Photo of the Week
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    [post_date] => 2009-07-16 00:00:00
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After our trek, we stopped at a residential middle school to spend the night. The students are from rural families and most are the first ones in their family to attend school. Anyways, I stood amidst the crowd of a 100 on a dirt basketball court waiting to be claimed and shown to a dorm where I was going to be sleeping. As the rest of the group was led away be gaggles of smiling students, I was claimed by a group of 8th grade boys who were rather generous with their use of hair gel. They led me up a long winding dirt path smiling and offering to carry my pack. We chatted about my life and theirs and soon arrived at the dorm. It was a run down building with chickens, a wood porch and too many kids for the beds avaliable. I settled down onto a bed in one of the small rooms I was directed toand was quickly surrounded by 15 boys all staring at the small white oddity that had appeared in their midst. Soon, the conversation turned to music and soon after that, three boys arrived with guitars and a tatered song book full of an odd assortment of different sized pieces ofbinder paper that held the lyrics to popular American songs.One of them started to sing "Yesterday" by The Beatles and then we all joined in, singing a whole range of American songs. It was the coolest thing how music could link our different and strange cultures. The Beatles now have yet another special meaning for me.

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Singing The Beatles

Aaron Guggenheim,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

After our trek, we stopped at a residential middle school to spend the night. The students are from rural families and most are the first ones in their family to attend school. Anyways, I stood amidst the crowd of a 100 on a dirt basketball court waiting to be claimed and shown to a dorm […]

Posted On

07/16/09

Author

Aaron Guggenheim

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-13 00:00:00
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Hello family and friends,

I just spoke with the Instructor Team upon their return from the trek. They are currently in Yuksom, Sikkim. Apparently the internet there is sparse, and tentative at best. The phone connection, however, was surprisingly crisp! While they have been out of contact for the past week,their time was filled withrich & authentic experiences that are unique to only that part of the world.

After a teary eyed departure from Kalimpong and their home-stay families, they travelled to the village Tashiding. There they again stayed with families, this time in pairs, and got a taste of remote village living. A friend of Dragons, Phurba, knows that area tremendously well, and gave the students lessons on the history of Sikkim and Buddhism. They also had a chance to do a "solo," which entailed a period of independent reflective time at a local Gompa, or Buddhist temple. The instructors are truly impressed with this student group's ability to delve deep into their inner and outer experiences.

Departing Tashiding after three days, they embarked on their trek. Trekking in the Monsoonian Sikkim can be challenging, and indeed it was. Nonetheless, they braved two nights on the trail, amongst rain and leech... an accomplishment in and of itself. The highlight of the trek seemed to be the village of Gangyap, where students spent time at the school. I'll let the students write more details...

... which brings me to the future. Where are they going now?! Their original itinerary had them moving from Yuksom to Darjeeling; however, Darj is experiencing a "bund," or strike. Darj. has a long history of political strikes, and we have rerouted many a program in response to these bunds. Thankfully, the strikes a entirely peaceful. They are so organization and frequent, that strikes are announced days in advance, giving people time to do last minute errands before all the shops and roads close. What does this mean for the group? Well, when one door closes, others open. In fact, the Sikkim program was created six years ago because a course in Nepal was rerouted, giving us the opportunity to discover the unique beauty of Sikkim. Thus, the group will travel tomorrow to Khecheopalri Lake(catch-a-perry), a Buddhist holy site. There is a particular sacred cave above the lake, where Buddhists make pilgrimage, and now a Dragons' group! There is also a renowned spiritual teacher in the region, and if the group's karma is ripe, they may have an audience in their cards. We'll see. Usually bunds last a couple days, after locals get bored and tired of having things shut down. If so, they'll reach Darjeeling on the 16th. If not, they will head back to Gangtok, and do an in-depth home-stay and independent study work there instead. Both options are rich and fully supported with Dragons' contacts. Regardless of where they end up, they will have access to the internet, and will be telling us all about the past week's adventures.

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Update from Sikkim!

Reed Harwood,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

Hello family and friends, I just spoke with the Instructor Team upon their return from the trek. They are currently in Yuksom, Sikkim. Apparently the internet there is sparse, and tentative at best. The phone connection, however, was surprisingly crisp! While they have been out of contact for the past week,their time was filled withrich […]

Posted On

07/13/09

Author

Reed Harwood

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-13 00:00:00
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We met Siddharth Yonzon, nephew of Siddharth Lama (Sid), earlier, in Kalimpong, for tea, but it turned out to also be an invaluable opportunity to learn about tekking options in rural West Sikkim, where we were headed, and where he now calls home. By the end of the night we were dreaming of remote and rarely visited villages with nothing less than curious and friendly people to attract us.

Leaving Tashiding was difficult personally, but necessary for program goals. The day began with a long and timely ascent to the village of Gangyap where Mr. Yonzon heads a government school reserved for first generation learners coming from the five hillside tribes of the region, namely Lepcha, Limbu, Tamang, Bhutia, and Rai. The soft spoken Mr. Yonzon had arranged a welcoming ceremony for us that included khaadaa, tea and biscuits, a tour, and delicious lunch prepared by the students themselves. There was even time for team Dragons to be routed by Eklavya's senior and junior (whose members are 11 yrs old) championship girls basketball teams. They were dominant, we where humbled, and Siddharth-ji seemed rightfully proud, as he is also their coach.

