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Namaste!!

I am writing to you from Kathmandu valley. As we know, our Nepal adventure is three weeks away, and everyone is likely feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness! Don't worry, everything will be fine!

I was born and raised in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, which celebrates its modernity in the backdrop of ritualism. The window of my room opens into the view of Bhagwati temple, which hosts long lines of devotees every morning. Just behind the temple, there are a number of  old grocery stores that sit next to new super markets; small, rustic tea shops are alongside new, glamorous cafes. Things seem different, but they are not necessarily in contrast. As people navigate their cultural landscape each day, there is continuity in how they share affections between heritages of the past and ambitions of the future.

I am quite excited to showcase to you how Nepal lives through its vernacular. Most tourists pass through expressions of the Nepali culture that depict monumental achievements – temple plazas, popular festivals, important sites, etc. But, there is more to learn from the vernacular – expressions of art, music, cuisine, and economy that hide in the subtleties of daily lives. You will live among the people, in villages and in cities, and experience their habits. You will endeavor to learn Nepali and break words with people who cannot help but smile at your humble beginnings. You will look wondrously at people who will be just as curious when you walk past them. Some people will come forward and address you; some people will sit back and wait for you to approach. Regardless, you will experience not just the sights and the sounds of Nepal but also the emotions that are so freely expressed in this small country.

Perhaps I can never look at Nepal with the gaze of a traveler; but, I know what it feels to encounter a different way of life. Just after my high school, as some of you are at this point in life, I took my first plane flight to come to Bangkok, for Dragon  Instructor Training. I had never left Nepal before that trip; It was just as foreign, exciting, and challenging to me as Nepal will be to you. My generic awareness of USA came from stereotypes of Hollywood; the stereotypes of Nepal may have come to you through trite recitations of tour experiences. Here in Nepal, as you experience an amazing cultural context, the instructors will facilitate your sense of curiosity as well. As instructors, we are your guides and mentors; but we are also your confidant and friends.

Be well, be you!

Shanti

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INTRODUCTION FROM SHANTI

Shanti Magar,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B

Description

Namaste!! I am writing to you from Kathmandu valley. As we know, our Nepal adventure is three weeks away, and everyone is likely feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness! Don’t worry, everything will be fine! I was born and raised in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, which celebrates its modernity in the backdrop of […]

Posted On

01/21/17

Author

Shanti Magar

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    [post_content] => Hey everyone,

Namaste! I hope you all are doing well and getting geared for your travels. I would like to introduce myself to you a bit. I have been working with Dragons for two years now. I was born and raised in a place called Sikkim in the foothills of the Himalayas, the North Eastern part of India. The place I grew up is a melting pot of many ethnic groups, which is why I was fortunate to get the opportunity to learn languages like Nepali, Bengali, Hindi and English. After I finished High school, I decided to go to Vishwa Bharati University an International college near Kolkata, India. This decision was an eye opener for me. Before this I had never really been away from home and family. Looking back leaving the nest was the best decision I made back then. I saw that the world wasn’t limited to my hometown and people. It was here that I got the opportunity to meet amazing students from all over the world with passion for travel, literature, science, art and music.

After I finished my bachelors, I moved to Boulder, Colorado in 2003. I lived there for ten plus years travelling back and forth. It was in 2013 that I decided to stay back in India for a while. To be with my family and do some work with the community here. My work focuses on the Lepcha tribe, specially the women and the children. We have started a fully functional women’s co-op early this year. If you are interested I will share more about this initiative when we meet.

During my travels between the Himalayas and the States, my constant companion was my son; he is 13 years old now and goes to a village school in India. Right now he is on vacation back in the states, on a road trip from Colorado to Arizona. He was my first teacher to help me develop an understanding as to how things work cross-culturally.

I am grateful to get the chance to meet each one of you and assist you on this journey that has the power to change lives and direction. I want to let you know how proud I am of you, that you dared yourself to get out of your comfort zone to embark on this adventure. There is really no way one could prepare for what this trip might bring but I suggest that you be open to whatever comes your way. Keeping in mind that it is only us that creates our own limits. The team of instructors – me, Rebecca, Shanti and Jeff are here to assist you on your journey. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to email me. Till then take care of yourself and see you soon!

