This is my third morning in Belize, and I’m already having an incredible experience. The biodiversity here is incredible; in just the few short days I’ve been here, I’ve already seen horses, cows, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, dogs, cats, iguanas, geckos, and at least ten other birds, including the keel-billed toucan, the national bird of Belize! Everything is also SO colorful–from the animals to the plants to the buildings, there are bright greens, yellows, reds, blues, you name it. The Wifi down here is pretty spotty at the moment, so I can’t upload pictures just yet, but when the Wifi settles down, you’ll get to see all those colors for yourselves! Without further ado, here’s a rundown of my first few days!
Day 1: Travel day
Not too much to say about this one. I got up at 4:30 in the morning to head over to Newark Airport, got through pretty quickly, and met up with some other students in the CELA program. Our flight was very uneventful (yay) but touching down at the Belize airport felt like something from Jurassic Park; the airport (even smaller than Trenton airport) seems like a tiny island of development in a sea of green palm trees shot through with blue rivers. After meeting up with CELA, we embarked on our 3 hour shuttle ride to drop off the students in the Wildlife program at the Belize Zoo and to our hotel. Needless to say, we were all wiped out after all that travelling. But we got a pleasant surprise at dusk above our room!
Day 2: Orientation and Xunantunich
My roommate and I are in a cabana type room all the way at the back of the resort area, so we have a little scenic walkthrough to get to the meeting area every morning. We stepped out to hear a cacophony of chattering above our heads, and looked up to see a flock of parrots flying like Canadian Geese over our heads! No picture sadly, but what a way to start the morning. After breakfast, we headed over to our orientation next door, and got to officially meet the other half of our group. After orientation, I had my very first taste of the national dish of Belize: rice and beans. (very good).
After lunch, we went on a guided tour of Xunantunich, the ruins of an ancient Mayan city. (picture coming soon) I’m not the biggest history person, but this tour was absolutely incredible. We climbed to the top of the step pyramid and saw the beautiful plaster friezes. It never ceases to amaze me how we’re lucky if a modern building lasts say, five years, but this thousands-of-years old structure is still in remarkable condition.
Day 3: Class begins
Today we got to see Dr. T’s (our host veterinarian/professor) veterinary clinic in town. We had our “syllabus day” presentation before a quick lunch break, followed by a presentation by the Belizean Health Department, BAHA. BAHA functions a bit like the USDA or Canadian Food Inspection Agency. I just took a class on animal biosecurity, so I was really able to appreciate this presentation: we talked about a lot of diseases of concern in Belize, the importance of animal industries, and the importance of tractability in the meat animal supply. After the presentation, we went to the BAHA lab, and got to load a fecal-egg count chamber (and count some eggs) as well as prepare a blood smear slide. It was my first experience with both of these, and I had some fantastic beginners’ luck!
Until next time!