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¡Vamos a Bolivia! – An Introduction From Your Instructor

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¡Hola Queridos Dragones!

I couldn’t believe my eyes! The past few days had been breathtaking, but when we crested the pass at 17,000 ft, I was stunned by what lay before me. In my life, I have never known a year without snow. Sledding, skating, and skiing, I have grown up familiar with a world of cold and ice. But this was different. When you see your first glacier up close it defies comprehension. Your field of vision is engulfed with the white mass bending high above and coating the valley below. Hundreds of feet thick, each inch represents its own sliver of time, dating back to when the first flake touched down thousands of years ago. Let me take you to this place of immense beauty. I want to show you how these giants have shaped the earth, and continue to breathe life into the heart of the Amazon, before they are gone forever. I look forward to sharing this, as well as many of my most cherished memories of Bolivia with you!

My name is David Haffeman, one of your instructors for the Bolivia 4-week summer course. As I sit here on my porch in Colorado, it is hard to believe that in a little over six weeks, we will be setting off for South America for what may be one of the most exciting and impactful experiences of your life. Your instructor team, Ana, Jac, and I, are currently planning and fine tuning our summer journey. As we share our own travel stories, I’m reminded of my first trip to South America. The Andes Mountains and the Altipano of Bolivia and Peru have come to hold a special place in my heart.  The awe-inspiring landscapes, the lasting relationships, and the richness of culture will soon be a part of your life as well.

I first visited Bolivia and Peru in 2008 when I worked with a microfinance organization in Cochabamba, Bolivia. It was humbling and rewarding to work alongside dedicated individuals who strove to improve the lives of merchants, small business owners, and farmers for the betterment of their community. I am eager to again walk among the stalls in bustling markets, listen to the shouts of vendors, and taste the eclectic array of delicious foods, all the while helping you make sense of these seemingly chaotic labyrinths, worlds away from your neighborhood grocery store.

For many years I lived in the small Southwest mountain town of Durango, Colorado. There, I taught high school Spanish at a project-based learning charter school and drew on my adventures abroad to breath life into my lessons.  I love Colorado, and I am happiest kayaking whitewater, earning my powder turns, or backpacking the endless peaks and valleys of the Rocky Mountains. During my time there I also guided with an outdoor adventure and youth leadership organization. I enjoyed teaching young people wilderness and backcountry travel skills and the importance of creating community through cross-cultural engagement with Native American homestay communities across the Southwest.

Currently I work in the Where There Be Dragons office in Boulder among the talented and passionate educators and world travelers that make this and many other experiences possible. International adventure is always calling my name so it’s time yet again to set sail. I look forward to sharing with you my passion for language and travel, while continuing to explore a deeper understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. As we trek through the rugged Andes Mountains in the shadows of the sacred Apu towering at over 20,000 feet or descend into the lush cloud forests, you will feel the power of these magical places that will continue to call you back for many years to come.

I invite you to use this Yak Board to start building our community now. This will be our forum for communication leading up to our course, and we encourage friends and family to check in often to read our stories during our journey.  Please don’t be shy, ask any questions you have—if you have a question, you’re probably not the only one. We’ll be posting important updates about packing, itinerary, pre-course readings, assignments, and more in the weeks to come. Now start breaking in those boots, we’ve got mountains to climb and glaciers to see!

¡Nos vemos pronto!

David

If you would like to get a hold of me directly you can reach me at [email protected]com.