你们好 学生们 and greetings from the city of eternal spring, Kunming. Kunming is located in Yunnan province in southwest China. It shares its southern border with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam and is home to some 25 officially recognized ethnic minority groups, making it an exciting blend of traditions and cultures. My name is Zack Siddall and it is my distinct pleasure to be one of your 3 instructors this fall here in China. I just wrapped up the travel intensive 4 week Yangtze River program which starts in Shanghai and makes its way all the way to Xining on the Tibetan Plateau!
My journey with Dragons started a long time ago in a village far far away from China. In 2011-2012 I served in the US Peace Corps in the tiny village of Kanyanza in the Muhanga district of Rwanda. Through a friend I was connected with the Dragons Rwanda summer program. I spent 3 fateful days with that group and was hooked. Upon returning home I applied to Dragons and have been working close to full time in the field and office from the summer of 2013 until now. My time with Dragons has taught me about the complex histories and cultures of 7 countries, taught me some Kinyarwanda, Spanish and Chinese and most importantly taught me about myself in ways I never would have imagined. That’s why I love this job because you’re always learning and growing.
Similar to Bennett (thanks Bennett and Mercedes for your intros!) I was initially drawn to China through a passion for martial arts. I first came to China in the fall of 2016 (during a short break from back to back Dragons courses) to study Kungfu in the small village of Qufu (the birthplace of Confucius). We say small village but the city center has 60,000 inhabitants and the administrative region has some 650,000 residents! Welcome to the country that makes up almost 20% of the world’s population! During my training I became fascinated by this complex culture with its 5000 year old history.
In these weeks leading up to when we meet you in Beijing know that we are here for you, ready to answer any questions you may have. Please post your introductions here on our Yak Board so we can get to know each other a bit before our adventure begins. In about 2 weeks my team and I will be calling you but until then please don’t hesitate to email me any questions you may have at [email protected]. You can also post said questions here on our Yak Board and we’ll respond as soon as possible.
One final note: A program like this takes courage. You’re throwing yourself into another culture, perhaps with a language you do not speak (yet). My team and I (along with our friends in China, local guides/teachers/mentors, homestay families, etc) will do everything in our power to make this a transformative, educational, fun and safe adventure for you. However, we need your help. In these next couple of weeks begin to prepare yourself for this trip. Start reading the materials and recommended books/articles provided to you by Dragons. Read news about what’s happening in China. Practice your Mandarin. This is your trip, own it! We’re so excited to meet you in just a few short weeks!
*I love to make short films. Here are a couple videos I took this summer that attempt to capture the complexity and beauty of China.