Unfortunately we could not stay for long; we still had the bulk of our days walking ahead of us.

A couple of hours later we dropped our packs and our co-instructor Sid prepped us for Mangdhir. It turns out we were entering an area considered to be one of the poorest, most "backward" places in the west, if not all of Sikkim. The people here, it is said, believe in something called kapat, or spirits which are pleased/placated through human sacrifice in the form of curses and/or direct poisoning. From this point on we were not to eat or drink anything offered by the locals, or fruit and veggies from the land, and obviously, untreated water.

The descent to the river (befor climbing the village) combined amazing vistas of sky and hills and valleys with wet and slick jungle-like terrain. There were waterfalls, leeches, and of course the Sikkim Shuffle, a dance move characterized by one's feet flailing at eye level or above. We passed a couple of one or two family settlements with unusual scarecrows of religious significance unknown to me, and we reached our resting place as darkness set in. Having to leave early the next morning we never did explore Mangdhir, our only contact being the occassional namaste along the trail.

We retraced our steps, arriving in Gangyap in the late afternoon where an unforgettable cultural experience was about to transpire. The students of Eklavya had prepared traditional tribal dances, complete with traditional dress and music, for us. They danced, they sung, they joked, and put on a thouroughly moving show, for which we were no match when our turn came. We had fun nonetheless.

The evening passed with dinner, games, and dormitory stays, while the instructors (myself included) reconsidered the curriculum. Wedecided to present the team with the option of leaving the trek, which was quickly decided upon, affording us the opportunity to redeem ourselves with outstanding activities for the kids the following day--for which all were grateful.

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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The Trek

Dan Meyer,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

We met Siddharth Yonzon, nephew of Siddharth Lama (Sid), earlier, in Kalimpong, for tea, but it turned out to also be an invaluable opportunity to learn about tekking options in rural West Sikkim, where we were headed, and where he now calls home. By the end of the night we were dreaming of remote and […]

Posted On

07/13/09

Author

Dan Meyer

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Hello everyone,

The last couple of days have been eventful, in particular, having to say goodbye to our homestay families in Kalimpong. We are now in Gangtok, from which we will catch share taxis to Tashiding to begin our rural homestays and undoubtedly be faced with new challenges, and new wonders. In part because of the remoteness of this portion of our program, but also because we will begin a four day trek following the homestays, we will in all likelyhood be out of touch for about a week to nine days. Surely there will be some unforgettable stories once we are back online!

Instructor Team

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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From Gangtok

Instructor Team,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

Hello everyone, The last couple of days have been eventful, in particular, having to say goodbye to our homestay families in Kalimpong. We are now in Gangtok, from which we will catch share taxis to Tashiding to begin our rural homestays and undoubtedly be faced with new challenges, and new wonders. In part because of […]

Posted On

07/7/09

Author

Instructor Team

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-06 00:00:00
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Leaving Kalimpong today.

Cried a river. Gave gifts and thank yous and letters and hugs and waved goodbye. This small and humble community of families has touched me deeply. The unity in this town blows me away. Everyone is supported and cared for here. No one is alone.

I will always miss playing spiderman and noah's ark and finding shapes in the clouds & the stars and playing with the headlamp and taking pictures and holding hands with my little brother, sonam - he was the most sincere person.

I will always miss dancing and talking and running and hugging and laughing and singing and playing 'big booty' and doing henna and walking and having deep and not-so-deep conversations with my teenage brothers and sisters ...srijana and subecha and sherap and ashish

I will always miss going shopping and having broken english/nepali conversations and cooking egg rolls and talking about religion with my ama, Indira.

I went from being an American stranger in Kalimpong to being a part of this huge, interconnected, faithful, welcoming, warm, sincere, amazing family.

... they have played a special role in my life and hold a special place in my heart and i will love them forever. I will love this town forever.

namaste, sairam, danubad,

Sarah Kanchi

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Another Universe pt 4

Sarah Randolph,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

Leaving Kalimpong today. Cried a river. Gave gifts and thank yous and letters and hugs and waved goodbye. This small and humble community of families has touched me deeply. The unity in this town blows me away. Everyone is supported and cared for here. No one is alone. I will always miss playing spiderman and […]

Posted On

07/6/09

Author

Sarah Randolph

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-05 00:00:00
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There is a girl who lives in my friends homestay family down the street from mine. She is thirteen years old. Her parents died when she was a baby. She lives with the family and does service for them in return. Everytime i see her she smiles a huge smile that shows her crooked teeth. Then she says "come." I follow her and she gestures with a closed hand to an open chair in her small yet joyfully painted two room house. She disapeers and in minutes returns with a warm cup of chai, a drink that is offered to all guests usually by the adults in the household.

