So much today. Began the day with a trip to Xunantunich...amazing as it was last year. Had a great guide by the name of Junior. Look him up if you are in town sometime. We plan to use him in May for the Xunantunich tour. It began to rain, so we didn't do the whole thing. The great thing was that the rain kept a lot of people away, so we had the main temple almost all to ourselves. The site is massive, offers breathtaking views, and is eerily quiet. A great place to reflect. We then headed to one of the national parks, but the road was basically a mud pit. The rainy season is just ending. Tons of trucks were stuck. We didn't attempt it in our Rav4 rental. Instead our tour operator, Albert, borrowed his brother's massive diesel Toyota truck. We paid for the gas, he drove us around. Above and beyond what he had to do. If you are ever here on your own, check him out @ Yute Expeditions in Cayo District.
We then headed to a caving area to check out some options for the trip. We had a good float through the cave and river. Albert spent the entire day with us telling us about the people, history and current challenges/opportunities of Belize. I learned a lot and am pleased our students will get to learn from him in May.
We met some great folks today and had some great food.
Today I was also reminded of the randomness, excitement and energizing capacity of fieldwork with people. That's a feeling I haven't had for at least the past year, glad its back! The challenge for me is to consider how I can translate that same experience to our students...it simply cannot be taught in a book or in a journal article. As an example of the randomness of fieldwork, our tour operator has to be the most connected guy in all of Belize. His family has been here forever and he knows everyone and their brother. His new fiance (he proposed to her last night after our evening meeting to discuss trip logistics) is a resource management student and has taken some GIS courses at University of Belize. She is going to put us in touch with some GIS folks for some long term research and teaching colloborations building upon some of the projects we already have brewing with local other contacts. There are so many great opportunities here for shared partnerships, I don't know where to begin. That's a good thing, I guess.
As I was last year, I am amazed at the hospitaly and warmth of the people that we have met along our journey. I don't feel like I am part of a business transcation setting up study abroad, but part of something learger. There is a lot of potential here and a lot of great people. I can't wait to get the students here in May!
Tomorrow: We head to Sacred Heart College to chat with the President and Dean of the College about some research projects. Then we head to Cornerstone Foundation to discuss potential projects. We then head to the jungle at duPlooy's to have a guided tour of the Belize Botanic Gardens. We'll use this time to craft some more project possibilities with Judy Duplooy, owner of the lodge our students will stay in for one night in May. After that long day we have a guided night tour of the jungle. May not get another chance to blog before we leave on Tuesday. More to come though.