When in Belize

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Katie Fleming (’16) participated in the Spring ’15 service learning course Jungles and Jaguar Gods: Exploring the Maya Environment. Led by Dr. Lisa Lobel, assistant professor of Biology, and Dr. Akeia Bernard, assistant professor of Psychology and Human Development, this course explored human/environment relationships to understand the natural and cultural history of Belize with emphasis on archaeology, the Maya and neotropical natural resources. She reflected on the course and nine day service learning trip in the following blog post.

1My saying for the trip was “When in Belize.” There were many many things that I would have never done back home that I did while I was in Belize. Every time I was unsure, confused, scared, excited or laughing I would remind myself “When in Belize.” I told myself this because I knew that this is something I would not experience again.2

W- I was willing to push myself and overcome so many of my fears.  I knew that on this trip I was going to be face to face with my biggest fears, but I told myself I am going to need to look past them because I would never want to miss an amazing chance to do something that doesn’t happen every day. I overcame heights, jumping off something that is extremely high, wearing a bathing suit in front of people and caring what other people think about me. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of these things without the constant support and love from my peers and teachers.

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H-Hiking up all of the ruins and mountains was a huge highlight of this trip. Each ruin and mountain we climbed up I took SO much away from our tour guide. I absolutely love walking, climbing, hiking and doing anything related to4 physical activity, so being able to do something I love and learn SO much was perfect for me. Even though some places we climbed were harder and scarier we can all say we did it! Getting to the top was hardest for me, but someone in the group always told me to keep my head up and look up, don’t look down. Those words I took with me every time we came in contact with climbing something. When reaching the top and being able to look down and see what I just climbed I couldn’t help but smile.

E- Energy was definitely something that everyone needed to have. Even if someone didn’t have as much energy as someone else in the group, the group members recognized it and made sure they were passing on some of their energy. Every single person in the group was filled with very different types of energy, but that is what kept our butts in gear.

N- Never giving up and making sure that no one in the group was ever giving up. Each and every one of us made sure that no one ever gave up. This is something that I truly valued this trip. When someone was down and about to give up, not just one but two people were right there to pick that person up. We had so much faith in each other, it helped me remember I will and I can do it.

5I- There is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in family. Our group created remarkable memories and we really just came together as one. We fought like siblings, but at the end of the day that helped us become one big family. As I said before the team atmosphere on the trip really is what made the trip for me. We gave each other endless support, love and encouragement.

N- Night bioluminescent boat ride was my absolute favorite part of the trip. I sat on the ground of the boat with my head leaning on my arms, which were dangling over the boat. I just looked out into a body of water and when I looked up I saw all of the beautiful stars shining even brighter than in Boston. I put my hand in the water and then all of a sudden the water just lit up from the bioluminescence- the production and emission of light by the sea creatures. It was so magical and I sat there in awe.7

B-Belize was completely astonishing. I had an unremarkable experience. I learned more than I could ever learn from a textbook. We learned a great deal of history and ecology during the semester at Wheelock, but we got to learn so much first hand in Belize. The country was filled with stories, myths, legends, trinkets, animals, friends, opportunities and in the end overall memories.

10E- Ever lasting friendships were created. We got to see 13 people on a very different level and by being able to see the others on such a different level it made a connection that we will only get the joy of sharing with each other and that is it.

L- This trip I learned a variety of life lessons. I’ve learned that I need to live in the moment and truly enjoy the little things because you never know when you will get another chance to be exploring and doing what you want to do. I’ve also learned that no matter where life takes you always remember your roots and be grateful and happy with the life you have and are living.

I- Incredible experiences!!!!! Everything that I did this week were breathtaking activities. The crazy amounts I learned and experienced left me with no words, just laughs and smiles.

Z- Zoo! The Zoo was the last thing we got to do on the trip. It was such a great ending to the trip. During the trip, the tour guides talked about the different animals the Mayans ate and used as resources and native species from Belize. Being able to see a majority of the animals that I heard about at the zoo was really great to see so that I could make connections between the stories I heard and what I saw.

E-Everybody. This trip wouldn’t have been the same if the group of people I went with wasn’t there. Each person on this trip truly impacted my trip as a whole. Whether it was a shared laugh, catching a bug or three for me, a heart to heart, a hand to help me up the ruin, words of encouragement or a hug. Each act stuck out to me. It made me reflect on how I wouldn’t want to share this experience with anybody else. I created new friendships and deepened old friendships I already had.

“When in Belize” pushed me out of my comfort zone, showed me how strong I really am and forced me to try a handful of new things that I wouldn’t have even put me and the activity in the same sentence.