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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011


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Hello everyone!

I'm Desiree and i'm so incredibly excited about this trip and to meet all of you! I can't wait to imerse myself in a new culture and learn so many valuable lessons from this experience. I have never done anything like this before and i think that's what makes it so exciting. I'll try as best i can to describe myself in a few short words.

For starters, I'm 16 and just finished my sophmore year at an arts magnet school. I'm from Denver Colorado and absolutely love it. I really enjoy skiing, bike rides, yoga, baking, reading, laying in the sun, mix cds, music, hiking, tea, art, theater, and so much more. I generally like to think of my self as a friendly and open minded person and am always up for a good chat. I'm usually pretty happy and try to keep things positive.

I hope that these short couple paragraphs have given you some vauge idea about what I'm like and who I am. I am again so so excited for this wonderful journey and can't wait to see you all!

-Desiree

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Hello!

Desiree Samler,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

Hello everyone! I’m Desiree and i’m so incredibly excited about this trip and to meet all of you! I can’t wait to imerse myself in a new culture and learn so many valuable lessons from this experience. I have never done anything like this before and i think that’s what makes it so exciting. I’ll […]

Posted On

05/27/11

Author

Desiree Samler

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    [post_content] => Dear Students & Parents,

As we approach the one-month away mark, I suspect that you are eagerly anticipating and preparing for the journey to Laos. It is going to be an exceptional course and we look forward to traveling with you this summer!

Below you will find a tentative week-by-week itinerary. I say tentative because our instructor team is still collaborating, selecting our best resources and contacts, and working to ensure we deliver the most extraordinary course possible. There is a wealth of wonderful learning opportunities in Laos and we hope to run a course that exceeds all of your expectations. To do that, we like to maintain a healthy measure of flexibility in the itinerary, leaving room to take advantage of opportunities that occur along the way, respond to student interest, and to dive deep in each of the places we go. In the itinerary outlined below, you will get a sense of the flow of this course, the possible activities, and a feel for the places we’ll go. The actual itinerary you follow in July and August may vary a bit, as we identify the best options for service learning, trekking, guest speakers, and homestays. We hope the information below will help build your excitement—however we discourage you from getting too attached to an activity or location as the group may deviate from the plan below to try something different, especially later in the course during the student-led portion of the trip.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them on the Yak board and we will respond accordingly!

Best,
Michael



Week One
After arrival in Bangkok, the group will fly to Chiang Rai and then travel overland into Laos, crossing the border in Houay Xai. The group will begin orientation in Chiang Rai and continue upon arrival in Luang Namtha, a province in northern Laos. In Luang Namtha, the group will explore the area, begin Lao language lessons, learn cultural basics, and prepare for the first trek in the pristine Nam Ha National Protected Area. During the trek, the group will be introduced to Lao’s rich biodiversity, conservation ideas, ethnic minority cultures, and stunning scenery.

Week Two
The group will continue learning about Lao culture and Lao language and journey south to Luang Prabang, the former royal capital of Laos and current UNESCO World Heritage site. Here the group will explore the rich cultural heritage of Luang Prabang, be introduced to Theravada Buddhism, and take rides across the Mekong to study with a local Muay Lao expert and botanist who lives in the village of Ban Xiene Mien.  They will open up conversations about service learning as they travel on to the capital city of Vientiane.  In Vientiane, the group will focus its attention on conservation and development issues, and visit organizations working in these fields, like the World Wildlife Fund, the Mines Advisory group, and COPE.

Week Three
We begin homestays in Ban Don Don, a community on a beautiful island in the Mekong River, near the town of Thakaek in central Laos.  Here, the students will have the opportunity to experience daily life in Laos (fishing on the river, working in the rice fields) and continue exploration of Lao language and spiritual traditions, including offering alms at a local wat (temple). Potential service opportunities include teaching English at the local school or assisting monks with daily chores at the wat. There will also be time for to visit agricultural development organizations, the Nam Thu dam site, and learn about Lao arts and crafts. After a closing bacii ceremony with the homestay community, the group will travel south to Don Daeng.

