WCKA Newsletter - December 2006

Before we start, a word of thanks…
To all of the people who have made this semester and the World Class Kayak Academy organization a success. Beginning with our sponsors, who provide us gear and help fund our scholarship program, we would like to thank Red Bull for the scholarship money and plane tickets to visit colleges; Patagonia for the great rescue PFDs and fundraising products; Dagger and Wave Sport for the kayaks to enjoy the sport we love so much; AT for the paddles that help us rip; WRSI for the helmets to protect our brains; Crocs for the kicks; Smith for the shades; and all of our other partners for the gracious pro-deals. Please, check out our Financial Aid/Scholarship webpage for more details on how these folks help us out. Next we would like to thank everyone who donated to both WCKA and this year’s Paddle-A-Thon — those funds go straight toward scholarship and our service project in China. Thanks everyone. And last, but certainly not least, thank you to all our parents. Yes, mom and dad, you are still the ones who are really making it all possible, and we owe all of the wonderful experiences we’ve shared to your vision and support. Thanks.

Goodbye Oaxaca
October marked the beginning of our viaje, our trip, through Mexico. We started things off in Jalcomulco, Veracruz, and we finished the month in Las Bahias de Huatulco, Oaxaca. Just days before leaving the pounding surf and sandy beaches of Mexico’s Pacific Coast, we visited a turtle museum, ate incredible food at Rafa’s Empanada in Mazunte, spent an afternoon at the world famous waves of Puerto Escondido, boofed our way down the Rio Zimatan, surfed through dusk at Playa Mojon, and we danced our last night away at a hot discotec — all this on top of maintaining a rigorous academic schedule. Yes, we were busy.

November arrived with an epic celebration of life at the cemetery in Santa Maria de Huatulco. The celebration is called Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead. When most people in the United States watch scary movies, collect candy, and piece together their alter egos, Mexicans prepare for a party with the dead. During the first three days of November, the local cemetery turns into a festival of lights with candles burning in every direction. On the second day of the celebration, families gather together with gifts, extravagant floral arrangements, traditional food, and favorite treats of those who have passed. They place their offerings on the graves of their loved ones, and they enjoy each other’s company. They believe the dead are gone only physically, and their souls will join them on this day to celebrate as a community. Although the name may imply a holiday of sadness or mourning, the Mexicans interpret this holiday as a reason for “fiesta.” At this party children took over the streets, and couples danced around headstones to the rhythm of firecrackers whizzing and snapping and popping through the night.

On our way out of Oaxaca, we ran into a highway roadblock. A group protesting the Governor and the lack of funding for public education would not allow vehicles to pass en route to Veracruz. This roadblock was one of our only points of contact with the unfortunate situation in Oaxaca City, but it was nothing more than a detour. Diplomatic reports warned against travel in the state of Oaxaca, but we did not encounter any signs of danger in our travels far-removed from the heart of the conflict in the capital city.

Hello Veracruz
Once back in Veracruz, we settled into our routine in Jalcomulco. We were lucky enough to have new accommodations at one of the finest hotels in town, Posada del Rio. We held classes in the garden/courtyard just next to the living quarters of Fito the toucan. We continued to meet at the Casa Esprit for the fine cooking of Las Bertas. This time, owner Jim Coffee was around with his W.I.L.D. group, and the World Class students assisted in a Wilderness First Responder course acting as victims. Daily river trips included descents of the Pescados and Sordo. We also paddled some exciting and remote sections of the Texiolo River, a tributary of the Sordo. During our time in Jalcomulco we had visitors as well. John and Sally Lentz and Penny Breed joined us for a brief vacation to World Class: Mexico. John and Sally rafted the Pescados section alongside their son, Max, and Penny dodged volleyballs as she watched her son, Sam, challenge the group in an intense game of “water rugby.”

After Jalcomulco we headed north to Aventurec in Tlapacoyan, Veracruz. Bozo Cardozo joined us there after his epic bus journey from the airport in Veracruz. Bozo paddled the classic roadside section of the Alseseca River with his son, Ben, and the rest of the World Class team. The Alseseca is stacked with perfect slides and waterfalls, and the Aventurec Resort offers the ultimate in comfortable living for World Class. The combo of the two creates a perfect setting for a kayaking high school. One of our more unique morning workouts involved picking tangerines to make fresh juice for breakfast. The majority of the vegetation on the grounds is variety of fruit trees.

