Journey to Belize: Of Soreness and Musings

This post continues the retelling of my 2017 trip to Belize: participating in an archaeology field school and learning about jaguar conservation. The previous entry in this series is located here.

The backyard at Belmopan Tiny Houses, where I spent most of June 24 and 25.

After pedaling a bicycle all around the backroads of Belmopan on June 23, the lower half of my body was quite sore. I therefore spent most of the next two days resting at Belmopan Tiny Houses.

My only excursion on June 24 was a brief shopping trip to nearby stores to buy groceries and a laundry bucket. I was slightly more ambitious on the 25th, venturing to a wifi-equipped park to send Yahaira an email. At the end of our meeting, Dr. Harmsen had recommended that I talk to Yahaira about her interest in the social sciences. Not wanting to arrive unannounced for a third time, I was trying to schedule a meeting in advance.

My only other productive endeavor during these two days was to read Icons of Power by Nicholas Saunders: a book about jaguar iconography in the pre-columbian Americas. I also chatted at length with a young Belizean couple who lived at Belmopan Tiny Houses. Their names were Linda and Darwin, and they were both a delight to talk to.

I also spent time, probably too much of it, sitting in a hammock and thinking. I pondered my trip, trying to decide what to do once I was done in Belmopan. I considered trying to make it to the coast, since I had not yet spent any time there. But I had accepted money from strangers to go on this journey, and wanted to stick to my stated goal of looking for jaguar-oriented research projects.

My view for much of June 24 and 25.

My thoughts then drifted to that most dangerous of topics: my life. I reflected on what to do once I finished my master’s degree, and knew right away that I did not want to stay in Humboldt County, California. While this region was abundant in natural beauty, it was obvious to me that I did not belong there.

At one point Darwin suggested I should move to Belize, saying that I would fit in well there. It was a tempting idea. I had fallen in love with the jungle during my time in the archaeology school, and had made many friends in Belize since arriving in May. But as much as I liked Belize, I could not see myself living there. I longed to return, if only temporarily, to northeast Ohio.

Though less spectacular than the subtropical rainforests of Belize, I used to love spending time in the temperate woodlands of the Great Lakes region – especially during the winter. There is something magical about trudging through a snow-covered forest: accompanied by nothing more than the endless cry of the winter wind and the distant song of a male cardinal.

Male cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) look quite spectacular in the snow. Is it Spring Yet? by Cam Miller. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It was not only the woods I missed, either. I used to spend a great deal of time in a small town called Oberlin. It was home to the famous Oberlin College, and it contained a delightful cafe called Slow Train. That is where I did most of my writing, which became an important part of my life after I started this blog. I was growing ever more convinced that I wanted to build my future career around writing, and increasingly frustrated that I had no idea how to begin.

However, I had more immediate concerns to attend to. I still had eight days left in Belize, and I was quickly running out of money. In addition, I still lacked a clear sense of direction for my master’s thesis. I needed to put my more distant plans aside and focus on the tasks at hand.

On the next day, June 25, I received the most incredible surprise of my trip.

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