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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Welcome Andes and Amazon Travelers!

Hello friends, family, and fellow travelers, 

My name is Dave Haffeman and I will be working alongside Julianne this semester as the Associate Latin America Program Director. I want to extend the warmest welcome to you on your spring 2020 Andes and Amazon semester! In this note I would like to share a little more about the experience on which you are about to embark, and tell you a little more about me and my role this semester.

Julianne and I will both be serving as Program Directors for this course. Julianne will be working from her home in the beautiful quiet town of Tiquipaya, Bolivia while I am writing to you from the snowy mountain town of Eagle, Colorado. I will mostly be working from Eagle while also splitting time in our Boulder home office. Please feel free to reach out to Julianne or me with any questions you have about the course. We have both directed and instructed these courses several times and we would be happy to share our knowledge with you!

As I sit here in Colorado and watch the clouds push over the mountains and drop another fresh blanket of snow, it’s hard to believe you are participating in the spring semester. Warm summer breezes and budding trees seem like a distant reality. Your three months abroad will begin to fly by, the days and weeks each filled with an exciting and unique new experience. You have chosen a different path, one that will open your world to other ways of life. In only one semester you will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the people, culture, language, and landscapes of the Andes and the Amazon region. You will also learn so much more about yourselves and how you choose to live your lives, pursue your studies, careers, and relationships. I want to congratulate you on choosing a Dragons program. It takes courage to take time away from family and school in pursuit of the path less traveled. You will surely have an incredible life experience in the months ahead.

As you begin this journey, 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, lasting relationships, and the richness of culture will soon be a part of your life as well. I have led several courses as a Dragons instructor over the years in Bolivia, Peru, and Guatemala and I have come to know and love the incredible communities and instructors that make these experiences possible. I look forward to following your stories on the Yak Board and supporting your course as you visit these special places and travel alongside close friends of mine. 

On your course, you will find inspiration walking among stalls in bustling markets, listening to the shouts of vendors, and tasting the eclectic array of delicious foods in seemingly chaotic labyrinths, worlds away from your neighborhood grocery store. Outside the cities, the landscape of the Andes will take your breath away. Seeing your first massif up close shrouded in glaciers defies comprehension. Your field of vision will be engulfed by the white mass eclipsing the sky above and coating the valley below. Hundreds of feet thick, each inch of glacial ice represents its own sliver of time, dating back to when the first snowflake touched down thousands of years ago. Within a half day’s journey you may find yourself in the dense Amazon Rainforest where in only a few paces on a trek you will have passed a myriad of species of plants, insects, and animals all carving out an existence in the most biodiverse region of the world. 

Not only will you encounter new sights and sounds, but you will learn more about yourself when you face new challenges and test your limits. You have chosen a different type of travel experience. One that will ask you to free yourself of expectations and embrace the unknown. But through it all you will experience profound growth and transformation. We encourage you to open up, be vulnerable, laugh and cry, be silly and spontaneous, share stories with strangers, build community and new family, and open your heart and mind. Now start breaking in those boots, you’ve got mountains to climb!

Sincerely, 

Dave

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