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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012


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Number of dragons: 12 (1 up from orientation!)

Number of instructors: 3 (although they work like 1 machine)

Number of Dragon shirts: 24

Number of days in Guatemala: 41

Number of bracelets: 93

Number of anklets: 24

Number of homestays: 4

Number of cities slept in: 14

Number of Chicken Bus rides: 3

Highest number of torts in 3 days: 75

Number of torts in total: innumerable

Number of yaks: 55

Number of yak-of-the-weeks: 1 (so far)

Number of homemade pies consumed: 4

Number of beads: 6

Number of Dougs: 4

Number of peptos chewed: significant

Number of machetes purchased: 5

Number of lost water bottles: 4

Number of Saritas: 6

Number of numbers: 20

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

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The Final Tallies

Amara Taylor,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

Description

Number of dragons: 12 (1 up from orientation!) Number of instructors: 3 (although they work like 1 machine) Number of Dragon shirts: 24 Number of days in Guatemala: 41 Number of bracelets: 93 Number of anklets: 24 Number of homestays: 4 Number of cities slept in: 14 Number of Chicken Bus rides: 3 Highest number […]

Posted On

08/7/12

Author

Amara Taylor

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I remember hearing an interview in which Nicholas Kristoff, the New York Times journalist and co-author of Half the Sky, said that our sojourns out into the world have a veryimperfect record ofhelpiing the commmunities that we visit, but they have an almost perfect record of truly impacting ourselves.

I can appreciate this thought - I have "seen" thetransitions in each of you. And it has been wonderful.

So, as a mom, let me loudly say,I am so very proud.I love you with all of my heart.

Welcome Home.

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

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Welcome Home

Marlene Yang,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

Description

I remember hearing an interview in which Nicholas Kristoff, the New York Times journalist and co-author of Half the Sky, said that our sojourns out into the world have a veryimperfect record ofhelpiing the commmunities that we visit, but they have an almost perfect record of truly impacting ourselves. I can appreciate this thought – […]

Posted On

08/5/12

Author

Marlene Yang

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While on our trek from Todos Santos to Nebaj about two weeks ago, we were read an exerpt from a speech on each of the four days. This speech was truly inspirational, and touched on some of life´s core values discovered in a walking pilgrimage through India. Although I personally have not spent three months strolling through a country with basically no money or posessions, I have done a fair amount of walking in the month that I have spent in Guatemala so far. Daily walks to and from home, school, and meeting places, as well as hikes up mountains and volcanoes, plus one four day walking fiesta have been enough for me to agree wholeheartedly with the declaration given in the speech that walking is a lost but sacred art form.

The journey from Todos Santos to Nebaj takes about eight hours by car. But instead of seeing the country zoom past us in a blur on the highway, we slowed it down, and the blur became seemingly endless absolutely breathtaking views. In walking, even short distances, you see so much more. The beautiful landscapes, yes, but also the people who fill them. Even if just passing by on a road, a simple "adios" is another connection made, another bond that could not form without the shared mode of on-foot transport.

In the community of Pachaj, walking was for many of us, myself included, the sole form of exercise. Vast expanses of milpas, or cornfields, lined our path on our long walk to school, and guided us home from our meeting place at Armando´s (the founder of the Chico Mendez Reforestation Project) house. On our daily walk from home to headquarters, my vecina Becca and I were able to catch up while soaking up the sun as it hit us, the surrounding mountains, and of course the milpas. With each step, we learned more about each other, our homestays, Pachaj, and our experience in Guatemala.

