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Yoga Retreat Week

APRIL 16, 2018 | SABAI

By Ashley Gonzalez-Lopez

This week our group went on a yoga retreat. The main focus was to try to reflect on what we have done on this trip, the obstacles we have overcome, and the people we have met. Every day we woke up to silent time and went straight into yoga practice at 7:00 am. Breakfast was from 8:30 to 9:45. At 9:45, the whole temple got together for community circle. For the second day, Dominic was selected to read a quote to the group. And on the 3rd day, Ahmad was selected to read a quote and ring the gong. He rang the gong 10 minutes before evening practice and meditation. After the community circle, we had free time until 12:00 p.m. At 12:00 we had dharma talk. In dharma, we discussed ways to meditate and learned to note, know, and let go of distractions that can come up during meditation. We had lunch at 1:00 pm and break until 4:30 p.m. At 4:30 we had our evening yoga practice that was slower than the morning practice. Dinner was at 6:00 p.m. and meditation was at 7:00. We ended the day by going back into silent time at 9:00 p.m.

During this week, we all had time to reflect, learned where we need balance, and set higher/new expectations for ourselves. Others even learned that yoga may not necessarily be for them. I personally learned that meditation doesn’t mean that one must have no thoughts, but be in a place that is peaceful. And everyone was excited to travel to our last destination, VIETNAM!



Tree house home where the group stayed at the Vagabond Yoga Retreat in Kep, Cambodia.



Sunset view from the yoga studio.


Walking to the beach in Kep.


The dock from the Kep beach.


Palm trees!


The yoga retreat was surrounded by farmers’ fields.


Local fisherman’s boat.


Entertaining each other while waiting for the bus from Cambodia into Vietnam.


Getting settled in to the sleeper bus into Vietnam.


Made it to Saigon!

Peace Between Those Who Breathe Together

APRIL 16, 2018 | NKULA

By Morgan Kromer

Peace between those who breathe together,
Ohana Amani,
Peace within,
Peace throughout.

We helped to make a class in trees,
Chainsaws rolling,
Branches falling,
Learninng center,
Welcome space.

Others helped out in the garden,
Pulling weeds,
Turning compost,
Raspberries snacked,
Orchards tended.

Afternoons were filled with growth,
Quiet moments,
Laughter present,
Some reflection,
Our stories.

Our day of silence was a struggle,
Not for most,
But for a few.
Daylight fasting,
Enjoying nature.

Dowtime filled with lots of reading,
Many books,
Lots of stories,
Required reading,
Mystical lands.

Meals comprised with nourishing foods,
Fresh salads,
Homemade crutons,
Local Uji,
Yummy Pasta.

Sleeping outdoors in some tents,
Spiders crawling,
Headlamps glowing,
Late night screaming,
Tin roof rain.

Alas our time there is now over,
Lessons learned,
Memories grown,
Fresh food eaten,
Peace now made.

Saludos de Peru

APRIL 12, 2018 |INTI

By Isabella Spivey

Saludos de Peru!

Isabella here, to update you on our adventure from the past week. Our second to last day in Ecuador, we said a bittersweet farewell to Sarah Beth, and joined her and her family for dinner and shared our gratitude for having her as part of our Inti Family. As sad as it is that she will be leaving us, we are all holding out hope for a speedy recovery, which we know with her spirit of positivity will be no problem.

The next day we had mostly free time to contact family and friends, buy snacks for our long day of travel to Peru and explore a different side of Quito while staying at a comfy hostel and enjoying our final moments in the country. In addition to having free time, we discussed our potential itinerary for student-directed travel, which is fast approaching. That night, we packed up a tried to get some sleep before leaving at a very early 1 am in the morning. We all hopped into taxis and drove to the airport to catch flights to Lima and then on to Cuzco, Peru. Once we arrived, we were greeted by a basket of coca leaves and were encouraged to take some to help with the dramatic change in altitude. We found our bags and then were transported to a hostel where we would stay overnight before moving on to a much smaller indigenous community. That evening we rested, were given more coca leaves and prepared for the week ahead.

The next morning we left Cuzco, met Carmen and David, our local contacts and traveled together by van to the small town of Quenqo, a Quechua speaking village about 2 hours away. During the trip, we stopped and took some photos of a cliff that overlooked the Sacred Valley, before continuing on to Quenqo.

