Sunrise on Tobacco Caye

January 30, 2011 in Belize, North America, Travelogue

The manatees, sadly, were not in attendance. Eric and AC looked for them for a long time in the lagoon between the mangrove islands and wondered aloud whether something had happened to them or not. It’s hard to say, with free creatures, where they were at, but they were missed. We did, however, see a whole island loaded with frigate birds in the throes of mating season, males with their bright red pouches inflated to the bursting point in hopes of impressing some available female.


Instead we spent a pleasant day fishing off the side of the boat, laughing and making a new friend, Katrina, from Santa Cruz, who runs a kayak shop and is on her first trip to Central America. She’s one of those pleasant people who gives me a little hope for humanity.


The boys caught fish!  Gabe and Ezra, yellow snapper and Elisha a Nassau grouper which he had to throw back because they’re out of season. They’re also endangered in this part of the world and so, while still disappointed not to have a fish to cook for dinner, he was a little proud to have hauled in a “special” fish.


The best hour of the trip, for me, was the hour we spent snorkeling inside the protected curve of the reef. This part of the coast is a marine preserve and the protected creatures seem to be thriving. The reef here is in much better shape than lots of other places we’ve seen it, although the incursion of lion fish is worrisome. I saw fish and molusks and living coral that I haven’t seen since I was a kid, in abundance.


There is a marine station here. It’s where we’ve been managing to upload stories and pictures over the turtle slow satellite connection. It’s the same connection we had when we lived in the middle of nowhere in NH. Matt and Michelle run it, a Canadian and an Aussie, and they do good work. They’re about to leave to pursue some further education and we’re applying for the job to take it over.


It’s unlikely that we’ll get it. Neither of us have degrees in marine or environmental science, but I’d be willing to start on one immediately; we learn fast, we’re SCUBA certified, being a teacher, I’d know what to do with the many groups of kids who come and go to learn to snorkel and we know how to live on an island, which is a bigger deal than it might at first seem. I’m going to send in our resumes next week and Eric is going to lobby hard on our behalf. We might get lucky; we’ll see.


The drumming was loud and long last night. Even we were induced to dance. Hannah sat up far too late with her friends, reveling in her last night of fun with them and visiting with other travelers. She makes friends wherever she goes; anyone who worries about socialization for traveling kids should come spend a week with us.


I can’t say enough good about this particular group of young people. We’ve met a lot of incredulous stares when we’ve mentioned that Hannah (14) has been off backpacking on the mainland with Mel (16), Phil (17), David (18) and Ruth (21), but anyone whose met this particular band of buddies would know why.


Ruthie, David and Mel are siblings from what must be one of the best families in the history of the world. There are five more kids who we can’t wait to meet in North Carolina this summer. They’re confident, capable, funny and some of the hardest workers in their age group, without a doubt. Ruthie is exceedingly well traveled and a ray of sunshine.  She and I have become fast friends this winter.  David has one of those indefatigable personalities and perhaps the most important quality for success in life: a sense of humor and the ability to roll with the punches. Mel is no surprise, downstream from Ruth and David.  She’s intrepid and incredibly game for her first international trip. She’s the first girl in Hannah’s age group that she’s REALLY clicked with in a very long time, perhaps since we cycled into the Adams’ yard in the Czech three summers ago.


Phil amazes me. Most 17 year old boys can’t be trusted to get their pants on straight and keep them above their underwear line and this guy is chicken bussing across Central America to pick up his lesser traveled friend tomorrow and hitch down into Honduras to hike three days up some river to a mission where they’ll work for a few weeks. In this big boy with laughing eyes are the seeds of greatness. He has more of a vision for what his life is about than most men twice his age. Whatever he chooses to do, he’ll do it well and probably lead it. That he’s chosen to big brother my boys is quite a gift and I’m hoping that more than his sense of humor rubs off on them!


A sliver of the moon and her sister venus were the only lights in the sky when I woke this morning.  Silvery grey had replaced squid ink black as I crept across the island to my favourite spot to sit and think. The breeze, before the sun came up, was a little chilly and it reminded me to wish some warm in the direction of my northern friends.


It wasn’t long before the girls joined me, scaring me out of my wits from behind and then giggling the way only teenage girls can.  They’ve taken up residence, back to back like the heart sisters they are on the concrete and conch shell wall in front of me.  The perfect addition to my sunrise photos.


Miss Hannah has grown a year’s worth this week. All of the long hours of teaching and training and driving each other crazy with the minutia of the stages of childhood have all of a sudden blossomed into this little grown up. She hit the ground running with her friends and didn’t miss a step. It’s causing me to revise my plans for her for the next few years, to see how we can accelerate the necessary parts of her educational process in order to maximize her potential and capability in other areas. Eighteen might be the “magic number” in the Western world, but I suspect there are many kids ready for their adult lives far before then, and I know a few at thirty who still can’t get it together. I want my kids to launch when they’re ready, on their own terms. Hannah is proving that she’s getting much closer.


The sun is up now. The breeze has warmed. It’s still a long hour until breakfast.  The girls are quietly reading aloud to one another in the sunlight and I’m starting to squint a little in the bright reflection off of the lagoon.


Today we pack our things and start the long trek back to the lago by chicken bus, boat and collectivo.  If we are VERY lucky, we might be home tomorrow night, but I suspect not before Tuesday.