The caravan did not stop there. After only a week’s stay in Tlapacoyan, we packed up and headed north to the travertine waterfalls of the Micos and Saltos in San Luis Potosi. On the way, we took a side trip to the Totonac ruins of El Tajin, a city archaelogists believe could have been built as early as 300 AD. During our tour of this historic city, we learned about the cultural significance of the pyramids and stone carvings.

The highlight of our visit to Tajin was a performance of the Voladores, or flyers. In this classic Totonac ritual, five men climb a 30-meter pole and then four of them attach themselves to long ropes that are then wrapped taut around the top of the pole. The fifth man stands on top of the pole, beating a drum and chanting. The climax of the ritual occurs when the four flyers leap backwards from the pole in unison. They make a slow, graceful descent in circles until they are almost at ground level, when they then sit up and run out their landing. The next day we enjoyed the parades for the Day of the Revolution in nearby city, Papantla, Veracruz.

San Luis Potosi
After a few days of sight seeing and travel, the group was ready to settle in for an extended stay at another whitewater destination. Carlos’s Huasteca Camp at the takeout for the waterfall run on the Micos did not disappoint. This was our first and only tent camping in Mexico. The Caribbean-blue water braided around verdant islands and flowed swiftly past our outdoor classroom/dining area. The group enjoyed this time to be unplugged from the world. Tiki-torches, campfires, and the moon provided the only light after sunset. Our convenient location allowed for plenty of time to work out in the morning, hold class, study, and paddle at least twice a day before dark.

The Micos provided a great venue for a World Class adventure race. This mass-start race involved jumping/swimming the waterfall section of the river, running back to the put-in, and then kayaking all the way to our camp. Five teams of two and one team of three competed, and the only rule required that each team maintain no more than a 10-meter gap between partners throughout the entire event. In the end, Max Lentz and Evan Garcia took first, Mikael Ekstrom and Katie Kowalski second, and our only team of three, Glenn Dalgleish, Elsa Schroeter, and Fred Norquist, third.

Although we were stoked on the camper’s lifestyle, students and teachers began to feel the push to finish term projects and prepare for final exams. The group made the move to Ciudad Valles, the closest metropolitan area. We made a complete 180-degree transition from the slow pace of a riverside camp to wireless Internet, crowded streets, and city lights. The Hotel Aventura Huasteca accommodated our large group and even provided shuttle service for a trip down the infamous Rio Santa Maria.

The Santa Maria ends at the gigantic, majestic Tamul Falls, but our experience was a bit tainted by low water and rainy weather. The long hike up and out of the canyon in the dark will remain a lasting memory. The drive home from the takeout turned out to be the most exciting part of the day due to the sloppy, muddy roads. Our epic on the Santa Maria marked the last day of paddling in the state of San Luis Potosi. It was time to return south to the Rio Alseseca and our home away from home at Aventurec.

On the way back we stopped at the surrealist architectural creation of Edward James, an eccentric artist and poet from an aristocratic British family. Las Pozas is a massive complex of cement sculptures, buildings, and pathways, located deep in the jungle of the Sierra Madre outside Xilitla, that took 20 years to create. The focal point of the design is a small creek that cascades through the property, hence the name Las Pozas, the pools. James had fountains built into the waterfalls and diving platforms randomly jut out from the canyon walls. Giant concrete orchids and Escher-esque stairways to nowhere are typical sites. Many students from the literature classes took advantage of an extra credit, creative writing assignment about this crazy place. They wrote short stories attempting to explain the original motivation for and the significance of the design of Las Pozas.

Finals at Aventurec - Tlapacoyan, Veracruz

Our first day back at Aventurec was also our last day of classes for the fall semester. Students edited and printed their last papers. Teachers’ white boards were stashed away. We finished the day with a celebratory game of Mud-Ultimate Frisbee, and it may just have been the most intense game of the entire semester. This athletic battle turned out to be a great stress release before review sessions began for final examinations.

