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Saludos desde Guatemala!

Dear fellow adventurers,

I hope you are as excited as I am to explore the amazing country of Guatemala! Expect to see lush mountains and valleys, volcanoes, remote villages, sprawling, colorful markets, super friendly people, incredibly crafted trajes (the traditional dress of the indigenous people), a host of different cultures, and yes – poverty, trash, and sometimes despair. Guatemala, like no other country I have been to (especially considering its size), is extremely beautiful, diverse, and controversial. You’ll literally see and experience something new every other hour. While sometimes challenging, this ever-changing environment also provides for endless learning and almost dreamlike experiences.

Let me give you an example: Just this past weekend, I spent time in the capital, Guatemala City. I’ve been there many times, but always just in and out. People used to tell me, almost in unison: “Don’t go there, it’s way too dangerous!” “So much traffic!” “You’ll get robbed!” “Don’t walk around, always take a cab!” “It’s so ugly!” “Always stay at home at night!” And I believed it. But this time, I met up with a friend who’s from there, and she took me around, showed me cultural places, cafes, restaurants, parks, museums, and the whole time we were walking. And guess what: I felt safe, met interesting people, saw cool places and generally had a great time. Walking through the busy streets, I caught myself more than once smiling and shaking my head: “WHY have I not done this before? WHY did I let myself miss out on this?” The answer seems simple: I had misconceptions, I just didn’t know. And I went home, knowing. (Well, just a little bit more.)

While we won’t spend much time in Guatemala City, I know we’ll have similar experiences many, many times during our course. Together, we will explore, learn, and grow – from the people, the environment, each other, and ourselves. I just can’t wait!

My name is Jochen, and together with Parker and Katherine, I will be an instructor on our upcoming program. This will be my first course with Dragons, so we already have something in common!

I have lived at the shores of beautiful lake Atitlán for the past 4 ½ years, the last two of which I have been the social sciences teacher at a small high school in Panajachel. The whole school has only about 70 students, and the biggest grade consists of 12 students. We have a lot of fun in class chatting about the world in general and Guatemala in particular. Guatemala’s history is very complex and tragic, but also very interesting. I’m really passionate about this, so if you have any questions or would like recommendations for any type of resource (books, videos, movies, music…), please don’t hesitate to ask!

I am 31 years old and originally from Germany. I grew up in a little town surrounded by forest, where I spent a lot of my free time. (I am sure this is where my love for nature is rooted.) After high school, I studied World History, German Literature, and Middle Eastern Studies in Cologne, Germany. I have traveled quite a bit, mostly in Europe, the Middle East, and Central and North America. I also lived in Egypt and Lebanon for a few months each and in Vancouver, BC, for one year. I love to go hiking, read a good novel, swim in the lake, write, paint, draw, think about life, and be with my friends.

Okay, now I have talked a lot about myself – but how about you? I am so excited to get to know you all! A great way to start is for you to post a little something (or a lot) here on the Yak Board. This is also a good place for any questions you might have about our course or Guatemala in general. You can contact me directly through my personal email as well.

See you in just a couple of week! Nos vemos en unas pocas semanas!



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