Excerpts from last Mexico blog entries

For the complete Mexico Capstone blog, please click here.

After the trip, from Caroline's mom
Although it has been a week since our return, I’m still reflecting on our wonderful experience in Merida. I must admit that when I learned that our class would travel to Mexico instead of Spain, I was more than a little disappointed. Our family loves Mexico and we have had some fantastic vacations at the country’s coastal resorts. However, the reality in Cabo and Puerto Vallarta is that the local economies are dependent on tourism and almost everyone we came in contact with spoke English. It was a challenge to get people to speak Spanish to our daughter and quite frankly, her motivation to use her Spanish was poor. It was hard to imagine how another trip to Mexico would provide much educational value.

I shouldn’t have worried. The city of Merida was a far cry from tourist resorts and it was clear from the first day that with our English only language skills, my husband and I were handicapped in ways I had never considered. In contrast, I watched with amazement as Caroline bargained with a vendor at Chitzen Itza. She inquired in Spanish about a certain trinket’s price. As she paused to consider the money conversion, the vendor commented on her excellent Spanish and offered her a lower price before she could even present a counter offer!

Upon meeting her host family, Caroline immediately launched into conversation to become better acquainted. Only one member of their family speaks English with any real fluency, so it was clear she would have no choice but to use her Spanish. Through their 18 year old son’s interpretation, they told us how amazed they were by her skill and fluency in Spanish. Her home stay and school experience were invaluable. I can’t imagine any more effective way for our kids to learn about another country and culture, than to live with a family and experience their daily life and routines. Our whole family has been deeply touched and we will be forever changed by our new Mexican friends.

Thursday, March 19, from Sophia's mom
I am sitting on the airplane heading for home as I reflect on this trip and what a memorable experience it has been. For me and I think for Sophia, the highlight of the trip was the friendship she made with Maria ( her host family “sister”) and the genuine warmth and generosity of the host family. They were unreserved in welcoming me, my mother-in-law and Sophia into their home.

Last Tuesday we were able to pay a visit to “Escuela Modelo” and observe the kids in this setting, engaging in classroom activities along with their fellow schoolmates. It was interesting to see their acceptance by a group of kids who had only just recently met them. Seeing my eldest daughter taking a big step towards independence and adapting to foreign surroundings with easewas definitely the highlight of the trip!

Before leaving for Mexico, I was a tad concerned that the experience there may be diluted as I expected English to be more prevalent than on past Capstone trips. I am happy to report that I couldn't have been more wrong. The families in Merida spoke little, if any, English so Sophia had to speak Spanish and to translate for me - which she did with ease.

The days of touring during the second week were fun but the heat (95 degrees and muggy) made it challenging at times. I think the kids all really enjoyed the last day as we got to travel to Celestún to see thousands of flamingos in their own habitat. It was the first time I'd seen flamingos fly....it was a beautiful sight. Did you know that the color of their feathers comes from the tiny pink worms they eat? (bit of trivia).

As we were boarding the plane for our journey home Sophia remarked that she couldn't believe that Capstone was over. Neither could I. We had been preparing for this trip for many years; it was a wonderful experience and I will miss all of my comrades. We have a very cohesive class and I wouldn't have guessed that our bond could have grown stronger but I was wrong. We spent a lot of time together and have some great memories to share...

Wednesday, March 18, from 5th grade student Sophia (excerpts)
I think this year's Capstone was successful. We chose a beautiful city with lots of famous architectural interests like pyramids and old buildings. We went on tours to famous places like Uxmal and Chichen Itza (old Mayan ruins) and on bus rides we saw old buildings and the guide told us stories about them. My favorite things on the trip were visiting the Mayan houses, swimming in a cenote (underground caves), and of course staying with my host family.

In the Mayan house, a really interesting Mayan man took us around to explore. He actually had three huts and each one had one room: a bathroom, a bedroom and a kitchen. He had a giant garden with the spiciest peppers in the entire world and he also had goats. They had thirteen people living on their land but we didn't see any of them.

Swimming in the cenote was scary and exciting. It was ten meters deep and there were rocks everywhere. There were also bats (scary)!

The best part of Capstone was staying with my host family. They were so nice to me. My host sister's name was Maria. She had a brother the same age as mine and his name was Ariel. They liked going to the mall, playing Wii, going to the beach, and playing with their dogs. I am going to miss them.

I hope that everyone gets a chance to have a Capstone experience and appreciate it. I also think that going to Mexico again is a good idea!!!

Tuesday, March 17, from Alex's mom
This week has been a lesson in social studies, history and anthropology along with the "usual" language, culture and parental pride. Sunday we visited the Mayan archeological sites of Uxmal and Kabah where we climbed on the 1000-1500 year old ruins (I can't believe they really let us do that). We learned about the Mayan culture and lifestyle from our guide who reassured us that the books are wrong: Mayans never disappeared - his first language is Mayan!  The 95 degree heat dampened enthusiasm a bit, but there is no question that this beats classroom learning.

Yesterday was a terrific tour of a working Hacienda, where we saw first hand how heneken leaves are harvested and turned into rope, fabric and the like. The children and some of the parents got to swim in a Cenote - a reservoir in underground cave complete with stalactites and underwater stalagmites.  Add "geology" to the list of learnings!

Today it was back 1000 years again to the famous Chichen Itza archeological site. No climbing here, but that was ok since it was at least 95 degrees once again. The guide bowed to the parents a bit and conducted some of the tour in English - to which our children paid no attention.

One of the currents running through this week has been get togethers and more good-byes with host families. Each pair of TIS/host family is getting together one more time for dinner or the like. It certainly seems like those relationships will persist in one way or another.

For the complete Mexico Capstone blog, please click here.