideas that have been rolling around in the back of my head for some time. It's easy to take time to just think when the only sounds I hear are the irregular footsteps of a pair of wrestling baby goats, the swish of hay being shuffled around by a lazy buffalo, the song of a thousand insects, echoes of Gurung and Nepali conversations gently rolling towards me along the stone path that winds through the village. Nestled between two pink sun-lit mountain ranges in a pocket of clear air, this new world hums at a lower, sweeter pitch than the one I'm used to...

On trek we'd been talking about our relationship as Westerners and as Americans with the natural world as opposed to that of the Earth-based animist peoples indigenous to many places across the planet. The major divergence in our views has its roots in the differences in how we were raised to think, the language we use to describe what we are, what we eat, how we live. Even the very basic structures of our languages are key to forming this worldview. I learned that in certain languages, for example, there exists no verb form for "to be," thus eradicating the very idea that anything just independently, inherently "is." Things, I'd assume for someone who spoke this language, would exist conceptually solely within the context of where they came from, or their function, or their significance to someone, or any of the other components that might go into pinpointing an existence. This linguistic shift must then alter the way these people see the world from infancy -- as an infinite series of interconnected phenomena, threads that are continuously woven together into a beginningless quilt.

I've been thinking about how vastly different worldviews must also be due to how we have been conditioned to define basic abstract concepts (such as way happiness, richness, power, love, etc..) What is fascinating and somewhat frustrating is the inevitable conclusion that two people who have grown up with divergent ways of defining such concepts will never be able to truly get on the same level about most non-superficial topics. An indigenous American person who has been brought up on the idea of an intrinsic link between her state of existence and that of the flora and fauna around where she lives might never truly understand my relative disconnect with the natural world on which the city I grew up in is built.

Furthermore, through what an essay I read in our core reader calls "intellectual colonization" the West is erasing these other models of through through the global cultural dominance it has maintained since colonization. Through the flooding of American media into the cultural veins of other countries, the constant influx of white tourists carrying with them like extra baggage Western trends and ideas, and the dominance of the English language, "alternative" definitions for these abstract concepts are being erased and rewritten in the mindset and tongue of the West.

The definitions of richness, intelligence, power, sacredness and beauty from the perspective of the West are fast becoming the universal ones. So how do we incorporate awareness of this into how we travel?

In Balamchaur, I've been thinking about how I myself have come to define such abstract concepts; how my urban American upbringing has shaped my definitions. I've realized that the best way to have new experiences while traveling (especially as someone who comes from what is fast becoming the dominant way of seeing the world) is to be on constant lookout for ways to revise and redefine what I hold to be true about these concepts. In Balamchaur, I've opened myself up to such "redefinitions":

First, strength is a distinctly female concept in Balamchaur. The women here are tireless, with unimaginably strong necks and backs on which they carry baskets upon baskets of grass, firewood, soil, and compost. They till their fields for hours, bent over beneath the sun, and still manage to cook two full meals a day for their families, making so much food it spills off my plate as I eat. They are the first ones up and the last to sleep, many meeting in the late evenings for their aamas group during which they organize village clean-up days and recreational activities. They are bottomless sources of power and kindness.

Another redefined concept for me here is what it means to be clean, which I now see as going much deeper than the skin. The cleanest I feel here is when my feet are nestled in freshly tilled soil, cold and dark between my toes, searching for potatoes in the ground. Clean is not clean hair and skin, its how one is living and eating off the Earth, how one is giving back to the Earth. This live-giving soil is clean. The potatoes I'm tossing into the straw basket beside me are clean.

Speaking of potatoes, I've also arrived at new definitions of success and purpose in sifting through the dirt and seeing them reveal themselves like pale jewels against the dark earth. The larger ones are like gold to the little girl harvesting with her grandmother, and she shouts "aloo-potato!" and piles them into the belly of her shirt. I like finding the tiny ones, the most concealed, the  neglected.

True adventure to me now is sitting with the old Gurung woman who is hosting me as she chops cauliflower and boils buffalo milk, steeping in the silence around us, the cool mud floors, the heat from the fire beneath the pot. Family is everyone in the village to these people. Family is everyone whose lives you touch day in and day out, whose children you care for like your own, whose houses you know like your own. Everyone is a sister, mother, son. It is easy becoming a part of the family when they open their hearts and homes like this to us.

Happiness and richness are interchangeable to me here -- they're defined by having and knowing one's purpose, understanding one's small but vital role.

I have also refined my definition of beauty, both in Balamchaur and throughout my time in Nepal. The sights that have struck me the most with their profound beauty are those that have about them the distinct air of tradition. The traditional Gurung dress they keep in their homes and reveal for special occasions, and the small games and habits that have been passed from oldest to the youngest members of the community through years upon years of loving and knowing this place. Or the ancestral tools of the djankri (traditional Nepali shaman) of the neighboring village, covered in bits of fabric, bone and feathers, each piece with its own infinite history, still charged with the same energy and spiritual function as when they were first crafted. Each object or practice is made more beautiful by its passing from parent to child, from teacher to student, generation to generation.

