In a few weeks you will be in one of the most blessed and majestic lands, which is going to put an indelible mark on your life, consciousness, and memories. The I-team and admin have been working hard to design a course that will be profoundly meaningful, full of wisdom, challenging, and tons of fun!
Our journey will be held by the three core values we strive to incorporate in each of our courses: Global Citizenship, Awareness of Self, and Leadership. These three core values work as anchors and sails to guide the course towards the most meaningful experience possible for us all. Additionally, the semester will move through an overarching phase progression:
– Preparation and Skill Acquisition, when we set intentions for our course, develop skills that help us to learn and thrive in Nepal, and build a strong, cohesive group
– Experience and Practice, when we continue to develop these skills and put them into action, enabling us to connect more deeply with the local community and continue to reflect on our personal and group intentions
– Expedition and Transference, when we all take more ownership for our learning experience, have increased leadership responsibilities, and integrate the fruits of this experience into our lives
Please keep in mind that this a tentative itinerary and will involve changes in plans. The best journeys are abundant in spontaneity, surprises, and challenges. We trust that you will come with an open mind and an open heart to embrace the change. In these courses we intentionally leave some room to incorporate your aspirations, abilities, and goals to the highest level within the framework of our core values. As much as we give our best in planning, it is intentionally a work in progress.
Without further ado, here is what we’ve all been waiting for, the Himalayan Studies B Spring 2018 tentative itinerary:
Week 1 – Orientation: As you arrive in Nepal on February 8th, your I team will be welcoming you at the airport and then driving to Bhaktapur, one of the three ancient kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley overflowing with the history and culture of the Newari people. In Bhaktapur, we will recover from our long journey, start to learn about Nepal (including some language lessons and cultural introductions), and get to know one another through activities, discussions, and time to explore and play.
Week 2 – Mini-Trek: Following our time at orientation we shall venture into the surrounding mountains of Kathmandu for a short trek through sprawling forests graced with wonderful views of the Himalayas. This will be a time to stretch our vision and our physical limits as we hike from morning to evenings with periodic rests. This several-day trek will meander from Dhulikhel, nearby Bhaktapur, through scenic Sivapuri National Park, and down toward the outer edges of Kathmandu city, from where we will transition into the urban portion of our course.
Weeks 3-6 – Kathmandu Homestay: Welcome to Kathmandu! This city is rich with the meeting of timeless ancient temples, alleys, and markets and all things fast-paced and modern. It is the cosmopolitan political and economic center of the country, where all the diverse peoples of Nepal are represented, coming for work and education. We will spend our time here diving into our Independent Study Projects (ISPs), practicing and honing our Nepali language skills, exploring different pertinent topics with the group and with expert guest speakers, and going on excursions to interesting sites around the Kathmandu Valley.
This will be a more time-structured portion of the course – on a typical weekday, we might meet at our program house for an optional yoga/meditation session, eat breakfast, followed by language class and a discussion led by a local expert (earthquake recovery, for example), share lunch, then disperse to our various ISP locations for the afternoon, and return to our homestays for dinner. Weekends and special holidays will be spent at our individual homestays so that we can bond with our host families more deeply and spend full days in the local way, or venturing out on student-led excursions to experience the many cultural and historical sights of the Kathmandu Valley and sharpen your leadership and navigation skills. Holi, popularly known as the Festival of Colors, falls during this time, and we will celebrate it together and with our homestay families (for your Pre-Course Assignment, feel free to research Holi or find one of the several other interesting festivals that fall during our course!). At the end of this time we will reach our course’s mid-point, when we will set aside a few days to celebrate, reflect, and reinvigorate ourselves for the rest of the journey
Week 7 – Retreat: Along with our mid-course time, we will conduct a Buddhist retreat at a nearby gompa, a monastery dedicated to the study and practice of Vajrayana Buddhism, where we will dive into the philosophy and practice of this great tradition under the guidance of a monastic teacher, with daily lessons and meditation sessions. This will be a time to reflect both inwardly and outwardly, examining the dharma teachings and our own minds.
Weeks 8-9 – Trek: The Himalayas are calling! Following our retreat, we will venture deep into the majestic Himalayas for a trek through rugged terrain as an expedition team. With unbeatable views and warm company of friends in these mountains, we’ll learn about expedition behavior and rural Himalayan culture, and be physically challenged even as we bond over games and shared cups of tea. The trek will challenge us on many levels but will be a wonderful tool to understand ourselves and others to create a compassionate and responsible unit of travelers to traverse these lands with humility, integrity, and grace.
Week 10-11 – The trek will then lead towards our rural homestay, where we will live with host families experiencing authentic rural village culture and being a part of a village life. We will spend hours each day engaging with our families – from harvesting crops to feeding cattle to carrying firewood, sipping tea on the porch, playing with village children, etc. We will also discuss issues of service, development, rural identity, and spirituality. The language skills that we have acquired over the semester will be very useful during this time as we interact with our home-stay families and members of the community! At the end of this time we will reserve some days for our Expedition Phase, when we will hand over even more leadership responsibility and direction to all of you! This phase is more open-ended, and we will talk more about what it might look like once we are all together as a group.
Week 12 – Transference: The last week of our course will be dedicated to celebrating our journey, our accomplishments, the bonds we made, and the moments that we shared as we prepare ourselves for the journey back home. We will return to Kathmandu for our final goodbyes and hugs before your departure from Nepal on April 30th.
Wow, that was a lot of information! We hope that this provides some clarity about the journey ahead, and that you are all even more excited to get going! Don’t worry, we will go over everything again once we meet. For now, give yourself some time to review the resources sent to you by our office.
We instructors are in the process of arranging individual calls with all of you, to hear from you directly and answer any questions you might have. Please keep checking the Yak board for updates and additional information. If anything comes up, feel free to reach out to us anytime.
See you soon!