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OCTOBER 2018 Volume 2, Issue 1

Via Verde Student Travel Magazine

ON THE COVER Friends from France Discoverng the culture of France with a pen pal pg. 9


THANK YOU TO BRAVO TRAVEL for sponsoring this issue Bravo Travel Services LLC, Los Altos, CA

Contact if your organization is interested in supporting Via Verde Magazine.

PUBLICATION POLICY Via Verde, a student travel magazine published by the students in Palo Alto High School’s Media Leadership and Management Honors Incubator 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 email us at or through our adviser at 650-329-3837 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


October 2018


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: •

october 2018 volume 2 issue 1

The magazine’s student staff with journalistic and leadership opportunities that increase their ability and desire to participate meaningfully in our society and global community; and skills to become leaders in future endeavors; The Paly community with information on travel issues from student perspectives; a forum for students to submit and publish their experiences related to travel; and an independent journalistic magazine that models integrity and creativity seeking to educate its readers on local and international cultures; and, The larger scholastic journalism community with a role model incubator publication that embodies the best of scholastic journalism and for future student-created magazines.

LETTER FROM THE EDITORS From exploring our nation’s national parks to traversing the east coast, students at Palo Alto High School had the opportunity to gain new experiences and make friends from all over the globe through a wide range of travel programs and summer trips. On the cover, contributing writer Natalie Ho details her summer experience visiting her pen pal in “Friends from France.” In “Coastal Camping,” see contributing writer Alyssa Leong’s photo trip through Maine, a less traveled state but is known for its picturesque landscapes. Contributing writer Loic Bosch shares his trip down the Colorado River with Grand Canyon Youth in “Rapid Rafting.” Through spending a week on the river, Bosch learns about the importance of reconnecting with nature in the digital age. In “Bienvenue á Côte d’Ivoire”, digital editor Maia Lagna profiles Paly World History and Sociology teacher Benjamin Bolaños in a recurring profile on Paly teachers, “Where the Wild Teachers Are.” Bolaños describes the lessons he learned from living abroad in Côte d’Ivoire, a country located in West Africa.

Megan Chai Sophie Dewees

digital editor Maia Lagna

photo and art director Kamala Varadarajan

contributing writers Loic Bosch Natalie Ho Alyssa Leong Myra Xu


Paul Kandell

connect @viaverdemag

on the cover Photo by Natalie Ho in Brittany, France.

Bon voyage and happy reading! Sophie and Megan

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inside 5


design 8


explore 9 12 14 16

Pen Pals in France Maine Colorado River Rafting England Study Abroad

reflect 18 Yellowstone 20 Mr. Bolaños 22 Gallery


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Summer is just on the horizon, and a day trip to Berkeley is the perfect excuse to get out of bed. Start your food tour off with Mexican cuisine at Picante Cocina Mexicana, then take a couple-hour-break to go shopping on Fourth Street or tour around the beautiful Berkeley campus. Then, head over The Butcher’s Son for a unique vegan dining experience, and take a short 10-minute walk to Cinnaholic to finish off your tour on a sweet note. PICANTE COCINA MEXICANA Filled with a multitude of contrasting, vibrant, traditional Mexican decorations, Picante is a playful, family-friendly environment. When I sat down at one of the 20-50 tables available in the two indoor seating rooms at outdoor patio, I noticed that almost everyone I saw in the restaurant was a family. This is likely because the food arrives so quickly. In fact, we got our dish within 5 minutes. The restaurant was more of a “quick bite” place. We were out of the door within 30 minutes of arriving. THE BUTCHER’S SON The Butcher’s Son was exactly what we envisioned a vegan cafe would be — decorated with wooden tables, distressed black floors, chalkboards painted with white paint, leafy plants, brick walls, and loud alternative/indie music. I expected the restaurant to introduce a different spin in their design, but was ultimately disappointed. It is a fairly small cafe, with only about 10-20 seats available inside and outside, and almost all the customers were in their early 20’s with long beards, tattoos, and colored hair. Although the cafe is vegan, it is special in that their dishes attempt to mimic non vegan dishes. In fact, there are only two salad options, and more than 20 “meat” sandwiches. CINNAHOLIC Berkeley college students frequent this quaint dessert shop. Although Cinnaholic offers options such as chocolate chip cookies, muffins, and brownies, true to its name, the cinnamon buns are what the store is really known for, featuring a “create your own cinnamon bun” option. The store is more of a “grab and go” place, with no indoor seating and only three tables are available outside. The interior has a retro vibe, with black and white checkered floors and black and purple accents throughout the shop.