Week Four
Don Daeng is at the head of a region known as the Si Phon Don, or 4,000 islands.  A stunning area  where the Mekong splits into over 100 streams and the streams form a labyrinth of islands. Potential day excursions include Wat Phu in Champasak (an ancient Khmer city), the Bolaven plateau, or the Se Pian National Protected Area. The group will spend their final days reflecting on the journey, what they learned and experience, and prepare for returning to life at home. Saying goodbye to the community, the group will travel to Bangkok to catch the return flight.

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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2012 Tentative Itinerary

Michael Woodard,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

Dear Students & Parents, As we approach the one-month away mark, I suspect that you are eagerly anticipating and preparing for the journey to Laos. It is going to be an exceptional course and we look forward to traveling with you this summer! Below you will find a tentative week-by-week itinerary. I say tentative because […]

Posted On

05/26/11

Author

Michael Woodard

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Hi everyone! My name is Laura Sachse and I live in Huntington Woods, Michigan right outside of Detroit. I'm a junior in high school, and I am just now realizing how hard it is to describe myself in just a few paragraphs.

Let's start with school. I'm a hard worker and third in my class. I'm eager to learn, especially through experience, which is one of the many reasons I'm looking forward to this summer in Laos. I speak both Spanish and French and hope to pursue International Business in college. Learning about other cultures and lifestyles allows me to broaden my horizons and share my newfound wisdom with my community.

Outside of school, I keep myself very busy. I started a tutoring company called Laura's Lessons (you can check me out at lauraslessons.com!!) I also work at Sachse Construction. I am the president of the Jewish Teen Center committee to host events and bring teens in the area together. Aside from being a nerd, I love playing guitar and volleyball. I listen and play primarily classic rock and my favorite band is The Cars. I was on the varsity volleyball team last fall, and hope to make it again this year.

I think it's important for everyone to know why I chose this program in Laos for my summer. For the past 10 summers straight, I have resided in Algonquin Park, Canada at Camp Tamakwa. Last summer, I realized that I was ready for something different, and started looking for summer programs. I knew I wanted to go to East Asia simply because I really don't know much about the culture, language, or people. I was looking for an adventure where I can do community service and meet awesome friends from around the country.

I hope I don't come off too serious, because I'm super outgoing and love to have fun!

I am so excited for this summer and can't wait to meet all of you!

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Hey guys!!

Laura Sachse,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

Hi everyone! My name is Laura Sachse and I live in Huntington Woods, Michigan right outside of Detroit. I’m a junior in high school, and I am just now realizing how hard it is to describe myself in just a few paragraphs. Let’s start with school. I’m a hard worker and third in my class. […]

Posted On

05/24/11

Author

Laura Sachse

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    [post_content] => I'm Phoenix and I'm from Vermont. I'm a junior and the best way to describe me is to say that I'm always in motion. I've been playing soccer since I was a toddler, but next year is going to be a huge change for me since I'm going to cross-country run instead. The switch is mainly based on the fact that running is great cross training for nordic skiing, which is what I do all winter long. I think it's the best thing on earth, especially since I can go pretty much right out my back door. Plus, a Vermont winter lasts forever so you have to find something fun to do or else you will be feeling the winter blues for a long time. I'm also currently training for my very first triathlon which is going to be 2 days before we meet up! I'm super excited for that. Even though I'm into athletics, I'm pretty laid back and not really competitive. 

My brother and I are big into hiking. We have this one spot about ten miles from our house and we go out there almost every day in the summer. The best part though is that we rarely stay on the trails. Last summer, I think I took a different route to this one swimming hole every time I went out there. Actually, I'm about to go out there this afternoon!

I also read a ton and I love books. I was reading this one book a couple months ago and it was talking about how people from the Northeast always say "Let's go" and I think that pretty much describes me to a T.

This spring I've also been given the position of the girl's Frolf Team captain at my school. That's probably because I'm the only girl on the team... Frolf is frisbee golf and it's the coolest sport. There is this course that our community installed last year that weaves through the woods and my friends and I go there multiple times a week.

Another huge thing about my personality is that I'm always laughing. I find so many things funny and I have no problem laughing at myself.

