Study Abroad

Wake Up Call

May 22, 2014

Our wake up time, 4 a.m. to be brutally specific, rolled around rather quickly this morning, as Dakota pounded cheerily on our doors, having already been awake for hours. She pulled us out of our malaria medication induced nightmares. We all continued to stumble along for the next few hours, still half asleep, but managed to get everyone and every bag to Belize with us.

After a much smoother landing than we had in Miami, we all stepped out into the less than brisk Belizean air.  To our surprise, we descended the stairs from the plane straight onto the ground. No tunnel, no terminal, just customs.  Getting through customs was relatively smooth, which was a shock to all of us.

Once we got through the airport, we were greeted by a couple of very welcoming tour guides from Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Juan and Irma. Juan pulled up in a very festive looking bus, complete with green velvet seats. They helped us load our luggage onto the bus and then we all piled on and took off into the heart of Belize City, as Irma gave us a quick introduction to Belize history and where she comes from. 

We pulled up to an oceanfront park with picnic tables and a small water park where the local kids played. We helped Juan and Irma unload our homemade Belizean lunch consisting of rice, stewed chicken, split pea soup, fried plantains, and watermelon. We were all overwhelmingly pleased with the taste of this first meal, many of us going back for seconds and thirds. After helping clean up, we all ran down to the waterfront to scope it out. We discovered the water to be warmer than our shower water would later be, and were blown away by the beauty in front of us embarrassed, although we were told that the best is yet to come.

We soon made our way to the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) building, one of the few buildings in the city with air conditioning, to meet with the highly respected travel officials and to learn about what they do to bring people to their country. There were eight officials of the BTB present at the meeting, each of them elaborating on what they do for the Belize Tourism Board. We heard from their information analyst, marketing information manager, project manager, and training officer. We learned that with the newly added cruise ship port, there are days when between 12,000 and 16,000 people flood in to the small area, sometimes increasing the possibility of crime, and that one in four Belizeans are employed by the tourism industry as tour guides, officers, and managers.

We witnessed the erratic changes in weather that they experience here. We all put on our rain coats to walk back to the bus because it had been raining, then we got outside to find that it had stopped. So we ventured back to the bus, keeping dry aside from the sweat.

MonkeyBayMany of us fell asleep for the short journey to Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, where we will be staying for the next two nights. The Sanctuary is also supplying us with all of our food for the duration of our trip.  We were given a quick tour of the area in the midst of mosquito hour, shown where we would be able to shower and warned of the many critters we could come across if we didn't keep the doors shut (tarantulas, snakes, and giant frogs?). We're just finishing up our second delicious meal of Belizean style tostados, getting ready to venture back into the wilderness to go to bed.