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JeanAnne Semester Abroad in Mexico Fall 2013

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El final semana, quince.

Well, it is my final week in Mexico.  It’s hard to believe it has been 3 and a haIf months. I am a bit sad to go and there will be things and people I will miss alot, but I am so excited to see my family and be home. I had class Monday through Thursday, then I have free days until we leave.

Monday and Tuesday were almost like regular class days, then Wednesday I turned in my final paper for my Lit class and said good bye to my teacher. At first, I was struggling in this class, with the readings and speaking, and I didn’t like reading out loud, but by the end, I could see how much progress I made because I wasn’t translating so many words, I could say more in class, and I never thought I could write a paper in Spanish without writing about it in English first.  My fluency in reading aloud has improved so much and I am thankful to my teacher for all he did for me.

Thursday was the final for my Oral/Grammar class, which I liked from the beginning to the end.  The final took me an hour and a half, and I didn’t know some of the vocabulary words, but overall, I think I did well.  Lulu is a wonderful teacher and I enjoyed her class so much. She really put us to work, but made us feel comfortable, listened to our needs, and helped us grow in the language. Definitely my favorite Spanish class.

Friday I went to Campeche with three other students.  We had soooo much fun and I wish we could have stayed a night and maybe done more, but it was a great final excursion. Saturday night is Noche Blanca downtown where museums are open and there will be music, dancing and lots of cultural activities from 7pm to 2 am. Probably will spend Sunday sleeping in and recovering from staying up so late.

Monday I plan on packing and spending time with my host family until all of the KIIS students meet at Genny’s house for a final fiesta before we leave for our plane ride in Cancun, which is four hours away so we have to leave around 3 or 4 am on Tuesday.  It will be a long day, but hopefully I can sleep some on the drive and the planes. Hasta luego, México.

Campeche – final. We walked around the city after lunch.  The original city was surrounded by a wall to protect them from pirates. There is an amazing convent,  beautiful houses and so much to see.  I think it is the most beautiful city here that I have visited. It was an all day adventure, well worth the walking, bus rides, and heat!

Campeche part 2. There are two fortresses outside of the city, we went to one of them. Inside of the one went to were rooms filled with Mayan artifacts from the area.  The view from the top was amazing.

Campeche – the coast.  The water comes right up to the wall all along the coast.  Several monuments are along the way.  The sunset was beautiful and the water looked so different. The statue of the woman is a reference to a legend about a woman who waited for her love to return.

Campeche con’t.  We walked from the plaza through an old fortress wall to the Botanical Garden, which was small, but they had all these bird planters filled with types of plants. We saw some beautiful murals on several buildings.

Campeche – part 1. After a bus ride of 2 1/2 hours we took a taxi to Plaza Principal. The catedral is so beautiful and they had the park all decorated for Christmas.

Every day life here. Some of the places and scenery I would walk by during the week: the park near my house, one of our favorite places to eat at, a few of the beautiful flowers I saw everywhere, my host family’s house, my school, a busy intersection, an interesting strip of stores, and the staple of my time here – Oxxo, the general store that you will find almost every street.

A few of the things to see at the Mayan Museum.

Just a glimpse of the market in downtown Mérida. It has everything you could possibly want.

Uxmal! Just a few of the many photos taken.

Semanas trece y catorce.

Well these two weeks have been busy. We went to a Museum that had all sorts of Mayan clothing, crafts, carvings, and photos of Mexico. It was so interesting. We also went to see Catching Fire, probably the last movie I will see out here. I think I will miss the theaters. Had my final Saturday at CIS, my worksite, said goodbye to the students I have been in classes with. Sunday we went to Mérida en Domingo to do some shopping.

Back to classes, and one final on Wednesday, as the students from Center College are leaving soon. Paper for that class is due before we leave. No class on Thursday, for Thanksgiving, which we all (KIIS and Center students) met a Genny’s house with our professors and our host moms. Lots of food and great company made it a holiday to remember. Friday I worked on my final paper for my literature class.

Saturday we went on our final excursion to Uxmal.  It was so interesting and different than Mayapan and Chitchen Itza.  The buildings were shaped differently, and had so much more detail on them.  This city is located on a higher elevation than the others, and there are no rivers, lakes, or cenotes, so the people created cisterns and water ways to collect rain water.  It is so amazing to think of what these people accomplished.  The symbolism on the buildings and the alignment of them is so incredible.

Sunday I went to church and then rested for a bit in my hammock until I went to lunch and then Starbucks to work some more my two papers. Only four more days of classes and seven until we go home. Feeling excited to be home, yet sad that my adventure is coming to a close. It has definitley been the best semester and one of the best times of my life!

¡Celestún!

Most of us at Chili’s and bowling. I even had a few strikes!

Semanas diez, once, doce.

Back into the routine of classes. The weekends are really when all the fun stuff happens. This weekend we celebrated the birthday of fellow student, Riley, by going to see Thor 2, iceskating, and dinner at Chili’s.  It was fun and I just love the movie theaters here. We unintentionally got tickets for the VIP showing, which means that the chairs are leather recliners and little tables are between each chair. It was great!

Then we celebrated Día de los Muertos. During the day on October 31st, downtown, they have a contest of sorts. Different groups or people set up alters and the winner goes up to Mexico City. It was so crowded we could barely walk around. Traditionally, the 31st and 1st are to remember children, then the 1st/2nd for the adults who have passed. We came back at night to walk the Animus trail of alters and some went to the cemetary.  It was great to experience and see the similarities/differences in the types of alters and to eat traditional foods.

More classes, homework, service learning, and daily stuff to get to Sunday, when we went on our third excursion to Celestún.  We were on boats that went along the river, which was red colored, to see the birds, trees, and tons of Flamingos!! Unfortunately it rained the whole time, but it was still amazing to see and learn about the wildlife. The river is red because of an ink that the mangrove tree leaks into the water. We went to luch at a place that served yummy fresh fish and we got to walk along the beach briefly when the sun came out.

