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Eight Stevensville High School students in Spanish language class made good use of their language education by going to Mexico in April.

Spanish teacher Pam Johnson said students do fundraising activities to pay for the trips that have a great educational value. She has taken students on eight trips total, four to Mexico and four to Costa Rica. Two years ago, they went on a 10-day eco-adventure in Costa Rica. This year they stayed at an all-inclusive resort and took day tours to historic and fun sites.

“I do these trips for the students’ introduction to real-time culture and reinforcement of the language they’ve learned,” she said.

Students Emma Dorman, Callie Lendman, Edna Martinez, Vanessa Dunn, Tristen Delgadillo, Bailey Morton, Alexandera Deschamps and Casey Cook said it was a trip of a lifetime.

It was a series of firsts for many of the students as they took their first plane ride, visited another country, saw and swam in the ocean and went snorkeling. They saw monkeys, turtles, fish and had their first experience with tides. Stevensville students toured historic sites like El Castillo in Chichen Itza, Mexico.

This was junior Callie Lendman’s first time in another country.

“We used Spanish at restaurants ordering our food and talking with the waiters,” Lendman said. “It was cool communicating in their language and being able to use pesos, the currency of Mexico. Trying to learn to convert was hard. On Avenida La Quinta we got 16.2 pesos for every dollar. We went further in-country and there was a better exchange rate.”

Senior Casey Cook said that upon returning to America the group was still trying to talk with workers, but used Spanish.

“I was like, ‘guys we are in America we can speak English,’” he said.

Two years earlier Cook had been on the school trip to Costa Rica with his Spanish teacher and classmates and he said he enjoyed seeing the cultural differences between Costa Rica and Mexico. He said the best part of the trip was exploring Xel-Ha, an aquatic theme park and ecotourism development that had a variety of experiences including a natural lagoon.

“There was lots to do there,” he said.

The lagoon had obstacle courses, rope lines, a sling to zip line and drop into the sea. There was a lazy river to swim and explore with cliffs to climb and jump from and a wide variety of aquatic life.

Lendman said she was thrilled to go snorkeling.

“We saw stingrays and star fish, parrot fish and we also got to zip line into the water. That was super cool,” she said. “There were a lot of things to see on the lazy river. You could tell where the two different bodies of water were coming together because of the temperature differences. It was colder on top and warmer where you stuck your feet down toward the bottom because of the water mixing.”

The group also toured Chichen Itza, a Mayan archeological sight and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, with unusual acoustics.

“My favorite part was if you stood at the bottom of the stairs of El Castillo, the famous pyramid, and clapped three times you hear the reverberation of a bird call,” Lendman said

Cook said, “The ball court was designed so a ruler could talk with his guest at the other end and they can actually talk and hear each other a football field away.”

Tulum was another archeology site the group visited. Historically, it was a Mayan sea fort and an important trade route. The students also walked and explored the beach.

Lendman said she enjoyed the beautiful blue water but she did not like the large iguanas and mosquitoes.

Another highlight of the trip was swimming in Cenote Il-Kil, a beautiful well and underground cave that was 130 feet deep with a water temperature of 68 degrees.

Cook said, “It is a cave with two holes in the top that shined the light down.”

Lendman said it was refreshing.

“It reminded me of home and jumping in the lakes,” she said. “I remember looking at pictures and thinking ‘wow we’re going to be there’ but then when we were there it was even more amazing.”

Johnson said it was a “magical place to swim.”

“You could look into the sky and the leaves were falling,” she said. “There were huge black catfish. It was amazing.”

Their stay at Sandos Caracol EcoResort included three pools and ocean swimming, volleyball, Zumba and yoga on the beach.

The group had plenty of shopping opportunities.

Lendman said she made many purchases, especially on Avenida La Quinta.

“There were lots of stores and street vendors,” she said. “Repacking my suitcase to come home was challenging.”

Cook said traveling with a group of 10 was more fun than traveling with a larger group.

“This trip was shorter but we had something to do every day,” he said. “It was all of us experiencing the differences at the same time.”

Lendman said she found it interesting to be in a place with thatched roofs and open walls.

“Here we can’t do that because we have all the different weather,” she said. “There it is just nice and nicer. It was awesome being able to go with friends. It was nice and not too much drama. I felt safe in an environment I’d never been in. It was really fun.”

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or michelle.mcconnaha@ravallirepublic.com.

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