We dedicated the next three days to study. This was our version of a collegiate “dead week.” Teachers held formal review discussions and students initiated their own informal study groups in order to prepare for their tests. Morning yoga workouts and an evening movie hour provided the students with a bit of organized distraction to keep energy and morale levels high.

The whole group was anxious to get their finals out of the way. Each subject was allotted a three-hour time slot over a period of three days. During a break from our last day of finals, we flew over the orange trees of Aventurec on the Tirolesa, the zip line. The students took their revenge on the teachers by whipping rotten oranges at us as we flew overhead, helplessly harnessed to a steel cable. I felt like a target for a carnival game, but at least I finished the day smelling like citrus. Our last few days in Mexico have been dedicated to steep-creeking on the Alseseca.

This has been an incredible quarter abroad for the World Class Kayak Academy. We experienced a beautiful culture, surfed huge waves, ran amazing rivers, made great friends, tried [really hard!] to learn a new language, ate tasty food, laughed, cried, camped — and we went to high school! I can’t wait to do it all over again in China.

The Fall ’06 class at the WCKA would like to dedicate this amazing viaje through Mexico to the life of our friend Jorge.

— By LJ Groth

WCKA Newsletter - October 2006

(The students of American Literature produced this edition of the WCKA Newsletter.)

Jalcomulco, Veracruz
By Elsa Schroeter, Matt Eddy, and Fred Norquist

The first destination for WCKA’s Mexico tour was the little mountain town of Jalcomulco in the state of Veracruz. Located about an hour and a half from the city of Veracruz, our point of arrival, Jalcomulco proved to be a great place to begin school and paddling. Half of the group stayed at a hotel called Casa Esprit where we also had our classes and meals. The other half of the group stayed at a nearby hotel called Aventuras Sin Limites. Two women, both named Berta, also referred to as “Las Bertas,” prepared our meals. Las Bertas introduced us to a variety of classical Mexican foods.

Jalcomulco offered three different and exciting river runs, all of which were in the Rio Antigua watershed. The uppermost section of the Antigua was a two-hour drive from our base at Casa Esprit and is known as the Barranca Grande. It was a scenic run with fairly continuous Class III rapids. The river was in a large gorge with occasional tall and thin waterfalls pouring into it. The beautiful, lush Mexican jungle surrounded us throughout our full seven-hour paddle.

A typical after-class paddle to relieve us from the heat of the day was the Pescados, a long, fun play run with some challenging rapids, but, most of all, just really fun catch-on-the-fly waves and holes. Student Reid Whitney said, “The Pescados is a fun Class III play run that has awesome canyon walls.”

During our stay here, WCKA had the opportunity to help with a citywide river cleanup of the polluted Antigua River. Although the cleanup required us to exchange our kayaks for rafts for the day, it was well worth the small sacrifice to be able to see the improvement and to help our environment. After a day of wading through dirty eddies and filling up countless garbage bags of pollution, the river looked noticeably cleaner.

Another section of river that we boated, the Rio Sordo, is a fun, technical Class III+/IV run full of good boofs. There was a short hike-in, which involved battling massive Banana Spiders and a steep hike to the river through coffee plants. Jalcomulco is a beautiful town full of very nice people and surrounded by great rivers, but one aspect of our stay that was less fun is best described in this poem by student Davis Gove:

I feel the bugs a biting.
Their armies are a fighting.
At the first sighting,
I grab a can of Deet.
I spray it on my legs,
I spray it on my feet.
I see the dregs a comin’
And I still admit defeat.

Huatulco, Oaxaca
By Davis Gove, Ben Cardozo, and Max Lentz

We spent the past two and a half weeks in Huatulco, a small tourist town with many small shops and friendly locals. We were extremely fortunate to meet Gabriel and Carla, the owners of a local restaurant, El Chisme. They made great food for us every day, and they were full of helpful advice about things to see in the area. Most days after school, we took a short drive down to La Playa Mojon, a beautiful beach with much to do. There we spent our afternoons surfing, swimming, and occasionally sunbathing. The waves were great for kayak surfing and surfboarding, and they provided large bounces for huge aerial maneuvers and the frequent beatdown.