Classes again (darn), then a three day weekend because of Día de la Revolución.  Didn’t do too much except some homework. Although we did go bowling again, and just relaxed. All of us are feeling the pressure of getting ready for finals and being homesick. No offical celebration of Thanksgiving, of course, but we are getting together at Dr Ballard’s house for a meal.  Three more weeks, one more excursion, finals, and then on our way home!

¡Día de los muertos!

Semanas siete, ocho y nueve.

These weeks have blurred a bit because of midterms, so they were mostly spent studying and doing homework. Then I went home for a week to visit my family and meet with my advisors for next semester. The plane ride was from Mérida to Mexico City, then Chicago to Cincinnati.  I talked (en español) with a doctor seated next to me on the plane to Mexico City.  He was a nice man and it was good to practice my Spanish.  It was night time, so the city was lit up.  It is HUGE.  One city from horizon to horizon. I want to go back and visit.

It was nice to be back in the US for a bit, and to visit with my family.  I also enjoyed cooking and eating at some of my favorite places – Chick-Fil-A, Panera Bread, and Wendy’s.  An all day plane ride back from Cincinnati to Dallas to MC to Mérida.

Two days left for break, so I went with some other students to the mall and a movie one day and then to Progreso Beach the next.  It was a good way to recover.  Back to classes, but this coming week celebrates Día de los muertos.  So more fun stuff to come. The restaurant  we had lunch at, the horse-drawn truc, ride through the forest and the second cenote.

Semana seis.

This week I spent a lot of time doing homework.  I had a two page paper to write in Spanish, of course, so that was time consuming for a day or two. Lots of studying , although for one class we watched and talked about a movie during class. Monday through Thursday from 8am to 9am I went to my worksite, CIS Norte, which is only a block from where I live. I observed a class and helped a student practice her English.  I will do the same next week.

Saturday we went to two more cenotes.  We went through some small towns with Mayan names. The only one I can remember is Cuzama, pronounced coo-sa-MA. Mayans stress the ending syllable in their words.  We went by a ruined hacienda, a restored hacienda, and our guide pointed out buildings of importance, such as a neo-gothic cathedral and a Mayan temple.

The first cenote we went to was shaped like a crescent moon inside and varied in depth. It was very pretty but I didn’t swim in this one because I didn’t want to change my clothes. But I enjoyed watching the others swim and jump/dive. We then went to a restaurant near the second cenote, where we enjoyed lunch. After that we rode on horse-drawn ‘trucs’, (pronounced ‘trooks’) that looked like carts but on a train track. It was a long bumpy ride through a ‘forest’ of vegetation. It was very interesting and different.  The second cenote also had a steep climb down, but it was very blue and clear. It was like a great big pool.  The back part of it was deep and dark, so we made a kind of dare of it to swim to the back and touch the wall.  Over all, lots of fun, but we were very tired!

The first cenote near Cuzama.

Just a few of the pictures of  Casa de Montejo.  This is the house of the conquistador who took over Mérida.  Inside every room was absolutely amazing!

Our first Saturday here, we went to Progreso beach.

Semana cinco.

Hace mucho calor.  It has been so hot here this week.  It has been a bit difficult to concentrate on my work. I have been escaping to air conditioned places like Starbucks and the mall.  And thankfully our classrooms have it. It is still in the high 80’s, low 90’s. I also love to relax in my hammock, which helps keep me cool because I am right under the ceiling fan.  Other than the heat, it has been a good week. I feel like I am learning more Spanish, which was why I came out here.  I enjoy learning about the culture and history of the people and experiencing life in another country. It is the best!

Today I went to my service learning site downtown. For my Civilization and Culture class we are all volunteering at different places. Some of us are at schools, some at museums, or government agencies.  I am at a school called CIS. There they teach several languages, including Spanish, French, English, Chinese, Italian, and Mayan.  The students are all different ages. I work with the English learners. We had a conversation hour early this morning at 8 am.  I left around 7 to make sure I got on the right bus.  I enjoyed talking with the teacher in charge, who is from Canada. We only had one student show up for the majority of the hour, but as it got closer to 9 am, more came.  Classes begin at 9. I was with beginning students and a non native English teacher. It went well I thought and it was interesting to observe and participate with others who are trying to learn a second language.

Me encántalo!

Me encántalo!

Semana cuatro.

It is so hard to believe I have been here for four weeks already. The time has flown by.  This past weekend we went to the great Mayan city of Chichen Itza which I described and posted pictures of at the beginning of the blog. Of course it was amazing, and the cenote too. Next Saturday we are going to another cenote. Tonight we are going to a theatre here called Cairo to watch a movie in Spanish of course. Last week I had braved going on the bus by myself and went to a mall here to watch a movie (in English w/ subtitles).  That was an interesting experience as I actually got on the correct buses to and from the mall.

Out here, the buses are called camiones, not autobuses.  They are everywhere but it can be difficult to know which bus gets where, as they have names and places printed on the front window and drive fast.  The mall, Altabrisa, was interesting too.  It had lots of stores that we do in the sates, but some different products.  Nice mall with a nice theatre. I really likd that when I bought my ticket that I chose what seat I would be in while watching the move.  And they offer carmel popcorn, have a café, and I could take in my water bottle I already had with me. I am starting to feel more confident in traveling around the city in the buses and finding my way around.

Loltún’s ancient dry cenotes.  Climbing back up to the surface we explored the lower cenote (left) first then the exit cenote and then climbed some more to the next two photos that show the exit – 72 stairs.

Inside the cave. The bottom left picture shows the Olmec head found in the cave. The bottom right picture is upside down, top is to the left. These are the two hollow stalactites that give the cave its name Llotún.

