This is our last update from Belize. We’ll see you tomorrow.
The VMS students have overcome fears, learned about themselves, and appreciated the unBELIZEable ecosystems and communities here.
This morning, we said goodbye to Tobacco Caye and headed to Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The kids are staying in dormitory-style lodges on beautiful grounds. Monkey Bay has protected over 2000 acres of property, and it hosts study abroad groups from all over the world.
We had a mellow afternoon. The kids settled in and played basketball before an early dinner. After dinner, we drove to the nearby Belize Zoo for a night tour. We saw a tapir, many varieties of jungle cats, including a jaguar, nine different owls, coatimundi, and opossum. The kids also got the chance to hold a boa constrictor named “Balboa,” with mixed degrees of excitement.
We head to the airport after breakfast tomorrow morning. We look forward to seeing you in Denver. We’ve had a wonderful trip!
P.S. I’ve also included photos from yesterday’s night snorkel.
Happy Valentine’s Day! VMS spent the day exploring the reef and mangrove environments. Between breakfast and 3 pm, we completed four snorkel drops. The first was in the mangroves, where we saw starfish, fish nurseries, and our guide, James, speared and collected a lion fish, which are invasive in this area.
The next two drops were over beautiful, healthy coral. James took time to point out interesting species of coral, plants, and fish. We had a picnic lunch on a neighboring caye. Docked nearby was a National Geographic ship. Their researchers were at the Smithsonian center, so we did not have a chance to visit.
We completed a final snorkel drop close to Tobacco Caye. The remainder of the afternoon had no planned activity, so the kids had a chance for some much needed r&r.
Currently, we are in a briefing about night snorkeling. The students will go out in two different groups with the hope of seeing moray eels, Caribbean reef octopus, and more.
Tomorrow it’s off to Monkey Bay.
P.S. - We also boated by Bird Island, which is a nesting sight for frigates and brown boobies.
After the work was done, VMS students joined in a third game of soccer. They led some more activities in classrooms after recess. We all gained an appreciation for our similarities and shared interests. We ate lunch with the students, and it was hard to say goodbye to our new friends.
Randall, our leader from World Leadership School, has participated in adventure races all over the world. For the afternoon activity, he organized an adventure race/community exploration for us.
In four teams, students completed the following challenges.
1. Tube down the Marpo River.
2. Wash clothes by hand
3. Make a kite using bamboo, paper, and tape
4. Shape and cook a tortilla
5. Create a tattoo using a local plant called achiote.
Completing all of the tasks encouraged the student to work together navigating the village, interacting with new people, and learning new skills. We had so much fun!
Late in the afternoon, the kids swam again before showering and dinner.
We depart Clarissa Falls tomorrow and head toward Dangriga and Tobacco Caye.
We had another FULL day. We started the day at the Calla Creek School. To access the campus, we cross a footbridge over the Mopan River.
The kids rose the the occasion again! Every person contributed to the project, and all they felt a sense of accomplishment by the time lunch rolled around.
We visited classrooms with students in the equivalent grades. The kids interviewed on another about their lives. The smiles and burst of laughter were clear indications that they had points of connection.
We had lunch at the school with some the students. The majority go home to their nearby homes for an hour lunch break, but those who live too far away stay to eat at school. The meal was excellent, and again the smiles were heartwarming.
In the afternoon we took a long bus ride back toward Belize City, but the destination, cave tubing, was worth every minute. We went tubing in a crystal clear river through two beautiful caves. To access the caves we hiked upstream about two miles and stopped to see leaf cutter ants, learn about ancient Mayan use of the the caves, and more about the rainforest.
The caves, beautiful warm water, and amazing view of the jungle were a highlight. We spent moments in the dark, saw tiny bats hanging above, and glittering stalactites.
We got back to Clarissa Falls after dark where an incredible meal awaited us.
The adventure continues tomorrow!
VMS had the privilege to visit the Calla Creek community today. The school that serves the community is K-8 and has 75 students, which are spilt between four mixed-grade classrooms. The excitement on our students’ faces was matched by the Belizean students’ smiles and curiosity.
After quick visits to classrooms, we got to work moving sand and concrete mix in preparation for our work the next two days. The kids all put in a huge effort in the heat with heavy materials.
Even though they were tired, the kids jumped at the opportunity to play soccer during the school’s recess. All ages joined in.
Before we left, we went into classrooms and VMS kids led games in English for the younger students who are still learning the language (Simon Says, Head’s up 7 up, and more).
We go back tomorrow to mix and start laying cement for a fence the school needs.
After a swim in the river and lunch at Clarissa Falls, we headed back to San Ignacio for a tour of a cocoa plantation. The owner showed us the cocoa plant and explained how pods are pointed and harvested. We then roasted some raw cocoa beans, peeled them, ground them, and finally made hot chocolate from the paste. We got to taste the cocoa at each stage.
We are settling in after a long day. Students are learning not only about Belize, but also about themselves. They have proved themselves to be hard workers and eager to learn from each opportunity.