It was an adventure getting to the Alemania section of the Copalita River. It is a very remote section and requires a two and a half hour drive through the mountains from Huatulco in order to reach the put-in at an abandoned coffee town. At high flows, the run is full of solid Class III-IV rapids. The river dropped continuously through a typical lush Oaxacan valley with a few notably tight and difficult gorges. The run was almost shorter than the drive in. Unfortunately, we lost some gear bags on the long ride to the put-in, and Whitney and Kristi were not able to paddle as a result.

World Class also rallied to the Rio Zimatan on their endless quest for “the gnar.” Everyone had heard stories of granite gorges and steep, tight rapids, and no one was let down. The first rapid, not even 100 yards downstream, is one of the steepest drops on the river. The characteristic of the river was generally narrow with a high gradient. Many of the students commented on the river’s beauty. It was not uncommon to see iguanas, tarantulas, and colorful birds. Adding to the greatness of the river is a handful of hot springs cascaded out of the granite walls.

By Fred Norquist

The mathematics classes at WCKA consist of Pre-Calc, Algebra II, and Geometry. Kristi Murrin teaches Pre-Calc and Algebra II, and Karl Moser teaches Geometry. The Pre-Calc Students have been studying the graphing of inequalities and are about to start real-world applications with linear programming. “Recently the students did a project where they watched a film on crop circles, then drew their own crop circles and wrote about them,” said Kristi Murrin. “Pre-Calc is starting to get more challenging,” said senior Elsa Schroeter.

The Algebra II class has just finished matrices and is now working on quadratic functions. “Students recently talked about how matrices are used to create animated cartoons,” said Kristi Murrin. “Algebra II has been challenging, but I am understanding it well and it is a good time,” said sophomore Sam Freihofer.

The Geometry class has been working on transformations of geometric shapes, and just finished basic parallelograms. “Recently Geometry students did a project at the Liquid Logic Kayaks factory, where they mapped the progression of freestyle kayaks through the geometry of the kayaks,” said Karl Moser. “It’s good, but I don’t see how I will have to use it,” said student Katie Kowalski.

Spanish and Environmental Science
By Davis Gove

Mexico has proven to be a great classroom for learning Spanish. Immersion into a Spanish-speaking country has skyrocketed the students’ pace of learning the language.
Sophomore Sam Freihofer says he likes Spanish class because "it has real-life application." The advanced students say they enjoy the opportunities they have for discussions with the locals.

In the Spanish I class, we have been learning adjectives to spice up our Spanish vocabulary. Other projects include walking the town and having brief discussions with the shop owners as well as Las Bertas, our cooks in Jalcumulco.

The Spanish III class has been working on more challenging aspects of communication, such as conversational skills. Substitute student teacher Evan Garcia, who fills in for Spanish teacher Whitney Lonsdale on occasion, says, "being able to use Spanish in an everyday social environment creates a great learning experience."

The students of Environmental Science have been working on their semester projects. They were asked to write a research paper. "These papers help us understand current environmental issues," said senior Mikael Ekstrom of Uppsala, Sweden. The students have chosen topics ranging from green-building techniques to China's population problem.

The class has also been reading the book Encounters with the Arch Druid by John McPhee. Junior Fred Norquist said, "It’s an interesting book that shows the different views on conservationism." The students will also be visiting a museum for the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, an endangered species in Mexico and threatened elsewhere.

A large aspect of Environmental Science class is daily discussion, which senior Alex Dalgleish says is his favorite part of class. "I enjoy hearing everyone’s opinions on the issues," he said.

Chemistry and World Literature
By Max Lentz

“Chemistry opens up new ways of looking at the world in a unique perspective,” says Chemistry teacher Kristi Murrin. She would most certainly know, having a degree in molecular and cellular biology. The class is currently studying electron configuration, along with ionic compounds and other interesting topics. “We not only do bookwork, but also fun labs involving mixing chemicals and separating light into its various waves,” said senior Reid Whitney. The class pushes the students while keeping their interest levels high.

World Literature is a great way to expand one’s knowledge of the world. Most books are able to help us understand only our own society. LJ Groth said, “The class gives students a chance to read authors outside the normal literary canon.” Currently the students are reading a very interesting book called The Alchemist by the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. It is a novel about a young man who sets out on a journey to obtain riches and soon realizes he is on a spiritual journey toward self-realization. Student Sam Freihofer said, “I am glad to be a part of such an informative class.” The class isn’t all fun and games though. LJ also improves the students’ writing abilities by assigning essays.

