And a perfect landing of our aircraft to the view of a blood moon. What a beautiful sight to conclude our wonderful trip!
Arrived in Atlanta!!!
And with Kyle's entry saved our journal is complete. Remember....you have to see it to Belize it!
And now our final day has arrived. The alarm rang at 4:45 with a quick breakfast at 5:15. Taxis took us to the water taxi which transported us to Belize City. We're now on the bus awaiting a stop to the local grocery store to purchase lunch for the plane ride, and then we'll complete our final journey by land in Belize City. So with this journal entry I'll say farewell to Belize, Jewel, and our EF travel companions from South Carolina. While eager to come home I'm hopeful to return for a visit to the beautiful country, Belize.
Thank you to all the wonderful students: Ashley, Klaury, Kyle, Luke, and Tommy for joining me on this adventure of learning and fun! Thank you to the awesome adults for all of your help and great times: Beth, Erin, Julianne, and Laurie! And thank you to our families and friends for allowing us to have this memorable experience of a lifetime. We hope you enjoyed our stories!
Our final full day in Belize featured memorable highlights of our trip. I assigned the last day journal entries to our students. It's fun to hear about our trip through their writings. One editors note: Kyle's entry is missing so I'll have him rewrite his story. Sorry Kyle.
4 April 2015
Hello, I am Luke Spota, and I have recently gone on a vacation tour for Belize. One of the highlights of the trip was the zipline. We started getting protective gear on us that made us look like engineers. We went up on a tall platform and were hooked into a zipline. Then we were off. There was multiple towers that we landed in to unhook and rehook. One of the zips was through the jungle canopies; one of the last zips was over a raging river! It was fun flying through the skies and looking like a professional without really knowing the basics of ziplining. It was one of the best, exhilarating activities in Belize.
Hello! My name is Klaury Tagheu and I want to tell you about my exciting afternoon where I went Snubaing. I will tell you about my experience and how exciting I thought it was! Snuba is a combination snorkeling, and scuba diving. You have a mask with a gas tank on a float above you. You also have weights to weigh you down. It's basically snorkeling, except you go down deeper.
When I went snuba diving today, I was really excited because we would be going deeper than, earlier when we went snorkeling. It really was a great experience. Although it was hard to communicate underwater. We saw manta rays, fish, and even a turtle passed right next to us to get to the surface. The pressure of water on your ears, varies per person. But for anyone it is an amazing experience and anyone I think would enjoy snuba diving!
Hi I am Tommy. The food here was different but good. To start of I have to say the fruit was amazing. The fruit here is better then any fruit in America even when their fruit is in the "good season". All the fruit is juicy and yummy. I am not a big bean eater but the beans here made me enjoy beans. The eggs here taste different too. The scrambled eggs seem to be more like sunny side up eggs but scrambled with melted cheese. I like the eggs here better. The cinnamon bread here is really good. What I also thought was really cool about the hotels was they made everything from scratch. I will miss a lot of the food here.
Hello everyone, my name is Ashley Kolpan and I am on of the five students that went on the EF tour to Belize. Here, we participated in MANY fun activities but one of my favorites was snorkeling. We saw/swam with sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, and many many species of pretty, cool fish.
The corals were also beautiful. The equipment that we used was a snorkel, fins, goggles, and life jackets. They were all very surprisingly easy to use but u can't breath through your nose. Over all it was a very cool and awesome experience that I would suggest to anyone with this amazing opportunity. I would also definitely suggest going on an EF tour because the tour guides we had like Jewel were awesome and kind. Also the activities were very well planed because our tour guide "got this"(Jewel).
3 April 2015
We dodged through the heavy downpour to check our luggage and board the water taxi just in time for a 1:30 departure. As is typical in Belize and tropical areas, brief heavy showers erupt but then quickly dissipate as the sun takes control of the skies. So now we're settled in the water taxi enjoying the 1-1/2 hour journey across the Caribbean to our next destination, San Pedro.
Our hotel had a beautiful pool that our students were quick to jump into. Following a refreshing swim we walked up the beach for dinner. Along the way while crossing Front Street we encountered a lengthy procession of parishioners walking the Stations of the Cross for Good Friday. A majority of Belizeans are Catholic and in this country Good Friday is a day that the city shuts down as they observe this Holy Day. Contrary to the US, Easter Sunday services are not as popularly attended.
We decided on to retire early so we could be energized for the water activities the next day.
Water taxi pics!
