Belize Day 8

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Nine days in the beautiful country of Belize, exploring the rainforest, entering gorgeous caves, swimming in a beautiful river, chilling by the beach while playing volleyball, taking nocturnal hikes, feeding exotic animals at the zoo, finding tarantulas in our bedrooms, learning about the local plants, visiting the Blue Creek school and going on excursions to the world’s second largest barrier reef. What a shame it all has to end here. This is how we decided to enjoy our final day of M-Term:

We awoke this morning around 7 am, and headed to breakfast for a wonderful meal consisting of scrambled eggs and rolls of local bread. When we finished, we all gathered at the beach for two and a half hours of free time. Some of us decided to try and get a tan before going back to New York, others left to hang out at the bar with friends, and the rest chose to play a couple of games of volleyball and then enter the refreshing water. When our relaxation time was up, we hopped on two boats and left for the Smithsonian Marine Research Station. There, we learned about different species of coral and observed beautiful conches as well as hermit crabs. The island manager also taught us about the beach erosion that was taking place and the spawning of several animals.

When we returned to South Water Caye, we were happy to receive another hour of free time. The final for the volleyball tournament we had started yesterday took place, and after Gideon’s team declared victory over mine we all decided to jump into the water. We slowly snuck up on Ms. Strong and Ms. Biscardi, and tipped their paddleboards. I wish you had all been here to see their faces. After having a good laugh we returned to shore for lunch. We had a delicious dish made up of spaghetti, vegetables and grilled pieces of shrimp. It was our best lunch yet in my opinion.

With our stomachs full, we prepared ourselves and left for Man o’war and Bird Island. When we arrived to our first destination, we all had hope that we would get to see a majestic manatee. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much luck, and left without seeing any of them. At our next stop, we observed the hundreds of frigget and booby birds that flew over their home island. We each received a stick and got to throw it up in the air. Since it was mating season, the birds all swooped down and took them back to their nests. When we were done, we all went straight to our snorkeling location.

Returning to the barrier reef for a second time, we really got the chance to take in its full beauty. This time though, we swam in much shallower water, which allowed us to observe the sea life from a much closer distance. In fact it was so shallow, that for about half of the time we were in the water, it was hard to keep our fins from hitting the corals beneath us. Among the seafloor and in between corals, we spotted seven stingrays, two baby squids, a moray eel, four giant sea urchins, a lobster, a highly poisonous scorpion fish and a handful of other animals. The sights were truly magnificent.

Now, back on the island, we await more wonderful evening activities. We can’t wait to sit around a campfire again and get to know each other better. I’m sure it’ll be a very personal and unique experience for all of us. With nothing left to say, I must sadly end these blogging entries, as our wonderful school trip to this amazing country has ended. We couldn’t have asked for a better nine days. I’m sure that we will always remember this trip, as we were the very first group to go on Middle School M-Term.

– Marco Marsans, Nacho

Belize Day 7

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Waking up in the morning was similar in both of the dorms. Only a really lame thin wall separated the boys and the girls so you could hear every tiny little noise made by either of the dorms. They both woke up to me, James, saying, “Why are none of you awake?  It’s 6:30,” followed by the thump of someone falling out of their bed.

We ate fried jacks, omelets, and beans with orange juice to drink. After eating we found out that we had two and a half hours of free time before having a snorkeling orientation. We played a lot of volleyball, had a few chicken fights, went out on kayaks and paddleboards, and ate delicious, bursting with flavor Pringles until we left for a half hour of snorkeling.

Once we finished the snorkeling orientation, we had a volleyball tournament. The teams were The Dominators, The Goat Lickers aka Chubaccabras, The Coconuts, and The Headmasters. We never got to the final round.

For lunch we had brownies, chicken with rice, and lemonade. After lunch we ate some more delicious and bursting with flavor Pringles and then left for snorkeling. Snorkeling was the greatest part about the trip, even before eating delicious, bursting with flavor Pringles. While snorkeling we saw a variety of tropical fish including: great barracudas, a school of French angelfish, queen parrotfish, queen angelfish, a mimic octopus, queen triggerfish, blue parrotfish, a stingray, a seahorse, sergeant major fish, a school of tarpon, sea urchins, angelfish, and lots of coral. We even saw the yellowtail damselfish, which Fred had spoken to us about the night before. The hour of snorkeling felt like ten minutes. The Belize Great Barrier Reef is the second largest coral reef in the world; something everyone should see before they die. Just like eating delicious, bursting with flavor Pringles.

