A Travellerspoint blog


How I spent my summer

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View Belize on MJMatson's travel map.

Well, I am a little behind on keeping my travels updated. So here we go with what I was up to this summer

I took an internship as an NGO intern with ProBelize. It is a small group located in San Ignacio, Cayo District, Belize, Central America. It was truly an amazing experience. I would love to write each and every little thing that I did but I would imagine that that is virtually impossible. However, I will try my hardest to get all the good stuff in.

Every week we would work with a different group of people who received grant money from various organization. Our first week, we worked with Don Cocom, a Mayan herbalist. We helped him build a pilapa for his medicinal trail. He has so much knowledge about each and every plant and ways that they can help with anything from cramps, to dengae fever to heart problems. It was so exciting to get to work with him. Our next week we went into Elijio Panti, a National forest and helped Antonio build some steps for the trail as well as maintain and clear the trails. It was a great experience to camp out in the jungle for a few days and it was a real bonding experience, not only with the jungle and all its little creatures (I got real close to a scorpion, yeah that hurt!) but also the other interns. Our next week, we worked with The DuPlooys at the Belize Botanic Garden. It is a beautiful area but I think the best part was getting to canoe home after work.

The next week was a little different because we started to work on our individual projects. I was working on setting up a recycling center. It is a huge issue in Belize, the lack of knowledge about what burning plastics could do, is so harmful. I really became passionate about it, and still to this day I am working on research about the topic.

That was only for a few days before we got back into the hard labor. We then went to 7 mile or El Progresso, where Julio has land in which he has built an education center and an amazingly beautiful trail. The area is so gorgeous, you could just tell why the Mayans though it to be so sacred and special. While helping maintain the trails we got to explore a little and find some pottery and scout out some previously unexplored trails.

The next two weeks it rained a whole lot (it was the start of the rainy season) so we mainly worked on our individual projects. However, on Thursday we got to have an experience in which was truly and utterly special. The caves we scouted out, we actually got to do a first decsent! It was amazing! We even found some extremely beautiful pottery that now is placed in the archeological reserve!

The next week, Frances and I got to work with the Santa Familia Grains, Vegetable and Legumes Cooperative. We learned what they were doing and their plans for the future and then wrote them a grant, that was actually granted a few weeks ago! That was very exciting. The following week, while we weren't finishing up the grant, we went to El Pilar, a Mayan site which is truly unique because they have only uncovered the mounds, they have not yet started to excavate, so that was a great experience.

I was there for a total of 10 weeks! But what I have mentioned only shows the "work" I did. The weekends were always chock full of amazing times with friends, (host)family, and amazing experiences.
In my first week there, I took in the local Cahal Pech Mayan site as well as cliff jumping at big rock water falls. The next week, all the interns went to Caye Caulker (formally known as Caye Corker, but the locals couldn't pronounce the "ork" part). That was an beautiful spot, so different from area in which I was living. The following weekend, we spent some time down Humingbird Highway at Michael's (the environmental coordinator) organic farm. He has the most amazing swimming holes along his property. The Next weekend we all decided to go to ATM (short for Actun Tunichil Muknal) which is a cave you have to swim into. It was so unbelievable. And the next day we went into Guatemala to see Tikal, the Mayan ruins. The next weekend we got to go to Xunantanich, which is a Mayan site that is about 20 min away from San Ignacio. The following weekend, we went back to Caye Caulker but this time I got to get some diving in. It was amazing. Steph, Frances and I dove at Turneffe Caye, at 3 different sites and it was a great experience. Diving with great friends, a great dive master and some people who just love life, is...well just awesome! The final weekend involved a little tradition we started. We call it La Rita Maya. Instead of La Ruta Maya, a 4 day canoe race down the Belize river, we tweaked it for our own personal taste. La Rita Maya involved a canoe and a stop at every resort for a Margarita all the way back to San Ignacio.

Each and every experience I had while on this trip was something I won't ever forget. I had the most loving and kind host family, who truly took care of me and whom I miss each and every day. I met some amazing people, both from the states and from Belize. People who truly want to help the world and the people in it. I got to observe and participate in the local culture, and though not everything was an extremely pleasant experience, all in all was wonderful.

I really can not wait to get back there!

Posted by MJMatson 09:46 Archived in Belize Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

Part 2 of Spring Break

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So the Sunday after the wedding, Ben and I headed to Sydney by train. The only problem was, the train lines were being worked on so we had to take a bus, which took heaps longer than expected and by the time we made it to the hotel, it was pretty late but we were both starving. We walked around for a little before we could find anything open. We found this bbq Vietnamese place. It was really good but we had to make our own food. There was little hot plate in the middle of the table and we literally just put our chicken and beef on it. It was actually really good. And let me tell you, i am getting really good at using my chopsticks!!!!

