The Final Day

Tuesday, June 16
Today was an enormously fun day. The rain god, Chaac, ruined our Saturday plans to go to Isla Mujeres but we endured the insult and were able to squeeze in a day trip to the lovely island just off the north coast of Cancun. It was a fast trip and we had to move as a super organized group in order to make it work. We would arrive at Isla Mujeres at 10:30 and had to leave on the 2:00 ferry for Cancun.

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One purpose of the trip was for John Gray (Juan Gris) to have a chance to visit the sanctuary of Ixchel, goddess of the rainbow, fertility, abundance, love, and medicine. Another reason was to have another chance to see the beautiful, clear, magical water of the Caribbean. The iguanas were everywhere and John was able to get some fabulous pictures. The sculptures were very unique. The intense beauty of the place was startling and we even saw a group of turtles swimming and playing. It was a fabulous morning.

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We were able to make it back to the ferry and crossed back to Cancun and our families so we could get ready for the 5:00 P.M. graduation services.

It is hard to explain the emotional unity of the evening. There is not doubt that this is a very close group Several speeches were made by university officials. Each student gave a speech in which he/she thanked the professors, the families, and the universities for the gift of being able to study at La Salle University and live in Cancun. Each speech was unique and personal and extremely well presented. The Rector was impressed that Intermediates could express themselves so proficiently. Shelby gave a special thank you to her host family by showing in dance her gratefulness for having lived with them [insert video]. Everyone received a diploma. This is a photo of the students of EL PUENTE, the Rector, the Vice Rector, Martha Aguilar (Spanish teacher) and Alberto Celarie (Mayan History teacher), coordinator Vicki Cosio. What a happy group! What a wonderful group of students!

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Tomorrow at 11:00 A.M. all students will arrive at the airport; at 2:00 we will begin our trek back home to the United States and Wichita. We may see/feel the after effects of Hurricane Bill (the former tropical storm of Saturday and Sunday) but our flights look good all the way to 7:30 when we arrive back in Wichita. There is no doubt that this group of the 20th anniversary of our study abroad program with La Salle, Cancun has been very unique and very successful. These students have adapted to the Mexican culture; they have questioned and learned a myriad of important things; they matured as individuals as they learned how to survive abroad. They have been wonderful examples of the positive side of citizens of the United States, Kansas, Wichita. It has been an enormous pleasure to travel and interact with the students of EL PUENTE. These are ten students who are aimed for a successful, fruitful life as global citizens.

Storms in Cancun

We woke up this morning….it was STILL pouring down rain…still and it did not stop until early Monday morning. The ferocity of this storm was impressive. The forecast was that it would pass through the sliver of water between Yucatan and Cuba and pause on the warm, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. There it will receive the energy of the Gulf and proceed forward perhaps as a hurricane. They predict that it will, indeed, become a hurricane in 48 hours. The first trajectory of the storm is headed for my home town of Corpus Christi, Texas, The headline in one newspaper said “Chaac does damage in Cancun”. You can see people thigh-deep in the water and the rain falling in sheers on the beach. The next photos show La Salle University completely saturated in places; the next photo shows the football field where only last week we were watching Mayan warriors dance.

Cancun Newspaper
Rain soaked La Salle University
Rain soaked La Salle University

Some students (Chloe & Ashley) swam in the rain with their families; others stayed home and watched movies (John & Irfan). Others went to the movie in town (Allison). Nicole went to Merida, Yucatan with her family to spend the weekend and avoided the tropical storm drama completely. It was sunny and beautiful in the state of Yucatan.

We are all hoping that the rain will stop soon so we can go to Isla Mujeres before graduation events on Tuesday, our last day.

City Hall, Jurassic World and Spanish Conversation Class

June 12, Friday

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What a day!! At 10:00 we arrived at the Cancun City Hall as guest of Mayor Paul Carrillo de Caceres. Our first photo was in the entrance plaza with a statue of Benito Juarez, the first indigenous President of Mexico. When we entered the meeting hall, there was a huge sign welcoming “students from our sister city of Wichita Kansas’. Members of the Cancun Sister City Committee were in attendance. Dr. Smartt gave some introductory remarks, followed by Mayor Carrillo de Caceres. Then Irfan Shah delivered the letter to Mayor Carrillo from our Mayor Jeff Longwell. Photos were taken by the press. Shelby designed a creative pose to close the event.. Visiting City Hall was informative and productive.

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Then we were off to see “Jurrasic World”. It opened in Cancun on Thursay so we decided to miss the crowds and go on our off morning on Friday. [photo 14, 15]. Half of the group went to the all-Spanish version and half attending the English with Spanish subtitles. It was scary and fun.