We finally arrived in the community and were greeted by our host families, who threw flower petals on our heads as a welcome and introduced themselves. This would be the first time that Carpe Diem has stayed with this community and to commemorate, they invited us to break a beer bottle over the doorway of one of the houses with a hammer. Alex had the privilege of doing the honors, and thus, the week of homestays and cultural exchange had commenced. We had lunch and then were shown our rooms and in our houses. We said goodbye to Carmen and welcomed David who would be staying with us for the week. We ended our first day with a beautiful hike overlooking the village and a delicious dinner and cake to celebrate our arrival.

The next morning we woke up early and began our first day of work by helping herd llamas and sheep alongside our host families and some children from the community. The hike took us out to a beautiful lake and a series of rolling hills and larger mountains behind us, which were breathtakingly beautiful. Some of us decide to brave the cold and take a polar plunge in the lake, which wa quite an experience as it was absolutely freezing. The rest of the day was spent helping to construct a house, mixing cement, loading bricks and working in small groups digging trenches for waterlines and preparing our families gardens for the planting season.

Our next day in Quenqo was another early morning, where we all participated in a planting project in the community. We had three different groups stationed at different places painting murals or depictions of Incan ruins and animals. In my group, Marco Sarah Lee and I, all hiked up to a cliff that overlooked the entire town and did a rough sketch of what we saw and then transferred our drawings onto a larger piece of paper which we then colored. Another group painted a landscape of the lake that we had visited the day before, and the mountains in the background. The rest of the day was spent in groups again, tilling the land in greenhouses to prepare for planting lettuce and helping with any other outside chores. We then transitioned to a weaving workshop where we learned how the people make a lot of the wool and alpaca products through tedious and complicated work all done by hand. After, we had the opportunity to purchase some of their products – hats, gloves, scarfs and more. We then joined some members of the community for a soccer match, which lasted until dinner. By that time it was dark and we were all exhausted cold and hungry. We had our last dinner in Quenqo as a group and then began to pack for the next day.

We had an early breakfast as usual, and bid farewell to our host families, the people that had cooked for us and all the others had made our stay in Quenqo one to remember. Before we left though, they dressed us all in traditional clothing and played music which we all danced to. We all had so much fun and the people really appreciated us embracing the culture in this way. Before we left, we all said another goodbye and shared some of our gratitude to those that had made our visit possible. It was a very emotional farewell, especially for the community, us being the first group to stay a week with them.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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Fox's Farm In Mnfindi: A Photo Story

APRIL 9, 2018 | NKULA


A fierce game of badminton at the Fox’s Farm in Mufindi.


Maytal enjoying the lush landscape in Mufindi.


Kiara got muddy playing soccer in the rain with some boys at the children’s village in Mufindi.


Hanging out with Mr. Fox, a British man who founded the NGO we worked with in Mufindi.


There were really cute dogs.


Saying good bye to the kids and house mamas of Mufindi.


The group in our last day in Mufindi.


Ellie and Kiara enjoying some well earned milkshakes on our rest days in Njombe.


Music night at Ohana Amani.


Stacking wood for the winter (postcard worthy?)

Success Starts From Within

APRIL 9, 2018 | NKULA

Hola mis quieridos amigos,

Last week we finished staying at the Munfindi Children’s Home. It was amazing to experience bonding with the children and learning about the large presence of HIV/AIDS in the region. Tosca, Rachel and I even got the opportunity to play soccer in the rain with the older boys, best believe we were soaked by the end. While we did that, the rest of the group participated in the wonderful “baby power hour” at the nursery.

We also had the opportunity to celebrate Easter with a water balloon fight at the Fox’s farm. We learned about the history of the Fox’s NGO and how a tea farm transformed into an organization that works with vulnerable children, health care, and education.

While on a walk through the village, Rachel ran into another couple who has worked in the region for over 30 years. We had the amazing opportunity to visit their home and learn about their work. We even got to visit the clinic that they started, which is now fully-run by locals.

Throughout this week the concept of service has been brought up many times. We have learned that success starts from within and community and local empowerment is the key to improvement.

