As enriching and uplifting as it is to travel with Kelly, sometimes we have to venture off in different directions, live vicariously through each other and stay connected at the heart. Sharing adventures! This past weekend, Kelly ventured off to San Francisco for a Chocolate Conference, and to connect with some friends in the coffee Industry… so fun! When I asked him what he was most excited for about his whole trip he responded with “the quality pastries! And a nice espresso!” A great reminder to enjoy the simple things in life, thank you Kelly. He came back smiling and content, so I think his wish was fulfilled.
While he was indulging on a Chocolate Croissant and Cappuccino, in the soft morning sun on Friday Morning, my alarm clock was saying: Good morning at 5am! I hopped (with one eye open) out of bed in preparation to take the 6am James Bus Line, out of the southern town of Punta Gorda, express to Belmopan, the capital of Belize. My teeth were brushed and my outfit for the day was on me in five minutes, as I grabbed my already packed bag, and water bottle and headed out into the gentle air. It was actually nice to wake up that early, and to feel the peace and calm of the jungle, just before the sun was about to rise, and the full moon was about to sink into the horizon…to provide for moments of reflection. The appreciation for waking up that early could have been paired with the gracious anticipation that was inside of me to explore another treasure in Belize, while also connecting with friends in Belmopan and San Ignacio.
It’s encouraging how we are all really connected in one world community and by reaching out and showing effort, the endeavors that we undertake will surely be assisted. Before traveling to Belize, I knew that connecting to the community in a meaningful way would be a really important factor to making our stay as enriching as it can be… just by setting this intention, and voicing it to others, I was able to have the chance to stay with a really sweet family in Belmopan and San Ignacio, that has left me feeling truly inspired…
The family that I stayed with in Belmopan, is a family that my aunt connected me with (an aunt who literally knows at least one person, in every country in the world… I don’t even think I am exaggerating, she is so sweet and well loved). This family is so engaged with the community in many uplifting ways, one avenue being through a vibrant youth program (the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program). This program is really a grass roots approach to community building that empowers youth to “make a contribution to the fortunes of humanity” through directing their unique talents and abilities to the betterment of the world… this diverse group of youth that I met really had “it” in them (the vibe!). They were full of life, and delighted so much in caring for others. It is really such a positive environment to be engaged in…and you can really see how it impacts their life in a positive way! Although, each of these youth has their challenges, they have chosen to focus their talents and abilities on contributing to what is working for the betterment of others… really empowering. The unique part about my stay with this lovely family, was they introduced me to the animators who were animating this group, and I was able to attend their first session with the twenty four junior youth that showed up, with their smiling faces, and joyful attitudes after school on Friday.
Each junior youth were full of anticipation for what the next hour and a half would bring. The animators lead them in a series of activities, prayers and songs, which really allowed the group to get to know each other and determine if this group was something they were personally interested in, if it resonated with them… encouraging them to take ownership on their experience.
The love, energy and joy that was created from this group… is still with me… as I keep humming and singing the songs that we learned!
“The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, and the way to be happy is to make others happy and to bring a little heaven down here!”
(Sang with actions and everything… too cute).
The next day, after a delicious Saturday morning breakfast, I returned to the bus station to travel onward to San Ignacio, a town about one hour away from Belmopan… where I would connect with my new friends, a sweet couple treading a path in San Ignacio!
Now, I learned something very special at the bus station that Saturday morning… that to truly ensure your place on the bus, you just have to Go For It! And when I say Go For It, I mean you really have to strategically vision your seat on the bus, keep your eye on that seat and push your way through like a buttered sardine to squeeze onto the bus through the one little opening on the side, otherwise you may just not make it, seriously! That is just what happened to me, and that is why I missed the bus, and had to learn the technique for this second bus… at first I thought I could just wait in line, and smile my way onto the bus…noooo! It was hilarious, when I finally made the second bus… so incredibly crowded, I was literally cushioned right into a lady’s lap… mind you, and we had a great conversation, while listening to some other ladies singing with all of their heart at the back of the bus; a joyous ride to San Ignacio, with a slightly numb leg! Unfortunately, along the way our bus was ticketed due to too many passengers… that sure didn’t stop the ladies in the back from singing away!
Along the paved/gravel road, turning the corner, through the community park, towards the calm river, crossing a small wooden bridge (we made it!), up and over, bump bump, drawn to the bustling, full of color market on our left, and hot tamales on the right, we pulled into the bus station…. Welcome to San Ignacio! I am feeling it.
This sweet man, met me at the bus station… I was told to look for a man with a big beard, and he was easy to find, very welcoming, he greeted me with a smile and a joke! The sweet lady, his wife, and I have been connecting over the phone, and I was really looking forward to meeting her in person; our passion for community, health and alternative medicine has kept our phone conversations intriguing, and to continue our discussion in person would be so great. And that is just what we did.
We began the afternoon exploring the market full of color, sifting through stands of fresh fruit and plants to buy and granola to try, drinking a bright papaya and lime smoothie, and absorbing the Saturday market atmosphere. Afterwards, we settled into baking sweet bread from scratch, in preparation for a community gathering that night.
From the moment I arrived, to the smell of fresh herbs, essential oils and life, which filled their abode, I knew I was in the right place… the comforts of childhood rushing back to me… I immediately felt at home.
Throughout the weekend we spent our time, visiting community members that were in need of camaraderie, and shared laughs and stories with them, as they did with us. A simple visit left us all beaming. The highlight for me was the sweetest little puppy that we met at one of the friend’s home! A little fluff ball of love!
On my last day in San Ignacio, I joined in on tour to a Medicinal Herb Farm, through a Holistic Healing Class! I was giddy inside with excitement; you could say I could feel my excitement “growing” as the day approached ;). The plant life in Belize is so rich, mysterious, therapeutic and diverse; that one would really need a tour in order to navigate through the lush jungle and be able to identify one green shoot from another vine.
We really spent a couple of hours, walking the circumference of this ladies home, each baby step we would stumble upon a healing plant, radiating energy, calling us to indulge in it’s healing properties. One strong, bright green, three-tiered leaf plant, I was particularly drawn to…as our guide tore a piece of the leaf for us all to taste, I was eager to experience the effects, as I was told this plant is incredibly cleansing for the digestion and blood stream. As I chewed the leaf to release the juices, a bitter taste shot to either side of my mouth-yuck! “Keep chewing, keep chewing”… one eyeball shut, and my mouth puckered; I swallowed as quickly as I could, leaving a bitter sensation for the rest of the walk. Now I know why the name of this plant is “Jackass Bitter”, yikes! Despite it’s name, it is a deeply respected plant here in Belize, and I knew the medicinal benefits of this plant before chewing on it, so I kept my vision on that!
A recommended way to prepare the Jackass Bitter is to boil the leaves in water and drink as a tea in the morning… much easier to consume!
The walk around the medicinal farm has left me feeling inspired, uplifted, and intrigued at the life in the world around us. The bitter has definitely “wet my appetite” to learn more.
That evening, before I was to leave back to Punta Gorda, to be re-united with my husband (yay!) coming from San Fransisco, I was feeling full of gratitude, for the new experience and learning that the weekend had offered. The generosity and love from the families in both Belmopan and San Ignacio really warmed my heart with a sense of extended family and community in this special part of the world.