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Meeting the Dalai Lama: Shiva and Shanti

4/25/16-Shanti

Where to begin?! We kicked off our student directed travel by going to the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh. This is a seven acre abandoned Ashram where the Beatles stayed in the late 60’s and produced most of the “White Album.” The Ashram has become a shrine to the Beatles with incredible graffiti everywhere. We spent our time exploring the overgrown old buildings, discovering new artwork, and all the while singing (at one point maybe screaming) different Beatles songs together. I recommend googling the ashram because it is truly a magical musical place.


After Rishikesh, our travel skills were put to the test when we became in charge of getting from Rishikesh to Manali. (Paulo was in charge of transport and did a fantastic job!) This trip consisted of almost a 14 hour overnight bus ride (YIKES), but we arrived in one piece to green forests and mountain air. In Manali we did hikes to a waterfall and rock climbing. We have arrived in Dharamsala where we celebrated Kenya’s birthday, and will now be working on an organic farm.

4/26/16-Shiva

We got back yesterday from our 4 day trek in the himalayas and it was awesomeee!! we made it up high enough that we reached the snow and those days were the first time i seen it snow in india. i got awesome pics that will probably be up in the next two weeks when i come home. Also i was able to represent the home squad and get some pics with my blazer jersey in the mountains too so when i put that up on "wear in the world" for portland, y'all better vote for me lol. And it was awesome coming back from the trek because we ran into the other india group and saw our friends from portland!!!!!!! tomorrow we make our way to the golden temple so thats the next move. (Travon)

Back to buisness!.. After two very tiring over night train rides we finally arrived to Mcleod Ganj. I can speak for all of us when I say we are LOVING the weather here! After being in the desert for so long, weather cold enough to where you can walk around in sweats and a hoodie has been heaven. We even got some rain[🙂]


We are all doing solo home stays for the first time but we feel more comfortable because our families are able to speak English. After meeting our host mothers we got to pick our internships[🙂]  5 of us are making dream catchers and 2 of us are creating beautiful paintings and I’m super excited to see how they turn out. Later that evening we got to watch a movie about the Dalai Lama to get a bigger perspective of the Tibetan culture and people that live here in India.
I personally take a huge interest on the Tibetan refugees that have had to leave everything behind to come to India. I’m grateful that in our time here we are also getting to help teach some of them English through conversation and get a little bit more perspective of what it’s like for them.All in all, we love our Tibetan families and the space they make for us (and being able to communicate with them.) I’m really going to miss this cool weather and amazing nature. (Blanca)

4/27/16-Shiva

Whoa: So we were about to leave this city Mcleoud Ganj to go to the golden temple this morning but we delayed that for a few hours because we got to actually meet the Dalai Lama and shake his hand and take pictures with him! that was awesome lol!  (Travon)

The Scared Valley of Peru

After a mentally and physically demanding stay in the rural village of Patacancha, the INTI team headed back to Ollantaytambo for the first night of student directed travel. We stayed with the same families as the week before, and re-grouped at 9:00am in the Plaza de Armas to begin our long 3.5 hour journey to Lares.

 

On the drive we went over the Lares mountain pass, and saw: extensive ruins, llamas, alpacas, a couple of jagged mountains, and one misty, snow covered peak. In the collectivo we reached a max altitude of around 4500m above sea level, before descending into the next valley on a beautiful ribbon of road. After reaching the slightly disappointing town of Lares, we headed to the highly recommended sulfuric hot springs. The trip to Lares came at a perfect time for most as in the last few days heat and rest were scarce. Most of our time at the Lares was spent soaking, some spent more time than others (Will entered the water at 7pm and exited at 4am). After just one night we left at 11am to the small city of Pisac. In Pisac, we were presented with “normal” food options that unluckily cost significantly more than our Per Diem. Thus we utilized the kitchen and started making our own meals. The goal was to save up money before the notoriously expensive Cusco, where, to our dismay, our hostel doesn’t have a kitchen we can use.

 

The time we had in Pisac was productively spent resting and checking out ruins, as well as some folks going nuts while shopping. Most of the group went up to the ruins, and some others went to the salt ponds/terraces outside Urubamba. Overall the first half of SDT went well and as planned, and we all look forward to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and then home!

Esperanza signing off

Hello for the last time to our friends and family abroad. This week, Nick wraps up our trip with one last podcast, bringing you in closer to our last week on the ground. We can't believe our trip has closed out so fast and we are all looking forward to seeing your faces quite soon!
 

A top el pie de Gigante 

A top el pie de Gigante 


Won't be long now...

Esperanza!

Baking traditional bread with one of the host families in Playa Gigante 

Baking traditional bread with one of the host families in Playa Gigante 

Nancita in all her glory! 

Nancita in all her glory! 

Shiva and Tibetan Refugees

Hi guys! It’s Blanca here! 

