Guatemala Cruise Day 2, Part 2: Boatyard Days in Rio Dulce, Guatemala
When we left off last time, we were just about to arrive at Abelle's boatyard on the Rio Dulce (and near the town of Fronteras, also known as Rio Dulce), Guatemala. And whaddaya know? Here it is, our ultimate destination straight ahead! We arrived there just a little after noon. We docked right next to some buildings and homes (top of photo above), and locals were bathing and washing dishes in the water very close to our boat. Barry and I decided to take a walk to check out the boatyard and local area. Before we'd even gotten off the dock, we met a friendly couple cruising on s/v Mistral, the large catamaran on the far left in the photo below, and had a nice chat with them before they took off in their dinghy for a late lunch. They had been stuck at Abelle's waiting for a part for longer than they expected and were more than ready to continue their cruise up to Belize as soon as possible. We also noted that the well-known buyboat Winnie Estelle was at the yard having repairs. We had no idea of this boat's illustrious history until we got home and did some googling, but it is quite fascinating. We later got to meet her owner, Captain Robert(o), who told us that he has sold her and will be delivering her to Key West later in the season. Sounds like she will eventually be taken back home to Annapolis, where she was built in 1920, as these folks were hoping. What a great story!

Hip Hip Hooray: San Pedro Rallies for Mel Paz 4 Mayor
Last night, citizens of San Pedro gathered to support our Independent candidate for mayor, Mel Paz. Speeches, trampolines for the kids, food, free purple t-shirts and $2 beers (the hallmark of a solid San Pedro political rally), a good crowd had gathered by the end of the night. I put on my purple "Mel Paz for Mayor" and went to Central Park a bit early. Mel was there helping set up. I'm surprised she is standing...and smiling...this campaigning business is HARD WORK. The stage was set. The kids (I mean future voters) were busy bouncing in the trampolines. The DJs set up with the music (DJs for some reason never smile)... I love when they mix in lyrics about the candidate or little bits of her speeches into dancehall or reggae music. Good stuff. We handed out LOTS of t-shirts and beads. Hundreds. Mary Gonzalez of the San Pedro Sun Newspaper was the first to speak. She introduced Ms. Paz and gave her endorsement. The bottom line with every one's speech was that the Blue and Red parties have had their chances and things are not getting better, in fact in many ways they are getting worse. It is time for change. It is time to break out of thoughtless familial connection to one or the other party and time to open our ears and really think about what the candidates are saying. No more empty promises, think about who is going to serve you and your town best.

The happiest and kindest can be found in diving.
“It was 2008 and I was 15-years old. My dad said, ‘Go right ahead.’ so I joined up. Patty has a program where kids from Belize can learn how to dive, no matter if they can pay or not. She loves diving and she decided to make it a part of her business to help train young people to learn to love the sea.” said Supaul. A natural in the water, Supaul began fishing and ocean swimming with his father, uncles and cousins, when he was young. “We would go out every weekend. Its part of what we do here. Its a lot of fun for me.” With Splash, students begin by attending weekend classes, learning the basics of diving through the PADI open water course. “Patty has a special way of explaining things that people can understand. We go step by step.” said Marco. The course continues for 5 weeks, finishing with the dives required to meet Open Water Certification. “Patty looks for understanding and a reassurance that we can handle ourselves. ” said Marco. Students can continue on for further certification, and Splash offers dives to the program’s students, when they have group tours.

Travel Time with Ellie: The Belize Zoo
This is my slideshow of the Belize Zoo. Click on the photo to start show. By Ellie Simmons. Hi there. It’s me Ellie. We went to the Zoo in Belize and saw many animals I have never seen before. Here is my slideshow. I took most of the pictures with also help from my mom and dad and Ava. Look for my movie of the ocelot. She was so sweet and was like my cat Curry the way she rubbed up on the cage. She kept meowing and I really wanted to touch her but my mom and dad said she was still a wild animal. The tapirs are neat and funny. They eat two buckets of fruit each morning. Their favorite zoo food is cucumbers. The spider monkeys thought we were the zookeepers with food. That’s why they stood up in the trees for us.

Banana milkshake fund for Duke the Manatee
Duke came into the Wildtracks ManateeRehabilitation Centre almost six weeks ago - a near weaning, sub-adult,emaciated manatee weighing only half of what he should. This manatee has ataste for the Wildtracks special of banana and water hyacinth leafsoy-based milk shakes, blended to perfection, with the added zing of taurine,vitamins and probiotics!Found on his own in a canal near DukeMarine he was rescued by Jamal, Nicole, Gordon and the rest of the fantasticrescue crew, and transported to Wildtracks, but has been hard to stabilize. Hiscondition has been going up and down, but over time, he has started eatingseagrass, and taking more food.......and more food. As he is regainingweight and improving in condition, the very significant food consumptionis draining financial resources disturbingly fast - he is currently takingapprox US$15 worth of the banana / water hyacinth milk shake daily!Can you spare the cost of a Wildtracks milkshake? Or two? Or a weeks worth? We are estimating that within two months hewill be entirely on seagrass and on his way back to the wild...but until then,we could do with some help to meet his dining costs!!

Homeroom University of Wisconsin-Stout: Field study of Belize ecosystem reveals 'amazing diversity'
Zip lining, snorkeling and hiking in the tropics - not a bad way to earn college credits. But while University of Wisconsin-Stout students say their adventure in Belize last month was a welcome change from a Midwestern winter, the trip was wasn't just fun in the sun. "I learned a lot more than I would have learned in any classroom," said Theresa Olson, a UW-Stout junior studying biotechnology. Olson was one of 17 students who made the trip to Central America as part of a new UW-Stout course, Natural History of the Neotropics. The winter session class focused on the ecosystems of Belize and the rest of the neotropics - the tropical areas of the Americas. "These areas harbor some of the most prominent hot spots of biodiversity," said UW-Stout assistant biology professor Michael Bessert, who developed the course and accompanied students. The biodiversity of Belize quickly was apparent to students, he added. Students were instructed to identify 50 species of flora or fauna, a task they imagined would be something of a challenge, Bessert said. It was anything but - students discovered 50 species on their first day in the country. "That was by design," Bessert said. "I did that to demonstrate the amazing diversity there." Belize's abundance of life came as a surprise to Olson, who called the variety of plant and animal life on land and water "mind-blowing."

Portsmouth teacher brings donation, love of chess to Belize
Although they speak different languages, elementary school students in Belize and Portsmouth are gaining exposure to one common subject because of a local teacher— the game of chess. Steve Schulten, a physical education teacher at the Little Harbour Elementary School, helped to start the first chess club at Little Harbour in 1994. As the team coach, he meets weekly with an enthusiastic group of students. They all meet in the art room to take on chess puzzles before competing in the nearby cafeteria area. Five years ago, Schulten participated in an international teaching program organized by the University of New Hampshire, which brought him to Belize during the week of February vacation. There, he met several chess enthusiasts who taught the game in elementary schools, but with limited resources. When Schulten returned to the United States, he began raising money from local chess enthusiasts to support the elementary school chess program in Belize. Schulten has returned to Belize each year since then, and the veteran teacher departed again on Saturday for his latest sojourn to the small Central American country.

Edited by Marty (11/17/12 10:54 AM)