Category Archives: Team

Meet the Team – Intern Stilian

Stilian snow

Hello everyone! My name is Stilian, and I am the new Business Management intern at Dragonfly Expeditions. It has always been my dream to get out of Europe. Unfortunately, I never had the possibility to do so. But finally I made it.

– My destination: America
– More precisely: Miami, Florida

It all started in Kiev, Ukraine in 2012 when some friends and I opened a hostel for backpackers. As always it was a total coincidence that I met this guy from US there. His name was Brian and he enjoyed the time in Kiev and our hostel so much, that he invited me to visit Miami one day, to thank me for the good time.

Maybe it was just a joke he made, but I took him for serious and started to look for an internship in Miami, because I would have to do one anyways, no matter where. I thought Miami would be unbelievable and probably the best and at the same time the craziest thing I would ever do. Continue reading

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Meetings + Incentive Travel Magazine features Charles J. Kropke

In August the Canadian Meetings + Incentive Travel Magazine mentioned Dragonfly Expeditions in a Miami feature in its print edition as well as on Meetingscanada.com. This article resulted from a visit by editor Lori Smith in May of 2013. At the request of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau Charles J. Kropke took Lori around the city to immerse her into Miami’s hidden places. Based on the commentary in the article, we think Charles succeeded in convincing the writer that Miami really is more than beach. Continue reading

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New DVD Captures the Story of South Beach

South Beach DVDWe are proud to announce that following a successful sell-out of the first edition and the publication of the second edition of his landmark book “South Beach – Stories of a Renaissance”, Charles J. Kropke is now releasing a companion DVD with the same name.  It is tracing South Beach from its earliest pioneer days to today’s high-energy global resort, bringing the remarkable comeback story of this historic district to life.  With historical photos as well as on-location scenes, the DVD “South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance” is being published by Tropic Moon Media and provides a unique look at one of the world’s most popular travel destination.

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Call for Guides to Lead Historical, Ecological, and Cultural Tours

Contemno, et orno: mente, manu - “I divide and order with mind and hand”Dragonfly Expeditions is putting out its yearly call for guides and speakers.  Due to the growth of our company, we are continuously adding knowledgeable guides to our core staff to interpret the history, ecology and culture of South Florida.  We are looking for articulate leaders who are passionate, excellent interpreters, have a flexible work schedule and are willing to learn.

Dragonfly Expeditions has been on the forefront of sustainable tourism in South Florida since 1992.  Our day journeys are designed to create a sense-of-place for our visitors while focusing attention on many of Florida’s most unique and endangered places. Continue reading

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Meet the Team – Intern Mareike

MareikeMy name is Mareike. I am the new intern at Dragonfly Expeditions and will be in Miami until February 2014. I grew up in Aachen, which is the westernmost city of Germany, located at the point where the country borders on Belgium and the Netherlands. The city has a long history and is known as the place where the German kings were crowned. There you also find one of the top universities in Germany, the RWTH Aachen University, where I am currently studying business administration. Before I started with my studies, I completed an apprenticeship in International Office Management, which combined the learning of business basics with extensive language training in English, French and Spanish. Continue reading

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Meet the Team – Guide Sally

SallyWhat do the following vocations have in common: sailing instructor in Rhode Island (“fun!”), office manager for a large financial firm (“terrible”), theater director, art teacher, owner of a gift and gourmet food company (“lots of fun”), and artist? They all appear on our guide Sally Willits’ colorful resume. Her residences have been just as varied as her jobs: Sally was born in NYC and spent her early years on the north shore of Long Island – “Pretty much where The Great Gatsby took place; but post-war, NOT 1920’s jazz age,” she jokes. She has also spent time in Greenwich (RI), Philadelphia (PA), Wyomissing (PA), Annapolis (MD), Peachblossom Creek on the Eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay between Oxford and Easton (MD), and Wilmington (DE). Continue reading

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Exploring Florida’s Waterways – the Ocklawaha River

What do alligators, bacon-wrapped Oreos, and hillbillies have in common? They were all part of my weekend canoe trip down the Ocklawaha River near Ocala, FL. Exploring Florida’s waterways is part of my continuing discovery of the Sunshine State. I encountered my first alligator while kayaking on the “wild and scenic” Loxahatchee River, I helped locals clear trash from the mangroves in Biscayne Bay, I celebrated my first Florida Fourth of July by swimming in the Atlantic, and I experienced the Gulf by catamaran. Last month I had the opportunity to canoe an 18-mile portion of the Ocklawaha River.

