Alright -- Finally time to blog about the second leg of the journey...
So, LEGALLY, we had to leave the country for 3 days to renew our Guatemalan visas... And since a lot of Central America is in an open-trade-agreement of some sort, our only two options were Mexico (scary) and Belize.
We chose Belize.
SO-- after a 5hour bus ride including a semi-legit border-crossing for the all-important passport stamp... We arrived to Belize City, and then took a 1hour ferry to Caye Caulker in the Caribbean. If you ever want evidence that God is an artist, just spend 3 days here. It was absolutely one of THE most beautiful places I have EVER been. Such an incredible blessing to be able to go! (Thanks, supporters!!)
Our stay on Caye Caulker was just really great- we got to relax, enjoy the beautiful turquoise ocean, ride bikes, lay on the beach, play beach volleyball (thank God I had so much experience on the WP team....), ride in boats, be semi-independent, play Yahtzee, speak English, get a little bit sun burnt (or a lot), and just enjoy each others' company. It was glorious.
One of the most interesting things about Belize is, even though its independence from Guatemala is relatively new (1981) [most Guatemalans still do not consider it an independent country], it was SUCH a different culture! The official language is English, but many also speak Spanish, and pretty much everyone speaks a Creole version of English (which I could not understand). The island where we were was also just really "Caribbean," lots of black people, lots of Bob Marley, lots of dreadlocks... All the cliches you can think of about Jamaican men are real here. It was really cool :)
Probably the highlight of the trip was all Tina's idea... She found a nice Rastafarian man named RasCreek with a pretty rainbow boat, and asked to take some pictures of it our 1st day. They got to talking, and he said that he did "cruises" in his boat with snorkeling. Since we wanted to do that, we agreed to go with RasCreek (though somewhat hesitantly...) and went the next afternoon.
We left at "12" (aka 12:45), and set off with 4 other passengers plus the 5 of us. Turns out RasCreek is a semi-bitter Rasta man who very much hates The Man, loves Bob Marley and prides himself on giving really "authentic" boat trips... Every time we saw anything of remote interest (a bird, some coral, a big wave), he'd say "That's included!!" - so we knew we were getting our money's worth. After about an hour of boating, we got to the reef, and he dropped anchor, and pretty much demanded that we get off the boat; we were in Sting Ray Alley... Most of us (including me!) got out to snorkel with and hold the (huge) sting rays and sharks. It was terrifying. No injuries reported.
After that, we tried to go to the Coral Gardens, but the water was too choppy, so he did some fishing to catch us lunch (it was around 3). He caught one fish and said we were ready to start lunch... So what does RasCreek make?? Oh, it was its own little Jesus Miracle: 5 loaves and 1 fish (for 10 people)... Plus 2 carrots and 2 plantains.
On his boat-grill. Though light, it turned out to be a really delicious meal.
At about 5:30, we got back to the shore and watched the sunset, and then Creek asked us if we wanted some chicken... We confusedly agreed, and he went to "go grab some." Little did we know that he would come back with an entire [frozen] chicken to cook on his tiny fire-grill. So we start grilling the chicken, we get to see the fluorescent glowing worms that come out in the water after dark (SO COOL!!), we see some sea horses, we have reggae jam session on his boat (seriously can't even make this up) and wait for the chicken to cook...
3 hours later, our other shipmates have abandoned the cause, we've been on the boat for 9 hours, and we're real stinking hungry. The chicken is still raw in some parts, but we pick at it enough to eat something and then tell dear RasCreek that we really must be going. He's sad (and quite intoxicated at this point), but we tell him that if we get our "second wind," we'd be back. Needless to say, we did not.
It was a truly "cultural experience," and I'm so glad that we did it!
After our 3 days, we took the ferry and the 5hour shuttle back to Guatemala, and then the 8hour night-bus back to Guate, and then a 1 hour shuttle back home to Antigua. It was a really really great time to relax and recharge for the 2nd half of our year.
Thanks so so much to our supporters who made it possible! Have a good week, world!