I write to you from the North where it is a warm -10 degrees F (and it will be -40 F next month). We have embraced the cold this weekend by visiting snow world, seeing ice sculptures, eating Russian ice cream and enjoying the beautiful views of snow covered trees. My name is Alena and though I was born in the USA, I live currently live in Northern China. When I was 16 I moved to Finland for a year as an exchange student. I then returned to the states for 8 months, graduated high school and packed my bags. In 2012 I left for Nepal. I anticipated staying there for 6 months before moving my travels around Africa. I loved Nepal so much I stayed there for the majority of 2 years and have called it home ever since. Over the past 10 years I have lived all over, ping-ponging back and fourth around the globe. However, I have always found my way back to Nepal. The place that is home.
My time in Nepal started as teaching English and doing work in the local communities. That evolved into my moving into a monastery, studying Tibetan, reading religious scriptures, meditating, and religious studies. My passion for Buddhism and the Tibetan led to my deeper studies about the Tibetan people, Tibet as a land, and the politics involved with refugees, activism and human rights. Eventually I started moving back and fourth to the states as I earned my double B.A. of International Relations and linguistics with a minor of Anthropology and concentration in Eastern Asian studies. The core of my studies revolved around Tibetan politics, culture, economics and the relations with China. I spent my winters in Nicaragua, Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica pursuing independent research (human rights, indigenous/minority ethnic group dynamics & relations) and summers have been spent all over. In 2017 I returned to Europe as the International staff member and assistant director of a CISV village in France, I’ve spent extended time in Thailand leading programs, and spent time in Mcleodganj, India at Esukhia University for Tibetan language and culture preservation.
All of these experiences led me to run my first Dragon’s course over the summer in Northern India. I’m am so thrilled to be reunited with the Dragon’s family again this spring! Preparing for a gap year can be intimidating and nerve-wracking. Entering a new world with a different language, religion, food, culture, and people. We are so excited to help you navigate these new waters and become familiar with this new life that you will get to call “home” for a few months! Nepal changed my life and gave me a new pair of lenses to see the world through. It will be months filled with “new”, so prepare yourselves to embrace it and fall in love with a new world. My book recommendation would be “The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong”. This book is about the development of Tibet, the religion playing a role in society/politics and the refuge needed to be taken by the people. This book gives and excellent history of Buddhism and Tibetan people over more recent years. As there are many Tibetans in Nepal and Tibetan Buddhism flourishes there!
Pack your bags, post your yak, get ready for adventure!