Dear friends, seekers, and adventurers,
It is with great excitement that I welcome you to the Fall 2017 Guatemala & Nicaragua semester with Dragons! In five weeks, you will embark on a journey that will challenge and change you in marvelous, unforeseen ways. I hope this message finds you enjoying these long summer days and beginning to look with excitement and intention towards your upcoming adventure in Central America.
With this message, I would like to introduce myself and share some valuable information about your course. As you begin to prepare for your program I invite you to use this space, the Yak Board, to begin to build community with your instructors and fellow students and voice any questions or concerns you may have. Both in the pre-course process and during course this will be an important venue for getting to know each other, sharing information, and then translating your journey to friends and family back home.
The Guatemala & Nicaragua program is very close to my heart, and I honor each and every one of you for your courage in signing up for an experience of this kind. With Dragons we strive to step off the beaten path, to jump into the unknown and embrace new experiences and breathtaking landscapes. In this process you will be immersed in the magic and beauty of Central America. You will also discover valuable things about yourselves. I congratulate you in taking that important and brave first step!
I will be the Program Director on your upcoming semester, helping to guide your experience and serving as logistical support during your time abroad. In time you will get to know your fabulous instructors, but in the meantime I invite students and families to be in touch with me with any questions or concerns. I have been closely involved in the design of our course and would be more than happy to respond to questions about packing or reading ideas, what to expect in Central America, or just chat about the amazing places you will have the opportunity to visit.
Guatemala and Nicaragua are lands of staggering beauty and profound lessons. I first spent time Central America as a young girl, and my early memories of captivating markets, cobblestone streets, rich Mayan traditions, and warm hospitality have left an indelible mark on my identity and life path. In Guatemala, the past and present exist alongside one another in a union that is both magical and at times mystifying, offering a unique window into a world that is changing rapidly and yet deeply linked to traditional systems of cultural exchange, indigenous identity, and connection to the natural world. You will have the opportunity to witness diverse facets of the Mayan world, drawing out lessons and experiences with global relevance.
In Nicaragua, you will explore movements of resistance and resilience, work the land alongside farmers and conservationists, and connect deeply with local communities. The vibrant political legacy of the Nicaraguan people offers lessons in collective action, United States foreign policy, and national identity in a shifting socio-political landscape. Time spent working the land, making tortillas with your homestay mamas, and exploring the mesmerizing rhythms and backdrops of the Nicaraguan landscape will captivate your heart and your senses. You will also learn valuable things about yourself and your place in the world along the way.
Your journey will begin in Nicaragua, at a nature reserve outside the city of Estelí. You will then journey by foot through rolling hills and lush greenery to your first homestay in the rural highlands. Your weeks in Nicaragua will be marked by explorations of diverse landscapes and ecosystems, intimate homestays, individualized language instruction, and a service learning initiative at an environmental research and education center tucked away between the rushing rivers and waterfalls of Nicaragua’s cloud forest.
Heading north to Guatemala, the next chapter of your itinerary will take you to the Mayan temples of Mesoamerica’s colorful past. In the highlands, you will settle into another extended homestay on the sparkling shores of Lake Atitlan, in the Tz’utujil community of San Juan la Laguna where we have a program base. Here, days will be spent nestling into a rhythm in one community, deepening language skills, and developing independent study projects in weaving, the arts, agricultural traditions, and other themes. Your journey through Guatemala will also include trekking through the Cuchumatanes range, a rural community stay, and opportunities for increased independence and leadership as the program progresses.
A bit about me:
I have been captivated by the Latin American landscape since childhood, and the sights, sounds and teachers (both human and natural) of Central America have offered me some of the most profound revelations of my life. While I have since built a permanent home in the Andes, I am often pulled back to my time in Guatemala and the interwoven threads that connect so much of the Latin American landscape. In addition to my work with Dragons, I have worked as a Program Coordinator for the Foundation for Sustainable Development, participated in a range of sustainable development projects across Latin America, and led experiential learning programs on three continents. After completing my Masters degree in Development Studies I move to Bolivia in 2009, and where I live with my husband and young daughter and oversee all of our Latin America programming. This fall I will be supporting the Central and South America groups from Bolivia, and while staying closely connected to our administrative team in Boulder. The year 2017 marks my seventh year with Dragons, and this work continues to nourish my enduring passion for learning, adventure, and personal discovery.
A magical world awaits you; a world of endless beauty and adventure, of life-long friendships and personal discovery, of shamans and ceremony, mountains and laughter, of volcanic peaks and profound questions. This world awaits you, but it is also a journey of your own making. I want to encourage you to make the most of this dazzling opportunity. Your time on course will be both a gift and a challenge. It is my hope that each of us may embrace this gift with humility and gratitude, with an open heart and eager mind, and with intentionality for a powerful and successful experience. I assure you, you will not regret it.
Latin America Program Director