A little while ago, a pretty intense spring thunderstorm passed over our little house in the mountains of western North Carolina. My wife, Susan, and I went out onto the porch with our son, Noah, to watch the sheets of rain pour down and the trees sway in the wind. Noah didn't know quite what to make of it all, but he's only 7 months old, after all. He kind of stared in amazement at it all, and that's part of the reason I like hanging out with him so much. He reminds me of the constant wonder of the world.
It's a feeling I get from travel, too.
As the rain cleared, I thought that in a little more than a month, we'll be together in Guatemala, maybe getting drenched (don't forget a rain shell) and certainly looking around in amazement at the diversity of the places we'll go. We'll do a lot more than look, though, and that's what makes a Dragons course what it is. We won't be like tourists that just pass through snapping photos, only getting the surface of things. Instead, we'll spend time in out of the way villages, learning the languages, interacting with people and listening to their stories. We'll delve into the history of Guatemala, both recent and distant past, and its tragedies and triumphs. We'll think about the complexity of the United States' relationship with Central America as we meet people with dreams of "Los Estados." We'll serve the communities we briefly live in, working alongside people there and learning about the complicated processes of development.
And we'll have a blast doing it. Don't get me wrong, this is going to be tough. There will be times when you're uncomfortable physically, intellectually and emotionally. There might be tears. Your mind might bend. And through it all we'll work together to make this a really memorable and beautiful summer.
The three of us, Adelaide, Rebecca and I, have been emailing back and forth a lot these days. We're already working to make sure we've got everything dialed in for a safe, unique and breathtaking journey.
I've lead a few trips for Dragons in Guatemala, but I haven't been down there in a couple of years. I'm excited to get back there and experience it with you, with a whole new fresh perspective.
Feel free to get in touch here for questions, concerns, hopes or fears.
Michael Brown,Guatemala 4-week, Group "B", Summer 2008
A little while ago, a pretty intense spring thunderstorm passed over our little house in the mountains of western North Carolina. My wife, Susan, and I went out onto the porch with our son, Noah, to watch the sheets of rain pour down and the trees sway in the wind. Noah didn’t know quite what […]
I was thinking this morning about how excited I am for this trip, but most of all I am excited for you! In fact I would like to BE you: the first time you experience a trip like this is incredible and you will never be the same. Since I can’t be you, I am thrilled to be able to share with experience with you.You should all be proud of yourselves: you have signed up to do things that most of the people in this country would never even consider doing.Many people are too scared to challenge themselves, but not you, nope, someone tells you that it will be a challenge and you say "sign me up". From this fact alone, I already know you will all be a dynamic set of students.I can’t wait to get to know you as we journey through this beautiful, mystical, and, yes, challenging land.
Well, though I would rather be talking to you over a café con leche, this computer medium will have to suffice. I am here typing in my new home with my golden retriever-ish dog at my feet and my husband clicking away at the computer (he is a reporter) and I can hear the Popo Agie River running through the backyard. Gosh, will I be able to leave these comforts?Hell yes! I always know that after a trip to a place such as Guatemala, I come back a better person. Maybe because I feel that I have connected with the world and it has connected with me. After I come back, I feel that I have a better understanding of what is happening in the world, because I feel as if I am a part of it. I know this can be a hard time because you may be thinking about all you will leave behind this summer, but I can tell you: what is ahead of you is something incredible and special. So special that it will always be a part of you like some little treasure you carry around with you. So, it is ok to feel worried, excited, scared…I do too, but I can tell you that we are planning a wonderful program for you all: safe and challenging.
So, let us know a bit about you.How are you doing? What are you doing?
I am off, I need to bike into town to go to work. I am an instructor for adults at our community college. I teach GED (don’t drop outJ) and English as a second language classes. Please feel free to email to Yak Yak as questions come up and we will do our best to answer them.
Rebecca Biles,Guatemala 4-week, Group "B", Summer 2008
Hi everyone, I was thinking this morning about how excited I am for this trip, but most of all I am excited for you! In fact I would like to BE you: the first time you experience a trip like this is incredible and you will never be the same. Since I can’t be you, […]
[ID] => 54988
[post_author] => 39
[post_date] => 2008-05-11 00:00:00
[post_date_gmt] => 1970-01-01 00:00:00
[post_content] => Saludos a todos los Dragones; parents, travelers, instructors and dreamers,
To those who are new this year, I’d like to welcome you to the Dragons community and to the journey ahead! And to those who have joined us for another year, we are excited to have you back!
