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July 30, 2017

Watching the UV beads change


Melissa showing students from Monkey River the beads that react to UV


Melissa and a new friend from Monkey River


Students at Monkey River are happy to have a new book about Crocodiles signed by Sharon Matola at the Zoo


Students from Monkey River sining for us after we sang Itsy Bitsy Spider with them.


Jennifer, Brittany and Kelly showing off the quilt that the students made with them.


chocolate tour


Cahty, Noelle and Jennifer tasting the chocolate we helped grind.


Beautiful insect we found on the night hike


Dragonhead Bug – Jason’s favorite!


Looking at an insect with Jason



Nerves were high sleeping at the Jaguar Preserve, but the overnight thunderstorm and sound of rain falling on the roof through the night helped many of us sleep. After a bird walk and breakfast in the morning, we loaded up the bus and headed back down the bumpy dirt road to a boat that took us across to Monkey River. Monkey River is a small village surrounded by the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea. We wondered what to expect as even Liz did not know how many children would be waiting to see us. After being greeted by three teachers from the village who were previous Educators of Excellence, we walked to the community center where the children leapt up into our arms giving us hugs and showing us how excited they were to see us.

We quickly split into our four groups, broke the children up by age, and began our lessons. Groups created paper helicopters to be dropped from the balcony, a solar balloon, bracelets representing the parts of the ecosystem, and a quilt of hand drawn Belizian animals. One child around the age of four saw a picture of a jaguar and shared with us that her grandfather had killed one because it had become a problem for his farm. This brought the importance of Sharon Matola’s jaguar rehabilitation program to life. The children sang a song for us, we presented them with the picture, chapter, and nonfiction books we were donating, and headed back across the water and towards Cockscomb.

Before heading back to our dorms, we stopped at Che’il. Meaning “wild Mayan,” Che’il is a Mayan chocolate company run by Julio Saqui at the Mayan Center. Julio’s brother, one of the cacao farmers in the village, gave us a tour. Julio educated us about how cacao is grown, the history of chocolate in the Mayan culture and the country of Belize. He then cracked open a cacao fruit to allow us to see and taste the raw seeds, which were covered in pulp that tasted like mango. Julio then took us back into the small room where he makes the chocolate.

Six years ago when he started, he was able to make the bars in the traditional Mayan way. Julio has since created his own modern equipment for making his chocolate more efficiently. We all had the opportunity to grind the cacao beans into liquid, the first step in making chocolate. After tasting some of Julio’s completely organic, preservative free, 80% dark chocolate, he invited us upstairs for homemade dinner. Here, Julio shared with us the story of how the village was relocated out of the land that is now the Jaguar Preserve to the Mayan Center. This story was relatable to how the Europeans forced the Native Americans out of their homes in the United States. We returned to our dorms as night fell and reflected on how this journey has shaped us both personally and professionally.

Photos coming soon!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Spencer Peters permalink
    July 31, 2017 8:02 am

    What is the traditional Mayan way of making chocolate?

    • July 31, 2017 9:11 am

      First they harvest the cacao pods which hold the beans. The beans are covered in pulp which taste like mango. That pulp helps the beans to ferment over six days in a wooden box. After the beans ferment, they dry them out. When you crack the dried beans open you find cacao nibs which are like a natural chocolate chip but very very bitter. Then, they they take the nibs and put them on a large stone and grind them for an hour and 45 minutes using another stone. This is when sugar is added as well as cacao oil, but not a lot. The oil in th nibs is released and it turns to liquid. The liquid is poured into a mold and cooled. It is absolutely delicious but melts quickly because there are no preservatives.

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