In was on one walk home in Pachaj, after parting ways with Becca, that I first thought about the process of walking. I looked down at my feet making their way along the dusty road, one in front of the other, heel-ball-toe, heel-ball-toe. I looked down and saw feet clad in hiking boots that four and a half weeks ago were nearly brand new, but that now appeared aged under a thick layer of dust and dried mud, some from the trek, some from Cotzal, and the newest layer from Pachaj. They wrinkled with each step, like an old woman´s face, worn in from weeks of walking.With every step I´ve taken here in Guatemala, my shoes have broken in more and become more confortable, just as I have become more comfortable in the country. With every step, I learn the paths, I learn about my surrounding, I learn about the people stepping beside me, and those walking past. Every step is another step on our journey, each one brand new and taking me to a new place, always going forward, yet remembering to look back once in a while.

On our second to last night in Pachaj, we had a Mayan ceremony with Armando. A man led the ceremony, speaking only in Kíche, and even though I coulcn´t understand a word I was still mesmerized. The firey mixture of candles, copal, sugar, and insense was captivating, pure blue close to the items, blooming into vivid orange and red, with streaks of black dancing into the smoke that rose high into the night sky. The fire became waves, and sometimes spears, while below it the offerrings began to blend into one mound of ash. The many spearate items coming into one was the iltimate representation of the Mayan ideal of interconnectedness of all things in the world. Everything, no matter how different, is held together by a flame full of warmth, love, and passion. It is that flame that Armando asked us to keep in our hearts, that vitality and love to bring to each day and each person we meet, even if only an "adios" while walking past on a dusty road.

As part of the ceremony, we each got a sign based on our birth date in the Mayan calander. Mine is Eé, the road of destiny. I don´t think that my life is predetermined, but every decision, every action, every step, is leading me down my life´s path. Whether forging new trails, or walking paths that in just a few days can become so familiar, every step taken on this journey has brought me new knowledge, new bonds, and new experiences, none of which could be seen in the blur from the window of a car.

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

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Walking

Nora Ellmann,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

Description

While on our trek from Todos Santos to Nebaj about two weeks ago, we were read an exerpt from a speech on each of the four days. This speech was truly inspirational, and touched on some of life´s core values discovered in a walking pilgrimage through India. Although I personally have not spent three months […]

Posted On

07/31/12

Author

Nora Ellmann

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I am awakened by the familiar sound of rooster calls and the quiet shuffling of feet. I roll over, feeling the firm wooden planks of my bed against my back, and blink my eyes open. "Buenos días Julia." Two bright brown eyes stare at me, accompanied by an equally enthusiastic grin.

"Aye, buenos días Melvin," I smile, matching teh happiness in his voice.

"Levantate." I blink again as my eyes adjust to the light of the morning. Melvin's nine-year-old frame moves to block the sun from my eyes. He is dressed in his collared shirt and slightly muddy khakis, with the tear by the left knee. His baseball cap is pulled down low over his short black hair, with his eager eyes beeming out from under the brim. I hope out of my bed and head to my pack to grab my toothbrush and waterbottle. "Donde está mamá?" I ask once I've found what I'm looking for.

"Está cocinando," he replies from the oppostie side of the room. Nodding, I walk outside and head towards the pila to find my seven-year-old brother Erek washing his hands. "Buenos Erek," I whisper.

"Hola Julia," he says timidly. Underneath the sound of the runing water I can hear the faint patting of my mother's strong hands making our morning tortillas. I gargle and rinse my toothbrush as my brothers run towards the tiny kitchen. Returning to the house, I put away my belongings, change my clothes, and make my way to the small opening, entering into the kitchen. "Julia," my mother's firm voice acknowledges my presence. She is bent over the small fire, her traditional skirt draped neatly over her legs and tucked under her knees. "Come," she insists, handing me a plate of eggs and tomatos. I sit down on the dirt floor and pick my breakfast up with my fingers, following the rest of my family.

"Mas," she says, as she throws a hot tort onto my plate. I do as i'm told and begin chewing on the freshly cooked breakfast. We eat in silence, huddled around the flames. Soon the crackling of the fire and sound of my chewing become one as I realize I have cleared my plate. "Provecho," I smile, finishing off the last bit of tortilla.

"No vas a comer mas?" she asks, her eyes not leaving her plate of eggs.