After two very tiring over night train rides we finally arrived to Mcleod Ganj. I can speak for all of us when I say we are LOVING the weather here! After being in the desert for so long, weather cold enough to where you can walk around in sweats and a hoodie has been heaven. We even got some rain :). 
We are all doing solo home stays for the first time but we feel more comfortable because our families are able to speak English. After meeting our host mothers we got to pick our internships. :) 5 of us are making dream catchers and 2 of us are creating beautiful paintings and I’m super excited to see how they turn out. Later that evening we got to watch a movie about the Dalai Lama to get a bigger perspective of the Tibetan culture and people that live here in India.


I personally take a huge interest on the Tibetan refugees that have had to leave everything behind to come to India. I’m grateful that in our time here we are also getting to help teach some of them English through conversation and get a little bit more perspective of what it’s like for them.
All in all, we love our Tibetan families and the space they make for us (and being able to communicate with them.) I’m really going to miss this cool weather and amazing nature.
Until next time -Blanca :)

Life on the farm - on a volcanic island in Nicaragua

Hola amigos y familias!

View from the farm 

View from the farm 

This is Saya writing my blog draft in a mango tree. After a long week of ups and downs and the longest travel day yet, we arrived at Isla de Ometepe. We are staying at Bona Fide, a farm that focuses on experiential learning on permaculture. We also have afternoon workshops on basket weaving, jam making and chocolating. We are surrounded by nature here with no walls anywhere except for handmade ones made of Palm tree leaves and sliced bamboo used for the compost toilets and huts. Every weekday morning we start farm work from 6:45 to 12, with a one hour break for brekkie. The afternoons are spent relaxing on the farm, learning about permaculture, going for dips in the lake, or going for a smoothie run to the groups favorite local cafe Campestre de Ometepe. The farm has an abundance of trees baring delicious exotic fruits, gardens full of veggies and medicinal herbs, beautiful views of sunsets and more scorpions and spiders than we’d like.

Sunset at Ometepe 

Sunset at Ometepe 

We love it here and wish we could stay longer, but we’re also pumped to be heading to our next destination, Masaya tomorrow for our last week of Spanish classes! Lots of love from the group to our families and friends.

Pictures of our farm life below!

Lounging in the tree house 

Lounging in the tree house 

Peyton working hard! 

Peyton working hard! 

Making baskets 

Making baskets 

Hasta pronto,

Saya

Esperanza's 4th podcast - Turtles in the moonlight

Hi again friends and family. We are back with another short installment of our podcast. Betty is here to deliver to you your next dose of what life is like here for the Esperanza cohort.

Though it wasn't on the radar of our podcast, Nancy and Jess had the great opportunity to name a sea turtle that hadn't been logged, and they donned her with the name Esperanza... For oh so many reasons. :)

We hope to get one more out before we head home in - holy cow - like a week!

See you all soon!

Sunset at the turtle project 

Sunset at the turtle project 

Angkor What?: Cambodia to Vietnam

April 3

Hello from Phnom Penh! We’ve had another jam-packed week here in Cambodia. Our last few days at PTD in Battambang included a field trip to the Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus, which is run by a nonprofit arts school that helps disadvantaged children. We really enjoyed watching all of the complicated acrobatics. Although we were sad to leave the children and staff members we befriended during our time at PTD, all of us were really excited for our visit to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

On our first full day in Siem Reap, we woke up before dawn and took tuk tuks to Angkor Wat where we watched the sun rise over the temple, which was stunning. The temple complex was not what most of us expected. We had no idea how ridiculously large it is; at roughly 500 acres, it’s the largest religious complex in the world. During our one day visit we weren’t able to see all of the different temples, but we definitely got a good feel for the enormity and beauty of the complex.

The next day, a group of us visited the Siem Reap War Museum, where our Cambodian guide gave us a bit more insight into the age of the Khmer Rouge Regime.

We arrived in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, yesterday, and today we visited the Killing Fields and S-21 Prison (Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum). Learning more about the Khmer Rouge’s brutality against the Cambodian people took an emotional toll on everyone in the group. “It still seems unreal, how could people do this to their own people?” says Alondra. It’s sickening to think about all the barbaric violence that happened just 40 years ago. Walking through the rooms of tiny wooden cells in S21 and seeing pictures and the clothing of the victims made the atrocities that happened here seem much more real. “Today I feel more grateful to be alive and hope I never have to go through something like that in my life” says George. Tomorrow morning we leave for Kampot for a mangrove restoration project and some kayaking and paddleboarding.

We started off the week by travelling by van from Phnom Penh to Kampot where we worked with the mangrove conservation project. Being in a remote village was a nice change after the busy city. An awesome Cambodian guy named Sela led us through our week. On our ride to Kampot, all 13 of us along with Sela and our driver were jam-packed in a small van with our huge duffel bags. Needless to say, it was a tight squeeze. Luckily, Sela taught us a popular Cambodian song that made the time fly!

