My name is Zack Siddall (he/him) and I have the distinct pleasure of being one of your instructors this summer in Peru. Far from Peru, way back in 2012 while serving in the US Peace Corps in Rwanda a friend of mine told me about this group of “Dragons” that was traveling around the country, living with Rwandan families and learning about Rwanda’s rich and complex culture/history. I remember as clearly as if it was yesterday walking into the tiny Musanze restaurant to see a group of foreigners struggling to consume a mountain of ubugali, a Rwandan staple of cassava flour boiled into a gelatinous blob. With a smell of sweaty feet and the texture of stale marshmallows ubugali is an acquired taste to say the least. Meeting their instructors Jamie and Emmanuel was like meeting celebrities, I was star struck. They dove deep into controversial topics, leaned into spaces of vulnerability, challenged the students to see past the single story of Rwanda. I wanted to be like them. Upon finishing my time with the Peace Corps I applied to Dragons and was given the opportunity to lead their 2013 Rwanda summer program alongside the rockstar Emmanuel himself. That first program was like a slap to the face, in the most beautiful way possible. I learned so much about myself and developed an even deeper understanding/love for Rwanda.
Since Rwanda I have been working with Dragons in Central/South America, China, Kyrgyzstan and here in the United States. This will be my 20th program with Dragons and my 9th in Peru. Each time I return to Peru I find more things to fall in love with. Humbling mountains, diverse rainforests, delicious food (don’t worry no ubugali) and most importantly the countless amazing people that call Peru home.
Last fall I helped create and then ran one of Dragons’ first domestic semester programs, the Rio Grande Semester. Our semester last fall in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas came with some challenges of course, as will this summer in Peru. Even if you’re vaccinated, we’ll have to take some very deliberate (and by now common practice) steps to ensure our own safety and more importantly the safety of our friends in Peru. While its sad that we can’t quite return to “normal” travel I can speak from experience that these programs are still incredibly powerful. I may even argue that this summer has the potential to be even more impactful than normal. This past year has been really heavy for all of us. The simple act of building an intentional community where we can process the pandemic together has proven to be incredibly beneficial. As well let’s just have some good fashion fun together! Let’s climb mountains! Camp out and cook backcountry meals together! Search for exotic animals in the Amazon! Learn from and be inspired by local teachers/guides/activists/etc!
As you gear up for this upcoming summer I’d like to ask you a couple quick favors:
Soon my team and I will be reaching out to y’all to get to know you better and answer any questions you may have. If at any point you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected].
I’m so excited to meet you all soon and start this epic adventure together.