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Photo by Ryan Kost, Andes & Amazon Semester.

Instructor Introduction

Hola Dragoncitos

My name is Zack and it’s my distinct pleasure to be one of your instructors this spring in Peru (and possibly Bolivia, more on that later). I write to you from Dilesi, a small coastal community 1 hour north of Athens, Greece. I’m currently working as an EMT and chef in the Malakasa Refugee Camp. We provide meals and basic medical care for some 500 individuals from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.

Like most Dragons instructors I travel a lot, but I do have a home base in Boulder, Colorado. In Boulder I split my time between working in the Dragons main office and advocating for asylum seekers that are being detained in the Aurora ICE Detention Center. One of the perks of working in the office is that I’ve actually already chatted with many of you on the phone and even conducted some of your interviews!

I’ve been working for Dragons since 2013, all over the world but predominantly in South America and China. This will be my 7th Andes & Amazon semester and 17th program overall. My journey with Dragons started far, far away from both China and Latin America in the remote village of Kanyanza in the Muhanga district of Rwanda. I was serving in the US Peace Corps as an English and computer sciences teacher when I was connected to Dragons through a friend. I spent 3 fateful days with the Rwanda Summer 2012 group and I was hooked. After my service I applied for Dragons and have been working with them ever since.

In these weeks leading up to when we meet you in Peru know that we are here for you, ready to answer any questions you may have. Please post your introductions here on our Yak Board so we can get to know each other a bit before our adventure begins. Around mid-January my team and I will be calling you but until then please don’t hesitate to email me any questions you may have at [email protected]. You can also post said questions here on our Yak Board and we’ll respond as soon as possible. Check the Yak Board regularly for important updates.

A program like this takes courage. You’re throwing yourself into another culture, perhaps with a language you do not speak (yet). My team and I (along with our friends in Bolivia & Peru, local guides/teachers/mentors, homestay families, etc) will do everything in our power to make this a transformative, educational, fun and safe adventure for you. However, we need your help. In these next couple of weeks begin to prepare yourself for this trip. Start reading the materials and recommended books/articles provided to you by Dragons. Read news about what’s happening in Latin America. Practice your Spanish. Get out and get active in preparation for our treks. This is your trip, own it!

What are your passions? Bring them with you on this course! Bring a musical instrument (maybe don’t bring a piano…more like ukulele/harmonica sized instruments). Bring your camera. Bring a desire/willingness to dance, sing, do yoga/meditation, etc. Love history? Studying foreign languages? Service to others? Protecting the environment? Bring that passion for learning and activism! Don’t have any hobbies, or perhaps always wanted to learn a new skill? Use this time to try something new. Come in fresh to this experience. Be silly, be vulnerable, be authentically you! That’s the beauty of Dragons courses. This is a time to push yourselves, grow, take risks and become the men and women you want to be.

Regarding our itinerary: As one of our Program Directors Julianne mentioned, given the current political situation in Bolivia we are keeping an even more flexible itinerary than usual. From tropical rainforests to snowy mountains to cloud forests to bone dry deserts Peru alone is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. From Quechua to Aymara to the dozens of Amazonian languages Peru is beyond rich in traditions and culture. From remote communities only accessible by week long boat rides to mega cities like Lima with nearly 10 million inhabitants Peru is a fascinating blend of ancient and modern times. What I’m trying to say is that if we end up staying in just Peru there will be no shortage of adventures to be had.

I’m so excited to meet you all soon and to begin this epic adventure together!