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Meet the Team – Guide Jhon

If I had to describe Jhon Garcia in one word, that word would be “worldly.” Jhon is Colombian and grew up in the Andes Mountains, thousands of feet above sea level and far from any ocean. But instead of on ancient sediments, his current home now sits on the sandy soil of South Florida. After living in Bogotá, Columbia where he worked in the ecotourism industry, Jhon originally moved to Florida to study anthropology, a science that allows him to combine his many passions, at FIU. He also studied art and music in a local conservatory, the New World School of the Arts. Jhon plays two Andean instruments, a type of flute called a quena and a small guitar made from an armadillo shell called a charango. In 2011 he produced his own album with a few local musicians. After living in the US for many years, Jhon feels that most artistic forms of the western hemisphere resonate within him.

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Sailing to Andros

This past March, just on the front side of the insanely-busy portion of our corporate tour season, I was presented with an opportunity to help out a friend and her adorable family and to disconnect from the stress of phone calls, texts, and emails. She was looking for someone to help them sail their CSY 44′ sailboat from Islamorada in the Florida Keys to Fresh Creek on Andros Island in the Bahamas. The biggest challenge facing us was not only to cross the Gulf Stream – but to do it with two children under two years old on board!  My official title was “First Mate/Nanny.” The family was familiar with the environment because they live on the boat, but it would be the first time crossing the Gulf Stream for the kids and for me. Especially during the winter months, strong northern winds can make it difficult to cross the south-to-north-flowing Gulf Stream. Continue reading

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Learning to Love the Mud

At the beginning of this year I came across an article in the Miami Herald describing a “Hike to the Big Trees” in the Big Cypress National Preserve.  This ranger-guided trip is offered by the National Park Service only a few times a year, so Charles and I rushed to get a spot on the last available trek in early March.  Neither one of us had been on the southernmost section of the Florida Trail before, where the hike took place. This aspect and the possibility of seeing some of the remaining giant cypress trees that had escaped the logging period of the 1920s to the 1950s were highly intriguing to us. We gathered with 15 fellow hikers at the Oasis Visitor Center and the weather conditions turned to be out ideal for this venture. The sky remained overcast and I didn’t sweat a single drop the entire day – a rare occasion in the Florida wilderness! Contrary to the temperature, the state of the trail was much more challenging. Continue reading

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South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance – The Second Edition

Photo by Michelle Yan

Michelle, one of our guides-in-training, was cycling through South Beach one day and saw a peculiar sight: a skateboarder carrying a copy of a very familiar book. After chasing him down and becoming a traffic hazard in the process, she found out that the young man had just purchased South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance and was going to send it to his girlfriend in Korea as a gift.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, our resident author Charles J. Kropke co-published the first edition of this book with Eleanor Goldstein in February 2011. The book has been a great success and continues to sell strongly; I have seen its bright blue cover through the window in locations such as the Villa Vizcaya Gift Shop and Books & Books stores. We are very proud to announce that the first edition of this book is completely sold out and that the second edition is currently being printed! Continue reading

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Meet the Team – Intern Rodrigo

Hello everyone! I am proud to present myself as the new intern with Dragonfly Expeditions. My name is Rodrigo Carmona Lopez and I will work at Dragonfly Expeditions until the middle of August. Just like the conquerors of Florida, I am Spanish and live officially in Madrid. When I was a child, my two sisters would make fun of me by saying that I didn’t belong to the family because I was German and the rest of my family was Spanish … That was because I was born in Germany while my father was working in Düsseldorf as an economic & trade attaché. I spent the first four years of my life in Germany and then my family moved to Madrid. In Spain, my sisters and I studied at a German school to continue learning the language. Continue reading

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Meet the Team – Guide Justin

Justin Law is a true Florida Cracker, having lived in Central and South Florida all his life. Certainly this has made him in touch with a state in which most of its inhabitants have moved in from other places. Justin is anything but tired of the Sunshine State. Although he admits that he probably takes some things for granted due to his lifelong residence in Florida, he says that his favorite thing about living here “isn’t the cities, but the natural beauty that Florida has to offer.” He says that he “likes to explore the Everglades, canoe in local lakes or in Biscayne Bay, and fish offshore in a motorboat.” Continue reading

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Meet the Team: April Loves to Run!

