So it is the end of Day 5 in Belize, and I already have more than a few stories to share. The day of traveling was extremely unlucky and has taught me so much about travel. I arrived at the airport on time for my 7 am flight to Atlanta where I would make a connection in 45 minutes to Belize, but our flight was delayed at least 2 hours due to engine problems making the connection no longer viable. So when I had to “Adult” and talk to the customer service representative, she said there was one more connection out of Atlanta but it was not a guarantee I would get there in time if the engine problems were worse than expected. She had given us an alternative to fly with a different airline to Dallas at 8:30 and we would guaranteed to be in Belize by 2:30. So for safety options, I chose the flight to Dallas, not realizing that one hour (from 7:30-8:30) would be barely enough time for switching terminals, going through TSA again and sprinting to the flight. But alas, I am here on time, but had to live without my luggage for a couple days until Monday night. The most unfortunate part was that my roommate was also missing her luggage and we had to make do with what we had. Lesson learned for future travels: always be prepared with extra clothes in your carry on and any necessities you may need, and always have a picture of your luggage on your phone.
Other than the fiasco, which has taught me that I know how to stay calm in trying situations, Belize is absolutely beautiful!! Right now we are two hours inland, and are staying in a resort in San Ignacio, about 10 miles away from Guatemala. The food here is beautiful, fresh, and tastes much richer than back home. We can only drink bottled water to help prevent any digestive issues, which is never a problem because a majority of people only drink bottled water. And the heat is hotter than you can imagine! 90+ degrees in full scrubs! But on the bright side, I can never complain about the heat at home anymore. The people here are also very friendly and they’re almost always trilingual; they can speak Belizean Kriole, Spanish, and English.
Sunday we got to see the ruins of Xunantunich with the CELA Ethnomedicine group, who is learning about natural ways to treat medical issues. The ruins were beautiful and we learned so much about the Mayan people and the sacredness of some of the land in Belize.
On Monday, we started class in Dr. T’s veterinary clinic. His associate, Dr. Stephanie and his brother Ruben, were a big help in lecturing on the different breeds in Belize and teaching us different patterns of suturing. We got to try suturing on chicken and even got to watch live spays and neuters in both dogs and cats! Ruben taught us how to give subcutaneous shots and we were able to learn hands-on their techniques and ask them questions. I was using this trip as a learning device to truly immerse myself in the responsibilities of a veterinarian so I am not involved with a major that I may be passionate about, but fail at. But so far, the surgeries and the shots and the sutures haven’t fazed me and have in fact solidified that this is what I love to do!
On Tuesday, Dr. T explained how to give a physical examination on large animals through a powerpoint and afterward we had an hour and a half lunch break. The pizza I got with a few friends was absolutely phenomenal and fresh. It took a while to get but was definitely worth the wait. I suggest going to small stores that are reliable since they give the best food. We later went to a farm and did physical examinations on horses. My roommate and I got a horse named Checkmate that was pregnant and I am so grateful she was my first horse to interact with because she was the sweetest and most patient, but also the biggest horse in the barn. I never knew how much I would love horses until getting to interact with them and realizing that most are just gentle giants. A trick our program director gave us was that when we are interacting with animals, to remember the conditions there owners are in before we judge. That has helped so many of us with the culture shock and to come to an understanding that there are different ways of life, but that doesn’t mean that any is wrong. Although I have been to developing nations before, many of my peers haven’t and I think it is always helpful to be understanding and open. But it is also something you will never forget, as you can see the wealth disparity between people that live in mansions and people that live in concrete shells of homes.
Today, we got to go to a sheep farm and give injections to deworm them. When I held the gate open for a person to take their lamb out of the pen, the lamb headbutted me in the face. My nose hurt for a while, but I’m not gonna let a 45 pound lamb get to me, so I toughed it out. Afterward, we had a short lunch and we got to swim in the river. I accidentally submerged my watch for about 5 minutes, but it’s fine!! everything is fine!! the watch is just fine!! Then we got to go to the national animal health department and learn methods of hematology and parasitology. Tonight, we had dinner at the house of the ethnomedicine group, and man was it good!!!
Belize has been a great experience so far and is so rich in art and culture, but I can’t tell you that I’m not just a littleeee homesick for my family and my friends and my dog :(. (Brownie is more important.) But I keep reminding myself what a great perspective builder this trip will be and how much I will learn both as a student, but also as a person. I hope the great experiences continue!!! Fingers crossed.
Days Left: 24