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January 20, 2009

Returning Home

We left Akumal with mixed feelings. Sad that our time together was coming to an end, but excited to be returning to our homes, families and friends (oh, and of course the begining of the spring semester). I will miss the tropical weather and amazing beauty of the Maya coastline. But most of all, I will miss the students.

Waiting at the Cancun Airport for our flight:
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Waiting in the cold at the Twin Cities airport for our respective rides home:
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January 16, 2009

Getting Close to the End

It's Thursday evening with only two more days before returning to Minnesota. Students are in the kitchen playing cards again tonight. It sounds like they are having lots of fun - laughing and yelling a lot.

I thought I might take a few moments to reflect on my experience. I've facilitated learning abroad experiences and taught many courses before, but never have I worked such a cohesive group of kids, well, I should say young adults. The diversity in this group is so great, yet they get along so well. They range from 18 to 30+, from first semester freshmen to last semester senior, they come from Saudi Arabia, Lithuania, New York and all over Minnesota, their major interests range from education, family social science, landscape architect, environmental sciences, engineering, fine arts, pre-med and self designed majors, and their reasons for taking this global seminar are just as varied. How can such a diverse group of people genuinely get along in less than idea situations is amazing – high heat and humidity, long days and occasional visits from all kinds of critters (mostly bugs and lizards) from the nearby jungle? By the end of the day, they seem to still like each other. For example, the other day I was preparing to chastise one of the students who slept in late and missed class. But, before I got two words out of my mouth, the others quickly jumped to his defense. Seriously, you’d think these people have been life-long friends.

I don’t mean to imply there have been no problems, because there have been some. But, they seem to always rise to the occasion and do what is right for the group. For example the other day a few of the students thought it would be funny to engage in an impromptu insensitive “Indian rain dance.? Other students were offended and after learning about it myself, was equally offended, but more so I was disappointed in their behavior - especially since a part of this course was to better understand other people’s cultures and world views. Before we had a chance to address the issue in our talking circle, the offenders realized the inappropriateness of their behavior and came forward on their own accord to make amends and to apologize. It became a learning opportunity for the whole group – we talked for two hours about how we can become more sensitive to those who are different from ourselves.

Well, I guess this is enough reflection for one night! My brain officially checks-out at 11:00pm so I better stop for now.

January 11, 2009

Mucho Coatimundi

A few days ago, I posted an entry about a lone Coatimumdi I saw behind the dorms at the edge of the jungle. Well, this morning as I was returning from cleaning the beach with Sam, he noticed there was another one. When we looked more closely, we saw three more inside the jungle. A cook from the Turtle Bay Café was siitng in back taking a short break. He said “muchos, muchos, muchos Coatimumdi.? I said “sí, cuatro.? He said, “no, muchos más - un minuto.? He returned a minute later with some bread. He tore up the bread and threw to the edge of the jungle. The jungle instantly came to life. Every branch and leaf suddenly moved as literally dozens of Coatimumdi emerged from the jungle. Each Coatimumdi would grab a piece of bread and scurry back into the jungle. Others then joined the feeding frenzy. Sam just said, “This is crazy! This is so crazy!?
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January 5, 2009

Mid-course Journal

I've been here for 10 days now and have seen some spectacular animals. Last week while snorkeling in Akumal Bay, we saw a school of small squid, several young green turtles, parrot fish, and spotted stingray. Yesterday was really cool. While snorkeling at Xel Ha, a 5 foot Manta Ray swam about two feet below me. You could feel to current created by the movement of it’s wide wing spread as it gracefully passed by. I wanted to reach and touch it – but of course I did not. This morning, I saw a Coatimumdi, member of the raccoon family, scouring the jungle floor for roots, insects and bird eggs. The books says they often travel in large troops of 20 or more, but the one I saw this morning appeared to be by itself. Below is a picture of the Coatimundi.

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December 30, 2008

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!

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.

November 24, 2008

Seminar Location

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Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA)


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Chichen Itza - El Castillo


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Sunrise on Half Moon Bay


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What do you see? Take a guess and list it in a new comment.