Follow our 7e adventures in Belize this year with our Program Director Ben O’Hanlon and our Partners and students that come to experience the Mayan culture learn about sustainable development!

Open Enrollment, April 12-19, 2019! 

April 12, 2019 – Day One

Arrival Day! Everyone had made it safely in-country with Program Director, Ben O’Hanlon. Check back tomorrow for pictures and description of the first full day’s activities!

Today is the big day. Each came with their own luggage of emotions – nervousness, excitement, curiosity. However, through our 3 1/2 hour journey to the lodge, we understood the purpose of why we came, to serve. After arriving on the lodge, we discussed community ethics. The overall goal of the projects that we plan to complete throughout our stay. We ate delicious homemade corn tortillas with options of fresh cooked vegetables and/or chicken stew and topped it off with freshly squeezed watermelon juice. It is just the first day but we are already realizing how cultural Belize is. See you tomorrow!

April 13, 2019 – Day Two

Some woke up at 6:45am for an intense workout with Ben. Others enjoyed sleeping in the extra hour before breakfast. Breakfast was homemade corn tortillas (common with every meal as you can tell), scrambled eggs, flavorful beans, and a side of fresh pineapple chunks. After filling our water bottles, we headed to Roseville. The people that live in Roseville are Mennonites. They are very conservative in what they wear, as Ben asked us to wear our most conservative clothing. As we approached the village, there was a sign that said “Come Well Dressed”. Ben reminded us that they do not like phones, so to respect their customs, we put our phones away. We’re glad we did because it gave us an opportunity to enjoy the scenery. Everything looked so natural and beautiful. We stopped by a house to ask for fresh produce. We ended up asking for watermelon, lettuce, tomatoes, and cabbage. While we waited for them to prepare the produce, we took a little walk. By little, I mean all of us were counting each step until we got to the mini bridge. When we got to the bridge, Ben explained more about the culture as all of us had questions. After a few minutes passed, we went back to pick up the produce. We even stopped at another house to get fresh cheese. On the way back, we stopped by the Supermarket to get snacks. 2 Belize Dollars = 1 USA Dollar. So everything has a 50% off discount to us. Lunch was delicious, thanks to Rose. We got to chat with an alternative medicine doctor. You could see the passion in his eyes for the work he does. It was extremely enlightening to listen to him speak. Moram asked him about how much he charges for herbal treatments. His answer amazed us all. He said “The people pay what they can afford”. Let that sit with you. “The people pay what they can afford”. Leaving incredibly inspired, we headed to the most blissful river for a swim to cool down from the heat. We will continue to keep you updated! Good night from Belize!

April 14, 2019 – Day Three

Yoos! Another day of Cardio and yoga. Faith says, “she plans on getting rid of her pooch by the time the trip is over.” For breakfast we had rice milk, flour tortillas, eggs, and beans—and our favorite, watermelon! But most of all, we were excited for our first day of service work! Our first day consisted of clearing the ground and making / mixing cement. We divided ourselves in groups to make the process more efficient. After lunch, we took a walk to observe the water spring. We learned about the different challenges the community faces based on weather and lack of resources. Together, we hope we can find new alternatives and solutions to combat these sustainability

April 15, 2019 – Day Four

Yoos! Ma sa ach’ool? That translates to “Hi! How are you?” in k’echi. It had rained last night, so the weather this morning was phenomenal—cool temperatures throughout the day. I believe that was the reason we were able to make a ton of progress on our projects. Thanks to the help of locals, we continued to meet our daily goals by the end of the working day. After working hard, we all enjoyed a long swim back to the lodge. For dinner, we had options of vegetable spaghetti and/or beef spaghetti, as well as homemade lime juice. It was so delicious that every single person went back for seconds! And yes, we had our favorite fruit again—watermelon. Tonight was a special night because we had a Peace Corps volunteer give us a presentation about values. The first goal is to help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women. The second goal is to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. The third goal is to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

April 16, 2019 – Day Five

We had an awesome day yesterday finishing up the project! The kids that came out had an opportunity to put their handprints on the bathroom wall to add an personal and creative touch. The community members were extremely appreciative when they saw the project completed. We all felt proud of ourselves as we accomplished our goals throughout the week. Before dinner, we all headed to the river for one last swim.

April 17, 2019 – Day Six

BEACH DAY!!!!!! Can you tell we’re super excited? Our last breakfast in Belize consisted of fried okra, eggs, and potato with either coffee or water. We were all super sad that Chuck had to leave a day early! We continued our journey on a two hour car ride to Hopkins Bay for some snorkeling! Marcus, Valentino, and the rest of our tour guides were really fantastic. We observed the beautiful coral reefs, starfishes, and other awesome aquatic animals. After dinner, we built a little bonfire and enjoyed listening to Ben rock the guitar. Who knew he could sing that well? In between songs, we discussed the 7 elements strengths and weaknesses in the Mayan community and United States. Thank you to Ben for putting together such an incredible program. We got so lucky to have not only the best director, but also the best friend we could ask for. To end this with a quote from Ben, he advises everybody to “Drink More Water”.

05:00am tomorrow is when we begin our journey back to the airport!

It has been my honor to keep all the families updated on our trip. Safe travels new friends! -Moram

 

 

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Georgia Tech Alternative Spring Break, March 16-23! 

