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Home is Where the Ocean Is

CANADA | Wednesday, 7 May 2014 | Views [54] | Scholarship Entry

From the moment I stepped off the water taxi on to the dock in Caye Caulker, I felt like I was home. The humid tropical air pressed down all around me like a warm hug and the cool ocean breeze caressed my face. I had never been to Belize before; I had never been outside of Canada, for that matter. But there was something almost indescribable about the place that made me feel immediately welcome. I was in Belize for a month for a study abroad program with ISIS, the Institute for Sustainable International Studies. At the time, I was considering becoming a veterinarian so I was taking part in two courses. Although the bulk of my time in Belize was spent learning, it never felt like school work. We worked hands-on with local veterinarians, went to local farms, and had real life learning experiences. I had the opportunity to help castrate a horse, release an Iguana into the wild, and see Howler monkeys in their natural habitat. Half way through the month, a few friends and I decided to go on a weekend trip to Caye Caulker. Our classes took place in San Ignacio, a town in mainland Belize, so we craved the ocean breeze. We went snorkeling off the Caye and saw coral, fish, sharks, sting rays, and sea turtles. Before we had to get back on the boat, some sea turtles appeared to graze. I spotted one who had a damaged fin. It was half cut off, probably from a boat or a shark attack. I floated above her and watched while she grazed. Then I took a deep breath and dove down to swim beside her. I maintained a good distance so my presence wouldn’t scare her away. As I floated there, everything else faded away and I was immersed in the silence of that moment. Slowly, she swam toward the surface of the water to take a breath and I managed to capture a picture of her with my waterproof camera. It is a photo and a moment I will treasure for the rest of my life. I learned countless life lessons on that trip to Belize. Although I no longer have the desire to be a veterinarian, it is not because I was turned off by what I learned in Belize. Quite the opposite, actually. While I was in Belize I discovered that at the end of every day, all I wanted to do was write about what I had done so I could remember it later. I cherish that journal of memories because it reminds me how lucky I was to have that experience. Learning about the Belize way of life changed how I view and live my life, and I am grateful for that. I dream about seeing those sea turtles again someday.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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