Co-existence and the Eco-challenge


    One of the things that I can count on this community to do is come together for a good cause. As I write this today, another cause has just finished, the Eco-challenge. Started five years ago, it is the highlight of this month, and encourages others to join in promoting awareness of the lagoons, mangroves and natureís habitats of Ambergris Caye. That was the plot five years ago, and having been part of it back then, I wonder sometimes if that lesson comes across.

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    Imagine this: Youíre stuck in a two person kayak, with an in-law. Itís a sport youíve never done until the day before, when you realize you better get the hang of how to hold a paddle (not that kind, the kayaking kind gutterbrain!). Oh yes, and thereís that little thing called, balancing in the kayak. Did you know you could flip over on that thing? You would think it would be manufactured to stay afloat no matter who clambers on it! Never mind the idea that crocodiles swim around in the lagoons as well, and have been known to inhabit the very areas youíre practicing on. †††††††††††

    Once youíve managed not to flip over, and have learned to sit still and multitask; i.e. insert paddle in water and move, itís then time to reach your destination. The race itself covers a clear 20 miles, if not more. That burning sensation on the shoulder you feel after a mere five minutes of paddling is probably not too reassuring, but itíll go away. I mean, pretty soon, your body goes numb and you donít even feel it! Fabulous! †††††††††††

    Oh, and did I mention youíre sitting in that teeny confined space with an in-law, formerly your friend, and with every passing moment, forever your nemesis? Well, not to worry, the way we do it, island-style, is cover it with a bit of tropical rum or beer. †††††††††††

Mary Gonzalez's Facebook profile

    After an hour of practice, and enjoying the scenery, itís time to celebrate our victory over the previously unknown kayak. †††††††††††

    Cut to the next morning, waking up at a bleary 5:30am, hustling to the old football field where the race is slated to start. As you near the crowd, that cold sinking feeling inside your stomach starts spreading to other regions, namely the entire freakiní body! What on earth made you think you could do this. As you berate yourself, and the hangover really starts kicking in, the choice is clear. Do you stick to it, sweat out that goma and finish what you started? Or do you chicken out, disappoint your supporters and slink away, tail between legs?

    Obviously. The choice is clear. Itís finish or go home. †††††††††††

    Oh yes. You know you wonít win. The guns on those professionals are scary and should be outlawed. The abs on the one team is enough to make your in-law cringe. The war is with yourself Ė finish or die of disappointment. Oh, yeah, thereís that teeny thing about promoting the environment as well. Right. †††††††††††

    Well, time to get in the kayak. Hmm. It was a lot easier during practice yesterday. Oh dear, how does on end up in the kayak without appearing to be clumsy, or hungover? Thatís an impossible feat Iím afraid, and judging from everyoneís smirks, theyíre on to you. †††††††††††

    Well, at least, once the gun has been fired and the race has begun, you know you have one thing right. There is no way in hell you will win. Youíre still at the dock, trying not to paddle backwards! The crowd is laughing and encouraging, but the humiliation is there. Oof! There you go, out of the starting point and heading somewhat in the right direction. †††††††††††

    Once you hit the mangroves and see the creatures in their habitat, that is when you realize what youíre paddling for. If you hit the in-law with the paddle then, well, thatís just a bonus! Imagine discovering a beautiful sandbar where you can get off the kayak and swim around and enjoy the peaceful serenity. It hits home. It doesnít matter if you win or lose, indeed, you are in a most wonderful place and itís worth it to bring awareness to the forefront. Camping and waking early to finish the second leg of the race is a breeze. Itís all about coming in and finishing. Itís all about knowing that youíve finished something you set out to do. And it sure helps that youíve got friends whoíve waited hours since the winners came through. Who cares if you come in last? After that experience, if you could, you would paddle every month to make your point known. Well, letís not get overzealous. Someone else could paddle every month and increase awareness and educate others and all that hooha. Youíll be happy to take pictures and cheer. †††††††††††

    Yes, the challenge is quite an experience indeed. It is what it is called: a challenge. But finishing is such a sweet reward. Ask anyone whoís been a part of it! Hopefully someday, yours truly will get back on the proverbial horse and try once more. I might even practice a month beforehand! ††††††††††

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