"Estoy bien."

"Bueno," she responds, removing the plate from my hands. I stand up, allowing for a cloud of dirt to combine with the smoke from the fire. I duck out of the doorway, careful not to hit my head on the tin roof and walk the ten paces to our one room house. Out of the corner of my eye I see the blue flash of Melvin's shirt running after me. "Julia," he taps my leg when he has caught up. I look down at him. "necesito mostrarle algo," he chirps, walking over ot the corner of the floor where he sleeps. He plunges his hand into his backpack and teturns with his notebook. Plopping onto the bed beside me, he opens it and begins to read. "Hola. Ello. Hello. Adios. Goodbay. Goodbye." I smile, giggling at his pronunciation. He looks up nervously and I nod for him to continue. "Como estás. Ow arey chu. How are you. Como se llama. Hwat ees chore nayme. What ees. What is," he pauses, struggling.

"What is your,"I encourage him.

"What is your name," he says triumphantly. As words become phrases and phrases become sentences, I realize I am crying. My heart swells with pride as his speech slowly becomes fluid. I am amazed at how affected I am by an accomplishment of a boy I have met only two days earlier. I quickly wipe the tears from my face before he can see. Rasing his head from his papers, Melvin stares at me, desperately watiting for my approval. I break into a huge smile. "Tú eres muy inteligente Melvin." He relaxes and pulls his hat over his face to hide his blushing cheeks.

"Gracias Julia," he giggles from underneath the baseball cap.

"Julia. Melvin. Vamos," my mother calls from the other side of the door. Melvin returns his book to his backpack as I head towards the voice of my mother calling me yet again. Closing the door behind us, I pause quickly to collect my thoughts and am left with one word: gratitude.

Earlier in the trip when I had been given the word gratitude as a core value, I defined it as "being thankful for the people we have met, the places we have seen, and the things we have experienced." But now, a month later, I am changing my defenition. Gratitude is not something to be defined, but rather something to be felt. I am so greatful for having been given the opportunity to travel to Guatemala, where I am constantly reminded how fortunate I am. My time here, and my time with Melvin especially, is a wake up call for how much I take for granted, whether it be my house, my health, or my education. Listenting to Melvin read to me in english allowed me to fully appreciate how lucky we are as Dragons students to be able to travel to another coutnry in order to be taught about other cultures, learn another language, and meet people who have changed our lives forever. I could not be more greatful for everything this trip has given me, however, "as we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." - John F. Kennedy

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Best Notes From The Field, Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

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Gratitude

Julia Sokoloff,Best Notes From The Field, Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

Description

I am awakened by the familiar sound of rooster calls and the quiet shuffling of feet. I roll over, feeling the firm wooden planks of my bed against my back, and blink my eyes open. "Buenos días Julia." Two bright brown eyes stare at me, accompanied by an equally enthusiastic grin. "Aye, buenos días Melvin," […]

Posted On

07/30/12

Author

Julia Sokoloff

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As I walk though the fields of corn in Pachaj I can’t help but notice how familiar this town feels to me regardless of how different the corn appears from the last time I was here in October. The community of Pachaj is home to Chico Mendes Reforestation Project, a long time friend and partner of Dragons in a reciprocal process of learning from one another. We have spent the last few days working together with Armando, the project organizer, in his Quiche village to plant trees for our collective future. Every day we learn more about the environmental issues of Guatemala, and the complexities of the systems that drive them. Armando speaks from his heart about both the problems he sees in the world, and the obligations he feels towards nature, as a form of repayment for all it provides him and his family.

