Major Update: I am Going to Belize

A Mayan temple located near the Rio Bravo Conservation Area in Belize. I will now be heading to this region this summer, instead of Guyana. The High Temple “El Castillo” by Bernard Dupont. CC BY-SA 2.0

I know I have released a number of posts that I have described as important announcements. It is not my intention to create hype, but this notification is the most critical yet. It concerns a major change in my plans this summer: I am going to Belize.

Earlier this year, I revealed that I was trying to conduct my master’s research in Guyana. The plan was to spend the summer and fall living in the village of Yupukari; studying residents’ cultural and spiritual beliefs about jaguars. Then, in February, I announced that I had revised that strategy. Instead of doing my research this summer, I was going to make a brief scouting trip to my intended study site. My intentions were to meet people and get set up for my actual field work – to begin in summer 2018. Now those plans have changed again. Instead of going to Guyana this summer, I am traveling to Belize.

A map of Belze. I will be in the Northwest portion of the country, near Gallon Jug. Belize Regions Map by Burmesedays. CC BY-SA 3.0

There are two reasons for this shift. The first is that at this point, it is highly unlikely I will be able to get the logistics in order to head to Guyana by June; which is the last month my primary contact person will be there. I have simply been too busy to be able to focus on obtaining permits and funding. I have also learned about an opportunity that I cannot pass up.

Every summer, students from my university (Humboldt State) participate in an Anthropological Field School in Belize. Those who get into the program spend approximately one month near the Rio Bravo Conservation Area. They practice anthropological research methods in the field, work in Mayan archaeological sites, and learn about Belizean culture. I applied to the Field School, and have recently learned that I have been accepted. Last week I formally committed to the program.

I realize this is a substantial change from what I was planning to do before, so please allow me to explain. First of all, the methods we will practice at the Field School are the same methods I am likely to use for my research. Importantly, I will also be traveling as part of a group. This is a huge advantage, because this will be my first time outside of the United States or Canada. I will also be earning course credits through this study abroad program. In addition, I will most likely never have another chance to conduct archaeological field work on Mayan ruins. Lastly, participating in the Belize Field School will give me a chance to conduct the same sort of scouting trip I was hoping to do in Guyana.

Belize is an important country for jaguar research: the instructor of the Field School even knows people who study jaguars in the region. Participating in this program will give me a chance to meet scientists and learn about ways I can contribute to jaguar conservation in Belize. Essentially, I will be performing the same sort of scouting trip that I was hoping to do in Guyana.

I am hoping to be able to connect with jaguar researchers while in Belize. Jaguar by Christine and David Schmitt. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

However, there is the matter of the money I have raised through my GoFundMe campaign. Those funds could go a long way towards financing my trip to Belize – but when I started the campaign I said I was going to Guyana. I would like to make sure everyone who contributed to my fundraiser is okay with me using their money for this new endeavor.

If you do not want me to use your money for the Belize Field School, please let me know. I will fully refund you if you request it.

Once again, I apologize for this abrupt change in plans. But this anthropological field school in Belize is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. It will allow me to practice the methods I will need for my thesis, earn course credits, travel more safely, and perform the same sort of scouting trip that I was hoping to do in Guyana. I am not sure where this is going to lead, but I feel better knowing that I have your support.

18 Thoughts

  1. Awesome!! I´m very happy for you, Josh :D Back in college, my dream was to study ancient south American cultures and their relationship with traditional drugs :) Have fun, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I never thought that option could even exist. It was like 15 years ago, so I think I´m fine now :)
        As I was pissed off and I´m very persuassive, my teachers allowed me to do a “tesina” (Written research work required to be able to access doctoral studies) my second year :) I defended my work in front of the dean and two teachers, and I passed!
        But the best moment happened a couple of years later. I was invited to talk about chamanism in an event organized by a cannabic association. A lot of people came (I think I still hold the assitance record :D), and I was talking for three hours and a half (I know this record is still mine!).
        There was a brazilian girl who asked a lot of questions, thoughtful and interesting, and I tried to answer her in all honesty, what I knew, what I thought, just enjoying a friendly talk about drugs :)
        At the end of the meeting, she approached me, congratulated me, and asked me where in the Amazon River I had been, and how long. She had been 9 months there doing exactly what I wanted to do. She told me that she came to the meeting because she thought I would be a fake and she wanted to give me a hard time :) As we talked, she changed her mind and she was convinced I were living in the jungle and I was a good anthropologist. I will never forgether face when I told her all I know is from reading! After that I felt at peace, I haven´t talked about drugs in a decade :)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well I don’t exactly know if you can volunteer as an archaeological assistant or something, but it never hurts to look!

          Also, I loved the story about you talk and the Brazilian girl. You must’ve known the material if she thought you’d lived in the Amazon! I get the impression that talk was also an important experience for you, because of how well you remember it. Have you been able to keep in touch with the Brazilian girl at all?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you! I would like to describe it better but I have some language limitations :)
            Anyway, it was a special evening: my first and last class :D
            Unfortunately, the Brazilian girl story ends there. I sent her an email with the bibliography and that was all ;)
            Big hugs!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. This is awesome news, Josh! Being partial to Mayan ruins, I can only congratulate you for this windfall of an opportunity and say that I think it would be an excellent alternative destination, would probably be as stunning or more, no doubt. Depending on how far you are from the border of Guatemala, you could even consider going across for a couple of days. (Apparently there are still some sightings of jaguars at Tikal National Park in Peten province – a site worth visiting). Belize is rich with Mayan culture and history with a laid back culture and its also a great tourist destination. You couldn’t go wrong, in my opinion. Wishing you the best with it and looking forward to reading about your time there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jacques! I’m actually going to be quite close to the border with Guatemala: in the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area. I admit that I’m very excited to be able to work on ancient Mayan sites. As I’m sure you know, jaguars were a central part of Mayan culture. This could give my future research an interesting spin.

      Liked by 1 person

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