We are happy to announce that as of November 26th, 2012 April Kuhlman has joined the Dragonfly Expeditions team full-time after completing a six-month internship with our company. Due to her superb writing skills, she had been and continues to be entrusted with the management of our blog and the On the ‘fly newsletter as well as a variety of other tasks. Going forward into the high season, April will be involved in operating our tours and programs in addition to her work concerning guide training, research, tour development and script writing. Continue reading

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Meet the Team – Guide Elizabeth

Like many before her, the snow and cold of the Midwest pushed Elizabeth Wedlake south to Florida. This Chicago native moved to Miami and spent several years visiting the Caribbean island of Saba to help her late husband with his orchid research. During her stint in the Caribbean, she not only learned about Saba’s culture and wildlife, but also became acquainted with the Sea and Learn program.

Elizabeth’s occupational history spans many industries, including luxury transportation, management, naturalist studies, and freelance event planning. Continue reading

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Meet the Team – Guide Yeraldine

Yeraldine (pronounced like “Geraldine”) Ordonez first started working with Dragonfly Expeditions when a mutual friend of Megan Fries suggested that she check out the company. Constantly a victim of wanderlust, Yeraldine had just returned from a backpacking trip in South America when she was informed that Dragonfly Expeditions was looking for guides. Her diverse travel background made her a fitting leader for the company and she thought it a “wonderful surprise to find a welcomed match between my passions and their job description.”

She is always looking for her next adventure. Her never-ending energy and enthusiasm make Yeraldine a great guide who always tries to impart a true sense of place to the individuals journeying with her. Add the desires to travel, discover new places, and create cultural connections – and she is a perfect fit for Dragonfly Expeditions and our own vision and mission.

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Heroic Action by Guide Pamela Jones Morton

We at Dragonfly Expeditions have always held our guides in the highest esteem.  Their lives are full of great  accomplishments. We are proud of the enthusiasm they display for their profession as well as their passion for the causes they support.  But when someone goes above and beyond every day expectations, we feel that it deserves to be brought to the attention of a larger audience.  In December 2011, when I wrote the first blog post about Pamela Jones Morton, I had no idea that this guide would soon evolve from someone I admired into a hero.

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Meet the Team: Intern April

Hello! My name is April Kuhlman and I’m twenty-two years old.  Before you ask – yes, my birthday is in April.  Born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in the small town of Batesville, Indiana, I would consider myself a Midwestern girl proud of her Irish and German heritage.  I spent my childhood exploring the woodlands surrounding the area in which I grew up.  The two most important decisions I made as a child were becoming a musician and a competitive swimmer.  I swam competitively for about twelve years. This experience gave me discipline, motivation, and the desire to always keep my body healthy.  I learned to play the clarinet in fifth grade and later had the opportunity to play in marching bands, concert bands, a jazz band, and multiple pit orchestras; I am still a member of the Eureka Band – the oldest, continuous volunteer band in the country.  I held several part time jobs before I graduated college, but the only one worth mentioning is the job I had at CSR ranch.  During the summers of 2009 and 2011, I worked as a tour guide/animal caregiver at this privately-owned ranch.  At the ranch, I had the opportunity to work with animals such as buffalo, monkeys, wolves, iguanas, chinchillas, and black bears.  During the summer of 2011 I raised an infant tiger.  In my free time, I enjoy running, biking, reading, writing, watching science fiction movies, playing video games, hiking, and pursuing artwork as a hobby.

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Meet the Team – Guide Emerson

Emerson Fales first met the Dragonfly Expeditions team at one of our regular exotic removal and habitat restoration events at Vizcaya in 2008 and started guiding kayaking, biking, walking tours for our company in 2009.  He has called Miami home for practically his entire life, so he felt that Dragonfly Expeditions’ vision and mission were well aligned with his personal love of South Florida.  His interest and enjoyment of natural South Florida began at an early age and has grown over the years.  Emerson’s favorite saying is: “No other city in the country has a front yard like Biscayne Bay and a backyard like the Everglades.”  Thanks to his mother, and despite the chorus of negative comments from the backseat, his family spent many hours canoeing and exploring the Everglades.  He also spent lots of unforgettable days on Biscayne Bay snorkeling, fishing, water skiing, and canoeing.  As a result of all these childhood travels, he accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge on South Florida ecology and animal life which came in handy when educating visiting friends.

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A Canoe Trip on Halfway Creek in Big Cypress National Preserve

Recently I had the pleasure of paddling on Halfway Creek guided by two local park rangers. The trip was offered free of charge  as part of the annual National Park Week from April  21st to 29th, 2012. The purpose of this event in the words of National Park Service Director  Jonathan B. Jarvis is: “America’s national parks offer something for everyone. Take a break and  experience something new, enjoy some fresh air, get some exercise, and see where history happened. And, since admission is free to all 397 parks, all week long, National Park Week is a great time to get up, get out, and explore a park.”

