Like many of you, I have been anticipating this moment for quite a while. Our four weeks together in the Peruvian jungle and highlands will be my first experience with Dragons, an opportunity I have been working toward for the past few years. Today I write you from my parents’ home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’ve been seeing friends and family, sharing stories of recent travels in the Andes, and reminiscing about our memories from the waterways of Northern Wisconsin. Since graduating high school, I have returned here every summer to lead wilderness trips for Camp Manito-wish, ranging from 14 days canoeing in Ontario, to 24 days backpacking through Montana. This Great Lakes community is one of a few homes I have developed in recent years.
Since attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, I have returned frequently to the Pacific Northwest for the diverse geography and my relationships in the region. While in college, I studied Social Psychology and Latin American Studies, focusing on sources of prejudice, race dialogue, and Neoliberalism in Latin America. I enjoyed Psychology, because I drew from my studies while working as a Residential Advisor and a Wilderness Trip Leader. I also found that my focus on Latin America provided practical context that informed my first trip south.
During my third year of school, I studied abroad for consecutive semesters in Peru and Bolivia. Arriving in Peru, I was quickly intrigued by the starkly contrasting cultures in these countries, influenced by extreme geographical differences between the highlands and Amazon River Basin. I wanted to understand how indigenous cultures and languages had remained so robust through centuries of colonial influences in the region. I also wanted to study the forms of resistance people have employed to maintain their outlook and way of life. I completed two theses: the first examined the Incan network of footpaths that spanned the empire, and the second looked at different forms of feminism in Bolivia. I was inspired by feminist organizations in mining communities that worked to alleviate poverty and create alternative earning opportunities for women and men in their mining communities. This summer, I would love to explore this topic further with you all, as we learn about the relationships between women, men, and the natural world.
While much of wilderness travel in North America is intentionally isolated from civilization, there are very few corners of the dramatic Peruvian landscape that are not occupied or influenced by people. During my second visit to the region in the past six months, I fell in love with this aspect of Andean foot travel. As we move beneath 6,000-meter-high glaciers and around turquoise alpine lakes, I am excited for us to learn from the people we meet and the ruins we encounter. They will teach us of the cultural and spiritual significance of these majestic landscapes. While our trekking experiences may feel different from a backpacking trip in a U.S. National Forest, I encourage you to embrace the enchantment of a fallow potato field, a herd of alpaca returning to a stone corral, or an aqueduct that neighbors clean once a year because of its proximity to a sacred glacier. With an openness to the wisdom of these landscapes, a foggy day of trekking in the Andes can be as inspiring as a clear day when the glaciers shine.
I am thrilled to meet you all and begin to form our Dragones family as we travel south. I am eager to learn how your passions will shape our adventures this summer. Please get in touch if you have any questions or ideas for our course!