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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Welcome queridos estudiantes

Hola queridos Dragones. It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Andes and Amazon program.

My name is Jhasmany Saavedra and I have vast experience working the Andes and Amazon program. This is the 9th program that I will be leading in Peru and Bolivia, where I am originally from. The Andes mountain range and the Amazon create a unique mixture of landscapes and climates that at the same time give birth to different cultures and ways to see the world. I have come to meet many people from different cultural groups that I consider to be my friends.

One of my passions leading these courses is to learn about ancient cultures that developed in this region. I was surprised to learn that the coast of Peru is one of the seven areas in the world where culture developed independently. Lake Titicaca was the first place where the potato was domesticated which is a crop that has changed many cultures. When we think about this area of the world, we usually think only about the Inca culture, but there have been and STILL ARE many other indigenous groups living in this region.

I also love the chance to see all of these amazing places in the mountains, and the jungle. I have felt deeply inspired when my students and I have been able to see an entire mountain range from the top of a mountain or touch a thousands of years old glacier. In the jungle, the change to see trees that are there for hundreds of years, the almost magical equilibrium that plants and animals create, and the ways that the rivers shape the landscape are always touching for me. All of these moments have been the most spiritual experiences in my life.

My students on the Dragons courses have been some of the most inspiring young people that I have ever met. I admire their longing for learning and connection to this land and its people. What I hope from this experience is that you and I can learn together from the places, the people, the communities, the animals, and even the plants that we will encounter during our trip. I am really excited to see what your questions are and the curiosity that will make me gain more knowledge.

Being an instructor for Dragons has given me the opportunity to develop a community of very passionate and inspiring people. My co-instructors, local contacts, people in the administration and my students represent, at this moment, the people that inspire me the most. I am really excited to introduce you to some of these amazing people!

Get ready to have an amazing experience in some of the most fascinating places in the world, with the most beautiful views and the most amazing teachers (the local people, who will be our best teachers). I am sure that we are going to enjoy this experience and make many meaningful memories together.

Take the coming weeks to prepare yourself in any way that you feel is important to you. It can be physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or any other way that you would like for this experience. As one of my co-instructors would say: once we start this course, be ready to “let the people and stories and landscapes get under your skin, and expect the unexpected!”

While we all wait for the moment when we will see each other, please read the Yak board; important information will be continually posted here for you. If you have any questions, please post it to the yak board. I promise you that the answers will be helpful for more than one of your peers. You can also contact me by email at [email protected] I will see you soon where the earth meets the sky. Get ready for a once in a lifetime experience!