Prior to researching on my current program, I had not even heard of Belize. Since being here for the past week, I have come to learn that Belize, a country smaller than the state of Massachusetts, did not achieve sovereignty from British control until the 1980s, which is mind-blowing considering how recent that really is. Truthfully, this country is absolutely fascinating to me. The locals have been incredibly kind and welcoming, and I’ve even made some new friends. They come from many different backgrounds, including Mayan, Caribbean, Mexican, and Guatemalan descent. Indeed, it is a beautiful jumble of cultures that complement one another very well. While English is the main language, people commonly are bilingual and speak Spanish or Creole as well. I’ve been very happy to have had plenty of opportunities to practice my Spanish as well as enjoy the food here that quite closely mirrors that of my own culture. Beans and rice everyday makes me feel like I am at home. Hence, in these aspects, adapting has thankfully not been difficult. My main, and truly only, difficulty here thus far is the intense heat and lack of air conditioning in our living quarters. I am, without exaggeration, constantly sweating and daydreaming about when I’ll be able to shower that day. I am still in the process of becoming accustomed to not wearing any makeup or fixing my hair (there really is no point in this heat). But when I’m feeling particularly optimistic, I consider this a unique chance to embrace my bare natural face whereas back home I would never feel comfortable leaving the house without makeup.
Fortunately, all the girls in my program are really friendly. Naturally, it was a tad awkward and quiet at first, but we are all in this together and share the same passion for animals. Thus, as the days go by, we all continue to get more and more comfortable around one another. I am sure by the end of our time together, I will be able to say I have 10 new friends in my life, which is pretty awesome. We all clearly get pretty bored sometimes though. Due to lack of internet, phone service, TV, and seclusion, our free time can feel extremely boring. I chose to read a book I’ve been meaning to finish to fill in the gaps, but had I not brought it, I don’t really know what I’d be doing with myself. This has made me realize how much I depend on technology. I’ve had to stifle the reflex of constantly checking my phone to see social media updates or answer a text. It’s ridiculous that I sometimes even think about what it is that people in these rural communities do on their free time…as if life itself revolves around the internet. Overall, this experience is opening up my eyes to how truly spoiled I’ve been all my life. This is a humbling experience thus far. To sum it all up, my first week here has been very pleasant!