Saturday, April 28, 2012

Easter Storm Sharks

Today is the 28th of April and I find myself sitting down to write one of my last blogs from Belize. In a month and a half or so, I will be departing Punta Gorda and return to the great town of Sandwich. It is slightly daunting thinking about America, so I sha’int right now. Instead, Belize!

 I like this leaf.
Since last time, we had a two week holiday fromschool for Easter. It was incredibly relaxing. On Easter Sunday, there was a huge celebration in front of my house, complete with a volleyball tournament (my team got destroyed), eating contests, a greasy poll, and live music. Hundreds of people were out, so it was very cool to be in the center of all of it.
Shortly after Easter there were a few water spouts in the ocean. They were fairly far away, which was good news for my wooden house.

After the holiday, school began once again. It seems teachers just realized the library is there, so I have been super busy with research and painting. It’s good.

My birthday happened, which was neat. Thanks for the lovely wishes to those of you who sent them.

The main event of the past few months occurred on April 21-22. Rachel Graham, who is a director with the Wildlife Conservation Society, and is known as the “Jane Goodall of Sharks”, happens to live in Punta Gorda. Her organization is trying to get students in Belize to see the sharks that live off the coast, in an effort to improve Belizeans knowledge of them. She organized for twenty students from my school to take an overnight trip to the Belize Zoo and then to go snorkeling off the reef. Of course, a trip with that many students needs a few chaperones, and of course, I volunteered immediately. It was incredible. Rachel rode up on the bus with us and answered questions from the students and gave them things to think about.

 Rachel et al.
On the first day, we drove four hours or so to where we were staying, which was right by the zoo. Before we went to the zoo we had some downtime, so I took the boys on a hike around the area. For most of the students, this was their first trip away from their parents, so they were all excited. We took a twenty minute walk around the jungle and I didn’t realize these kids never get out into nature. Everything was new and exciting for them. The plants, the animals, small ponds. It was very cool to see their excitement.

"Devils Gut Cactus"
Pine trees!  Ok, probably not exciting for you, but they don't exist in Punta Gorda.
After walking around, we went to the zoo. Rachel knows the founder of the zoo, so she gave us a private tour, mostly focusing on the apex predators, or the animals on the top of the food chain.

Jeremy vs. Boa Constrictor
Friendly Jaguar

The following day we left early for the reef, though the boys chose to wake up at 5am for some reason I’m not sure of. When we reached Belize City, it turned out the sea was very rough where we were planning to go, so we ended up heading out to Caye Caulker’s Shark and Ray Alley. This was good, as half of the students can’t swim. Rough seas may have been a bad idea. The boat ride was about one hour, during which the excitement (and queasiness for some) grew.
On the Boat!
Getting some final instructions
Finally we got to the reef and started seeing dark shapes in the water.

What are those dark spots?
Everyone crowds to see what's going on.
Nurse Sharks!!!
Nurse sharks and Rays!
More sharks and rays, with the reef the dark strip of water in the distance.
We jumped in the water, snorkel and fins firmly attached, and swam around for about an hour and a half. It might have been longer, I don’t know. I was having too much fun. Afterwards, we ate lunch on Caye Caulker and got sweet shark t-shirts.

A long bus ride later, we were back in PG, ready for school to start the next morning.
I like the lighting in this picture a whole lot.

This week was long, after having twelve straight days of student obligations, but thankfully the weekend has arrived. My sanity is slowly returning.

Next week, the Belize JVs will be visited by our bosses from the office in DC. Site visits and an end of the year retreat are on tap. It should be fun, so until next time, thanks for visiting. Neat flower

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