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Tibet Cultural, Group "A", Summer 2008


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Hello Students and Parents,

To those who are new this year, I’d like to welcome you to the Dragons community and to the journey ahead! And to those who have joined us for another year, we are so happy that you are back, and we hope that your experience this summer will be as inspiring as your first!

This is an exciting time of year for us, and we know that it is for you as well. We hope that the Yak Yak forum encourages you to voice your excitement, anxieties, thoughts and questions. It’s a great way to share a bit yourself, and if they haven’t done so already, your instructors will also do so shortly. From there, discussions will begin to build and your instructors will guide you with their best advice for preparing for the course – regarding packing, recommendations for readings, the itinerary, and topics to consider for your on-course Independent Study Projects (ISPs). As your Program Director, I’m going to be working closely with you as well, although mostly to support the program and the instructors and be a contact for parents while the group is out in the field.

This year marks my 10th year with Dragons…albeit my first was at the age of 18 as a student on the Thailand summer program, in 1998. Awakened by intensely new opportunities for learning in Asia, I returned to travel with Dragons along the Silk Road the following year. It was then that I realized that one could spend a lifetime exploring the complexities and basking in the beauties of that region of the world. One thing led to another, and I soon found myself at Middlebury College, in Vermont, studying Mandarin Chinese and the Arts. The travel bug, of course, stayed with me, and lured me back to China and Southeast Asia on numerous occasions, which eventually inspired within me the desire to instruct for Dragons. Having worked in the field for 2 years in China and Tibet, I then migrated to Boulder, CO, where I am now – beginning a third summer season of administrative work with Dragons.

As we begin to close enrollment on our summer programs, I think back to the early fall and the first few occasions that we began hearing from prospective 2008 students. Although many of you have only recently joined us – accepted onto a program within the last 2-3 months – there are others who had committed their summer to Dragons as their school year was just beginning! Similarly, Dragons’ in-office Program Directors began work on their summer courses many, many months ago – reviewing last summer’s feedback, recruiting instructors with amazing regional knowledge, establishing tight working relationships with our in-country contacts, drafting potential course itineraries, and building forums in which our instructors have been able to maintain communication regarding their course ideas…allowing them to open up a world of possibilities for YOU this summer!

On top of all the things that set us apart from similar organizations, it’s the tremendous amount of care and intention that goes into the development of our courses that really makes us unique. The design and development of our course curriculums and itineraries is an organic process that is directly spearheaded by our administration and field staff. Rather than out-sourcing this work to large-scale operators who will present to you a program on a platter – one that can be mindlessly facilitated by just about any guide – Dragons prefers to keep our hands in the dirt, allowing us to sculpt courses that represent our unique goals of profound cross-cultural learning and self-cultivation. When it’s all said and done, and you finally gather in late June at your course’s point of departure, you should know that you are about to embark on an adventure that is intensely personalized and has been many months, and in many cases, years in the making!

Of course, the launching of the Yak Yak forum also encourages YOU to become a participant in the process. We want you to share with us and your fellow students your intentions for joining a program like ours, and as you dig through your Lonely Planet guidebooks and crack open a few of our suggested pre-course readings, we’d really like to hear what catches your attention. You are welcome to throw out contributions to the itinerary – whether there’s a particular monastery that catches your attention, a non-governmental organization that you know you’d like to take a few days to learn from, or a trekking route that seems to pass through impossibly beautiful terrain. Although our instructors have already defined most components of the course, we’d like to work to incorporate your ideas when and where possible. So join in, shout out, have fun and express yourself!

As has already been mentioned, Yak Yak is also the most appropriate place to address your pre-course questions. When Dragons’ Program Directors clear and post your Yaks with questions, they’ll typically determine if they would like the instructors to respond, in which case they will prompt the team to put together a note in reply. If, however, your question is one that I feel comfortable answering, I’ll be sure to reply right away. If, after a couple of days, you are unable to solicit a response, you may consider emailing your question directly to me: ryan@wheretherebedragons.com.

We hope that you will discover the magic of the Yak Yak forum, and learn to love it! It’s a powerful tool for pre-course communication and community building, and once you head into the field, it will undoubtedly become the default homepage of your parents and friends at home – all of those who WISH they could be out there with you!

Again, welcome to Dragons. I look forward to hearing from you all, and vicariously journeying alongside you this summer.

