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MAY 2018 Volume 1, Issue 2

Via Verde Student Special Edition Travel Magazine

IN THIS ISSUE The Galapagos pg. 11


pg. 16

Politics and Travel

pg. 18



PUBLICATION POLICY Via Verde, a special edition travel magazine published by the students in Palo Alto High School’s Magazine Journalism class, is a designated open forum for student expression and discussion of issues of concern to its readership. Via Verde is distributed to its readers and the student body at no cost.

ADVERTISING The staff publishes advertisements with signed contracts providing they are not deemed by the staff inappropriate for the magazine’s audience. For more information about advertising with Via Verde, please contact the Via Verde business manager Olivia Brown through our adviser at 650329-3837 for more information.

LETTERS TO THE EDITORS The staff welcomes letters to the editors but reserves the right to edit all submissions for length, grammar, potential libel, invasion of privacy and obscenity. Send all letters to viaverdemagazine@ or to 50 Embarcadero Road Palo Alto, CA 94301.

PRINTING & DISTRIBUTION Via Verde is printed by aPrintis in Pleasanton, California. The Via Verde staff will distribute copies around the Palo Alto High School campus. All Via Verde work is available at and


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Palo Alto High School’s Travel Magazine

MISSION STATEMENT Via Verde aims to be a relevant and reliable travel magazine that uses the power of the student press and desktop publishing to pursue the values of the Palo Alto Unified School District, Palo Alto High School and scholastic journalism. More specifically, the mission of the Via Verde is to provide: •

The magazine’s student staff with technological, journalistic and leadership skills that increase their ability and desire to participate meaningfully in our democratic society and interdependent global community; and skills to become leaders within future endeavors; The Paly community with information, insight, amd investigative reporting on travel and entertainment issues; a forum for the exchange of student experiences related to travel; and an independent and vigorous journalistic magazine that models integrity, vigor and creativity as it seeks to educate in order to allow its readers to be able to plan and experience explorations of different cultures and cities around the world; and, The larger scholastic journalism community with a role model publication that embodies the best of what a scholastic journalism can be and for students who wish to build a magazine that is similar to this one.

A LETTER FROM THE EDITORS Welcome back to Via Verde! We’re excited to have you traverse the world of travel through a student lens. Via Verde is a special edition of Palo Alto High School’s features magazine, Verde, and serves as a space to discuss student experiences with local and international travel. Via Verde encourages students to expand their worldview and discover cultures from around the world. In this issue, we offer student perspectives on destinations both local and abroad from Russia to Mexico to Yosemite National Park in California. In “Where the Wild Teachers Are,” a recurring feature on Paly teachers, contributing writers Amira Garewal and Cecilia Ward interviewed Paly social studies teacher Adam Yonkers about his childhood in the country of Benin in west Africa. If you’re planning summer camping trip, look no further than the Bay Area and contributing writer Leila Tjiang’s recomendations in “California Campsites.” Afterwards, see contributing writer Warren Wagner’s experience in the Galápagos Islands, home to diverse wildlife and inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

may 2018 volume 1 issue 2 editors-in-chief Rebecca Yao Megan Chai Sophie Dewees

digital editor Maia Lagna

photo and art director Kamala Varadarajan

contributing writers Bryce Doughman Amira Garewal Soumya Jhaveri Finn Mennuti Sasha Poor Leila Tjiang Warren Wagner Cecilia Ward Gila Winefeld

adviser Paul Kandell

connect @viaverdemag

on the cover Paly junior Sabrina Martin took this photo in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Northern California.

back cover Photo by Rebecca Yao

write for via verde! Pitch your story ideas to

Bon voyage and happy reading! Sophie, Megan and Rebecca

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inside 5


design 8


explore 10 Park City, Utah 11 The Galรกpagos 14 Mr. Yonkers

reflect 16 18 20 22


Japan Politics and Travel Zihuatenejo, Mexico Gallery

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Photo by JAMES POE


After an idealistic vacation to a picturesque countryside or simply a road trip down the California coast, teenagers scroll through their camera rolls, searching for an Instagram-worthy photo to memorialize the trip. For most students, sharing photos immediately has become a ritual, but five minutes of simple editing can have a dramatic effect to make them all the more stunning, with various readily-available photo-editing apps.

