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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Instructor Introduction

你好estudiantes!

Greetings from Kashgar (喀什, قەشقەر), Xinjiang, China. Located in the western most part of China, Kashgar is actually geographically closer to the capital of Syria, Damascus than it is to Beijing. Kashgar and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are beautiful yet very complex places. Too complex to dive into here but I’d love to chat with you all about it this spring, in Bolivia and Peru! My name is Zack Siddall and I will be one of your 3 instructors this spring. I just finished up a summer and fall semester with Dragons here in China and while I loved my time here I’m super excited to be back in the land of the Andes.

I’ve been working for Dragons since 2013, all over the world but predominantly in South America. This will be my 6th Andes & Amazon semester. My journey with Dragons started far, far away from both China and Latin America in the remote village of Kanyanza in the Muhanga district of Rwanda. I was serving in the US Peace Corps as an English and computer sciences teacher when I was connected to Dragons through a friend. I spent 3 fateful days with the Rwanda summer 2012 group and I was hooked. After my service I applied for Dragons and have been working with them ever since.

In these weeks leading up to when we meet you in Bolivia 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 mid January 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. Check the Yak Board regularly for important updates.

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 Bolivia & Peru, 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 Latin America. Practice your Spanish. Get out and get active in preparation for our treks. This is your trip, own it! We’re so excited to meet you in just a little over a month!

*What are your passions? Bring them with you on this course! Bring a musical instrument (maybe don’t bring a piano…more like ukulele/harmonica sized instruments). Bring your camera. Bring a desire/willingness to dance, sing, do yoga/meditation, etc. Love history? Studying foreign languages? Service to others? Protecting the environment? Bring that passion for learning and activism! Don’t have any hobbies, or perhaps always wanted to learn a new skill? Use this time to try something new. Come in fresh to this experience. Be silly, be vulnerable, be authentically you! That’s the beauty of Dragons courses. This is a time to push yourselves, grow, take risks and become the men and women you want to be. Personally I love to cook and to make short films. I’m excited to make delicious back country meals while trekking and to dive into Peruvian food culture with you all. Speaking of short films here are a couple videos I took this summer and fall that attempt to capture the complexity and beauty of China.

Shanghai, ErFoSi

Tibetan Village homestay (Sakor), Tibetan village homestay (Dogarmo)

Beijing to Liqu

I’m so excited to meet you all soon and to begin this epic adventure together!

Zack