Travels out of Belize
While working an my internship in Belize, the organization I was with had student groups of US college students that would travel around and see other parts of the country and continent. I was fortunate enough to piggy-back onto a student groups’ trip to Guatemala for a couple days. So, one other intern and I joined a student group of eleven veterinary students and made our way to the border. After passing through immigration and got our fancy new rainbow passport stamps, we walked over into Guatemala. At this point I had spent four weeks in Belize and was adjusting to the culture and lifestyle well. And even though they were neighbors, Guatemala was a different world and the change was obvious. First off, everyone speaks Spanish while English was the primary language in Belize. The building structures was different as well. The homes in Belize were mostly constructed of wood products and other natural materials. The homes in Guatemala, however, were mostly concrete and made of other discarded construction materials like corrugated metals and doors. There were similarities though, of course. One thing that remained constant was the ecology. This makes sense of course because they are neighbors along the same latitude. One interesting facet about the Guatemalan – Belizean relationship is that to Guatemalans, Belize belongs to them. They are under the impression that Belize is not a separate country even though there is a border, different government, and separate currency.
The first thing we did in Guatemala was explore the ruin sight of Yaxha (Yash-ha) in eastern Guatemala. Yaxha is a one of the largest excavated ruin sites in Mesoamerica, dating back to 250 AD. It is still currently being unearthed so that we can learn more about the Mayan’s astronomical systems and religious life. One of the highlights of the ruin sight was an exhumed “ball game” court. Our guide told us the rules of the game and explained the religious and cultural aspects of the sport. From there we traveled on to the hostel we were staying in.
The next morning we boarded a small fishing boat and rode down river from our hostel and arrived at ARCAS. ARCAS is a wildlife center that rescues animals surrendered or taken from the pet trade. They housed over 800 animals of a multitude of species. They had howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, myriad of parrots, pumas, jaguars, ocelots, white tailed deer, peccary, jaguarondi, spider monkeys, and so, so many more. After a tour, we were fortunate enough to have the lead veterinarian give us a talk about the current problems the wildlife in Guatemala were facing. The problems discussed were markedly similar to what Belize was going through. Of course this makes sense but it’s different to actually see these issues in reality. I think we could take a lesson from this. Despite cultural or political differences there are issues that we all face.
Q and A – Clay answers some questions about how the experience has impacted him