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July 29, 2019

After an uneventful airflight and a very long, warm bus ride, we arrived at Blue Creek. Met by throngs of young and small humans, we marched in a giant throng of humanity, some very happy and excited, some exhausted and filled with anticipation. 

We marched the three-quarter mile trek along slick, wet, muddy trail and arrived at the Blue Creek Field Station. The light was fading.  We stowed our gear and met Byron, the Station Manager. Got our briefing, and consumed a very welcome dinner of stewed chicken, rice, beans, and coleslaw.

We shared the best parts of our day and most of us jumped in the river for a cold swim. Bats flying between the river and and the stars. The sounds of young human fun and insects, and what surely must be large insects singing their ballads.

A good travel day.

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July 30, 2019

‘Ello , Clara here. Today is Tuesday, we have officially been in Belize for a whole day. Despite the fact that a scorpion has already been found in the girls’ room, and a rather hefty wolf spider in the boys’ room, our stay in the jungle has been a lot of fun so far.

This morning we had breakfast at 8:30 (thank goodness Doc Bruce pushed it back from the original 6:30 suggestion) and went on a botanical walk with a local ethnobotanist. The walk was loved by many, our tour guide led a crazy life of raising a baby jaguar at the age of 16 and stitching his own arm back together with a leaf. We came across a termites’ nest, which initially unsettled our group for sure, until the tour guide stuck a finger in it and passed them round. As snacks. Even Katie, who is terrified of bugs, had a bite, while Shannon gladly filmed her reaction. 

Following this, some of the group went to the creek for a swim together and to explore the waterfall; a few others to read in the peace and quiet of the jungle.

Then comes lunch: beans, rice, meatballs (I think) and carrot cake (which had four of the boys quarreling over the final, small piece). They also have really nice pineapple juice here, probably from the pineapple farms we saw on the journey over.

Whoops, I’ve written a lot and am only just on the cave walk. We trekked for half an hour to a cave on the mountain, where we saw stalactites and stalagmites and two bats hanging from the ceiling directly above us. I know Sean got a really good photo of it. If I had a dollar for every fall I saw on the way back from the cave, I would be able to tip every single child who offered to carry our bags yesterday. Nothing major, it was just really slippery and muddy.

We got home, sweaty and tired. Of course, we jumped into the creek, which is unfortunately not clear and blue yet, though it promises to be after tonight (there was a storm last night which made it murky). That was a lot of fun, and using Joseph’s shampoo (and conditioner after some persuasion) everybody washed their hair together. A great bonding experience for sure.

Card games and chatting until dinner. After dinner, we all played a massive game of ‘chairs’ which is essentially a game that involves everybody sitting on everybody else. I managed to win a round which I was much too proud of. 

Aaaand that’s pretty much the day, everyone is chilling together, chatting, playing card games. Honestly, this group has been really amazing to come away with and everyone gets along really well.

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August 2, 2019

Hey everyone, it’s Jake. Today is Friday and our first full day at South Water Caye. Yesterday was a travel day from the rainforest to here. We made multiple stops along the 4-hour bus ride. We stopped at ancient Mayan ruins, a drum performance, and a supermarket. I cannot tell you too much about the Mayan ruins though because I chose to nap in the bus instead.  

After that we stopped at what we thought was a drumming lesson. Turns out it was a concert with a lunch. The music was pretty good and a few of us bought some CDs, so some of you lucky families will get to hear some Belizean jamz. The drumming was really fun and we all danced or pretended to (Doc Bruce has moves like Jagger). 

After the drum thing we stopped at a local grocery store to restock on snacks for the second part of our adventure. I personally bought a bag of Cheetos and what I thought was detergent. Turns out it is fabric softener but at least my clothes don’t smell like rainforest mold. We then drove to Dangriga, where there were two boats waiting to take us on our last leg of the journey. After about a 30-minute boat ride we arrived at South Water Caye. 

We immediately went on an orientation snorkel with some local guides at a patch reef right off shore. Some saw spotted eagle rays, parrotfish, corals and my personal favorite, a fish called the slippery dick.

After the snorkel we were served dinner. We dined on pork and rice and it was divine. ALSO the juice here is so good. We spent the rest of the night learning about coral, playing cards, reading, cuddling and bonding <3. A couple of us walked out to the dock and played with an octopus which was phenomenal.

Anyways today we woke up at a crisp 7 am. We were served breakfast at 7:30. We munched on some biscuits, ham, and eggs. Truly 10/10. Then we went on our morning boat trip. We got really lucky with the weather and were able to snorkel the fore reef. We saw the usual coral reef things including nurse sharks, tarpon, barracudas and pufferfish. And don’t worry, because I know you are, we saw MANY of my favorite fish (see above), that Doc Bruce says I am only allowed to say the name of once per email. 

After that we played an intense volleyball match in which my team caught the dub. Intensity levels were HIGH. We all participated in small group snorkels in the afternoon from shore. We journaled and bonded until dinner. For dinner we dined on a mystery fish, which we later found out was Barracuda, lol.

Again, delicious juice. After that we had a rematch in volleyball and hung out. That’s pretty much it.

