Hello Dragoncitos! We are beyond excited to present to you all an outline of our coming adventures. Keep in mind that our itineraries are always fluid; Dragons courses are tailored to their time and place, as well as to the interests of students that will develop over the course of the program. With that said, here’s a brief idea of what’s in store!
Orientation June 28-July 1:
We will begin our journey near Cobán (Alta Verapáz department), surrounded by mountains laden with orchids. The rare Monja blanca orchid is one of Guatemala’s national symbols and can be found in this region. Caves, waterfalls and forests home to the rare Quetzal bird make Cobán a popular spot for eco-tourism. We’ll take a few days to get to know each other, familiarize ourselves with customs and culture of Guatemala, and set out goals for our program.
Yaxha-Nakum-Naranjo Trek July 2-4:
We’ll set out on an exhilarating, three-day jungle hike to some of the most spectacular ancient cities discovered on earth. Our local guides will provide our camping gear. (If you can stand it, do yourself a favor and DON’T Google the Ancient Maya cities of the region! There’s nothing like coming upon a wonder of the ancient world without any idea of what it might look like…) We will walk through the parks, learn about the Maya cosmovision, observe wildlife, make tortillas, and sleep in cots with mosquito nets. Prepare yourselves for some incredible star gazing!
Nuevo Horizonte July 5-July 10:
Next we’ll continue our journey in Peten area, Guatemala’s northern province. Along with Mexico and Belize, it shares the spectacular Yucatan jungle, home to howler monkeys, jaguars, toucans and macaws. In the community of Nuevo Horizonte, you’ll study Spanish and put what you learn to use in sharing meals with homestay families.
We’ll also continue our study of history and development with community members who lived Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict firsthand as guerrillas. Today, they’re experimenting with community development practices that center around sustainable agriculture and tourism. Hiking through the tropical forest, we will enjoy outrageous ecological diversity and learn how refugees and guerrillas have sustained themselves in the jungle for years at a time.
Rio Dulce, Ak Tenamit, Livingston July 11-14:
After our time in Nuevo Horizonte, we will travel south to visit the Caribbean rainforest. We will stay in Rio Dulce, a river that runs from Lake Izabal, in the eastern part of Guatemala, all the way to the Caribbean. Here we will work alongside our friends at Ak Tenamit. Ak Tenamit is a non-governmental organization that works in remote communities of the Rio Dulce river basin to promote education with an emphasis on female empowerment. We will also visit Livingston and the caribbean coast, spending time with the Afro-indigenous Garifuna population.
Mid-Course, Rio Dulce (Izabal Area) July 15-17:
For our Mid-Course reflection we will stay near the caribbean, in the department of Izabal. Izabal surrounds Lago Izabal (or Lago de Izabal), Guatemala’s largest lake (about 48 km long and 24 km wide, with an area of about 590 km²). From the area around Lake Izabal, the Department of Izabal stretches along the Río Dulce to the coast of the Caribbean Sea.
Rabinal, Qachuu Aloom July 17-19:
On July 17th, we’ll arrive in Rabinal. In the Achi Maya region, we will work with an inspiring collective of young people taking on malnutrition by using ancient Maya superfoods. The Qachuu Aloom collective has also developed one of Guatemala’s three major seed banks. We’ll study debates in food security and food autonomy from a local perspective that illuminates the workings of the global economy.
Río Negro July 19-23:
Our studies of development and community action will continue at Río Negro. We’ll travel to the country’s largest hydroelectric dam, built during the armed conflict and financed by the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. We’ll stay an hour upriver in from the damsite. Our hosts will teach us about the impact the dam has had on their communities. There will also be time for swimming, and relaxing as we wrap up the first half of our course!
San Juan la Laguna July 24-August 1:
From Río Negro we travel to Lake Atitlan, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. For the next eight days, we will call San Juan la Laguna our home. San Juan is a Tz’utujil Maya community on the shores of Lake Atitlán, especially known for its vibrant textiles and intricate weavings. We’ll spend time sharing with our lovely homestay families, reflecting on our experiences, studying spanish, and diving into our independent study projects. Each student has the opportunity to identify a specific aspect of local culture and learn more about it! We work with our broad network of local teachers so that you get hands-on experience in whatever area you choose.
Expedition August 2-5:
From San Juan la Laguna, students will be able to plan our expedition phase. In “X-phase”, you’ll put all the language and cultural fluency you’ve learned to the test as you organize a multi-day adventure of your choice as a group. This is a time in the program that we feel most excited about and proud of. It is always rewarding to see how far you have come with your skills in traveling as a group!
Transference August 6-7:
We’ll spend the final days of the course together and prepare for the journey home. Here, we will reflect on our trip, celebrate our successes, and consider how to integrate our experiences into our lives at home.
Wow okay that’s a lot to process. We encourage you to research some of the places we are visiting and come prepared with questions for our hosts. It’s been so much fun planning this itinerary and we are really excited about all the diverse learning experiences that lie ahead. We can’t wait to welcome you to the Land of Eternal Spring, to Iximuleu, to Guatemágica.