At times I see the frustration of all the problems weighing on our students, and sometimes myself…they can seem so complicated and insurmountable. Throughout my trips with Dragons students I have heard so many times “but how can one person really go up against a system that seems so irreversible?”, a question I still ask myself at times, and am trying to come to terms with the answer. I owe much of the optimism I can muster up for the future of our environment to the community of Pachaj, and the time I have spent here. Armando talks with great passion about “Plan Hormiga” (The Ant Plan), which illustrates his philosophy on how to go about making necessary changes in our world that will benefit future generations. If you have ever sat and observed ants, you notice that they all work diligently, and selflessly towards a common goal. When volunteers and students come though Pachaj, their contributions are one step in the progression, their work will be picked up by the next person to arrive, and so continues the process, binding us all together by the this common desire to create a better future for all of our children through planting trees.

I don’t think until very recently I fully understood Plan Hormiga on a deeper level than just being a nice analogy created to give people hope, and a sense of purpose. This understanding comes from being lucky enough to see the links connecting into a chain through my student groups. My students last semester planted seedlings in the plastic bags that my group filled up in last August. These seedlings have sprouted up toward the sky and are the ones we are now planting carefully in the mountains. Future groups will be hiking up into the mountains and revisiting trees planted by students from past summers, giving them care and making sure they continue to grow. As I watched my students carefully placing each tree in it’s hole, filling it in with dirt while naming it foe someone they cared about back home, it reinforced the connection between their work and intentions with those of my past students, and I remembered that the Plan Hormiga is real. Even if students do not come back to Chico Mendes (although many do) they are taking a piece of this consciousness, a piece of Chico Mendes with them throughout the rest of their lives, creating a web that connects us all in a way that we may not even comprehend. I am only starting to understand the power of this solidarity that Armando has been watching play out over numerous years, through countless pairs of hands plunging themselves into the same tierra.

I am realizing although it may be easy to claim that our problems are too big to conquer, it is also easy to be part of a Hormiga Plan no matter where we are. I now know that when we pack up our bags and head out of Pachaj, when the season and corn fields change, other hands will take our place, and we will carry this new conciseness to our respective communities and beyond…and I truly believe these students will. I can only hope that the dreams and organic knowledge imparted on us by this indigenous Guatemalan (and others we have been impacted by, and will continue to be meet) are heard, become a part of our students larger worldview, and enable them to be authentic and inclusive leaders when they return home and throughout their lives.

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

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Plan Hormiga

Ariel Storch,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

Description

As I walk though the fields of corn in Pachaj I can’t help but notice how familiar this town feels to me regardless of how different the corn appears from the last time I was here in October. The community of Pachaj is home to Chico Mendes Reforestation Project, a long time friend and partner […]

Posted On

07/27/12

Author

Ariel Storch

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For my ISP, I decided to focus on the Guatemalan marimba, its sound, and the differences between it and its American counterpart. For the most part of my journey, I've only been able to talk about the marimba. Tano, my first Spanish teacher, told me about the marimba's importance to Guatemala and how it is featured in many public events, and Alex, my current Spanish teacher, plays marimba and is pointing out some of the finer elements. But on Thursday, July 26th, I got the chance to visit with a real marimba master.

His name is Juan "Chepe" Lepe. He is an older man, although I'm not quite sure how old. He told me about how he went to the world fair in Kentucky many years ago. and played the marimba for people from across the world. He also met Louis Armstrong and recieved, as a gift, a pair of his marimba mallets, which he still has. As a trumpet player, Louis Armstrong is an important figure to me, so being told that the mallets I was using used to be owned by him was mindblowing.

As a teacher, Chepe Lepe is very patient and has a very basic teaching method. He plays the melody once, then plays along with me as I struggle to hit the right notes with the right technique. I played with him for maybe an hour, and I've already learned a good chunk of the song Ferrocarril de los Altos. And this afternoon, we've arranged to go back for a longer period of time so I can eventually master this song and be able to play it for my friends as well as my family back home. I can't wait to go back and continue learning about the marimba!

