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“Avengers: Age of Ultron” Review

by: Michael Evans

Evans, Michael 1On Friday, May 1st, Marvel Studios’ highly anticipated sequel to The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, was released. With the heavy overlap between its students and Marvel fans, The Gatton Academy provided ticket-buying services and transportation for 16 students (including myself) to attend a screening on that same day.

Age of Ultron focused on the Avengers’ attempts to stop an evil artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark as a reaction to the events of the first film. It was a fun movie, with witty one-liners, exciting action sequences, and occasional breaks for character development. However, there was no sense of consequence; the characters never seemed like they were in danger, in sharp contrast to the previous films where, at the very least, side characters weren’t invulnerable. Age of Ultron also had problems with overcrowding. At 2.5 hours long, it wasn’t a short film by any means, but characters and plots whizzed by with very little time spent on either. Here’s hoping that the 3-hour-long extended edition promised for Blu-Ray release helps with that problem.

Pacing and tonal issues aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and it’s definitely worth a watch, even as a setup for the next stage of Marvel’s movie universe.

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Alice in Wonderland – 2015 Prom

By: Lydia Buzzard

IMG_2238On April 18th, WKU’s sidewalks were littered in sequins and glitter—the breadcrumb trails of Gatton Academy Prom. Students and their families spread out across campus for photos before the big event at 7pm, when the Augustein Alumni Center saw a procession of dresses and tuxedos enter its doors.

Inside the ballroom one could find Alice in Wonderland themed decorations: chess pieces, colorful bouquets, and empty souvenir bottles tagged “Drink Me,” tastefully adorned our dining tables. After voting for prom king, queen, prince, and princess, we sat down to dinner.

Dancing began at 8:15 with a lively, electric opening move by Academy junior Graham Reynolds. From that point forward, any exams, projects, or presentations plaguing us were nowhere to be found; it was a welcome evening of forgetting. Bass lines and catchy choruses united two classes and their guests as a single mob of teenagers fighting midnight.

At 10:30, this year’s prom royalty was crowned. D.J. Price and Eura Shin were named prom prince and princess, respectively. Meredith Bickett took home the prom queen sash, and Morgan Blair was named prom king, a promotion from his previous title as 2014’s prom prince.

One of the most memorable moments of the night was the last. The final song of prom was Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” With the opening harmonica riff, the dancing mob calmed, formed a circle on the dance floor, wrapped arms around each other, and swayed with the music, shouting the lyrics as loudly as we could. Of the Academy students in that circle, some of us were ending our Gatton careers while others were just beginning, but those futures would have to wait. For now, we had each other and a song that we all knew, and that was more than enough.

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Caves, Olives, and Bumper Cars

By: Kelly McKenna

Most of us had been in a cave before, but the cave of Diros was something different than we had experienced before. Descending into the cave wearing our bright orange life jackets, we boarded boats to explore. The cave is about 14 km and we explored about 1,300 meters on the lake and the other 200 on pathways. The cave has millions of tiny stalactites hanging off the ceiling and stalagmites at the bottom of the lake. The lake itself reaches 90 meters below the surface in the deepest areas. The only animals that inhabit the cave are spiders and eels; and, although we did not see any spiders, we did get to see a foot long eel swim past our boat. After finishing our tour of the cave, we headed up to Sparta where we explored and found a playground to play on before dinner and a trip to an ice cream parlor.

Before leaving Sparta, we visited the Olive Museum, where we learned the history of olives and olive oil. Our bus driver was then kind enough to take us to the top of a mountain so we could climb down, visiting the different churches and the Fortress of Mystra as we went. We learned how the Ancient town of Sparta had been destroyed and those churches and palaces on the hill were all that was left from the Ancient times in that area.

After the walk down the mountain and lunch, we traveled to the city of Nafplio, a port city with a shopping area that had sidewalks that doubled as roads. After learning the best ice cream shop in the city was closed, we went to the next best shop and ate our ice cream on the way back to our hotel. We set out again before dinner in smaller groups with some going shopping, some getting lost, and some even finding a mini fair in the park across from our hotel and rode the bumper cars before heading back to the hotel. After dinner, a large group of us went back to ride the bumper cars again and then relax with another trip to the ice cream shop before turning in for the night. Tomorrow, we will be leaving Nafplio and heading to Mycenae and the Corinth canal on our way back to Athens. Our trip will then wrap up with a day cruise around the 3 Saronic Islands.

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Osa Days

We went by boat.

