Hello friends, family, and fellow travelers,
I want to extend the warmest welcome to you for your fall 2020 semester in the Southwestern United States! My name is Dave Haffeman and I will be your Program Director for the Rio Grande Semester. In this note I would like to share more about the Yak Board, the experience on which you are about to embark, and tell you a little more about myself.
I invite you to use this Yak Board to learn about course updates and to post questions of your own. Please don’t be shy, ask any questions you have—as you’re probably not the only one. This will be our forum for communication leading up to our course, and we encourage friends and family to check in often. We’ll be posting important updates about packing, itinerary, pre-course readings, assignments, and more in the weeks to come. You can even subscribe to receive updates so you don’t miss out on a new post. We will have a webinar on Thursday, August 27th at 4pm in which I will be talking about the course and important preparation information, so please join me then!
During the semester I will not be traveling with your group but I look forward to supporting your journey from afar as you travel alongside close friends of mine and visit special places that have defined my life. Colorado has been my home for most of my life where I have worked as a teacher and outdoor educator for many years. I have had the privilege of exploring canyons, floating waterways, and trekking through the mountains of the Southwest. My time abroad traveling and working in Latin America led me to Where There Be Dragons where I instructed courses in Bolivia, Peru, and Guatemala and later supported the administrative team in my many roles throughout the years.
I continue to find comfort in the vast expanses of wilderness of the Southwest. Here you will find endless plains of sagebrush that steadily give way to piñon and juniper forests flowing up and down the gentle slopes that dot the horizon and provide the sharp contrast to the deep red soil beneath. Thunderstorms rumble up valleys and cause the arid landscape to transform, unlocking rich earthen and sage aromas. Jagged peaks where the last vestiges of winter snows still cling, cradle high alpine meadows speckled with wildflowers. I’m thrilled you will have the opportunity to experience this same natural beauty.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the unique situation in which we find ourselves. Our lives have been disrupted and we have entered an era of uncertainty. We have made sacrifices, cancelled meaningful engagements, and said goodbye to loved ones. For many of you, dreams of starting a new chapter filled with bustling dorms and classrooms, the buzz of new ideas, and the thrill of starting off on your own will have to wait, for now.
Instead, you have chosen a different path, one that will open your world to other ways of life. In this semester you will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the people, culture, language, and landscapes of the Southwest. You will learn so much more about yourselves and how you choose to live your lives, pursue your studies, careers, and relationships. Together we will create our own community as we seek answers to questions and find peace and solitude in the beauty of these places. It takes courage to take time away from family and school in pursuit of the path less traveled – 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 each other, build community and new family, and open your heart and mind. Now start breaking in those boots, you’ve got mountains to climb!
Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]