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A young arriero leads a mule across fresh snow in the Peruvian Andes. Photo by Benjamin Swift (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist), South America Semester.

Our Tentative Itinerary!

Dear students and families,

We are thrilled to present to all of you our tentative itinerary and thematic focus for the fall semester! We are really excited to visit every single one of the places listed here and we hope you can start to build your own excitement as you read through this. Each place has been selected based on the learnings that we hope to gain during our time together, giving the itinerary a purposeful flow that will allow more student ownership and independence as we progress. As always with Dragons, the course will be flexible and spontaneous, allowing us to make changes depending on local conditions, group interests, and other opportunities that may present themselves along the way.

In addition to Dragons core curriculum and learning goals, we have also chosen a guiding focus or theme to weave through the varied learning experiences we will gain on course, which we call our “Focus of Inquiry,” or FOI.  For our course, our FOI will be “Resistance: Past and Present.”  In the form of discussions, guest speakers, homestays, and site visits we hope to present to you cultural legacies of resistance as well as historic and current accomplishments of the Bolivian and Peruvian communities we visit. We will seek out the often buried narratives of historical resistance to Spanish invasion and also spend time with contemporary activists involved in social justice, indigenous rights, environmental conservation, art, music, politics and more.

Please reflect on what the word “resistance” means to you, what it looks like in your own community, and how we may encounter this theme in the itinerary below.

With all this in mind, we proudly present our tentative itinerary…

Orientation: (September 16-19) We will arrive to Santa Cruz de la Sierra and have four days of orientation in a beautiful Eco-lodge in the nearby town of Samaipata. During these days we will get ready to interact with the country and the places we will be visiting during the semester. We’ll take a few days to get to know each other, familiarize ourselves with customs and culture, and set our goals for our program. We’ll also talk about our group culture and how we want to travel as a group of foreigners in Bolivia and Peru.

Parque Nacional Amboró: (September 20-22) – After orientation, we will have our first group excursion into Amboró National Park, where we will trek through tropical jungle and learn about the incredible biodiversity of this region. We will use this first trek to work on building our group and strengthening our relationships with one another.

Tiquipaya homestay Part 1: (September 23-October 4) We will then head to Tiquipaya, a semi-rural town just outside the city of Cochabamba and the site of the extended homestay portion of our course. Our time in Tiquipaya will be divided into two sections, and this will be the first half of our time with families.  During homestays, we will have the opportunity to create a routine and personally experience the way of life of Bolivian families. We will also take Spanish classes, work on our independent study projects, and learn from local academics and activists. Tiquipaya is often the highlight of the semester for our students because this is the part of the trip that often offers the most personal experience of daily life in Bolivia.

Sucre & Potosi: (October 5-9) Following the first part of our homestay, we will have our first (of many!) long bus rides to visit the colonial cities of Sucre and Potosi. These two very different but historically important cities represent complementary legacies of the Spanish occupation. Sucre will give us an interesting look into Bolivia’s colonial origins while Potosi’s famous silver mine, Cerro Rico, provides a classic example of resource extraction that fueled the development of Europe.

Cordillera Real Trek: (October 10-16) From the southern highlands of Bolivia, we will travel north to the town of Sorata where we will begin our first long trek. The Real Mountain Range is the most beautiful sequence of mountains in Bolivia, with peaks reaching 21,000 ft. The sacred lake Titicaca is visible from many points of our trek. We will hike for six days, which will give us the opportunity to practice leadership skills in a group setting. There are a couple of options for this part of our trip and we will be including you all in the process of making our decision of which of these routes to take.

Mid-Course, Lago Titicaca: (October 17-18) On the shores of Lake Titicaca, near the argued origin of Inca civilization, we will reserve two days for our group to reflect inward. We will provide each other with feedback and reevaluate our goals for the rest of the course.      

The Bolivian Amazon: (October 19-29) From Lake Titicaca we will descend into the Amazon, traveling by boat down the Rio Beni, an affluent of the Amazon River. We will float through the Pilon Lajas Indigenous Territory and Biosphere Reserve, arriving in Asuncion de Quiquibey, a rural community in this part of the Amazon rainforest.  Here we will stay with families, join in daily soccer games, and try our hands helping our host families attend to their fields. We will return by plane from the Amazon city of Rurrenabaque to La Paz.

Tiquipaya homestay Part 2: (October 30-November 12) Following our adventures in the Amazon, we will be welcomed back home by our same host families in Tiquipaya.  After nearly a month of travel, we will appreciate the return to our routine of classes, independent projects, and time to learn and breathe in our Bolivian home away from home.

La Paz/El Alto: (November 13-15) On March 13th we will head to La Paz, the de facto capital of Bolivia. Here we will be staying in neighboring El Alto, the largest indigenous city in the hemisphere and collaborate with a theater collective to learn about art as a tool for social change.

Cusco: (November 15-16) After an overland journey from La Paz, we will arrive in the city of the Inca to learn about this powerful empire that ruled the Andes five hundred years ago. We will learn about the amazing advancements in astronomy, agriculture, and architecture the Incas achieved.

Nacion Q’eros: (November 16-20) Expanding upon our learning in Cusco, we will spend the next days trekking within communities that trace their lineage directly back to the Inca. Along the way, we will stay with families who live in very simple accommodations (many times one-room stone houses with thatch roofs), practicing some Quechua, eating mostly potatoes, and learning about Andean spirituality and connection to Pachamama. Our trekking here will include some spectacular vistas, high mountain passes, and sacred spaces.

Student Expedition, Machu Picchu and beyond: (November 21-December 1) Expedition is a time that you get to plan as a group, and with our support and the skills you have developed over the course of the semester you will co-create an adventure with your peers. We will always be there to support your process. As a group you will identify where you want to go and shape the learning that we will gain from those spaces. You all are going to be able to collaborate to include everyone’s expectations and desires. This is always a time in the program that we feel most proud of. It is rewarding to see how far you’ve come with your skills in traveling as a group!

Transference: (December 2-5) Depending on where we finish our x-phase, we will choose a location to come together as a group one final time before saying our goodbyes. We will take the last three days to reflect on our trip and learning, celebrate our successes, and consider how to integrate our experiences into our lives at home. On December 6, your international flights will depart from Lima back home.

It is always an exciting process to think through our itinerary and place intention towards the learning outcomes of each phase of the course.  We can’t wait to start this adventure with all of you!

Hasta pronto,

Los instructores