SNAPSEED Snapseed allows users to manipulate aspects of their photo, from basic photo-tuning options to adding unique filters. Users can to remove select edits without undoing all their work. As it doesn’t have paid functions, this is an intuitive app and has the most options among the free apps.

PICSART PicsArt Photo Studio not only allows users to utilize powerful editing tools, but also has options to create collages, add stickers and draw on the photos in various fonts. There are also filters that allow users to transform the picture into pop art or negative prints to create their own twist.

VSCO VSCO’s free tools are much more limited than Snapseed’s, but its paid subscription’s (VSCO X) elaborate filters gives users much more power to make their snapshots just right. There is also an option to create a “recipe” from edits so they can be applied all at once to other photos. It also functions as a social media site for photography inspiration.

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[ TRAVEL FASHION ] Text by MAIA LAGNA + Photos by AMELIA LAGNA Wherever you voyage this summer, make sure to stay on trend with these two styles inspired by French and Korean fashion.


Turtleneck: Store in Seoul Skirt: Store in Seoul Socks: Street Stand in Seoul Sneakers: Supergas Backpack: Longchamp


Beret: Dad’s closet Bandana: Thrifted Striped Shirt: Brandy Melville Belt: Mom’s closet Jeans: Thrifted Loafers: Thrifted

California Campsites Text by LEILA TJIANG For students who would like to stay close to home and travel on a low budget, camping and exploring the nearby natural environments is the perfect solution. Deciding in where to pitch your tent can be troublesome with an extensive list of locations. Here are two of the most picturesque and convenient places to camp in Northern California.


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Henry W. Coe State Park offers a wide variety of opportunities to explore the outdoors and features nearly 90,000 acres containing 200 miles of trails. Car camping is offered at Coe Ranch campground and backpacking sites are scattered throughout the park, including Old Corral and Sierra View campgrounds, located less than a mile from the visitor center.

A short hike up the rolling hills that cover Monte Bello will reveal spectacular views of Palo Alto. From the parking lot along Page Mill Road, a 1.6-mile hike along the Canyon, Bella Vista and Old Canyon trails will lead you straight to Black Mountain backpacking campsite, a superb location for beginning backpackers, or those who would like to train for longer trips.


Personal Perspective: New Zealand Passport



Art by Megan Andrews



“With an American passport, you have Trump and politics, I feel like having an American passport might receive more negative reactions than having a Canadian one.”

“I feel like if I had an American passport it would be a lot easier ... There are a lot of stereotypes about Colombia. They take a lot longer and they ask a lot more questions usually, just unnecessary stuff they don’t need to do.”


JAPANESE PASSPORT “Once she [Morita’s mother] forgot her green card at home so when we were coming back they detained her... I know that was scary for her because me and my were really little at that time so my dad had to go drive home and like get her passport and drive back. The guys that were detaining her were really intimidating.”


CANADIAN PASSPORT “They got pretty mad at me for leaving the country with an expired U.S. passport. It was 2 am and they sent us to secondary processing and they… kind of yelled a little bit and said it was a $500 fine if I didn’t have a valid U.S. passport the next time I traveled.”

My dad was born in New Zealand, so I had the opportunity to become a New Zealand citizen. I first received my New Zealand passport when I was about seven years old, and have used it ever since when traveling abroad from the United States, and my U.S. passport on return. I encountered a problem with this two years ago at the end of winter break. I used my New Zealand passport on the way to New Zealand, and I used my U.S. passport to reenter the country. After getting off a 12 hour flight, my mom and I walked over to the customs counter, expecting to be able to leave the airport quickly. Everything went as expected until the customs officer asked if I had used a different passport when leaving the U.S., and said they had been having problems with Australian and New Zealand passports. We were finally asked to go to a counter, and an officer repeated the questions the previous customs officer had asked, and told us that there was no record of me leaving the country because I traveled with a New Zealand passport. Eventually, he handed back my passport and told us we could go through. Although as we left the airport, we laughed about the incident I felt nervous and angry that a technology mistake had led to me being pulled aside at customs.