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Charles J. Kropke wins Historic Preservation Award

Dragonfly Expeditions is proud to announce that Managing Partner Charles J. Kropke has received the 2012 Historic Preservation Award presented by the Dade Heritage Trust during their annual meeting in the restored Pan American Seaplane Base (today Miami City Hall) on April 27th, 2012.  Charles was honored in the category of outstanding individual for the many aspects of his professional and personal life on behalf of endangered historic treasures and the general awareness of preservation.  Among the efforts mentioned were the work of Dragonfly Expeditions which educates travelers from all over the world about Miami’s architecture and neighborhoods through the art of storytelling. In addition, Charles’ book “South Beach – Stories of a Renaissance” highlights inspiring individuals whose push for historic preservation had a tremendous positive economic impact on the tourism industry of Miami Beach in particular and South Florida in general.

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Everglades Backwater Hike with Charles J. Kropke and WLRN TV 17

The folks at WLRN-TV are creating a series of small segments entitled “Slices of Life” featuring local residents’ careers and businesses. A small group of friends and I were invited to come along with the crew to interview Charles J. Kropke. I was thrilled to join upon hearing that the filming was to be conducted in Big Cypress National Preserve. This, however, was not going to be the passive outing that most people witness- high and dry. Our guide’s ominous recommendation was to “make sure to bring a change of clothes and shoes”.

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Meet the Team – Intern Janine

My name is Janine. I grew up in a small town in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg that is located in the north of Germany’s Black Forest. In the past, my family and I traveled a lot together for vacation, thus I have seen a lot of places such as France, Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom, Turkey, Tunisia, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Austria, Qatar and of course the United States of America. I am in the US for the 7th time now. My family and I started going to the United States back in 1992. We traveled with a RV along the East coast and the West coast of the US and found some wonderful and awesome places.  I was so impressed about the towns and the national parks in the US.  Most of the time we stayed with our RV over night in national parks, like Bryce Canyon, Yosemite or Grand Canyon National Park. I liked the nature at these locations a lot, especially when a dragonfly was flying next to us or when a squirrel was stealing our cornflakes from the table. Friends of my family live in Venice, Florida, so I flew to Florida on my own in the summer of 2009 in order to spend my vacation there. I fell in love with Florida, so I decided to make a road trip through Florida with in the summer of 2010 for 3 weeks. I started in Venice and drove to Cape Coral, the Everglades, Miami, Key West, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral, Daytona Beach, St. Augustine, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and back to Venice. It was a great trip, but I only saw the major tourist spots. This trip inspired me to see more nature and discover places that not many people have seen before and can’t be found in a travel guide.

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Meet the Team: Intern Liana

I am Liana Rajaonary and I am the new intern at Dragonfly Expeditions. I am 21 and I was born in Marseille (France) but I grew up in Reunion Island, where my parents live, which is a French dependency located in the Indian Ocean. I am originally from Madagascar -which is the 4th largest island in the world before being a movie- but many people here in Miami seem to think that I am from South America. I have an older sister, she is 25 and she also lives in France, but in Toulouse.

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Meet the Team – Pam

Pamela Jones-Morton has been a guide for Dragonfly Expeditions since 2006 and what drew her towards working with us was the prospect of teaching others to experience the world around us in an eco-friendly, yet challenging way.  After growing up in Maryland, she received her undergraduate from Frostburg State College, her MA from Michigan State University and finally her PhD from the Ohio State University. In addition, she holds a Florida Master Naturalist degree from the University of Florida and a Certification for Birding Biology from the Cornell School of Ornithology.  Her initial career as a teacher led her to several positions around the world: Tokyo/Japan (5 years), Wilmington/Delaware (1 year), Düsseldorf/Germany (4 years), Rio de Janeiro/Brazil (3 years), and London/UK (1 year).  After holding an assistant professor position in West Virginia, Pam moved into the corporate world, working for Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc. as a Manager in the Expatriate Administration and the Integrated Human Resources Departments.

Currently residing in Estero, the proximity to the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve allows her to spend her free time kayaking, hiking, photographing, bird watching and playing with her black lab Margee.  As an activist, she shares these passions by volunteering with Lovers Key State Park as an interpretive guide for beach walks, birding tours, dolphin and manatee talks, as well as wading and photography trips.  In addition, she also volunteers with the Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida where she oversees the “Senior Dogs for Senior Citizens” program.

