(¿Cómo están, estudiantes? / “How are you, students!” in Quechua)
I am writing to you from my tiny couch in my tiny apartment in lower Manhattan right now, surrounded by books. Though I am originally from Phoenix and proudly call the Sonoran Desert my home, I have spent the last six years here in New York City. I am currently in the midst of finishing my last semester of journalism graduate school, and am sitting on this couch reading and writing as much as I can about the globalization of ancestral medicinal practices in the Peruvian Amazon, due to shamanic tourism. It is a topic I have been researching for the past year, and I am so grateful and privileged to have been able to immerse myself in it—but I am also very very excited to be done with school, for a while at least. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is meeting all of you in the Andes in less than two short months!!!!
I visited the Andes for the first time under similar circumstances as you all: on a study abroad program during my junior year of college, when I spent a semester studying abroad in Cusco, Peru. The experience would change my life in ways I never could have imagined. I was drawn to the Andes because of the mountains, but I fell in love because of the incredible culture, history, politics, and people that have so much to offer to any curious mind and open heart. I returned to Peru on my own several times after, initially because I decided to study Quechua, the ancient language of the Incan Empire and the most commonly spoken Indigenous languages in all of the Americas. I spent half of my senior year living and learning in Cochabamba and La Paz, Bolivia. Today, I focus my graduate studies on Indigenous political movements and truth and memory justice movements, both in the Andes and in the lowlands of the Amazon. It was that first trip that started everything for me, and is the reason I am who I am today—and I cannot wait to foster similarly transformative experiences with all of you.
This will be my first course as an instructor with Dragons, though my two co-instructors have years of collective experience instructing with Dragons in Latin America, so you can rest assured we will be in good hands. In many profound ways, this is going to be just as much an exciting and new experience for me as it will be for you. I cannot wait for the rich and complicated conversations I am sure we will all share as we spend our time trekking through the Andes or walking through the streets of some of the most historically rich cities in the entire world. Be careful, or you may very well fall in love with the place and never want to leave, just like I did. Cochabamba, in particular, holds a very special place in my heart: from the food to the landscape to the people, it is hands down the most loving and beautiful place I have ever had the privilege of living. I am beyond ecstatic to return to the “City of Eternal Spring” with all of you. I also cannot wait to hear what excites each and every one of you about the incredibly special place that is the Bolivian Andes, and I already know I will learn so much from all of you as well.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions, or any ideas you want to share about our course before we meet in late June. In the meantime, I wish you peace in whatever streets, mountains, or rivers you may find yourself in today.
Tupananchiskama! (“hasta luego! / “until next time!” in Quechua),