Thursday, May 16, 2013

Geosciences Belize Trip 2013, Day 2

Hello Morton Middle School Belizers!

Today was a very hot day.  It was in the low 90s and very dry.  In fact, much of the country is having fires now, mostly caused by farmers slashing and burning.  The smoke is very thick.  Our eyes are burning and we are coughing a lot.  No danger from the fire though, other than it being hard to breathe, we are all safe here. 
Access to a church

We spent time working in the local community of San Ignacio today, focusing on public spaces and business (health care, banks, restaurants, playgrounds, etc) and how accessible they are for people with disabilities (see the “access" picture to the right – limited wheelchair access into a church).  We are very fortunate in the United States that every building has to be completely accessible for everyone.  Belize does not have the same standards for access.  We are creating a map of all of the information that our students have put together.  I will talk more about this if I am able to visit with you before the end of the school year. 

I have been sharing your questions with my 18 college students here, and they are all very impressed with you and your questions.  Keep in mind, you might be smarter than most of us, since we are here focusing on the environment, and less on the ancient Mayan culture.  I hope I can provide a good explanation for today’s question: 

Was there any way you could move up a level in society and if so, how and when could this occur?

Everything that I know of the ancient Mayan civilization leads me to believe that the five separate classes were very distinct, and left no opportunities for advancing to a higher class.  It was possible to fall classes, but not advance.  Everyone was  born into a class that was the same as their parents.  I do not know of any people in lower classes becoming part of the nobility, or the spiritual leaders.  Slaves could move up to peasants, if they were able to pay money to those who owned them.  Of course, since they didn’t make any money, this rarely happened. 

I am very glad that you are keeping up with current events in class.  The destruction of the Nohmul pyramid in northern Belize is really heartbreaking down here.  We have been told that it was a very political decision, since there is little money being spent on materials to pave roads.  Still, no one should ever be destroying these ancient structures, and there are people that will likely go to jail for that decision.  It is very sad.  The site was at least 2,400 years old, and is now lost forever. 

Belize School
Belize House
I am adding a few additional pictures to this message (click on them to make them bigger).  The first two pictures ("house" and "school" to the left) will show you the typical living conditions of the Belizean people.  Building resources are very hard to get here, and most will use all of the materials that they can to build their houses and schools.   
Lecture with Mr. Silva
The last picture ("lecture" to the right), shows our class with Mr. Hector Silva, Mayor of San Ignacio back in the 1950s and 1960s.  Mr. Silva was instrumental in bringing running water and telephone lines into most of the country.  Can you imagine living with no running water at home?  Many Belizean people still do to this day and wash their clothes in the local river and streams!  We had an interesting conversation with him on the evening we arrived. 
Please keep writing, I will do my best to keep answering and providing you all information about our trip.  This weekend, we are visiting one of the world famous caves of Belize, Actun Tunichil Muknal.  We will also be visiting the Mayan city center of Xunantunich, which Mr. Schmidt showed you pictures of with my students last year.  I will send you more pictures for when you come back to school on Monday along with information about the spiritual uses of caves in the ancient Mayan culture. 

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Dr. Chris Atchison (aka, Kadie’s Dad)
Georgia State University 

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