After snorkeling, Karen realized that she was a fish because she was so pale and tasted like salt. She left her kind in the water, but it was too late. When we got back, we had some dinner before going to a beautiful bonfire. The dinner was mashed potatoes, meatballs, salad, cake, and delicious, bursting with flavor Pringles. The Pringles were sooooooo good and everyone should buy some at your local gas station. At the bonfire we shared fun facts about ourselves, and then learned about Garifuna culture from a guest speaker. We then listened to a drum performance by two of the Garifuna staff, and hung out around the bonfire with high schoolers from Lawrence Academy who are here getting their scuba certification.

 

By James Mulvey and Alejandra Vivas

Belize Day 6 – WE STILL CAN’T BELIZE IT! South Water Caye Day One

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Today everyone woke up to the smell of pancakes, syrup, and scrambled eggs, but let’s go back to a little bit earlier in the morning in the boys’ bunk… Around 4:30 A.M., everyone was woken up by the loud sound of Gideon’s dub-step alarm, but eventually everyone fell back asleep. Unfortunately, everyone was woken up AGAIN at around 5:20 because of Siri on Alex’s phone, but that’s a whole other story…

Both the girls and the boys met for breakfast by the Blue Creek River at 6:00. At 7:00, everyone headed towards the bus, which was a quarter of a mile hike through the jungle on a dirt path. Men and children from the village helped us carry our bags to the bus. We said our goodbyes to the people and children that we had met, and headed off to drum lessons. The hour that we were on the bus seemed much longer then the 4-hour bus ride that we had the other day, but at least there wasn’t any annoying singing in the back of the bus.

When we arrived at the drum lessons, we divided into 2 groups; group one had their lesson first. Group two would have the luxury of hanging out at the beach for an hour. When group one was done with their lesson, they switched so they could hang at the beach, while group two had a drumming lesson. Both groups learned drumming techniques, and had a great time. Group one, (believe it or not,) was taught by the best drummer in Belize. We then got to see a performance by the drumming senseis, or teachers for those of you that don’t speak Spanish.

After, we set off on the bus again to stop at a supermarket and get a bunch of unhealthy food. Once on the bus again, we headed to a port to get on a boat that would take us to South Water Caye.

The one hour ride to South Water Caye seemed like five minutes because of the fun we had on the speed boat. When we arrived, we met a guy named Richard who toured us around the island. After, we unpacked in our bunks we then went swimming in the ocean with different shades of blue. We had about two hours of free time until we had dinner. After dinner, the owner of IZE himself gave us a lecture about the coral ecosystem, and the formation of South Water Caye. We then watched a video that introduced us into the island.

 

THEN we got to have free time for the rest of the night, only to leave everyone wondering what adventure we would have tomorrow.

 

 

-Alex Saunders (The basketball lawd)

-Peter Kim (Who became a Belisian)

Belize Day 5

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Today everyone woke up early realizing that we were going on a hike to the dry cave. Little did we know there was a very long and dangerous hike ahead. The hike took about 30 minutes. There were so many obstacles to overcome such as high climbs and slippery rocks. There were also poisonous animals that we had to keep an eye on such as snakes, spiders, and scorpions. We had to climb very steep cliffs relying on strong tree vines. As we neared the end of the hike we were confused on how to enter the cave. We found out that we had to climb through a small hole.  Looking at the hole, we didn’t think everyone could fit. Somehow we managed to get everyone in the cave.

We had to crawl through lots of small openings to get to the main part of the cave where everyone could stand. We turned our headlights on and were amazed by the size of the gigantic cave.  We were shocked to see the sparkling stalactites hanging on the ceiling and could see the calcium dripping off the stalactites onto the floor creating the stalagmites. We had to watch our step to make sure we didn’t trip on them. At one point, the tour guide told us all to turn off our lights so we could listen to the quietness of the cave. It was a very peaceful sound but also pitch black. It was so dark that you couldn’t even see your hand in front of you.

