Belize · 9 Days · 75 Moments · May 2015

Haley Banks

Gabby's adventure in Belize

20 May 2015

Slept in late and had lunch. I am glad to be home, but will miss Belize. I am really glad that I had such an amazing opportunity. I am happy that I had and made great friends and memories that I will keep for the rest of my life. This marks the end of my journi on my unBelizeable adventure!

19 May 2015

I thought it would be cool to post a graphic representation of this past week. Guess which day we climbed the 2nd tallest building in Belize? (El Castillo)
Two very tired world travelers on their last plane to get home.
In flight snack (as an experienced traveler, I know that I can ask for all three snacks and without hesitation the flight attendants will give them to me, haha 😁) also this was my lunch since we didn't have very much time to eat today!
Cya Belize! I have had a "jolly good" "un-Belize-able" time as our tour guide Randy would say.
Our water taxi back to the mainland. (If you have a choice, sit in the back, you can see a lot more!)

18 May 2015

I thought that this place was worth mentioning. It was a beautiful bar and grill right on the beach called Fido's. It had live music and I had the most amazing French fries I had ever had. Their prices were reasonable too, my coke was only $1 and it was pretty big! I am going to miss the laid back atmosphere of Belize, and especially miss the ocean breeze.
Dinner at El Divino, chicken Parmesan, potatoes, vegetables, and rolls.
Lunch at Pinocchio's. Quesadilla's, potatoes, a banana, and some watermelon. I am going to miss eating this delicious watermelon every day.
While waiting for our day to start after breakfast, we spent some time on the beach. Really truly beautiful. However, the beaches are really not for swimming. They are full of sea grass. Because the coast is protected by the second largest coral reef in the world, there are not a lot of traditional beaches for swimming. However, there are amazing places for snorkeling. Today we went snorkeling at Hol Chan, and in Shark Ray Alley. I touched a shark and a ray, and saw lots of different fish and even a sea turtle! Snorkeling was very scary for me because I am not a very strong swimmer, but I kept up with our guide and only lost my flipper once ;). It was an amazing experience and I am going to remember this for the rest of my life.

17 May 2015

Dessert at our new hotel: Banana Beach. Key lime pie.
Lunch: rice, salad, chicken, and a coke! I could get used to food like this!
We trekked through the jungle to see howler monkeys at the Baboon Sanctuary. I was amazed to see how relaxed they are when so many humans are around.
The margay is one of the few big cats in Belize, and we had an up close look at one at the Belize zoo.
"As the Jabiru flies" is the saying in Belize rather than "as the crow flies" and it is a humongous bird, especially compared to the crow. (Height: 5feet wingspan: 8 feet)
Throughout the zoo, I thought that the signs were really interesting and funny. I think it is great that they included puns and jokes while still being informational.
Pictures of a different group in the jaguar encounter.
I had the amazing opportunity to be inside a jaguar enclosure (in another cage of course). We got to feed Junior and touch his paws and tail, and he even did a few tricks for us. It was truly amazing at how well he was acclimated to interacting with humans.
Some of the animals we saw at the zoo. I like that the zoo has an approach to rehabilitating and taking care of special cases when it comes to animals. It is filling a huge need, especially in a place as wild as Belize!
One interesting rehabilitation story is that of Lucky Boy. The zoo found him starving and injured in the jungle, and helped him get back to a healthy state.
The toucan liked to pose for the camera.
One thing I learned about the culture of Belize today at the zoo is that as children are growing up they are taught to fear the tapir. Children are taught that if they go too deep into the forest they will get skinned alive by the tapir. Actually tapirs are afraid of humans, however because it is often used to scare children from going into the rainforest, people are afraid of them and often injure or kill them as soon as they see them.
We went to the Belize zoo! The first thing that Brooke and Haley did was hold a baby boa constrictor! I pet the snake but was too afraid to hold it or wrap it around my neck. But here are some pictures of people brave enough to do so!
The first animal in a cage that we saw was the King Vulture. Though it is a vulture and therefor a scavenger, it was a really beautiful animal. It was really big too!