This week we are looking within and improving ourselves here in the Holistic Retreat and farm: Ohana Amani. Ohana Amani means “Peace Between Those Who Breathe Together.” As the trip continues we hope to carry with us these new tools we are learning here. I along with Mary Dudley, Tosca and Morgan have been working tirelessly to build an outdoor classroom. The rest of the group has been working in the garden weeding, turning compost, and eating as many fresh raspberries as they can find. Being here we have been eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown right here in our backyard! The farm to table lifestyle is INCREDIBLE in comparison to the normal rice, beans, and ugali.

From Phnom Pehn to Kratie

APRIL 5, 2018 | SABAI

The past few days our Sabai group has traveled to Cambodia! We arrived for our first few days in the bustling city of Phnom Penh. The city that holds just about 1.5 million, felt no bigger than a small town. We spent our first few days throughout the city, exploring the beautiful temples and the royal palace. We saw the extravagant Central market and walked along the beautiful Mekong river with all of its busy boats and all. Our last day, however, was a bit heavier on all of us. We visited Tuong Sleng (informally known as S-21) which served as a detention center for prisoners during the Khmer Rouge and to one of the 373 killing fields by the name of Chung Ek. A very trying day for our group emotionally, seeing the atrocities of the Cambodian genocide first hand. Below are some accounts from every group member, stating what stuck with them the most after processing what they had seen.

“Our guide was telling us that he was just waiting to die…he talked to his family every day saying ‘I do not know why I have not died yet’ He thinks everyday how lucky he is just to be alive.” Dominique

“When we went to Chung Ek, (killing fields) I was so annoyed hearing when Vietnam invaded, pushing out Khmer and Chinese regimes… and even the citizens were freed of Khmer rule, the UN still considered the Khmer Rouge as the as primary source of government. The Rouge was still able to send representatives to the UN and represent the citizens they continually oppressed. I found it very disrespectful.” Jeremy

“The tree that was used to beat babies against held from their ankles.” Ashley

“The fact that (S-21) was a school originally. It turned into a place of re-education and suffering.

Also, Seeing the pictures of just faces (of the prisoners)…because you know how they were treated and they were just thrown into the picture without really knowing what was going on and before they were tortured” Jon

“It was shocking the treatment of the women. I know how the men were treated horribly as well, but the women had to endure so much with terrible treatment.” Nitznee

“The fact that this place of torture and killing (S-21) was in the middle of the city…the tiles were scrubbed clean you could tell but there was stained blood underneath.” Alejandra

“Pol Pot was just…stupid. He had no plan for the future. It was just a diluted thought to help the nation when really there was no plan to fix it.” Ahmad

“We got the chance to talk to one of the survivors at the end and seeing his scars from being beaten. Although I could not understand the language (because it was being translated) I could see in his eyes the emotion and pain he bore in those words. It was very impactful being in the place of torture, but for me it was so much more emotional to see one of the survivors and talk with him” Carold

“What touched me most was seeing the detainment rooms for prisoners who were being tortured. They had a metal bed with shackles on it and continually tortured people in there to try to get answers out of them. You could just feel the bad energy in the room and the dark sorrow.” Chris

It was clearly a taxing day for the group as we saw many things that were difficult to witness. However, as a group we were able to understand how these atrocities happen throughout history and how important it is that they never happen again.

Next our group will travel to the river town of Kratie to be with CRD tours and see the Mekong dolphins!

After Phnom Penh, our group took an eight-hour bus ride to a small city called Kratie. Here our group spent our first afternoon relaxing in the tiny town and meeting with our guide for the upcoming days, Piyah. We embarked the following morning to head to a small island by the name of Koh Pdao. On our way to the island, we stopped to see how bamboo sticky rice is made. It was such a delicious snack and easily accessible. We then took a little boat over to the island and met with our new homestay families. This little island was home to about 200 people and they welcomed us into their homes with beds and bug nets (a necessity in South East Asia). In the afternoon, the group headed to the spirit house of the island and prayed for safety in our time there. After our blessing, we headed around a tour around the island to see what the beautiful island had to offer. The following day, we started by creating a planting bed for the chief of the village. Our group worked diligently to create a few rows of morning glory plants. After our time planting, our group had a relaxed afternoon before heading out on a boat to swim around in the Mekong river. We played in a part of the river with a slower current for a while and it counted for more than half of our group’s shower for those few days. On our way back from the river bank in which we swam, we stopped and watched the Mekong dolphins for a little while. These critically endangered creatures have two “pools” in which they are able to swim freely around and prohibit fishing within those borders. It was an unbelievable site to see a species with only 33 animals left of its kind in the wild. The experience was powerful to say the least. We got back to the island to watch a beautiful sunset across the river and have an amazing last dinner. We rode home on our bikes and had our last night with our homestay families. The following morning we departed the island to head back to our little hotel in Kratie. The group enjoyed a free afternoon and a group meditation in the evening. Next our group will head to the city of Siem Reap to see the amazing Angkor Wat!

