In just one month’s time we will be embarking on this crazy adventure together! Your I-team and the Dragons admin team have been hard at work designing a course that we hope will be profoundly meaningful, challenging, transformative, and very fun! This itinerary reflects what we feel is a great use of our time, but please understand that it is tentative, and that our plans may well change in response to unexpected challenges or surprise new opportunities. Maintaining a level of spontaneity and flexibility allows us to make the most of our experience, come what may. We do our best to plan thoroughly, but it intentionally remains a work in progress. We trust that you will come with an open mind, ready to embrace changes!
Without further ado, here is our tentative itinerary:
After landing, we will head straight to the ancient city of Bhaktapur, one of the three former kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley, and spend our first few days settling into Nepal, getting to know each other, and starting to explore our magical new surroundings. During this time we will start gathering the tools and knowledge that we will need to safely and successfully engage for the duration of our journey. With morning walks to nearby temples, lots of tea breaks (!), and plenty of time to relax and overcome jet-lag, we hope that this time will be both exciting and restful. We will also make the short journey to the village of Gundu, where we will stay for two days at an organic permaculture farm in a Tamang community and start learning about the importance of agriculture in Nepal, and the world.
Our next destination will be Namo Buddha, an important Tibetan Buddhist monastery perched atop a hill east of the Kathmandu Valley, where we will participate in a meditation retreat for several days. This short but intensive introduction to Buddhist teachings and meditation practices will give us the unique opportunity to live and eat alongside the hundreds of monks residing there, under the guidance of a khenpo, or scholar-monk. This will be a wonderful opportunity to look inward and to reflect on our first week in Nepal.
From there, we will travel to central Nepal to reach Ale Gaun village, where we will stay in homestays and join in village life. The long drive to reach there will be worth it; rural homestays are often considered the highlight of a Dragons course! Our days will be filled with fieldwork (since it will be monsoon season, we’re hoping to do some rice paddy plantation!), cooking, most likely some time sitting on the porch and sipping tea – immersing ourselves in village life. Our Nepali language teacher will be joining us so that we can keeping learning and practicing our new language skills with local folks. We will also spend some time as a group, continuing lessons and discussions that we began in Gundu. While staying here we will also briefly visit the nearby city of Pokhara and have the opportunity to take a day-hike into the village’s surrounding hills.
After leaving Ale Gaun and heading back toward Kathmandu, we will stop on the way in the hill station of Bandipur, where we will celebrate reaching the mid-point of our course, reorient, and reinvigorate ourselves for our remaining time together.
Once we return to the Kathmandu Valley, we will transition into our one-week urban homestays in Patan, another of the three former kingdoms. Our homestay families are primarily from the Newari ethnic group, and many continue to practice their ancestral crafts with great mastery while also integrating into the quickly modernizing world of urban Nepal. We will explore Patan’s many narrow alleyways and ancient temples, invite experts in different fields to our program house to speak with us, make excursions to other significant places around the Valley, and do some more hiking in the nearby hills. This is also when we will dive into our Independent Study Projects (ISP’s), in order to make the most of the wealth of knowledge and wisdom available to us in Patan. Past ISP’s have included Patan’s traditional jewelry-making, woodcarving, stone-carving, and metalwork (the mentors for these crafts often come from our homestay families!), yoga and Hindu philosophy, Ayurvedic medicine, tailoring, traditional instruments such as the sarangi or tabla, and many more.
Saying goodbye to Patan and our wonderful homestay families, we will begin the Expedition phase of our course, in which we will challenge our students to use their newfound skills and experiences to take a greater degree of responsibility and direction. These days are intentionally left open, without a pre-planned location, so that we can consider the group’s interests and thoughts about what we might do. We’ll discuss this more once we’re all together in Nepal!
Our final few days together are dedicated to looking back at the journey we have completed, as well as looking forward toward home. We will spend time focusing on synthesis and integration of all we have learned, preparation for the return home, and celebration of our accomplishments, the bonds we have made, and the moments that we shared as we prepare ourselves for the journey back home. This location is also to-be-decided depending on our Expedition location, but will be somewhere in the Kathmandu Valley.
A note about trekking: We will be traveling during the height of the monsoon season, with heavy rains, leeches, and only occasional views of the high Himalaya, and this can make trekking tricky. We have opted to include day hikes in different places in order to avoid increased risks of blocked roads or trails that we might face on a multi-day hike into more remote areas. We may be able to add a multi-day hike during our Expedition phase, depending on the group’s interest and trail conditions at the time.
Wow, there it is! We hope you are as excited as we are to get started! We can’t wait to meet you all and to delve into the life, culture, and landscape of the Himalayas. In the meantime, please do introduce yourself by posting on the Yak Board. Our Yak Board will become a lively forum for discussion and sharing our experience, and we’d love to get started with it now. You don’t have to write that much. Just stick on a photo and tell us a little about yourself – What are you excited about? What are you passionate about in life? How are you spending these final weeks prior to our departure? We’re really looking forward to reading about you!
See you soon!
Shanti, Saurabh, and Nick