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December 30, 2008

Dia Numero Dos

We woke up to a beautiful morning, clear blue skies, warm weather and the birds were singing. We had breakfast at Amelda's, which was delicious, as expected. Then we received a lecture about water quality in the area by a CEA member. It was very interesting to learn about the ecological effects of human life styles and development and how CEA is trying to address these issues. This seems especially important in combination with the continuously expanding growth that the area is experiencing. We learned that there are major plans in the works to heavily develop the area by the year 2025, with little environmental or local social consideration and planning. CEA also taught us about cenotes, which are underground river caves/channels. This is where most of the area's fresh water comes from and it can become easily contaminated with sewage. Because these cenotes are connected to the ocean, waste from the cenotes can also contaminate the ocean aquatic systems. Another CEA member David, then spoke to us about the Akumal bay reef system and proceeded to show us how to snorkel and point out the various wonderful things to see, such as coral, really cool fish, adult and baby sea turtles, rays, barracudas, and a sea cucumber. In the afternoon a van took us to Playa del Carmento go shopping and eat. After diner we got into our talking circle on the beach to share our individual experiences and feelings about the day. We were called weirdos for sitting on the walking path, but discovered that we are a very complementary group and have already formed very strong bonds and connections with each other. Finger socks!

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The Rules and Know How of Snorkeling by David

We are getting 3 credits for this!...among other things

End of the second night

Earlier today, we learned about freshwater and it's impact on the Yacatan and snorkeled in Aukumal Bay. It was the first time that several of the students snorkeled. The students traveled to Playa del Carmen in the afternoon for shopping and fun. Tonight, we endied our activities with a talking circle. By the time we got all the way around the circle, we all laughed, cried, and had several of those "WOW" moments. When we were done, I talked a little about how Indigenous people beleive that learning means touching all our senses. Too often we are asked to listen to lectures, memorize facts and take tests. This was an opportunity for many students to learn new ideas and concepts through experience and feelings. I'd like to share some of the stories, but we all promised what was said in the cicle stays in the circle. I've never seen 15 college kids bond so quickly - it's like they've been friends their entire lives. I am honored to be a part of their circle - they are teaching me as much as I am teaching them!



Holding a green passport gives you a lot of privelges like getting a scholarship to study in the U.S but not when it comes to flying. I had to change my flight and miss out on the group flight due to immigration issues since my country is blacklisted by the U.S. I got done with my interview and arrived late to the party city in Mexico and thank god it was hot. I was shocked very few mexican spoke english and that Cancun was not similar to Las Vegas whatsoever. however, when i saw the beach it was just like the one i saw in the movies, crystal clear.


For me the flight in was pretty straight forward, customs went smoothly. By the time I got to CEA I was feeling a little under the weather from flying. My fist impression of Mexico was definately that it was hot! It's still pretty hot, but a lot more managable. I was also surprised how bright and green it is here, it's very beautiful. Everyone who works here is very nice, and helpful.


Afirst i was a little worried at how long customs was going to take. However I was completely taken aback with how smooth and efficient getting into Mexico was. However the weather was a bit of a shock. I knew it was going to be warm but experiencing it was completely different. Phew, being from Minnesota, feeling this kind of warmth in December is a little shocking to the system. I absolutely love it here so far. The people and the surroundings are just wonderful!

Reflection on the Day:

After we settled in, we met together in a talking circle. To begin with our professor lit tobbacco, prarie sage, sweet grass, and cedar in a shell. The plants have special significance to the Ojibwe culture, and are used to cleanse the space and welcome good spirits. We passed around the shell and eagle feather around the circle for each person to wave the smoke over themselves to cleanse themselves.
In the circle we talked about ourselves and our first takes on the trip. People shared feelings, from the mundane to deep and touching, and what they plan to get out of the trip. This truely allowed for everyone to connect on a deeper level and allow us to enjoy the trip with each other easily.
In terms of eating, the food at Akumal was very satisfying. we had some delicous chicken that "chipotle" could never match. also, the dance added an extra additional entertainment that was not expected. especially, when we were asked to share dancing with the locals.

December 28, 2008

Natasha Nilson

Hello everyone, my name’s Natasha. I’m a senior in the Family Social Science program, and I’m currently sitting right next to you at gate F9, waiting for our flight to Cancun to begin boarding. (Hint: I’m the one with the “Mayan Riviera Seminar? sign who just told you that I haven’t posted my intro to the blog site yet.)

