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Instructor Intro

Sawadee Kha Nueva Dragons!

I hope this note finds you all well. I want to introduce you to our Yak Board page and to share a bit about your upcoming program and myself. As we get closer to your departure date, I want to invite you all to introduce yourselves on this Yak Board (see following post for more details) and use it as a place to post any questions you have. You will soon discover that this page is a great way to share, connect and build enthusiasm for the adventure that lies ahead. We’ll post up important notices here over the next weeks, so please begin the habit of checking your board regularly (you can subscribe to receive updates). And yes! We will use this page throughout your course to share your experience with loved ones back home (so family and friends, please check here often too!).

Ok, so a little about me: My mother is Thai and my dad is Australian, so I grew up navigating two seemingly opposite worlds with two completely different sets of rules on social etiquette and life. I majored in Ecology at university and I have been rather blessed to have work in most environments – from the desert to the sea – in the academic, private, non-government and government sectors. I have knowledge and experience in such fields as environmental conservation, international aid and development, forestry, sustainable agriculture, ecotourism, risk management and water resource development. Working with local and indigenous communities in Asia, Latin America and Australia I have learned that the answers to questions like: what is edible? Where’s the best place to sleep? Where does a national park begin? How does one cure a stomach ache? What is happiness? Etc., all depend on where you are and who you’re with.

What I have also learned to do during my time living/working abroad is 1) not to sweat the small stuff. And of course, 2) to laugh… a lot! Life isn’t so serious and a good sense of humour (especially the ability to laugh at one’s own self) is always appreciated. Living in Asia on and off for the past 10 years has shaped my identity. And, among the many lessons that I have learned in my professional and personal life, perhaps the most potent has been learning to live in the present. Asia can demand your full attention in any given moment and challenge the ways in which you view yourself and the world. I hope that you’re all ready to unplug from our oddly wired world and just have fun meeting new people, eating new foods and experiencing new places.

On our program you should be prepared for the potentiality of the following:  dramatic changes in schedule, a lack of personal space, phases of too little or too much free time, being hungry, being intensely full, being more tired than you’ve ever been in your life, having to wait for transportation, being asked to do things you’re not totally psyched about, not having clean laundry, not having to use a squat toilet, having to speak a different language, being laughed at, having sloppy diarrhoea… Having to take a cold, bucket shower, hiking until your thighs burn, eating unknowingly spicy food, having to drop your expectations… and more than anything and perhaps implicit in all stated above, having to be uncomfortable and hopefully learning to extract a valuable lesson in being so!

However, you can also be prepared for the inevitability of the following: feeling your heart spontaneously open to virtual strangers, seeing more smiles in a day than you can count, experiencing acts of kindness and generosity from people who have seemingly nothing, being moved to tears and laughter unexpectedly, hearing words of insight and wisdom from respected members of the community, being accepted into a family as if you were their biological child, playing silly games with the most enthusiastic and curious kids you’ve ever met, holding farm animals, stuttering through a new language, being spellbound by chanting monks, feasting your eyes on them most glorious green rice paddy fields, and filling your belly with copious amounts of delicious homemade food.

What lies ahead is hard to find words for. What is even more difficult is to be prepared for the journey. I imagine this note will find all of you at some stage of preparation. All I can say by way of advice goes beyond anything you can fit in your backpack. It’s important to start this sojourn with your loose ends tied up at home so that you can slip into the presence that awaits you. What I ask for you to all bring is an open heart and mind. Be ready to give up some control and let yourself flow. My role along with your other leaders is to provide a safe raft and a paddle to get you through the rapids.

We will be checking this Yak Board regularly, so again, this is the appropriate place to ask all of your pre-course questions. We will be posting an updated itinerary, pack list, pre-course assignments etc. to this board very shortly.

I hope that you are all healthy, happy and enjoying the beginning of summer.

In loving kindness,

Jessica Armstrong.