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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.

First assignment: Introduce yourselves and your connections!

Hola estudiantes,

The course is less than two weeks away! We hope that you have been keeping up with all of the info posted to the Yak board and able to connect with one of us on the phone. If you haven’t, please make sure that you do. There are many logistics that need to come together to allow us to have the deep, immersive experience that we seek.

With most of those practical details settled, we can focus on bigger questions. Actually, I think that I started with some of those bigger questions – I’m still not packed or even sure that I have all the things that I want to bring but got too distracted by a cool surprise to me. Check it out.

I have never been to Bolivia and am excited to check out a new place. As I have been telling my family and friends about the upcoming trip, I discovered that I could know Bolivia far better than I do, even without going anywhere near the physical territory – over 100,000 Bolivians and Bolivian-Americans live in my home region of northern Virginia!

So far I have gotten a Quechua lesson from my mom’s friend from Cochabamba, some recommendations for nearby Bolivian restaurants from my sister’s friend, and an invitation to an annual Bolivian cultural festival this Sunday from every member of the local Bolivian community that I have talked to. I am very curious and excited.

Sometimes people and lands can seem so distant from us in some ways yet be very close to us in other ways. The Dragons experience intends to push you to question this paradox in a way that you haven’t questioned it before. We want all of us to be the best global citizens that we can be.

This challenge underlies our first big question to you all. 1) How are you connected to Bolivia and Peru from your home? Take some time to look around you with this question in mind. Maybe you know someone from Bolivia too. Maybe there is a Peruvian restaurant in your neighborhood. Maybe you have some Bolivian artwork in your house or a good that was MADE IN PERU. Just the other day I enjoyed an avocado grown in Peru in my parents’ house in Virginia. Go figure.

2) Learn as much as you can about how this element of Bolivian or Peruvian culture made its way from there to you and then, most importantly, teach us! Here you have read some of what I have learned about my home’s connection to the people and lands that will host us as guests for these three months. Now, it is your turn to tell us about your connection to them.

Speaking of connections to homes, you may have noticed that the White House is expected to announce decisions for the DACA executive order and TPS policy on Tuesday. These decisions, whatever they may dictate, will presumably affect how more than one million people in the USA understand the concept of home.

This fact inspires our third big question: how do you feel connected to your home? 3) Tell us a little bit about how you define your home and something(s)  that makes you feel at home! Maybe you will share about the bed you are used to sleeping in, any place you can relax and feel safe, the taste of a certain food, or the hug of a loved one 🙂 Maybe you will define your home as planet earth! Why? Again, teach us.

And one more thing, include a photo to go along with your stories!

TL;DR 1) find a connection to Bolivia or Peru around you, 2) tell us the story of that connection, 3) tell us what home is to you, and 4) choose a photo!

To inspire you, I leave you here a link to a music video by one of my favorite bands. Enjoying watching and listening to these Peruvians sing about some of their passions for their home!

¡Ya falta poquito, queridxs!

Most sincerely,

Brian *

* on behalf of the complete I-team 🙂 I told Itzá and Raquel this same story and asked if I could craft the first assignment from it. They said go for it!