As I said, I’m a senior, but I just finished my first semester at the U. I transferred from Carnegie Mellon University, where I was working toward my BFA in Musical Theatre. Switching my major this late in the game means I have quite a few credits to fulfill, so I imagine I’ll be a senior for a couple more years.

Annnnnnnd... we're boarding, so I’d better wrap things up. I’m looking forward to our experiences in Akumal, and to getting to know all of you better in the weeks ahead.

December 26, 2008

Arrived in Akumal!

I arrived in Akumal about two hours ago - boy have things changed in two years. On the drive down from Canucun, there must have been more than a dozen new resorts and road expansion is happening everywhere. Two years ago, there was only one stop light in Playa del Carmen, Now there are at least six. The higway use to be two lanes after Playa del Carmen, now it is four lanes all the way to Tulum. The entrance to Akumal is being changed too. They are building an overpass and exit off the main highway.

I had lunch at a nearby resturant - delicious "Americanized" burrito. The sun is very warm, 85 degrees and humid. I'm already on my second shirt. I'm getting ready to go snorkeling in Akumal Bay. They are still working on the dorms, they promis to be down by the end of today. They've put me up in one of the other volunteer dorms for today and hope to move me to the new ones tomorrow.

Katherine Boulware

I'm Katherine, from St. Paul MN. I went to Central High School. I was born in Michigan and grew up mostly in Florida. Right now I'm a first year student at the U. I don't have a major in mind yet, but I do have an interest in sustainable agriculture. I love plants and animals. Two years ago when I was a junior in high school I spent a little over a week in Peru with a group of students to learn about the Peruvian Amazon. We took a couple of hikes through the rainforest, as well as seeing the river by boat and the canopy by a canopy walkway. We also got to meet and trade with the Yagua Indians, as well as meeting some people in a local village where we did a service project. I love travelling, and since that trip I've become more interested in Central and South America. I've been really excited about going to Mexico and am really looking forward to seeing the Mayan ruins and going snorkeling.

Emily Bowers

I am a 4th year student at the U of M majoring in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management while minoring in sustainability studies - my family says I'm off to save the world, I only wish it were that simple. I was first introduced to the U through the post secondary education option, by which I spent my senior year of high school going full time to the university. I really enjoy gaining knowledge and learning new things and the best way to achieve those things is through experience. I am very interested in international sustainable development and hope to pursue it as a career. So, I am excited to learn about land use change and development of different peoples at different times and their relationship with the environment during this trip.

I was born and raised in the Twin Cities metro area. Growing up my family almost never traveled, so when I got older I wanted to take every chance I got to see what is outside of Minnesota. In 2005 I spent 3 weeks in Europe with the program People to People Student Ambassadors. During that time we traveled through France then Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. It was an incredibly amazing and life altering experience and I am hoping that this trip to the Mayan Riviera will also provide such a wonderful impact on my life. I have never been to Mexico and I think this seems like a fantastic way to experience the country through such fascinating activities like seeing ruins sites, snorkeling, and participating in a community service project with a local community!

Adios - eager and excited to par take in this adventure with you all so soon!

December 24, 2008

Marco LaNave

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My name is Marc (but I always go by Marco [Italian]) LaNave. I am a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts with an undecided major. I am leaning towards a “science communication? double-major: one in physics, and the other individually-designed with concentrations in journalism and mass communication, scientific and technical communication, and history and philosophy of science. Part of the reason I was interested in this course was the material on indigenous worldviews of science, which I think will broaden my perspective in my areas of interest. I am also a spiritual person, and my personal faith is important to me, so the connection of worldviews of science and faith is also an interest of mine.

I became much more open to the possibility of studying abroad last year, after I had experienced the initial hurdles of college. But since I have never traveled outside of the United States or Canada, I wanted to try out a three-week global seminar before jumping into a semester- or year-long experience. This was another reason that this opportunity seemed like a good one. But I am indeed anxious about going to a place and culture I have not experienced, and using a language that I have not had to rely on, and getting to know people who I have not known previously. (Prior to this, the biggest travel “risk? I have taken was a four-week canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness about three and a half years ago.)

I took five years of Spanish before college; but, unfortunately, much has escaped me in just a year and a half. The opportunity to use that knowledge was another factor in my choice of this global seminar. I have reviewed a little in preparation for the trip; I wrote a couple of emails in Spanish to a former teacher, and conversed entirely in Spanish (and not without struggle) for an hour and a half with a Colombian exchange student at my high school. My reading and writing skills are well ahead of my listening and speaking skills, so I will appreciate practice in the latter areas.