16 May 2015

Our last meal at the Aquada. Bbq chicken, pasta, and a hot dog. Yum! The Aquada had the food that was closest to the food we are used to. It makes being so far away from home a little easier.
We played soccer, tag, and catch with a few students from the school. They were really fantastic kids. Afterwards we got Popsicles for the whole group! It was really fun to just talk to and get to know some of the students. They were so playful and funny. One thing I noticed that was different between cultures is that a little girl called "Duck Duck Goose" "Grey Duck", which I thought was interesting, because I thought that was a thing in Minnesota or more northern states. Another differently named classic playground game we played with the students was tag, but the students called it "catch". I wonder what they call catch (throwing a ball back and forth).
We visited Santa Elena Primary School, and got to tour the library and a classroom, as well as see all of their trophies for soccer! They finished second in the country in a tournament! As an elementary education major, I really enjoyed this experience. It was interesting to find that they called grades standards (standards are a way different thing in U.S. Education). It was interesting to see the similarities between Belizean and U.S. Education. There were a lot of differences, like teachers having to also be physical education teachers and only having one counselor for the entire district (52 schools!). I think it was a really great experience and I am looking forward to learning more about schooling in Belize in the future.
I might have fallen and scraped up my leg at the butterfly sanctuary. I will survive... Probably. Haha
Our mini class on the cycle of the Belizean Blue Morpho. At first I was skeptical on if this was going to be that interesting. I have been in many butterfly houses and this one wasn't very different. One thing that I really enjoyed though was the mini course on the cycle of a blue morpho's life, and being able to see first hand what many of the different stages look like. One thing I really want to remember is that the little cocoon actually twitches and moves so that if it is about to get eaten it can detach itself from whatever tree or plant it is on.
Inside the butterfly enclosure of the Belizean Blue Morpho. I was shocked that we were allowed to touch the butterflies, since in the U.S. all of the enclosures I have been in stress never touching the butterflies. I think it was really cool to see the butterfly eggs, since I had never seen them in person before.
Pictures from the museum at the Chaa Creek Nature Center and butterfly sanctuary. The rhinoceros beetle was so huge, close to the size of my fist (I do however, have small hands). The rhinoceros beetle season is right at the beginning of the wet season, so we missed it. This "little" guy is relatively harmless, however if they accidentally poke you with their horn it can cause some damage as it is poisonous. I thought it was really amazing to see such old beautiful instruments, and see the lay of how different groups were spread out around the area (pics 9&10). Another object worth seeing is the mock burial sites (7&8). Our guide mentioned that people were often buried with things relating to their professions and hobbies.
Lunch at Benny's Kitchen. Burritos, and pineapple for dessert!
Ruins selfies.
To get to the Xunantunich ruins, we hiked through the jungle. There were so many bugs and spiders, and even a very large termite nest (the recyclers of the jungle). Termite nests are made of termite dung, something that I had not thought of previously. This day had the most bugs by far.
Various pictures from the ruins. The ruins are my favorite part of the trip so far (I think I am really going to enjoy snorkeling even though I am super nervous!!). The first picture is from inside the museum, about the ceremonial ball game called pok-ta-pok. In the game, players are of high status and playing to win the honor of being sacrificed to the gods. The game consists of a ball court with slanted walls on each side and a hoop that is perpendicular to the walls. Only hips, thighs, and your chest can be used to get the ball into the hoop (which is only slightly bigger than the ball). I think it would be extremely difficult. It is not a spectator sport, though important people like priests and royalty would watch.
El Castillo. El Castillo is the second tallest building in Belize, and we climbed to the top! Though I was tired, terrified of being up so high, sweating a ton, and my thighs were burning, I forgot about all of that for a second when I saw the beautiful view from the top of the ruins. Truly amazing. Anyone who visits Belize and is able to climb stairs should definitely make the trip to the top of El Castillo.
We stopped at the Saturday market and I purchased a necklace with my Mayan "Zodiac" sign, which means love.
Breakfast with the iguanas at the Aquada.

