Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Belize, Central America (6/26/05 - 7/25/05)

There’s something so comical about trying to hold the latrine door close with one hand, aiming your flow with the other, all the while dancing so as not to be bitten by the countless mosquitoes buzzing around that you simply have to laugh at yourself. Such is life at Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary here in Belize. But I’m not complaining. Latrine’s and cold showers are a small price to pay to enjoy the wonders of this country.

Yep, I’m leading a group of high school students with EIL again ( - I’ve been to Italy with them a few times). Over the past 3 weeks or so we’ve had wild howler monkeys eat mangoes out of our hands, visited the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich and Lamanai, canoed down the Sibun River, and built a pre-school playground from scratch while living with host families at Crooked Tree Village. We attended the wedding of one kid’s host sister on Saturday and had our farewell dinner party a couple of days ago. Now we’re headed to Tobacco Caye for a few days of snorkeling and relaxing.

Hungry Howler Monkey, Baboon Sanctuary, Belize Posted by Picasa

Xunantunich Mayan Ruins, Belize Posted by Picasa

Lamanai Mayan Ruins, Belize Posted by Picasa

EIL Group atop Lamanai Mayan Ruins, Belize Posted by Picasa

By the way, check out my entries on Tiwanaku, Bolivia and Tikal, Guatemala to get my take on pyramids in Central and South America.

Whenever I think of my host family I will remember the Belizean proverb “Empty sack cyaan stan up!” That’s what my 55-year-old host mom, Ms. Vange says whenever she thinks I haven’t put enough food on my plate. Never mind that the plate is overflowing and that there is no more space to add anything. She and her 80-year-old blind sister, Mrs. Day are simply expressing their love through their culinary offerings and genuine concern for my well being. They are sweet ladies. I’ve since learned that the proper response is “Too full sack cyaan bend!”

Mrs. Day and Ms. Vange, Crooked Tree, Belize Posted by Picasa

I’ve also learned that if a horse is wet with sweat during the day it will usually storm that night, and that if the sun is red at sunrise it will be a scorching day. Folk wisdom is more accurate than you might think.

My host fam was just what the doctor ordered. There was not a working television in the house, so all was quiet and peaceful. And they’re vegetarians, so I ate healthily. Fresh mangoes, pineapples, marmy apples, and homemade hot sauce usually accompanied the ackee, boil-up, cashew casserole, and squash dishes.

After working with my students to erect the playground all day (picnic tables, swings and a tire play area done with no blueprints or experienced supervision – but done successfully!), I would play soccer with a friend’s kids until nightfall. Then I’d head home for dinner and conversation before reading myself to sleep (Ben Carson’s, Gifted Hands – recommended). They have indoor plumbing and they’re house is totally screened in, so I liked the fact that I could sleep without a mosquito net and I didn’t have to contend with bugs (including tarantulas) in a latrine.

Completed Service Project, Crooked Tree, Belize Posted by Picasa

This will be my last experiential learning trip of the year. I should say this will be my last time LEADING a trip for a group of youth for the year. I’ve been living out of my backpack for a year and a half now, and I think I am ready to have a couch to call my own. At least for a little while. So while I expect to do another experiential learning trip to Brazil or Asia, it will most likely be a solo trip that will last for a year or 2.

I’ll be spending the months after this trip (late August and beyond) temping and figuring out where in the world I’ll be living in 2006 and 2007. I’d like to be in Brazil writing a book, but if I can’t figure out how to finance that project, Asia will be my default option. I know I can make pretty decent money teaching English there. Since the work wouldn’t be too taxing, I could also start on the book in my spare time. And it could serve as a nice base to visit several countries in Southeast Asia.

I’m thinking I should be in Asia by April or so. I’ll keep you posted on the goings on, and whether I’ll be anywhere near your neck of the woods before then. And you can let me know if you know of any short term jobs, international jobs, fellowships or grants that might be of interest to me.

I hope you are happy, healthy and enjoying life.



Missing from the original update was a blurb on Tobacco Caye. It’s the 5-acre island from which we snorkeled during the last 4 days of the trip. I was also able to get in a dive. We saw several spotted eagle rays, a sea turtle, and some of the most brilliantly colored (iridescent-fluorescent purples and yellows) vase sponges and tube sponges I’ve ever seen.

Tobacco Caye, Belize Posted by Picasa

I have to say that one of the reasons this was such a great trip was the group of students I lead. After my trip to Fiji, New Zealand and Australia I had doubts as to whether I had lost my touch. Despite our promising start in Fiji, that group of 4 young misfits turned out to be THE most dysfunctional group of kids I have EVER worked with; too self-absorbed to contribute to community building. At the end of the program they had me wondering if there was something wrong with me. I was worried that I might no longer be cut out for youth development work.

By contrast, the Belize group of teenagers restored my faith in myself, and my faith in the power of respectful, compassionate groups who care for one another and those around them. They bonded right from the start, had a great time working and playing hard, and gave me absolutely no problems. They were excellent role models and goodwill ambassadors. And since I see traveling groups as microcosms of the world at large, they gave me great hope for a brighter future.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i heard there were wild times to be had on tobacco caye... especially for the pirates!!

looking forward to seeing you again soon, my friend. more ocean depths to be explored in s.e. asia!

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i heard there were wild times to be had on tobacco caye... especially for the pirates!!

looking forward to seeing you again soon, my friend. more ocean depths to be explored in s.e. asia!

5:34 PM  

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