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Following the Libylula: Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest – Part 2 of 2

We arrived in the town of Brasilia (not to be confused with the capital of Brazil), which accounts for one of three villages on the island.  The “roads” in the towns of Ilha do Mel were paths that allowed access to the small stores, village homes, posadas, and restaurants by foot or bicycle.  The combination of the quaint posadas, the humble ambiance of the villages, and the easygoing attitude of the locals is like a scene out of a Hemingway novel.  This was so infectious that not even an hour into our arrival we all started to slow down and talk about foregoing our tight posada inspection time frame.  If it had not been for the persistence of our guide Tatiana, we might all still be in Ilha do Mel living a Jimmy Buffet song.

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Following the Libylula: Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest – Part 1 of 2

The dragonfly took the lead, then trailed, but often was content in hovering within the confines of the speeding boat.   This exhilarating one hour speed boat journey through the Baia Paranagua into the mouth of the Nhundiaquara River was the final thrill of a 5 day adventure into the last remaining stretch of Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlântica) left on this planet.  As my gaze shifted from the agile dragonfly to the healthy mangroves that framed this journey, I caught glimpses of the faces of my companions who had shared this journey with me.  Their expressions were triumphant but in reserved contemplation, much like the faces you see on a metro on a Monday morning after a fabulous weekend.   More than likely all, as myself, were still in awe of this magical corner of Brazil.

The invitation from ABETA (Brazilian Eco-tourism and Adventure Travel Trade Association) offered a familiarization trip to one of the most unexplored regions in Brazil, and one of the places on my travel wish list.  Our small group included travel industry influencers from the USA, Germany, New Zealand, UK and the Netherlands.   We all went with great expectations and came away very pleased.

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Meet the Team – Bernardo

The path to Dragonfly Expeditions of everybody on the team has been shaped by their life’s journey.  This is probably true the most for Bernardo Carrillo who was born in Ecuador, but by the time he was 18 had already lived in Los Angeles, Quito, Colorado, Louisiana, Abu Dhabi, Cyprus, France, Switzerland and Boston!  Graduating from Northeastern University in 1992 after double-majoring in Economics and Political Science, he was able to secure his first job at the ITT Sheraton in Boston in a very tough job market.  But within a year, his dream of helping protect the environment while creating a profitable enterprise had him launch the eco-tourism company Eco Voyager together with a business partner.  By the mid-1990s Bernardo chose to take a full time position with Saga Holidays in Boston – temporarily shelving his entrepreneurial pursuits, while his business partner decided to continue the company on his own in Miami for another 3 years. In 1998 Bernardo’s old business partner decided to sell the business, at which point Bernardo re-connected with his old dream, so he bought the company back and also relocated the headquarters back to Boston. After six years of continued growth and expansion with more offices in Latin America, Bernardo moved the company and his family life to Miami in 2004 to be closer to his operations in South America.  Due to its rapid growth, he decided to sell parts of Eco Voyager in 2006 and 2007, but the following recession resulted in him becoming the Managing Director for Maupintour in 2009 (but not before a brief encounter with Dragonfly Expeditions).

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The Library of Dragonfly Expeditions

As Managing Partner for Dragonfly Expeditions, one of my driving obsessions is our company library.  It is a running joke in the office that everywhere I go, I buy books about the culture, history and ecology of Florida and the Caribbean Basin and bring them back to headquarters like prizes from the battlefield.  I occasionally attack Amazon’s online database with relish.  Whenever we broach a new subject for a tour, I buy every relevant book on the subject.  For this reason, Dragonfly Expeditions has an already extensive and growing library.  We have whole collections of books on Florida Indians, the Everglades, Miami history, piracy, sailing, seaplanes, Spanish treasure, local wildlife, Cuba, the Bahamas, Florida architecture, Florida art, cracker cowboy heritage and books on almost every village, town and city in the state.  Of course, these are just some of the many topics represented in our collection. I am fanatic about this library.

My dreams for the library almost border on megalomania. I ask everyone I know if they have Florida books with which they wish to part.  I particularly savor old and out-of-print issues.  I want to have the largest collection in the state on Florida and Caribbean subjects.

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The End of a Lifetime Experience

Before I came to Miami to start my internship with Dragonfly Expeditions I was counting the days.  Time could not go by fast enough.  And now, as I will return to Germany in a couple of days I realize how time actually flew by while I had the time of my life.

My expectations of what I wanted to learn, see and experience were already quite high but all of them were even exceeded.

First of all I had the pleasure to work with an absolutely incredible team.  To come to a foreign country by oneself is always difficult, but everybody in the office tried their best to make me feel as comfortable as possible in this new environment.  And in my opinion they did a great job.  Also the working atmosphere was fantastic.  Everybody works together closely and the team’s passion for what they are doing is absolutely infectious.

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