April 9

The mangrove project was located along a saltwater river. The buildings were on stilts along the river, bordering dried-up rice fields. It was stunningly beautiful, and we all welcomed the breeze that floated in from the river . We arrived at the site in the afternoon and immediately got to work. We were in charge of filling up plastic mud bags where mangrove seeds would be planted. Our work site was basically a mud pit beneath a building on stilts. As we worked, the river slowly began to ebb towards us. Naturally, when you put a bunch of 18-20 year olds in a mud pit, a mud fight will ensue. The work session ended with all of us covered in mud and huge smiles on our faces. The river was right next door, and we all jumped in to clean off.

The next morning, we took a quick boat trip down the river to collect mangrove seeds, which we would later plant. This activity included Sela and a few others climbing the mangrove trees and shaking down the seeds. The rest of us stood hip-deep in the water and collected the seeds. The mud at the bottom of the river was extremely sticky, and we all kept on sinking down. It was a fun way to start the day.

Our main project for the week was to build a boat out of recycled plastic bottles. Our goal was to create a functional boat that would inspire the community to make use of the plastic waste. Cambodia definitely has a littering and pollution issue, so we felt that making this boat was very important. We quickly jumped into the project and worked really hard to construct a functioning boat. In the evening, we took a long boat ride to the Gulf of Thailand where we swam at sunset. It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.

We also had a chat with the head of the conservation project, and he taught us the importance of planting mangroves. 90% of the adults in the community are fishermen. Their livelihood depends on the abundance of fish in the river.

Mangroves provide an important ecosystem for fish and other sea creatures, and they help increase the biodiversity in the area. We were all very happy to help!

On our second morning, we headed out to the ocean to plant our mangroves into the sea. You have to use your heal to dig a hole into the mud, and then place the baby mangrove tree into the hole. At night, we were invited to join a local Cambodian party in a rice field. Speakers were blaring popular Cambodian music, and phones were used as strobe lights as we all danced with the locals around a camp fire. My favorite part was when all the kids started to dig their heels into the ground at a specific part during a song. We all had no idea what was happening, but we followed along. At the end of the song, the person with the deepest hole won. We realized that the kids were mimicking planting a mangrove tree!

On our final day, we tested out our plastic bottle boat, and it floated! We adorned it with a bottle cap Cambodian flag, and left it for the village to use. It was a very fun project. Overall, we all really enjoyed our time at the mangrove project.

Up next, we had a few days at SUP Asia, where we paddleboarded and Kayaked. When we got there on Monday, we paddleboarded (some of us kayaked) through the trees, seeing an interesting variety of plant life. The following day, we went to a pagoda, where we say around and talked on the paddle boards for half an hour in that stunning setting. That afternoon, we went on a boat ride to a beach, where everyone had some good relaxation time, or if your name is Phong, climbing banana trees. The next day, we big farewell to SUP Asia (who treated us very well btw), and we went to cross the Cambodian-Vietnam border! The trip started fine, albeit half an hour late due to a couple running late (or on Chris time as it’s been known this trip). An hour later, we were at the border. Some lady walked on to the bus, asking for our passports, which seemed rather suspect. However, to the recommendation of the other travelers, we gave them up, and within half an hour we were in Vietnam!

Trekking the Himalayas: Shanti Group

After a beautiful excursion through the pristine wilderness of the Himalayas, we’ve stopped in the rolling hills of Darjeeling for a few days of rest. We’ve found great food, atmosphere, and an amazing abundance of tea in Darjeeling. However, tonight is our last night here and we’ll be moving onwards to Rishikesh for a week long yoga retreat in the morning. There is no stopping the powerful Shanti crew from exploring Northern India. Stay tuned for more blog posts and updates.   We don't have time to tell you all about the adventure, but hopefully these pictures help to tell the tale!

Peru, here we come...on a Zip Line!

For the most part, our week was relatively quiet. Everyone had Spanish lessons, either in the mornings or the afternoon, depending on skill level, which left half the day to roam free and explore the city of Arequipa. The real height of our trip was the weekend trek the group chose to do, through the Colca Canyon. As we learned, it is one of the largest canyons in the world, several times the size of the Grand Canyon.

We started the trip by waking up at 2:30 in the morning; To make sure everyone could be ready for the 3:30am, 4 hour bus ride to the top of the canyon. One of the highlights of the trip was a stop on the way, at a vista point. It gave us the first view of the canyon as a whole. The views were fantastic, and we saw giant, wild condors. From there we moved onto the actual trek. We met our guide, Remi, who was incredibly experienced in leading these exertions and very knowledgeable about the (slash his) local culture and belief systems in the Peruvian Andes. The first day was mostly downhill stumbling, slipping, and hiking. We went for 4 hours until lunch, and another 2 hours to reach the oasis we were staying at for the night. It was a beautiful area but the group was tired and most of us went to bed relatively soon. The second day was breathtaking- the view of the valley at sunrise was amazing, but breathing while up hiking up hill at altitude also makes breathing challenging. The second day was difficult; we hiked for about 4 hours. But, we ended the experience with thanking the mountains for our safety and visiting some amazing hot springs to ease our tired muscles. In truth, the pictures are the most effective way to describe our experience, it was challenging but the entire group was psyched to take it on.

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