— ALEXANDRA LEE, sophomore

— HANA MORITA, senior

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ROM HIKING misty waterfalls to exploring pitch black spider caves, NatureBridge, an organization that offers year-round environmental travel programs, aims to provide students with the opportunity to learn about the environment and experience nature at its best: in six national parks across the country. NatureBridge strives to educate students about environmental science and inspire connections to the natural world. TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More), a program for freshman at Palo Alto High School, plans an annual trip with the NatureBridge program based in Yosemite National Park. “Their [NatureBridge’s] mission, in terms of what they’re trying to educate, is really well aligned with what we’re trying to do in our trip; not only building knowledge about the environment, but also team building and helping students develop [a] sense of empathy with nature,” says Elizabeth Brimhall, freshman biology and TEAM teacher at Paly. Leave no trace NatureBridge allows students to see what the organization aims to protect through hiking each day in different parts of Yosemite. “I’ve never seen the real beauty of it [nature]; I’d never fully understood what we were protecting until then,” says Sophie WINTER WONDERLAND NatureBridge provides students with the opportunity to explore the sights of Yosemite National Park through daily hikes. Photo by Sophie Dewees


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Kadifa, freshman and TEAM student. your senses if you’re learning about a tree NatureBridge also aims to educate by actually seeing the tree, touching the students on the negative effects of leaving tree, rather than just seeing a picture in a waste behind on the trails. textbook.” “Whenever we ate we would ... always According to Kadifa, the hands-on put any crumb into a Ziploc bag,” Kadifa approach that NatureBridge provides is an says. “You don’t want enriching learning expeto do that [leave berience by allowing stuhind trash] because this is What brought us all dents to see real examtheir [the animals’] home together was how ples of human impact on and we’re coming into it.” the environment. we could share this “We always learn Creating a community about things in science amazing experience Throughout the week, class, you learn when you NatureBridge, educators together,” do labs, but this was like — SOPHIE KADIFA, freshman you were actually living work to build a community within the student it,” Kadifa says. group. For Kadifa, NatureBridge provided an “They [NatureBridge educators] are eye-opening experience. specifically working on team building and “I totally would recommend this proactivities that are both fun [and] work on gram to other students,” Kadifa says. “It reinterpersonal relationship skills,” Brimhall ally ... made me realize what we need to do says. to conserve this beautiful planet.” NatureBridge educators helped create According to Jon Jarvis, director of the a community among the TEAM students. National Park Service, as quoted on the Na “What brought us all together was how tureBridge website, national parks are the we could share this amazing experience to- best classrooms. gether,” Kadifa says. “We were all learning “There is no place better for children together which I think is a big part of Na- to ... study human impacts on our environtureBridge.” ment,” Jarvis states. “Together, science and For TEAM student and Paly freshman inspiration create a desire to ... preserve our Andie Tetzlaff, NatureBridge educators cre- national parks for future generations. That’s the key to what NatureBridge does [and] ated a memorable experience. “My leader [educator] was Avi and what makes this work so important.” v he was such an amazing guide. ... he really made our trip to Yosemite unforgettable,” Tetzlaff says. According to Brimhall, allowing students to experience a week in nature can encourage student connections. “Students have time to get deeper connections with each other … and with nature,” Brimhall says. “We’re trying to really build this sense of community [and] connection.” NatureBridge also encourages connection with nature by providing students with journals to record their thoughts. “[Journaling] was ... a great opportunity to reflect on our day and express some emotions and feelings,” Tetzlaff says. A classroom without walls Learning by experiencing the outdoors can create a more engaging experience for students. “You can teach about ecology using a textbook, but it so much better to ... actually go out in the forest,” Brimhall says. “I do feel that you’re engaging so many more of

EXPLORING NEW HEIGHTS Ont a trip with NatureBridge, educators encourage student connections with nature by providing prime views of the beautiful places in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Sophie Dewees