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what’s your travel horror story? [ TRAVEL BINGO ]


Compiled by MAIA LAGNA






Gone zip-lining

Been on a plane for over 10 hours

Saw a celebrity while traveling

Went on a road trip

Read two or more books on vacation

Traveled with friends

Missed your flight

Forgot or lost your passport

Missed school for a trip

Met a friend or family member in another country

Had to go to the hospital while traveling


Watched two or more movies on a flight

Traveled to two or more countries in one year

Ate insects in a foreign country

Lost your luggage

Taken a red-eye flight

Stayed at a bed and breakfast

Slept in the airport

Never traveled outside of North America

Been to over 10 states

Had something leak in your luggage

Traveled for a month

Been to Africa

Been to Europe

“At the French airport we hear this explosion go off ... it was just the French airport blowing up a baggage, but they didn’t warn anyone.” — SOPHIE KADIFA, sophomore

“I was going to nationals for volleyball and the plane got cancelled ... but they lost my bags, so I couldn’t play.” — DEJO ALNAJJAR, junior

Road Trip Playlists Compiled by ZOE STANTON-SAVITZ

Tropical Tunes California Nights - Best Coast Rockaway Beach - The Ramones Wouldn’t it be Nice - The Beach Boys To The Sea - Jack Johnson Seaside - The Kooks Islands - The XX West Coast - Lana Del Rey Holiday - Vampire Weekend Island in the Sun - Weezer “We were coming back from Bali, and three people in my family were sick ... They didn’t have any medicine, so we had to go to the hospital in the airport. I was sweating like crazy.” — DYLAN ZOU, senior


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City Sounds Dangerous - Big Data Young Folks - Peter Bjorn and John Wake Up - Arcade Fire American Boy - Estelle Living for the City - Stevie Wonder The Big Country - The Talking Heads Los Angeles I’m Yours - The Decemberists Back to Black - Amy Winehouse My City was Gone - The Pretenders



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IN FULL BLOOM During the springtime, tulips are bursting with color at Filoli. The spring season is the best time of year to see the full-spectrum of flora that the gardens have to offer.

Lovely Filoli

A HISTORIC COUNTRYSIDE GEM Text and Photos by MEGAN CHAI A HISTORIC ESTATE The Filoli gardens are framed within brick walls and hedges, dividing the garden into rooms with different functions. For example, the formal sunken garden was intended for recreational use, characterized by its garden terrace, bowling green, woodland garden and rose garden. The kitchen garden, which was also called the panel garden, was for growing fruits and vegetables.


S SUMMER COMES TO A CLOSE, THE AUTUMN colors begin to peek through the vibrant roses, begonias and hydrangeas. With the seemingly never-ending manicured landscape and ivy-covered red brick mansion, walking around the estate feels like stepping into another time. The perfect destination to explore the beauty of a historic countryside estate, Filoli provides visitors of all ages an enjoyable experience with its stunning gardens, nature trails and historic mansion. Filoli’s renowned 16-acre English Renaissance garden is made up of glittering pools, lawns, flower beds and trees, enclosed within clipped hedges and brick walls. Strolling through the park that surrounds the mansion, visitors can admire the spectacular display of flora and lush greenery. Each season at Filoli has a distinct landscape at the gardens: colorful tulips, daffodils and wisteria in the spring, and golden orchards and foliage in the fall.


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PURPLE PERENNIALS Wisteria flowers drape over the red-brick walls of the Filoli mansion. Built in 1915, the design of the mansion drew inspiration from English countryside houses from the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

The lavish Filoli mansion is a Georgian Revival architectural beauty built in the early 20th century for William Bowers Bourn II. Today, the mansion has been preserved with its original interior design, filled with antiques and elegant architecture, as a museum for visitors to enjoy. Bourn named the estate “Filoli” by merging the first few letters of each phrase of his favorite credo: “Fight for a just cause. Love your fellow man. Live a good life.” v

VISIT FILOLI Location: 86 Cañada Road, Woodside, California Hours: Sunday through Tuesday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission: $22 for adults, $15 for students, $11 for children For more information visit


