What an Un-Belizeable Adventure!

Monday, December 16, 2013

So, when talking to a family friend today about my recent visit to Belize, I was describing all the different activities we did. She turned to me and said, "Zoe, wasn't this just a glorified vacation? What did you learn?" I was a little taken aback, to say the least. I had to attend lectures, I took notes. Granted, I also laid in a hammock for a couple hours on a private island... but there was plenty that I learned.

Being the list-maker that I am, here is a list of some of the top things I learned while in Belize!

1. I suck at football (soccer).

(Me. Covered in mud)

Seriously. There is a reason I played basketball in high school... and why I don't play sports now.

2. Tapirs are adorable. So are baby crocodiles named Rose.

Yeah, that's a real baby croc. Nbd.

3. I LOVE HAMMOCKS. I need one at home, stat.

So comfy. What a way to nap the day away....

4. Bug bites are itchy.

Yay bug nets and princess beds!

5. There are so many awesome puns.

Like, this is unbelizeable! You bettah Belize it! Oh Belize...

6. There is no concept of time on an island.

I wear a watch every day, and I am incredibly punctual. But that doesn't matter on an island.

7. Howler monkeys sound like dinosaurs.

(obviously not a howler monkey. But we heard them while visiting Xunantunich)

(Also heard them in our cabins)


8. Rivers are slippery. Always wear your chacos!



But for real, Belize was amazing, and there was a lot that I learned that cannot be quantified.

I learned that there is so much good in the world. Although it is easy to look at the problems that face us, like degradation of the environment, poverty, gender inequality and the myriad of other things that we must face, I am constantly reminded of the good in life. Swimming in a river in the middle of the jungle, dancing with a Creole drummer, flying over the purest blue water I have ever seen, watching high school students grow as leaders - all of these things have reminded me of the immense capacity for good we humans have, and how beautiful this world really is. With such beauty, and such capacity, I believe that we can not only tackle the problems we face, but truly succeed in making this world a wonderful, sustainable, beautiful place.

I learned a lot about myself as well, and what my priorities are. This quarter, I let myself be sucked into things that did not make me strong. I fed into my preoccupation with success, labels, and what other people think of me, and I feel like I lost a lot of myself over that period of time. I took on roles and tasks that I was not passionate about, and it made me feel angry and lost. Taking the time to disconnect from my life, the life I have created here, in Denver has helped me reconnect to who I am, and what I believe my essence to be. It has helped me to re-identify what I'm passionate about, and has given me a clear vision in my priorities and what I believe to be valuable for me. I can no longer feed into what I think others think about me. Most of the time, it isn't true. Nor is it helpful, and it is not who I really am.

My passions lie in connecting with other people - their histories, cultures, stories. That is what I want to do. Helping other people is where my passion lies, and I have found that to be what I can return to whenever I feel lost, as I did before Belize.

So, 10 days in a foreign country, disconnected from technology (for the most part) and completely connected to my sense of adventure, I had a great time and obviously learned a lot about not only my foreign host, but also about myself. I cannot wait to do it again.

As always, thanks for reading.


Belize, part 1

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It's finally here. Something that I have been waiting for and thinking about for months now (the original application started in June) is going to happen TOMORROW.

I'm going to Belize.

I know it's a place that a lot of people go, but I don't think that too many people will see Belize the same way that I'm about to see it. I'm going as part of a Winter Interterm class through DU and PLP, and because of that, I think we are going to see a side of Belize that is much more raw and honest than the side that you might see on a cruise or something (not that cruises are bad... what I wouldn't give to spend a few days on a boat just floating around and having fun. #bucketlist).

In preparation for this course, I had to do a fair amount of reading, including The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift by Andres R. Edwards, The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman's Fight to Save the World's Most Beautiful Bird by Bruce Barcott. I also read the Lonely Planet Belize guide, and my copy is already thoroughly dogeared, even though I haven't even been to the country yet. Through these readings, I came to imagine Belize as a magical place; a place where Mayan emperors and magnificent scholars ruled, a place where wild animals roam and live, full of undiscovered wonder and awe. There is the giant blue hole, beaches so pristine, post-card perfect jungles, mystical Mayan ruins, and the clearest turquoise water imaginable. But there is something deeper than that: It is an incredibly lost country, facing several issues without really having the resources or know-how to manage everything it must deal with.

I like to think I'm an optimist, and in my research it has also become clear that the people of Belize are resilient, and they have the capacity to make Belize into a sustainable, beautiful oasis that locals and visitors alike can enjoy. :)

What am I looking forward to the most?

1. Hanging out with my PLP family.
2. Doing a service project at a Belizean High School, also getting my ass handed to me during a soccer match.
3. Mayan ruins. Xunantunich. Look it up. Do it, do it now.
4. THE FOOD. In Colorado, I don't eat seafood. It's like, would you like your sushi with a side of petroleum? No thanks. But being next to the ocean... imagine all the fresh seafood and amazing food. YES.
5. Relaxing in a hammock on a beach, on an island. A HAMMOCK. On a BEACH. What could possibly be more relaxing?

I set a vacation response for my email, and my 12 days of being relatively on the map (thank the Lawd) now commence. :) For those who I will see tomorrow, safe travels and I cannot wait!

As always, thanks for reading.