Outside Loltún. We had to walk down to get to the entrance where there was a carving of the Mayan god of the underworld.  The caves were used for religious rituals.

Semana tres. Week three.

I have been able to go to church for the last two Sundays, after finally getting to know my way around the area a little better. This involved tons of walking and consulting my map. Once I found it, and the best route, it takes me about 15 min to walk.  It was wonderful to be with local people who believe in the same things I do. Most everyone I have talked to, when I tell them I am Mormon, they know someone who is, or are familiar with our religion.  Even though everything was in a different language, I could understand most of what was said and the people were very friendly.

Another full week of classes and lots of homework. We like to go to a Starbucks close by because we can study in air conditioning and I like to buy a cream frapachino. Oh, and it has internet. There are other cafés and places that we can go to, but this feels a little more like home. Lots of people met and study in the cafés for the same reasons we do.

Two exciting things happened this week.  The first was on Friday, when we went to Loltún, thanks to Vanessa and Kelly for looking it up.  It was a long day, as it took around two or three hours to get there and back, we spent over two hours there, and another two plus hours back to Mérida.  It was a bit expensive because of the bus rides and taxis, ticket, and paying our guide.  But it was worth it!  This cave is an ancient religous Mayan site that also served as a refuge for the people during the Caste War. The cave is huge, beautiful, and amazing.  This cave is basically an ancient river bed with dry cenotes.  When a meteorite hit the earth (ages ago) just north west of Mérida, it had such an impact as to effect the whole peninsula.  They think that this meteorite is the reason dinosaurs died. The cave gets its name from two hollow stalactite formations: when you hit them with the side of your fist, they make the sounds “lol” “tún”.  It was incredible.  Inside these caves are pre historic drawings and hand prints that date back way before the Mayans. Many artifacts – bones of mamoths, saber tooth tigers, skeletons, pottery, carvings – have been discovered there, including an Olmec statue of a head.  The Olmecs are considered to be the ancestors of the Mayans.

The second exciting thing this week was the Día de Independincia and the Grito in the Gran Plaza.  There were so many people there it was difficult to move. It was exciting to see the patriotism of the people and the fireworks were fantastic. Also a famous singer/actris, Lucero, performed after the fireworks.

The view from the top of the largest pyramid. It was fun to climb up, but a bit scary coming down, as you can’t see the last steps.

Some of the ruins at Mayapan.

“Serenata Yucateca” Parque de Santa Lucia.  Listening to music, enjoying the traditional dancing, enjoying a free activity in el centro.

Semana dos. Week two.

This is the first full week of classes.  Monday and Wednesday are busy, but I enjoy my classes.  I am learning so much about the people and language.  It is so humid here and HOT.  I feel like all I do is sweat.  Normally I like to shower in the mornings, but here I am so yucky by the end of the day that I actually enjoy a cold shower before I go to bed.  Drinking LOTS of water, bottled of course, and I actually enjoy drinking Coke because  it is made with sugar instead of corn syrup.  The food is so good and even though I am eating more than I normally do, it is mostly fresh ingredients. Lots of beans and rice, fruits, and local foods.

Thursday night we went and watched local performances downtown.  It was great to listen to the singers and watch the dancing. On Friday most of us went to Mayapan.  It was incredible. We were the only people there for the most part and could climb all over the ruins. It was so hot that sweat was dripping off of us but we didn’t care because it was so interesting.  There were big lizards roaming all over the grass and ruins.

La primera semana. The first week.

So hard to believe I have been here for almost a month! The first day was long, as we flew from Louisville to Atlanta to Cancun. We had lunch in Cancun then an almost four hour drive to Mérida. It was a long day. We met at the school we are going to, Habla, and left there with our host mom to our home for the next 15 weeks. All of us live within walking distance to the school and the city is divided up into Colonias. I live in Col. Mexico.  My host family is great, Dede and her two daughters are so nice.  I am one of two students who doesn’t live with another student, which has advantages and disadvantages.

Classes are Monday through Thursday. I have three M/W and one T/TH.  Weekends are for homework, excursions, and other activities. The first weekend we went to Progresso beach on Saturday and Mérida en Domingo.  The beach was beautiful and as usual for me, I got sunburned. Sunday we met in front of the Catedral and went to the Govenors building, Casa de Montejo, and enjoyed the activities and culture all around us. It was a great way to begin.

The humidity here is difficult at first because most buildings and homes do not have air conditioning. Lots of fans, but not quite the same. Took a few days to get used to the change in eating habits, as they have large breakfasts, late lunches (1-3pm) and late but small dinners. The food is fantastic of course and the best part is I don’t make any of it! The most different thing to get used to is the fact that they don’t flush toilet paper, but put it in a trash can.  Sounds a bit gross, but the plumbing here is so different because of the land. But not bad once you get used to it.

Our Welcome dinner – all the students with their host “mom”.  The resturant we met at and a look at the type of food we eat here.

Cenote

The Yucatán peninsula is a great big slab of limestone.  There are no surface rivers here because they are all underground.  These rivers connect to the cenotes, or underground fresh water pools. They are basically holes in the ground.  Interesting fact- they have no earthquakes here because of these underground rivers.

At the cenote and infront of the pyramid at Chichen Itza.

Chichen Itza

Yesterday we went to the great Mayan city of Chichen Itza.  It was amazing! Our guide was fantastic and explained so much I can hardly remember it all.  He talked to us in Spanish and sometimes in English if we didn’t understand. First we went to see some buildings that were some of the oldest there, known as the pre classic style.  Then classic and post classic buildings. He explained about their gods, social system, architecture, carvings and symbolism, and the calendar.