Oh, I'm also big into music. I have a pretty weird taste in music because I listen to all sorts of mashups, but then I'll jam out to Frank Sinatra. I'm kind of all over the place. I play piano, trombone for school, and guitar. Guitar is by far my favorite. I sing but I really just goof around. My favorite stuff to play is Flight of the Conchords. I hope you guys know who they are...

Vermont's a pretty cool state and I definitely consider myself a Vermonter. I will never have fake maple syrup on my pancakes!

I'm so excited for this summer. It's really hard to sit through school all day knowing that we'll be in Laos in a little over a month.

I hope this gives you a basic over-view of myself, but I can't wait to meet you guys in person. [post_title] => Hey Everyone [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => hey-everyone-4 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2011-05-24 00:00:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://yakyak.chandigarhsoftware.com/?p=44736 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 309 [name] => Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011 [slug] => laos-culture-conservation-service-summer-2011 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 309 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 251 [count] => 61 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 18.1 [cat_ID] => 309 [category_count] => 61 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011 [category_nicename] => laos-culture-conservation-service-summer-2011 [category_parent] => 251 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/summer-2011/laos-culture-conservation-service-summer-2011/ ) ) [category_links] => Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011 )

Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Hey Everyone

Phoenix Kenney,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

I’m Phoenix and I’m from Vermont. I’m a junior and the best way to describe me is to say that I’m always in motion. I’ve been playing soccer since I was a toddler, but next year is going to be a huge change for me since I’m going to cross-country run instead. The switch is […]

Posted On

05/24/11

Author

Phoenix Kenney

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The choice to travel is a beautiful choice, a choice you have made, a choice you will never forget, and most likely never get enough of. The type of travel that you have chosen is a journey. My journey to Southeast Asia started in 2001. I had just finished college and was ready to embark on some kind of adventure. The adventure started as I landed in Bangkok, Thailand as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I had never really traveled before, and now I had committed to live in another country. I don’t even think I knew at the time, but it was the best decision that I have ever made. I remember the bus ride from the airport, I remember watching the lights disappear as we drove into a province that is rarely visited by tourists. I will never forget the first morning in Thailand, the smells of the market, the sounds of the morning, trying to order food with no language skills, I even remember the first language lesson we had, how awkward and silly I felt.

The culture was where I really was intrigued. How often is it your job to learn another culture? What a great job, and how wonderful it is to have teachers to support you and answer your silly questions, (often with a question about how you could find your answer). As frustrating as it is to learn that way, I remember finding out the answers to the questions that I had. After a three month home stay it was time to try out my language and culture skills. So I moved north to a province named Phayao and a small village named Chieng Muan. Phayao is hard to find in any guidebook, and Chieng Muan is nearly impossible. This town is in the mountains and when you arrive in the bus it looks like they dropped you off in the middle of a rice field. I very quickly settled into my village, made lifelong friends and went to work. I enjoyed my village so much I did not want to leave when my service was up, so I extended my time in Chieng Muan. After 3 years It was time to try something different so I was asked to become a trainer for the upcoming groups. I stayed in central Thailand at this point and taught the new groups of volunteers about village life. As I was wrapping up my time in Thailand, I ran into one of my former trainers from when I first arrived in Thailand. He was guiding a Dragons trip. He told me all about Dragons and I was hooked. I lead my first trip a month after arriving in the States. The trips that I have lead in the past were to Thailand and Burma, I have always wanted to lead a trip to another country.

While I lived in Thailand I had the opportunity to travel into several bordering countries, Laos being one of them. I was always fascinated by Laos, it seemed to have a lot of similarities to Thailand. The language was similar, (at least similar to Northern and Northeastern Thai) a lot of the cultural rules that applied in Thailand apply in Laos, the people were friendly and smiled all the time, so my travels in Laos were smooth and easy. Although, there are several similarities about Thailand and Laos there were many differences as well, some slight and some huge. The many times I have passed the border into Laos, I was fascinated by the French influence, the beauty of the land, the development and the pace the country moves. I am so excited to have the opportunity to learn with you this year in Laos.