HAPPY CAMPERS Freshmen Avantika Singh (left) and Andie Tetzlaff share what they have written in their field journal. NatureBridge provides students with journals so they can record their thoughts and experiences throughout the week. “ I still have my journal with me at home, and I can easily read through it and look back on some awesome memories,” Tetzlaff says. Photo by Sally Kadifa

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SUMMER SEASON Park City offers activities not only through the winter, but also during the summer including biking and hiking along the numerous trails in the mountains as well as exploring the surrounding forests and lakes. Photo by Ruth Cook


ITH ITS VIBRANTLY colored fall leaves We went from one end of the resort to the other and back, crystal-clear lakes and its snow-covered all within a half day of skiing. Packed with our Slim Jims, mountains, Park City, Utah is one of the Snickers, and Red Bull, we made our way to the shortbest places in the world to ski and experi- cuts and backcountry that only we knew about, catching ence nature. In 1985, Utah started letting everyone know patches of powder here and untouched chutes there. It was it had the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” but world-class skiing a dream come true until we realized that we had to make isn’t all Park City offers. The vibrant, adventurous spirit of our way across nearly 7,000 acres within the next half-hour. Park City can be seen in every activity from the dozens of We frantically put our racing skills into action, and expertly community concerts all year long to a thriving Main Street maneuvered through the slopes at 30 mph. At last we made with activities day and night to art festivals, more hiking it back to the car in style. and single-track mountain biking miles While Park City holds incredible than you can fit in a season and an locations for winter sports, it is also Living in Park City home to summer activities such as bikamazing community of locals. As a kid growing up in Park City, I spent enabled me to feel ing and hiking along any one of the 400 my time snowmobiling, hiking, skiing, of trails around the area, camping the peace that comes miles riding all-terrain vehicles, snowshoein the Uinta Mountains, and boating ing, biking, boating, and building forts. from being in the on Jordanelle Reservoire. During my However, It wasn’t until after I moved to childhood in Park City, I was beckoned mountains. Palo Alto and started returning to Park by the numerous trails and I spent my City that I realized how beautiful it is. summers biking with my dad. When The wonder of Park City lies in its surrounding forests, tow- we weren’t in the mountains, we spent hours inner tubing ering mountains, and magnificent lakes. It holds the beau- or jet skiing in the peaceful lakes. I always loved driving ty of a national park, while also offering a wide array of the boat and going on adventures with my family as well as thrill-seeking activities. consuming an unhealthy amount of tasty snacks. Exploring the intricately woven trails and massive Living in Park City and returning to such a beautiful mountain ranges is done most effectively at Park City place enabled me to feel the peace that comes from being in Mountain Resort, the second largest ski resort in Ameri- the mountains. Stepping away from distractions of my daily ca. For many resort regulars, downhill skiing is a way of routine gave me a clear view of my life and the exposure to life. Different types of skiing, combined with a multitude nature drew my family together. I hope future travellers will of varied runs provides an endless combination of possibil- be able to find similar peace as they explore the beauty of ities. Last winter, my sister and I decided to explore these. Park City. v


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Tranquil Travels


Photo by Rebecca Yao

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SEA LION AROUND Relaxing with the wildlife. Sea lions rarely care about the presence of tourists. Photo by Margot Wagner


HEN PEOPLE TALK about places being “serene” they usually mean that the place makes them feel relaxed, that the calm ebb and flow of ocean waves calms them, or that the fresh mountain air makes them feel at peace. But when I went to the Galápagos last winter, I experienced a whole new meaning of serenity. In the Galápagos, not only was I at ease, but it felt like the surrounding life was as well. Most animals wern’t bothered by tourists and some even seemed to enjoy their presence. In 1835, Charles Darwin gathered evidence in the Galápagos that he would later use to explain his theory of evolution in “The Origin of Species.” While he did not understand his findings’ significance at the time, he saw how different finches had adapted to their environment on each island. Today, Galápagos National Park has become a popular site for tourists to see the incredible biodiversity of the islands. In recent years the threat of climate change and overfishing has brought significant scientific and conservationist attention to the region. Environmentalists are eager to protect the islands because the Galápagos is one of the largest concentrations of endemic creatures on the planet. According to the Galápagos Conservancy, over 95% of


