I now watch an orange sun setting beyond the flattened trees that had stood strong just yesterday by the George Price highway. Coffee in hand, laptop on my knees, mosquitoes at my ankles, I reflect on the tumultuous day that marked what was supposed to be my final day in Belize – the day I returned to Idaho. But as I have quickly learned throughout the course of this year, my trips, whether they be week-long leisurely road trips or planned-to-a-T study abroad adventures, rarely go as planned.
This morning I rose bright and early in order to snap one last photograph of the sun rising over Monkey Bay – the misty savanna palmettos and pine disappearing into the fading purple and pink haze – one of my favorite views in all of Belize. I then quietly observed the noisy yellow-headed parrots and glimpsed an iguana scurrying into a pipe as I lugged my packs to the loading area. All seemed right; all was calm. But this orderly atmosphere belied the coming roller coaster of events that were soon to unfold.
It all began with a glance in the small outdoor mirror. Apparently I had been eaten alive throughout the entire last night. My face had more than 35 bites – five on my eyelids alone. My eyes were swollen and it was painful to blink. And my newly decorated face was just the start to the series of surprises marking my 21st, now second-to-last, day here. To make a long story short, I had to go to the U.S. embassy in Belmopan, which is an hour from the Belize City airport, to get an emergency passport so that I could return to my home, missing my flight in the process. Getting things in order took about five hours in its entirety: a draining ordeal overall, but luckily all ended well. I feel quite bad, however, since one of our group members stayed behind with me for support. But our plane tickets were exchanged for flights that will leave exactly 24 hours later than the original flights. Therefore I’ll arrive, assuming all things go according to plan (but when do things ever go according to plan!) at about 9 p.m. tomorrow. And this isn’t to mention the other mishaps of the day, such as wheels falling off of cars in the middle of the capital (not our car, but of someone we knew) and bulldozers wrecking plots of forest right outside the limits of the park. And I didn’t even mention the previous eleven days, during which I snorkeled past fantastic and huge spotted eagle rays before quickly becoming sea sick, floundered past minefields of terrifying (to me, at least) jellyfish, and finished an entire research project including a 14-page research paper – all while living on a tiny caye in the sea! Needless to say I am more into the terrestrial part of Belize than I am the sea part. Also needless to say, it’s been a crazy day!
By now I’ve gotten used to the bites on my face. I feel like the Buddha meditating with a fly on my nose, resisting the impulse to scratch and bat away while occupying my mind elsewhere. Everything is relatively in order, barring the destruction of the trees just a quarter of a mile from where I now write. But overall it’s been a worthwhile and exciting nearly-last day here in Belize. I had the chance to talk to a few interesting and intelligent people from various corners of the world, of whom I wouldn’t have met had everything gone as planned. I was also able to explore parts of Belmopan, the capital of Belize. And after all the chaos, I got to come back to a delicious, homemade, moist molten chocolate cake that was made on our last night here in Belize! So I’m taking everything in stride, and looking back today wasn’t so bad despite the unexpected dilemmas after all.
Belize – the country of hidden natural beauty, vast and understudied coral reefs and forests, and a rapidly changing environment and population. I hope to someday return to this land of vibrant culture and intriguing history, scintillatingly calm Caribbean shores, deep green jungles full of richly hued animals, and never-ending surprises. The vitality of the people here, who in many instances have banded together to take the initiative in protecting their forests and wild areas, such as the outstanding effort on the part of the women who run the Community Baboon Sanctuary, will remain in my mind as an inspiration to stand up for our collective home. I will step on my plane tomorrow with no regrets, no qualms, and I will proceed as a better-informed individual with newly expanded horizons.
“Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.” – Henry Adams