Sharon

Email: sandunes28@gmail.com

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Confucius
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Introduction!

Sharon Sitling,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B

Description

Hey everyone, Namaste! I hope you all are doing well and getting geared for your travels. I would like to introduce myself to you a bit. I have been working with Dragons for two years now. I was born and raised in a place called Sikkim in the foothills of the Himalayas, the North Eastern […]

Posted On

01/19/17

Author

Sharon Sitling

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Namaste,

As you are preparing for your upcoming adventure in Nepal, many of you will be visiting travel doctors and making a plan for vaccinations and medication. We wanted to take this opportunity to provide some additional information regarding rabies pre-exposure vaccination and malaria prophylaxis.

Where There Be Dragons has no specific stipulations or requirements regarding these medications and vaccinations and you should know that it is up to your discretion. We hope the following information from us can supplement info you’ve already received. Please consult your travel doctor for ALL medical recommendations. We do our best to provide clear information, but also recognize that we at Dragons are not medical professionals and cannot give specific medical advice. This is to be worked out with your doctor.

Rabies:

While rabies is present in the region and dog bites can occur, “Clinics in Kathmandu that specialize in the care of foreigners almost always have complete post exposure rabies prophylaxis, including human rabies immune globulin,” according to the CDC.

Malaria:

According to the CDC, “Malaria is not a risk for most travelers to Nepal. There is no transmission of malaria in Kathmandu or Pokhara, the 2 main cities in Nepal. All the main trekking routes in Nepal are free of malaria transmission.”

Also note that many malaria prophylactics have side effects that should be considered before committing to 12 weeks of travel in a foreign country.

We hope this helps and please do not hesitate to contact us with any further questions.

 

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SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B

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Information on rabies and malaria in Nepal

Shannon Harriman,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B

Description

Namaste, As you are preparing for your upcoming adventure in Nepal, many of you will be visiting travel doctors and making a plan for vaccinations and medication. We wanted to take this opportunity to provide some additional information regarding rabies pre-exposure vaccination and malaria prophylaxis. Where There Be Dragons has no specific stipulations or requirements […]

Posted On

01/19/17

Author

Shannon Harriman

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    [post_content] => Dear Fellow Traveler,

Imagine yourself walking down a narrow alleyway in an ancient city built as the center of an epic trade route across the highest mountains on earth. Above you, you see towering temples built of brick and wood in the classic Nepali design, looking something like a Japanese pagoda with their classic stair-step roof. Intricately carved wooden beams angle out from the brick walls to support the roofs, and you notice that each and every part of the buildings around seems to be built with care and inlaid with symbolic meaning. Down the alley towards you come people dressed in colorful, handmade clothing you have never seen before, laughing and speaking a language you’ve never heard. You pass a Buddhist stupa built by the emperor Ashoka two thousand years ago, and it looks brand new. Across a courtyard, you catch a glimpse of the tallest mountains on Earth, towering above the clouds to the north. This is Patan, the medieval kingdom we will call home for a large part of this semester. Through these alleys for hundreds of years, people from across Asia and the greater world have come to learn, to explore, and to trade.

My name is Jeff, and I’m honored to be your instructor on our journey to Nepal this semester. The Himalaya are a landscape that first captured my heart in 2011 when I began exploring them. In these mountains in both Nepal and India, I began to meet activists, villagers, spiritual teachers, artists, and all kinds of other people who claim unique places in our global community. The valley where I lived that first year held a lake in the middle. Every morning across the lake, the call to prayer from the mosque echoed through the continual ringing of bells from little Hindu temples and chanting from beneath the prayer flags of the Tibetan Buddhist gompa. I would climb the hills behind my cottage each morning and order a ten-rupee cup of chai from the man who owned a tea stall on top of one of the hills. The two of us would sit and smile and sip our chai as the morning got under way. Villagers from the next valley would walk by carrying loads of firewood or flowers to sell in the market. People came to buy the array of fresh vegetables, rice, and dal (lentils) that shopkeepers displayed for sale in wooden boxes and burlap bags.