March 16, Day 1 

Our first full day in Belize treated this group kindly. We were allowed time to eat a deliciously prepared breakfast before beginning the first day of service at Indian Creek. While interacting with the project directors and partners, we worked on a medical clinic by painting, cementing, and creating a sanitary pipe. I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say it was difficult to not naturally fall into great conversations with fellow students and Belizian children around us. For lunch, we visited a women’s group and were introduced to traditional food and cooking methods. After returning to work and finishing the day of work, we relaxed in the pool and ate dinner prepared by Cindy, the businesswoman of our stay.

Nadia

March 19, Day 3 

Hello!

The third day of our 7Elements excursion in Belize led us to the tops of the hills in the Mennonite community, and the depths of the forest in the Maya Centre.

Our day started, like any other, with an 8am breakfast in our beautiful Eco-lodge reserve. After a hearty serving of eggs, beans, and fried jacks, we departed for Maya Center to meet Aurora, the local bush doctor. She was a stout, lively woman with a big smile and a keen eye for herbs. She introduced us to her medicinal practice, and how it has affected not only Mayan natives but also the larger medical community through her best-selling books and physician partnerships. We were also given a tour through the forest by her husband Ernesto, who revealed to us the exact plants that are used in Aurora’s medicines.

After a quick lunch at Aurora’s restaurant, we departed for Roseville with bags full of traditional medicines and Mayan souvenirs. The Mennonites were an interesting, yet simple, people. They had a certain calmness about them that fascinated us as visitors, but that seemed very natural to them. Our group was unabashedly curious about their lifestyles, but they were particularly uninterested in ours. Fortunately, we were permitted to trek through their village and into the forest on the far side. It was a lovely hike, and our group felt strongly connected to the historical roots that the community so proudly emulated.

We ended the day with an ambrosial supper of noodles, vegetables, and fresh fruit. Afterward, we watched a documentary on the effects of industrial agriculture on antibiotic resistance and had a comprehensive discussion on our role in creating a sustainable future.

Excited to get back to work tomorrow!

-Thomas & Elizabeth

March 20, Day 4

We woke up with the sun and had a delicious breakfast at the Lodge, filling and nutritious to prepare us for a productive day of service at Indian Creek. Our team organically assigned ourselves to jobs, and despite a short rain, we were able to accomplish a lot: digging a drainage hole for the septic system, plastering a whole wall of the medical center, and mixing lots and lots of concrete. It was hard work, but a great lunch on sight and extra refreshing watermelon carried us through. When we arrived back at the lodge, we had a guest named Rain who talked about his past 18 months in the Peace Corps. It was awesome to hear the experiences of someone who has been here for an extended period of time.We finished our day with a reflection and an exhilarating game of muffin mafia. Overall, an incredible 4th day, and we are excited to see the ruins tomorrow. 

March 21, Day 5

Today we drove four hours to Xunantunich one of the largest Mayan ruins in Belize. We stopped about halfway to enjoy our FAVORITE  burritos in the country. Xunantunich in Mayan means “stone maiden” after one soldier saw a bright light at the mouth of a cave and a beautiful Mayan woman emerged. They never followed this woman into the cave. 
 
We climbed all the ruins, took amazing pictures, and learned lots and lots about Mayan history from Geronimo and Saul. They taught us that the Mayan tourism industry is basically which company has the best fiction because Mayans like to keep some of their traditions private. Luckily, we had the best Mayan guides in the game. 
 
We journeyed through the city to get to Benny’s Kitchen where we got to enjoy chocolate, banana, or papaya milshakes and really great food. We, also, spent a lot of time in the vans bonding and learning fun facts about each other. Once we got back to the lodge we enjoyed Saul’s favorite meal which incorporates hearts of the Cohune Tree, which was absolutely delicious. We closed with a great documentary on the Overpopulating Myth. 
 
March 22, Day 6

Today, we had our last day at Indian Creek village. There was a bittersweet air about us as we got to work. We split into three teams; painters, sifters, and rock breakers. It was hot, sweaty, back-breaking work — and then it rained. Wanting to get as much done as possible, we carried on through the rain, but it went away as soon as it came. The ditch we had dug was filled with a gradient of rocks, the outer walls got painted, sand was prepared to be mixed with cement. Progress was made.

Finally, at Ben’s behest, we sat down for lunch, with locally sourced sugarcane as dessert. The menu consisted of chicken stew and cauliflower stew with white rice and slaw, along with the ever-present watermelon. Conversation and laughter mingled in the air as we refueled our tired bodies. A local dog wandered in; following the enticing aroma of our food. It was a serene and idyllic scene, juxtaposed in the middle of a hectic day. We played a couple of rounds of hot seat and then got back to work.

Despite being reenergized from lunch, we had nowhere to turn our energy as most of the work had already been completed. The work took on a more relaxed pace and we ended up playing volleyball with the locals. overall it was awesome!

March 23, Day 7

After eating one last breakfast at the lodge, our group departed to expat community Placencia for a fun day of snorkeling. Our tour guide Candace took us to two different locations in the barrier reef, both teeming with hard and soft coral, vibrant fish, and conch shells. Everyone was ecstatic as they submerged into the warm water, especially the group members who said this was their first time snorkeling. We ended our tour on a small island, where we ate homemade fry jacks, picked up shells, and relaxed on the shore. We lingered at the beach town for a while longer and then returned to the lodge, where we sat around a fire made from firewood we had reflected and reflected upon our experiences in Belize and how Medina Banks and our community Atlanta, GA relate to the 7 Elements. 

 
 

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