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The Office of Social Justice Service-immersion Experience
Keyword: mayan culture
After a wonderful night’s sleep, we arrived at Reyes’ home where we were welcomed to indulge in a delicious breakfast that consisted of some sort of fried dough called Jack Cakes, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, and beans. This may have been my favorite meal so far, but I am still eager to see what other foods we will be tasting this week. After breakfast, Reyes took the group on a tour of his cacao farm. Along the way Reyes demonstrated his vast knowledge of the land and Mayan culture by giving us an overview of the different types of plants that may be used for food, art, and even medicinal purposes. I was very intrigued by the connection that the Mayans have with the earth and everything that springs from it. Nothing is ever wasted and even the smallest things, that many of us may take for granted, are given a purpose. Reyes’ cacao farm was a great thing to witness and we even got to taste the inside of a cacao pod, which was not chocolatey but fruity! It was pretty cool to find out that Reyes’ cacao farm had been in his family for many generations before him and that he plans to one day hand it down to his sons. After the tour of the cacao farm we were able to see the process of how a cocoa drink is made. Reyes’ wife is an expert at this process and even allowed us take part in it and taste the end result, which was delicious.
 
Belize - cocoa farm- chocolate drink
 
Although it was sad to say goodbye to Reyes and his family, after having spent a good portion of last night and today with them, I was very eager to see what our next destination was all about – Punta Gorda. My first impression of Punta Gorda was that it had a strong Caribbean feel to it. Our first stop in Punta Gorda was the Nazareth Retreat Center, the place where we will be staying for the rest of the week. It is very big and very beautiful. The sisters that we have met have also been very nice and welcoming. After unpacking and getting settled in our room we all went to grab lunch at Waluco’s, a great restaurant that surprisingly had many foods that are also common in America, such as burgers and quesadillas. I ordered some very delicious barbeque ribs. We ended the afternoon with a refreshing swim on the Gulf of Honduras.
 
Eddy Caiza Class of 2014
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!
 
Belize - Mayan Dance
 
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
 
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