The buildings and walls in many places have been reconstructed like puzzles, some have taken decades to rebuild with only the stones they have found, nothing added. The building with the round structure is the observatory where they could track star, moon, and sun movement.  The huge pyramid is actually the calendar because of the number of steps, sides, angles, facades and symbolism. Absolutely amazing! The other large building has hundreds of pillars surrounding and leading up to it. Some of them are carved and at the top of the building is a huge statue of Chac Mool, one of their gods.  That was interesting to me because of the short story, or cuenta, that I read for my literature class by Carlos Fuentes.

There were vendors literally lined up all along the pathways, which was interesting to say the least.  The cenote was the final place we saw, which was very interesting because that is where they did live sacrifices. They believed that the cenote lead to the underworld and it was an honor to be sacrificed.  There are ruins of where the person was cleansed and then a platform that lead out to it where they jumped off.  I thought of it as walking the plank.

Then we went to have lunch, and like everything I have eaten so far, it was very yummy. The day ended with a nice, cool, refreshing swim in the cenote at Ik il.  I was a bit skeptical of swimming in it (as there are little fishes in there) but it was fantastic!

The largest intact ball field for the ancient Mayan ball game that involved seven players for each team and they had to get the ball through the hoop that is very high off the ground. The bottom has carved murals depicting the game.

Some of the largest buildings in Chichen Itza.

This is all about my semester living in Mérida, México.  As a student at Kentucky Wesleyan College, I took the opportunity to study abroad with KIIS.  This is our third, almost fourth week here. Time has gone by fast and I have enjoyed every minute! I love listening to the language and learning more every week.

The cenote at Chitchen Itza.

The cenote at Chitchen Itza.

The first Saturday here we went to Progresso beach. It was fantastic!


England Winter Term 2012

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During the 2012 Winter Term (January 3-19), Professor Tamara Coy taught a Study Abroad course called The Tudors. Three students took the class, which included a 10-day trip to England to learn firsthand about life during the Tudor period (1485-1603). This page describes their trip through updates and photos from the students’ perspective.

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The students:

Phoenix Jenkins, a senior psychology major
Ashley Hatcher, a junior psychology major
Jessica Hannah, a junior vocal performance major

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January 8, 2012

ON OUR WAY!!

After a long overnight flight, we finally arrived in London and checked into our hotel that afternoon. We relaxed, went through orientation and got London Underground passes for the week, along with English cellphones!

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TOWER OF LONDON

tower of london

KWC at the Tower!

When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, he built the White Tower and fortress, which also served as a royal residence. It later became better known as a site of imprisonment and execution and home to the crown jewels.

beefeater

A “Beefeater” or Yeoman Guard

All: We were so surprised that the Tower of London was a huge collection of buildings. We thought it was on its own, but it had a palace and lots of buildings where the Beefeaters/Yeoman Guards lived.  Our Beefeater guide was great – he really liked his job!

Phoenix: It was more than I expected. I had read about the executions, but to be on the grounds and to get a sense of so much history and where these great people died was amazing. And the crown jewels were off the chain!

Ashley: For me, the Tower of London was history coming to life. It allowed me to appreciate the sacrifices people made for their beliefs.

Jessica: I’ve always heard about the Tower and wanted to see where all these people had lost their lives. It was amazing to finally see it.

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THE GLOBE

Passing under London Bridge, we then walked to The Globe, a replica of William Shakespeare’s original theater. The original site is covered by another monument and cannot be excavated. The Globe Theatre in Shakespeare’s day would have been open air, and performances were in the afternoon. (Candles tended to burn places down!) Although Elizabeth I was a fan, it was James I who was a devoted patron of the arts and made Shakespeare and his company the “King’s Men,” elevating the status of theatre and having performances at court.

globe stage

The stage at The Globe

Shakespearean theatre was limited to a highly decorative stage and limited props. There were the ‘heavens’ in which angels and actors could drop down, and a stage trap door in which the actors could descend into the depths of hell. They had to be careful in the magical aspects and make clear that it was all make-believe — the drunken one-penny crowd who gathered in the ‘mosh pit’ of the standing area was comprised of superstitious laborers who could turn on the actors if the action seemed too real. Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus—which we read for class– must have been a terrifying specter.

Phoenix: The stage was outside and had elaborate designs on it which was like their “scenery”—very different from modern theatre and all the props they use

Ashley: I like how they did so much research to try to make it as accurate as possible. It was very insightful and educational.

Jessica: It was great that they performed plays there today true to the way they would have been performed in Shakespeare’s time. It helped me better understand some of the plays like Taming of the Shrew which we read in class, and how all the women’s parts would have been performed by men!

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WINDSOR CASTLE

windsor castle

Windsor Castle — and a shopping centre right across the street. Many shoes were purchased!

The castle is one of Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite residences (she has many houses!) and you know she is at home if the British flag is flying. Back in the 16th century, Windsor Castle was Elizabeth I’s retreat from the plague. The castle itself is over 900 years old. Only part of it is open to the public, but you can walk around the grounds and visit the beautiful St. George’s Chapel which houses the remains of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Charles I and others.

The decorative ceiling of St. Georges contains much of Henry VIII’s legacy, but no monument. The Chapel is setting to many famous events and home to St. George’s school which provides the Queen’s private choristers.

St. George’s houses the final resting place of numerous people, not least Henry VIII.

ALL: We were all so surprised that Henry VIII is just buried under a SLAB in the floor with Jane Seymour and Charles I (with his head!) and a bunch of rubble on top of the coffins, which have “shoulders.” The chaplain showed us a picture from the 19th century when they opened the tomb — it’s just a hole with the coffins there under lots of stones that have fallen on top. The coffins are wood with lead lining, but it is nothing special. Everyone just walks over Henry VIII and there are all these other tombs and monuments of people we’ve never even heard of that have gorgeous statues. And he’s just under a slab! All those executions — karma will get you!

st. george's chapel

St. George’s Chapel

Jessica: I finally saw where King Henry VIII was buried along with his favorite wife — she gave him King Edward — Jane Seymour. It was amazing to me that a king who left such a legacy is just buried under a plain marble slab. You can see his crest and the Tudor rose throughout the Chapel. And there is a seat where Henry sat when he was Duke of York.