I’ve been a nomad for the past seven years: as the seasons changed, I’ve always found a way to pack up and move. During the winters, I’ve helped to run in a small community of educators and activists at a wolf sanctuary in southern Colorado (it’s called Mission: Wolf if you want to check it out). There, I lived in tipis, built solar-powered buildings, and enjoyed a simple, communal life in the mountains. We took care of captive wolves that didn’t work out as pets and educated people about sustainable living, ecology, and why wolves shouldn’t be in cages. The past five years I’ve spent my summers leading backpacking trips for NOLS in the big wilderness of the American West. There’s something in the last few years that called me back to the Himalaya though. It’s a place full of wonder, constant change, and people who are seeking the answers to the big questions in life.

Right now, I’m sitting at a farm outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I’ve come to study sustainable agriculture and earthen building between semesters in Nepal with Dragons. Yesterday, I swam across a lake here with my friend, another Dragons instructor. We floated out on the water and talked about the journey of life, the concept of home in our modern world, and what we learn from leaving home. It’s always a bold leap, and my heart always feels some sadness in leaving. But then there’s the excitement of packing: the realization that life will become simpler when I’m living out of my tiny backpack. How little can I bring? What is truly essential for my happiness? Why do I even own anything more? There’s the new landscapes and new people. There’s the explosion of new thoughts and ideas, of optimism for the future, of seeing truly what this world is, where it is going, and what my place in it might be tomorrow or next year or in ten years.

I’ve spent my life trying to answer some of those big questions: How can we best live in the world? How can we inspire development that is good for generations to come? What does a truly happy society look like? What does it mean to be alive at a time when so much is changing? For me, those answers lie all over the world. They’re in the remote villages, in the cities, on the winding mountain roads and quiet forest trails. As we travel Nepal, from the urban chaos of Kathmandu to the secluded mountain villages, I know that we’ll come a little closer to understanding the answers.

I heard once that the best journeys answer questions which at the beginning, we didn’t even think to ask. Traveling to Asia is a bold leap, and I’m glad to be embarking on that journey with you this semester. I hope the Himalaya can offer us all something wonderful, whether or not we know we’re looking for it. The world offers itself to those who seek to know it.

Until we meet in Kathmandu, I’ll leave you with a poem:

 

Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does It End? by Mary Oliver

Don’t call this world adorable, or useful, that’s not it.

It’s frisky, and a theater for more than fair winds.

The eyelash of lightning is neither good nor evil.

The struck tree burns like a pillar of gold.

But the blue rain sinks, straight to the white

feet of the trees

whose mouths open.

Doesn’t the wind, turning in circles, invent the dance?

Haven’t the flowers moved, slowly, across Asia, then Europe,

until at last, now, they shine

in your own yard?

Don’t call this world an explanation, or even an education.

When the Sufi poet whirled, was he looking

outward, to the mountains so solidly there

in a white-capped ring, or was he looking

to the center of everything: the seed, the egg, the idea

that was also there,

beautiful as a thumb

curved and touching the finger, tenderly,

little love-ring,

as he whirled,

oh jug of breath,

in the garden of dust?

 

Looking forward so much to meeting you all.

Jeff
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Hello from your instructor: Jeff Wagner

Jeff Wagner,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B

Description

Dear Fellow Traveler, Imagine yourself walking down a narrow alleyway in an ancient city built as the center of an epic trade route across the highest mountains on earth. Above you, you see towering temples built of brick and wood in the classic Nepali design, looking something like a Japanese pagoda with their classic stair-step […]

Posted On

01/18/17

Author

Jeff Wagner

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    [post_content] => 

Greetings Fellow Travellers,

Congratulations on making the brave, bold and exciting decision to join us for an adventure. It takes a lot of courage to pack a bag and head off to an entirely new place and I admire you for taking that step. It is not every person who is willing to open themselves up to the possibilities and challenges that travel provides us. You are coming on this trip bringing your own questions, interests and experiences. We are all different people and come from different places but you will find us connected by our love of adventure and desire to know more. I am so happy that you chose to come to Nepal. I truly believe we are about to embark on a life-changing journey.

Some of you may have never left your home country. Most of you have likely never travelled to Nepal! You are about to dive into a country and a culture that may seem vastly different than the one you grew up in. Where people will speak a different language and often have different beliefs and values. But only when we step out of our comfort zone and open up to all the vastness this world has to offer can we truly begin to learn about other places. And through learning about these other places we begin to learn about ourselves.