One of the most important things to know about me is that I am a person of many interests. I like to learn about philosophy, spirituality, international relations, psychology, and many other disciplines. I appreciate the number of opportunities in- and outside the classroom at the University of Minnesota, and my only disappointment is that I cannot do them all. My primary extra-curricular activity is volunteering as a sports reporter for the radio station on campus (Radio K). Over the past year and a half, I have covered Gopher football, men’s basketball, and baseball. It has been a ton of fun for me to develop skills in sports broadcasting and journalism. Last summer in my hometown of St. Cloud, MN, I was actually the radio color commentator for all 34 home games for a summer baseball team that I grew up following. My greatest passion is definitely baseball, and that is where my curiosity in sports broadcasting and journalism has its roots.

See you all bright (I guess it will still be dark) and early on Sunday!

Audra Whalberg


Hello Everyone! I am a senior here at the U studying… accounting! Most of you are thinking: “boring.? Well, it is not boring to me at all. I enjoy it; I enjoy numbers, and math type of stuff. But I also enjoy nature, culture, and adventure. I was born and raised in Lithuania, moved to the US six years ago. Traveling and exploration was always on the top of my “Like to do? list. I was lucky to see quite a few countries, but I have never been to Mexico before. I am extremely excited to see what it is like out there. Also, since it’s freezing out here, I am dying to feel the hotness of the sun, to snorkel in the beautiful ocean, to see the jungle, and explore the Maya culture. I am also excited to meet you guys. Have a merry Christmas today (whoever celebrates it), and I am sure we will have a fun New Years Eve together. See you in few days. Oh, one more thing… It may sound weird, but eating is one of my hobbies too, together with cooking. I like tasting all kinds of food, looking for authentic places to eat, and cook myself, so I really look forward to try some local food of Mayan’s and Mexican’s. The picture above is from the Christmas party we had in our house a few days ago, and all of the food that I cooked with my best friend.

Rachael Nicoll

Hello Everyone! My name is Rachael Nicoll and I am a junior in Forest Resources. I’ve never been outside the country before, so I am very excited to be traveling to Mexico! I am looking forward to exploring and learning about the ecology of the Yucatán, learning about the Mayan people and their culture, and having fun in the warm weather of Mexico. I can’t wait to see the ruins and go snorkeling! I also hope to brush up on my Spanish skills.
A little about me – I enjoy biking, reading, hiking, animals, and movies. I look forward to meeting you all next week and until then, stay warm!

Allison Austin

153 - Copy.JPGBoozhoo niiji-bimaadiziig nindinawemaaganidok. Allison Austin nindizhinikaaz.
Hello my fellow human beings. Allison Austin is my name. I am a freshman here at the University of Minnesota. I am creating my own major, studying holistic medicine with an emphasis on botany/herbalism and minoring in American Indian studies. Currently, I am taking my second year of Ojibwe language- Mark and I will have to teach you guys some words :) I'm quite excited to be traveling to the Mayan Riviera!! And what better time to enjoy the Mexican sun, 'eh? My ancestors come from Mexico, in a mining city called Guanajuato- which means "Hill of the Frogs". I have yet to travel to my native lands, so this is a spectacular opportunity to experience the lands, as well as the Indigenous tribes of the area. I look forward to meeting all of my fellow Mayan Riviera travelians very soon! Giga-waabamin

December 22, 2008

escaping hell

hello everyone!

my name is Abdulaziz Alsalim, if you can't pronounce it like many other Americans who can only spell the likes of john and david, you can call me "Aziz," less frightening. I'm originally from Saudi Arabia, came to the states in 2005 to get a college degree. if you are wondering why America!? the college education my country provides is worse than your high school system, now that's pretty bad. if you are wondering why MN? well, my high school in Saudi Arabia didn't offer a geography class about America. i wish they did!! now to the million dollar question, WHY THE MAYAN RIVIERA? I just hate MN in December and Cancun sounds like an excellent choice to see part of the world i have never seen before. I'm talking about the white sand beaches and the crystal clear sea. where i'm from, the sea is not filled with water and fish but other stuff i can't describe!!

can't wait to get to know all of you

AZIZ, the one who is not from America

December 21, 2008

Alicia Bjork: Introduction

I received an e-mail from my adviser about this program in November. I've always been interested in indigenous cultures and how human travel affects them, whether it be conquistadors staking out new territories or a family vacationing. So I decided to take the class, the sunshine and warm weather may have been a contributing factor to my decision, but mostly I've just been intending to study abroad but couldn't choose from all the programs so this one just kind of landed in my lap. I am a junior at the University of Minnesota: Twin Cities and am planning to major in elementary education and minor in Spanish. I like the things most people like: food, water, sleep, laser tag, and snow ball fights. Other than that I don't really know what to tell you besides, "A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men." - Willy Wonka with my philosophy of the week. Over and out.