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Afterwards, half of the group ate lunch at 100% Natural and the other half went to Labna Restaurant for a Yucatecan buffet. All were happy with their choices and we headed to La Salle University for Spanish conversation class.

The skits were especially funny today. Here is a picture of Irfan, the narrator. Here are pics of Irfan, Haley, Chloe, and Ashley, John, Shelby, & Allison, Emma, Ashley, Irfan, and Alyssa.

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Today was a fabulous, fun day. Tomorrow it’s off to the beach!!!

Food Day

Today we woke up bright and early to group up and head out just in time to use the grand kitchen at the breath-takingly beautiful La Salle University here in our gorgeous sister city, Cancún. After greeting a past head chef of the Ritz Hotel, José Hernandez, and his swift paced companion, Chef Cezar Ramirez, Los Diez split into three groups to tackle our food challenge of the day.

La Salle University Chef

La Salle University Chef

On the menu is an array of traditional Mexican dishes; Guacamole, Salbutes con Pollo, Caldillo Rojo (a rich red salsa), and Agua Horchata (rice milk?). As we split up there was actually no mistakes! We understood, if not everything, nearly everything they asked of us, which made for a truly inspirational experience. As Emma the Amazing Schatzman says “At least now I won’t be stuck eating Peanut Butter and Jelly all my life.” Emma was among the first group who conquered a magnificent blend of cilantro, jalapeños, tomatoes, onions, a touch of salt, pepper and cream, and of course, fresh avocado. While group One was working on Guacamole group Two was preparing tortillas, balling up the corn maize dough and flattening it to perfection for the Salbutes, just before Chef Cezar and his spectacular assistant Haley finished them off with a scorching oil bath. Group Three must have been working at double the pace to dish out a double dose of Caldillo Rojo, and Agua Horchata. With the skilled shredding talents from Juan Anaranjado, they also conquered some amazing chicken. By this point our mouths were watering from the wonderful aroma filling the air. After Group One finished their Guacamole blend they teamed up with Group Two and Three to lend a helping hand, and I must say for our first kitchen experience here in Cancún ¡la comida fue deliciosa!

La Salle University Chef

La Salle University Chef

La Salle University Chef

-Irfan Shah

Parque Crococun

June 9, Parque Crococun
This morning we visited the incredible Parque Crococun. It is a lovely, safe place for endangered species of the area as well as safe haven for animals that were pets when they were small but were donated to this park when they began to grow. We saw beautiful birds like the elegant Macaw, held young crocodiles, saw an albino boa, held a rattle snake, saw the older crocodiles in their habitat, and fed some tame deer. Since Ashley Easley, Shelby Echols, and Nicole Wiebe have worked in Wichita zoos, their insights were valuable. (Read further blogs from their perspective.}

In the afternoon, we continued our intriguing class in Mayan history and culture. It was a long class (3 hours without a break!) but we were captivated by its content and the methodology of Professor Celarie.

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Mirador Beach

Sunday, June 7 was “family day” and each student had a special experience with his/her family. Some went out of town (Holbox, Tulum); while others went swimming at local hotels, attended family gatherings, ate outstanding food, and went snorkling.

On Monday, June 6 we spent the morning at Playa Mirador, a fabulous beach right at the edge of the clear, blue Caribbean Sea. It was hilarious fun and very relaxing as we played frisbee, swam in the ocean, got slapped by the waves, laughed out loud, and relaxed under the palapa.

Mirador Beach

Mirador Beach

The afternoon was spent in our interesting Maya History and Culture class with Professor Celarie. The class is a fascinating walk through the Mayan civilization with a very enthusiastic teacher!

Tulum

June 6, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Today we went to Playa del Carmen for a relaxing day at the beach. Seven of us decided to continue on south for a visit to the post class site of Tulum. The bus trip was very pleasant and it took us right to the archeological site. After a brisk walk to the entrance, we visited the Principal Priest’s house and saw the remains of a cenote that used to be under the house. Some were especially excited to be there. Then we saw the port of entry, the light house, Temple of the Descending God, the Castillo, the Temple of Frescos and other sites. The best was when we were able to walk up to the edge overlooking the Caribbean. The sight was beautiful and the breeze was so welcome! It was a very hot day!. This is a photo of John Gray, Allison Newport, Alyssa Wiebe, Chloe Chen, Shelby Echols, and Emma Schmatzman standing in front of the beautiful Caribbean! Allison was especially glad to be there because she is writing her paper on a comparison of the archeological sites of Chichen Itza and Tulum. We treated ourselves to a quick train ride back to the entrance. It was hot; we were sweaty; we decided we deserved it!. Before the bus back to Playa arrived, there was time to shop (Chloe) and grab a bit of lunch (John, Emma, Allison, Shelby, Alyssa). The bus was on time and we arrived back in Playa with 2 ½ hours to enjoy the beach and “Fifth Avenue” for shopping. The other 4 members of Los Diez stayed in Playa and snorkled and ate lunch. They had a good time too! Nicole didn’t go to Tulum because she will be going with her family on Sunday. Ashley had had the unique opportunity to go to a town called Holbox with her family. She will have lots of adventures to tell us about on Monday!

