Belize Student Reflection: Tami Masuoka
Advanced Inquiry Program graduate student Tami Masuoka shares her experiences and memories of the 2022 Earth Expeditions: Belize course.
“My decision to take an EE course this year as part of my AIP journey was initially a desperate attempt to somehow link my work to include a global perspective. The main concept I struggled with in the AIP program was the “community” based focus. Beginning the program at a time when my life was in complete upheaval, both personally and professionally was perhaps not the most opportune time to start this endeavor, and in hindsight the GFP may have been a better fit. However, at the time I would have never been approved for time off from work to travel for that long. Having the opportunity to participate in the Belize EE provided me the best of both programs.
Looking back at my journaling and stretching your comfort zone post, I realized that thinking about doing nature journaling is much easier than actually doing it when out in the field. I think part of the difficulty was trying to soak up all of the information and experiences, and then trying to put everything down on paper including my own thoughts and feelings about them. Much of what I initially wrote were just lists of what I experienced and trying to write down everything our speakers said. When I got back home I did spend hours going back through my notes in separate notebooks and pictures to fill in some of my journal posts. And while I could have used more down time to journal, I am thankful for the packed schedule that kept me outside of my head and in the present moment.
Prior to the trip I was most excited to experience and learn about the flora and fauna of Belize and it certainly did not disappoint. Every morning I looked forward to our birding excursions. I wasn’t sure what to expect with snorkeling, as it had been decades since I had last tried it. I loved the sense of peace I felt floating on top of the water looking down at the incredible beauty of the coral reef system. In fact, when I got home I spent the next week or so trying to figure out how I could manage to get back there and spend at least a month.
I looked forward to learning about the local people and their culture. However, in my mind, as the awkward introvert, I pictured this as a passive activity. Perhaps it was the Belizean culture that created such a friendly atmosphere that I felt comfortable enough to move outside my comfort zone and engage more actively than I normally would. I was awestruck by the passion, dedication and knowledge of everyone I met including Jessie and Conway Young, Peter, Jamal A., Jamal G., Ray, and of course the extraordinary Celso. I cherish every conversation and interaction with all of the people I met in Belize and of course a special shout out to Juan Carlos for not only making sure I had vegan meals available but went out of his way to rescue my cell phone. Most of the trip I felt far outside my comfort zone which had become increasingly narrow, and it was especially challenging being in a group setting most of the time. I made the snap decision to sign up for an EE course and Belize was actually my number two choice and I can honestly say that I am so thankful that for once, not getting my first choice turned out to be a blessing. I can not imagine being in the presence of more inspiring people from the incredible hosts at the TEC, CBC and Tobacco Caye and the inspirational Belizean community members. And lastly, I am grateful for Kevin and Dave - our fearless leaders - and my classmates who provided me with a sense of community that I had been searching for.”
Every shape, size, and color
Paint the summer skies”
Masuoka traveled to Belize as a Miami University master’s degree student in Project Dragonfly‘s Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP). The AIP occurs online with experiential learning at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and other sites throughout the greater Cleveland area. An Earth Expeditions course can count toward the AIP master’s degree.
Learn more about our Earth Expeditions course: Belize: Approaches to Environmental Stewardship.