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land reptiles and mammals are found only in the islands. By Land One native animal is the giant tortoise, which looks like it should be walking among the dinosaurs. These stoic beasts seem so mythical that it feels out of place to see them simply lounging by the side of the road. They much resemble a tank both in appearance and in spirit. Their coarse skin, coated with years of mud and dust, seems like it could withstand anything. Older tortoises, which can age up to 170 years, have visible scratches on their shells from trudging through fences and bushes. While some roam free in the valleys of Santa Cruz and other islands, dozens are kept on the island of San Cristobal at a conservation center. Many species are extinct, and the conservation team aims to recreate the species, by breeding tortoises with the most similar features to the extinct species, until they have a group of tortoises that resembles the extinct species as closely as possible. They hope to have a few species back after about 40 years of breeding. By Air Blue Footed Boobies, with their distinctive bright blue feet, are another com-

mon species that inhabits the islands. They hunt in shallow waters, taking death-defying nosedives into the water to catch fish. I initially wondered how they could survive such a plunge, but the birds have air sacs in their skull to absorb the shock of the dive. Unlike their blue-footed relatives, the Nazca booby nests in huge colonies across the Galápagos shoreline. These breeding grounds are home to hundreds or even thousands of birds and their offspring, the sheer scale of which left me in awe. The Galápagos is home to some of the most diverse avian life on the planet, including different species of finches which formed the basis for Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin observed the unique adaptations that finches developed to best survive on each island of the Galápagos. By Sea The waters around the Galápagos benefit from the fact that the islands lie at a crossroads between cold, nutrient-rich currents and warm, equatorial currents. That combine to create a perfect space for marine life forms to coexist. I slowly swam along, inches away from magnificent parrotfish dazzling with purple and blue and huge schools of black and orange race fish. Sea turtles swim graceful-

LIKE FEATHER LIKE SON A Nazca Booby and its offspring at their nest in a colony on the coast of San Cristobal Island. Breeding ares can number up into the thousands at high season. Photo by Warren Wagner

Top Attractions SNORKELING The Galápagos is home the best snorkeling that I have ever experienced. The water is warm and clear and the fish are abundant and beautiful. It’s always thrilling to see the less common manta ray or sea turtle, but it is equally pleasing to just watch the huge schools of assorted fish swim by. If you don’t go snorkeling in the Galápagos, you miss half of the beauty, so don’t leave it out. HIKING The Galápagos is home to so many different environments, all of which make for great hikes. Some have lush vegetation, and others have rocky beaches. Many islands are geologically young, and look like the dry, red-brown valleys of Mars. No matter which biome you prefer, they are all home to unique animals, plants, and vistas.

ly with delicate angelfish under the same waves as the elusive manta ray. A more frequent sight was a less graceful creature: the marine iguana. These reptiles don’t look like they should be able to swim, but nonetheless they do, traversing the depths for minutes at a time to feed on undersea algae. But I most often saw them lounging on the rocks, piling on top of each other to keep warm, and sneezing .

SLOW AND STEADY Three Galápagos tortoises grazing on Santa Cruz Island. Their diet is made up of almost exclusively grass. Photo by Warren Wagner

However, the animal most emblematic of the islands is no doubt the Galápagos sea lion. They play in shallow water, roll on the sand, and lie around for most of the day. When I wandered up to them, they didn’t back away, instead embracing the attention. Visitors will find the fun-loving nature of these mammals charming and amazing, just as they will the enchanting aura of the Galápagos Islands. v

PADDLEBOARDING Paddleboarding is a fun and relaxing way to explore the coasts of smaller islands. While cutting through the waves, you can try to spot birds and iguanas on the shore or even sea turtles or fish beneath your feet. If you want to have fun at your own pace on the bright blue waters of the Galápagos , hop on a paddleboard.