There were scarlet macaws, trogons, and toucans. There were tapirs, a sea snake, and peccaries so close you had to hold your nose. There were dolphins, false killer whales, and barracudas. There were more monkeys than we could count—squirrel, spider, white-faced Capuchins, and howlers.  At breakfast this morning, someone said, “Hey, there’s monkeys,” and some didn’t even bother to look up from their gallo pinto. Who could blame them after a monkey was caught hanging from the gutter looking into one of the girls’ cabins just two days ago? Junior Kristen Pedersen described the peeping monkey, saying, “He hung over like this and looked at me!” and dangled her head upside down.

The Osa Peninsula delivered.

Living up to its reputation as one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots, wildlife spotting became part of our routine the past three days on Costa Rica’s southwestern tip—a place so remote that few visitors get to travel there.

Still, getting there is half the fun. A 45-minute boat ride through Central America’s largest mangrove swamp, our tiny boats were suddenly met by the rolling waves of the eastern Pacific. From the delta, it’s another 45-minutes by boat through open sea to Poor Man’s Paradise. From the boat, our students saw the wild land. Sea caves, sea tunnels, and a waterfall that fell straight into the sea.

After a long travel day, we’re back to civilization. And, maybe too soon. Near the San Jose airport now, where advertisements point the way to Hooter’s, Denny’s, and the Holiday Inn Express, the wildness of the Osa Peninsula seems very far away indeed.Costa Rica 7 024 Costa Rica 7 041 Costa Rica 7 058 Costa Rica 7 064 Costa Rica 7 079 Costa Rica 7 085

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The Magic Man and Hill Climbing in Greece

10378547_10152635555119067_3979533795758756556_nBy:  Kelly McKenna

In the little town of Kalampaka, Greece, you don’t see the village so much as the cliffs and mountains above it. They are absolutely breathtaking, and if you look close enough, orange terracotta roofs can be seen. These are the monasteries of Meteroa. While definitely not an easy walk, visiting the Greek orthodox churches contained within these religious centers was well worth the 300 steps it took to get there. To respect the religion, we didn’t take pictures inside and the females in the group used wrap-arounds as skirts over our pants.

After leaving Kalampaka, we drove to the small town of Delphi, which is built on the side of the mountains. On the way to Delphi, we stopped to see a hot spring of water coming down the mountains as well as monuments to the Spartans and Thespians of the Battle of Thermopylae. A few of us ventured to take off our shoes and put our feet in the hot spring and found it very refreshing. After arriving in Delphi and touring the museum of the ancient city, we toured a smaller town further up on the mountain. While walking on the city streets, there was a staircase that went off up a hill. After the many steps from the monasteries the day before, I thought it would be a bright idea to climb the hill to the top of the town. Of course we had to stop half way up to play on the seesaw and swings on a playground we found, but at the top of about 265 stairs, we received a beautiful view.

After arriving at our hotel in Delphi, a few of us decided to go out and look around the different shops. We ended up walking to the end of town and coming back down another road. While passing one store we remarked about the Spartan armor in the window but continued walking until the store owner invited us in. We went in and he told us that because we are students and it is the off season, he would give us discounts. We ended up buying multiple items and getting a few magnets for free. This store was a big topic at dinner, so afterwards almost everyone on the trip went back to the store. The owner of the store was very good at persuading us to buy souvenirs and after leaving the store for the night we collectively nicknamed him the “magic man”, because your money seemed to just magically disappear.

Today we toured the ancient ruins of Delphi and were joined by two cats that we promptly named Apollo and Artemis because the temple at Delphi was dedicated to Apollo. After leaving Delphi we set out for our trip to Olympia, stopping on the way for lunch and a tour of an Orthodox church. We stopped by a seaside restaurant for lunch and ventured out to the shore, skipping rocks and exploring a rock pier. Our group has really enjoyed the trip so far, becoming very close through inside jokes such as Panos, glue, and keeping our tally of cats we have seen (58 in four days). Tomorrow we will be exploring Olympia, visiting the museum and ancient Olympia along with shopping in town.

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Costa Rican Dance Party

Costa Rica 3 092 IMG_2718 Costa Rica 3 074 Costa Rica 3 058Juggling show.  Empanadas.  Three Costa Rican cowboys playing guitars.  Sixteen sweaty students shaking-it-like-they-just-don’t care.

This was Friday night in San Gerardo de Rivas.

When Tony Duncan heard that a group of students was going to be at Cloudbridge at the same time that he was planning a visit, he offered to do a free juggling performance in town.  Our students gathered around five and six year olds from the village on the town soccer field for a half hour show which included witnessing the juggler balancing a golf ball and tee on the tip of his nose for a world record-setting 1 minute and 31 seconds.

After the show, students walked over to the Cafe Bambu at Proyecto San Gerardo, a non-profit that provides volunteer services to the area and scholarships for local students.  Dinner was served, including fresh fruit juice, tortilla chips, two empanadas, beans and rice, salad with pico de gallo, and tres leches for dessert.