December 17, 2008

Michael Leininger

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Hi everybody! My name is Michael and I am a junior Mechanical Engineer attending the University of Minnesota. I am an extremely laid back person that gets along with basically everyone. I laugh a lot and can be a bit too loud at times. I enjoy nerdy jokes and eating spicy foods. I have never traveled out of the country so I am totally stoked to go on this trip and work on my mediocre Spanish. I love trying new experiences and I can not wait to snorkel and be on the beach for three weeks. I am especially pumped to see the Mayan ruins, seeing Chichen Itza will be amazing. Essentially I can not wait for this trip. I look forward meeting everyone and just having a great time.

December 14, 2008

Sam Bevins

Hi, my name is Sam Bevins. I am a junior at the U. I am majoring in Corporate Environmental Management and getting a minor in Spanish. I have been taking Spanish since Kindergarten. I am really excited to go study the impact of tourism in other countries and to go see the ruins.

December 12, 2008



I’m Kari, a junior at the U. I’m pursuing an individualized degree with focuses in Global Studies, Social Justice, and Sustainability. I enjoy traveling; I have been to Mexico, Lithuania, Ecuador, Italy, and the Netherlands. Most recently, I spent the past summer in Peru hiking the Inca trail and traveling around the country.

I’m looking forward to studying indigenous cultures, snorkeling, visiting historic sites, and learning about the ecology of the region.

December 8, 2008

Laura Vaughn!

Hi, my name is Laura Vaughn!
I'm a junior at Rutgers University in New Jersey but my hometown is in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Here at Rutgers my major is Landscape Architecture. The program here is very small, there are only 16 Landscape Architecture majors in my graduating class! My major is within Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, so there is a strong emphasis on horticulture and ecology. Landscape Architecture has opened my eyes to the importance and complexity of the plant and animal communities that make up the ecology of a place. I’m very excited to learn about these communities in Mexico and experience them first hand.
I found out about this program because the Yucatan study abroad Trip through Rutgers was cancelled this semester due to lack of interest. I’d been dying to go for a year and was determined to make my way to the Yucatan for winter 08-09. I cant wait to get to MEXICO!! I love warm weather, art, architecture, sports, shopping, eating, shoes and especially new friends. I have a lot of “enthusiasm? and fun is very high on my list of priorities. I'm very excited to be meeting everyone in Mexico in a few weeks!

December 6, 2008

Anna Budde

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Hi Everyone!
My name is Anna Budde and I'm super excited to travel to Mexico! I'm a junior Biomedical Engineering student with a minor in French and I'm pre-med. I absolutely LOVE traveling, especially to warm places in the winter. I must admit I'm really looking forward to some down time on the lovely Mexican beaches! But, obviously, I'm also really looking forward to learning about the Mayan people and their culture, and hopefully learning some Spanish. I've traveled extensively in the past few years, most recently I spent a month in Tanzania volunteering at a hospital, going on a safari, and climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.
This picture was taken at Iguazu Falls, Argentina a few years ago when I spent a month in Buenos Aires. Before that I spent a week tap dancing in Tokyo which was awesome, and I've been to Europe several times because I have lots of relatives in Austria. However, I've never been to Mexico, so I'm really excited for this amazing opportunity!

December 3, 2008

Emily Jacobson


Hola! I'm Emily Jacobson. I am a senior at the U of MN and my major is Elementary Education. I LOVE traveling and experiencing new cultures. I plan on working internationally after I graduate, hopefully somewhere I can enhance my Spanish skills, but anywhere is fine with me. I love teaching anyone willing to learn and learning new things myself.

A little history... I was born in Mahnomen, MN (up north on White Earth Reservation) and moved to the cities in 5th grade. I enjoy soccer (well all sports really), reading, anything that has to do with heights, warm weather, movies and enjoying the company of friends and family. I love to sing and dance, I'm a picky eater but will try almost anything new and reserve judgement till later.