Hello, My name is Kyle Doremus and my favorite part of this awesome trip was the Mayan ruins of Lamanai and Xunantunich, this two different sites had many things to offer in history and in sights. The high temple at Lamanai was 109 feet tall! In Xunantunich the highest spot was 110 feet it was amazing to see the view from the top of both of these sights.
A short tour of the Community Baboon Sanctuary provided entertainment as 6 howler monkeys played above us in the trees. They showed off for us and gave us an up close view of the newest family member just born on March 27. The second youngest monkey was born in November.
Aside from seeing the monkeys we learned about the cashew tree and the cashew fruit which also produces the cashew nut.
It's Friday, the day we sadly say goodbye to Victor and his lovely family at Crystal Paradise. If only we had a couple more days to explore and relax at this beautiful resort. But, Ambergris Caye is awaiting us!
We're also sad to be saying goodbye to our awesome bus driver, Wilber. Dinner last night was extra special as our students sat with Wilber and shared stories, presented his well deserved tip, and delivered sincere words of thanks to him. So we're enjoying our final 1-1/2 hour journey across the country
Dinner was served at the Crystal Paradise. Our hearty appetites were satisfied with an American comfort meal of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. The Belize spin flavored the chicken with tasty Cajun seasoning and complimented with home made tortillas, stewed beans and cole slaw. The final course was a scrumptious vanilla cake layered with fruits and tasty icing!
Most, actually all, of our meals have been served with beans. Rice and beans, chicken, tortillas and other breads, fresh fruits so sweet and juicy, fried plantains, and tempting desserts are some of the popular staple foods.
For beverages we enjoy delicious Guatemalan coffee to start our day, fresh squeezed orange juice, sodas, and purified water.
One item I forgot to include in Thursday's journal was a surprise stop to a tiny local shop, Sweet Ting. We were able to indulge in purchases of Belizean chocolates that are out of this world!!! Jewel quickly figured out how to accommodate our group's common guilty pleasure!
Our final destination before retreating back to our cabanas was a trip to Santa Elena Primary School. While students and teachers were enjoying the first week of a 2-week Easter break, their Vice Principal and many of the students came back to school to meet with us. We took a tour of their classrooms, library, teacher's room, and offices and learned about the class structure, school calendar and schedule, subjects taught, school funding, and other important information. Our AMS students were proud to present the much needed school supplies they collected for the K-8 students.
Following the school tour the students from both schools along with our companion HS group from SC joined together for fun and games Belize style. They played variations of wall ball, tag, and song games. The school isn't equipped with playground apparatus but students enjoy activities using sidewalk chalk, water guns, and balls. Soccer is the #1 activity and Santa Elena is proud of their award winning team!
After lunch we traveled to a remote area in the mountains to Chaa Creek Natural History Center. Our local expert tour guide gave us a brief lesson on the natural habitat and wildlife of the area and its people. The highlight of the tour was the butterfly room that was home to the blue morpho butterflies. We learned about and saw the various stages, from the egg, then the 5 stages of larvae, pupa stages, and then hatching into the beautiful butterfly. It was fun seeing the student's faces as the butterflies flew amongst us and even landed on us!
Crystal Paradise....a perfect place!
2 April 2015
Day 4 of our tour started with a delicious breakfast in the dining area of our second hotel. Crystal Palace isn't really a hotel but rather a resort featuring comfortable cabanas, all with porches, hammocks, beautiful gardens and garden paths...rustic, authentic, and a picture out of a magazine! We arrived after sunset last night but will be sure to post pictures when we return later this afternoon.
So about our day so far...we traveled by bus, took a very short hand cranked boat ride, then by van, and then by foot for a long walk through the woods and up the mountain to the site of the Xunantunich (pronounced "Sha-nan-tun-ich" or as we say "tuna sandwich") Ruins.
The Mayan Ruins were immense and different from the Lamanai Ruins.
One of the bonuses aside from the historic perspective of the structures was the view of Guatemala. This country is less than one mile west of the Ruins but without a doubt the closest we will get to the border. We encountered armed guards patrolling
The tour of the Ruins worked up a healthy appetite in all of us so we were eager to reach our next destination. Lunch was another awesome meal of beef burritos and fruit. The small restaurant, Benny's Kitchen, was nestled in the quaint village San Jose Succotz. And what a lunch it was!
