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

Let’s Dive In! Pre-Course Assignments

Queridos Dragones,

This is one the last big Yaks that we instructors are going to post before the course. Thanks for reading this and all the other ones! Now it’s your turn.

With 3 weeks until we meet up in Cusco, we have a collection of small assignments for you. We invite you to engage in the themes we’re going to be learning about so that we’re all on the same page and super excited when the course begins. If you spread it all out, all of these assignments should take only about 10-15 minutes a day over the next week or so. Please make time for all of this. It’s a bummer if people arrive in Cusco without having put some thought into some of the themes that will inform our learning over the course of the semester – it’s letting down your peers to not have the context to begin the course on the same level.

Assignment #1: Post an introduction Yak!

We want to know who you are. Please post a short introduction Yak of yourself answering the following questions:

  1. Introductions tend to go the same every time, like this: “My name is Evo Morales and I’m from La Paz, Bolivia. I went to school at Agrarian Humanistic Technical Institute of Orinoca. I’ve never been to Peru before but I’ve been to Costa Rica, where people also speak Spanish…” So, without telling us where you are from, where you go to school, your major life achievements, or where you have traveled, please tell us briefly: who are you?
  2. What are the things you are most eager to experience and to learn about on this course?
  3. What role does this course play in your life?
  4. Make sure to post a picture of yourself with the Yak.

Assignment #2: Talk with one of your instructors!

One of us will be getting in touch with you to arrange a phone call very soon. We know you’ve been talking with people at Dragons a lot, but now you can talk with the people you’re actually going to be traveling with. We like to hear your voices, give you a chance to ask questions, and get to know each other a little. Please check your email so we can schedule a call.

Assignment #3: Watch These Videos!

  1. TED talk: National Geographic’s Wade Davis discussing vanishing cultures and why they matter
  2. TED talk: Sir Ken Robinson’s “Changing Educational Paradigms” 
  3. “Latinoamérica” by Calle 13 (with so many bonus points if you learn all the lyrics)

Assignment #4: Read These Articles!

We don’t have too many mandatory readings during this semester, but we would love to get people on the same page with these readings:

  1. The Hold Life Has, Chapter One: Water, Stones, and Light: A Cosmology (an introduction to Andean Cosmovision)
  2. “How The Potato Changed The World”, from Smithsonian magazine

Assignment #5: Brush up on your Spanish!

Five minutes a day of thinking, writing, speaking, or listening to Spanish goes a long way to warm up the parts of the brain that like to adapt to new grammatical structures, sounds, and words. Maybe just listen to the same Spanish song every day with a sheet of lyrics and start to sing along. Even if you have never spoken a word of Spanish, hearing and saying those sounds will help get the ball rolling. Activate those neural pathways!

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Finally, only for those of you taking the accredited Regional Seminar for college credit,

Regional Seminar Assignment #1:

Read the introduction and chapter 2 of this book on American history.

Based on this reading plus the articles and videos above, write a beautiful ±2,000 word personal essay, lyrical essay, essay with poetry interspersed, or epic poem responding to as much of the following prompt as you like. This assignment is due on our first day in Peru. Your goal is not to create a dry, desiccated work of analysis that nobody will want to lay eyes on. It’s to create an analysis of facts and emotions, to express the ideas and feelings together in a way that informs a complete view of what we’re learning not as computers that crunch the words and numbers we read, but as real people. As travelers with Dragons, our academic, expressive, and personal experiences will begin to blend together into something worth sharing with the world.

Lyrical essay prompt #1: It’s easy to think that we come from a neutral context when learning in a university setting. Is my academic background neutral or biased? Is it possible for the academic system in the United States to be completely unbiased when it comes to cultures that are foreign to the entire origin of academia and its goals? What context am I coming from? How do my cultural upbringing, my relationship with the language(s) I speak, my religious and spiritual background, and the myths of my home country influence the way I relate to the world? What is the role of academia in the face of what has happened and what continues to unfold in the world, especially in Latin America?

Un abrazo fuerte,

Los instructores: Sandy, Jhasmany, & Jeff

P.S. Stay tuned for a tentative itinerary Yak as we work out logistical details in the next few weeks.