Friends from France


SAILING AWAY Crossing Mediterranean Sea towards Corsica, mainland France shrinks into the horizon. Photo by Natalie Ho

PLOUGASNOU Fresh fruit stands line the streets of Plougasnou, Brittany. Every Tuesday it seems as if the whole town convenes in the downtown area to pick up fruits and vegetables for the week. Photo by Natalie Ho

ROSCOFF It is common to see walls in Roscoff, Brittany lined with beautiful Hydrangea bushes. Brittany takes immense pride in their luscious Hydrangea bushes, and many families grow them in their gardens. Photo by Clémence Lenail


VEN TWO MONTHS LATER, THE SMELL OF warm baguette still transports me back to my summer trip to France, where I spent two weeks climbing mountainous rocks, listening to a mix of fifteen French rap and Post Malone songs, awkwardly cheek kissing many strangers, not improving my horrendous American accent and having the adventure of a lifetime. My adventure started two years ago in the summer of 2016 when my pen pal, Clémence, came to America to stay with me. I remember being nervous to meet her, but being the same age and bonding over our love of American pop culture, we instantly became close friends. She visited once again in 2017, and this past summer, I finally went to her house in France. Or, rather, her three houses. I had a fellow American travel companion, Nora, a Palo Alto High School sophomore. Clémence’s brother Jean had stayed with Nora this past summer, so she went to live with their family as well. Together, we embarked on a cramped eleven-hour flight to Paris, navigated the foreign lands of the CDG airport, and finally found Clémence and her mother awaiting us. Clémence and I picked up where we left off the year before, as if we were longtime friends rather than pen pals who saw each other once a year. We immediately left Paris and drove six hours to their first house in Brittany, France to stay for four days. Brittany is the most northwest region of France. Rural and true to its rich history and culture, it’s a stark contrast to Paris’s Americanized, tourist-infested atmosphere. Though Brittany’s weather is normally windy and rainy even in the middle of July, it seemed as though the Americans brought California sunshine with them. Within Brittany, the Lenail family’s house was in Plougasnou, a


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small village bordering the English Channel. On the first day, we woke up early to visit the Tuesday farmers market in the downtown area. Lively French chatter surrounded me as I weaved through stands with fragrant flowers picked from locals’ gardens, tiny handmade toys and keychains, and fresh meats and fruit spreads. Upon returning to the house, we made crêpes from scratch for lunch and dinner and played cards. Finally, we walked to the Windsurfing club where all the Lenail siblings (Jean and Clémence had two older sisters) windsurfed. The rest of the days in Brittany blended together in a whirlwind of card games, eating crêpes, small boutique shopping, meeting their windsurf friends (a.k.a. lots of awkward cheek kisses) and my personal favorite—rock climbing. The Lenail’s backyard consisted of beautiful cliffs of rocks overlooking the glittering sea. We traveled up the rocks frequently, humming along to their playlist of American and French songs, reveling in the pleasant sun, taking pictures and watching the sun slip under the horizon. As our adventure in Brittany came to a close, we packed up the van with all of our luggage to prepare for our twelve-hour drive across France to the Lenail’s house in Chambery, France, a Southeast city. Upon arriving in Chambery, we had a lavish, three-course French dinner of McDonald’s. Much to my disappointment, McDonald’s in France is no fancier than in America. The next day was Sunday, which meant all the shops were closed. As we ambled through the empty, cobbled streets of Chambery, I felt suspended between an ancient and modern world: AT&T, H&M and flashy souvenir stores stood among grand, ancient churches and 16th century architecture. Throughout the day, we explored desolate alleyways in unbearable humidity and went on paddle boats with built-in slides to escape the scorching heat. I

