Belize: Unfamiliar Soroundings
In the same time it would have taken me to fly from Houston to Atlanta, I was transported to a completely different world changing my life and my family’s life’s forever. As soon as I stepped out the airplane in Belize I was instantly covered by the humid, heavy tropical air. Palm trees lined the plain air strip where kids were gleefully playing soccer at one end. My unfamiliarity was interrupted by the routine of clearing the airport and finding our rental car. The first night in Belize City would have been remarkable on its own merits except the days and nights to follow would overshadow it.
The next morning we started our trek to DuPlooy’s Jungle Lodge, our base camp for the next few days. The roughly two-hour journey was relatively uneventful but unfortunately punctuated by a rough road that our old Jeep was not handling well. From the front, my father cynically barked “… and who picked this hotel?” knowing full well I had chosen the accommodations. Our arrival at DuPlooy’s carried me farther into this new world. The sky was covered by a brilliant forest canopy which immediately made up for our previous discomfort.
After resting briefly, we set out for the ancient Mayan ruins of Xunantunich (pronounced Shoo-nahn-too-nich). There the pyramid known as El Castillo (The Castle) dominates the sky line; The Castle’s 130-foot summit makes it the second tallest structure in Belize, even today. We toured the Mayan ruins at its base and climbed atop El Castillo to grasp a commanding view of the surrounding rainforest. From the top of The Castle you can see into Guatemala, which would be tomorrow’s destination
Our next goal was Tikal, the Mayan Ruins and a World Heritage Site along with the Pyramids of Giza or the Great Barrier Reef. We met our tour guide, Luis, at the Guatemalan border. His excitement and interest fueled our own as he showed us around the most grand of the Mayan ruins. Luis explained how the city was constructed and how its people lived. The Grand Playa was the “downtown” of Tikal and the Temple of the Jaguar rose above the forest canopy and multiple structures surrounding a plaza of green grass.(Still need to work on that sentence) This is where Luis demonstrated the amazing acoustics by clapping so that we could hear the echo across the Plaza. I found out that the temples at Tikal were the tallest structures in North America until 1903 which gave me a sense heritage because this is the land of my Grandmother. New York City was built with cranes to build skyscrapers; the Mayans had their hands and very rudimentary tools.
We would soon left DuPlooy’s venture elsewhere in Belize. On our way back, we cruised down our memorable road hearing no complaints but only excitement about what we’d seen and what was next to come. The most unsettling moment after leaving Belize was returning to the airport in Houston and landing on a barren concrete runway surrounded bustling airline traffic. As I walked into the terminal I saw more than I remembered seeing a week earlier: escalators, stairs, buses, and huge televisions everywhere; Multitudes of professionals in suits were typing on their laptops in glass rooms towering above me. The familiar was now unfamiliar until at last my eyes fell upon a flag that seemed to glow under the artificial light. At that moment I realize how much I have lived “first world” life and realized what they call "third world" may truly be a completely different world.
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