CTurner's Travel Journals


  • 26 years old
  • From California, United States
  • Currently in California, United States


A blog of my adventures while studying in San Ignacio, Belize.

In the Field and Stream

Belize San Ignacio, Belize  |  Mar 16, 2011
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 It was a different experience and I really enjoyed it. I was impressed by the med students hard work under the hot sun, and saw the difference they were making for some of the people. 


Well, last week was such a blur of activity I will try to capture some of the moments. 

            Tuesday was different for me.  Instead of going to Darnell’s house I went with a group of med students to Belmopan.  There were around 20 med students from Wayne State in Michigan volunteering through ProWorld for a week.  Each day they were going to different villages, checking blood pressure, offering consultation, and giving medicine when they could.  I was along for the ride and the designated photographer for the day, and I really liked what I saw.  We were in the middle of the market, and simply set up a tent.  People who had a medical problem or wanted a check up quickly found the tent and were seen by the med students.  I was impressed with how well some of the students communicated with the patients.  Many of the people who came spoke primarily Spanish, and a few of the med students did great without a translator.  For the others there were translators helping relay messages. 

            It was a different experience and I really enjoyed it.  I was impressed by the med students hard work under the hot sun, and saw the difference they were making for some of the people.  Of course they couldn’t just give people a magic pill that would fix all of their ailments, but I think just their presence encouraged some people.  None of the people knew they would get to be patients that day, and some knew they had a problem, but probably wouldn’t have paid to go see a doctor.  They all had no idea that they would get a free checkup in the middle of the market that day.  So, it was neat to watch.

            Then somehow, all the logistics fell into place at the last minute and Julie, Victor and I were in La Ruta Maya.  Friday morning was a thrill as the canoe race left San Ignacio for Banana Bank.  Hundreds of people were lining the riverbank and 82 boats on the water.  The start was chaotic, so instead of fighting for a spot we hung back and tried to avoid flipping.  Somehow we made it through the start, but flipped 3 times later that day.  Flipping cost us some time, but we worried about time.  Before the race we decided our goal was to reach Belize City and have fun.  And I am pleased that we accomplished both of those goals.

            170 miles did not go by quickly by any means, but we found ways to keep busy.  Victor and Julie tried to teach me the national anthem of Belize (“Oh Land of the free by the Carib Sea…”) and I sang the United States national anthem.  The first day there were lots of people cheering along the way, which helped the time pass.

            The second day was the longest in miles (60, I think) and we were anxious for the largest rapid of the race: Big Falls.  We had heard the horror stories of boats flipping and even breaking on that section of the river, and had no clue what to expect this year.  Thankfully, we did not flip and according to Victor the rapid was much smaller this year.

            The third day at 8am we left Double Head Cabbage (aka Cabeza Doble Lechuga, since I didn’t know the Spanish word for cabbage- repollo).  It felt like the longest day.  We started very strong, but completely misjudged the time it should take us, so we soon ran out of steam.  People on bank lied to us and told us we were close so we would paddle hard. This got annoying real quick, when we had “just 5 miles left” for over 3 hours.  Luckily, we were going the same pace as a boat near by, so we had company to share our snacks and complaints with. I was so happy to get a warm meal and massage from Martha at Burrell Boom.

            The final day was a flash.  We paddled hard all the way to Belize City and it felt so good to cross the finish line.  We were tired but proud of our accomplishment.  A few minutes after we stepped out of the boat I became sad, because I realized the race was over.  It was extremely challenging physically, but such a fun event to be a part of.  Each night we camped under the stars, met other paddlers, and showed off our blisters.  We got to see every mile of the Belize River and felt the support and attention of the entire country.  It was an incredible adventure and a immense challenge, just right for a 4-day weekend.

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