Physics, British Literature, and American Literature
By Matt Eddy

This quarter the Physics class has completed many projects, varying from finding the center of gravity of fellow students to finding the “work” in the workout. Joel Kowalski, a newcomer to American schooling, said, “My favorite part of physics is its application to kayaking. I have used the tools I have learned to measure waterfalls.” The students just finished working with centripetal and centrifugal forces and are now covering kinetic and potential energy, along with work and power. “I think these students are awesome! They are super interested in activities and super willing the do the work,” said teacher Kristi Murrin.

The British Literature class is comprised only of seniors. They are a motivated group who enjoy their course work and their teacher. “My favorite part of Brit-Lit is LJ’s unique teaching style,” says Evan Garcia, a senior and three-year veteran of World Class Kayak Academy. This quarter they are reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet and also writing their own plays. “The Brit-Lit students are challenged by the language barrier because the texts were written hundreds of years ago. The cool part of the class is that students come into it with a preconceived notion about each story or novel and are pleasantly surprised by the value of the content,” says LJ. These students are handling themselves well academically.

“American Literature rocks," says student Max Lentz, who is currently in his first semester at World Class Kayak Academy, “I feel I’ve learned a lot this quarter about the mechanics of writing.” The American Literature class recently read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and is now moving on to Macho!, a novel more related to the school’s current location. They are currently writing a creative piece about Jim and Huck’s famous travel down the Mississippi. “American Literature gives the student the opportunity to contextualize history through culture, and gives us an idea about the evolution of our country,” says teacher LJ Groth.

By Ben Cardozo

In Videography we have learned to use the camera properly and have just begun to edit video. We have watched three films and critiqued them. This makes our eye for film much better, because we have seen how it is used on big motion pictures. During the first quarter we learned film techniques. A couple of these techniques are: using the rule of thirds to please the eye, and using lighting to make the subject stand out from its background.

We are assigned some of the most fun projects for homework. Our last homework assignment was to finish editing a scary movie. Teacher Karl Moser says the class will continue to learn the art of editing and incorporating the harder techniques. Then we will learn about editing sound in movies. Toward the end of the term, the students will compile all the footage they have shot and from it create the WCKA Semester Video. “Video class is sweet because the homework is fun,” says junior Fred Norquist.

U.S. History and Government
By Elsa Schroeter

The U.S. Government class at WCKA is like no other class. Teacher David Zinn presents material about our country’s government in an interesting and exciting way. “My objective is to make each person feel that what we’re learning is more than just passing tests. It’s a base of knowledge that can be used to affect policy issues that are important to us,” said Zinn.

The students are putting Zinn’s plans into action with their term projects. The assignment requires each student to choose an issue of U.S. policy that they either strongly agree with or oppose. They must research it and finally write a letter to their local congressional representative concerning that issue. Zinn wants the students “to gain a critical understanding of and to become actively involved with important issues in national policy.” The class also spent some time learning about Mexico’s government and comparing it to the government of the United States.

Discussion is important in this class “because it shows the true diversity of our country by all the different opinions,” said junior Davis Gove.

The students in American History are gaining a unique perspective on their subject. Instead of memorizing only dates and events of the American Revolution, they compared it to the Mexican Revolution. Using that information, they “hypothesized about potential triggers for political revolution,” said teacher Dave Zinn. Prior to that comparison, the students created a reenactment of America’s pre-Revolutionary times and filmed it for a World Class movie premier.

Now, as they are working toward the U.S. Civil War, they are taking time to read slave narratives that were recorded as a part of a work program in the 1930s. Dave believes these narratives enhance the class because “they allow us to bring in the stories of many people and look at how they lived, what motivated them, the ways they thought, and the events that shaped their lives.”

Mikael Ekstrom, who is from Sweden, said this about U.S. History: “If you want to feel like a true American, you have to know the history.”