Phoenix: Looking at Henry’s marble slab made me realize you treat people how you want to be remembered. It was crazy because we also got to see the words of his will. He had expected an elaborate tomb. I just can’t get over how he didn’t get the proper respect.

And then after we left the castle, I did what any royal female would do — we went SHOPPING!

Ashley: It’s hard to fathom that the castle serves as a home as well. The gardens were beautiful and green, like a postcard. History came alive for me within St. George’s Chapel. So many people are buried there. It was great when a man that worked there showed us the picture of what is beneath the floor of Henry’s slab. Four coffins have Henry, Jane Seymour, Queen Anne’s infant and Charles I.

guard

He smiled and even spoke to us. Workin’ the charm!

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The Nutcracker

We finished the day with a quick stop to see the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House!

nutcracker

It looked like a fairytale!

nutcracker

The Royal Opera House

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PARIS

Although no Tudors are in Paris, the temptation to visit the beautiful city — which is only four hours away — was too great. Bonjour France!!!

notre dame

In front of Notre Dame

mona lisa

Phoenix and The Mona Lisa!

eiffel tower

The Eiffel Tower


Belize Winter 2010

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Deeg 10web

The Winter Term Marine Biology class spent January 7-16 traveling to Belize. Students blogged about their experiences there — below are their words and photos (newest posts at the top). For a larger gallery of photos, check KWC’s Flickr photostream.

For more on the opportunities available through the KWC Biology department, click here.

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January 15

–Jessica Goodin—

Today is our last day in Belize. Even though it is our last day, it was by far the most fun out of all the days of adventure. About every other day it has been sunny and today was one of those days. Since the weather was magnificent today, it made our snorkeling adventures that much more enjoyable.

We had two locations today to snorkel. The first was Turtle Rock. The name gives a hint to what would be seen. As soon as we pulled up we saw a loggerhead sea turtle in the water. So of course we all jumped in as quickly as possible!

We all saw a number of different fish species that glistened in the sun, including a couple of nurse sharks swimming through the area. Also in the area was the barrier reef that had a drop off behind it. On the drop off was a small cave that was about 20 feet from the surface that only the brave swam through … of course I did. What was amazing is that I swam alongside a huge sea turtle and loved every minute of it.

Our next location of the day was Shark Ray Alley. This place was absolutely mind blowing! Jumping off the back of the boat into shark-infested waters gives a feeling no other place can give. I swam next to a nurse shark that was a good three feet longer than I was. Also I saw a huge school of blue tangs (Dory from Finding Nemo). Some spots were shallow (around six to seven feet) and students were able to dive under and touch the sting rays.

Overall, today was the most exciting and most gorgeous day from the trip, and I think all the other students would agree.

 

— Nicole Shor —

Today we went to The Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which is about 8 square miles. We snorkeled at three main spots. The first place we snorkeled at was Turtle Island. Turtle Island was by far my favorite out of the three places we snorkeled at.

As soon as we stopped the boat and were getting ready to get in, there were southern stingrays and hound fish all around the boat. Ken (our guide for the trip) was feeding them some small feeder fish. Those fish just made them go crazy.

By the time I got into the water, there were at least five stingrays around the boat. The stingrays are pretty used to people there, which made it easy to swim down and touch them. The amazing part about the stingrays is they have this layer of stuff on top of them, you could write things on top of them. So of course I had to put my name on top of one.

There were also a few loggerhead sea turtles just swimming around the boat. They were very intense with their size – they were huge! I tried to keep my distance but they would sometimes sneak up on me and swim right under me or beside me. It just was a great turtle encounter.

The seconded place we snorkeled at was just the main part of Hol Chan. This was the main channel of the whole reserve. Hol Chan in Myan means little channel – that’s where the park gets its name from. At this spot we saw a ton of horse-eye jack. This is a pretty good size fish. They are really not afraid of people at all, they will swim right at you and at the last second turn away. You think it would easy to touch them but they are really fast swimmers. The whole time I was in the water, the horse-eye jacks were always somewhere beside me.

When we swam out into the channel it was amazing. The channel is about 30 feet deep and there were a ton of different species of fish everywhere. The yellow fin grouper I saw were massive. The grouper I saw was at least three feet long. The lips on the grouper are huge, but somehow I find them to be very cute in their own way.

One big disappointment of my day was I didn’t get to snorkel Shark Ray Alley. And the reason why I didn’t was quite amazing. I just happen to have gotten stung by a Portuguese Man-of-War. I got stung all across my back, hands and upper lip, the pain was very intense and it lasted for at least 2 to 3 hours. I still can’t believe that I just happen to find one of those jellyfish. The whole thing does make for a great story at the end out the day. But from what the other students said about Shark Ray Alley, it sounded amazing. One person even got to hold a small shark.

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January 14

— Katie Boles —

From the island we took the boat to our second spot of the day called Hol Chan. It is a protected park area where fishing is prohibited and the divers have to pay during certain times. Because of its protected nature, there are species located there that may have more trouble surviving elsewhere.

This snorkel was unique not only because we were in the protected area, but also because we were diving at night! We were all given an underwater flashlight and eagerly awaited nightfall. Once it was dark enough we took the plunge into the black sea.

It really was a different world at night. Many fish take on a different color pattern or scheme at night. This was seen in the Blue Tangs, for example, because they had a black striped pattern and darker coloration than their normal vibrant blue. The coral also took on a different appearance since they feed at night. They looked wavy and soft since their feeders were out.

We also were able to see many nocturnal species. Our guide, Jeff, caught an octopus and let us touch it. When he let him go, it was neat to see the octopus camouflage to the bottom and put its chromatophores to good use. Green Moray Eels were also out hunting and active. It is thought that they actually use the assistance of our flashlights to find fish easier. There was also a Southern Sting Ray and a Yellow-Spotted Sting Ray.