So Monday rolls around and we are off to the airport. Ben earlier last week tried to surprise me with where we were going today, but let me tell you he is not too good at covering up our plans. So i figured it out pretty early. We were off to TASMANIA!! For those who don't know where that is, it's the little island at the way bottom of Australia. We got on the plane, which was only about a 2 hr flight and landed in Hobart. The first day we just drove around seven mile beach where our gorgeous hotel was, we had basically a house, with 3 bedrooms 2 bathrooms on the first floor, a huge kitchen/dining area, tv room and awesome balcony on the second floor!!! (Awesome). We eventually ended up driving to Richmond, which is a pretty old town, to find some food but of course it was in between lunch and dinner so NOWHERE was open!!! The next day we had booked a trip to Cradle Mountain. So we got up at 5:30am to drive to Launceston (on the north shore of tassie...Hobart is the south) which took us about 2 1/2 hours too meet up with our tour leaving at 8. So we hopped into a van and off to Cradle Mountain-Lake St Claire World Heritage Park. You may have heard of the Overland track, which is a track that takes you straight down the center of the park and takes 6 days to hike. Anyway, we hiked around Dove Lake up to Marion's Lookout across the plateau to just before the summit of the mountain and took the face track down to Wilk's Lake and then down the other side of Dove lake (there is a map on my pictures you'll be able to follow). Anywhoo!! It was the most beautiful place I have been to in a while. Look at the pics and see for yourself!

So after our tour we headed back to the hotel and didn't get back until 12...it was a LONG day! Wednesday we just hung around, enjoyed the pool and spa at the hotel and just rewound after a long day on Tuesday. Thursday we went on a tour of Port Arthur which is the old convict colony. On the way there we stopped at some pretty cool stops, like the blowhole, devils kitchen, pirates bay, and eaglehawks neck, which is where they used to have a line of dogs on lookout so no prisoners could escape. That part is only 100 meters wide and the only land mass connecting Port Arthur with the rest of Tasmania. We also stopped at Richmond, which is one of the oldest towns in Tassie. It has the oldest working bridge in Australia along with the old school and the oldest catholic church. Then we finally got to Port Arthur. It was really cool to see the remains of the buildings. It was really creepy when we went into the asylum and the old separate prison. In the separate prison, the convicts couldn't make any noise and were called my their cell number. They also couldn't see any faces so the guards and all the other prisoners would wear masks.

On Friday, we really just looked around Hobart some more and went to the beach before we hoped on a plane back to Sydney. Then on Saturday we headed to Dargle where Ben's mom was working her coffee hut. We spent the day helping her out and camped out there until it was Sunday and time for me to head back to the states. =(

Posted by MJMatson 13:08 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Spring Break

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So I said I would have some stuff up here on my spring break trip to Australia. So here goes. I spent two weeks in Australia traveling around seeing some old faces and just enjoying spending time with Ben.

I first got there early Saturday morning (mind you I left Burlington Thursday afternoon). One of the first things I saw was Ben's smiling face with a bunch of flowers (He really is a great boyfriend!). We went back to his hotel so I could get a shower after my 23 hours of flying and then off to catch up with our friend Sal who was on the same contiki trip where me and Ben originally met. After lunch and walking around Sydney, we met up with some of Ben's friends who were town. After I got a good night sleep we watched some of Ben's friends karate tournament and then headed back to Tamworth. That is where Ben is from and its about a 4 hour drive from Sydney. The next day (monday) was Ben's 24th Birthday and we just hung around at his farm, playing with his dogs and horses and bush walking around his property. We found some really cool rocks to climb and the views are amazing!
On tuesday we headed up to Brisbane so I could catch up with some mates who I went to Uni with while I was on exchange last spring (Griffith). Ben surprised me Wednesday morning and took me to do the Storybridge Climb. And I can now say that I have climbed TWO out of only Three bridges in the world that you can climb. Then we went to Surfer's Paradise for some fresh prawns (shrimp) and then back up to Brisbane to have a few drinks with my good friend MC who lived just a few doors down from me at Griffith. Then Thursday morning it was back to Tamworth so Ben could be home to help his one of his mate's who was getting married that weekend.
Friday was filled with just relaxing and enjoying being in Tamworth. Then Saturday was the Big Day. Ashleigh and Shannon were getting married and Ben was a groomsman. I was fortunate enough to be able to hang out with all the boys that morning, making breakkie, and getting all scrubbed up. I must admit they really do clean up nice! Then it was off to the wedding. They couldn't have asked for a better day, the sun was shining (the boys were a little warm in their tux') and the ceremony was in front of a beautiful lake. It was an absolutely beautiful ceremony (pretty short as well) and Ashleigh looked amazing!

Well that is all i have for you guys for now. That was only my first week! So expect the rest of my trip up in a few days! Hope all is well and enjoy some of the pics. They should go along with the happenings of the blog they are attached to. (that is if i figure out how to work this thing!)

With Love, always


Posted by MJMatson 17:14 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Hello All

Hey guys, so I am so aweful at keeping in touch with everyone and I always screw up someone's email address when I send out my update emails. So I figured this was a great way to keep everyone informed of whats happening in my life and add a few pics to tell my tale! Enjoy!!!!

So this is my first blog so here is what is going on right now. Im currently at the tail end of my second semester as a Junior. Im still in the process of getting my internship together but hopefully it all works out. I just returned from a 2 week holiday in Australia where I spent my with Ben. We were kind of all over the place, we spent time in Sydney, Brisbane, Tamworth and Tasmania but more about that on my next blog.

Things up here in Vermont are pretty good. The snow is melting and it is finally starting to get warm. Yay Springtime! My roommate Steph is great and I am really going to miss not living with her next year but it will be fine, i'll have a great place to escape to when i need it! My classes are coming to a close, I am pretty grateful for that. They have been pretty intense this semester but I really do enjoy them..for the most part. And I get to take Scuba so I really can't complain.

Well that's all from me for tonight. But by the end of next week, i'll have my Australia blog up.

<3 always


Posted by MJMatson 21:00 Comments (0)

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