WCKA Newsletter - December 2003

December was the home stretch for Fall Semester. The last week of classroom instruction was followed by three days of final exams and presentations. In Kayak Training, or World Class P.E., the students ended the semester by composing a letter (format and editing provided in coordination with Aimee Cullwick, the English teacher) to the U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Association. The USFKA is responsible for governing the selection process for the U.S. Freestyle Team representing the U.S. at the World Championships. Using their skills in persuasion and composition, WCKA students presented their opinions to the committee in their letters. In English II, Zach Miller and Kelly Sherfig studied sequential and informative writing by drafting recipes learned in the kitchen of Berta y Berta, the two excellent cooks who provided our group with terrific Mexican cuisine while in Jalcomulco. In Cultural Studies, students prepared final presentations on an aspect of Mexican history or culture of their choice. The highlight was Matt “Ivan” Stiefel’s PowerPoint presentation on the leaders, political groups, and revolutions occurring between independence and modern history in Mexico. Fascinating presentation, Ivan! Meanwhile, faculty members were busy composing and grading exams, while compiling their curriculum development outlines submitted at the conclusion of each WCKA semester. Congratulations to everyone on finishing another successful semester of learning at World Class.

In the final two weeks of school, athletics had to fit in with time spent on both studies and cultural exploration. Fortunately, the river in Jalcomulco was as accessible as a river could be for a kayak academy. Long afternoons of studying were rewarded with a playboating sessions at the playhole below town -- only a five minute walk from Casa Esprit where all of our classes and studies took place. On some days, people would choose to run either the Pescado or the Antigua sections of the Rio Antigua, ending or beginning in town depending on which run was chosen. Weekend days were used to explore two of the highlight runs we encountered in Mexico. The first was the Barranca Grande, a 33 km stretch of continuous class III and IV whitewater running through beautiful wilderness gorges, complete with tangerine trees along the way for refueling weary paddlers. The second weekend run was a section of the Rio Alseseca, whose 1.7 miles of river offered the cherry on top of our Mexican river odyssey. This short section of river took over four hours to run because of the plentiful scampering, scouting, and paddling required to navigate the 18+ vertical to off-vertical slides and drops running through the low volume basalt bedrock. The only downside to this run was the amount of plastic bottles and non-organic trash floating in the eddies. In fulfillment of WCKA’s commitment to river stewardship, please, take note of this river. Go there, paddle it, and tell your friends. This river is a kayaker’s dream, desperately in need of greater awareness.

The most memorable activities during December were the interactions and friendships established with the people who live and work in Jalcomulco. Porfi and the Berta’s were always willing to make our stay comfortable with excellent meals, drinking water, Internet access, and plenty of forgiveness as we developed our Spanish. Nacho, the local video kayaker, also became a close friend during our stay as he willingly provided local information, good company, a telescope with software for stargazing, and a campfire by the river on our last evening complete with roasted bananas and handmade fireworks. There was also the Rodriguez family who owned and operated Sin Limites, the adventure company where our group stayed, ate, and socialized. Upon leaving Jalcomulco, the first hours of the drive to Vera Cruz were complete with heavy hearts as we had left behind some of the best friendships of the semester. Other daily activities included taking advantage of the busy Jalcomulco life. Mornings would begin as early as 4:30 am during the last week of our stay with exploding fireworks set off at eye opening intervals in celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Afternoons would sometimes be spent hiking up local canyons. Nearby Xalapa, the capital of Vera Cruz, was also visited on several occasions to shop, see movies, visit the two African lions, or to visit one of the numerous coffee production companies. Evenings in Jalcomulco would include eight-ball at the pool hall, watching community soccer games, or dancing at the occasional discotheque, which would travel to town, set-up in the zocalo, and play music until 2:00 a.m. on Saturday nights. Thanks to everyone for a great semester and best wishes for a Happy 2004 from WCKA.

WCKA Newsletter - November 2003

This month, the academic standard was easily set by Math/Science teacher, Greg Campbell, with his invention of the Math Races. Facilitated by the nascent Math Club and its enthusiastic members, these races involved mentally answering a given number of algebra questions while racing against the clock. Incorrect answers resulted in a time penalty. The school-wide preliminaries narrowed the field to three finalists who competed one evening at dinner. The winner of the competition was Peter Rehage who was awarded a cake and a full-bellied character lesson on winning with sportsmanship.

