Dear friends, seekers, and adventurers,
It is with great excitement that I welcome you to the Fall 2018 Guatemala semester with Dragons! In just over six weeks, you will embark on a journey that will challenge and change you in marvelous, unforeseen ways. I hope this message finds you enjoying these long summer days and beginning to look with excitement and intention towards your upcoming adventure in Central America.
With this message, I would like to introduce myself and share some valuable information about your course. As you begin to prepare for your program I invite you to use this space, the Yak Board, to begin to build community with your instructors and fellow students and voice any questions or concerns you may have. Both in the pre-course process and during course this will be an important venue for getting to know each other, sharing information, and then translating your journey to friends and family back home.
The Guatemala program is very close to my heart, and I honor each and every one of you for your courage in signing up for an experience of this kind. With Dragons we strive to step off the beaten path, to jump into the unknown and embrace new experiences and breathtaking landscapes. In this process you will be immersed in the magic and beauty of Central America. You will also discover valuable things about yourselves. I congratulate you in taking that important and brave first step!
I will be the Program Director on your upcoming semester, helping to guide your experience and serving as logistical support during your time abroad. In time you will get to know your fabulous instructors, but in the meantime I invite students and families to be in touch with me with any questions or concerns. I have been closely involved in the design of your course and would be more than happy to respond to questions about packing or reading ideas, what to expect in Central America, or just chat about the amazing places you will have the opportunity to visit.
Guatemala is a land of staggering beauty and profound lessons. I first spent time Central America as a young girl, and my early memories of captivating markets, cobblestone streets, rich Mayan traditions, and warm hospitality have left an indelible mark on my identity and life path. In Guatemala, the past and present exist alongside one another in a union that is both magical and at times mystifying, offering a unique window into a world that is changing rapidly and yet deeply linked to traditional systems of cultural exchange, indigenous identity, and connection to the natural world. You will have the opportunity to witness diverse facets of the Mayan world, drawing out lessons and experiences with global relevance.
During your time abroad, you will explore movements of resistance and resilience, work the land alongside farmers and conservationists, and connect deeply with local communities. Guatemala’s tumultuous past offers lessons in collective healing and action, United States foreign policy, and national identity in the most culturally and linguistically diverse nation in Central America. Time spent hiking through highland villages and steamy jungles, making tortillas with your homestay mamas, and exploring the mesmerizing rhythms and backdrops of Guatemala will captivate your heart and your senses. You will also learn valuable things about development processes, environmental sustainability and conservation, and the relevance of ancient Mayan traditions and world views in our modern world.
Our program is based on the sparkling shores of Lake Atitlan, in the Tz’utujil community of San Juan la Laguna. Here, days will be spent nestling into a rhythm in one community, deepening language skills, and developing independent study projects in weaving, the arts, agricultural traditions, and other themes. On Lake Atitlán you will support projects at the Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute, and then head farther afield to the highland towns around Queztaltenango, trek through the misty Cuchumatanes range, live in remote villages heavily affected by the armed civil conflict, and potentially hike to the sacred Mayan temples of Peten in the northern rainforest region. Your culminating expedition phase may include explorations of ethnic diversity across the border in Chiapas, to be planned and determined together as a group. Along the way, you will develop skills as responsible travelers and have opportunities for increased independence and leadership as the program progresses.
A bit about me:
I have been captivated by the Latin American landscape since childhood, and the sights, sounds and teachers (both human and natural) of Central America have offered me some of the most profound revelations of my life. While I have since built a permanent home in the Andes, I am often pulled back to my time in Guatemala and the interwoven threads that connect so much of the Latin American landscape. In addition to my work with Dragons, I have worked as a Program Coordinator for the Foundation for Sustainable Development, participated in a range of sustainable development projects across Latin America, and led experiential learning programs on three continents. After completing my Masters degree in Development Studies I moved to Bolivia in 2009, and where I live with my husband and young daughter and oversee all of our Latin America programming. This fall I will be supporting the Central and South America groups from Bolivia, while staying closely connected to our administrative team in Boulder. The year 2018 marks my eight year with Dragons, and this work continues to nourish my enduring passion for learning, adventure, and personal discovery.
A magical world awaits you; a world of endless beauty and adventure, of life-long friendships and personal discovery, of shamans and ceremony, mountains and laughter, of volcanic peaks and profound questions. This world awaits you, but it is also a journey of your own making. I encourage you to make the most of this dazzling opportunity. Your time on course will be both a gift and a challenge. It is my hope that each of you may embrace this gift with humility and gratitude, with an open heart and eager mind, and with intentionality for a powerful and successful experience. I assure you, you will not regret it.
Latin America Program Director