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Photo by Ryan Kost, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Introduction from Luis

Hello Students and Families of the Bolivia CSA program,

My name is Luis Alvarado and it’s a pleasure for me to introduce myself as the instructor for this course.

As I write this note to you all I am sitting huddled under several blankets in a hotel room in La Paz. The wind outside is cold during the night at this altitude during this time of the year. It’s been a long journey for me to end up here in this room writing to you all and I’d like to tell you a little about it.

I was born in Texas, my father’s family is Mexican and my mother’s family were European immigrants to what we call the midwest. I grew up mainly in Missouri with some trips to Texas. When I entered university I decided it was time for me to learn more about myself by learning more about some of my ancestors. The best way I could think of to do this was by studying in Mexico. I enrolled in classes at the University of Guadalajara and off I went.

At that time I was 19 years old, and looking back on that time I can now see what a huge personal turning point that was in my life. From the vantage point I have now over a decade and a half later I can see clearly that the decision to leave “home” was really the beginning of my adulthood.

After my first year in Guadalajara I took a trip by bus, train and foot south to Guatemala. I was pretty much totally ignorant about Guatemala when I showed up there, but I was received by the place in a way that I had never known before. Circumstances conspired and I felt not only like I belonged in some strange way, but also that I needed to be there. I continued my university education but went back as often as possible to Guatemala. It was there on the shores of Lake Atitlán, sitting with my friends drinking instant coffee and eating tortillas, sharing stories and learning the mayan language, that I felt I was getting an education.

After university I moved to Guatemala to continue to learn and grow alongside the people of that place. While there one of my great friends told me about a different kind of group that was coming through, the Dragons. He was working with them and told me all about the groups and how they wanted to integrate into communities rather than just be tourists. He told me they wanted to sit with the people and learn rather than impose their ideas. I was immediately interested and asked him to take me along.

I began working with Dragons in Central America the next year. It’s been almost nine years now since that all happened and I’ve had the fortune to work with Dragons all over the world. I’ve been places I never would have imagined I would go. I’ve shared tea with monks in Myanmar, I’ve worked on farms in Sri Lanka, I’ve sung with hermits in Nepal, all thanks to Dragons.

But of course my heart is still in Latin America. About three years ago I moved to Bolivia and now I’ve settled here. I live in a small adobe house with my wife and daughter, we grow some food, raise bees and generally work to live full, productive lives. And of course I also continue to work with Dragons, which is why I’m in this hotel room right now.

I’m truly excited for our upcoming course together. Bolivia is a treasure for anyone who comes with an open mind, eyes and heart. I look forward to supporting each of you as we all learn and grow in her shade. We’ll meet soon, but if you should have any questions, or just want to say hi, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]

Wishing you all the best as you prepare to enter this world.