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Hello Fellow Dragons,

Welcome to Dragons Thailand! Are you as excited, nervous, and ready to explore Thailand as me?! Summer is right around the corner, and as you finish the school year thoughts of delicious Thai food, temples, and meeting your fellow students have started to consume your thoughts. Do I have everything I need for the trip? Should I pack this shirt or not? Will I get along with my group and instructors? There are many more questions and Yak Yak is in place for you to ask them. I'm glad to see some of you have started to introduce yourselves to the group and ask questions already. Thank you Inge and Lizzy for starting this important first step. Hopefully over the next month many will follow suit and share their excitement, concerns, and questions, which I am sure we all have before a journey like this.

Let me take a second to briefly introducing myself. My name is Derek Shepard and I will be one of your three Course Instructors this summer in Thailand. I'm originally from the North Slope Borough of Alaska, where I spent much of my early childhood in the small towns of Atqasuk and Barrow. It was a cold yet exciting place to grow up. For fun my twin brother and I would build igloos and snow tunnels, or explore the vast tundra by dog sled with our father. The fact that I would fall in love with Thailand – a climate the polar opposite of Alaska – is surprising, I know. Yet during the fall of 2002 while studying abroad in India, I traveled to Thailand for three weeks to research “socially engaged” Buddhism. The experience opened my eyes to a culture and religion I wanted to understand deeper. In 2004 I was fortunate to be offered a position with the Peace Corps in Thailand on the Teacher Collaboration and Community Outreach program. For two years I lived in Ratchaburi, Thailand working with English teachers and helping on community development projects. I still continue to keep in touch with many of my community friends, who you will hopefully meet along our travels.

When not working for Dragons I live in Boston where I am pursuing a Masters in Theological Studies with a focus on Buddhism from Harvard Divinity School. I'm also a Research Associate at the Harvard Pluralism Project (www.pluralism.org) where I cover the changing landscape of religion in America and religious pluralism internationally. I enjoy reading, sports, chess, and meditation, just to name a few of my hobbies. For those who are interested, I will be teaching Vipassana meditation in the mornings throughout our trip. In the past some students have enjoyed this, while others have enjoyed the extra time to sleep, which is perfectly fine too. As an instructorI strive to show students the many doors available on our trip, but inevitably it is he or she that must walk through them. Rest assured there will be many types of doors to open in Thailand – each one offering a unique experience to learn about Thailand and Thai culture.

This is my third year leading for Dragons and working with fellow Course Instructor Mandy Hammond. I must say each year offers new learning opportunities for me personally. I'm constantly learning not only about Thailand but about each of you, who bring an open and inquisitive mind to the program. Each of you posses what Zen master Shunryu Suzuki called “Beginners Mind”. To some extent Beginners Mind means the mind free from judging, free from preconceived notions (about Thailand), and a willingness to be open to new experiences. It is this mind that will serve you well on our journey, both personally and as a member of the group. I must admit, having spent so much time in Thailand I don't often posses this mind. I have to remind myself each year that while I am an “expert” and leader on our trip I am also a student who travels to learn about myself and others.

Over the next month or so Mandy, Virada, and I will be posting our letters of introduction, a tentative itinerary for our trip, and answer any questions you may have.We will be calling you individually to check in and make sure you have everything you need before we depart. I encourage you to ask questions now though and post them on Yak Yak. It's fair to say that if you have a question there are at least a few others who have the same or similar question. In case you have an urgent question, or just want to chat about Thailand or how good the Boston Celtics are, please feel free to contact me by phone (or email). Just so you know, till June 15th I will be checking Yak Yak every day or so to keep up with your questions.

I'm looking forward to meeting you all very shortly!

Cheers,

Derek

617-319-3215

dshepard@hds.harvard.edu

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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Welcome to Dragons Thailand!