In between the Dragons trips I am a teacher and a coach. Currently I teach at an International Baccalaureate school in Colorado. I also have the opportunity to coach High School Swimming for both boys and girls seasons. I am excited to be wrapping up the school year and the season so I can join you on your journey to Laos.

This journey you are about to embark on is a journey that has already begun and will not end as we return to the states. Instead it is a journey that will just continue to grow as you return, it is the beginning of an awareness, an awareness of the world around you. This is a journey that will lead to awareness, friendship, knowledge, among many other things. I am excited to be a part of your journey. If there is anything that we can do to make the preparations for your journey easier let us know.

I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Mandy Schneider

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Instructor Introduction

Mandy Schneider,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

The choice to travel is a beautiful choice, a choice you have made, a choice you will never forget, and most likely never get enough of. The type of travel that you have chosen is a journey. My journey to Southeast Asia started in 2001. I had just finished college and was ready to embark […]

Posted On

05/23/11

Author

Mandy Schneider

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Hello! It might be early but I wanted to introduce myself. Both instructors' notes were beautifully written, which makes me even more excited to meet them in real life. Mine will not be beautifully written, so I apologize for that in advance.

My names Sophia and I'm a Junior in high school in Seattle, Washington. I'm really into the arts, especially filmmaking and writing. I'm considered to be a pretty forward person out here, but maybe that's just because people in Seattle are notoriously passive. But I love it in Seattle. People call it the rainy city and it's true, it does rain a lot, but the rain makes sun that much better.

My biggest cultural experience so far happened pretty recently. During this past spring break I went on a trip with a few kids from my school to Barranquilla, Colombia. We stayed with fairly well to do people, but one time we drove out of town on a bus and I saw some of the poorest communities in Colombia. It was shocking to me, because I had watched news stories showing pictures of similar places, but my eyes had always sort of glazed over, because what I was watching on TV was so distant that I felt I had no connection with it. I remember turning to my host sister and telling her "I've seen this on the news!" and watching her give me an odd sad sort of smile and nod as she reached over to lower the blinds.

This gave me an idea. As I said before, I love filmmaking. I also want to inspire people my age to make a difference in a way that means something to them. We're so programmed at my school to just give money and forget about it, as if by that action the responsibility of being a good person has temporarily been relieved. I want to bring back to my school a film that inspires people to do more.

More on that later...

Other random facts about me: I like baking, reading, eating, fashion, soccor, basketball, and a ton of other things that I can't think of right now. I am rather forgetful at times. I really like to laugh, and my sense of humor is probably the most broad thing ever.

I feel like I'm writing a dating ad of some kind. (Long walks on the beach?) I hope this is okay.

I'm so excited to meet everyone,

--Sophia

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Hi!

Sophia Goldberg,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

Hello! It might be early but I wanted to introduce myself. Both instructors’ notes were beautifully written, which makes me even more excited to meet them in real life. Mine will not be beautifully written, so I apologize for that in advance. My names Sophia and I’m a Junior in high school in Seattle, Washington. […]

Posted On

05/22/11

Author

Sophia Goldberg

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Hello=Sabaidee

this is the greeting from Laos, I am very delighted and super excited to be a person in the group as a regional instructor as well as a positive friend who is willingto cultivate and exchange the culture between SE-Asian and Westernfor this Summer program, I am really enthusiastic to welcome everybody to my mother land, if you have any questions or what motivates you about Laos please post it with your yak intros, my pleasure to research the information for your attending and your ISP in advance.