I am so amazed at the way she moves and the maturity that is embedded in her sweet juvinile body. later i went over to the house to get my water bottle. She was alone cooking for the family who would return later. I do not even know how to cook more than eggs and here is this tiny girl standing in front of my whipping up a feast for four or more people with no cookbooks, measuring cups, just knowledge. She corrects my Nepali and understand my english. The amount of knowledge she has been forced at a young age is impressive and something, at 19, i may not gain for many years. I just hope she still has the childhood that i was so fortunate to have.

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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hmmmm

brigette barnato,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

There is a girl who lives in my friends homestay family down the street from mine. She is thirteen years old. Her parents died when she was a baby. She lives with the family and does service for them in return. Everytime i see her she smiles a huge smile that shows her crooked teeth. […]

Posted On

07/5/09

Author

brigette barnato

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-03 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

in kalimpong..have to go in like 3 minutes

today we had our second nepali lesson...and then we went to the Daman gumba (buddhist temple) and had a conversation about religion that made my brain hurt.

i have been roaming the markets with annie, ella, my homestay brother, sherap (fifteen years old), subekcha (annies homestay sister), and our homestay mothers...we all bought kurtas and my homestay mother Indira bought me a shawl..we treated them to chai (i have chai about 5 times a day in kalimpong..its almost ridiculous)

this is an amazing town...one day it is sunny and glowing (like today), another day you can actually see the fog as it rolls in and covers Kalimpong. Its a mysterious town high in the hills, but at the same time it has similarities to America that you wouldnt expect.

k till next time

namaste,

Sarah Kanchi

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Another universe pt 3

sarah randolph,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

in kalimpong..have to go in like 3 minutes today we had our second nepali lesson…and then we went to the Daman gumba (buddhist temple) and had a conversation about religion that made my brain hurt. i have been roaming the markets with annie, ella, my homestay brother, sherap (fifteen years old), subekcha (annies homestay sister), […]

Posted On

07/3/09

Author

sarah randolph

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Hey everyone,

As you may have noticed we have settled into our first homestays here in Kalimpong. The first couple of days have, of course, been very exciting and provided many, many learning opportunities. We have dived into our Nepali studies and put it to use in the local markets and with our new families and friends. Today we visited a local Tibetan temple and began to take a closer look at Buddhism and religion in general. We still have so much to experience here and beyond and hope to soon make a decision with regards to new and unique opportunities for us in west Sikkim! Will keep you all posted!

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Kalimpong

Instructor Team,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

Hey everyone, As you may have noticed we have settled into our first homestays here in Kalimpong. The first couple of days have, of course, been very exciting and provided many, many learning opportunities. We have dived into our Nepali studies and put it to use in the local markets and with our new families […]

Posted On

07/3/09

Author

Instructor Team

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-03 00:00:00
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Hi!

We are still in the beautiful foggy mountains of Kalimpong.

Today the group visited a Buddhist temple and we learned some basic information about Buddhism.

We ate momo's for lunch today. They are very yummy little dumplings.

We now have free time and some of us are in the market place. We just bought Kurta's, which are traditional Indian dresses. They are very pretty.

Again there is very little time to write anything more.

We will write again soon.

PS. Annie Salzman says hello to her parents and still hasn't gotten Malaria. (She told me to write that)

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Another update from Kalimpong

Ella Samuel,Sikkim, Summer 2009

Description

Hi! We are still in the beautiful foggy mountains of Kalimpong. Today the group visited a Buddhist temple and we learned some basic information about Buddhism. We ate momo’s for lunch today. They are very yummy little dumplings. We now have free time and some of us are in the market place. We just bought […]

Posted On

07/3/09

Author

Ella Samuel

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This morning I awoke at 4:40 to the squak of the chickens in the yard of my homestay family. It is a small place with peeling blue green paint, a tiny kitchen and a lot of people. I headed outside tothe squat toliet outhouse and then back to trade out my sandels for my running shoes. I headed into the bedroom quietly, trying not to awake my homestay brother (a big body builder who worships Arnold Swartzanager and listens to American rap music, he has 14.5 inch biceps), I slipped on my running shoes and went out to the street to go for my morning run. A pack of six dogs greeted my arrival on the street and I shouted them off with the nepali phrase kool kool ja which means literally dog, go away. I then took off down the street and out to the fantastic section of paths that lay behind the village we are staying in. I ran down the small dirt paths soaking in the place, it is such so different from home. Occasional day laborers waved and shouted at me in Nepali and I waved and smiled back. While the footing wasn't great, the views were astounding. After a while I headed back home to a warm cup of chi from my amma (mother) and a shower using a bucket and soap. When I stepped out to sit with my family for breakfast at 6:10, even in such a strange and different place, I knew I was home.

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Sikkim, Summer 2009

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Out for a run in Kalipong

Aaron Guggenheim,Sikkim, Summer 2009

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This morning I awoke at 4:40 to the squak of the chickens in the yard of my homestay family. It is a small place with peeling blue green paint, a tiny kitchen and a lot of people. I headed outside tothe squat toliet outhouse and then back to trade out my sandels for my running […]

Posted On

07/3/09

Author

Aaron Guggenheim

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