December 2010 Archives

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

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IMG_0008 - Copy.JPGBlog 12/29
Lecture about the environment and development plan for Akumal. Want to develop it like they developed Cancun. Playa del Carmen is also being developed in much the same way. Create jobs temporarily. Federal govn't is only elected for 6yrs. which means they do not think long term. Just want to make their money. Hotels get permission to build three stories but end up building five stories. Just fined a one-time fee and the fee is often built into the cost plan. Politicians like the fee b/c they make money. No hotel has ever had to take off the extra two stories. In Cancun the beach front is rapidly disappearing. Used to have a luscious white-sand, blue Caribbean waters and long beaches. Now they have to ship in sand from elsewhere. Because of the wall of hotels sand gets blown back into area, covering coral reefs and destroying them. Tourists don't like the feel of sea grass so it is removed further exacerbating the problem. CEA is trying to get people to think about the environment as a product, not think that use of it is free. You come here to enjoy the environment. Don't trash it. We went snorkeling.
When digesting all of the information that was presented to the group about the development of the Akumal region there were many things that came to mind about different and more efficient ways to modernize the region. In general the whole development of the region will create work and money for the locals for only a short period of time. This could lead to more poverty because the "big business" owners really have no desire to give back to the community. The development is not technically needed for the region but politicians think otherwise. It is important to help preserve the area and the modernization of the area with take away from the natural habitat of the region along with destroying extreme amounts of jungle. The business plan has a growth projected of over 200,000 people in the next 25 years which will produce large amounts of trash, emissions, and other things that are not needed. When taking into consideration the entire plan and process of the development really makes the group think twice about what they do and how we treat the environment after learning about what we need to do to help preserve the region of Akumal.

Well taking in all of the information that has been given to the group it personally makes people twice about our living styles we come from. Some group members feel that there should be more develop places similar to CEA because the need of a 5-star hotel isn't necessary. Overall the day went very smoothly and we will all take in the information that was presented to us and hopefully use the same living styles when we travel back to the states. We were all very appalled that the government is selling Mexico the Spaniards. This is no way to treat the environment and it is not acting in the interests of the people that call this region home.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

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IMG_0021.JPGToday we started our community service work by picking up trash along the Akumal beach. While we were initially intimidated by the amount of garbage on the beach, our efforts soon paid off. A few hours of hard work and a few full trash bags later, the waterfront was significantly cleaner. To efficiently cover the most ground, we split into two groups and began our cleanup on opposite ends of the beach. As we worked our way toward the middle we found everything from sandals and deodorant to toothbrushes and sporks. Cleaning up the beach proved to be a source of instant gratification as we could immediately see our positive impact on the environment and local community.

As the day progressed, many of us chose to rest and enjoy the warm weather by soaking up some sun on the beach. In the early afternoon we were provided a lecture to prepare us for tomorrow's trip to Chichen Itza, an ancient Maya ruin. Later most of us decided to finally venture off and explore the nearby city of Playa del Carmen. The trip started with a quick walk to the "bus stop" on the main highway. Soon, a large white van (locally known as a "Collectivo") managed to pick all nine of us up, in an already full vehicle. The ride was a half hour of cramped quarters, high speeds, 90's dance remixes, and Mexican classics. We finally reached our exciting local hot spot: Wal-Mart. Aside from labels written in Spanish, the Wal-Mart in Playa was almost identical to any Wal-Mart you might find back in the United States. After picking up snacks and other random essentials, the group split again, some deciding to eat in Playa, while others returning to dine in Akumal.

Today's activities were important for many reasons, not the least of which was simply cleaning the beach up and making a direct impact on our local area. Today by exploring Playa Del Carmen via the "collectivo," we experienced the local economy as members of the local community, not just as tourists. It was interesting to see how big commercial, American corporate giants have made their impact on the locals, and how they have become slightly more "American-ized" due to the intrusion of foreign business practices.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

