We are beyond excited to present to you all an outline of our coming adventures. Keep in mind that our itineraries are always fluid; Dragons courses are tailored to their time and place, as well as to the interests of students that will develop over the course of the program. With that said, here’s a brief idea of what’s in store!
Arrival and Orientation at Ak’ Tenamit/Rio Dulce Region, July 1 – July 5:
We will stay our first night in a hotel in Guatemala City, catch up on sleep and leave early the next morning for Rio Dulce. From there, we’ll embark on a one hour boat ride to our orientation site at Ak’ Tenamit. Ak’ Tenamit is a non-governmental organization that works in remote communities of the Rio Dulce river basin to promote education with an emphasis on female empowerment. We’ll take a few days to get to know each other, familiarize ourselves with the customs and culture of Guatemala, and set out goals for our program. We will also visit Livingston and the Caribbean coast, spending time with the Afro-descendant Garifuna population.
Nuevo Horizonte, July 5 – July 11:
Next we’ll continue our journey in the Petén area, Guatemala’s northern province. Along with Mexico and Belize, it shares the spectacular Yucatan jungle, home to howler monkeys, jaguars, toucans and macaws. In the community of Nuevo Horizonte, we’ll begin to study Spanish. We’ll also dive into a study of history and development with community members who lived Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict firsthand as guerrillas. As part of the 1996 peace accords, the state granted the land Nuevo Horizonte is on to these ex-combatants. Today, they’re experimenting with cooperative community practices that center around sustainable agriculture and tourism.
Yaxha-Nakum-Naranjo Trek, July 11 – 14:
We’ll set out on an exhilarating, three-day jungle hike to some of the most spectacular ancient Mayan cities. Our local guides will provide our camping gear. We will walk through the parks, learn about Mayan cosmovision, observe wildlife, make tortillas, and sleep in cots with mosquito nets. Prepare yourselves for some incredible star gazing!
Mid-Course, El Remate, July 14 – 15:
For a little resting and our mid-course reflection we will stay in the North, in the small town of El Remate on the shore of lake Petén Itzá. Here we will enjoy ice-cold coconuts, look out for alligators, watch the sun go down over the turquoise water of the lake and contemplate our journey.
Tuqtuqilal, Lanquín, July 15 – 21:
To kick off the second half of our program, we’ll travel to the town of Lanquín in the department of Alta Verapaz. Here we will be hosted by Tuqtuqilal, an educational center that focuses on regenerative agriculture. Their work includes connecting campesinos (farmers), promoting organic farming, education, and direct trade. During our visit we will continue or Spanish studies, learn about ancient practices of Maya Q’eqchi’ cosmovision, and venture into a deep and mysterious cave, home to tens of thousands of bats!
Rabinal, Qachuu Aloom, July 21 – 23:
On July 21st, we’ll arrive in Rabinal. In the Achi Maya region, we will work with an inspiring collective of young people taking on malnutrition by using ancient Mayan superfoods. The Qachuu Aloom collective has also developed one of Guatemala’s three major seed banks. We’ll study food security and food autonomy from a local perspective that illuminates the workings of the global economy.
Río Negro, July 23 – 25:
Our studies of development and community action will continue at Río Negro. We’ll trek for half a day, as the town can only be reached by foot or boat. Río Negro lies on the shore of a reservoir formed by the country’s largest hydroelectric dam, built during the armed conflict and financed by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. We’ll stay an hour upriver from the dam site. Our hosts will teach us about the impact the dam has had on their communities. There will also be time for swimming and relaxing as our course nears its final stage.
Expedition Phase, July 25 – 26:
From Río Negro, students will be able to plan our expedition phase. In “X-phase”, you’ll put all the language and cultural fluency you’ve learned to the test as you organize an adventure of your choice as a group. This is a time in the program that we feel most excited about and proud of. It is always rewarding to see how far you have come with your skills in traveling as a group!
Transference, July 26 – 28:
We’ll spend the final days of the course together and prepare for the journey home. Here, we will reflect on our trip, celebrate our successes, and consider how to integrate our experiences into our lives at home.
Wow okay that’s a lot to process! We encourage you to research some of the places we are visiting and come prepared with questions for our hosts. It’s been so much fun planning this itinerary and we are really excited about all the diverse learning experiences that lie ahead. We can’t wait to welcome you to the Land of Eternal Spring, to Iximuleu, to Guatemágica!
Photos: Kayaking on the Rio Dulce / Mural in Nuevo Horizonte / Underneath a giant Ceiba tree in the northern jungle / Bringing in the harvest at Tuqtuqilal / Teaching about Amaranth at Qachuu Aloom / Hiking into Río Negro