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Trek View on Nepal: Himalayan Studies Gap Year Semester with Where There Be Dragons

A full week, a weekful of exploration

What a week it has been! We’ve dived straight into the deep end, as several students have put it, of living and learning in Kathmandu. Just over a week ago, the Instructor team and our in-country coordinator Amrit introduced students and their homestay families at tea-time on Saturday. We all shared milk tea and biscuits (except for some who drank black tea and don’t eat gluten!) as students looked around the room nervously, anticipating the transition to come. Homestay families were eager and excited to host new students, and welcomed each of them with open arms. We only managed to get a few photos of students heading off with their particular families, and we hope to get more with families to share with you soon!

The next day, the whole team met to go for an outing to Ason Chowk, a market in the old section of Kathmandu. Narrow alleyways, or galli, helped us thread our way through, looking and shopping and smelling and tasting the old city. Some people bought clothing, or fabric to have clothing made; some bargained for sweets and other treats. A visit to the bookstore topped off the day, as we all learned how to cross the street (not as straightforward as you might think!), use the microbus system, and navigate our way in and out of the program house neighborhood.

The rest of the week was packed quite full–the breakfast teams come early to the program house to make delicious food for everyone; we check in; language class gets students going full speed ahead with their integration into Nepali family life, and ever more comfortable navigating the city. Some students went rock climbing with instructors, and others spent more time journaling and reading; some students did lots of shopping with their homestay families, going to grocery stores and fabric shops with them, and others watched TV in an amiable food coma after having eaten three entire plates of momo (Nepali style dumplings). All of us traveled to the other side of Kathmandu, in fact to a different city, technically, on Wednesday when we joined social entrepreneur Anil Chitrakar for a mind-expanding tour of Patan, the ancient kingdom of Lalitpur. Anil has an incredible ability to synthesize a huge amount of information about water systems, urban and rural development, contemporary economics in Patan, and the link between community health, religious monuments, water source maintenance, and tourism! We learned so much from him.

Independent Study Projects also got going this week, in a welter of excitement and decision making and changing minds–from traditional blacksmithing to women’s roles in agriculture, and from sarangi musical instrument training to Tibetan medicine, students are settling into stimulating, new environments they’re really excited about. They’re building relationships they didn’t expect to build, and unfolding parts of themselves into the space of exploration that a Dragons program offers that they didn’t expect to unfold. The reality of several months away from home is setting in, and while everyone’s process with that reality looks different, the group is showing up consistently to support each other. The I-Team is super proud of each of them, and excited to watch them continue to take ownership of the program, learning how to care for themselves, each other and the surrounding community in excellent ways.