As individually, my name is somsanid INTHONGSAI (Its read intongsai, most Lao people spell the soft sound of "T" is "TH") somsanid means friendly and inthongsai means the god who was called golden winner ( i don't know if the name describe myself but as i know about myself i don't bite :-). My experience of Laos started when i was 3, I left my hometown from Vientiane to Khammouane. After the age of 11 I moved to the home of my parents, Champasak, for a year, then I immigrated to Vientiane again for 5 years to study at high school in my hometown. After finishing my school I had a job to work with a surveying company to survey the area of the Hydroelectric power dam in the southern part of Laos, the Attapue province. As part of the field staff my responsibility was to go around the area to measure the distance, the height, the slope, the environment and to record the information. It was one of my best experience of life that I had a great chance to spend my life for 3 months within completely natural environment, faraway from civilization, inconvenience, wild and dangerous. But I learned that even it was harder to spend life without infrastructures. The things that impressed me were peaceful, refreshing atmosphere, wilderness that I could see the different type of lives celebrate their home, that gave me a really nice treat of fresh breathing. After that I started to study at a college in Khammouane majoring in English Diploma, during the time of studying I was also an eco-tourism guide as even now still I am for 4 years, I have been leading trekking, cycling, sight seeing and kayaking in the region of National Biodiversity Conservation area. Now I'm learning to do rock climbing but still haven't had enough time to practice.

I love this career so much as I am a nature lover it's kind of the feeling thatI can restore my energy in any time that I led the trip andhangout in the jungle. It was so nice to practice my English and opening my knowledge with people from all over the world who have different careers and thoughts, I love talking and sharing the ideas with foreigners because it is the way that I opened up my mind and getting improve myself as I have never known much about things outside of Laos.

During the year of finishing my college in 2010 I met dragons in the fall on "life along the Mekong" semester program. I don't even believe myself how incredible greatest opportunity came upon my life as I have never expected. Dragons educate me a lot more to be a better person. I have seen so much thing has changed in my life sinceI become the dragons instructor. This community has been showing me the super fantastic power of group dynamic. Dragons is a warm family endlessly, whenever you are feeling down you have friends beside you and tons of loves will take care of you. These are the most I appreciate and impress about dragons. Dragons experience has tons of fun and educational activities which will support us to touch and feeling the amazing unfamiliar atmosphere that we would never know and is waiting for us to participate. Grateful thanks to Dragons who help me receive the most valuable assets for my life.

As Laos is my home country, as I am a Lao native, my happiness to welcome everybody by my warm hospitality and the authentic atmosphere of Laos. To experience local life style by not only observing but also taking chances to practice and participate on usual local daily life experience. I am confident you all will love the unique ways of Laos as I and the people whom visitedin the past do. And there's a saying from the bottom of my heart "LETS MAKE IT BEST EVER TOGETHER!!!"

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Instructor Introduction Letter

somsanid INTHONGSAI ,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

Hello=Sabaidee this is the greeting from Laos, I am very delighted and super excited to be a person in the group as a regional instructor as well as a positive friend who is willingto cultivate and exchange the culture between SE-Asian and Westernfor this Summer program, I am really enthusiastic to welcome everybody to my […]

Posted On

05/21/11

Author

somsanid INTHONGSAI

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Greetings to a group who is about to dive into weeks of learning, adventure, reflection, confusion and eye-opening experiences together!

I am so excited to be in such amazing company as we set forth to Laos. Laos symbolizes a lot for me, so I will start my self-introduction in Laos. In 2003, I traveled in Laos when there were very few tourists there. The shinning wats (temples), amazing food (blended SE Asian and French influence cuisine), and the rugged adventure (I had looking forward to hiking up to rural villages through rice patties for years!) all helped me sink further into the SE Asian culture where I had been spending a few months. When I crossed the boarder to Thailand, I was shocked to see the difference between the two countries. It was in contrast that I realized how much more money Thailand had from tourism. Thailand, to me, felt overrun with tourists. There were air-conditioned buses that shot backpackers from one tourist location to another, there were cameras everywhere, there was a lot of drinking on the streets…you get the idea. I was critical, but at the same time I was a tourist too. Out of college back, I began my guiding carrier working for a small company named Moondance Adventures. Among other things, we spent a lot of time in the back country with our students teaching them about Leave No Trace outdoor ethics—how to be in the backcountry without leaving much damage; how to preserve the wilderness for its inhabitants and other hikers. I began to think about the impact of tourism on a country and how it mirrored the impact of hikers on the wilderness. I started to question how I was contributing to this tourism beast. Could I “do it better”? In a way that was less impactful and more respectful? That border crossing opened my eyes to the difference between being a traveler and being a tourist. As an avid traveler, I knew I did not just want to stop traveling, but that I wanted to explore responsible and sustainable tourism. Several months later I returned to the U.S. and moved to Boulder with the idea of applying to business school focused on sustainable tourism. That never happened.