felt at home 3,000 miles away from Palo Alto. After spending two nights in Chambery, we once again packed our luggage and drove to the Nice port, where we took an overnight boat ride to Corsica, a small island between France and Italy. Every day in Corsica followed the same structure: wake up at 10 a.m., eat breakfast and walk five minutes to the beach. Swim in the Mediterranean and jump of rocks until the sun travels directly overhead at 12:30 p.m. Seek refuge from the blazing sunlight at home, or in the restaurant on the beach. Lounge until 4 p.m., and go back to the beach until 7. Eat dinner at home, and then play cards late into the night. I had never been on a vacation so relaxed, casual and not packed with constant tours and sightseeing. Highlights of Corsica included shopping at Ajaccio, tubing in the Mediterranean, an 11 p.m. outdoor movie theater and midnight beach parties with Jean and Clémence’s friends. Traveling back to America, and watching France shrink into a tiny dot in the distance, a wave of sadness and gratitude washed over me. Clémence and I had spent the last three summers together, laughing, growing close and showing each other our vastly different lifestyles. The image of Clémence’s first moments in America is engraved in my memory—her eyes wide in awe as she gazed out the car window at the urban, fast-paced, constant bustle and movement of San Francisco, and as I recall leisurely climbing up the Brittany rocks, I can still feel the wind on my face, my mind empty but my heart full. As Clémence and I hugged goodbye in the Corsica airport, we both understood this was the last time we’d be seeing each other, at least for a while. I cannot thank her enough for having a companion to walk alongside me in this adventure. I am happy to have shown her my little corner of California, and I am eternally grateful to have shared her pocket of France. v

MORLAIX Bordered by a combination of 16th century architecture and 20th century cafés. the alleyways of the quaint downtown Morlaix, Brittany were very narrow as to only let pedestrians pass through. Photo by Natalie Ho

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Text and Photos by ALYSSA LEONG

Coastal Camping

PEMAQUID POINT LIGHTHOUSE The historic Pemaquid Point lighthouse as seen from the ocean-level rocks below. The lighthouse was first built in 1827 and is on the Maine state quarter. It is said to be one of the most photographed lighthouses on the coast.



RIVING THROUGH MAINE, I WAS struck by the picturesque scenery, the lushness of the landscape and the peaceful towns we passed by. I had never been to Maine, and wasn’t quite sure what to expect apart from lobster rolls, but I was able to explore the state in a week-long photo camp in which two counselors, seven other students and I learned about photography. The forested areas, lakes and beaches on the Atlantic coast only miles away from each other allowed us to sea kayak to small islands, hike through forests, beaches and islands, visit local attractions such as lighthouses, climb on weather-worn rocks and swim in the ocean, which was much colder than the Pacific. I’d never been to a place where you could experience so many different terrains within an hour or so of each other. As I further explored Maine, I was struck by the friendliness of everyone. The few towns I visited were small and the communities we visited felt more tight-knit than in a bigger city. The people living there were mostly retired or young families, used to tourists and groups like ours, so it was common to strike up conversations with strangers. Although we were not allowed to use our phones during camp, I didn’t miss it at all; we were kept busy editing the hundreds of photos we took, playing cards and chores such as cooking and cleaning. The lack of internet allowed me to bond more closely with the other students and counselors without having a screen between us. It also reminded me to stay present in the moment; for instance, I saw and appreciated the views from car rides more than I would have with a phone. With a small group staying together for the duration of the trip, we became good friends. Most people were from the East Coast, and even though we were from the same country, it was fun discussing geographical differences, such as snow. Prior to this summer, Maine was not a state I planned on visiting. But the scenery, the quaint towns, the kind people and the delicious ice cream made it a place I definitely want to go back to soon. If you’re planning a trip to somewhere new, the easternmost state is the place to go. v


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AT WATER’S EDGE Camper Miguel Reid walks to the water’s edge at Pemaquid Point to snap a photo. Maine has 3,478 miles of coastline (51 more than California) or 5,000 counting its islands.

WISHFUL THINKING Camper Cat Valencia admires the campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Bowdoin is a liberal arts college that originated in 1794 and now has 1,800 students.

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Rapid Rafting


HAPPY HIKERS Daily hikes were nice ways of getting off the river and enjoying the view of the magnificent carved canyons from above. Some days our hike would be 30 minutes, other days it would be nearly two hours,but one thing that never changed was the view at the top and the group swim party at the end. Photo by Loic Bosch