15 May 2015

Dinner at the Aquada: chicken fajitas and nachos (with beef for the first time through the whole week!) I am interested to find out what the families living in the houses around the hotel eat for dinner on a regular basis.
Our beautiful new hotel (The Aquada) has a pool and I think as a group we took full advantage of it! Though the hotel is rougher than many of us are used to in the states (we may or may not be sharing our rooms with small insects and a few lizards) the location is gorgeous and we are really experiencing how people in Belize live. The abandoned houses and lots full of trash show us examples of the Belizean "least developed country" status. It's eye opening. I think it is good for me to experience a culture so different from my own and I need to keep an open mind when approaching new situations.
One cave we walked through was home to two different species of bat, one small, and the other was a very large fruit bat!
A few of the plants we saw in the rainforest. First is the pineapple, and second is the cashew tree.
The Tarzan vine, which has been in the rainforest for an extremely long time and has grown to a very large size.
We got to walk across this river! I walked barefoot the first time, and the second time decided to just wear my tennis shoes and deal with them being wet!
Since we couldn't zip line, we went on a medicinal nature hike, and learned about different medicine ingredients you can find in the rainforest.
Lunch: chicken, fruit, and rice, a traditional meal.
In the jungle, we learned about medicinal plants that can numb pain, stop itching, stop diarrhea, help prevent cancer, and even take down swelling. We also learned about various things that are very very dangerous, like the wildlife (killer bees, venomous snakes, irritating plants, poisonous plants etc.) We learned survival techniques like how to make shelter, collect water, star fires, build things to boil water, how to escape a killer bee swarm, build ovens, build traps, and even build things to be able to smoke meat. Even though I learned all of this, I don't think I would survive very long by myself in the jungle!
We tried a lot of different foods direct from the jungle. I wasn't feeling very adventurous, but I did try three different types of coconut water, straight from the coconut. I tried orange, yellow, and green coconuts.
The Peccary Hills from far away, looks like a man laying down from the side. Very beautiful.
Very large cemetery outside of Belize city, started in 1886. The road actually goes through the middle of the cemetery.
Breakfast before we leave the Princess Casino Hotel for good. Fruit, sausage, potatoes, and juice.

14 May 2015

Since I thought of a few more things I don't want to forget, I am doing two entries with only text. One thing Randy told us that I will never forget is that Belize is one of the few other countries to use the U.S. style of measurement, and that once Belize tried to switch to metric. It did not go well and everything became crazy and confusing, so now there is a saying that goes: "Metric is synonymous with chaos and confusion" and "everything is going metric". I thought that was really funny and interesting. Another thing worth mentioning is that speed bumps are called "sleeping policeman" because they regulate traffic and they slow people down, since there is not an enforced speed limit. Another thing that Belize does differently from the rest of the world is calling animals whatever they want. At another part of our exploration of Belize, we learned that the creator of the Mcafee antivirus system has many houses in Belize, and saw one of his houses for sale.
Today was a very busy day! We hiked up and down ruins, through the jungle, had very long bus and boat rides across the country, and learned so much! I learned that it is named after the Belize river, and knew that it was previously named British Honduras. I also learned that though English is the official language of Belize, it is not normally spoken in homes and people normally don't learn English unless it is at school or for an entertainment industry or tourism industry job. It is interesting that tourism jobs are 1/4 of all jobs in Belize. I had no idea that tourism was so huge here. I think that ecotourism is really great here, because the ruins are truly amazing. Sometimes it's hard to understand how impressively huge they are until you're trying to climb up a million stairs!
Dinner at Chaps: chicken fajitas with (extremely) fresh tortillas. For dessert we had vanilla ice cream.
Late lunch (3:00) we had beans and rice, chips and salsa, and chicken. For dessert we had a chocolate cake with flan on top. Flan was the new food I tried for today, it was not for me, but I would be open to trying it again!
An abandoned English sugar mill. The British influence and history is very interesting to me. I would be interested in doing more research about the British influence and how it still shows effects today.
Jaguar temple.
Royal quarters. These quarters remind me of my trip to Pompeii, in that you can still imagine what they building looked like from the ruined walls that are left. I wish I could see an artists rendering of what archaeologists think the complete structure would have looked like. I wonder why the living quarters are next to a smaller temple rather than the high temple. They are instead next to the jaguar temple.
The high temple. The pictures show the sign explaining the high temple, the temple, and then the view from the temple. This is the highest temple and was quite the trek to get to the top! At one point (near the top) it gets so steep that most people crawl on their hands and feet kind of like how a small child would climb stairs. One thing I am still curious about is what kind of gods the temples were made for. We had a discussion that said archaeologists think that it was to appease the sun god, but I wonder what other theories there are.
The mask temple. This was my first Maya temple, and was very exciting. One rule protecting the ruin is that we cannot climb on the front of the ruin, and are only allowed to climb up the back. They are extremely tall and impressive. One thing I am wondering about is what each temple was used for specifically, the history behind this specific temple. I also thought it was very interesting that they Maya considered anywhere their ancestors decided to build sacred, so they continued to build on top of the existing structure, which creates the patchwork look on the ruin of different times when different building techniques were used.
Here are some pictures from the Lamanai rainforest. After experiencing a real jungle, I have to say that the jungle in the Henry Doorly Zoo got it pretty close! There are a lot more dangerous things in the real jungle though, like the "give and take tree" which is covered in spines, the tarantulas, and the deadly heat.
Here are some pictures of wildlife from the boat ride up the New River to Lamanai. There is a spider monkey, a collection of bats, and a termite nest.
Breakfast and relaxing by the water!

