After departing the hospitable arms of the Pallotine Sisters at the Nazareth Retreat Center in Punta Gorda we found ourselves well into the remaining days of our experience in Belize…but we didn’t fret because just around the corner, another eye-opening adventure awaited us.
 
Belize - holding hands with a nun.
 
We traveled to the village of Hopkins, along the southern coast of Belize - on the Caribbean Sea. This village only had two roads in and out and virtually one main street. Here we were first exposed to an area where the division of wealth and extreme economics in Belize was self-evident. Hopkins, a beach town is divided into North and South Hopkins. North Hopkins is where the original village was established and the main living area for the locals and a fair amount of visitors. Though the nature is lush and the people are vibrant, North Hopkins faces challenges most villages in developing countries experience. As we traveled through and made our way into South Hopkins, we saw the strong emergence of visual wealth – large houses, beach-front resorts, mainstream restaurants, real estate offices and well-fed pets. This area is a target for tourists with a strong interest in vacation destination homes to buy or rent. The contrast between the two areas of the village was vast. This difference supported the opinion Leonard Lewis, a Belizean we were fortunate to have met, when he said the middle class of Belize is disappearing and ‘Belize is growing into a country with only very poor and the very rich’.
 
Lebeha Drum Center in Belize
After a hearty lunch we headed to the Lebeha Drumming Center for lessons by owner and Hopkins native, Jabar. Here we learned the basics about drumming and Garifuna rhythms. We were invited to return in the evening for dance lessons and the chance to show off our talents (or lack of = ME) in drumming. Jabar and his team were patient and shared their culture and talents with an open heart.
 
We also had dinner at “Love on the Rocks” – it is a tradition for Mount students to visit and feast here to celebrate an experience full of dedicated service, challenging discussions an camaraderie.
What I learned in one day:
  1. Music and dance is a great way of experiencing culture
  2. The economic disparity in Hopkins is extreme
  3. Vibrant, culturally sound communities are not dependent on high income levels
  4. Garifuna drumming takes practice and more practice
  5. A group that works hard together can also have loads of fun together
Christian Kendzierski, assistant facilitator of Encounter Belize and Mount director of media relations
 
Belize Sunset 2014 - Encounter Belize - Office Of Social Justice