Belize 2014

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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?

IMG_2929About 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:

IMG_2913Toucan 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 vkilburn@treesociety.org

 

IMG_3080Our 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: stanncreekrealty@gmail.com

 

All of our experiences would not be possible without the university and their global partnership with I.S.I.S. Belize.

IMG_3012I 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: fpenados@isisbelize.com

Gliss Penados: glisspi@yahoo.com

Cristina Coc, Program Coordinator-Toledo: ccoc@isisbelize.com

Pablo Mis, Program Coordinator, Maya Leaders Alliance: pablomis12@gmail.com or mayaleadersbelize@gmail.com

Ted McKoy, Nituwana Foundation: mr.rinomck@gmail.com

Coming Soon!

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:

Gobble-Gobble!

Because I missed writing a post on our (Canadian) Thanksgiving, this post will be a multi-purpose post! Besides, I got tired of writing my final term papers for this semester 😛

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Growing up in North America, it’s really hard to think of Thanksgiving without thinking of apple pies, apple crumbles and of course turkey! Since I’ve been using my mason jars a lot lately, I wanted to incorporate that in this post as well. I find mason jars extremely versatile and cost effective. I actually use mason jars instead of plastic re-usable containers to store my lunch when I have to bring some on campus. They come in different sizes and and doesn’t spill easily because of the twist-on lid. Anyway, this is my mini (American) Thanksgiving post: mason jar apple-cranberry crumbles!

Apple crumble is one of my all-time favourite desserts but I could never seem to get enough of the crumble part! For me, it just tastes substantially better when you get some crumble and filling on every bite. So, as you may notice, I decided on using layers of crumble in between layers of apple-cranberry filling. You would use the same methods to prepare the crumble and the filling but instead of putting the crumble on top and then baking it in the oven, you would bake the crumble separately for 20-25 min at 350 F. Halfway through make sure that you shake the tray so that it bakes evenly and end up with those little golden nuggets of goodness 🙂 hmmm! Also, I sneaked in some flax seeds as I was making my crumble to add a boost of fibre to my dessert. Once you finished making the filling and the crumble baked be ready to assemble. As a garnish, I just dusted some powdered sugar but you could also put some whipped cream or ice cream as well.

Just a disclaimer since some people have asked me personally when they see me eat out a mason jar, it’s not that hard to eat on. I think most people would think that it is but it’s really not. I mean I wouldn’t put a steak to cut in there or a piece of whole chicken breast, that would just be incredibly foolish in my part. That being said, of course you would need to cut some food out in smaller pieces because they wouldn’t be able to fit in the opening anyway.

Meanwhile, I found that card to the lefthand side of the picture on my out of class about a week ago. I had a lot of things on my mind at the time and decided to keep it. And so, if you could say two things, what would it be? In light of Thanksgiving and the Holiday season gradually making its way, if I could say two things, the first would be to cherish present moments. I don’t want to sound like a Hallmark card or a cliche but, “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift and that’s why it’s called present.” Less than a year ago, my first grandfather passed away from an illness. Now because we grew up far away from him we never really got a chance to get to know him as our grandfather but more importantly as a person. To be honest, his death affected me more than I anticipated. I always expected on going back to the Philippines (specifically at Bohol) and being able to visit and spend time with our family there. I could beat myself up and continuously say that I should have called more, visited sooner or put more effort in developing a strong relationship with him. Although, that wouldn’t change or help the situation. I chose to learn from it. Ergo, the second thing I would say is to not make plans and just do it. Granted, for some instances you need to make plans. What I mean by that is, to not look too far ahead. Life will assert itself into your plans and when it does what will you do? Have goals and aspire to do something; be something and go somewhere.

I’m going to add a third and final comment and that is to expect less and hope more. Going along with the first two things, I’ve learned to expect less or really to have no expectations but not because of something cynical like ‘I’m just going to be disappointed anyway’. I find that when I don’t have any expectations I appreciate things and people a lot more. Perhaps it’s because I find that when I or someone do something it’s because they genuinely want to do it not because they have to. Having that desire, to me, is more important than the act itself. It involves thought and action.

If you could say two things, what will they be?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! 🙂

The best of both worlds.

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Aside from working part-time, volunteering, and starting new blogs, I am also a full-time student. I know that various people have already expressed their woes about doing all of these things simultaneously and how much stress/pressure they feel. I am going to choose to bypass stating those details because frankly it’s just not the point I want to make in this post.

Education is something that is incredibly important to me. It’s not just about going to school; reading your textbooks or going to your professors’ lectures. You can learn from every person you meet at any given time. It may not come as apparent to you initially but you do. It’s really about what you do with the knowledge that is presented in front of you. Would you be receptive to new perspectives? How well do you connect with the information? Does is it make connections with you? The best thing I’ve been told, is that learning is on-going.

Anyway, I started my first year of university having a singular definitive direction of what I want to accomplish. Well, sometimes life interferes and what you thought was right for you may not be what you were looking for. Bottom line is, my primary reasons of wanting to go to law school and pursue  becoming a lawyer is just not as significant anymore. It was a compromise that I should NOT have made, and I’m glad that now I am doing something that I have a clear passion for. I made this choice because it was something that had incomparable worth to me. I have more options and it was wrong of me to close myself off from them.

So what is this alternative? I love food (that’s pretty much a dead give away), and there are more options within the food industry steadily emerging. While philosophy was something I didn’t anticipate to appreciate as much as I do now, it is a subject that is so malleable. It allows you to see things far beyond superficial boundaries whether it would be your own ideas or others. Now, combine food and philosophy with international history and politics. What do you get? Philosophy of Taste and Food Culture. It makes me giddy just thinking about the potential topics I could divulge in within this sphere. There’s going to be a lot of work and research to be done, but that just comes with the territory. Truthfully, I don’t really care about the amount of work I would need to do. It’s the fact that, this is something that feels like I’ve been doing my whole life. Like something that I should be doing-it feels right.