This was quite a unique experience. My visit to Belize challenged me intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically. I can honestly say that I left this rising nation a different person. I learned the value of having confidence and conviction about knowing your cultural heritage and your identity as a whole. In so many ways, we can be easily swayed by what people and other socializing forces envision us to be. When did it become so hard to just be you? Do the things you want to do, go to places you want to go and live a life that satisfies you. At the end of the day, the only face you’ll be seeing in the mirror is yourself, so why does other people’s opinion matter more than your own?
About 10 students including myself were given the opportunity to participate in this international internship program with I.S.I.S. Belize (Institute of Sustainable and International Studies) in partnership with New College at the University of Toronto. The purpose of this particular internship was to gain a better understanding of indigeneity with an emphasis of food sustainability/security. We engaged with some indigenous people/groups living at the Southern part of Belize along side our professors. Contrary to popular belief the Maya people still reside on these lands/established villages and are persistently fighting for their rights to be recognized to obtain land rights in Belize. Similarly, meeting the Garifuna people emphasized the importance and relevance of preserving their rich culture for future generations. Each of these indigenous groups are distinct yet possess such a powerful common characteristic-resilience. Learning and reflecting from their stories and how much food plays a prevalent role has been a privilege.
Making connections to my academic and personal discoveries during this educational tour only invigorated my desire to further understand my own culture and how continuous migration and colonialism [and its repercussions] has helped shape it. With food as my avenue of exploration, I can say with great conviction that my journey will not only be academically, professionally or culturally fulfilling but tasty as well.
Below are a couple of places we stayed at as well as some additional contact information of the people/organizations we met during this tour:
Toucan Ridge Ecology & Education Society (T.R.E.E.S.): Initially only seeing the abbreviation on my itinerary had me thinking that of course our first night will be spent in a tree house or you know, suspended from some trees with a sleeping bag. You could imagine my disappointment when I saw that there were beds, complimentary towels and (brace yourself) a powerful electric fan to combat the heat! Coming out of that long Canadian winter season the hot climate of Belize definitely brought the heat as soon as we landed. So seeing that fan was a gift.
Now let me talk about the food. This was our first meal at Belize and boy was it a good way to start. The banana bread pudding for dessert was simply immaculate. Creamy banana pudding and its crunchy, chewy crust, I’m salivating just thinking of it!
You may also contact Vanessa Kilburn at email@example.com
Our next destination was at Hopkins Village on the coast of Stann Creek District. We stayed at the All Seasons Guesthouse, walking distance from the beach and a few restaurants in the area. The first time we were here I stayed at one of their cabanas equipped with a small kitchen, 2 bedrooms with queen size beds in each room and a shared 3-piece bathroom. If you want this space can easily fit at least 4 people comfortably and up to 6 using 2 foldable beds. Having its own kitchen, it came with a stove, refrigerator (with 3 complimentary bottled drinks), cutlery, dishes, glasses, towels, dishwasher soap and a flashlight. Which means, again, if you want to you can probably cook your own meals while staying at one of these cabanas. The rates per night at one of these cabanas or suites are definitely affordable. In comparison to other guesthouses and the amenities that they come with their prices are a lot more reasonable than most in the area. They also offer air conditioning in some suites, clotheslines and an outside seating area for each of the cabanas. Click the link below for more information or contact Reva Dark to get a more accurate estimate/prices when planning your stay.
Now, here’s the bad news, due to unfortunate circumstances the original owner of this guesthouse passed, which means that this property has been and still is in the market (real estate market). While business is steady, the previous owner’s good friend/real estate agent is managing this guesthouse. I can only hope that whomever ends up buying this property keeps it the way it is. While not having met the previous owner, the spaces she created exuded her warmth and charm. There was a sense of humble comfort staying at this guesthouse. It almost felt like my second home.
Here’s the contact for All Seasons Guesthouse:
Reva Dark, Stann Creek Realty: firstname.lastname@example.org
All of our experiences would not be possible without the university and their global partnership with I.S.I.S. Belize.
I refrained from explaining the organization primarily because I don’t necessarily have all of the information about the organization but only my experience as a participant/intern. Our 8 days at Belize was jam packed with different activities from hiking through the rainforest to reach a cave, meeting a few Maya Alcaldes, engaging with a Garifuna elder at their temple to learning how to make chocolate. Participating at these activities was integral to learning about the indigenous culture at Belize. Yes, we all had very long days and we may have been half awake in some of them but it doesn’t take away from the culminating message that this trip has given. Each of us may have taken away something different from our week-long journey yet I think it’s safe to say that this experience taught all of us that the learning experience extends from classroom-country-borders. Check out I.S.I.S. Belize, where education is an adventure.
Here are additional contacts:
Filiberto Pendaos, Ph.D, Engaged Scholarship and Service Learning Director: email@example.com
Gliss Penados: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cristina Coc, Program Coordinator-Toledo: email@example.com
Ted McKoy, Nituwana Foundation: firstname.lastname@example.org
I will try to come back for the ‘Swinging Armadillo Bar and Grill’ Grand Opening at Hopkins Village, Belize later in the year or next year!
More links on Belize:
- New York Times-52 Places to Go in 2014
- Nituwana Foundation
- Tumul K’in Center of Learning
- Toledo Cacao Growers Association
- First Peoples Worldwide-Maya Leaders Alliance