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Photo by Ryan Kost, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Month 1

A lot has changed since our arrival in Bolivia, the first, stomach-churning TRUFI ride to Coroico, and our preliminary, wholesome team-building exercises at the hostal Sol y Luna. First of all, I can eat a whole plate of Bolivian food without feeling sick, although sickness has by no means been absent from each and every one of our adventures. Secondly, all the guys have been discovering to a degree of shock and awe exactly what happens when they are apart from a razor for more than a week. While some of the more experienced Spanish speakers in the group have displayed an impressive capacity to listen carefully to, think about, and understand most people we have encountered, the rest have developed an incredible capacity to smile and respond “si!” to whatever is said to us. On our trekking trip outside of La Paz, some of us pushed our bodies further than we ever had before, while also transitioning from sweaty t-shirt weather to a blustery snow in under five minutes. In Enequella we had first-hand experience with death and what it means to be a carnivore as we helped one of the locals kill and butcher a lamb for our lunch, and we also got a taste for rural life, briefly befriending some local kids and learning about the schools and families. While there, we were also humbled, both by the tough physical labor of building the greenhouse, placing bricks and shoveling mud, and by losing a soda in a bet over our Gringos vs Locals soccer game. In El Alto, we had to adjust to living at the cold and altitude, but the view of the mountains from the Teleferico, getting to know our short-term host families, and seeing the performance by the young actors of Teatro Trono made it all worthwhile. The whole trip was made much easier once we each discovered our favorite candy bars, for me this is the Bolivian chocolate brand El Ceibo’s chocolate bar with peanuts. Also, after some particularly tough moments and flashes of homesickness, the students snuck a couple pizza dinners while the instructors’ backs were turned. And through all of this, the group has gotten closer and closer, learned to gel smoothly and been prepared individually and for each other in the face of each new experience. And while the seemingly never-ending stream of new people and places and experiences is now reaching its finale as we arrive in our final destination, the trust in each other and group strength that was developed over this stretch of time remains with us, as well as a belief that, while Los Dragones are together, we will always be ready, and we will always be learning.