Derek Shepard,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

Hello Fellow Dragons, Welcome to Dragons Thailand! Are you as excited, nervous, and ready to explore Thailand as me?! Summer is right around the corner, and as you finish the school year thoughts of delicious Thai food, temples, and meeting your fellow students have started to consume your thoughts. Do I have everything I need […]

Posted On

05/4/08

Author

Derek Shepard

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Sorry I had not posted any earlier but it's been hard to get away from my books considering AP exams are next week!!! So a little bit about myself: I am 16 and will be 16 until august 30th.... so I guess Elizabeth's and my birthday must be pretty close. I live in Malden, Massachussetts which is just about 30 minutes (by car) north of Boston. In school I take Calculus BC, English 11, Spanish 5, APUSH (US History),Chemistry, French 4, and Chorus. I am President ofthe National HonorsScociety,member of the Interact club, Civil Rights Team, Secretary of my class..... i dunno....somemore random things.. oh and Vice president of the Asian-American Club!!!!(i'm not Asian...but i am really interested in Asian Culture). I really like to travel the countries I have been to include Colombia, China, Costa Rica, Canada (wow all C's), and soon to be Thailand!!! The first time I ever went camping was last summer when I went to a program in Seattle, WA, and for that reason I am even more excited to go on this trip because I am sure that this will be a very new experience! I am on my school's crew team (rowing). And as well as rowing, I also liketo run (but am in no way an athlete!!!!)I really like music i can play piano, flute, tuba,... and I like to sing.

Ok, that's a lot ... and actually not really anything about myself, more like what i like to do and what I'm involved with but not actually who I am. I have a facebook, that will probably tell you the most about me. Just search for my name and my picture is the weird one with the up-side-down person (so don't hate!).

Thanks to all those who posted already and hopefully the others will post soon!

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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Hey Guys! I’m Kevin

Kevin vasquez,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

Sorry I had not posted any earlier but it’s been hard to get away from my books considering AP exams are next week!!! So a little bit about myself: I am 16 and will be 16 until august 30th…. so I guess Elizabeth’s and my birthday must be pretty close. I live in Malden, Massachussetts […]

Posted On

05/4/08

Author

Kevin vasquez

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Hi everyone! My name is Elizabeth, but most of my friends and teachers call me Lizzy. I am 16 and will be turning 17 at the end of our trip! I am so exited and can NOT wait until we leave. I already purchased 98% of my things and even carry my un-packed backpack around my house with me. My frequent shopping trips have made me very popular at the local EMS store. I am from Fairfield county, Connecticut, play (or attempt to play) lacrosse, and run cross country. I am a part of the environmental club and in my spare time I like to go out to eat and watch movies with my friends. I don’t think it has hit me yet that school is almost over and in less than two months we will be on our way to Thailand! Should I bring my i-pod? Or is that an inane item that won’t be useful? I am sure I will have a few other packing questions, but for now this is my only one. I am so excited to meet and learn about all of you!

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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Introduction

Elizabeth Weitzman,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

Hi everyone! My name is Elizabeth, but most of my friends and teachers call me Lizzy. I am 16 and will be turning 17 at the end of our trip! I am so exited and can NOT wait until we leave. I already purchased 98% of my things and even carry my un-packed backpack around […]

Posted On

05/2/08

Author

Elizabeth Weitzman

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    [post_content] => Well hello everyone, my name is Inge! It's kinda an odd name but it's pronounced like N-G. I'm really excited about going to Thailand about getting to know all the group members. I'm from San Antonio, Texas. Although I am from Texas I don't do anything too "Texan" like ride horses or wear cowboy hats. I'm also a junior in high school and I'm 17 years old.
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Thailand, Summer 2008

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A Little Bit About Me

Inge Sullivan,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

Well hello everyone, my name is Inge! It’s kinda an odd name but it’s pronounced like N-G. I’m really excited about going to Thailand about getting to know all the group members. I’m from San Antonio, Texas. Although I am from Texas I don’t do anything too "Texan" like ride horses or wear cowboy hats. […]

Posted On

05/2/08

Author

Inge Sullivan

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