With Best Regards,

Ryan Koupal
VietnamProgram Director
Where There Be Dragons LLC
ryan@wheretherebedragons.com
800-982-9203 x15

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Tibet Cultural, Group "A", Summer 2008

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Hello from the Boulder Office

Ryan Koupal,Tibet Cultural, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

Hello Students and Parents, To those who are new this year, I’d like to welcome you to the Dragons community and to the journey ahead! And to those who have joined us for another year, we are so happy that you are back, and we hope that your experience this summer will be as inspiring […]

Posted On

05/7/08

Author

Ryan Koupal

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To the Tibet Cultural "A-Team":


This summer, we have an opportunity like no other. For some of you, your decision to travel to northern India was roundabout. As events of the late winter and spring unfolded in Tibet, we watched with minor trepidation and some amazement. In the eyes of the media, Tibet is once again on the map, a focal point in anticipation of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But for many of us, it has always been on the map; maybe someone turned a light onto it from a different angle, but that's about it. Now, perhaps by fate or more likely by a series of strategic decisions, we have fallen into place as a very real team of students and instructors. For some of us, the anticipated map of exploration has changed from a journey through the heartland of Tibet (within China's borders) to a journey through the vibrant outposts of Tibetan culture and its relatives in the vast Himalaya of northern India. There is little that excites me more.


For the sake of space, however, I will hold my thoughts on that and, instead, introduce myself. I consider myself an attached explorer; that is, I move around a lot, but get attached to places easily. As much as I would like to be rooted to one geographic space, I have always been somewhat nomadic. This year, I live in Texas. Next year, I will live in Colorado. In the two years before moving to Texas, I lived in Thailand, and before that I lived in various locales of eastern Asia, with occasional stints in Colorado and Mexico. One day, I will settle into a more relaxed living situation -- perhaps in my dream of running a non-profit educational ranch in New Mexico -- but for now, wanderlust will carry me to northern India with you, and then back to Colorado to begin graduate school in Psychology.


My interests vary greatly, and sometimes I wonder when I am going to stop being interested in new ideas, activities, and careers. Currently, I teach English Literature in a low-income high school on the Texas-Mexico border (fondly known as Tejico) where I enjoy working with horses, surfing (yes, the Gulf of Mexico has ridable swells), running, cycling, and strumming my guitar. When possible, I climb, participate in Triathlons and marathons, and take good, old-fashioned backpacking trips with my partner (who, a teacher herself, has her own plethora of interests and hobbies) and our puppy, Clover (the sweetest pup anyone could ask for).


In my teaching, Buddhism plays a strong role. I try to emphasize individual approaches and interpretations of worldly and literary events while understanding how universal themes tend to unite us as humans. This will be especially helpful as we explore the various communities of Tibetans in exile, listen to their stories, and begin accessing new ways of thinking. On that note, I spent some time as a novice monk in a forest monastery on the Thai-Burma border; this transformative experience has greatly influenced my perspective on the world, and continues to affect my decisions and motives. It has, for example, influenced me to move from direct teaching into psychology (hence the move to graduate school). I could go on about...say...the novel I started and never finished, the hot weather of south Texas, my interest in pine trees, and my love for sourdough breadmaking, but you will, of course, have plenty of time to get to know me, and I you.

Ourinstructor team -- Lindsay Gilmor, Debi Goldman, and me -- is one of the strongest I have seen in my six years of instructing with Dragons. Like each of you, we come from different geographic and educational places, and have different interests (for example, I am not sure if anyone else on this team surfs AND wears cowboy boots on a regular basis). Our myriad interests and skills are complimentary and are what will help make this a powerful program. Together, we have organized a program that will allow you to explore the phenomenal natural landscapes of the Himalayan regions bordering Tibet, the culture of Tibetan communities in exile and their neighbors (including groups of people with strong cultural, religious, and linguistic connections to Tibet), and the impact of varying economic, environmental, and political forces on these communities. The three of us, along with various contacts in northern India, will guide you in your explorations. We will rarely teach you directly, but rather use our intimate surroundings to facilitate a mind-blowing, and perhaps life-changing, experience.


And you will each bring your own interests to the program, helping to guide our trajectory and inquiry. In many cases, the questions you ask and enthusiasm you project will encourage us to make things happen for you. As you can imagine, such a group experience is cyclical and grows from within itself. The more we each contribute, the more we will each get out of this. So I encourage you: start sharing your ideas now.


Yak Yak is an awesome forum to get our initial ideas out onto the table. When posting to Yak Yak before the program, please tell us what you are interested in, both in the context of this program and in general. The more we get to know each other, the deeper we will be able to explore.


Warm regards to each of you, and I look forward to meeting you in Los Angeles in less than two months!


Max Woodfin

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Tibet Cultural, Group "A", Summer 2008

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We will soon be saying, “Tashi Delek!”

Max Woodfin,Tibet Cultural, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

To the Tibet Cultural "A-Team": This summer, we have an opportunity like no other. For some of you, your decision to travel to northern India was roundabout. As events of the late winter and spring unfolded in Tibet, we watched with minor trepidation and some amazement. In the eyes of the media, Tibet is once […]

Posted On

05/6/08

Author

Max Woodfin

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