I am excited to be leading this course alongside Sharon, Shanti and Jeff. As your instructor team, we encourage you to post any questions you have to this yak board. Chances are if you have that question about hiking boots or energy bars, someone else has it too! We'd also love to know who you are, so please post an introduction and a picture. Who are you? Where do you come from? What are you looking forward to doing/seeing/experiencing in Nepal?

A little bit about me. I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado and spent a childhood reading about far away places and having adventures in the Rocky Mountains. I have a strong background and connection with India. I left the USA for the first time when I was 20 to live in India for 11 months and have been returning ever since to study, work, do research and live in a village. I am excited to spend three months journeying through Nepal together. I led my first Nepal semester last spring; I found Nepal to be a special and powerful place and I can’t wait to go back.

It’s human nature to come into experiences like this with lots of expectations. The best thing you can do for yourself is to let go of them. Events, people and activities may sometimes not happen the way we expected them to or on our schedule. But that doesn’t mean magical things won’t occur.

I’d like to leave you with a quote from the great Arab traveler Ibn Battuta who, in the fourteenth century, left his native Morocco to travel across North Africa then on to Saudi Arabia, India, Central Asia and China before returning home. He wrote, “Traveling-it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a story teller.” There will be times on this trip that you will be speechless-unsure of what to say or struggling to communicate in a new language. This is not only okay but a necessary part of the experience–these times when we are humble, when we listen, when we open our hearts and minds to all the world is trying to teach us. I can’t wait to hear the stories you all will tell.

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Instructor Intro

Rebecca,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B

Description

Greetings Fellow Travellers, Congratulations on making the brave, bold and exciting decision to join us for an adventure. It takes a lot of courage to pack a bag and head off to an entirely new place and I admire you for taking that step. It is not every person who is willing to open themselves […]

Posted On

01/18/17

Author

Rebecca

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    [post_content] => 

Namaste Fellow Adventurers,

Welcome to the Spring 2017 Himalaya Semester!  In just under 2 months you will arrive in the Kathmandu airport and begin a sojourn that will change your life in unforeseen ways.  This journey will present challenges and rewards far beyond your imagination.  It is an exciting prospect and one that I’m sure you are all a bit nervous about.  It takes a tremendous amount of courage to leave behind what is familiar and to venture out into the unknown.  For that, you already have the respect of your instructors and the communities you will be living amongst and working with.

In this note, I want to introduce you to the Field Notes page and to share a bit about your semester and myself.  Your instructors will introduce themselves after the New Year when the board is officially split between the 2 sections that we will be running – Himalaya A and Himalaya B.  Once you have been notified which course you are on, I want to invite you all to introduce yourself on the Field Notes board and use it as a place to post any questions you have.  You will soon discover that this page is a great way to share, connect and build enthusiasm for the adventure that lies ahead.  It will also be used throughout your course to share your experience with loved ones back home.   Important notices will also be posted during the month of January, so please begin the habit of checking your board regularly.

My personal sojourn in Asia began almost 2 decades ago.  While studying at Middlebury College, I found myself drawn to Eastern religion and philosophy for the emphasis placed on cultivating self-awareness and embodying virtuous emotions such as compassion, generosity and patience.  I decided that I needed to journey to the East and follow in the footsteps of so many seekers before me.  I have not been disappointed with the decision I made to enroll with the School for International Training in Nepal.  It changed my life so dramatically that I made my home in Asia for 14 years.  Among the many lessons that I have learned, perhaps the most potent has been learning to live in the present.  Asia can demand your full attention in any given moment and challenge the ways in which you view yourself and the world.

 You will all have experiences of intense presence, some that you might like to be forewarned of.  Past students have expressed an appreciation for, shall we say, a heads up!   So, with that said, be prepared for the potentiality of the following:  dramatic changes in schedule, a lack of personal space, phases of too little or too much free time, being hungry, being intensely full, being more tired than you’ve ever been in your life, having to wait for transportation, being asked to do things you’re not totally psyched about, not having clean laundry, not having a toilet or having to use a dirty toilet, having to speak a different language, being laughed at, having sloppy diarrhea, once again, not having a toilet!, having to take a cold, bucket shower or having no shower (for days), hiking until your thighs burn and your lungs are ready to burst, eating unappetizing food, having to drop your expectations. . . and more than anything and perhaps implicit in all stated above, having to be uncomfortable and hopefully learning to extract a valuable lesson in being so!