13 May 2015

Dinner tonight was at the Smoky Mermaid restaurant. It was a very laid back atmosphere, with lights hanging from all different places, eating outdoors under a mango tree, and fun music playing (stuff that we might even hear on the radio back home). Dinner was chicken kiev, beans and rice, steamed vegetables, and a plantain. The new food I tried was a plantain. It was pretty sweet but the texture was a little slimy for my taste. For dessert was a delicious chocolate cake. That's one similarity between the two countries: chocolate cake is a go to dessert.
Attached are the pictures showing the view from our hotel room (AMAZING) a picture of some pelican near the doc in the first picture, a shameless selfie of me at the pool, and a picture of coconuts!
The coins here are very different from what I am used to back home! This is going to take some time getting used to. I think it's really interesting that no places will take money if it is even slightly ripped at all. The money is very pretty, especially compared to US currency, though I don't have a picture of what the bills look like here.
The style of housing here is interesting. Because Belize city is built on mangrove swamps, the houses have to have land fill brought in and beams pounded into the ground to give enough support for houses. Some houses are even on stilts. There are a lot more abandoned houses and buildings than I am used to. Sometimes it is hard to tell businesses apart from houses, which I think is pretty interesting.
Our tour guide Randy says: "We are going to have an un'belize'able time". I am excited and kind of nervous to experience a culture so different from my own.
Some pictures from the flight from Atlanta to Belize.
Snacking again! We are getting so close to Belize!
Wing seat!
Made it to Atlanta!
In flight snacks! Yum. :)
At the airport. Still have an hour until we leave! I can't wait! :)

11 May 2015

The pictures I attached are my (hopefully completely packed) luggage, my very important bug spray (heavy on the DEET) and comparisons of the weather in Sioux City, IA right now to the weather I am going to be experiencing on Wednesday in Belize City. This chilly weather makes me even more excited to leave! When it comes to packing, I tend to overpack, and am worried I am bringing too much! I might end up cutting it down a little before we leave. I spent most of today preparing to leave. In the morning I went to class for this May Term, where we talked about general "housekeeping" things like who is riding with who and deciding on "group leaders" to help keep people from getting lost. We also watched a movie which very briefly discussed the history of Belize. I think the extremely diverse population is one very special thing about Belize. We also briefly discussed the Mayans. I am excited to immerse myself in the peaceful, laid back and fun culture of Belize! (Hopefully I am ready!)