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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Hola queridos Dragones

Hola queridos Dragones. It is a pleasure to welcome you to this Andes and Amazon Fall Semester.

My name is Jhasmany Saavedra and I will be traveling with you this semester as one of your instructors. I am Bolivian and I am really proud to have been born in this amazing land that you are going to visit and enjoy very soon.

The Andes and Amazon semester takes place in the heart of South America, not only geographically but also culturally. My entire life, I have traveled and lived in different regions of Bolivia and more recently I started traveling in Peru. I have found that the culture shared between these two countries is impressive. The Andes mountain range and the Amazon create a unique mixture of landscapes and climates, that at the same time give birth to different cultures and ways to see the world in both Peru and Bolivia.

Bolivia and Peru are complex countries and understanding this complexity is one of my life passions. Deep issues such as poverty, child labor, gender inequality, marginalized indigenous communities, among others, are evident in these countries. However, cultural richness and the people’s resilience are something that keeps amazing me. Studying and understanding these singularities has turned me in a passionate social justice advocate. I love to learn and teach about ways to create a more just global society.

I believe that the power and the energy of young people are incredible and you will be using that energy in the best possible way, traveling and learning. I worked with children and teenagers for the past 9 years, and some of my best friends are young people, who have taught me a lot and at the same time have given me the opportunity to teach them. This is what I expect from this experience, that you and I can share knowledge, learn from each other and from the communities and individuals that we are going to encounter during these three months.

Being an instructor for Where There Be Dragons is an amazing experience, which allows me to see my country from a different perspective. The Dragon´s students are some of the most interesting people I have met in my life. Their questions and curiosity on social and environmental issues give me the opportunity to do some research and learn more about important issues. This is my 6th program working for Dragons and I have come to really appreciate each one of my experiences and more importantly all the people that I have gotten to meet. This includes of course every single one of my students and co-instructors, who I consider some of my closest friends.

Take the coming weeks to prepare yourself in any ways that you feel are important to you. It can be physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or any other way that you would like for this experience. Once we start this course, be ready to “let the people and stories and landscapes of the Andes and Amazon get under your skin, and expect the unexpected!” as Leah Erlbaum, a fellow Dragon´s instructor, would say.

While we all wait for the moment we will see each other in the Cusco Airport, please read the Yak board, important information will be continually posted here for you. If you have any questions, please post it to the yak board. I promise you that the answers will be helpful for more than one of your peers. You can also contact me by email at Jhasmany@gmail.com. I will see you soon where the earth meets the sky. Get ready for a once in a lifetime experience!

Jhasmany