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Today, we started our day watching videos about CEAs mission and there job here in Akumal and in Mexico as a whole. We had two speakers come (Alma and David) to talk to us about what we can do while we're here. Alma described the conditions in Mexico having to do with the dangers posed to the coral reef and how that affects the turtles. For 1,000 turtles only 1 survives to adulthood. CEA monitors the turtles' nesting sites in Akumal bay and aids to protect the turtles so that that number can increase. We learned from David that many things are acting in concert to affect the coral reef system here. There is the global warming increasing the water temperature, which contributes to the unsuitable environment for the coral to live, also there is over nutrients due to improper waste management from tourists and hotel resorts. The surplus of nutrients also creates an unsuitable environment for the coral to grow. Also there are diseases affecting the coral such the black ring disease. In addition, natural disasters such as hurricanes can wipe out massive amounts of coral at one time. Because of all these things contributing to the reef destruction CEA started a program called Bay Watch - not the TV show. Bay Watch monitors the activity of tourists helping to ensure that they don't disturb the already precarious situation of the coral reef system or the turtles. David said that tourists will often chase turtles, try to swim with them, and stand on the coral, touch the coral, and leave garbage behind. This is where our group comes in. Having the extra bodies allows CEA to spread the word about the delicacy of the marine life and is able to encourage better eco-responsibility in tourist activities. This helped us to better understand the situation. It makes us feel more responsible for our actions, the environment, and the role that everyone and everything plays in maintaining a healthy environment. This is important because it's not just about being here doing volunteer work just to do volunteer work and to say we did it; Rather, it's about changing an entire wasteful mentality that allows people to take our position and environment for granted. We both felt that the lessons we learned today would be easily applicable to our everyday lives. It opened our eyes to the simplicity of taking care of the environment. For example, we talked about waiting to find a recycle bin rather than throwing any recyclable item in the trash. Also just the fact that we will be more conscious about the environment will be able to alter many different previously habitual actions that we have taken for granted. And hopefully by learning these things and taking them home we will be able to spread the ideas and influence others to act in a similarly environmentally conscious way.

Monday, December 27, 2010

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IMG_0011.JPGBienvenidos a Akumal!

We left frigid and snowy Minnesota and arrived in Cancun at 1:30 Monday afternoon. The group then took a shuttle van to Akumal (about an hour south) with everything other than Jessica and our luggage, which came later. We were pleasantly surprised by the community we found ourselves in. It has pretty much everything you need- a few good restaurants, cafes, bars, a supermarket, gym, dive shop, and the beach! After a brief tour we were introduced to the CEA staff and were let loose to explore for a few hours. Then we regrouped at 6:30, when Jessica arrived, and enjoyed dinner together at the Turtle Bay restaurant. Following dinner, we held our first talking circle. The topic was Native American science and medicines. This experiential meeting consisted of passing around some examples of Ojibwe sacred medicines, including prairie sage, sweet grass, tobacco, cedar, eagle feathers. Then we all took turns saying what we were most surprised about in our experiences thus far. After the talking circle we were done with class today and had free time for the rest of the night.

The experiences of our first day showed us how difficult it can be to adjust to a new unfamiliar location and culture. Everyone seemed to be surprised by how friendly and welcoming the people of Akumal were to us. This made the adjustment less difficult, but there will definitely be new challenges presented to us each and every day.

This first day has already began to change our views by altering the perspective through which view our world. Melinda had studied abroad in Peru previously so she said it was not as big of a culture shock for her. However, Ryan had never been abroad before so it was a very new experience. We will all continue to have experiences throughout this trip that will challenge our beliefs and we look forward to it all!

Hasta Luego Amigos,
Ryan & Melinda


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Hello everyone!

Sooo my name is Melinda and I am from good ol' Minneapolis. I am a senior in CFANS majoring in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management with a focus on water resources. I plan on graduating next fall and am considering going to graduate school or joining the Peace Corps or Conservation Corps. I am really interested in water quality and quantity issues throughout the world and am excited to volunteer with CEA. I will also be conducting a small research project looking at a few constructed wetlands and their ability to remove coliform bacteria from the water. A group of students did something similar to this last year and I'm looking forward to seeing what has changed, learning about other research techniques, gaining field experience, working in a lab and helping out CEA staff wherever needed.

Last fall I studied abroad in Lima, Peru for a semester. It was by far the best decision I have ever made! I love experiencing and learning about other cultures, so I am excited to get to know the locals in Akumal as well as learn about Mayan history.

In my free time I like to cook new foods, run, listen to music, dance and hang out with friends. I'm looking forward to exploring the area's unique environment- jungle, beach and reefs- by going on adventures, snorkeling, swimming and relaxing on the beach! I also can't wait to try authentic Mexican food and go out dancing. Even though the seminar is only 3 weeks, I think it will be jam packed with fun and opportunities to learn new things!

See ya soon!

Jared Rickert

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What's up folks? My name is Jared and I am a senior here at the U majoring in Business and Marketing and minoring in Management and Communications. I am from Sparta, WI(the greatest city ever) and looking to broaden my horizons. I hope to have fun in the sun and experience life in Akumal! I am looking forward to meeting everyone tomorrow! See you all bright and early.

