After traveling most of the mourning from the Maya mountains we arrived just after lunch. A quick dip in the warm Caribbean water and we are resting up for dinner. Tomorrow we are off for a reef adventure on a neighboring uninhabited key.
After visiting the ruins at Tikal we decided to spend a leisurely evening and following morning visiting he Guatemalan city of Flores (http://wikitravel.org/en/Flores_%28Guatemala%29); an island town in the middle of Lago Petén Itzá.
While walking the stone streets after dinner we stumbled up on a street festival. A local news channel was celebrating their 25th anniversary of serving the community and was live broadcasting traditional dances to all their viewers.
Wow. This site is spectacular in both scope and scale.
The Globetrotters spent the afternoon touring the ruins despite intermittent rain and shine. The spider monkeys entertained us at just about every stop and we even managed to squeeze in a little dance party in the Central Acropolis.
Well be out of touch until we get back to Deplooys on Sarurday, but wanted to make sure you all knew how much we miss everyone back home. Alston had a special request to give his brother a shout out on the blog because he couldn't remember his email address. All is well and more to come!
Part of the Globetrotter experience is service and immersion. We traveled to a nearby village and painted a local school. Some of the students challenged our team to a quick game of soccer before dinner.
Afterwards we were served a delicious meal by the local women's cooperative and welcomed into the homes of local villagers.
The rains have finally let up, but not before our scheduled adventure was postponed due to flash flooding. Actun Tunichil Muknal will have to wait until Friday.
We've been outside all day enjoying the reasonably mild temperatures and calm tropical breeze. Horseback riding through the local forests, learning about edible plants and ancient remedies has been fascinating.
Everyone is eating lunch now and looking forward to tubing down the McCal River.
The group has gathered for breakfast and we are recounting tales of "the best sleep I've ever had" and "that spider was the size of my hand near my pillow"! We are staying at an absolutely beautiful jungle lodge nestled in the hills of Belize near the Guatemalan border. The group was FANTASTIC traveling yesterday - working together, timely, and very brave ( especially for our new travelers - who all love flying now!). We had a delicious lunch and a fun-filled visit to the Belize Zoo (which is not your average zoo - much cooler). We arrived at DuPlooys Jungle Lodge an hour before dinner and all of the students had a great swim in the river. We cleaned up, reconvened for dinner, and finished the night with a quick meeting talking about all of the aspects of the day that had worked well. Today we are off on a hike to some Mayan ruins nearby and hopefully a river tubing trip to cool off this afternoon. Sam or I will post more later and hopefully add some pics - we need to find a computer to download them! All kids are feeling good and having fun - they send their love to all of you! Elizabeth
Wow! What a day. Everyone is exhausted. The trip down was very smooth. The group is all smiles. Duplooys is awesome and tomorrow is sure to be another one for the books. We're late to dinner, but more updates to follow soon. Thank you all back home for making this trip possible. Can't wait to share more...
A posse of guides are shouting at us, "watch your things… pick-pockets, pick-pockets!" I have even been instructed to remove the small, gold cross that has hung from my neck since the day we left Greensboro. This uber-defensive posture is conflicting... it feels wrong to cling to your material belongings when you are walking alongside children who live on the streets and own little more than the clothes on their backs.
It's early, but it's already hot and sticky. It's hard to breathe because the stench is so strong – I’m guessing raw meat mixed with leather, sweat, garbage and the unfiltered exhaust of all the moto-cars nearby. Our group is in route to the slums of Iquitos known as Belen. I’m not sure what to expect of an area labeled as “the slums” considering that everything we have already seen of Iquitos has been broken and poor.
Our tour begins in the upper markets where the variety of items puts Walmart to shame. The thinly canopied isles are indescribably crowded, and still the moto-cars find a way to push their way through the throngs of shoppers. The market is organized somewhat like a typical store, by product types. There is a section for shoes and clothing, home goods, toys, meats, medicines, etc. My dad is excited to take us to the meat section, a thought that already has many of us feeling queasy.
More shouts from our guides, “Watch your ‘tings.’ Stay together!”
Meat market… that was an understatement! We are looking at raw turtle, monkey, cow, chicken, pig, fish, alligator... even some animal they call the "deer rat" (think giant rodent from the Princess Bride). Everything is spread out across open tables; it’s a sea of blood and bones! I look up and see a woman eating her breakfast and a small child taking her morning nap right next to a huge stack of animal carcasses. Definitely feeling green now.
We finally make it to medicine row, something I have been looking forward to for several days. One of our guides calls my name and we walk up to one of the many booths lining this section. He grabs my left hand and shows a vendor the red rash/fungus that has been spreading on two of my fingers ever since our stay in the jungle. The woman looks at it, says something to her colleague that I could not understand, and then pulls out a small bottle with a homemade label that reads “aceite de copaiba.” She spins off the cap, grabs my hand and rubs a brown oily liquid all over my two infected fingers. I look at Carlos, our guide, who nods. “Cuanto questo,” I ask. “Dies soles,” she says. Sold! At this point I am willing to try just about anything to get my fingers back to normal.
After my “doctor” visit, we join the others at a booth nearby where two vendors are pulling items from their collection for the members of our group to sample. Some of our samples include:
A Peruvian honey (very delish)
Sange de grado (translates to “blood of the dragon”)
SVSS (a natural aphrodisiac)
Camu-Camu (highest vitamin c rich fruit in the world)
21 Vines (a mix of 21 jungle fruits and barks and a cancer preventative)
And something our guides call “wake up old bird” (another aphrodisiac)
The fun and fascination of Upper Belen has turned to utter despair in just ten, stone steps – the demarcation of where the water rises during the rainy season, leaving half of this community completely under water. Picture New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, only no relief efforts.
There are children playing next to piles of garbage, malnourished cats and dogs searching for food, drunken men hanging out of dilapidated buildings (at 10:00 in the morning) and piles of trash (10-15 feet high) around every turn.
There are five dugout canoes waiting for us as the end of one street. We break up, hop in and begin touring this part of the neighborhood by boat. The guide on our boat is telling us about the people who live here.
A lot of the people have come from the jungle. They build houses on the river so that they don’t have to pay for land. When the water is low, they farm. When the water is high, they fish.
Tears are streaming down my cheeks. I cannot believe there are so many people who live like this. And for some reason, buried in this brokenness, I keep seeing crosses, bringing one abounding question to front of mind, “Where are you God?”