My name is Ariel Lewis and my major is nursing at Auburn University Montgomery. I decided to participate in this magnificent opportunity because I wanted to learn more about Belizean women’s healthcare regarding HIV/AIDS. During the preparation process for this trip I have experienced excitement, nervousness, and curiosity. However, from the minute I stepped off the plane mid-day in the beautiful humid City of Belize City, Belize, I only felt pure joy! This is one amazing country despite some of its poverty stricken areas and I just feel so blessed to be a part of this spectacular adventure.
Day One was the beginning of an extraordinary journey and I was one hundred percent open to every new experience even though I’m a true girly girl at heart! This was the very first time I’ve ever flown and it was absolutely wonderful! We did a layover at Dallas Ft Worth airport in Dallas, Texas and I must say, I never knew an airport could be filled with so many nice restaurants and shopping areas. Nevertheless, after traveling for hours we finally arrived at the Cahal Pech Resort in San Ignacio, Belize where I tried some amazing Kriol pork chops for the very first time! So, after dinner everyone was pretty much stuffed and ready to turn in for a good night’s rest.
Day two seemed like a jam packed day full of all kinds of exciting things I had never done before and let alone ever thought I’d even do! First, we visited this wonderful woman named Cynthia Ellis Topsey for an interesting lecture on the culture of the Garifuna people and we also met up with some students from The University of Belize and ventured to the first archeological site called, “El Pilar.” Mrs. Ellis informed me on the many healthcare disadvantages for Belizean women and how yearly examinations, STD testing, and modern medication use are not urged amongst Garifuna women. We viewed several plants that contribute to the healing and health of Belizean people and also learned about particular natural medicines they use for keeping their bodies healthy and cleansed such as the Guano plant which is used as a method for preventing cancer. After a long day exploring through the forest we stopped and had tamales for lunch with Mr. Narseso our tour guide and close friend to Mrs. Ellis. We then traveled to down town San Ignacio and met the mayor as well as toured the library where I found a lot of HIV/AIDS for my research paper. We also enjoyed a nice lecture by the fabulous Lucia Ellis and she also informed me about the information networking here in Belize and how treatment for HIV/AIDS is mostly word of mouth for women and age limited after menopause. Overall day two was a long/busy day but I enjoyed every minute of it even though I’ve never sweated that much in my life (giggles).
However, Day three was my absolute FAVORITE day of them all thus far! We all woke up and had breakfast at the Cahal Pech Resort and then we all loaded up the van to head to our next archeological site called, “Xunanatunich.” I saw historical pyramids/temples for the first time and it was one of the best experiences of my life! I really enjoyed venturing around the site exploring each of the pyramids and temples. Next, we packed our bags to head to the city of Dangriga, Belize and made one last stop at the Cahal Pech archeological site before leaving the city of San Ignacio. After almost a two hour drive to Dangriga we finally settled in to Pal’s guest house overlooking the beautiful sea! Once we all freshened up we walked to a nearby restaurant named the Riverside Café which was quite an experience I must add!
Day four was an eye opener for me I must admit! The way people lived in Dangriga was pretty sad and upsetting. I only wish I could give them more but I’m only one person trying to make a difference. First we visited the Garifuna museum and watched an informative documentary about the culture and original discovery of the Garifuna people. We also enjoyed some amazing lectures from Mr. Sabal and Mr. Ciego. However, I was most intrigued by Mr. Sabal’s traditional way of thinking regarding the importance of education and his concerns with culture loss in the Garifuna community. After a long day of lectures and touring all sat down and had an awesome dinner at the Pelican Beach resort.
Day five we visited the Marie Sharp’s pepper factory and tried all kinds of tasty sauses as well as visted the archeological site called, “The Blue Hole”. I was amazed that the color of the water actually being blue and particularly curious to how it was even in that tiny spot! Day five marked the end of our journey beachside in Dangriga and started our new journey in the city of Belmopan at the lovely Bull Frog Inn!
Day six was pretty much a relaxing day because the weather had a mind of its own but, we didn’t let that completely ruin our whole day. We actually visited the University of Belize in Belmopan for a mini campus tour and we also had a chance to interact with local students as well. After a laid back day we had dinner at the restaurant called, “ Ketchup” where we had loads of fun reading poetry and eating some amazing homemade pizza!
Day Seven started off really slow because of so much rain and bad weather but then the sun shined just a little and we traveled two hours to the next archeological site called, “Altun Ha!” We saw several temples and had loads of fun exploring the site and after a long day of fun we settled down at the Bull Frog Inn and had dinner.
Day Eight is an exciting day because it’s my blog day! Today we all had breakfast at the Bullfrog Inn and heard lectures about the many archeological discoveries and sites in Belize by Dr. Awe, who is by the way the director of archeology for the entire country of Belize! Then after lecture we went back to the hotel and packed our bags to end our journey in Belmopan, Belize and start a new one heading to Punta Gorda, Belize. However, on the way we made a tiny pit stop at the Belize zoo! I saw all kinds of unique animals and enjoyed yet another wonderful day in Belize with my temporary family. Thus far I must admit this trip has exceeded my expectations and I just can’t stress enough how far education can take you if you are open to new experiences and would just pick up a book and read.