KINGSTON — Four Kingston High School students are going to have a whopper of a tale to tell their fellow sophomores when they ask, “What did you do this summer?” in September.
After years of talk and some “serious planning” Erika Rabura, Rachel Burk, Chelsea Wilson and Kendra Gottschalk of Girl Scout Troop 803 visited Mexico July 9-20, learning about the culture and lifestyles of Central America firsthand.
The Scouts spent their first three days in Mexico City before traveling 47 miles south to Cuernavaca, where they stayed for the remainder of their trip. Chaperones accompanying them during their journey included Tammie Rabura, Jodi Wilson, Sue Burk and Karen Moore.
Trip organizer Tammie Rabura said she was glad the trip had at long last come to fruition.
“We have been talking about this since they were in the third grade,” she said. “It finally happened after about one year of serious planning.”
While in a completely foreign country, the quartet of Kingston teens did come across some very familiar sites in Mexico.
“There were 105 Girl Scouts from all over the world that went on the same kind of trip that we did,” Chelsea Wilson said. “It was cool to see all of the differences from around the world. It was pretty interesting.”
Scouts from Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Bahamas, Canada and various different regions of the United States also made the journey to Mexico.
“We just didn’t experience the Mexican culture, we experienced cultures from all around the world,” Rachel Burk said. “It was fun to make those friendships with others from different locations.”
Erika Rabura said Troop 803 took full advantage of the experience, partaking in cultural exchanges with Mexican residents.
“We made bilingual dictionaries for them. We were trying to teach them English and they were trying to teach us Spanish,” she said. “It was a fun learning experience. Many (locals) didn’t speak English at all.”
Tammie Rabura said such exchanges and seeing the group immersed in the culture was fun to observe.
“My favorite part of the trip was watching the girls react to the culture,” she said. “We spoke limited Spanish and they spoke limited English. But by the end of the week all of us were starting to understand Spanish fairly well.”
Not having to pay full price for certain items struck Chelsea Wilson’s fancy as she took to the barter system of Mexican markets quickly. It wasn’t always easy, though.
“It was a challenge because they didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Spanish,” she said. “It was fun going back and forth. We had to write numbers down sometimes to communicate.”
Troop 803 members agreed the most exciting aspect of the trip was visiting ancient pyramids in Tenochtitlan, Cuernavaca and Xochimilco.
“Even though the pyramids were built long ago, they still have amazing detail,” Tammie Rabura said. “We went to three different sets of pyramids that held multiple pyramids within them. I would say the pyramids in Xochimilco were the most impressive.”
Chaperone Jodi Wilson said the lessons the scouts learned won’t soon be forgotten.
“It’s important they see there’s a whole world outside of the area we live in,” she said. “They got a chance to experience a whole different way of life and see how diverse the world is.”
Gottschalk said learning Spanish was one of the most memorable aspects of the trip.
“It was a lot of fun picking up Spanish every day,” she said adding that she even got to play her favorite sport while in Mexico.
“I played soccer a few times. A lot of the kids I was playing against were only 7 or 8 years old but they were really good,” she said. “It was pretty fun.”
For Erika Rabura, it was all about the company she kept.
“The best part about this was that I was able to do this and experience this trip with all of my friends,” she said.