RUMFORD — The highlights for an exchange student from Mexico have been the simple things, such as picking apples and walking in forests, where he enjoyed the “nice, fresh air.”

Alexei Dolitski Rodriguez, 17, is from Playa del Carmen, not far from Cancun. He has spent the year as a junior at Mountain Valley High School.

“The forest, I just like it a lot, you know,” Rodriguez said. “Walking a little bit and just looking around. When the trees get covered with snow, that’s so nice.”

He said picking apples in the fall with his host family, Mike and Tammy Kelly of Rumford and their extended family, was also a special experience.

“I liked that a lot,” he said. “It’s just something different, is all. Fresh apples, like picking your (own) apples, and the area where (we picked apples) was very nice.”

Alexei Dolitski Rodgriguez, 17, is an exchange student at Mountain Valley High School from Playa del Carmen, a city not far from Cancun, Mexico.

Although Rodriguez said he enjoyed being out in the snow and skiing this past winter, he did not like shoveling.

“There is so much snow,” he said. “It’s just incredible.”

Celebrating Thanksgiving with his host family was another new and special experience for Rodriguez.

“I got to see pretty much all of my host family (and their relatives), and it was very nice,” he said. “I mean, that’s a celebration that we don’t have, so it was very interesting.”

He said he really liked the food, including the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

He spoke of a holiday celebrated in Mexico but not in the United States: the Day of the Dead. Celebrated between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2, it is a time when Mexicans prepare altars for their family members who have died, adorning the altars with colorful decorations and adding items the deceased person liked.

“It’s mostly to commemorate the dead,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a big celebration that’s like a carnival, with music and a parade.”

Some of Rodriguez’s main reasons for choosing to come to Maine as an exchange student were to “polish” his English-speaking skills and to have a change in lifestyle, make new friends and enjoy new experiences.

As a student at Mountain Valley, he played on the soccer team in the fall and basketball team in the winter, and is now playing tennis and running track.

In Mexico, he is a year-round competitive swimmer who has competed at the national level and at a competition in Houston.

At home in Mexico, Rodriguez lives with his Russian father, his Guatemalan mother and his younger sister. In January, they visited him in Maine for his birthday, spending five days in Portland, where they saw the sights and ate Maine foods, including lobster.

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