ROM THE ADRENALINE RUSH OF riding nature’s water coaster, to the tranquility of stargazing in the least light-polluted region of the U.S., rafting down the Colorado river felt like the ideal outdoor discovery trip. This rare experience is normally reserved for people with private boats who can enter a lottery two years in advance, or large group vacations costing a few thousand dollars for a week-long trip. I was fortunate enough to experience a program with the Grand Canyon Youth, whose mission is to enable youth to experience the beautiful Grand Canyon for a reasonable cost. GCY, a nonprofit, has four different river rafting trips in Arizona, Colorado, and Utah, open to any high schooler under 18 years old. And, I was even more excited about this trip, as I was on the first ever Cataract Canyon trip operated by this company. Life on the river for the first few days was slow and relaxing, a nice change from my busy life as an intern at a tech startup in the month leading up to the trip. On an average trip, a group has around 15 students made up of a mix of experienced rafters and newcomers. However, since our trip was experimental and more difficult than average, the entire group had already done at least one rafting trip. Two participants were even river guides in their hometowns. I was the the youngest of the group, as most of the students had already finished high school. Our trip took us 100 miles down the meandering Colorado River from Moab, Utah down to Hite, Utah, a small town halfway to the Arizona border. Each day on the river was different. The first two days we traveled on still water, so we had more time to relax. We could jump into the water at anytime, play football, or even paddle board on an inflatable stand-up paddleboard we brought along. Although playing around is fun, the real reason we all came on this trip was to experience the unique rapids that are only found on the upper Colorado River. On day three, we arrived at the intersection of the Green River and the Colorado River. The added volume of water brought in by the Green River resulted in renowned rapids for our last two days. Most people chose to stay on the rafts, which is what I did on my first day, but sitting traveling the safest route with a guide trying to keep all the materials dry isn’t the most fun. On a kayak, you could choose how much adrenaline you got on the way down due to your freedom to decide what route you were going to take. I learned so much about rafting because of my best friend on the trip,a guide on his local river in the Rockies, who had useful tips and tricks on how to choose the best route when white

water rafting. But after many hours of talking on the river, he convinced me that flipping was the proof that you were stepping out of your comfort zone and making the most of the week-long trip. I was a little scared at first, because of a briefing we had received at the beginning of the trip about the risk of foot entrapment, where your legs get caught in a vacuum caused by the current flowing in between small rocks, but those thoughts were quickly drowned out by the thought of radically flying down the river at full speed, dodging rocks left and right. The last three days were packed with adventure, during an ongoing pursuit of dangerous but tubular kayaking. After a long day on the river, we would find a beach that would remain dry overnight and set up camp. We did have tents, but we often slept under the stars on clear nights. We had a few different jobs that everyone would rotate through during the week. My favorite was helping out with the cooks to prepare a delicious meal. Dinner is always something to look forward to with meals including seared salmon, ratatouille and tuna salad. In the evening, we would always have activities and performances. From playing frisbee, to playing the guitar (yes we brought a guitar down the river), to swimming upstream while taking a shower to not drift downstream, we had a blast. But it was at night, when there were no activities planned, that I had the most enjoyable time. A few of us would talk, staring out into the starry night, making deep connections, until we knew that if we didn’t go to bed we might not make it out of the canyon in one piece. The experience of going on a trip in the middle of nowhere, appreciating nature, making new friends and having fun, is something that I loved and can’t wait to experience again. I was able to let go of all the day-to-day stresses, while meeting new friends that love the same things as me. I will always remember successfully navigating the meandering river, a feeling that I have know nature can magically provide. v

GRAND CANYON YOUTH Grand Canyon Youth is an organization based in Flagstaff, Arizona. GCY is dedicated to providing youth an educational experience through interactions with the rivers and canyons in the Southwest. They are committed to inspiring environmental awareness, community involvement, personal growth and teamwork among people of diverse backgrounds. For more information, visit

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Text by MYRA XU




ROM CAMBRIDGE TO WINDSOR TO THE local streets of the town of Oxford, I quickly fell in love with the distinct features in each town in England. Cambridge had many historical and detailed sculptures that each had captivating stories. Windsor had an abundance green oak trees and a winding river that many local residents loved to swim in. In Oxford, the city had a blend of cobblestone streets with remarkable historical buildings surrounded by parks and lakes. The local farmers markets easily topped the ones in Palo Alto. Little shops and stands lined their main street serving sandwiches, crispy beer battered fish ‘n chips, a quintessential English dish and freshly baked sourdough bread could be smelled from my dorm a few blocks away. Everyone in the area was friendly and easygoing; people loved to start conversations and were curious about life in California. In Oxford, I took a course called “Young Doctors” which consisted of coursework on the human anatomy, clinical skills and stem cell research. In addition to sitting through lectures, we were also able to go to a hospital to diagnose patients and my professor’s stem cell lab where we could observe scientists working in a lab. We also attended master classes on topics such as debate, social impact and the pursuit of happiness. The program allowed plenty of time for studying and classes, but we also got to go punting, which is boating in a long, narrow, flat-bottomed boat. Unsurprisingly, a few students fell into the lakes, but seemed to enjoy it anyway. We also watched a live Shakespeare play, attended a ball on a boat, learned how to salsa, performed in a talent show and did many other activities WINDSOR CASTLE St. George’s Chapel at Windsor castle, which has characteristics of Perpendicular Gothic architecture, features large windows and tall, narrow columns. Many royal weddings have taken place at St. George’s Chapel. Photo by Tobi Akinyemi


