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The Tiger's Nest in Bhutan. Photo by Chelsea Ferrel.

Instructor Introduction – Rishi Bhandari

Greetings Dear Friends,

I hope you had a wonderful spring wherever you are from. I am writing this yak as I take a brief breather after leading a Spring Semester in Nepal that we completed a week ago before I head on this adventure with you. I am filled with excitement about this journey that we are taking together to Bhutan. The meaning and pursuit of Happiness lies in the core of many ideologies and value systems all over the world. Preached as a very simple phenomenon, happiness is a very nuanced and often misunderstood pursuit that I have always been fascinated about. Regardless, I am beyond thrilled to journey into a nation that puts the importance on happiness in such a grand scale.

I applaud your decision to welcome this exciting adventure in your life. It’s an immense pleasure to travel with you as your instructor along with my wonderful colleagues Claire and Tshering and I hope to learn from you. I get asked a lot what keeps me coming back to do this work and without a doubt the first thing that comes to mind is your presence. Every student that I’ve worked with has helped me see the world in a different light. Every student has been a unique role model. This makes the work incredibly rewarding. As your instructors, it is our job to make sure that we design and deliver a course that is going to be safe, adventurous and meaningful. It gives me joy to prepare for our upcoming adventure.

I assume that just like me, you are filled with immense excitement. Just like me probably for most of you it’s the first ever journey to this Shangri-la kingdom that is so phenomenally intriguing and strongly appealing. You are probably reading about Bhutan trying to gather information and maybe something about Bhutan has been appealing to you to inform your choice to take this summer. But often times the strongest informers are the narratives we construct in our head, notions ingrained in us, we create stories that sometimes come in the way of understanding a place. As normal as it is to do this I hope you also cultivate an ability to look beyond these narratives so that you are able to see a place with a wider perspective. My intention here is to foster an unbiased curiosity, unhindered from the notions of good or bad, beautiful or ugly, rich or poor, authentic or inauthentic. If we can support each other in seeing Bhutan this way, I would consider this course a smashing success.

Let me take this opportunity to introduce myself a little bit. I grew up at a spiritual eco friendly community in the southern hills of Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. At the community I lived with more than 100 people sharing the same food, sharing work, tending plants and animals together, learning from each other, singing together and meditating together. I was raised with a community that put a very strong emphasis on spiritual growth and I feel blessed to have grown in this unique juxtaposition of spirituality and religion steeped in the teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism. My childhood was spent falling asleep to the chants of the Bhagavad Gita (the sacred epic for Hindus) while watched by a statue of Buddha meditating. 🙂 🙂 The past decade and half I have been involved with educational institutions both as a student and a mentor. Over the years I had opportunities to travel to take part in the alternative education conferences as a participant/speaker. But since the past three years I have devoted much of my time leading several different types of courses with Dragons in Nepal, India and Senegal. I am excited to explore this course area that is so new for me and we can all learn about Bhutan together. In my free time I love to read non-fiction, write poetry and listen to music. I love to learn about human behavior and psychology. I also love running, hiking, climbing and anything to challenge myself physically and mentally.

I am also thrilled that, although very briefly as it may be, you’ll have a chance to experience Nepal. As a person born in Nepal and raised by these rivers, mountains and people, it’s an immense pleasure for me to introduce you to this place and the people. Nepal constantly astonishes me by how there are so many diverse cultures co-existing with each other. It’s so rewarding to have even a brief glimpse of that and maybe we will feel excited to learn a word or two of Nepali so that we can interact with the locals in Kathmandu.

Over the next weeks we will be updating this Yak board with important information about the course. Please do make sure that you check the yak board for introductions from your fellow travelers and post your introductions with a picture. Yak board is also a great place to ask questions about the course if you have any. The instructor team will make sure to reach out and help you in whichever way we can. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me through email ([email protected]) or Skype (aurorishi).

Looking forward to connecting with you all.

Warm Regards

Rishi

“The single story creates stereotype and the problem with stereotype is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete, they make one story become the only story.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Danger of a single story