Instead I moved to Boulder and found Dragons. I started working in the office for Dragons in 2003, and also worked a Silk Road program and Himalaya semester; I spent months scouting the Senegal and Morocco programs; I flew to Bolivia and Guatemala to explore Dragons experiences in Latin America. During my time with Dragons (officially 2003-2007) I was able to directly or indirectly facilitate hundreds of student experiences where the student left knowing how to travel as a traveler. How to be responsible with the money they spent, how to aim to understand and enjoy the unique culture they are in, not just skim along the surface, how to support local culture and engage with it but not simultaneously destroy it. And with Dragons, students got so much more that just that teaching, they did service, trekking, explored religion and philosophy…they got more than I had imagined being able to teach back in 2003.

My journey with Dragons combined with my experience in the Peace Corps (in the Republic of Kiribati) fostered a deep personal concern for human rights and development. In 2007, I left work at Dragons to go to graduate school and obtained two Masters degrees from the University of Denver; one in International & Intercultural Communication and the second in Cultural Anthropology. I focused on development, intercultural conflict and vulnerable populations. I continued to work in the developing world and conducted several months of research for my thesis with single mothers who were displaced by the armed conflict and now live in the slums of Bogotá, Colombia. During this time I continued to return to Dragons. It is a strong family for me now. I started doing trainings for instructors instead of guiding, though I was spending time with students in India through the University of Denver.

I have now graduated and work teaching Intercultural Communication at Regis University and also teach pre-employment training to newly arrived refugees in Denver. I love this work, yet, this winter I felt the pull to be back in the field with Dragons students; students who are eager and ready to explore, to learn to consider new perspectives. My area of specialty on Dragons trips has always been working with groups, facilitating service-learning experiences and intercultural learning. When they asked me to join the Laos instructor team, I felt it could not be more perfect. To take students back to the place where my journey began is ideal to me. I know that Laos has changed quite a bit since 2003 and I am excited to explore this difference with you.

Although I have been on this journey for a long time, I still have so many unanswered questions. When I boil them down, I get something like; what is the best way for me (us) to interact with the world? How can we not be destructive, promote positive change and have fun all at the same time? What does this look like? What do we have to compromise to get there? What do we have to gain, and how gains the most? I look forward to exploring these questions and so many more with you this summer. I look forward to slowing down and being nourished by the rich land. I look forward to spending hours laughing and sharing with you and the many Lao people we will meet along the way. I look forward to exploring direct and indirect communication preferences with you and helping us all come in closer contact with our personal values as we are met with dramatically difference values systems.

As we prepare, please continue to post questions, comments, concerns in the Yak board. If you have the question, I am sure that many others will as well. For more information, you can also find my bio under the Himlayan instructors.

Much love and heart.

Emily

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Coming full circle

Emily Braucher,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

Greetings to a group who is about to dive into weeks of learning, adventure, reflection, confusion and eye-opening experiences together! I am so excited to be in such amazing company as we set forth to Laos. Laos symbolizes a lot for me, so I will start my self-introduction in Laos. In 2003, I traveled in […]

Posted On

05/20/11

Author

Emily Braucher

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Silk worms, geckos, mulberry tea, chilies, and star fruit; singing black birds, long-limbed spiders, bananas, bamboo soup, and pigeon peas. My memory of Laos is as if it were a well-stocked spice kit. The livelihood of Laos revolves around the seasons and the soil. It has actually been a few years from the last time my toes tasted the Southeast Asian earth. I recently receive the news that I have the opportunity to return with you and the rest of our dragons drove.

