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Photo by Grace Powell, South America Semester.

First Few Days

Dear families,

It’s been an incredible first few days in Bolivia. This morning, after a two hour walk around the property — excellent pre-trek training! — we said goodbye to Don Jose and his family who have been our gracious hosts these first few days in country. At the Centro Ecologico San Antonio Aritumayu that Don Jose founded in 2008, our students oriented to the course; they learned basic health and safety rules, assumed student roles that they will play out over the next two weeks, enjoyed wonderful food, spent time water coloring the lush grounds, journaled and discussed the unwritten history of the Western Hemisphere pre-1492 in a fishbowl-style seminar that many students said “felt a lot like global”. It’s been wonderful to see our students connect with one another, share laughs, joke, and generally be kids in this beautiful place—the bonds they are forming fast bode well for the rest of the trip!

Today we traveled back to Sucre—Bolivia’s colonial capital. We lunched at Condor Cafe and were introduced to our guides from Condor Trekkers. They laid out the route and plan for our 2.5-day trek that kicks off tomorrow morning (early!) at 6:30am. Students then broke into teams to complete a scavenger hunt activity that included visits to the Asur textile museum and the Mercado Central where our kids had to learn the name of a fruit or vegetable that they have never seen before. Additionally, we asked students to find a Bolivian newspaper to report on a local news story and to learn a joke in Spanish. It was quiet entertaining to learn what they came up with! This scavenger hunt also forced our students to practice basic communication and orientation skills that are part of Dragons’ safety protocols. They can now read maps, ask for a telephone in Spanish and contact one of their instructors should they ever get lost. Many of our students were surprised but proud that they were able to accomplish these tasks by working together. We discussed this over dinner at a churrascaria (“barbecue joint”), figuring the beef, chicken, potatoes and aguas frescas would be great fuel for our students as they head out on trek tomorrow morning.

On that note, over the next two days on trek, we will visit Paleolithic cave paintings, overnight in the communities of Maragua and Potolo, and experience the breath-taking natural beauty that this part of Bolivia has to offer. All the while we will be supported by our Condor Trekker guides. We are fortunate to be able to work with the same three guides that lead our HIES student group last summer, and they are excited to be working with us again. Our students will have the chance to lean deeply into nature, to walk deliberately, to chat with one another, to enjoy silence. We are excited to see what these next two days brings for our kids!

It is important that you know that we will be without access to cell signal or WiFi during the trek. Come Monday afternoon when we arrive back in Sucre we will have many photos and stories to share in our next Yak update. We can’t wait to share our experience with you when we return.

With gratitude,

Erik, Chris, Yolanda, Whitney, Luis and Itza