Wow, where to begin? This trip has been AMAZING so far. This is my third and final j-term trip of my MVNU career. In each one, I have had new experiences, made new friends, and grew a little bit more as a person and in my relationship with God. I would highly recommend one to anyone who even considers one for a moment!
Yesterday, after class, I had the opportunity to spend some time with some beautiful children in Belmopan at an orphanage. The children were amazing and it has been my favorite thing thus far. The children ranged in age from infants to in their 20s. Many of them came from various situations from teen moms to abusive homes to impoverished families that simply couldn't afford to care for them. The children at the home got along with each other very well. They all had chores and took care of each other. While we were with them, we did crafts, sang songs, played on the playground, and played basketball and soccer. They helped remind me how blessed I am, but that God also blesses them. You could see it in their smiles and interactions with others. Despite their circumstances, they emitted much joy and had people who really cared about them. One of the little boys I encountered at the orphanage was Kaiden. Kaiden was about 4 years old. Kaiden attached himself to me after playing peek-a-boo while we were painting suncatchers. After the suncatchers, he ran and got a truck to play with. When he realized that I didn't have one to play with too, he ran to go get me one, so we could play together. Later, Kyle was tossing an American football with one of the older boys and they started tossing it over to Kaiden as I held him in my arms. We continued to pass it and eventually Kaiden was standing on his own tossing it. At one point, he stepped on a fire ant colony. He started yelling “Ants.” I picked him up and Kyle pulled his shoes off of him (he was one of the only children even wearing shoes). We knocked the ants off of him (which inadvertently made them also land on our feet). But, amongst the ants, dog poo, and garbage was beauty and love. I wanted to stay with these children so much longer; there was so much we could learn from each other.Now, for today. We went to the zoo this morning. Last year in Belize, the zoo was full of special memories for me: holding a boa, petting a tapir (for those of you reading: beware, they will pee if they don't like you), high fiving a jaguar, and most excitingly, going in the cage with Buddy the jaguar. This year, I was anxious to see the toucans, tapirs, and jaguars. First, I headed for the tapir exhibit, but they weren't there on that side of the exhibit. Then, we proceeded to walk around and see different exhibits including some rodents, pecary (a type of wild pig), a grey fox, and macaws. Eventually, we arrived upon Buddy's exhibit. There was a man there with lots of video equipment. Apparently, he was doing a documentary for PBS on the Belize Zoo. So, the zoo was setting up shots with Buddy in order to help them get good pictures and video of him. During this time, I got some great pictures while being mesmerized once again by the beauty, grace, and power exhibited by the jaguar. They are simply breath taking. Then, I went onto other parts of the zoo. During my exploring, I encountered the most amazing birds I've ever seen, a male and female Harpy Eagle. It was the strangest almost cartoon like bird and it was huge. It's diet consisted of anteaters, iguanas, and Belizean rodents. I was in awe of it's size. Then, I headed back to see the tapirs again. On my way, Doug and Christy stopped me. They told me they signed me up to go back in the jaguar cage with Christy, Dr. Skon, Kendra, and Ginny, I was excited, I didn't think that they were even doing it today. Once in the cage, I got to feed Buddy a chicken foot (I really held the cut off leg of a dead chicken, it honestly felt kind of weird but so exciting); his massive incisors were nearly touching me as he pulled the chicken leg into his mouth using his tongue. I also got to pet his back, tail and feet. The pads of his feet were quite intriguing, they were smooth, unlike an outdoor dog's rough and calloused pads on their feet. Buddy also did somersaults for us and playfully ran in circles above our head. I feel incredibly lucky to have went in his cage not only once, but twice. If I wasn't going to teach, I think I would probably be a zoologist working with and educating others about the amazing animals of this world like Buddy the jaguar. If we don't take care of them and protect them now, they will not be here tomorrow.