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RIVER CHERWELL Drifting down the River Cherwell in a punt is a quintessential Oxford experience. Propelled forward by pushing a metal pole against the river bed, punting is an activity enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Photo by Myra Xu

that I never had the opportunity to experience in California. Even with our packed schedule, we still had free time most days. Usually the two hour lunch was a time for students to go explore the city, which was only a two minute walk from our dorms, and sample the local cuisine with new friends. There were a few days when we had free time in the afternoon in addition to lunch. During that time, my friends and I would walk over to a nearby park and play soccer, or football as everyone called it. I don’t play soccer, however in Europe it seems to be the most popular sport. Within the two weeks I could dribble and score goals too. The highlight of the trip was the people I met. I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, a little over a hundred students from around seventy different countries. My closest friends came from countries such as Germany, Italy, Greece, France, Turkey, Nigeria and Brazil. Everyone was very outgoing and fun to be around, which made everything more enjoyable. From waking up at six a.m. to go on scenic morning runs, to playing tag in the dorms after curfew, we became not only friends but also family. The two weeks I spent in England were the most memorable weeks of summer I’ve ever had. I was able to explore the cities around Oxford and learn about the culture with my new friends from all over the globe. I also took interesting courses in the program. Overall, I am grateful I had the opportunity to study abroad; the experience has truly inspired me and I hope to return to the breathtaking city of Oxford one day. v

OXFORD SCHOLASTICA ACADEMY The Oxford Scholastica Academy is a fully accredited Oxford Summer School that provides specialized courses, ranging from law to creating writing, put together especially for teenagers from the UK and around the world. The program provides the chance to gain hands-on experience and discover a future career path, while studying on the University of Oxford campus. For more information visit

THE STREETS OF WINDSOR Home to Windsor Castle, a residence of the British Royal Family, Windsor is a quaint small town west of London. Filled with tea shops and decorated with union jack flags, the town is a prime location for day trip. Photo by Myra Xu

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RAINBOW POOLS Grand Prismatic is arguably the most iconic feature of Yellowstone. Its enormous size makes it dificult to get a good sense of its scale without hiking up a nearby hill. Photo by Kamala Vararadarajan


ELLOWSTONE IS INTERNATIONALLY renowned for its breathtaking glimpses of nature, from impressive mountain peaks to incredible wildlife viewing and stunning geothermal activity. With nature’s most magnificent sights, it sounds like a kind of paradise, and after spending over a week in the park, I would agree. My family spent seven days this past summer hiking and gazing in awe at the landscapes in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in Wyoming. While both parks are only a one hour drive away apart, each offers very different views of nature. Grand Teton’s signature sky-scraping, glacier-topped peaks are the highlight of the park all day, but are infinitely more so when framed by the setting sun. In contrast, Yellowstone’s rolling valleys are home to seemingly never-ending herds of bison that stop traffic, packs of wolves and occasional black and grizzly bears. We soon found out that a line of stopped cars is a definite indicator of a mother bear and her cubs,


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which are usually harder to find and more dangerous on hiking trails. With numerous wildlife sightings, I found it hard to live in the moment and not keep my eye in the camera, snapping close-up shots of the animals. In retrospect, while the photos are invaluable souvenirs from the trip, the feeling of being within 100 yards of a wild bear cannot be replicated. Yellowstone’s colorful geothermal activity was like nothing I had ever witnessed before, with geysers spewing water tens of meters into the air and emitting (sometimes rotten-egg smelling) vapor. Old Faithful geyser was somewhat anticlimactic considering the hype, but the other geysers in the same area and the Grand Prismatic Spring more than made up for it with their brightly colored bacteria and bubbling, boiling water. Spending a full week immersed in the best of nature, without internet connection, was quite an experience, one that I think is necessary to fully appreciate our world’s natural beauty. v