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

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Marimba Master

Amara Taylor,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

Description

For my ISP, I decided to focus on the Guatemalan marimba, its sound, and the differences between it and its American counterpart. For the most part of my journey, I’ve only been able to talk about the marimba. Tano, my first Spanish teacher, told me about the marimba’s importance to Guatemala and how it is […]

Posted On

07/27/12

Author

Amara Taylor

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I used to believe that silence, the sound of absolutely nothing, was a state achieved only when one had reached nirvana. That if our breaths ceased, the wind subsided, and everything paused for just a moment, epiphany was within reach because one would be totally alone in their own mind. I had carried this thought with me my entire life, until I came to the realization that my fantasy of a completely still moment was unattainable.

On our four-day trek we recently embarked on, we decided to have an hour of silent walking to just be alone with our selves. Naturally, I went in with my preconceived notion stated above, and was so excited to block out everything, to start to understand silence and be in my mind, totally consumed by my own thoughts. Obviously, this did not happen. On our first day, we started off on our silent walk. As I started walking, I told myself that nothing would distract me our get in the way of my thoughts and that I would be completely focused on staying inside of my head the whole time.

To my dismay, I almost immediately started to get distracted. It was as if I had the ears of an owl; every crunch under my dirty hiking boots, every bird, and every leave rubbing together with the wind was obnoxiously audible. I kept telling myself to ignore the noises and go back into my head to be enveloped by my mind. However, I couldn’t do it. Every noise just seemed to be amplified, so I eventually just gave up, exhausted from wasted effort.

As our silent hour of day two rolled around, I braced myself and decided to try again with all my might. I started walking focusing completely on my current thought of how incredibly cold it was, but then it happened again. The culprit this time was a sheep, chomping away on the over grown grass of the Guatemalan countryside. After a long stare down with the sheep, I sighed, exasperated that my efforts could be toppled 5 minutes in. Knowing how it was going to play out, I gave in to the sound and let myself be distracted yet again, not willing to expend any more energy than I had to.

Then, as day three came around, I decided to just let myself get distracted. I knew there was no point in trying to control my tangent prone mind so I took in every surrounding sound. To my surprise, my walk was much more enjoyable than the past two. I was able to take in so much more once I started to appreciate the sound of my surroundings. Although each new sound brought on a new thought, I was able to absorb so much more than when I was trying to only stay focused on the jumble of thoughts already housed in my brain. It may be a simple revelation, but our hour-long silent walks taught me that I can learn and appreciate so much more from letting my senses get completely overwhelmed.

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

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distraction

luisa ilvento,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

Description

I used to believe that silence, the sound of absolutely nothing, was a state achieved only when one had reached nirvana. That if our breaths ceased, the wind subsided, and everything paused for just a moment, epiphany was within reach because one would be totally alone in their own mind. I had carried this thought […]

Posted On

07/24/12

Author

luisa ilvento

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People told me that this experience would change me. That if I went out into the world, saw lifestyles different than mine, and was put in uncomfortable situations, my perspective of my life and my view on the world would change.

My sister took a trip to Cambodia a couple summers ago and I still can remember the week after she arrived home. She was so much different than the person who had boarded the plane, in search of adventure. She had not only changed in apperance but it was as if something had shifted inside of her and I couldn't tell what it was. I remember at the time feeling frustrated with her because it was as if she could see something I didn't and this something had created a new way of viewing the world for her.

Now I sit in a room, the size of my bedroom at home, that I share with my whole homestay family. There is a kitchen and a tv as well as two large board beds for the seven of the family members and one smaller board bed for me. The beds are all seperated by plastic curtains but you can feel the presence of each person. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the closeness of all these people, I feel comfortable and happy. This feeling inspires me to think about the question that continues to pester my thoughts, "Am I changing?"

The truth is that I don't have an answer. I desperately want to say yes to show that I have transformed into a better person and have a yak worthy announcement but that would be a lie. Can a person tell inside if they have changed or is change just something that an observer sees? Can you really tell if your hair has grown or is it noticable only when someone points it out to you?

