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Andean priest and spiritual leader, Don Fabian Champi Apaza. Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Instructor Introduction :)

Dear Students!

I write to you with anticipation from Little Gibson Lake in Northern Wisconsin (by the time this is posted, however, I will be in Colombia :). I’ve been here seeing friends and family, sharing stories of a recent road trip in the Western US, and reminiscing about memories of these waterways. Since graduating high school, I have returned here every summer to lead wilderness trips, ranging from canoeing in Ontario, to backpacking through Montana. This Great Lakes home is one of a few important communities I have developed in recent years, and I can’t wait to work with you all to create another home during our time in the Andes.

Since attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland, I have returned frequently to the Pacific Northwest to enjoy the beautiful geography and my friendships in the area. While in college, I studied Social Psychology and Latin American Studies, focusing on sources of prejudice, race dialogue, and Neoliberalist policies in Latin America. I enjoyed Psychology, because I immediately was able to draw from my studies while working as a Residential Advisor and a Wilderness Trip Leader. I also found that my focus on Latin America provided practical context that informed my first trip south.

During my third year of school, I studied abroad for consecutive semesters in Peru and Bolivia. Arriving in Peru, I was quickly intrigued by the starkly contrasting cultures, influenced by extreme geographical differences between the Highlands and Amazon River Basin. I wanted to understand how indigenous people and languages had remained so robust through centuries of colonial power in the region. I also wanted to study the forms of resistance people have employed to maintain their outlook and way of life. I completed two theses: the first examined the Incan network of footpaths that spanned the empire, and the second looked at different forms of feminism in Bolivia. I was inspired by feminist organizations in mining communities that worked to alleviate poverty and create alternative earning opportunities for women and men. This fall, I would love to explore topics like these with you all, as we learn about the relationships between people and the natural world.

While much of wilderness travel in North America is intentionally isolated from civilization, there are very few corners of the dramatic Andean landscape that are not occupied or influenced by people. During my visits to the region after college, I fell in love with this aspect of Andean foot travel. As we move beneath 6,000-meter-high glaciers and around turquoise alpine lakes, I am excited for us to learn from the people we meet. They will teach us of the cultural and spiritual significance of these majestic landscapes. While our trekking experiences may feel different from a backpacking trip in a US National Forest, I encourage you to embrace the intrigue of a fallow potato field, a herd of alpaca returning to a stone corral, or an aqueduct that neighbors clean once a year because of its proximity to a sacred glacier. With an openness to the wisdom of these landscapes, a foggy day in the Andes can be as inspiring as a clear day when the glaciers shine.

I am thrilled to meet you all and begin to form our Dragons family as we travel south through Peru and Bolivia. I am eager to learn how your passions will shape our semester. Please be in touch if you have any questions or ideas for our course!

Un abrazo fuerte,

Ben Daley

1(414) 916-4404

[email protected]