Sunday, July 27, 2008

Virtual Belize

The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences is off again with their Educators of Excellence and the Tropical Ecology Institute. Last week, the group began its exploration of Belize. You can read a journal of their daily activities and see photos online. The teachers and crew will return home July 30.

Here are a few questions they've received via Internet during their trip:

July 24, 2008
What kind of traditional foods have you eaten?
Madeline, 7th grade, Wake County

The traditional foods we have enjoyed reflect the distinct cultural groups here in Belize: Creole (rice, beans, chicken), Mestizo (corn, roasted peppers, hot chiles) and Garufino (fish, yucca-based foods like bread). We have eaten two very unique fruits that we cannot find in North Carolina: the waya or genip, a small green fruit with white flesh; and the pitahaya or dragonfruit [pictured*], a baseball-sized, purple-pink fruit that looks like a small artichoke.

Is it hard to sleep with all the jungle noise? Brenna, 5th grade, and Dax, Kindergarten, Wake County

The jungle is a noisy place. We can hear cicadas (which change pitch according to time of day and species), owls, crickets, frogs and toads. The jungle is an active place at night...scorpions, Fer-de-lances** and leaf cutter ants (known as wee wee). Most of us are so tired from the day that we have no problems falling asleep, but few of us have had nocturnal encounters in our cabanas — boreal rice rat, cockroaches, a very large spider (4" diameter) and a 5" scorpion scampering across one of the teacher's beds! Tonight we found a 5" long-horned beetle that was so strong that it moved a plate and held a pen!

* Pitaya aka pitahaya, is the fruit of an epiphytic cactus, Hylocereus undatus.

** The Fer-de-lance is the most dangerous snake in Belize. Gulp! The teachers encountered a 3-foot-long specimen along a path Monday evening and took its photo.

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