Another interesting thing that can only be seen at night is the bioluminescence in the algae that resides at the bottom. At one point we stopped swimming, gathered in a circle and turned out all our lights. In the dark, we kicked the bottom with our fins and the bioluminescence looked like glitter everywhere in the water. It was really beautiful.

–Rob Gleason—

On the way to our first site of exploration we observed two dolphins. The site of exploration began with a sunken barge. Brain coral and common sea fans covered the ship. We spotted a nurse shark underneath the sunken vessel.  Also, we observed a Southern Stingray, a Spotted Eagle Ray, a Scorpion fish, a Green Turtle, and schools of Blue Chromis, Yellowtail Snapper, Blue Striped Grunt, French Grunts, and Blue Tangs along the reef. The area of exploration was filled with Elkhorn, Staghorn, and Finger coral.

The day continued by taking a trip to Caye Caulker, a sister island of San Pedro. We spent some time in the city and enjoyed a lunch at the Happy Lobster. It was another great day in San Pedro, also known as Paradise.

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January 13

–Chelsea Deeg—

The second site we snorkeled today was a site called Coral Gardens. It is a portion of the barrier reef that lies to the south of the town. It is unique because this section of the reef sits lower than most other parts of the main reef, which allows the surf to flow over the top instead of breaking.

It also is dominated by large stands of Elkhorn coral and Staghorn coral. These corals have large branches that form many hiding places for fish and other organisms when grown close together.

It began as a guided snorkel as an entire group with Ken in the lead and Jeff bringing up the rear, with Norman manning the boat. The entire time, everyone was on the lookout for shells, Sea Eggs, Donkey Dung Sea Cucumbers, Flamingo Tongues and Christmas tree worms to play with.

As we headed back towards the boat, we broke into buddy teams and explored the area around the boat. A few of us spotted a Southern Stingray cleverly hidden in the sand, while some others saw a large Barracuda. In the course of our snorkel, a large Spotted Eagle Ray swam across our path.

Back in the boat, a small rain storm caught up to us and showered us as we drove back to the dock and walked all the way back to the TREC.

The rest of the evening was dinner on the beach, the chicken drop (a local entertainment), and some karaoke to sum it all up.

–John Grieb—

June 13, 2010 was another day in paradise.  Although we all dearly love the Yu Hak Hahn, we find 8 a.m. class much more enjoyable on the beach. Everyday in Belize has offered a new adventure, and today was no exception.

As we departed from the dock, the sun was beaming, the temperature was rising, and the water was crystal clear. It was fixing to be the perfect day.

After an hour boat ride we arrived at our first stop, “The Red Mangroves.” Mangroves are simply trees that grow in salt water. They have elaborate root systems, which are mangled together in what I call “a big mess.” Because they are so strong, they can protect the shore from erosion and even strong hurricanes. The locals will go as far as wrecking their boats in patches of mangrove in order to protect them during strong winds.

One of the most interesting species spotted at the mangrove was the upside down jelly fish. Imagine a jelly fish and now flip it upside down, and you got it. Hundreds of these jellies could be found on the ocean floor performing photosynthesis and gathering plankton with their tentacles. This site was also the home to batfish, five-foot southern stingrays and schools of sardines.  The mangroves proved to be a much different site than our normal coral reef patches.

Our night ended with an enjoyable beach BBQ. (Don’t worry, Owensboro, ours is still better.) The night was packed full of chicken drops, ice cream, beach walks and our favorite karaoke. After listening to each other sing, we all agreed to finish college because we have no potential of getting a record deal.

Just another day in paradise! Stay warm back home.

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January 12

–Lindsay Gleason—

Today was a great time for relaxation. We arrived in San Pedro three days ago and had a packed schedule each day. The first day we observed pillar coral, the second day we observed Mexico rocks, Mexico caves, and Catalane, and the third day we visited Tres Cocos and Tuffy. With all that hard work, the free day came with much appreciation.

Chelsea, Mary Beth, Deandra and I went down to our dock and collected spotted sea hares. They are a part of the Mollusca phylum and the Gastropoda class. They range from six cm to 15 cm approximately and have an internal shell. After we collected several of these awesome creatures, we rubbed their backs, which causes them to ink a magenta/purple ink. They use this as a defense mechanism against predators. We rubbed this ink on our hands and dyed our t-shirts with the ink.

After playing with the sea hares, we walked a few miles down the beach and got a taste of the culture. Palm trees are scattered along the beach front, boats are tethered to the docks, restaurants and bars exude delicious smells and lively music.

There are some makeshift tourists’ shops by the water that consist of a table and some handmade artifacts. I bought a small marble temple modeled after the Mayan culture and their architecture. Overall, today was a great day for relaxation and fellowship.

–Mary Beth Powell—

Today is free day and no sunshine. After lunch Lindsay, Chelsea and I went down to the dock to find sea hares. Once we found the sea hares we picked them up, made them ink and made shirts. We did this so we could be official members of the ‘Fraternal Order of Apylsia Lovers,’ an old tradition.

We then went into town and visited some local shops. The whole group joined back at the TREC later and discussed what happened that day. Dr. Rosemier was offered “a necklace, pot, or a hooker,” and his response was, “Naw, I’m good!” MaeLing, Amy and Nicole rented a golf cart to ride around town, while Shelby and Shanna rented bicycles and rode around.

–Richard Fangman–

The four man wolf pack departed for our adventure bright and early at 9 a.m.  We rented a golf cart at Island Rentals and spent the day exploring the island of San Pedro. Our first destination was downtown where we visited gift shops, walked the beach and socialized with the locals.