BUBBLING BATH Morning Glory Pool is a hot spring near Old Faithful geyser. The color is produced by colored bacteria that thrive at the high temperature. Photo by Gopala Varadarajan

SERENE FALLS (above) Yellowstone’s famous Artist Falls feed into a river that cuts through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Photo by Kamala Varadarajan MORMON ROW (left) The row of houses in Grand Teton park was settled by Mormons in the early 1900s and is now a popular tourist detination. Photo by Kamala Varadarajan ON THE HUNT (below) A coyote prowls around Lamar Valley searching for an evening meal. Yellowstone’s valleys are the best spot for wildlife spottings, especially during dawn and dusk. Photo by Kamala Varadarajan

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A CEREMONIAL WELCOME The village where Bolaños stayed performed a traditional harvest dance for the American students. The woman on the left pretended to throw seeds in the ground, while the man on the right plowed the soil. Bolaños also met the elders of the community and exchanged gifts. Photo by Benjamin Bolaños

ÉGLISE Dressed in white, the women and men of the William Harrist church in the Côte d’Ivoire stand opposite each other. The prophet William is responsible for illiminating some of the traditional religions of the region. Photo by Benjamin Bolaños

Bienvenue á Côte d’Ivoire




ALO ALTO HIGH SCHOOL vidualistic ... we [Americans] are,” Bolaños World History and Sociology says. teacher, Benjamin Bolaños, and his One day, Bolaños and his host brother host family from the Côte d’Ivoire decided to go to the beach, but what was pose for a photo with their arms around planned to be a two-hour trip became a one another. This photo from 1994 depicts day-long adventure because it was custom the days Bolaños spent studying abroad in to stop at every town on the way to greet a the former French colony. Though he was friend or relative for a meal or snack. born in El Salvador, he “Internally I was grew up in New Jersey, thinking, ... can we just “It was a culture Ohio and Pennsylvania. get to the beach, you When was 20 years know?” Bolaños says. shock almost every old, Bolaños spent a “The point of it was ... day.” few months in the Côte [it] is really important — BENJAMIN BOLANOS, teacher d’Ivoire while in a study to stop and actually see abroad program. While the relatives you havhe had traveled to places en’t seen for awhile and in Europe, he noticed that he felt disorient- make sure that you keep those connections ed being in a completely unfamiliar envi- going.” ronment. Bolaños also noticed cultural differ“Living in Cote d’Ivoire was pretty ences between the United States and West eye-opening,” Bolaños says. “This was ... a Africa, such as body image. For instance, an completely different experience. I enjoyed American student, who was deemed overit, but it was a culture shock almost every weight by American beauty standards, was day.” seen as beautiful by the local population, Although the family he stayed with according to Bolaños. Through observing had no running water and the toilet was these interactions, he understood that body just a hole in the ground, the essence of image is cultural and constructed by socicommunity and family remained. ety. “What I loved about it is … how com“They would say, ‘Oh my God, you’re munity-oriented people were versus indi- so beautiful, like you’re just amazing,’ where

some of the skinny, white, blonde girls ... were considered ugly,” Bolaños says. After he returned to the U.S., Bolaños realized how fast-paced the world around him was. He vividly remembered the news being broadcasted in the airport, and the bustling motion. “I realized how much I changed because I wanted that slow pace,” Bolaños says. “There’s no need to rush. Build those communities, build those relationships.” For students interested in studying abroad, Bolaños recommends people choose a place that is completely different linguistically and culturally. “Anything [that] … question[s] your value system and your norms, I think that’s a good thing,” Bolaños says. “You can actually connect with people in a different way and you’re not afraid to … engage in difficult conversations or awkward conversations with people.” When Bolaños became a teacher, he brought along lessons from his travels and aims to share them with his students. “What I want them [students] to take out of this class [Sociology] is how to think … critically about the world that we live in as it’s happening; how to engage in the world with a critical eye, [and] with an open mind.” v

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Via Verde Volume 2 Issue 1  

From exploring our nation’s national parks to traversing the east coast, students at Palo Alto High School have had the opportunity to gain...

Via Verde Volume 2 Issue 1  

From exploring our nation’s national parks to traversing the east coast, students at Palo Alto High School have had the opportunity to gain...