In the winter of 1988, Founder and Executive Director Chris Yager found himself on a street median in Beijing, China, watching a silent parade of bicyclists go by.
As thousands of people moved by in their daily progression, Chris was struck by the loneliness of the scene – the quietness of motion without animation, the empty faces in the endless bicycle parade.
In the early days of China’s emergence from a closed off, Soviet-influenced state, there wasn’t much color to be seen anywhere. Where would joy be found in these people’s lives? Where would these people find meaning? Was there a different kind of beauty realized by the quiet masses but unseen by someone raised under a different flag? To whom could he turn for solace, for explanation, for conversation?
In that moment, the idea of Dragons was born: to bring experienced mentors to the students’ encounter with the dramatically different other; to contextualize, provide a scaffolding for understanding, and transmit the knowledge that it’s okay to be lost, and that with patience and presence, the answers will be found.
Five years later, Chris returned to a very different, rapidly modernizing China, along with a group of students and several other Mandarin-speaking educators. With a small group and a high staff-to-student ratio, the first wave of Dragons instructors began to develop cross-cultural guiding techniques and an educational pedagogy that would engage students in uncomfortable material but with a safe container, one in which students could take on challenge, explore fearlessly, and confront honest and authentic realities.
Ecstatic experiences are never too far from tragedy. To live a life that is aware and engaged, to delight in the triumphs of human achievement while also taking on life’s genuine ugliness, and to do so with requisite courageousness and fearlessness to affect change is a difficult undertaking when it is done alone. But in the company of other bold adventurers, and under the guidance of mentors who’ve chosen hard paths themselves, the challenging path becomes an adventure.
On the Map’s edge, epic journeys await. They are journeys of epiphany that lead to an honest understanding of the world, and an engaged conversation with the self. They are life-affirming, and life-changing. They are for the bold and intrepid. Are they for you?