Soon we crawled back through the small openings that led us to the top of the cave where we started. The hike back down from the cave was very dangerous and slippery. We had to watch our every step in case we slipped on the mud. The hike was very steep and luckily no one got hurt. The hike back was much quicker than the hike there. Even when we got back to the site, we were still in awe about how amazing the cave was.

After we got back from the hike everyone was hot and sweaty and ready for a swim in the creek/river. Once everyone dried off, the girls were tanning on the small dock until Gideon, Nacho, and Alex decided to push Ms. Strong into the water. That’s how the pushing competition started. Before we knew it, there was no one left on the dock. Right as everyone started to calm down Mr. Mulhern decided to push Ms. Biscardi in the water and it all started again. Everyone was having a great time and it was a lot of fun.

We had a quick lunch at 12 and had to leave for our trip to the school at 1. When we got to the school there was a group of little boys and girls. When we entered the classroom, the students from Ross introduced themselves. The kids were very excited and couldn’t wait to play with us. We separated into groups so that some of us could interview some of the students. Falon, Karen, and Dualta interviewed the teachers and asked questions about the school day and education. We played with the kids for a long time and even planted Mahogany trees with them. Everyone was having a blast.

When it was time to leave all the little boys and girls came to say goodbye and give us hugs. Some of the students really bonded with each other, and it was an amazing experience. We donated watercolors to the school too. Little did we know, we would get to see the students again when we were buying crafts from the locals. They were very happy to see us again.

After dinner, we were lucky enough to be invited to someone’s home for a dance party. We learned about the dancing and the different traditions of the Mopan Maya. It was really fun and a wonderful opportunity. Before we left, we individually thanked all the Belizeans for a wonderful time at Blue Creek.

By: Dualta, Falon and Karen

Belize Day 3

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Can you Belize we’re still in Belize? It’s unbelizable!

 

Oh maya god, what the howler monkeys!

 

Those were only two of the many puns we dealt with after the tour of the zoo and the ruins. So, day three started off as any other normal Belize day. We woke up and ate a delicious, traditional Belizean meal of pancakes and sausages. After, that is when the day took an insane turn. We packed up, and waited for an hour as the bus took its time getting to the education center. But never fear, we had enjoyable performances by a recently formed girl group in the camp, also know as Intimidation Nation. This group consisted of: Sophie Cassou, Falon Attias, India Attias, Lily Attias, and Alejandra Vivas. Whilst waiting, we were able to take an incredible journey into the forest where we stood up on a raised platform looking out over the beautiful foliage, scanning the area for the elusive jaguar.

 

After the bus finally made it to the camp, we got on and drove off, far far away from the education center, deeper and deeper into the jungle. We stopped on the side of the road to grab a quick snack of raisin cinnamon bread and cinnamon buns baked over a fire. Driving further into this lush jungle, we somehow managed to find a gas station fully stocked with an array of chips and Arizona ice tea. There, we also stopped to go to the restroom, where it was necessary to pay to get into the bathroom.

 

Once we got back on the road after this exciting journey, we had more lovely singing from intimidation nation as we looked out over the vast landscape with beautiful mountains and trees.

 

Four and a half hours later we arrived at Blue Creek. Here, we were immediately greeted by a sea of local Maya children asking if they could please carry our bags.  Then, the children assigned themselves a bag while the adult Mayas grabbed heavier ones and we proceeded up the mountain cautiously watching children carrying bags heavier than them. We tipped generously for carrying our all to heavy duffels.

 

Once we arrived at our new dorms, we stared in awe at the stunning river that lied just in front of our bunks. As we got situated, we all began to change into our bathing suits and were interrupted by our teachers telling us that we had an orientation to listen attentively to.

 

After orientation concluded, we all dashed to the river, excitedly swimming around after being in the heat. Again, we were interrupted by none other than Jon Mulhern, telling us that in order to certifiably swim, we would tread water for a minute and swim to the other side of the river and back. However, in order to swim to a dangerous part of the river 50 yards away, checked carefully before by Jennifer Biscardi and Jon Mulhern, we needed to swim to the other side and back 5 times. First place in this expedition went to Marco Marsans, followed by Nacho Monreal, and later Dualta Gallaher and Gideon Yektai, and almost the rest of the group as well. Once these tests were done, we were allowed to swim around, jump off the dock, and swing from the rope swing. After getting out, we were told that the water pressure in the shower was less than satisfactory, and therefore it would be wise to wash our hair in the river. However, this soap/shampoo/conditioner would have to be biodegradable. Luckily, Gideon Yektai gladly offered up his supposed biodegradable shampoo, which later turned out to be just organic.

