"Lessons From Belize"
"Take this envelope and give it to a man named Gerson when you reach Belize City," Jose said with a smile. I took the ruffled envelope and placed it carefully in my book bag that I had securely placed on my back. "No Problem at all," I replied while he led us to a boat that would take us from San Pedro which is situated on the Belizean island of Ambergris Caye, back to the mainland to meet our tour guide. "You'll find Gerson holding a sign with your name on it," he said as his final departing words. We carefully boarded the ferry and waved good bye. The water that morning was a beautiful hue of turquoise blue. The rays of the sun made the water sparkle; It was a sight that words alone could not paint it’s essence. The boat picked up speed and we were finally out in the channel with the wind in our face and San Pedro to our backs. Eventually the little island faded in the distance. One hour and twenty minutes later, Belize City came into view.
"Watch your steps folks," the captain of the ship called out to everyone aboard when we docked. We disembarked from the ship at the Belize City in search of our tour Guide Gerson. At the port there are tons of people scurrying about in every direction. Just a quick glance around and you'd find vendors selling goods and merchandise while other people are carrying luggage trying to get their bearings. Up ahead was a street where many of the hired drivers awaited their patrons. In the distance as we fought through the crowd of people, I spotted the man with the sign. "How was the seas this morning?" he asked as I handed him the envelope. We shook hands and he led us to his van in a lot behind the port which appeared to be an earlier model Chrysler. I could see he used sealant to seal some of the holes in the frame while the side of the vehicle looked as if Randy Johnson, the legendary Baseball pitcher had throw a few fast balls into it. In other words it wasn't in the best condition but I could tell he took pride in it none the less.
I sat up front next to him while he focused on cooling the vehicle down as it had been sitting in the hot Belizean sun all morning while he awaited our arrival. Out of the corner of my eye I watched him carefully examine the contents of worn white envelope and to his delight it featured his pay and other items related to our tour. "Alright folks, Welcome to Belize City, our tour today will take us far west and it will approximately be a two-hour drive," he exclaimed with a large smile on his face. "Sounds good to me," I laughed. We were headed to the ruins of Xunantunich the ancient Mayan city. As we left the city Gerson spoke with passion about his country. He shared facts and other fascinating information while en-route. I soaked up his words and I have to admit I learned quite a bit from him. That morning, I expected to learn about Mayan culture and other things but what he taught me in his sincerity was much more than a history lesson.
"You see that over there guys?" he said as pointed with a grin. "The mountains?" I asked while I swiveled my head from side to side to see what he was pointing at. "That Village up ahead, is where I live." His village was a small piece of land with a few small homes on it with one dirt road that provided access to the main road which was two lane road we traveled. He explained that was where he had been living most of his life. Being a tour guide was his way of supporting his family— the family he adored with all of his heart. He shared plans of building his first home himself with his own hands. I could see the wide eyed look on his face. I smiled while he spoke because I could genuinely feel his happiness. He went on and shared more details about his family. His younger brother was the first to go to the University as he called it and he talked about how proud he was of him especially because of how they grew up. His parents could not read or write at all and spent their entire lives picking fruit for a living. Gerson believed in the value of putting your heart and soul into whatever you do. His goal was to become to best tour guide in all of Belize and maybe even start his own tour business. I believe he'll do just that.
At the end of the day when we stepped back onto the boat to head back to San Pedro after all the fun we had, Gerson’s enthusiasm for life rubbed off on me in a profound way. He was a man who had never been outside of Belize yet he did not give any excuses for why he couldn't do something big in life even though he felt opportunities were limited. He took advantage of what was before him. We all can take something from Gerson's mindset. As I reflect on my time in Belize, I learned a few things that have much more meaning to me. I learned in many cases less can be more. I learned also to never take our opportunities for granted. Family and togetherness is worth more than anything you could ever buy. Do the best you can with what you have and never forsake life’s simplicity, there’s peace that comes from understanding that.