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Photo by Ryan Kost, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Saludos de Mateo Lynn- Onsite Director

Imaynalla Kasakinchej Dragones?

Life shows us many paths, and I am so grateful that your chosen path is to visit Bolivia! The Andes of Bolivia, and the places and communities you will be a part of soon, have shaped my life path in so many deep and inspiring ways. I hope you will be equally engaged, challenged and inspired by this spectacular and complex place.  In a short time, we will come together as a group and live through many challenges, inspirations, insights and joys along our journey. From the glaciers of the sacred Cordilleras de los Andes, to the dense jungles and mighty waterways of the Amazon River basin, we will explore an incredible range of biologically and culturally diverse landscapes. The geographies and ecologies we will be in are deeply tied to the social and cultural landscapes of Bolivia. As we journey through this fascinating part of our planet, we will have the opportunity to be in the presence of musicians, activists, farmers, educators, spiritual practitioners, miners, politicians, artists, dancers, students, and others who will share their unique perspectives on these awe-inspiring places.

I am so excited and grateful for the opportunity to work alongside you as we learn and teach each other about living lives of integrity, peace, and passion. As we embark upon this adventure together, you will come to know more about the path that has brought me to call Bolivia my second home and a place that I care deeply about. I am originally from South Carolina, in the Southern United States. As I struggled during my teenage years through my sexual identity, being from the South was challenging in many complex ways. While I still struggle to understand the multifaceted and often discriminatory cultural frameworks of the South, I feel at home there and find comfort in knowing so many people fighting against systems of oppression. Just as I have encountered a network of supportive and courageous people to call my friends and colleagues in the South, I have encountered the same throughout Bolivia.

Last year, I finished my master’s degree studies in Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation. I am a peacebuilder, an educator, a facilitator, a writer, an activist for justice, and a wanna-be poet/storyteller/musician. The past few years I have been working with the idea of encountering each other as human beings and the power that building networks of global and local communities can have to transform our world. The community we are about to come together to create will become friends who you will be connected to for the rest of your lives. I believe that simple encounter and connection is powerful and has the ingredients to impact the world in a positive and beautiful way.

I am so excited to “encounter” each of you and understand what you are passionate and curious about. I have worked several different Dragons programs in Bolivia and Peru and have been connected to this work since 2013. I am consistently blown away by the insights and perspectives of students that choose to come to Bolivia, and cannot wait for you all to become my new teachers. The nine months you will spend in Bolivia is so much more than a foreign travel trip. It is so much more than marking off a few pages in your passport. My hope is that it will be full of wonder, and be affirming and life-changing for each of you.

As mentioned, I call Bolivia my second home, and I lived there from 2005-2014. Our team here in Bolivia will provide you with a wealth of knowledge about the areas we will visit. You will explore the history, culture, languages, social movements, economies, and many other topics pertinent to current events in the region. As we understand more about the cultures and geographies of Bolivia, we will also turn our focus to the connections and impacts this learning has for the communities that we come from. As we journey together, we will all experience moments of culture shock, and this can often produce frustration and challenge. We travel not to change or pass judgment on the cultures we visit, but to understand ourselves and our local communities better.

Enjoy your time before heading off. Hang out with good friends and family and talk to them about your upcoming adventure. Read about Bolivia and South America in general, and look at videos and pictures (we will be posting some more resources soon). Get excited for the incredible journey you are about to embark upon, but also remain present with yourself and those around you. I know that is easier said than done when there is a once-in-a-lifetime journey coming up!

Bolivia awaits you! Reciprocity or Ayni is one of the principal values in Andean culture. It means exchanging part of yourself for mutual benefit of the community. In the coming weeks, think humbly about what you have to offer to the world and what you will give to the communities we visit and to our group. Each person on earth (including each of you) has a story and a unique part of the truth. It is my hope that you will come (and leave) the course exploring and trying to understand your part of the truth.

Un abrazo,

Mateo