Three local musicians played traditional music for our group while we ate.  Then…  the dance party.  There wasn’t a shy dancing (er…  hiking) boot in the joint.  The locals were as impressed with our students’ enthusiasm as they were their dance moves.

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An Afternoon in San Isidro

On Thursday, The Gatton Academy’s Costa Rica group had the chance to visit San Isidro el de General in the afternoon. It is a Bowling Green-sized city that is the seat of the region where Cloudbridge is located.

After a bumpy bus ride down to town, students first visited the Farmer’s Market. The market is held in San Isidro each Thursday and Friday in a covered building that is the size of a futbol field. Fresh fruit and vegetable dealers line four aisles that cover the length of the building. Students tried fresh fruits from guanabana, passion fruit, golden berries, white pineapple, freshly-squeezed juices, strawberries, and grapes.

Students were then free to shop. They bought souvenirs, remarked on how many shoe stores San Isidro has, and tried ice creams and coffees. As the sun went down, many students went for pizza and some others to a café before bumping back in the bus all the way to Cloudbridge.image1 Costa Rica 3 035 Costa Rica 3 030 Costa Rica 3 032 Costa Rica 3 031

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Athens in the Rear View Mirror

By: Kelly McKenna

After a long three days we are repacking our bags to head out of our Athens hotel in the morning. After heading out of Nashville on Wednesday afternoon, our group had a short layover in Atlanta before our 6-hour overnight trip to France. When we landed in France many people in our group were tired and disoriented from the time difference. Though we didn’t get as much sleep as we had wanted on the overnight flight, most people made up for it on our final flight to Athens.  Upon arriving in Athens, we were greeted with a tour of the city.

10923523_10152628643789067_1872818693874430484_nA long nights sleep reenergized us for the today’s visit to the Archaeological Museum and the Acropolis Museum. Both museums had many artifacts from ancient times. The Acropolis Museum focused on pieces from the Acropolis and surrounding areas and the Archaeological Museum had different items from around the country. After an enjoyable lunch, we headed up the hill to visit the Acropolis itself. Many photos were taken of both the Parthenon and also the surrounding areas of Athens with buildings going on for miles. Athens is unique with the tallest building at only 28 floors and most buildings are about 5 or 6 stories tall.

Instead of coming back to the hotel and relaxing after a long day of walking, we decided to go out as a group and shop in the commercial part of Athens. Many different things were bought before returning for a late dinner around 8:30. We are expanding our horizons by trying new foods and learning some short phrases to help us speak to locals. One of the favorites has been Greek yogurt with honey, eaten by many as dessert last night and also breakfast this morning. Tomorrow morning we will be traveling to Meteora to visit the different monasteries that seem to be suspended in the air by sitting on top of rock pillars. With such an exciting start to the trip, we can’t wait to see what the rest of Greece brings us.

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Finding our Groove at Cloudbridge

The mornings are warm and sunny.  In the afternoons, the clouds roll in like fog, settling farther and farther down from the mountains until they are in the treetops where we stay.  After all the preparations for our Costa Rica trip, our students are figuring out just how beautiful Cloudbridge is.

But, of course, these are mountains and the hikes are hard.  Students are now comparing muscle aches like old married couples.  The Dung Beetle Group huddled around this afternoon.  Senior Michael Blankenship said, “I didn’t even know I had these muscles.Costa Rica 2 027 Costa Rica 2 038 Costa Rica 2 024Costa Rica 2 107

For all the challenges, there are equal rewards.  The views.  The fresh fruit at breakfast.  The crow of roosters.  The chirp of parakeet flocks flying up the river.  The turn of a trail that reveals a cascading waterfall–somehow the Spanish word catarata sounds better to us now.

Our days are filled with morning research projects.  Students make hikes with their project groups into the Reserve to set traps for beetles, to mount a motion-activated camera, and to measure and collect plants.  After the physical activity, lunch has never tasted better.  Then, in the afternoons, we rest.  After a daily evening class meeting, there are more adventures to be had…  night hikes.

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Estuary Tour

By Nolan Calhoun

imageToday we had the chance to image2tour a local estuary in Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas.  The experience was honestly amazing.  Our tour guide, Enrique, was a local that took us out in a boat in groups of 10 and 11 people.  He was bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish, so interacting was easy.  After we started, we noticed several species.  This time of the year, the estuaries are more salty because it is the dry season of the Guanacaste Province and the rains don’t flush the salt water out.  Enrique pointed out several crocodiles, herons, mangrove trees, and howler monkeys.  Enrique served pineapple on the boat and it was delicious.  Hopefully these great adventures continue!

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