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Nepal Semester Student's Catherine Von Holt's photograph of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.

Our Tentative Itinerary

Dear Fellow Educators,

In just over two short months, we’ll all be here together in the heart of the ancient Kathmandu valley, setting out on a journey into the life, culture and landscape of the Himalayas. As a tight knit group of inspiring educators from all backgrounds and walks of life, we will learn from place and each other, explore the components of an inter-cultural leadership program, and together ask some of the big questions facing global education today.

We instructors have been exploring all the exciting itinerary options for how to make this trip powerful, transformative and fun, and we wanted to share with you the tentative outline plans for our experience together.

Please note that although the below is the flow we anticipate, the very nature of the voyage on which we are embarking is flexible and subject to exciting changes! We hope to seize learning opportunities as they come and always seek to deepen the experience, so take any changes in the spirit of adventure.

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Days 1-2: On Day One will all assemble together in Boudha, one of the ancient spiritual sites of Kathmandu valley. (We will post more specific arrival instructions in the weeks leading up to the trip.) Here we will take some time for “Orientation” – settling into our magical surroundings, learning about place and culture, and framing our course inquiry topics. This will be the time that we start to get to know each other and the group, and start gathering the tools and knowledge that we will need to engage with this journey with confidence and respect. We will also have a chance to lay out our course themes and see where in the itinerary we will have a chance to experientially learn about the various aspects of global leadership. On top of this, we will get to explore the monasteries and shrines and get an introduction to the Tibetan Buddhism that is practiced here. In the bustle of the city, we will begin to observe how the ancient and modern are intertwined and inseparable, and how culture is not just surviving but redefining itself.

Days 3-7: Traveling south across town, we will enter the medieval city of Patan. The city of Patan is filled with religious art and architecture and almost feels like a dense village in the midst of a huge, sprawling city. Here we will set up our base for learning and be able to meet with a myriad of local activists, educators and academics who can talk to us about the current issues facing Nepal, and provide input and context for our course themes.

This will be our first opportunity to experience a homestay during our trip. We will transparently share what goes into curating a successful homestay experience, including our risk management practices and ways of ensuring meaningful student engagement. The families we will be staying with are mainly Newari artisan families who practice ancient crafts that have been passed down through the generations from their forefathers. They will provide a lens through which we can understand this link between ancient and modern belief systems and values. Every day will be a new learning journey as we navigate the cobbled streets and explore the crumbling temples on every street corner. This will also be our chance to learn about how Dragons set up opportunities for independent study, as we will get to spend a few hours every day learning a local craft or spiritual tradition from an expert mentor. In the times in between we will visit non-profits, explore sites of cultural significance, and attend local events and gatherings.

Days 8-11: Leaving behind the dust and smog of the city, we will embark on the rural portion of our journey by heading northeast into the foothills of the Himalayas, to a homestay community that has been hosting Dragons students for over a decade. Chaukati is situated on the edge of a couple different National Parks and reserves and is within views of some of the high Tibetan Himalayan peaks. The village of about 100 households is situated halfway up a mountain and we will be hiking up from the road head (about a 4-hour amble uphill). All the families are subsistence farmers (as well as some artisans and traders). The community is ethnically Thangmi, an ethnic group of only about 20,000 people, who live only on the mountainsides of that particular area between Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha. They have their own language and very distinct culture – although you will be able to communicate with your homestay families with the basic Nepali that you will know by now!

The recent earthquake destroyed all but three of the buildings in the village. In fact, this was one of the hardest hit areas in Nepal. They are still rebuilding, and while it is nearly done you can still clearly see the impact. Until a couple years ago there was no road that went to the village and many people have never left the village or had seen cars prior to the finishing of that construction. But traditional ways of life are changing fast as products, knowledge and people from the outside world penetrate into the community. During our stay here we will get a glimpse into the slower pace of life in rural Nepal, living with families in their simple houses and getting involved in many aspects of life in the village, including farming and artisanal crafts, as well as having plenty of time for learning, sharing and discussion. In particular we will make time to explore our course theme of learning service – how we explore issues of privilege, guilt and “wanting to help” with students, when they are faced with living standards vastly different to their own.

Day 12: For this too-short 24 hour period, we will get the chance to retreat from the world and spend time with our thoughts in quiet contemplation, alongside a bustling community of 300 monks. Namo Buddha is a Kagyu Monastery (Black Hat Sect) situated above some small villages east of Kathmandu, built on the site where the Buddha in a past life was said to have mastered the perfection of compassion by sacrificing his body to a mother tiger and her cubs. We will receive teachings from a Khenpo on topics such as Buddhist history, philosophy, practices, community, ethics, and meditation. We will also be sharing all meals with the monks and participating with them during the puja ceremony at the monastery. You will have the option to spend the whole retreat in “noble silence.”

Days 13-15: Our final days will be spent in Bhaktapur, another of Kathmandu’s world heritage sites. This Newari town is known as the “city of devotees” and you will see why when you see the density of shrines and temples in the old part of town. We will stay in a quaint hillside guesthouse and take a chance to catch our breath and process the experience in what we call “Transference.” Collectively, we will pull together the threads that we have been learning about and try to draw some meaning and conclusions. On top of this we will make time for celebration as we end our time together, and discuss ways in which we could best integrate all we learned into our lives back home.

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Thank you so much for joining us on this journey. We are thrilled to get the chance to share this experience with you!

Your Instructor Team,

Claire & Jason