Last summer I went on my first international mission trip with my church and a church group from Alabama to Dangriga, Belize. There I spent seven days in the hot Belizean sun making memories and friends with the hopes of strengthening the small town of Dangriga. From the moment our plan landed in Belize City, I knew I was in for an interesting trip.
Dangriga is known as the cultural capital of Belize. With its rich food, interesting people, and music culture, it lives up to being a cultural staple. Our mission group was supposed to stay at a hotel called the Macaroni Hill View, but instead our trip leader from the Praying Pelican organization decided last minute to change our reservations to a hostel called Pal’s Guesthouse right along the muggy Belizean coastline. We opened the door of our room to find a broken air condition unit, used beach towels, and a trash can with a dollar in it. It wasn’t the nicest place in the world to stay, but it was a place to sleep- unless the swarms of dogs that lived in the hotel office kept you awake. About a few days into our trip, I started having bug bites all over my body. Our room had a sand flea infestation and the management of the hotel refused to do anything about it.
In Dangriga there is a few things to see and do. In the downtown areas, there are art murals painted on the cement walls along the sidewalks, a local market, some shops, and a statue called the “Drums of Our Fathers.” The best place to stop in all Dangriga is Mimi’s Ice Cream Shop. They serve a variety of frozen treats with endless options. I would recommend the banana pudding ice cream or the strawberry. Another interesting part of Dangriga is the food. A lot of fruit native to the area is found at many local markets. The staple food would have to be anything with chicken.
Throughout Belize, there is a well-known hot sauce company called Marie Sharp. They make a variety of hot sauces in the Stann Creek District. Every night our mission team went into town to look for the name brand sauce because we used so much of it. What sets it apart from other hot sauces, is the use of a carrot base rather than tomatoes. If there is anything worth trying in Belize it is Marie Sharp’s hot sauce.
Another great part of Belize is the wildlife and exotic plants. All around the town of Dangriga we found a variety of plants. There were colorful flowers and beautiful trees. One day at our worksite, we walked a mile down the road to find an unusual animal on a leash. I was back at the church we worked with and everyone told us to come look at the “squash.” We saw a small vicious animal on a leash that resembled a racoon and an anteater. Its owner held it like a child and acted like it was as normal as having a pet dog. We later discovered the animal was called a Coati Mundi (a tropical racoon). Also, one night in our hotel room we discovered a lizard in the bathroom. For the rest of the week he hung out in our room. We named him Cortez.
The last thing to enjoy in Dangriga is the street music. At night, the streets are filled with the sounds of drums. Drum bands play a variety of music that pleases the ears.
After a week of work, we drove to Belize City and got on a water taxi to go to Caye Caulker Island for a day of fun and relaxation. We stayed in a beach front resort called Tropical Paradise. It lived up to its expectations with easy hammock and ocean access. The best places to eat on the island are: Amor y Café, Rainbow Grill and Bar, and the Happy Lobster. They all have a variety of food that is some of the best food I ever ate in Belize. The best souvenir shop on the island is Toucan Taboo Treasures. They sell any type of souvenir imaginable whether it’s a t-shirt or postcard they are sure to sell it. A great part of Caye Caulker is walking by the street vendors at night. They have little street marketplaces with jewelry and food trucks that hand roll ice cream and other treats.
The best thing to do while on the island is to take some time to enjoy the crystal blue water and sandy beach. There are piers and decks all over the island for public use. With an amazing view, you’ll never want to leave. Another fun thing to do is watch the sunrise. The sunrise right over the Caribbean is incomparable to any experience. Not to mention all the rocks and seashells wash up on shore as well. The last thing I recommend to do in Belize, is enjoy a cold glass soda-preferably a Coke. It is refreshing and the Coke bottles even make a great keepsake because it has the country’s name on it.
Above all the best thing to do in Belize is just enjoy yourself. There is so much to do even if you are on a mission trip. There you have opportunities to explore an amazing culture and country. I can say my tan and bug bites faded away but the memories and friendships I made in Belize never will.
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