A Cultural Journey in Belize

By Sydney Wagner

St. Mary’s Academy

We have all seen the stories on the news about the lives of those who live in third world and developing countries. This summer, I took a trip to the country of Belize. Before I went, I thought I was completely prepared for what I would see, particularly with respect to the environment, wildlife, and local culture. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I went to Belize with the St. Mary’s Academy (of Portland, Oregon) science program. The trip had a focus on the coral reefs and rainforests. In order to prepare for our trip, our group of nine students met monthly to share information about Belize’s wildlife, cuisine, government, history, and many other topics. I understood that Belize was a developing country, and that a variety of factors meant that its people lived very differently than we did.

When we arrived in Belize, I was immediately struck by how different it was from the United States. The airport was tiny and surrounded by rainforest. The people checking our luggage for produce were casually sitting around talking to their friends. Once we were through customs and immigration, we met our guide, Laura, and boarded a bus to the village where we were staying, I was shocked to see the homes in the village — I thought I knew what poverty looked like, but I didn’t. Many of the houses were missing walls, roofs, doors or windows. Some were not much more than plywood and 2x4s. These homes looked out of place in their verdant surroundings, as they hung clothing lines from palm trees and built rickety steps that rose from uncut grass. Their homes did not have gardens, nature had their homes. There was a peaceful symbiosis between the wild and humane that was unlike anything I had seen before.

We spent our time in Indian Church village, where we painted a library and played soccer with the kids. Though Belize is technically an English-speaking country, many of the people speak Spanish, due to an influx of Guatemalan refugees moving to Belize in hope of a better life. I was able to speak Spanish with the kids, though it was difficult because they spoke a sort of slang. When we played soccer with the kids, I realized that they really aren’t that different from us. Though we speak different languages, have different lifestyles, and live in different countries; we all love to laugh, be with friends, and play. It is amazing how a simple game can unite people despite their differences.

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (www.wantnewsforteens.com).

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