CHRISTMAS EVE Sitting on top of a horse, Yonkers grins. He recalls the night when a pride of lions came through the camp his family was staying in. “I slept through it,” Yonkers says. “But my mom and dad were petrified. My dad was clutching a Swiss Army knife — like that would have done anything. They [the lions] just went through and roared, but didn’t do anything. And the night watchman, was found inside the wooden bathroom, hiding.” Photo by Ann Harvey and Charlie Yonkers SKULL Adam Yonkers perches atop an elephant skull in Benin. As many children are, Yonkers was fascinated with planes and enjoyed watching them fly overhead. “There was a jet that came everyday at the same time,” Yonkers says. “I would sit in my treehouse, waiting for this jet to come down.” Photo by Ann Harvey and Charlie Yonkers


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URROUNDED BY THE SMELL of world was falling apart. Across America, juicy mangoes hanging from nearby race riots broke out, protests against the trees and the magnificent view from Vietnam War continued to rise and promithe top of a makeshift treehouse, nent figures, including the Rev. Martin Lu2-year-old Adam Yonkers spent his early ther King, Jr., had been assassinated. childhood in Benin, formerly known as His parents decided to apply for the Dahomey, a country in West Africa. Peace Corps, and soon travelled across the Since then, Yonkers has come a long world to Benin. Although he was only 18 way to the Bay Area to become a history months old when he and his family relocatteacher at Palo Alto High School. ed, Yonkers says his time there heavily conIn his classroom, presidential portraits tributed to his fascination with the world printed in black and white line the walls. around him. Below, a colorful whirl of world maps inter“It changed me profoundly,” Yonkers mingles with tattered Time Magazine covers. says. “My interest in the world was magAt the front of the room, nified, and I became Yonkers encourages his much more open to ... students to discuss inter- “I became much more different cultures and national issues, causing to understand open to different cul- beliefs, them to think about a where people were world outside their own. coming from and to be tures and beliefs...” Yonkers says livmore trusting of outside — ADAM YONKERS, teacher ing in Benin was the influences.” first step to the global Similarly, he hopes perspectives and values he shares with his that his students can find a way to understudents every day. Without his childhood stand different events that have shaped inexperience in Africa, Yonkers questions ternational relations. For example, students whether he would have taken the path to study how the United States interfered with become teacher. the Chilean government and how the U.S. engages in free and fair trade policies. A seed planted “Two pieces of advice,” Yonkers says. When Yonkers was born in 1971, the “First of all, realize you’re going to see the

world always through your own lens.” He encourages students to recognize that most of the world lives on less than $10 a day, which seems a stark contrast to Palo Alto. “The other thing is if you are able to, definitely take a year abroad, because I think it really changes you in a lot of ways,” Yonkers says. He recommends studying abroad and staying with a host family, or participating in programs offered by the Peace Corps. “If you get to know people on behalf of the U.S. government, they’ll get to know you and that will change their perspective,” Yonkers says. “So it’s a two-way street.” Back to Benin “I would love to go back,” Yonkers says with a bright smile. “It would be a dream to go back with them [my parents] and have them show me where we lived, the farmers market and my school.” Someday Yonkers hopes to volunteer for the Peace Corps, just as his parents did many years ago. “I really find the world really interesting and so I’m constantly trying to uncover the truth,” Yonkers says. “I want to give my own kids an international experience. I think it does change you.” v

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Text and Photos by SOUMYA JHAVERI


Japanese Journey



APAN IS OFTEN SEEN as the prime Spring Break destination due to the cherry blossoms, or sakuras. What many people don’t know is that the fall foliage in Japan is just as beautiful, and there are fewer tourists in the fall as well, making Japan a prime destination for a fall trip. The crisp, orange and red leaves stand out against both metropolitan and country landscapes. Over Thanksgiving break, my family and I spent nine days traversing the beautiful landscape, taking in the sights and immersing ourselves in the culture. The juxtaposition of traditional, purely Japanese culture against American concepts makes for a truly unique experience. Perhaps there is no better example than Tokyo’s Harajuku Street, where stores sell both Japanese Harajuku fashions and American shoes and denim, and where a McDonald’s shines out between street vendors. It’s easy to feel like a tourist at the top of the Tokyo