 

Much later, after an exquisite dinner of rice and chicken as well as orange juice and beans, we embarked on a evening jungle hike equipped with our headlamps, hiking shoes, and very knowledgeable tour guide. During this hike, complete silence was necessary if we had hoped to see anything interesting. We were thankfully able to see tarantulas, stick bugs, wolf spiders, and other fascinating bugs/arachnids. While in the middle of the jungle, our tour guide instructed us to turn off our lights. He then proceeded to tell us about the Duende, 3 feet tall men with no thumbs and backwards feet who tore off thumbs if they were shown and stared at pretty ladies. We then came back to the camp, slightly shaken up and very tired.

 

This concludes day three. We’ll see you here tomorrow, that is, if we survive the night, after all, the black panthers have been spotted by teachers, and Duende do like attractive people… or maybe that’s the malaria pills talking…

 

 

 

By: Sophie Cassou, founder of intimidation nation (signing autographs upon arrival to the states, and really going through a major ego trip,) Annie Sun, and Emily Austopchuk

Belize Day 4

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The day started with the savory aroma of fried jack and scrambled eggs. The three Mayan cooks rang the bell and people flocked into the buffet line to get a piece of the mouthwatering meal. We were then separated into two groups. The first group was arranged to start the ethno-botany tour, and the other half relaxed on the dock while painting watercolors of the idyll scenery. The tour guide led us around the forest just outside our camp, and it was astonishing how so many unique flora were found just a few feet away.

Most of the plants we encountered were used for medicinal purposes. For example, the Kopal had a medicinal bark that turned red when boiled. The Bull Horn Acacia was also an example of a medicinal plant since when the leaves were boiled they slowed down the venom flow from a snakebite. What was special about this plant though was that fire ants lived in the pods on the stems. These plants grew from small fern-like bushes to tall trees, and the ant colonies that grew inside of them protected the tree as it grew. Another plant we spotted along the hike was a cacao tree. The seedpods were not ripe, but a few were still visible in the midst of the canopy.

After walking through all of these fascinating plants, we had a delicious feast that contained empanadas, some filled with meat and some made just for vegetarians along with some cabbage and papaya. We had some time to take a few breaths and get ready for our hike to the caves.

After a surprising and treacherous hike, we finally reached our astounding destination. Our first group went into the caves and there was a lot to see. Jumping into the crisp cold water was a huge rush and a relief from the hot walk. As we explored around the caves, one could hardly imagine the fact that the whole cave was actually 10 miles long. At one point, there was a 6-foot cliff right above a 30-foot-deep pool, and each splash echoed from the cave walls. As we swam further and further, we came across a small waterfall that later expanded to 30 feet. It’s hard to imagine it fitting inside of a cave of that size. The hike back was short and quick, and the rope swing soon was in use.

We were all expecting a traditional Belizean dinner, which always somehow included beans and rice. Spaghetti and tomato sauce was served instead: an American Classic. After dinner we went on another night hike and we spotted several spiders. From tarantulas to wolf spiders, we were all astounded and frightened at the same time. Walking down the river, about four poisonous Marine Toads were found sleeping in the water. Even though the day wore us down, it was such a remarkable experience. This was probably a once in a lifetime experience.

 

*This blog must now be cut off, due to the fact that tarantulas have invaded the boy’s dorm. Oh my! The teachers found a tarantula last night, and it’s the boys’ dorm tonight. Is it the girls’ turn tomorrow night?

 

Emily Costello and Hannah Baker

 

 

 

Belize Day 2

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First morning in Belize and we were woken up at 7 to head to breakfast. For breakfast we had buffet style eggs, beans, and other sides. Shortly after, we headed to the bus and made it down the road no more than 5 minutes when we popped a tire. Apparently, the bus last night had already popped a tire and the spare was already in use. Mr. Mulhern, Peter (our tour guide) and our driver moved one of the 4 back wheels to the front. We then departed for the auto repair shop. We drove for two minutes before realizing we had left our tour guide and Mr. Mulhern on the side of the road. We looked back and saw them sprinting down the side of the road in the dust we had kicked up.