We then headed back to the TREC for a quick lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches. Then we headed to the unpopulated northern part of the island, where our adventure ended at a Rastafari Bar where we quenched our thirst with a few beverages.

We highlighted our evening with a visit to a local pond where crocodile sightings supposedly occur. Upon our arrival the water surface was motionless until five minutes later a 10-12 foot crocodile gracefully emerged from the depths.

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January 11

— Amy Staples —

So far the trip has been a lot of fun. I am really enjoying it I just wish it would be a little warmer.

The food is really good! We have had some sort of fresh fruit at every meal. I tried a new type of fruit as well, called star fruit. It was sour but good. We eat a lot of chicken and beans but I have enjoyed the food.

Today was our third day snorkeling and definitely the best so far! At the first location there were a lot of cool fish to see. Two of my favorites were the peacock flounder and southern sting ray.

Next we snorkeled a shipwreck called “Tuffy.” It was actually really “tuff.” We followed the instructors and I thought I was going to die. Getting to the site was fine, but the way back killed me. It was definitely an amazing site. As we approached part of the boat there were three spotted eagle rays swimming. They were beautiful!

I have really enjoyed the trip so far! I have had a lot of fun and have learned a lot about the environment and animals that I see.

Ken says that it is supposed to warm up towards the end of the week. I am definitely looking forward to what the rest of the trip will bring.

 

–Shanna Markwell–

The two stops for the day were Tres Cocos and Tuffy (named after the sunken ship Tuffy). The site is shaped like a ‘T,’ which means that you have very sharp corners to swim around. Turning around the bottom of the ‘T’ was very rough because of the strong current gushing from around the corner. I was sucking in air through my snorkel.

But the hard work paid off because once we were back in open water, I saw two spotted eagle rays gliding past us. I watched them for a moment to see where they were headed, and in their path was the largest spotted eagle ray that I have ever seen. They looked like a flock!  It’s amazing seeing the species that you study in a book swimming around in real life.

When we got back, we ate a delicious dinner (once again) and headed out to souvenir shop. Tomorrow was our free day, so we went out to experience Belizean nightlife.

I feel like people are genuinely nice here. The pace is very slow. Even while driving, there are no lines and hardly any stop signs – people just share the road in peace. That’s one huge difference that I am really going to miss.

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January 10

— Deandra Buskill —

Anyone who lives in Belize and gets to go snorkeling on the reef every day has “the good life.” Belize is one of the few places in the world that has a barrier reef, which makes for some of the best snorkeling anyone could hope for.

While on the Goliath today, we went to a spot in the northern part of the reef called Mexico Rocks. The coral in the area is a patch reef, meaning it is discontinuous. The patches are almost sphere-shaped, with a few yards between each patch. Within each patch there were juvenile fish of many different species. I saw Cocoa Damselfish, Yellowtail Damselfish, Sergeant Majors, Fairy Basslet, Threespot Damselfish, and many more.

Baby fish are some of the cutest animals because you rarely get to see them; when you do all you can say is ooooohhhhh!

On top of there being all sorts of ridiculously cute fish all around, there were eye-catching invertebrates as well. Giant anemones have these extremely vibrant purple tips that feel like tiny butterfly kisses on your fingertips.

Although the water was cold, the eye candy in the water keeps you in it even when shaking. Snorkeling makes for one amazing day.

–Shelby Timm—

Today in Belize we went to three different reef areas. The first area was called Mexico Rocks, which consisted of large bolder coral. While snorkeling, I got to see many species of angelfish and stingrays. I also saw giant anemones, which you can touch.

After we were done at this area we all stayed in the underneath part of the boat until we got to the next snorkeling area because it was rather cold since it was windy and the sun wasn’t out.

Our next destination was Mexico Cave, which was just an underwater cave with patch reef around it and a resident Southern Stingray at the mouth of the cave. Here we got to practice our free-diving.

After leaving the cave, we went to Catalane, which was a smaller patch reef area, and we saw many of the same fish species here. All three of these areas were beautiful.

When we were all done exploring Catalane, we got back on the boat and headed back to shore.  Once on land the sun finally came out and it got warm and I was able to lay out next to the pool at TREC, our field station. Overall it was another awesome day on the Island.

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January 9

— MaeLing Chiu–

I woke up today around 5:15 a.m. to get ready to leave Clarrisa Falls. Today was our last day to stay there, and we were heading out to the airport to fly to San Pedro, Belize, to stay at the Tropical Research Educational Center (TREC) for the rest of our trip. I was really excited because I would finally get to go snorkeling for the first time ever.

The plane that flew us to San Pedro was very small, midget size. I had to bend down in order to walk into the plane without hitting your head, and I’m only 5’3. So, it was a pretty interesting 20 minutes flight to San Pedro.

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It was around noon when we arrived at the TREC and met Dr. Ken, who would be taking us out snorkeling into the ocean and teaching us about the different species of fish that we were going to be discovering underwater.

My first time snorkeling was pretty interesting because I had a little trouble at first getting the hang of using my mask and snorkel. My partner Amy and I swam around to look at the different species that were underwater. The Manatee grass and coral were everywhere on the bottom of the area we were snorkeling. We had to be careful where we stood or we would hurt the coral.

There were many different species of fish underwater like the Queen Angelfish, Four-Eye Angelfish, French and Blue-Striped Grunt, and many more. My favorite were the Yellowtail Damselfish and the Fairy Basselet – their colors were very pretty. It was an experience because it’s much cooler than looking at images in Google when you have the real thing in front of you.

— Richard Fangman —

Today we departed from Clarissa Falls at 6:00 AM and headed to a small airport in Belize City via a large van/bus. From Belize City we flew over to the Island of San Pedro in small single propeller plane. From my seat on the plane I was able to observe the pilot take off, fly, and land our plane while reading an instruction manual.