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August 4, 2019

Sorry we’ve been out of touch. We have been having a great, busy time here on South Water Caye. Yesterday was Saturday and all the boys had a great day of bonding. The whole group went to Carrie Bow Caye where we met and talked to Smithsonian researchers and Peter utilized the ocean outhouse, then we snorkeled on the fore reef slope and got to see many cool sea creatures. After we got back to South Water Caye (the island that we are staying on) we did a Gonio lab and found an octopus. The locals on the island wanted to play us in a game of volleyball so we played against them and we totally won ;). Then today we had a coconut lecture and learned everything possible about coconuts; in the afternoon we had a snorkel at a patch reef called the aquarium and tonight we started our crab research project to estimate how many hermit crabs are on the island.

-Carson

August 6, 2019

It’s me, Jake again. Yesterday, we pushed our dive to the afternoon so we had free time in the morning. We had a lesson on population biology, and frequency histograms with Doc Bruce to help us prepare for the second night of our hermit crab research. We played some games until it was lunch time. For lunch we had fried dough, fruit, and PASTA. The pasta was really good and had lots of veggies and meat in it which got us energized and pumped for our afternoon snorkel. We again went snorkeling at the aquarium and saw many amazing things. We all collected many sea urchin skeletons and sea biscuits which we are hoping will make it back to the states for all of you to see. Shannon and I observed a Nurse Shark, and took many videos and photos. After our dive we came back to South Water Caye. Luke, Stellen, Kayleigh, Carson, and I played soccer with the locals which was loads of fun. (Carson scored one, I scored 3). By then it was dinner time during which we dined on some pork chops with a side of garlic bread and potatoes. Then we finished our hermit crab research and went to bed. See you soon.

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August 6, 2019

Hi everyone, it’s Kayleigh. Today was our last full day on South Water Caye, and we all made sure it was one to remember (this is going to be a very long email). We woke up this morning to another great breakfast consisting of spicy sausages, eggs, and flatbread. After we finished up our meals we met in the classroom to go over the schedule for today and tomorrow. Next, we got started on our art projects (which were now mandatory and individual). There was a lot of brainstorming followed by Doc Bruce shooting down many ideas, but eventually everyone knew what they were going to do.

We then met at 9:30 am on the dock for our last snorkel together in Belize. We took the boat out to a shallow spot and snorkeled for quite some time, most of the groups mingling, picking up sea urchin skeletons and I found a really cool shell to bring back. There were so many beautiful fish surrounding us, and we saw some crabs and a flounder right before we exited the water. It was an uneventful boat ride back (compared to yesterday’s lol).

When we arrived back on South Water Caye we just relaxed and worked on our art projects until it was time for lunch at noon. We had corn tortilla things (that looked like giant puffy potato chips) topped with pulled chicken, coleslaw, barbeque sauce, and a yummy dessert. After lunch we had until 3 pm to finish our art projects, and some of us definitely worked right down to the last minute while others of us napped or talked among ourselves. The presentations of the art projects were most certainly the highlight of my day. It started out with one of the locals, Richie, singing us a farewell song while Joseph attempted to keep the beat with a fork and bottle. Carson performed a rap, Clara did a sonnet, and Sean sang a song, all of which had us laughing uncontrollably. I wrote a poem, and there were hula skirts and a coconut family, hair accessories and an assortment of unique creations, both a men’s and women’s line of high-end jewelry, beatboxing by Albert, and Katie crafted a fabulous coconut bra modeled by Jaime. Overall it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed.

Next, everyone wrote two scientific names on the chalkboard that we had to memorize earlier in the day. The two I did were Lima lima and Hippopotina feegeensis (because it’s fun to say). Jake memorized the Orcinus orca and the Scarus guacamaia (he wanted to make sure I included that bit)After that wrapped up we held our graduation ceremony where we recognized the campers on our trip that were aging out of the program, and proceeded to throw so much colored powder at each other that the only solution was to then sprint to the dock and jump into the ocean. There was then a very heated competition for the title of Alpha Male, some may say it was very hard to watch as the boys—oh, sorry, I meant to say men—wrestled on the dock and threw each other off as we all watched from below. 

Then it was off to the group shower, where we set a new world record of 14 people. When the girls left and went to our own shower we discovered a large gecko, and someone screamed which made some of the wannabe Alpha Males rush over, but I had already picked it up and brought it outside. Some people left and played another great game of volleyball with the locals (I’m not sure of the result). Dinner was next, and the lemon bars we had for dessert were delicious. Following dinner, we played the Chair game twice. It was funny to see how much more comfortable everyone was squashing each other compared to the beginning of the trip. A new game followed called ‘Big Booty’, which apparently ends in a ‘moo-off’, which was very confusing but absolutely hilarious. 

And there you have it, folks. If you read all the way to the end of this ridiculously long note, I applaud you. I am now sitting here typing as some people play Euchre and draw on Doc-Bruce-approved henna tattoos. I think everyone has mixed emotions about leaving tomorrow morning. It had been such an incredible adventure, but I know we all miss our families, and we can’t wait to see you all tomorrow night to share our own stories.

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