My answer is full of ambiguity. The thing I can tell you is that I ate six tortillas at lunch (one short of the average for a Guatemalan and the most I have ever eaten at a meal), I no longer feel uncomfortable squating over the toilet, I don't feel alarmed by the sound of tuk tuks racing down the street, and I absolutely love playing and laughing with my host siblings. I think that I have started to become acostum to "embracing ambiguity." I am no longer fearful of changing surroundings but can make each place almost as much home as the house that I left in the U.S. weeks ago.

I think that I will gain a different understanding of all that I have learned when I leave Guatemala and walk off the plane and see the happy faces of my family. When I am integrated back into my life in the States, I think I will begin to comprehend all that I have gained from the loving friendly smiles of each person I see on the Guatemalan streets. I hope in the end of the trip that I not so much change, but grow in myself and am able to catch a glimpse of what I saw in my sister's eyes all that time ago.

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

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Change

Jekolia Matuszewicz,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

Description

People told me that this experience would change me. That if I went out into the world, saw lifestyles different than mine, and was put in uncomfortable situations, my perspective of my life and my view on the world would change. My sister took a trip to Cambodia a couple summers ago and I still […]

Posted On

07/23/12

Author

Jekolia Matuszewicz

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    [post_date] => 2012-07-23 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => Thank you, Sydney, for your beautiful and insightful postings here on the Yak Yak. It has given me a fanatastic overview of what you guys are experiencing on your travels in Guatemala and it makes me wish that I could have had such an opportunity when I was your age. You have a wonderful flair for writing in the descriptive. Your essay palpates with feelings and impressions! Again, thank you for providing me with the opportunity to be a sort of "fly on the wall." 
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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

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My Appreciation

gabrielle Greenberg,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

Description

Thank you, Sydney, for your beautiful and insightful postings here on the Yak Yak. It has given me a fanatastic overview of what you guys are experiencing on your travels in Guatemala and it makes me wish that I could have had such an opportunity when I was your age. You have a wonderful flair […]

Posted On

07/23/12

Author

gabrielle Greenberg

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    [post_author] => 39
    [post_date] => 2012-07-23 00:00:00
    [post_date_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00
    [post_content] => 

Dear Friends and Families,

Thank you so much for following our yak board and supporting the amazing experiencing we are having, students and instructors alike. We hope that the reflections from our students have given you a glimpse into the profound and mindblowing journey we have so far embarked upon. As an I team we cannot even begin to express our gratitude for the remarkable group of young people we are surrounded with this summer. From the very beginning of our course we have been humbled by the curiosity, positivity, eagerness learn, and insights that each and every student has brought with them to Guatemala.

This morning we were talking about how one of the core compenents of this Dragons course could be philosophy. Throughout the past four weeks we have had long group discussions about so many tough topics, that don't have simple answers, or maybe any at all. Our students have impressed us time and time again with their deep thought and intention during these discussions, as well their ability to bring to the table their way of processing these new perspectives. We are looking through many new and unfamilar lenses on this trip, and working together to better understand what how all of these different perspectives fit into the bigger picture. One of the most powerful parts of a journey like this is that it doesn't provide answers, but rather creates more questions. Our students have inspired us by not shying away from asking those questions that don't have answers, and embracing that ambiguity.

It has been a pleasure so far and today we are doing our midcourse reflections. As we look back fondly on all the time we have spent together, and the progress we've made as a group, and look forward to the next 2 weeks and the expedition phase where the students will take more ownership over the course we feel a wave of happiness and accomplishment. At the same time, we can't help but feel the imminent sadness for the day when our trip will come to an end, because we have been genuinely impacted by each and every student on this course.

Un Abrazo a Todos!

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

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A note from the I team

Instructor Team,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 6-week, Summer 2012

Description

Dear Friends and Families, Thank you so much for following our yak board and supporting the amazing experiencing we are having, students and instructors alike. We hope that the reflections from our students have given you a glimpse into the profound and mindblowing journey we have so far embarked upon. As an I team we […]

Posted On

07/23/12

Author

Instructor Team

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