So at 6:36 we boarded the bus back to Cancun and our families were waiting to pick us up at 8:00 P.M. It was an eventful and very relaxing day! Next week? Crococun animal park (zoo science majors are excited!), Cooking classes, more Mayan culture with Professor Celarie and we end the week with Conversation classes with Professora Martha.

Los Diez is an extraordinary group of very diverse students who move very well as a cohesive group. This makes for lots of positive experiences and eventful days! Stay tuned for more adventures!

What a surprise! Second class of Mayan History

June 5, Friday

How to tell the story of the events of the second class Mayan history? It was so nice to simply stand in the walkway and allow the afternoon breeze to surround you. The first thing Professor Celarie said was that there was going to be a “sorpresa” but first we would take a tour of the campus to see the numerous sacred “ceiba” trees. They were beautiful and healthy and we saw up close the thorny trunks and huge roots that were searching for the water below. Then we went to see a spectacular example that was located on the other side of the football field. As we entered the large area, you could hear the faint sound of a flute. As we got closer, we could see that it was a Mayan dressed in the ancient costume of a Mayan warrior. For a time he played various flutes and a conch shell and we sat on the ground to enjoy his concert on the hill below the ceiba tree. Then… suddenly there were four more who appeared dressed in the same fashion but their bodies were painted in the four cardinal colors of north (white), south (yellow), red (east), black (west), and green for the earth and life.] After they danced, they came forward to answer question and then we took pictures with them. Later, the “warriors” came to our class and we asked many, many question. It was interesting and informative.

Museo Maya de Cancun

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Today we went to the Museo Maya de Cancun. It is an amazing place with treasures from all over the land of the Maya. There were antiquities from the Pre-classic, Classic, and Post-classic periods. All of the students are writing research papers on a variety of topics concerning the Maya and there was virtually something of interest for each student. For the “moment”, the topics are the following:

  • Chloe & Shelby – Xibalba, the Maya underworld
  • Haley – cosmosvision: cycles, concept of time, and religion of the Maya
  • Irfan – architecture & religion from the perspective of an engineer
  • Nicole – flora and fauna of the Maya
  • Allison – Chichen Itza & Tulum: a comparison
  • Emma – Chichen Itza
  • John – the goddess Ixchel
  • Ashley – Chichen Itza and the concept of time
  • Alyssa – religious aspects of Chichen Itza

They are “for the moment” because as the students research, learn and see more and more, the focus of the research paper changes. Visiting the Museum was an important experience for the students. They are also having fun posing in different Mayan poses!

Then we continued on to the Post-classic archeological site of “El Rey” where finally we were able to climb the pyramids. Here is a picture of Irfan Shah. This site is important because it is built below ground to avoid the winds of storms and hurricanes and also because its unusual platting in the form of a rectangle.

This morning was a good way to introduce the study of the Mayan Culture and History class which began in the afternoon with Professor Alberto Celarie who is a researcher and advisor in the Mayan park of XCaret.

Day 2 at Centro de Rehabilitación Infantil Teléton

June 1

Today was our second day at the Centro de Rehabilitación Infantil Teléton (CRIT) and it was so far the best day ever. When we first got there we had to wait in the waiting area (which is a table with a cart full of games in the middle) before we got our assigned tasks. A young boy by the name of Santiago came up to me and I read 3 books to him [photo 1-John’s]. He really enjoyed the books about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! After a while he had to leave so I read books with Allison and a little girl named Katie.

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She was just a ball of energy! Allison and I read all the books on the cart, played with all the puzzles, went back to reading an underwater sea book where she fed us gold because she thought it was cheese, and colored. She then wanted to dance so Allison and I danced with her, lifted her in the air, spun her around, and put her on our shoulders. At one point a little boy whom the group calls “Captain Gancho” or “Captain Hook” came over to play with us too. Captain Gancho was one of the first kids we spent time with when we first arrived to CRIT. When we left CRIT, Professor Smartt told us the story of “Captain Gancho”, his mom and brother. Apparently both the “Captain” and his brother are disabled and his mom takes care of them both by herself. Every Monday and Tuesday she walks 2 hours just to get the bus stop so she can spend the day at CRIT. There are also days when she doesn’t eat so her children will. The group agreed that since we all love Captain Gancho we wanted to buy a few snacks and food for the mom to make her life a little easier. We hope she likes what we got her. She’s a strong woman and deserves everything for taking care of these young boys.

Shelby Echols