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tower, but it was easy for us to feel like one of the locals even though we did not speak the language — we used public transport, rode the world-renowned bullet trains and purchased drinks from the vending machines ubiquitous at each corner. Teenagers have a bad reputation for not being interested in museums and monuments, but the historical places in Japan would captivate anyone with their fascinating architectural styles and the rich stories they hold. Add that to the plethora of shopping and dining options, and it’s easy to see why this quickly became one of my favorite trips. Japan offers a full sensory experience with delicious food options, vast and varied scenery, plenty of shopping fixtures and many historical monuments to visit. While the foliage is incredible in the fall, most activities can be enjoyed yearround. If you’re looking to plan a trip anytime soon, look no further than the island 5,000 miles away. v

HIMEJI CASTLE (above) The view from Himeji castle, located near Kyoto, is breathtaking, but the castle itself is also a work of art. It still retains the original full wood interior, and despite lacking nay furnishing, is beautifully maintained inside and out. We were asked to take our shoes off when we entered and toured the castle, which is a cultural norm in most Japanese homes, restaurants and places of business, but not common at tourist attractions. AUTUMN LEAVES (below) Japan’s fall foliage blew me away because I was used to a Californian fall - when some of the trees change color but the majority of them don’t. I was astounded to see the rich oranges, fiery reds, and mellow yellows of the leaves, which made the castles and shrines they surrounded stand out even more.

KOBE TOWER (above) The Kobe tower affords stunning views of Kobe’s port, the city’s streets, and Osaka Bay. It’s situated in a lovely park with shopping opportunities and a Ferris wheel. ITSUKUSHIMA SHRINE (left) This floating gate is the main tourist attraction of Miyajima Island, which is a short ferry ride away from Hiroshima. This UNESCO World Heritage site is especially beautiful at high tide; the island is also home to several deer and many small vendors selling authentic Japanese goods.

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RED SQUARE People stroll down the Red Square in front of the State Historical Museum in Moscow, Russia. According to BBC, despite worsening Russian-American political relations, American tourism to Russia is growing, with a 25 percent increase in 2017.


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From Russia With Love WHEN POLITICS MEETS TRAVEL Text and photo by GILA WINEFELD


USSIA AND THE UNITED STATES are worlds apart. Russians hate anything having to do with America. Russia is a backwards nation, politically and socially. All of these are stereotypes about Russia that are often perpetuated by American movies and media — the Russian character is always portrayed as the villain, complete with a smug expression and an ushanka, the signature winter hat. Without ever having been to Russia, many Americans assume it is a dangerous place to visit and that it is nothing like the world they know — especially given current political tension between the two countries. According to a 2018 Gallup Poll, 72% of Americans view Russia unfavorably, the highest it has been since the Cold War. Before my first trip to Russia last summer, several friends warned me to “be careful.” And, even as a native Russian speaker and the first in my family to be born in the United States instead of Russia, as I boarded the plane en route to Moscow, I wondered whether these stereotypes could actually be true. Would I feel completely out of place? Would I feel awkward among the sea of smug ushanka-clad Russians? Now, looking back on my trip, my apprehensions were silly, even if we had our fair share of awkward taxi conversations about Putin and Trump. On one occasion, a suspicious park worker even refused to lease my family bikes after we revealed that we were Americans and failed to present any official Russian identification documents, despite the fact that we spoke fluent Russian. However, the overwhelming impression I was left with was one of warmth and a feeling of similarity between my home — America — and Russia, which had been my parents’ home growing up. As I stepped onto the Red Square for the first time, I noticed the same smiling faces, selfie sticks and Birkenstocks I had seen fill the streets of San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.