These "redefinitions" do not simply replace those that I have built up in my mind as a result of my circumstance, my personality, my experiences; rather, on top of (hopefully) correcting any truly flawed perceptions, they add a new dimension to my previously existing ideas about what it means to be beautiful and happy and clean. What it means to have a life with purpose, success, family, adventure. Each new layer to these abstractions that I can glean from my experiences here is complex and perfect and only serves to flesh out further my view of the world, only makes life more awe inspiring. Not to mention being able to see and point out the value in (and superiority of) non-Western mindsets so I can hopefully begin to curb "intellectual colonization" as a global traveler.

So that all comes together to form my new definition of what it means to truly travel. Redefining. If I left this beautiful country without any added dimensions to how I defined concepts such as these, it would be a trip wasted. And with each new definition I come away with, I've also been trying to pause and to be thankful for the conditions that were intricately woven together to allow for me to continuously expand my perspective on life, to be more aware and in love with its diversity and wonder.
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SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

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‘redefinitions’ in balamchaur

anna,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

Description

My days in the village of Balamchaur have been a constant intake of alien sights, sounds, and smells, but at the same time, the slower pace of village life has gifted me the time and space to reflect on some ideas that have been rolling around in the back of my head for some time. […]

Posted On

04/26/17

Author

anna

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    [post_date] => 2017-04-19 16:24:40
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    [post_content] => Dear Spring 2017 Nepal Semester Students & Families,

It is hard to believe that 3 months have passed since embarking on this incredible adventure! It won’t be long and students will be boarding their planes back home. We are sure you are anxiously awaiting their arrival!

Below is a reminder of the return group flight information for eagerly awaiting families (all times are in local time zones):

Monday, May 1st

Etihad Airways #103

Depart: Abu-Dhabi (AUH) 3:35 am

Arrive: New York (JFK) 9:35am

We will have a Dragons Administrator on call for the duration of the travel day. Should you need any assistance after regular office hours, please call our “on-call” number at 303-921-6078. We wish all students a great trip home! Sincerely, Boulder Admin [post_title] => Return Flight Information [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => return-flight-information-55 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-19 16:31:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-19 22:31:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/blog/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 600 [name] => SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A [slug] => himalayas-spring-2017-a [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 600 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 595 [count] => 58 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 0.1 [cat_ID] => 600 [category_count] => 58 [category_description] => [cat_name] => SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A [category_nicename] => himalayas-spring-2017-a [category_parent] => 595 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/spring-2017/himalayas-spring-2017-a/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 601 [name] => SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B [slug] => himalayas-spring-2017-b [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 601 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 595 [count] => 77 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 0.1 [cat_ID] => 601 [category_count] => 77 [category_description] => [cat_name] => SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B [category_nicename] => himalayas-spring-2017-b [category_parent] => 595 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/spring-2017/himalayas-spring-2017-b/ ) ) [category_links] => SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A, SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B )

SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A, SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B

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Return Flight Information

Hilary LeBlanc,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A, SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B

Description

Dear Spring 2017 Nepal Semester Students & Families, It is hard to believe that 3 months have passed since embarking on this incredible adventure! It won’t be long and students will be boarding their planes back home. We are sure you are anxiously awaiting their arrival! Below is a reminder of the return group flight […]

Posted On

04/19/17

Author

Hilary LeBlanc

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    [post_content] => A place nested between hills, cobblestone paths and pristine mountain views Bhalamchaur gives us a glimpse of what community looks like in today's world. This beautiful Gurung village situated in the midst of the Annapurna region has the touch of that what inspires human beings to be with the land and the nature.

As the whole crew got into Balamchaur, the winding mountain path from Khudi to the village was a tribute to the resilience of the people and the place. A clear contrast was seen when the black topped road ended to give way to the stone steps leading to what looks like a fairytale village. As the entire crew made its way to the village courtyard, the homestay families were already there to welcome them with a plate of Tika and the biggest smiles on their faces. As the students joined the families, they were welcomed by a phrase, "aau chora" or "aau chori" (meaning, come son or come daughter).

The number of pristine villages are decreasing day by day downwards with the advent of concrete, machinery, packaged food and countless other things. The children's intelligence is weighed in how much english they can speak or how much formulas they can memorize. The elders of the families in these villages still teach their children to farm, to raise cattle, to weave their clothes, to sing the songs of their ancestors and teach how to survive without going to the malls !!. As the gear is pushed towards a world of dominant monoculture, these villages nested between the mountains give so much hope of cultural preservation and simple living in today's world.

During the stay at the village, the students took no time to bond with their homestay families. The students would join the everyday chores of the village from carrying firewood from the jungle, tilling the land, getting the cow dung to the fields, rearing the goats, ploughing land with oxen and so on. Village life teaches in a unique way, and it was always seen in the face of students. During the afternoons the group learned and shared about development issues and sustainable and ethical service projects in today's world. The entire team devoted good time to learn about different ethnographic/anthropological aspects of the village to set up a good foundation for future learning service projects. The group shared their findings on the last day of the rural HS. It is incredible how so much the human mind and heart is opened up in these places which are deemed underdeveloped by our so called developed economy.

