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Photo by Ryan Kost, Andes & Amazon Semester.

To all family and friends

Family and Friends,

This morning I said goodbye to a great group of students. I have so much respect for each of these students and I want to start this final Yak by giving them each a deep bow.  At the beginning of every program that I run I like to talk to students about shifting their perspectives from “what can I get out of this experience” to “what can I put into this experience.” Simon, Jazmine and Saoirse each put in a tremendous amount of energy and as a result are leaving Bolivia with an enriched understanding of this culture, language and cosmovision. Professionally, there’s nothing more satisfying for me then to see this kind of effort and growth from students. Gracias a cada uno de ellos.

It’s hard to believe that it was already four weeks ago that these same students arrived here in La Paz. In some ways, it feels like only a week has passed, yet looking back it’s also evident that we did months worth of learning together. As you all know from reading the Yak board, we’ve been busy. We spent our first week getting to know one another in what we consider the orientation portion of the program. This time was spent in the city of La Paz as well as in the rural Aymara community of Santiago de Okola. From there we headed to our two week homestay and intensive Spanish study in Cochabamba. It was impressive to see the students’ stamina and passion for studying Spanish 4 hours a day. During this time students also had the opportunity to engage with their Independent Study Projects as well as engage in various cultural experiences. The group was also responsible for helping plan the final homestay farewell as well as portions of the final week.

As a group it was decided that we would head to the colonial city of Sucre for the last week of our program. After spending a couple of days learning about and exploring the city, as well as consuming record numbers of empanadas, the group headed out on a three day trek through the mountains of the region. We began on one of the coldest mornings that anyone in Sucre could remember, there was snow and frost the whole first morning. Despite the temperature, the group rallied and thanks to our fabulous guide Julio we had a great experience trekking through the crater of Maragua. After returning to Sucre, and yes, more empanadas, we began what we call transference, the process of digesting the experience and preparing to return home.

We spent our last couple of days together enjoying Bolivia as a group. We ate wonderful food, reflected on our experience and it’s impact on each individual. Students spent time writing letters to themselves reminding them of the learnings they’ve gathered which will be sent to each of them in two years time. A time capsule of learning. We wrapped up the transference process by offering gratitude to each other, to Bolivia and to all of the people who supported this experience. The transference process ended before the Sun rose this morning as we headed up to the El Alto airport to say goodbye.

During our final day in Sucre a dear friend of mine, Isabel Polo Mamani, invited us to her home outside of the city for lunch. We went as a group and were received with the epic hospitality which is a trademark of this region. During lunch Isabel asked the students if they missed home, the answer was of course yes. She then said, “But certainly you must be talking to your parents everyday.” The answer was of course no. We explained the concept of the Yak board and the no phone policy and all the rest, but from her perspective as a Bolivian mother it was totally unthinkable that four weeks could pass without direct contact. She literally shook her head in astonishment. As the parent of a toddler myself I find it hard to be away even for a few days. I started off this message with praise for each student. I’d like to end it with praise for each of you who entrusted Dragons and myself with your children. I’m sure you’re all very excited to receive them back at home. As a traveler who left home as a teenager too I can also attest to the fact that sometimes returning home is the hardest part. There’s so much love there, but also a piece of you stays behind in the place where you just were and a person can feel incomplete. The readjustment process takes time. It might take time and patience but be assured that the stories, the learnings and the newfound perspective are there and will surface. Please also know that each one of the students did a tremendous job and gave fully of themselves, you have so much to be proud of.

Please know that as this process of reintegration continues that both Dragons as an organization and myself as an individual are available to you as a support system. Please feel free to be in touch at anytime.

Please enjoy some photos from our last month together.

With gratitude and respect,