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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

¡Hola queridos dragones!

¡Hola queridos estudiantes!

Espero que todos van bien y que sus veranos han sido relajantes y placenteros. As for me, I have been visiting family during these short weeks that I have before our course in Bolivia and Peru commences. I’m currently visiting my sister in the state of Colorado and as I enjoy the landscapes of a different kind of mountains than we will have the privilege of enjoying in Bolivia and Peru, I can’t help but think of the similarities. In this part of Colorado–Gunnison–the Ute Indians once called home. They had a special relationship with the earth and they made sure to practice a balance of giving and taking from Mother Earth in terms of the well-trodden trails they traversed, the medicines they extracted from native plants, and the way they sustained themselves in general with food, clothing, and shelter. Just as the Ute with their land, my experience in Peru, where I have now had the opportunity to travel to twice, has taught me that pachamama (Mother Earth) is our hostess and we are only just visitors in this sacred land. The people that practice these words are the ones that practice equilibrio, or balance, and a sense of gratitude.

I wish for all of you this sense of balance as you are getting ready to embark on a remarkable journey through some very diverse and extraordinary places–both in the heights of the Andes and the depths of the Amazon. I hope that you can find a balance between whatever present moment you find yourself and the future you are about to create. And so, I invite you all to review your histories and the places you originate from as we only know where we are going when we know whence we have come. Or in the words of an eloquent James Baldwin, “Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”

And on that note, I’ll let you all know a little of my background:

When I am not on an adventure with Dragons, I call the state of California home. I’ve mostly lived there since graduating college in Indiana, and most recently call Berkeley, California (or the Bay Area) one of my many homes. One of my other homes is South America, and Argentina in particular. I lived there until I was twelve and actually passed through Bolivia before moving to Argentina. My family and I lived with a host-family for six months when I was three. I’ve remained connected to South America as much as possible as an adult including a semester studying abroad in Ecuador and doing my teaching practicum in southern Argentina as an undergraduate. I enjoy the culture, the language, and the customs and try to incorporate these as much as possible into my life in the U.S. That said, one very important part of who I am are the people that I am connected to. The communities that I have encountered, befriended, worked with Stateside, as well as when I am in other areas of the world. Human connection sustains me and this is why I have always been an educator.

I just finished leading a summer course in Peru for Dragons so this will be my second course. I am beyond excited to meet all of you and hope that you all are excited too. Please feel free to contact us instructors on the Yak board or personally as well. My email is [email protected] and I would love to hear from you whenever you like!

Abrazos,

Raquel