Travel to Belize with the SLC group was my first overseas travel experience and “wow” it met all my expectations plus. Each day was as inspirational as the one before. My first impressions were the heat and the trash along the streets of Belize City, but as we traveled to the Cayo District the natural beauty of the place began to shine through. As the days progressed the beauty of the people began to shine just as bright.
The list of things I enjoyed is long. The things I learned along the way longer. As a science teacher I was excited to explore the biodiversity of the region. To see wild monkeys move through the trees, to see an endangered Toucan in flight, to see iguanas in their natural environment, to see leaf-cutter ants busily moving their bounty along their rainforest highways were all signs that we weren’t in the north woods anymore. Our visit to the Belize Botanical Gardens allowed me to experience the rich diversity of the rainforest, as did explorations around our home base of the Trek Station. Standing below the ginormous Ceiba tree, the sacred tree of the Mayan peoples, at Arenal, was a reminder the role of the “Elder Trees” as they support the plant communities they overshadow. As we learned about the drink of the Mayan rulers, Cacao, I was further reminded of the interdependence of all life on our mother Earth. The cacao needs the shade provided by the Elder Trees to flourish. A tee shirt slogan “Cacoa will save the rainforest” seems both a promise and a prayer.
The most unexpected experience of the trip was a dip in the Macal River. Yes, I was in that canoe, the one that capsized 100 feet from the launch site beginning our 7 mile trip down the river. Though the dip was unexpected, and embarrassing, it was also quite refreshing. It was as if the Creator was reminding me that regardless of age we are gifted each day to live to our fullest. The people of Belize that we encountered seemed to have internalized this lesson. They greeted us with open arms, welcomed us to their homes, gifted us with fresh fruits of many varieties, answered our many questions, and shared openly their cultures and challenges.
I will remember the trip with fondness, and hope as I return to my life of plenty I do not forget the commitments I made to seek ways to make a difference in the lives of those I met as they made a difference in mine.
Oneida Nation High School Science Teacher