Day One in PG

Greetings, friends, from the sunny and HOT village of Punta Gorda!

One 4 AM wakeup, three flights, and a taxi ride and finally I am here!  What a ridiculously cool experience this is going to be!  Let me tell y’all the highlights…

– On my flight from Atlanta to Belize City, I somehow ended up seated in the “Economy Comfort” section of our aircraft.  I was one row behind first class, had a ridiculous amount of legroom, and got to sit in a far more comfortable chair than the one experienced by the poor suckers in “standard economy class.”  I have no idea how this happened, but it was awesome.

– A beautiful Belizean woman come up to me in the airport in Belize City and give me a free chocolate sample.  I kind of wanted to be her.  What better job is there than “beautiful woman who gives out free chocolate in the airport”?  To make things even more fabulous, she handed me a little flyer advertising the Toledo Cacao Festival happening this coming weekend.  Toledo, for those of you who don’t know, is the name of the southernmost region of Belize, which is where Punta Gorda is situated.  AKA the Cacao Festival is taking place right in PG!  I am 150% going, and if that free piece of chocolate served as any indication, I will not be sorry!

– I had my first encounter with “Belizean time.”  I’d been forewarned that Belizeans tend to be a bit more lax about time, but I really experienced it when my 12:30 local flight on Tropic Air didn’t board until about three seconds before its departure, and departure didn’t happen until 12:45.  I was slightly afraid that I’d simply missed the flight, but mostly refreshed by the casual attitudes of the airline staff.

Tiniest plane ever!

The plane I took from Belize City to PG. Tiniest ever.

The PG Airport. I kid you not.

– There was a Mennonite woman with me on the flight to Belize City, which is awesome because 1) I love Mennonites and 2) I read about there being a Mennonite population in Belize, but didn’t expect to actually see it so promptly upon arrival!  So much excitement in a day!

– My flight from Belize City to Punta Gorda was far more memorable than I was anticipating.  I knew I’d be in a puddle jumper of some sort, but I didn’t expect it to look like the thing Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic.  Tiniest passenger plane ever.  While every dip made my stomach flip, the ride was awesome.  What a spectacular view of beautiful Belize!  From the sky, I had an incredible view of the bluest water I’ve ever seen.  I can’t wait to go swimming!

– When I arrived in PG, I was picked up by Olivia, one of the PW Belize staff members, in a taxi.  The driver told me about the sights we were passing as we drove through the town, and it looks to be refreshingly walkable and local.  I don’t think I’ve seen a single tourist since I’ve arrived!  There’s a charming little park/main square area, and the market is a block from the ProWorld office, and from the balcony, I really can look out onto the Caribbean.  Life is rough.

– I am legitimately going to lose 15 pounds in sweat.  Any doubt in my mind has preeeetty much been abolished.

– Almost immediately upon arrival at the ProWorld office, Olivia took me over to a little café to get some lunch.  I think I arrived after the usual lunch rush, so I don’t know how lunch typically works, but from what I gather, all the little cafes around here prepare an entrée of some sort and make a good sized stack of portions and then sell them until they run out.  For the equivalent of $3 US, I got myself a delicious serving of seasoned chicken, white rice, and pinto beans.  I am pretty confident that Belizean food is going to meet most all of my Sarah Whitman Food Criteria—minimal-to-zero dairy, ample quantities of legumes, herb-based chicken dishes, and, though I have yet to taste them, lots of plantains!

The little cafe where I bought my first Belizean lunch. I took this picture from the bunkhouse balcony, which should give you an idea of how easy it is to get myself a good lunch by merely walking down a flight of stairs!

-The ProWorld staff members I’ve met so far are awesome!  So super friendly and fun!  They will make this summer very entertaining!  Perlina is super sweet, and speaks a Mayan dialect called Q’echi, which I hope to learn a bit of while I’m here.  Noemi is super adorable and jolly, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be BFFs by tomorrow.  Nicole is really nice, though we haven’t gotten to talk for very long because she’s been in meetings today.  Akiesha is one of the Participant Coordinators, and she is originally from Texas, but seems like she’s lived in Belize all her life.  She fits in really well in spite of having only arrived about three weeks ago.  Olivia is adorable, and I think she finds my questions about everyday life in Belize both amusing and endearingly stupid.  Actually, I think all of the girls think I ask some crazy questions, but everything is so new—I just can’t help it!  They were especially amused when I commented on how unusual it was to hear so many unique wild bird calls outside the office window.  This is no Philadelphia!

Two of my fellow PW staffers–Perlina on the left, and Akiesha on the right.

– There is an amazing balcony, with about six hammocks, right outside of our office area.  Afternoon siestas may need to become a habit…

The amazing porch of the PG bunkhouse. I’m already halfway finished my book, and most of my reading took place on a hammock!

– I just walked down the block with Akiesha and Olivia to a chocolate shop (and by down the block, I literally mean down the block—a thirty-second walk), and bought four little chocolate bars, two flavored with coffee and two with mint.  When we first walked into the little shop, one of the women offered us samples of three different kinds of chocolate, and I am now feeling stuffed and content.  The bars will be a nice evening snack fresh out of the refrigerator.

A side view of the chocolate shop–notice that it touts itself as “Wilma Wonka’s”…gotta love it!

– I am, as I was last year in Peru, pretty much the token blonde/pale person in the office.  In this case, I think I am also the only one in PG, which may prove interesting.  In Cusco, the downtown area was so dense with tourists that I could easily blend in, but here I will be an eyesore just about anywhere in PG.  (OR an exotic nymph attracting the Belizean gentlemen.  Future husbands of Belize, watch out!)  Seriously, though, I’m going to try to develop a reputation for being nice to everyone so that I don’t give a bad rap to the future blonde visitors to southern Belize.  Wish me luck!

I walked about 100 feet from my bunkhouse to take this picture. It’s so cool to be this close to the sea!

That’s all for now, folks!  I’m going to go and lounge on a hammock for a bit while actively sweating off a pound or two.  Ciao!

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