 However, you can also be prepared for the inevitability of the following: feeling your heart spontaneously open to virtual strangers, seeing more smiles in a day than you can count, experiencing acts of kindness and generosity from people who have seemingly nothing, being moved to tears and laughter unexpectedly, hearing words of insight and wisdom from respected members of the community, being accepted into a family as if you were their biological child, playing silly games with the most enthusiastic and curious kids you’ve ever met, holding farm animals, stuttering through a new language, saying “Malaai kushi laagyo!”, being spellbound by chanting monks, learning new skills from your ISP mentor, feasting your eyes on high, snowy peaks, filling your belly with copious amounts of daal bhat, meeting dreadlocked, ash covered yogis, watching monkeys play, and avoiding cows lounging in the city streets.

 What lies ahead is hard to find words for.  What is even more difficult is to be prepared for the journey.  I imagine this note will find all of you at some stage of preparation.  All I can say by way of advice goes beyond anything you can fit in your backpack. It’s important to start this sojourn with your loose ends tied up at home so that you can slip into the presence that awaits you.  What I ask for you to all bring is an open heart and mind.  Be ready to give up some control and let yourself flow.  My role and that of your leaders is to provide a safe raft and a paddle to get you through the rapids.

 Once into the New Year, your instructors will be checking the board regularly and available to answer any questions that you post.  Before then, please feel free to write me directly – sharriman@wheretherebedragons.com.

 I hope that this note finds you all healthy, happy and enjoying the winter.

 Be well,

Shannon Harriman

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Namaste from the Program Director

Shannon Harriman,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B

Description

Namaste Fellow Adventurers, Welcome to the Spring 2017 Himalaya Semester!  In just under 2 months you will arrive in the Kathmandu airport and begin a sojourn that will change your life in unforeseen ways.  This journey will present challenges and rewards far beyond your imagination.  It is an exciting prospect and one that I’m sure […]

Posted On

01/12/17

Author

Shannon Harriman

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    [post_content] => Dear Spring Semester Students,

Welcome to the Dragons community and welcome to your Field Notes board!

With spring just around the corner, we are excited to begin the final stages of course preparation with you. Launching your course Field Notes board marks the first step towards building your semester community, as this interface will help us bridge great geographic distances and connect you with your course instructors, your fellow Dragons students, and the Boulder Administration.

You can think of your Field Notes board as a virtual bulletin board.

Pre-course, your instructors will use the board to introduce themselves, tack up packing lists and respond to any of your pre-course departure questions.

On course, you can use Field Notes to share photos with your fans back home, jot down vignettes of your life abroad, or share longer reflections about your unexpected adventures on an overnight train, at a meditation retreat, at your home-stay sister’s birthday party… It’s hard to capture everything that happens over the course of a semester, or expect to share it all for the first time when you arrive home. In many ways, your Field Notes will become a collaborative journal, curated by members of your group and enjoyed by your friends and family back home.

Post-course, your Field Notes board turns into one big adventure log that will commemorate your group’s experiences abroad.

Your Program Director and instructor team will introduce themselves here shortly! We look forward to reading more about you in the coming weeks, as well. Please use the Field Notes board as an opportunity to dive in and start building a new community. There are no “dumb questions” when it comes to packing lists, only students that wished they had a backpack cover or an extra water bottle.

Thanks so much for beginning this journey with us. We encourage you to post on your Field Notes board early and often, and we look forward to being in touch with you over the coming months.

The Dragons Admin Team
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Welcome to Field Notes!

Eva Vanek,SPRING: HIMALAYAN STUDIES B

Description

Dear Spring Semester Students, Welcome to the Dragons community and welcome to your Field Notes board! With spring just around the corner, we are excited to begin the final stages of course preparation with you. Launching your course Field Notes board marks the first step towards building your semester community, as this interface will help […]

Posted On

01/12/17

Author

Eva Vanek

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