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A WARM WELCOME FROM YOUR PROGRAM DIRECTOR

Dear friends, travelers, dreamers, families, and fellow adventurers,

¡Bienvenidos a un verano inolvidable en Guatemala! The past year has been challenging in so many ways, and more so for young people who are coming of age in a confusing and isolating time. I hope your upcoming Dragons trip may be a light of healing and reconnection on the horizon, and I have no doubt that your time in Guatemala will remind you of the dazzling beauty, diversity, and possibility of our world. I congratulate you for taking the brave step to sign up for a program of this kind.

As you begin to prepare for your summer in Central America I invite you to use this space, the Yak page, to begin to build community with your instructors and fellow students and voice any questions or concerns you may have. Both in the pre-course process and during course this will be an important venue for getting to know each other, sharing information, and then translating your journey to friends and family back home. In the coming days and weeks, discussions will begin to build and your instructors will offer advice for course preparation regarding packing, recommended readings, the itinerary, and other tips to help you feel prepared for your time abroad.

Your instructors for this summer are incredible! Collectively, they bring many years of in-country experience as seasoned guides and educators, and as you will discover over the course of your journey, are some of the most thoughtful, kind, and inspiring folks in our community. Your instructors will be introducing themselves here and we encourage you to do the same.

Dragons prefers to keep our hands in the dirt, allowing us to sculpt courses that represent our unique goals of profound cross-cultural learning and self-cultivation. When it’s all said and done, and you finally gather in early July at your course’s point of departure, you should know that you are about to embark on an adventure that is intensely personalized and has been many months, and in many cases, years in the making!

The Yak board is the most appropriate place to address your pre-course questions and concerns. We hope that you will discover the magic of this forum (have a look at past courses to get a sense of how this venue can be used), and learn to love it! It’s a powerful tool for communication and community building, and once you head into the field, it will undoubtedly become the default homepage of your parents and friends at home – all of those who WISH they could be out there with you!

Guatemala is a land of staggering beauty and profound lessons. I first spent time Guatemala as a young girl, and my early memories of the nation’s captivating markets, cobblestone streets, rich Mayan traditions, and warm hospitality have left an indelible mark on my identity and life path. The past and present exist alongside one another in a union that is at once exhilarating and at times bewildering, offering a unique window into a world that is changing rapidly and yet deeply linked to traditional systems of cultural exchange, indigenous identity, and connection to the natural world. You will have the opportunity to witness diverse facets of the Mayan world, drawing out lessons and experiences with global relevance. You will also learn valuable things about yourself in the process.

The sights, sounds and teachers (both human and natural) of Guatemala have offered me some of the most profound learning and revelations of my life. While I have since built a permanent home in the Andes, I keep finding myself pulled magnetically back to Guatemala and have been captivated by Latin America since my first forays into the Mayan homeland as a young girl. This work continues to nourish my enduring passion for learning, adventure, and personal discovery, and I look forward to each of you discovering your own love for the Guatemalan people and landscape.

I have been closely involved with our Latin America programming for a decade, both as an in-field instructor and as the Program Director. Feel free to be in touch with me at any time with questions or concerns about your program, or post your queries here on the Yak board. This summer I will be located in South America for the first half of your course, and then supporting from our base in Colorado by mid-July.

Your program this summer will be modified in subtle ways in order to ease the transition of traveling at a time that is still challenging for our world. While the vaccination process is well under way in the United States, currently only a very small percent of the Guatemalan population has access to the vaccine. In order to limit our impact on rural communities -especially indigenous communities that face increased vulnerabilities – your program will not include homestays in rural areas. You will, however, have the chance to visit remote regions and engage with community members in ways that are meaningful and responsible. If deemed appropriate by your instructors and our local partners, your course may include one homestay in a peri-urban community. With support from the instructors, your group will travel lightly and intentionally, likely relying on private transport with trusted drivers rather than on public transportation.

At a time when global inequalities have been heightened in numerous ways, it is perhaps more important than ever to engage in intercultural experiences that shed light on  those disparities in ways that are thoughtful, intentional, and informed. International travel conditions permitting, we feel confident that we can help you celebrate the beauty and complexity of this part of the world safely and ethically. To make that possible, we ask that you come to Guatemala prepared to engage with new and sometimes difficult topics, and respect the guidance of your instructors in shaping an experience that is responsive to unique needs and conditions. Along the way you will discover new joys, community, and meaning-making in the world around you. 

A magical world awaits you; a world of endless beauty and adventure, of life-long friendships and personal discovery, of healers and ceremony, mountains and laughter, of volcanic peaks and profound questions. This world awaits you, but it is also a journey of your own making. I want to encourage you to make the most of this dazzling opportunity. Your time on course will be both a gift and a challenge. It is my hope that each of us may embrace this gift with humility and gratitude, with an open heart and eager mind, and with intentionality for a powerful and successful experience. I assure you, you will not regret it.

Un abrazo,

Julianne

Latin America Program Director

[email protected]