Belmopan, Belize and the Belize Zoo

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Maya Info

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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2000. Breakfast at our hotel was another unintended leisurely event. We finally got served, then hopped on our bus and headed for the capital city of Belize, Belmopan, strategically and artificially located in the center of the country.

At the University, Kathryn and Nick parlayed some old connections into an opportunity for us to visit the vaults of the Belizean Department of Archaeology. In the small vault, we were privileged to actually hold an exquisite Late-Classic Holmul-style vase that had been recently repatriated. We also got to hold a wonderful jadeite bead necklace (that brought out the green in my eyes quite nicely, I must say…) and some obsidian blades that were 1200 or 1300 years old. After we left that vault, I realized that my hand was bleeding from some small cuts made by those remarkably sharp blades, even though I had held them very carefully. Mine was the first blood sacrifice they had received in 1200 years! Wow!

The larger vault area was filled with shelf after shelf of treasures, waiting to be visited and explored. There was probably a doctoral thesis waiting to be written on every shelf. Simply amazing!

Our lunch stop was an open-air pub named “Cheers”. The rafters were decorated with donated t-shirts, exuberantly signed by accompanying diners, from all over the world. I saw at least two from places in North Carolina. Some had been very thoroughly used by their owners before being donated. But the service, the food, and the beer were great. In the open space between the columns they had huge wire baskets hanging that were filled with different varieties of orchids. That looked like a good way to manage them. At different times of year, I’ll bet they are spectacular. I spotted at lease three different types that I recognized, and there were others.

Our next stop was the Belize Zoo. I must admit, when I had heard that the Wilderness Travel trip in 1998 had failed to make it to Caracol and had to settle for a visit to the zoo, I thought that must have been an enormous disappointment. So I was approaching this expedition with less-than-total enthusiasm. But when I got inside, I was totally entranced! How did they manage to keep those spider monkeys in that enclosure? How was it possible that I was standing two feet away from a black jaguar?!? Why did I have the good fortune to witness the full display, complete with the soundtrack, of the howler monkeys when they went completely silent just a few minutes later? How was I so lucky to be standing next to the fence taking a picture of the puma when he was attacked by his disagreeable roommate (whom I didn’t see coming, and scared the daylights out of me!!!) The whole zoo presentation was well done and I was glad we got to see it. I bought a souvenir hat and patch for sister Cindy, sorry that she wasn’t along to share the experience.

That evening we had dinner at a Thai restaurant that Kathryn had spotted the day before. The curries were quite good. The flan was superb. As I pushed back my chair to leave, the back chair legs snapped depositing me quite unceremoniously onto the floor backwards. Though I wasn’t noticeably hurt, both Nick and Kathryn insisted that I sit quietly for a few moments and collect myself to allow my disturbed spirit to resettle in my body. They explained that the Maya believe that major illness and decline are caused by precisely this sort of unsettling of the spirit and its separation from the physical body and that a major task of the shaman/curer is to restore that equilibrium. Interesting.