With love,



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Hello my name is Torrey Line I am currently a second semester junior at the U of Mn TC majoring in Business and Marketing Education and Human Resource Development with minors in coaching and sports management. I am from a small town in northern Minnesota named Browerville. In my spare time I enjoy being outside and hanging out with friends. I also enjoy playing and watching most any sports with my favorites being wrestling and football. I enjoy traveling whenever it is possible and have done my fair share of it as well. Last January I was actually about twenty miles from where we are staying and have already experienced a couple of things we are all going to experience while touring Mexico. I'm looking forward to our trip and hope to have a lot of fun while also learning a lot.


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Hello all,
My name is Meghan and I am a Genetics, Cell Biology and Development major with minors in Leadership and Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature. I am in my final year at the U and extremely pumped to graduate - I dont know what Im gonna do though. Ill take the MCAT this summer and probably apply to med school over the next year, during which I would love to do some genetics research somewhere in France.

Other than school, I spend most of my time reading and hanging out with friends. Im obsessed with music (rock mostly, love David Bowie!) and like to go camping and hiking. I love traveling, though I havent been able to do enough of it-I have never had an abroad experience through school. Ive been to Europe and Mexico twice, but only to really commercial areas. Thats one thing Im most excited about for this trip, to see "real" Mexico and get a taste for the culture in the area. I also love group trips - Im excited to spend time with and get to know everyone. And, of course, to say goodbye to this snow:)


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Hello everyone!
My name is Jessica. I am an American Indian Dakota Language and Sociology (Law Crime and Deviance) major and I'm minoring in Global Studies. I am currently a junior and have no clue what I will be doing in my future! lol. I am planning on going to graduate school, but after that who knows what I will be doing. Last summer I went to Ghana with a group from the U, Tougaloo College, and U of M Morris. It was the best experience of my life and really made me want to do more travelling so I'm really excited to go on this trip. The furthest into Mexico I've ever been is Tijuana, but I'm from San Diego so it's only about 20 minutes from where I live. Anyway, I'm really excited to meet everyone, have a good time, and learn some new things :)


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Hi everyone!

My name is Anna, and I'm an English major & art minor in my final year at the U of M. I hail from Darwin, a small town in rural MN about an hour west of the metro. I enjoy photography and painting, camping trips, and seeing live music around Minneapolis.

I've already done some traveling abroad, as well as plenty of road trips around the lower 48 states and Canada. I did a global seminar in London this past May term, which included a side trip to Amsterdam. I haven't been to Mexico before, but in my freshman year of high school, I took a 9-day trip to Costa Rica to study the rainforests and ecotourism.

While I'm excited to learn about and experience the Maya culture, I am pretty stoked to sit on the beach and forget about all things snow-related. I'd also like to improve my Spanish--I know about three phrases right now, but I suspect I'll pick up more.

I'm looking forward to graduating this spring, and hope to find work in the book publishing industry. I also plan to do more travelling--I'm hoping for a camping trip to Alaska this summer, and I'd love to get back to Europe someday. I'm sure I'll feel the same way about Mexico after we get back!


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Hey everybody!

My name is Tom, and I'm from the Madison, WI area. I recently transferred to the U from the University of Florida. I'm a Sociology of Law and Criminal Deviance major, and hope to go to law school after my undergraduate studies.

I'm currently serving in the United States Marine Corps Reserve as an 5811, military police officer, assigned here near MSP airport. The Corps is a huge part of who I am and what I do, and I wouldn't trade the experiences I've learned there for anything!

I enjoy lots of outdoor activities like shooting, running, swimming, and just generally trying to stay in shape.

I've previously traveled to South Korea, but otherwise don't have too much foreign travel experience.

I'm looking forward to the trip, and experiencing the jungle environment like never before and really feed my hunger for adventure. I'm interested to see what kind of impact tourism has on local areas and economies, and also to see how ecological law might further be shaped in the future.


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My name is Ryan. I am a sophomore Accounting and Finance major at the U of M. I enjoy watching tv and movies, following the Minnesota Vikings and Twins, going to my cabin, and hanging out with friends.

I am looking forward to enjoying the warm weather in Mexico and learning more about the Mayan culture. I have never traveled outside the country before so this will be a new experience for me.

I am looking forward to exploring the Mayan Riviera and about the service learning and volunteer opportunities. This will be a real change of pace for me from my daily life and I am looking forward to it.

After I graduate I plan to take the CPA exam but I am not settled on what kind of career I'd like to pursue with it. I could work for a public accounting firm or work as an accountant for a company, but I am still considering these options.

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