This is an exciting time of year for us, and we know that it is for you as well. We hope that the Yak Yak forum encourages you to voice your excitement, anxieties, thoughts and questions. It’s a great way to share a bit yourself, and if they haven’t done so already, your instructors will also do so shortly. From there, discussions will begin to build and your instructors will guide you with their best advice for preparing for the course – regarding packing, recommendations for readings, the itinerary, and topics to consider for your on-course Independent Study Projects (ISPs). As your Program Director, I’m going to be working closely with you as well, although mostly to support the program and the instructors and be a contact for parents while the group is out in the field.
My journey to Latin America began in the back of a 1978 Ford station wagon squeezed between three siblings and two proud parents. Together we spent two months weaving our way through the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan, the giant megalopolis of Mexico City and the warm beaches of Oaxaca. By age fifteen I decided I was ready to spring the nest and catapulted from my hometown town of 682 people in northern Wisconsin into a yearlong homestay with one of Puebla, Mexico’s most respected families. During the course of the next ten years I would be thoroughly infected with the traveling bug, living in Taipei, Taiwan for two years and traveling throughout southeast Asia, returning to Latin America to travel and study in Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia and Costa Rica, and spending the better part of a year living and studying in Cameroon where I focused on community based conservation efforts amongst indigenous tribes in the Congo Basin. After a long string of educational adventures I find it a great privilege to have recently joined the Boulder Administration, and look forward to a long and prosperous journey, continuously challenging my senses, and most importantly, generating new stories. I’m glad to have all of you at my side for this next chapter in the book of life.
So as we begin to pack our bags for this summer’s adventure, keep in mind that you are now an intricate part of a much greater process. This longer book contains chapters of the stories of past students and their poignant feedback, of instructors that have brought their contacts, knowledge and passion, and the dedicated individuals working in country to facilitate a powerful cross-cultural experience. Lastly, but certainly not least, come the stories and experiences of your parents, who have written many chapters in their book and learned that it is indeed worth it to send you off in to the world to find your own path. A lot has already gone in to the experience you will create this summer, and your energy and presence will greatly impact the experience of future Dragons.
On top of all the things that set us apart from similar organizations, it’s the tremendous amount of care and intention that goes into the development of our courses that really makes us unique. The design and development of our course curriculums and itineraries is an organic process that is directly spearheaded by our administration and field staff. Rather than out-sourcing this work to large-scale operators who will present to you a program on a platter – one that can be mindlessly facilitated by just about any guide – Dragons prefers to keep our hands in the dirt, allowing us to sculpt courses that are represent our unique goals of profound cross-cultural learning and self-cultivation. When it’s all said and done, and you finally gather in late June 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!
Of course, the launching of the Yak Yak forum also encourages YOU to become a participant in the process. We want you to share with us and your fellow students your intentions for joining a program like ours, and as you dig through your Lonely Planet guidebooks and crack open a few of our suggested pre-course readings, we’d really like to hear what catches your attention. You are welcome to throw out contributions to the itinerary – whether there’s a particular monastery that catches your attention, a non-governmental organization that you know you’d like to take a few days to learn from, or a trekking route that seems to pass through impossibly beautiful terrain. Although our instructors have already defined most components of the course, we’d like to work to incorporate your ideas when and where possible. So join in, shout out, and partake in this forum!
As has already been mentioned, Yak Yak is also the most appropriate place to address your pre-course questions. When Dragons’ Program Directors clear and post your Yaks with questions, they’ll typically determine if they would like the instructors to respond, in which case they will prompt the team to put together a note in reply. If, however, your question is one that I feel comfortable answering, I’ll be sure to reply right away. If, after a couple of days, you are unable to solicit a response, you may consider emailing your question directly to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that you will discover the magic of the Yak Yak forum, and learn to love it! It’s a powerful tool for pre-course 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!
Again, welcome to Dragons. I look forward to hearing from you all, and vicariously journeying alongside you this summer.
Simon C. Hart,Guatemala 4-week, Group "B", Summer 2008
Saludos a todos los Dragones; parents, travelers, instructors and dreamers, To those who are new this year, I’d like to welcome you to the Dragons community and to the journey ahead! And to those who have joined us for another year, we are excited to have you back! This is an exciting time of year […]