By: Gracyn Sollman, `18
… and it’s not just the humidity. Arriving into Belize City yesterday afternoon, the thirteen of us from GFA were hit by a wall of thick, tropical air. Immediately, we started to gripe and groan (while excitedly chatting about the experiences before us) about the heat and the moisture that would make our hair frizzy and our t-shirts damp. However, it seems like by now, after two days, we are becoming acquainted with the atmosphere. Yesterday, we arrived at the Tropical Education Center, which was tucked into the rainforest off one of the main highways of Belize. We settled into our “cabins”, and were given time to explore a pond with a gator and paths teeming with flora and fauna. After settling in and eating dinner, we were given the special privilege to tour the Belize Zoo at night. We made friends with the official animal of Belize, the tapir, and awed in the presence of the famed Lucky Boy, a black panther. We strolled along to the persistent calls of howler monkeys while stomping on the ground to avoid the sting of fire ants. All of this was just a prelude to the nature that we would experience in Belize, an environment that had a lot to teach eleven Fairfield County students.
Waking up to the sounds of colorful birds singing their morning song, we quickly packed our bags and stepped on our bus to drive an hour and twenty minutes to our next destination. After driving past fog hanging over rolling hills and mountains home to white cows with curved horns, we drove into a community that was small, but nonetheless full of culture. Belizean communities may seem provincial or dilapidated to some, but they have plenty to offer the senses. All of the buildings are painted bright colors spanning the magenta of the flowers on their trees or the teal of their oceans. Juicy mangoes and hand-woven artifacts are sold in open markets. Children and adults alike walk the paved and dirt streets, looking for a shaved ice or the neighborhood dog. The broad scene that we dove into helped us achieve one of our common goals for this trip, which was to explore a culture that is different than ours in order to learn and comprehend another perspective and educate ourselves about rich history. We are all eager to continue surrounding ourselves with newfound cultures as we incorporate the environment into our “studies”.
Some of the history that we experienced today was in visiting the Ancient Mayan ruins. The specific site that we went to was called Xunantunich, which means “Stone Lady”. With cameras in one hand and clunky water bottles in the other, we took large strides to climb up the temples and learn about the “thirteen levels”, which are the zig-zag steps of the temple which the Ancient Mayans used to tell time. We sunned ourselves on the top of the temples as we looked on to see the border between Belize and Guatemala. A tidbit of information that our group learned before we left for our trip was that a major player in the fall of the Ancient Mayan civilization was interestingly climate change. Because our trip is largely centered on studying the effect of climate change in Belize’s forests and oceans, et cetera, we were excited to learn this. It is another opportunity to intertwine our study of culture with our study of science as we absorb the country of Belize.