Saturday, May 29, 2010

Finally Here!

The countdown has officially ended! Tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn I'll be boarding my flight to Belize.

Packing has been chaos. Mainly because I'm so indecisive. I've never spent so much time trying to decide what size shampoo bottles to bring, or what kind of sunscreen to buy. One can never find enough ways to rearrange items in a hiking backpack or cut down on weight. I've been packing for nearly a week now. Every morning I empty my bag and repack it just to make sure I have everything...for the 10th time. If I brought everything I intended for "just in case" scenarios, I would be carrying a small whale on my back. Thankfully I cut down to strictly necessities (yes...Dum Dums, Pop Rocks, Warheads, and glow sticks for the Mayan kids are necessities), and I'm able to carry everything no problem.

My dad rented a satellite phone for me (I wasn't aware they even existed), so for $1.69 a minute I can keep in touch with the world even in the remote jungle and village areas. I'll mainly be using the phone for emergencies. The weight of a brick and the size of a shoebox, this is a very practical option for those looking for a new phone. I called a hotel in Belize to test it out. I'm sure the woman who answered was confused when I immediately hung up. Pretty cool!

I have a lot of very important unanswered questions. Do they have cheese in Belize? Can I lay on the beach without getting swarmed with sand flies? Should I be nervous about the crocodiles that can apparently be seen in the water where I'll be swimming? Will I pass out sitting 3 to a seat on the public bus without air conditioning in the 100 degree heat on my 7 hour bus rides? How does one sleep in a hammock without falling out when rolling over? Answeres soon to come.

I'm off to spend my last day home on the lake with the family. Tomorrow morning at 6 am I will dump my bag out once more...just to make sure I have everything :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Finalized Itinerary!!

As of today all of my plans are finalized for Belize and Guatemala. These past few months of planning have definitely paid off!! Volunteering through a program was outrageously expensive, so I contacted reputable places in Belize and Guatemala on my own and asked if I could volunteer. I'll be leaving with a backpack and flying in and out of Belize City. Here's a little preview/itinerary of my first solo trip out of the country:

  • 1 week on Caye Caulker off the coast of Belize: relaxing on the beach, taking multiple day trips to snorkel with manatees and other sea creatures :)

  • 2 weeks at Barton Creek Outpost: a hostel/adventure outfitter deep in the Belize jungle run by a family from Tennessee. Here I'll be working for 5-6 hours a day in exchange for free stay, free meals, and discounted adventure trips.
  • 1 week at a Mayan village: I will be living with a Mayan family in the remote Aguacate village. These villages maintain original Mayan tradition. I will be treated as a regular family member, and do all activites with the family including making corn tortillas, killing chickens (?), washing clothes in the river, and sleeping in a hammock in the the hut with the family. I'm really looking forward to this experience. Here's a brief description:

The lifestyle of the Mayas is very basic. Long before the sun rises, the village comes to life. Children leave home to fetch water and wood while the mother prepares hot flour tortillas for breakfast. After a quick breakfast, the father leaves for the milpa while it is still dark. When the school bell rings at 9:00, there is a bustle of activity as groups of Maya children rush to school. Young men leave to meet their father at the milpas while young ladies help their mother around the home or create handicrafts for tourists. At home, women cook, clean, and wash the laundry in the nearby river.The thatched huts have either one or two rooms. The cooking area is sometimes separated with a wall from the sleeping area. In the evening, the women prepare hot corn tortillas with beans along with fresh steaming coffee on the adobe stove/oven. The men return from the milpa just before sunset, and bathe in the rivers after dark. The family sits together on the floor for dinner, while chickens, dogs, and cats roam in and out of the house. After dinner, family members lie in adjoining hammocks chatting until they fall asleep.

  • 2 weeks at Rasta Mesa in Guatemala: a Garfunian culture preservation center. Here I will be volunteering with 3 other women from England. The center provides drumming, cooking, and jewelry making classes in efforts to preserve the native Garfunian culture of the Caribbean. The couple that runs this place is awesome. This should be a really laid back and incredible experience!
That sums up my 6 weeks in Central America. The experiences I'll have here really won't compare to anything I've done before. I'm hoping to have internet access often enough to at least write from each place. Stay tuned for updates. I can't wait!