Hello, my name is Kyle Doremus and my highlight of this overall awesome trip was the Mayan ruins. We went to two different ruins, Lamanai and Xunantunich. These were very interesting to learn about and how they were preserved over thousands of years. Lamanai had a ball court where they would play games to celebrate things. Xunantunich also had a ball court but it was to see who would be sacrificed these two very different ruins had much to offer in sights and in history.
A couple candida captured by Laurie of our students enjoying the facilities at Crystal Paradise. I
1 April 2015
Cristo Rye Village
It's now 5:30 Belize time and we're on our way to San Ignacio. We love our bus driver, Wilber! Our families at home can rest assured as Wilber is amazing behind the wheel!
We had an adventurous, exciting, and fun-filled afternoon! The first activity took us zip lining through the jungle. Everyone loved it, including some of us nervous Nellie adults! We're all ready to go back for more.
After zip lining we were treated to a cave tubing tour. The sights were magnificent as we lounged in our tubes on top of the 30' deep river through the cathedrals and chambers. According to geologists the caves are millions of years old. Stalagtites and stalagmites grow together to form pillars and in our lifetime they will only grow 1".
So as you can tell, between the 4 tours: jungle survival, Belize Zoo, zip lining, and cave tubing, we had an educational, adventurous, and really fun day!
I'll let the pictures tell the story!
There's nothing like a refreshing ice cold glass bottle of Coca Cola on a hot and humid day. Ahhhhh....and it only cost $1.00 USD.
And final Zoo Chapter 2...
We arrived in Peccary Hills to learn skills for survival in the jungle. Our tour guide, Joe, demonstrated traps and how to make fire. We sampled water from a coconut and a vine, and surprisingly delicious nuts and berries that are found in the forest. We learned how to identify plants that can hurt you; and conversely we saw the medicinal plants that the natives use as cures for diseases and conditions such as malaria, snake bites, fever, poor blood, and other illnesses.
Our jungle tour concluded with Jewel playing an April Fools joke on our boys! She told them that they would have to find their way back to our bus after being placed in the jungle. They fell for it....but not for long!
We're now off to the Belize Zoo. I'll report back later to insure you that none of our monkeys were left behind in place of the spider monkeys!
Day 3 started early today as we had to pack up and check out of the Ramada Princess. We boarded our bus for the trip to Peccary Hills. Along the way Jewel provided information on the culture and history of the Belizeans. Some insightful information included learning about the hospital and health system, that Belize was the last colony in the world to gain its independence in 1981, many Mayans still live in Belize today, Belize City is 18 inches below sea level and the western part of the country is 600 feet above sea level.
We were intrigued with the mangrove ecosystems and how vital they are to the country of Belize. The mangroves protect the land from hurricanes and fierce winds. They also serve as a natural water purification system from the rainwaters and rivers that collect sediment along their route to the sea. The mangroves are vivapourous plants and the only plant to give live birth to its pencils. It's true!!!
So much to learn!
This is the beautiful view of the sunrise that we saw from our hotel room in Belize City. Thanks Beth for the photo!
31 March 2015
Day 2 in Belize was a great day for all! Our experiences involved a long and exciting boat ride with sites of crocodiles, monkeys - including feeding bananas to the monkeys!, green snakes, Oops - make that green snake cactus( devil's gut cactus) a variety of bird species, termites....and then we reached the Lamanai Ruins.
Our visit at the ruins started with a delicious picnic style lunch followed by our tour. The temples were immense amazing structures built in 100BC to 500AD. The trip gave the students the hands-on opportunity to experience and learn about the Mayan civilization. And they enjoyed the climb up the steep steps to the top of the structures!
We had an active day that was completed with a fajita dinner at a local restaurant. And the dessert....delicious ice cream sundaes!
So we're off to bed to rest up for another exciting day!
30 March 2015
We have the most gorgeous view of the marina and waters!
Life is good here in Belize! Our last leg of the trip arrived 30 minutes early. The Customs process was smooth, our bellies full from a delicious buffet, and now we're enjoying a fun time at the pool.
And we made it to our connecting flight just in time! 10 minutes to spare before takeoff.
From plane to train and back to plane we go!
Snow in Philadelphia??? Again??? I think we had enough! We can't wait to reach our sunny, warm destination!!!✈️
De-icing - ✔️
Air Traffic Clearance - ???
Back to De-icing again...
Hoping to take off by 7:35. Still time to make our connecting flight in Atlanta.
DD - the best!
Our departure day is finally here!!! We're through security and relaxing with DD coffee & donuts.