Elephant Sanctuary and Trekking: A photo Story

APRIL 4, 2018 | SABAI


Sites along the trek.


During the trek, the group stayed at local villages along the way and met many kind hosts.


Navigating the rivers on a bamboo raft in Northern Thailand.


During the trek the group was able to visit an elephant sanctuary. The students enjoyed visiting and playing with the elephants, while learning about all of the ways elephants can be mistreated and how to help rescue elephants.


Adventures in Northern Thailand: A photo Story

APRIL 4, 2018 | SABAI



Participating in activities at a local festival in Northern Thailand. Celebrations include music, stilt walking, and fishing.


Hanging by the river waiting for the festivities to begin in Nan Thailand.


Puppy friend at the permaculture farm.

he group takes a photo break during their trek outside of Chiang Rai, Thailand.


Drinking out of bamboo cups at a break during the trek outside of Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Practicing Positive Thinking

APRIL 2, 2018 | NKULA

By Rebecca Klane

Halfway through. Never before have I had such a mix of awe that it has already been six weeks and frustration that we will not experience the comforts of home for another six. Time has passed quickly but it still seems like there is such a long way to go. Though not logical, this juxtaposition between positive and negative mindsets matches up well with the mixture of amazing moments and times of extreme difficulty we have had recently.

These past few weeks we have been watching a series of TED talks about the huge effects of positive thinking, so I’ll start with the positive times we have had since the last blog.

We safely made it to Mufindi Children’s Village which houses and educates children from traumatic backgrounds in a more organized way than SNEC. Since this area has such a high level of HIV, the Children’s Village also provides medication in the on-site clinic.

While here, we have spent quality time with the children playing games and starting art projects. The age range from babies to late teenagers makes it easy to both get our fix of holding and taking care of very young children in the nursery as well as partaking in more involved activities with the older kids. But everyone seems to love duck duck goose no matter their age.

The opportunity for more cultural immersion arose in the unexpected two-day homestay which gave us a preview of the area. The scenery is breathtaking, as it has been in most of the places we have visited. Across the valley, we can see hills covered in green and scattered with different crops.

The most uplifting and exciting moment, at least in my eyes, did not take place while here, but on the drive over. Spotting a giraffe, zebra, and elephant from the bus was so unexpected that Maytal cried of happiness.

Highlighting the positive is beneficial in multiple ways, but it does not cancel out the few negative moments we have endured. However, I will do my best to change my usually cynical mindset to find a silver lining.

Many of us have gotten sick since the last blog post. Stomach problems, extreme colds, and what I hope is the last and only case of malaria in the group have forced a few of us to spend days in bed. Illness hasn’t stopped us from having good times with each other when everyone returns from the day. Lots of card games and some amusing team building activities have kept even the sick smiling.

One of the most unpleasant experiences was the bus from Morogoro, not including the animal sightings of course. Supposed to arrive at the station before 9:30, we boarded at 11:00. Not a surprise as timeliness doesn’t seem to be part of the culture here. So the bus was late.

The bigger issue was it also kept breaking down. It was fixed every time eventually, but one of those times many of us had not returned from a bathroom break. Excited that his bus was finally functioning properly, the driver sped away without us and only hit the brakes after a full minute of us sprinting back and waving our arms, and our peers on board objecting loudly. Stopping for us caused the engine to break down again.

Another hardship: one time we were offered only chips (french fries) for dinner.

It is hard to find a reasonable silver lining in these situations, but I am trying to apply what we learned about “synthetic happiness” to the bigger picture. Instead of thinking of the countless nuisances the next half of the trip will bring, the better way to look at it is with gratitude that we still have six weeks of the awesome moments left.