We continued to the auto repair shop and there was, conveniently, a convenience store right next door, where we stocked up on necessary goods: gross central American candy, melted skittles, a robot doll (which Ms. Biscardi was overly joyed about,) Dorito sprinkles, bandanas, plantain chips, and bug spray for our long journey to Xunantunich.

Once equipped with the necessities, the tour guide mentioned that the mountains in the distance were ancient coral reefs made of limestone. The land we were driving on had been under the ocean millions of years ago!

Finally, after our extended drive, we arrived at our destination, the ancient Mayan ruins of Xunantinich, or “stone lady,” named after a ghost who once roamed there. As we climbed the tallest sacrificial ruin, our guide told us to picture the thousands of Maya who lived there from 300 BCE to 1100 CE, performing their ceremonial rituals and sacrifices honoring the gods. The stairs of the main ruin were very intimidating, steep, and narrow. For the people who made it to the top, they got to take panoramic photos of the “screensaver worthy” view ofthe Guatemala-Belize border.

After, as we were walking to the Maya ball, Pok-to-Pok court, which was smaller than we all imagined, we saw two border patrol guards at the picnic tables carrying large guns. Our guide then pointed out a baby rubber tree which the Maya would have used, when full grown, to create a 9-pound rubber ball. On the way out of the ruins we saw the shattered remains of Mayan pottery.

On the way to our lunch place, Mr. Mulhern needed us to count off from 1-19 in numeric order from the attendance numbers we had received earlier. We were all confused so we counted off 1, 16, 4, 8 etc. until Mr. Mulhern yelled at us for not doing something his “kindergarten classes could have instinctively handled.” Ms. Biscardi then gave us a lesson on how to count. We then went and had another amazing lunch, played basketball with a little local kid named Isaac, and listened to a guy play a recorder; Ms. Isbister gave us a lesson telling us it’s not a flute and definitely not a piccolo. We then saw a rooster with a harem of chickens and ducks, and were wondering why there were no roosters in the harem; Ms. Strong gave us a lesson on that. We then headed back to the bus, picked up a bunch of little apple-banana fruits, and finally got back to the cabins where we had some down time before dinner. For dinner we had another buffet style meal consisting of chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, and other foods. On our way to play Mafia, Marco stepped on a trail of Leaf-Cutter Ants, which we followed down to their gigantic ant colony which was about 4 feet tall and 7 feet long (we actually didn’t exaggerate there.) As we conclude our entry, we hope not to step on any of the Brown Recluses on our path back to our dorms.

By Gideon Yektai and India Attias

The First Day in Belize

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We started off the day by taking a 2 hour bus ride to JFK. Everyone got their drinks and candies to keep themselves up. After a long and tiring journey, we finally made it to Belize. The weather was very humid, hot, and the sun was strong. When we got off the plane, we had to transition from the Hampton’s freezing temperatures of about 20 degrees to Belize’s high 80 degree temperatures.

After a long bus drive, we were dropped in front of a restaurant called Cheers. Every single one of us was very exhausted, but when we got the food, everyone was shocked by its amazing taste. That restaurant displays t-shirts that other groups in passing have donated and signed. Gideon Yektai graciously donated his East Hampton Main Beach t-shirt for all of us to sign, and we gave to the restaurant to hang up.

Soon after our lunch, we settled in our dorms, set up our princess mosquito netting, and had another great meal. Right after dinner, we were given a night tour of the Belize Zoo, which the majority of teachers and students thought was one of the best zoos they had ever been to. We saw a lot of amazing and different animals that we would not typically encounter such as howler monkeys, jaguars, tapirs, fer de lance snakes, crocodiles, boa constrictors, tarantulas, coatimundi, a harpey eagle, and many more. We also had the rare chance to touch the jaguar’s paw while it ate.

That’s all we are going to write tonight. Wait! What is that noise? There is something lurking in the woods. Maybe it is one of the 14 crocodiles in the swamp less then 20 feet behind our dorms. Ms. Biscardi! Nooooo! *Sharon stops writing from here*

 

Written by Lily Attias, Georgia Briere, and Sharon Kim who needs to take a shower right now and had no say in the ending.