My name is Brett and I’m part of your instructor team for the six week Laos summer program. In 2006 I was elbow deep in a seed bank project located on a northern Laotian farm in a small town called Phoudindaeng. The farm sits next to a sleepy river that slips through the town, time floating on its back. The women of the village greet each rising sun as if it were late because they have been working to produce the traditional mulberry leaf tea for hours before its arrival. From my days on the farm until now I’ve been working mostly in the central Andes and currently I am wrapping up my masters degree on sustainable perspectives in macroeconomic development. But I have established a magnetic pull with Asia, and no matter how far away I get I’m always drawn back.

What you can expect from me this summer in Laos is a lot of energy for education. For me Dragons’ adventures are an opportunity to run your fingers along the fabric of the world and to take note of the parts that provide the static electric shock of inspiration. What you can expect from me this summer is someone who will support and cultivate your person static shocks. Whether its agricultural ecology, hydroelectric dams and there impact, music, dance, traditional Hmong medicine, or simply tasting fruits of colors you’ve never seen before my job is to foster your travel drive.

As Laos grows and modernizes, the ecological identity of the area makes a provocative classroom. The best way to run your finger tips along that foreign fabric is to be open to asking a myriad of questions about everything. Your curiosity fuels our exploration and strengthens the relationships with the people and the land we encounter. You can warm up your curiosity starting now. I recommend finding books and documentaries about Laos, and even spending time with a map.

Our travels will be garnished with the controversy of gold and copper mines and the construction of hydroelectric dams. We will examine the role and impact of aid work and non-profits in what remains one of the poorest and least populated countries in Asia. Jungle treks will be an exam for our vitality and stark cultural contrasts will provide context to the panorama of our positions in life. Overall, you have signed up for a unique and profound mode of travel. One that will bestow an inexhaustible travel hunger if you are open to it.

In the weeks leading up to the course I will be available to answer any questions you might have about pre-course prep and what things might look like when we get out there. Please feel free to introduce yourself to the group on the Yak Board and post your question there. We have a great group and I am honored to work with the exceptional characters I call my co-instructors. I’ll end this letter with a mantra from my favorite author Tom Robbins, “…so take chances, court danger, welcome anxiety, flaunt insecurity, rock every boat, and always cut against the grain so that the process of the need for playfulness and liberty become stronger than the need for comfort and security.”

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Instructor Introduction Letter

Brett Fleishman,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

Silk worms, geckos, mulberry tea, chilies, and star fruit; singing black birds, long-limbed spiders, bananas, bamboo soup, and pigeon peas. My memory of Laos is as if it were a well-stocked spice kit. The livelihood of Laos revolves around the seasons and the soil. It has actually been a few years from the last time […]

Posted On

05/20/11

Author

Brett Fleishman

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Greetings again!

Just a brief note this time to clarify a few points from the packing list recommendations in the Course Preparation Manual.

Firstly, if you follow the packing list as is, you will certainly have what you need. However, I wanted to add a few points that may assist you as you prepare your gear.

In the packing list, it suggests that flip flops are culturally inappropriate, depending on where you are. While many Lao people wear flip flops often, its rare that they wear them while travelling on public transportation, when visiting organizations or offices, or in more formal situations. While we don't discourage you from packing flip flops, please know there will be times when you shouldn't wear them.

Girls:

  • The list recommends 3 collared shirts or blouses. This will certainly be sufficient, but it may not be necessary that all 3 have collars. If you have 2-3 modest shirts (ideally not t-shirts) that cover your shoulders and that aren't too tight, you should be fine. You may want to the reserve the nicest one for visiting organizations, meeting your homestay family, or special ceremonies.
  • The skirt does not need to be ankle-length, but it should be well below the knee. It is also possible to buy casual sarongs and xiin (tradational Lao silk skirts) once you arrive.
If you have any more questions about packing, please post them on the Yak board and one of the instructors will respond.
Best,
Michael

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Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

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Packing List Clarifications

Michael Woodard,Laos: Culture, Conservation, Service, Summer 2011

Description

Greetings again! Just a brief note this time to clarify a few points from the packing list recommendations in the Course Preparation Manual. Firstly, if you follow the packing list as is, you will certainly have what you need. However, I wanted to add a few points that may assist you as you prepare your […]

Posted On

05/17/11

Author

Michael Woodard

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