Our time in the village was celebrated with a Gurung dance with the whole village in the evening where the entire group was dressed in traditional Gurung outfits. Saying farewell to our families the next morning we embarked on a long-long bus ride to Namo Buddha for the meditation retreat. This beautiful monastery located in the hills of Kavre is a sacred pilgrimage site where it is believed that the Buddha cut his own flesh to feed the starving tigress and her cubs. The group dived right into the monastery schedule taking part at the morning and evening prayer session with monks, dharma lessons with the Kenpo and meals at the monastery. As the next few days will be devoted to introspect and meditate at this pilgrimage of compassion, we will be sending love and prayers your way.

Dherai Maya (Lots of Love) and we will be posting photos :)
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Balamchaur Diaries

Instructor team,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

Description

A place nested between hills, cobblestone paths and pristine mountain views Bhalamchaur gives us a glimpse of what community looks like in today’s world. This beautiful Gurung village situated in the midst of the Annapurna region has the touch of that what inspires human beings to be with the land and the nature. As the […]

Posted On

04/17/17

Author

Instructor team

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Photos from the Field

Eva Vanek,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

Description

Posted On

04/11/17

Author

Eva Vanek

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Holi started the moment I stepped out my front door; just as the latch clicked, a red-dyed water balloon came flying at me from the rooftop of the building across the street. I looked up, my shirt soaking, to see two kids ducking down out of view.
My walk to the program house usually takes about 30 minutes, but on Holi I made it in half the time, due to the fact that I was sprinting the whole way, dodging the missiles flung at me from roofs and around corners. I was hit four more times.
I met 8 other students and 2 of our leaders at the house and we all headed out to Basantapur Durbar Square, clutching little bags of colored powder.
It started off slowly. As we approached the Square, people turned our way, smiling, cheerfully saying "Happy Holi!" And gently smearing color on our cheeks. We reciprocated. As we ventured on the waves of people became stronger. Whoops and cheers were audible. Groups of high school and college students descended upon us, trying to smear us (our faces, shirts, ears, necks) with as much color as possible. It felt like the world's biggest game of tag, except everyone was It. I dove at strangers, streaking cheeks and rubbing powder into hair, ducking their retaliations. Water was dumped on us and water guns sprayed.
By the time we got to the center of the square, it was nearly impossible to tell who was who. Our clothes, features and hair were covered in thick layers of powder.
The Square pulsed. It was a mosh pit. There was not an inch of space between each person. Cymbals crashed and people chanted, throwing puffs of color in the air.
When I got home that night, it took me 45 minutes of intense scrubbing to feel adequately clean. I had to remove and clean my piercings, wash my hair three times, and deep clean my ears. Even then, for days after, red and purple dye stained my skin. I still have some small pink streaks in my hair that make me smile every time they slip into view.IMG-20170410-WA0003IMG-20170410-WA0002IMG-20170410-WA0001IMG-20170410-WA0000
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Happy Holi!

Student Group,SPRING 2017, SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

Description

Holi started the moment I stepped out my front door; just as the latch clicked, a red-dyed water balloon came flying at me from the rooftop of the building across the street. I looked up, my shirt soaking, to see two kids ducking down out of view. My walk to the program house usually takes […]

Posted On

04/10/17

Author

Student Group

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    [post_content] => It looks easier than it is. Watching from the side lines. I saw Bipen, a young Gurung boy driving his two cows while guiding a haalo (a nepali cow-driven plow) behind them. I watched for some time before deciding to join in. I took my shoes off and stepped onto the freshly plowed terrace. For the first time in years, I felt the cool dampness of composted soil between my toes. I walked over to Bipen, who joyfully allowed me to relieve him from his chore. I stood with all my weight on the plow, yelling "ho!" to try and get the cows moving. They did nothing aside from eating grass, so Bipen had to step in with his cow motivating stick. The cows went off at their slow pace and I panted as I forced the haalo. The more I pushed to one side, the more it would jump, yet when I didn't push at all it would move to the wrong side. It took twenty minutes for me to plow a line that didn't have to be done over and by then I was exhausted. I went back to the side lines watching Bipen guide the haalo and command his cows like it was nothing. This was my first glimpse into village life. From the outside, it looks easy and romantic while in practice it's something that has taken hundreds of years to perfect.
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SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

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From the outside in

Jared Davidson,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES A

Description

It looks easier than it is. Watching from the side lines. I saw Bipen, a young Gurung boy driving his two cows while guiding a haalo (a nepali cow-driven plow) behind them. I watched for some time before deciding to join in. I took my shoes off and stepped onto the freshly plowed terrace. For […]

Posted On

04/10/17

Author

Jared Davidson

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