Hello from Belize! We are having an absolutely amazing time in this beautiful country, and we have been so lucky to meet some amazing people so far. I feel so fortunate to have been welcomed into several people’s communities and homes. We started off the day having breakfast at Julio’s, made by his wife, who is a fabulous cook! Then, Julio gave us a tour of the Maya Center Museum. We got to learn a lot about the traditional Maya culture. Julio showed us some of the musical instruments that the Mayans use, like the marimba and the harp. Next, Julio encouraged us to see how many people we could fit on the woven hammock (5 people) and then we got to grind up some sugar cane. My favorite part was learning how to dance in the traditional Mayan style, which came in handy later that day (more on that later!) Before we left, we got to take a look at Julio’s chocolate factory and sampled some of his delicious chocolate!
We sadly had to say goodbye to Julio and his wife, and drove to Blue Creek for some lunch at Coleman’s Café. There was a delicious assortment of chicken, beef, pork, vegetables, and more! After we ate, we changed into our swimsuits and met up with Silvano, who was our tour guide who took us through the Blue Creek Cave. I was completely in awe of the cave…I can’t even put into words how beautiful it was! The entrance to the cave was enormous! We put on headlamps and went swimming through the cave with Silvano as our leader. At one point, we all turned our lights off and sat in the complete darkness. It was beautiful—we couldn’t even see our own hands right in front of our faces. We kept making our way through the cave until we came to a waterfall, which we played in for a little bit before making our way back. I’ve never experienced anything like that cave swim in my life—it was incredible.
Next, we headed into San Antonio for our homestay. We each went to a different local family’s house for dinner. I went with Jeff and Juli to eat at Ms. Amelia’s house. Her daughter and law, Olga, was there as well, along with her daughter, Tanya. We also got to meet Ms. Amelia’s mother, who is 82 years old! Ms. Amelia and her mother wore beautiful traditional clothes that they had made themselves. A lot of the women I’ve met here make their own clothing, which is very beautiful and colorful. After dinner, we went to Reyes’ house, who is the head of the Toledo Ecotourism Association. Reyes and his son and a village elder played the marimba, while we danced. I absolutely loved it! That night, we slept in Reyes’ guest house, which was similar to many of the traditional homes, which have thatched roofs and no electricity. That was my first time sleeping with a mosquito net around my bed! I am just so amazed at how much hospitality the Reyes and his family and the other families in San Antonia have shown us. They have invited us to immerse ourselves in their culture, and I’m learning so much. I’m honored to be able to share in some of their experiences!
Claire McGrath Class of 2015