Once in San Pedro we took a taxi from the small airport to our field station, where we will stay for the remainder of our trip. We then had a short debriefing with the owner of the field station and had a quick lunch before heading out to our first snorkeling experience.

We boarded the vessel “Goliath”, a 50 foot catamaran, and headed out to spot along the barrier reef named “Pillar Coral.” This spot is given its name because of the large amount of Pillar Coral that prospers in that area.

We jumped into the water, got oriented with snorkeling in the ocean, split up into two groups and then began exploring the reef. This area of the reef was dominated by species such as Pillar Coral, Long-Spined Sea Urchins, French and Bluestriped Grunts, various species of Damsel Fish, Common Sea Fans, Boulder Brain Coral and Slippery Dicks.

After our dive, a small group of students, including me, took a walk around the town of San Pedro. Dinner consisted of a mixture of chicken, beans and rice. We then ended the night with a lecture over the reef sights we planned to visit the following day.

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January 8, 2010

–Ben Allen–

Today was our first day on the mainland, after a slightly eventful plane ride in. Clarissa Falls Resort is the name of the place where we are staying – it’s a quaint little place with some bungalows and an outdoor patio dinning area. After a delicious breakfast of local fruits, eggs and some fried pastry, we embarked on our hike along the banks of the Mopan river toward Xunantunich, a Mayan ruin.

The hike was about two miles and was awesome. Along the way we saw many local species including leaf cutter ants, parrots and a variety of cranes. Our guide, Chenna, was the owner of the resort, and was very knowledgeable of the area. Chenna told lots of interesting stories and remedies the local flora is used for, such as the plant that makes castor oil.

Once we reached the park that Xunantunich sits on, we rode a ferry across the river. It was another short mile hike up the hill to the ruins. As soon as you enter the ruin complex you see the main tower standing about 250 feet tall, sticking out of the forest canopy. We all ascended the building – it was pretty intense since there was nothing but a six-inch wide stone step between you and the ground hundreds of feet below. Once you get to the top you can see for miles; the view is breath taking, with Guatemala on one side, Belize on the other, forest all around.

We explored the rest of the ruins seeing the ball courts and the other two temples, which were less impressive but still intriguing. We then hiked back down to the river where we were met with a quick lunch and inner tubes. We proceeded to venture down the Mopan on the tubes. It was very relaxing and we got to see several iguanas sunning themselves up in the tree tops and blue herring fishing. There were some minor rapids that we had to traverse but only a few people flipped, with their pride the only thing hurt. We spent about two hours on the river before arriving at our resort.

We were fed a delicious dinner of some local chicken dish and rice. On the way back to my bungalow I happened upon a large tarantula that happened to be a red rump, which was a species John Grieb had presented on in class. So I captured it in a bag and brought it back to the dinning area where Dr. Rosemier handled it and we passed it around being sure to be gentle so not to get bitten, even though a bite is only like a bee sting. Of course lots of picture were taken.

Well that’s all for today – lots of fun, very tiring, time to hit the sack. Heading to San Pedro tomorrow.

–Christine Spear—

Today was a very full day – we had the opportunity to take a guided walk, go to see the Mayan Ruins, and then tube down a river back to the place we were staying.

When we arrived outside of the jungle area, we had some time to walk around and take a quick look at some of the stores.

To get to the Ruins we had quite a hike. Starting off, the trip was easy – all we had to do was go on a ferry and cross the river. When we crossed the river there was a very big hill awaiting us, and when we made it up the hill there was an even steeper hill waiting for us.

On this hill two girls in our group decided they were going to race up it. This turned out to be quite hysterical because as they were going up they had a good pace then near the very end they both died very quickly. When we finally made it to the top of the hill, the rest was a very gradual incline that made the trip seem not nearly as bad as it was.

We reached a spot where we could buy tickets to enter into the Mayan area, but to our dismay we still had some hiking left to do. When we finally reached the site, it was amazing. The stone buildings were so high and the architecture for that time was very impressive.

So, naturally we all found the tallest of the three areas and started climbing up it. We all got to the top, where it seemed like we were on top of the world. It felt like I could see for forever in every direction. You could easily see houses and fields in the distance; it was quite spectacular.

Then it was time for the descent. Going down did not seem to take nearly as long as going up did. When we reached the bottom, we were able to grab a small snack before we grabbed tubes and got into the river. Drifting on the river was very relaxing and very fun. Finally we got back to the house and rested and grabbed some food.

The trip has been a lot of fun and very interesting. We have learned a lot from the people here and have had the chance to experience many new things.


Heather Lacy in Costa Rica ; Day 10

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For our last trip in Costa Rica, we went to Limón. It is on the coast, and it has a very unique Caribbean vibe to it. We visited a park on the beach which was very much like Manuel Antonio. At the park we saw an awake sloth up-close and a raccoon sleeping in a tree. I also saw the largest anthill I have ever seen. It was larger than a kitchen sink! It was full of fire ants marching to and fro carrying green leaves. This was probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen in Costa Rica.

We ate at a little restaurant near the park. We ate casados while listening to reggae music. The casados were amazing once again. I’m going to really miss the food when I leave.

After lunch, we stopped at a store full of tropical clothes made of bright patterns. I bought a pair of shorts, and Rhiannon bought a dress. The store owner was a really neat person, and she and Dr. Zapata became friends. Dr. Zapata meets friends everywhere!

Heather Lacy


Heather Lacy in Costa Rica ; Day 9

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Today was a study day. We did homework in the apartment all day, and then we went out for dinner. We took a taxi to a Colombian restaurant in San José. It had an open store front so that we could view the street and listen to the sounds of the city while eating.

I ordered a large strawberry juice, and it was very good. We all ordered arepas, which are a typical Colombian food. They have a type of breading that isn’t quite a tortilla, and they are filled with whatever you want. I ordered one with cheese, beef and chicken, and I loved it. We ate so much at this dinner!

Heather Lacy


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