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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Intructor Introduction

Hello Dragoncitos,

Les escribo de las montañas del noroeste de Guatemala. Aquí en los atardeceres las nubes bajan a rozar las montañas con su algodonosa blancura y el cielo se ve más pequeño y te sientes más cerca del firmamento. En las noches hay un silencio que se escucha y te levantás con él en la mañana también. Y así siento que me ha tocado Guatemala estas últimas semanas.

I write you all from the mountains in the northwest of Guatemala. Here, the afternoons bring clouds that come down to brush the mountains with their cottony whiteness and the sky looks smaller and you feel closer to the heavens. In the evenings there is a silence that you can hear and you wake up to it in the morning as well. And this is how I feel Guatemala has touched me in these last weeks here.

As a Dragons instructor in South America I had the opportunity to lead a course in Guatemala this summer with two other Guatemalan instructors. It was a pleasure to get to know this country with the expertise of my two colleagues and a very eager student group. I had the chance to stay longer and I am currently here getting to know how the countryside feels, looks, and tastes and how the people inhabit this sweeping green landscape with ease and appreciation as well as with a hint of struggle rooted in insecurity and loss. It has been humbling, enlightening, and a learning experience that I hope you all will have the opportunity to experience in Peru and Bolivia when we travel together next month.

A little bit about myself: I have instructed courses for the last year and a half and have had the privilege of leading two other Andes and Amazon courses so I am excited to guide you all to places that have hollowed out a special place in my heart. I hope that after our time together you will feel the same. As for my experience in the Andes, I first came to Bolivia when I was three years old and my family lived with a host family in Cochabamba. My parents were learning Spanish. I don’t remember this particular experience but in my homestays since I have felt tremendous care and respect for all those who host a foreigner in their home and for those extranjeros that get up the nerve to stay in the home of someone they will unavoidably learn leaps and bounds from.

From Bolivia my family moved to Argentina and I spent most of my growing up years there. Since growing up in Argentina I have returned to South America frequently and I consider it home.

My professional background is as an educator (my undergrad and Masters are both in teaching with an emphasis in intercultural and cross cultural perspectives) and I enjoy appreciating and questioning what is around me and sharing this appreciation and questioning with students like yourself! Sometimes it is only when we get outside of our comfort zones and the places that we have always called home that we learn about ourselves and the world around us with much more intention and curiosity. I know that the semester that is just ahead of you is something that might be quite new and took a lot of courage to sign up for. I invite you to dive into this new experience head-on and I hope that Randall, Elly, and I can help you with this new challenge as best we can.

Apart from being an educator I also enjoy stories and poetry and I dabble in the creation of the same. I hope that I can share this joy with you during our time together.

An amazing author from the Global South, Eduardo Galeano, writes:

“Son las historias que permiten, convertir lo pasado en presente y lo distante en cercano, lo que está lejano en algo próximo, posible, visible.”

“Stories allow the transformation of the past into the present and the distant into the proximate, what is far away something that is nearby, possible, visible.”

What I think Galeano meant by this for your experience is simply to listen and to share. As you prepare for our time together I know it can be rather nerve-wrecking, anxiety provoking, and exciting all mixed up in one emotion. Or maybe you haven’t given our semester too much thought yet. I invite you to investigate, through stories or otherwise, how you can make what has prepared you for this journey something more present and tangible, think about how you can make the distant reality something closer to home. Get out there and speak some Spanish, try a Peruvian or a Bolivian dish, read a book that is related to our travels, watch a movie that has an Andean or Amazonian play a role (documentary or otherwise), talk to someone about your upcoming adventure.

Wishing you all the best as you prepare for our time together!

If you have any questions or concerns feel free to reach out. Probably the best way to communicate with me is through email: [email protected]. If that sounds too intimidating, contact a Dragons alumni that you have listed in the packet you should have gotten in the mail. It’s always nice to hear from someone that has already been through it before.

Un abrazo y hasta pronto,

Raquel

p.s. The first photo is of me in the Sacred Valley of Peru and the second is of me by the Pacific Ocean in California where I called home for many years.