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Introduction—Luke Hein

Hi Silk Road students and families!

My name is Luke Hein. I’m one of the Dragons instructors who will help you to make your upcoming journey a deep, meaningful, and fun experience.

This will be my eleventh course with Dragons since I joined in 2014. Over the past five years I’ve had the privilege of working with many talented co-instructors, of guiding curious students, and of interacting with scores of homestay families in cities and villages all over China (and, more recently, all over Indonesia). I’m grateful to be on this path, and I’m excited to take the next step on it with all of you.

I first traveled to China for my senior year of high school and was hooked straightaway. In 2007 I returned to work with a Chinese guiding company in Yunnan. In 2008 I spent six months in Beijing doing undergraduate research on the Olympics and how it affected Beijing’s large migrant population. In 2013 I spent some time teaching English in Chengdu and enjoying the fun dialect and spicy food there. And in 2014 I led my first Dragons course.

I love leading the Silk Road trip because of the sheer variety of places, languages, foods, religious practices, life styles, and ideas it exposes us to. I love hearing Mandarin, Tibetan, Uyghur, Kyrgyz, and all the other languages spoken on this route. I go crazy for the food—the noodles and dumplings of North China, Qinghai province’s yak meat soup, and Xinjiang’s delicious goat meat pies, which are baked in underground ovens. I find peace and confidence in Daoism, fascination and inspiration in Tibetan Buddhism, and beauty and perseverance in Islam. The lifestyles we’ll encounter also fascinate me—from people who seek solitude in the mountains to busy workers in the city to farmers who seem to know how to do everything themselves to semi-nomadic herders, whose relationship to government, food, animals, and land is so different from my own. I’m excited to share all of this with you and to contemplate what it means—this bloom of humanity.

While I’m still learning new things about China constantly, I have become comfortable living and traveling there; so I have to say that the most exciting part of the upcoming trip for me is our visit to Kyrgyzstan. This will take me into new territory, and I can’t wait to hear the sounds of new languages, see the high altitude scenery, and engage with people who live in ways far different than the way I do. I’m eager to also put my experiences in Western China into a wider regional context. I hope also to gain personal knowledge of places and people that so often seem extras or, at best, supporting characters in the grand narratives of empires. These are the people whose stories I long to hear.

This will likely be my last Dragons trip for awhile, as I prepare to begin graduate school in the fall, so I’m eager to make it a great one! Can’t wait to read the first chapters of your stories here on the Yak board. Please post a bio and a photo whenever you get the chance.

-Luke Hein 方立浩