The highlight of the month in the language department was Kristen Read’s facilitation of a visit to a preparatory school in the town of Coatapec. The experience was fun for all students, both Mexican and American, as they shared stories about their education and daily lives with each other. In other classes, the biology students studied heredity and Mendelian genetics through a field study of “Perro Mexicana” in the town of Jalcomulco, where Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, provided a backdrop for the study of American literature and U.S. history. In chemistry class, students created models for the scaffolding of their electron configuration knowledge, and the videography students logged in hours of waterfall, lifestyle, and Rio Micos playhole footage.

The two Mexican states paddled in the month of November were San Luis Potosi and Vera Cruz, with the respective bases being Cuidad Valles and Jalcomulco. The primary sections accessible from C. Valles were the Salto, Micos, Tampoan, and the classic Tamul section of the St. Maria. The Salto and Micos were beautiful runs characterized by lush jungle vegetation and perfect travertine waterfalls. As the Micos was only twenty minutes from our hotel, the entire group had plenty of opportunity to hone their boofing, melting, and sliding technique. Furthermore, with a technical play hole at the take-out of the run, everyone could practiced their retentive cartwheeling. The Tampoan and Tamul canyon sections of the St. Maria were enjoyed for their remote feeling, vertical canyon walls, and mystifying limestone formations. The Class V hike-out to the shuttle, probably the hardest section of all, was characterized by mud holes, plenty of rock gardens, and moving dog/chicken obstacles.

Providing no obstacle for WCKA students, November also brought one of the biggest events of the semester, the WCKA Total Paddler event. Designed to challenge students to become proficient in all areas of paddling, the event consists of a freestyle and a downriver event; each equally weighted to discern the best overall paddler. The rodeo was held at the Micos play hole, where Adam Johnson walked away with a dignified victory. After the rodeo, both students and faculty competed in a downtime and a “style jumping” contest where the only requirements were a lifejacket and helmet. These events were mostly in fun, however the placing of the downtime event would break any ties occurring in the overall standings. After a long afternoon of judging, competing, and enjoying the sun, the group enjoyed a barbeque on the side of the river, ending the day with a good taste in everyone’s mouths. Later in the week the downriver race was also held on the Micos, where the course consisted of five beautiful travertine falls and slides over a distance of about 1 kilometer. A time trials determined four finalists who then competed in a second Boatercross event. When the dust had settled Peter ended up with a smooth 1st, and combined with his rodeo results placed him as the best overall paddler of the semester. Nice work Petey!

Four birthdays were celebrated during the first week of November (Petey, Ivan, Adam, and Scott). This obviously called for one giant celebration, including cakes, a great meal prepared by the famous Dona Leo, and best of all - a Pinata! As Whitney was in the U.S. and her birthday was in the same time frame, everyone was mindful to eat an extra piece of cake in her honor. Around the time of the birthdays we also rallied for a special night out to see the opening of the Matrix Revolution. After our celebrations, our way led us from Ciudad Valles to Jalcomulco where we stopped along the way in the city of Papantla to see El Tajín ruins. The morning we were scheduled to leave for the ruins, November 20th, Papantla was celebrating the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. A parade of gymnasts, dancers, musicians, and schoolchildren prevented any attempt at leaving the city as it proceeded past our hotel doorstep to the zocalo. Seldom phased by a serendipitous event such as a parade, the group took advantage of the morning; relaxing and enjoying time for rest between long drives. Later that day at the El Tajín ruins, we were lucky enough to see the Voladieres or “Flyers.” This event is an indeginous Totonac ceremony where five men would climb a huge pole, roughly the size of two telephone poles. The “whistler guy” stands at the very top, on a platform barely larger than his own feet, to play a flute and small drum. Meanwhile, the other four men sit around the edges of the platform and, after tying themselves off to a rope, lean back at the same instant and fall from their perch. The rope then unravels slowly as the Voladieres “fly” around the pole on their way to the ground. After arriving in Jalcomulco and getting settled the group took advantage of a day off to visit nearby Xalapa, the capital of Vera Cruz state. While there, people shopped for gifts and visited the incredible Museum of Anthropology, a must-see for any Mexico visitors. Take care and Happy Holidays.

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