Walking through Gorky Park, I passed groups of teenagers dressed in nearly the same crop top and skinny jeans I was wearing, laughing and taking Instagram-worthy pictures. And, just like in any large American city, we got the complete tourist experience of being ripped off, when a man charged us $30 for a photo with a pigeon on the street. Of course, we had some authentic experiences that confirmed stereotypes I had heard of Russia being a backward nation in some respects. Upon arriving at the Moscow apartment where we would be staying for the next 10 days, we were shocked to find there was no hot water — something we had taken for granted back at home. After spending a few uncomfortable days heating up a pot of water on the stove for our nightly showers, we opted for a banya — a public bathhouse that is commonplace for Russians, but a novelty to Americans. I can fairly say that my adventure in Russia was my favorite trip I’ve ever been on. Obviously, I was struck by the beauty of Saint Basil’s Cathedral and by the grandeur of the Winter Palace. But even more so, I was grateful that the trip broadened my horizons and made me realize that, no matter America’s political relations to certain countries, we are all more alike than we are different. Every time we were in a taxi and revealed in a hushed voice that we lived in America, anticipating the driver’s irritated, or at best awkward, response, we would get the complete opposite: They would be pleasantly surprised and curious about things as delightfully mundane as hamburgers or the Golden Gate Bridge. Each of them echoed the same sentiment: that the distrust of America stems only from the government official level — the average Russian citizen couldn’t care less about hostile political relations between the two countries. If you get the chance to travel somewhere unfamiliar this summer, seize the opportunity. Go in with an open mind. You may find it to not be so different after all. v

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HAVE NEVER BEEN ENTHRALLED by all-inclusive resorts. I feel that although they are economically beneficial for those who work there, they dilute the local culture by creating an artificial atmosphere. When I stayed at a Club Med resort in Ixtapa, Mexico over Thanksgiving break, I explored outside the large brick walls of the resort in the local town of Zihuatanejo. After several days of experiencing all that the resort had to offer, namely never-ending buffets and a small beach and pool, I traveled with some of my mom’s coworkers to Zihuatanejo. We hailed a taxi from the resort, and the driver drove us over a hill through the slums, towards the city’s square. On the ride into Zihuatanejo, we passed sheet metal shanties, wandering unclothed children, trash bags lining the streets and the twisted carcasses of decrepit vehicles. The town of Zihuatanejo, however, was more developed than the ride in had led me to believe. There were stalls lining the streets, promising that the garments and handwoven blankets they offered were cheaper there than anywhere else. The nearby resorts had influenced its development, with many signs in broken English advertising cheap drinks and food, cantinas with “Western nights,” and plenty of souvenirs. However, as I looked around, the tourists seemed to be few and far between. It seemed as though that all the vendors had prepared for an onslaught of tourists that never appeared. Once we arrived, we told the taxi driver that we would find another ride back, but he told us that he would rather wait for us. He explained that there were so many taxi drivers that make so little that it was preferable to have a guaranteed fare rather than to look for one. From listening to the taxi driver and observing differences in prices, it seems that for the average citizen, tourism has had a minimal influence on their lives. Vendors and restaurateurs are able to raise prices, but their businesses were not designed primarily with tourism in mind. Businesses were forced to adapt to the shifting economic landscape. For a select few, specifically those who work at the resort, tourism has been a massive windfall, but the majority of residents near Club Med are largely unaffected. If you don’t like huge, corporate resorts, there were several inns in Zihuatanejo.. If you enjoy fishing, off roading or if you are interested in dipping your toes in the world of international travel, Zihuatanejo is a destination worth visiting. v

ACADEMIC ADVENTURE Above Zihuatanejo’s skyline, in one of the poorer districts, a young child walks home from school.

SUNSET VIEWS This balcony overlooking the beach and ocean is the best view of the setting sun at the resort. In the background, Isla Ixtapa, a small island near Club Med can be seen.

GOING COCONUTS On Zihuatanejo’s coastline near the restaurant district, a man picks a coconut off a palm tree for his son to drink. This was a popular activity and as we ate lunch, we observed four to five families cycle through and retrieve coconuts of their own.

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STUDENT TRAVEL PHOTOS FROM AROUND THE WORLD Email your travel photos to to be featured.


ST. JOHN, THE VIRGIN ISLANDS Photo by Abby Cummings

MOUGINS, FRANCE Photo by Grace Rowell

PARIS, FRANCE Photo by Grace Rowell

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL Photo by James Poe


Profile for Via Verde Magazine

Via Verde Volume 1 Issue 2  

Welcome back to Via Verde! We’re excited to have you traverse the world of travel through a student lens. Via Verde is a special edition of...

Via Verde Volume 1 Issue 2  

Welcome back to Via Verde! We’re excited to have you traverse the world of travel through a student lens. Via Verde is a special edition of...