Author Archives: Jenise Snyder

Traveling Belize Style

My husband and I left Miami, taking the morning flight directly to Belize City.

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From there we needed to get to San Ignacio (locally referred to as Cayo), our base for traveling to the Caracol Mayan ruins.  Although we are clearly tourists, I like to travel through Belize like most Belizeans – via the bus.  The school buses, owned by private and collective groups, shuttle people all over the country off their main 4 highways.  So we took a 2.5 hour bus from Belize City to San Ignacio.  I love travelling this way, as you get to have conversations with Belizeans (as well as other tourists) and can become more familiar with local culture and customs.

 

Bus ride in Belize

Bus travel in Belize

It isn’t the most glamorous or even the fastest way to travel in the country, but it is what I prefer.  In fact when I am in Belize (I think this is my 15th trip!) I can’t help but take on the Belizean perspective.  I find that they are very easy going and live life at a peaceful pace.  Things aren’t hectic and frenetic here.

Belize can be very budget friendly or unfriendly, depending on how luxe you want to your experience (i.e. hotels can go for $8 to over $500/night).  I once traveled across the country for a week for under $400, including all food, lodging, travel, guided tours, and gifts for loved ones.  While we are not traveling on this low of a budget now, we are still traveling modestly and are not staying in resorts.

For our stay in San Ignacio, we settled on the Casa Blanca Guesthouse, situated in a slightly more quiet end of the city.  Although the rooms are modest, they are clean, and the hotel has lovely common areas.

Common areas in our hotel

Common areas in our hotel

I am actually writing this from the breezy veranda while listening to reggae from the restaurant a few streets away and drinking a Belikan.  Not a bad first day in Belize!

View from our hotel in San Ignacio

View from our hotel in San Ignacio

Up next… touring Caracol!

Tending to family and footsies

My second day in Miami, I had a few errands to run, like buying flip flops (seriously, I forgot these????), some cat supplies, and some food for my upcoming Belize adventure.

Snacks that aren't easily available (or crazy expensive) on tiny tropical island.

Snacks and essentials that aren’t easily available (or crazy expensive) on tiny tropical island.

Hmmm, I never really explained the whole cat traveling thing.  Well, I am not the only ecologist in the family that is traveling the whole summer.  My husband is too.  My kitty (named Gaia) is staying with me rather than my husband, as he has more legs on his trips than me.  While I am in Belize, however, Gaia has stay in Miami with my parents.

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Gaia, my rescue Bengal kitty

I digress…. the rest of my second day in Miami I hung out with my family (with the exception of one, they all live in South Florida).  We got group manicures and pedicures.  I guess that a family that grooms together stays together!  We dined further north in Broward County at a place called Big Bear Brewing Company.  The food was great (ribs and a beer-cheese soup).  But in my humble opinion, their beer didn’t hold a candle to our great Cleveland breweries (shout out to Great Lakes Brewing).  CLE +1.

My third and final day in Miami was spent largely helping out my family.  Ever looking forward to the cuisine of my hometown, though, I had to first brunch at my favorite hole-in-the wall Cuban bakery.  I had a lovely sugar rush from a café con leche and sugar encrusted pastelitos con carne (with meat) and con guayaba (with guava and cheese).

My cafe con leche and pastelitos.

My cafe con leche and pastelitos.

Then I headed home to try and fix my father’s ailing 9 year old computer.  No such luck.  Needless to say, I spent the rest of the afternoon setting up a brand new computer for him.  From there I helped out my brother’s girlfriend with her dental school applications.  See the professor hat is usually not far off, even on vacation.

About 10pm I started packing for Belize.  Since I am traveling through the country like most Belizeans – via bus – I had to adjust my luggage.  Here is a travel tip: rolling luggage does not travel well on the streets and buses of Belize (and other Central American countries).  So I packed up my trusty backpack and prepared for the next leg of my adventure.

First trip in Belize - touring Mayan Ruins

First trip in Belize – touring Mayan Ruins

 

Nothing like the sun in Miami

I left Cleveland on an evening flight, after a long day of work.  It makes for efficient, yet exhausting travel.  Luckily I had a direct flight to Miami.

 

Crandon Park Beach - not a bad way to spend the first day of vacation!

Crandon Park Beach – not a bad way to spend the first day of vacation!

The next morning was my beach day.  My mom and I slathered on some sunscreen and headed out to the beaches.  We didn’t go to South Beach, like I originally planned because Memorial Day weekend is Urban Beach festival, which means the streets were shut down and set up with multiple police check point stations.  All in all, it was too much of a headache that I preferred to avoid.  So we went to Crandon Park instead, which was relatively empty.

Relaxing under the palms

Relaxing under the palms

 

We settled under a palm tree for some partial shade and then basked in the bathwater temperature Atlantic ocean.  The continental shelf is further out in this section of South Florida, so it is shallow for really a long stretch.  There are also lots of seagrass beds, which are home to bottom dwelling marine creatures, like crabs and clams, and juvenile fish.  Once the fish grow up they head out to the coral reefs.

Exposed sea grass beds during low tide

Exposed sea grass beds during low tide

 

When the tide rolled out, the beds were exposed, prompting seagulls, anhinga birds, and pelicans to feast on the exposed fish and invertebrates.  Some of the exposed creatures included pink marine worms that truthfully looked like pink condoms. Some teens were freaking out about them, thinking they were jellyfish they would be stung from.  I assured them that there weren’t.  They delighted in touching the worms.

 

Intrigued by the exposed marine life

Intrigued by the exposed marine life

Marine tube worm exposed during low tide

Marine tube worm exposed during low tide

I strolled out to check out the beach dunes, which highly protected ecosystems.  The plants have really deep roots that function to prevent the sand from eroding away into the water.  They also are home to sea turtle nests!  I really couldn’t have asked for a better lazy beach day!

 

Beach dune ecosystem

Beach dune ecosystem

I ended the day with an early dinner at Tarpon Bend in Coral Gables.  Their mojitos and calamari are to die for.  I also splurged on some oysters and a shrimp sandwich.  Let’s just say that I am happy I do not have a shellfish allergy.  I love them way too much. YUM!

My favorite: raw oysters on a half shell

My favorite: raw oysters on a half shell

Mojito!!!!

Mojito!!!!

Packing for 2.5 months (and with a cat!)

Packing for a 2.5 month multi-purpose trip to 2 US states and a developing country is a tad challenging.  And yes that cat is coming with me on my adventure (more on that soon).

Luggage for 2.5 months

I have been traveling for quite some time and have figured a few things out along the way.  So I thought I would share some of my top ten rules for packing.

10. Do NOT buy heavy and expensively pretty luggage.  It should be durable, and it WILL get dirty from being processed.

9.  Lay out all your clothes beforehand and choose outfits that are multipurpose and coordinate with each other.

8.  Choose a neutral makeup palette and bring just the essentials (mascara, powder, tinted lip balm, blush, and one eye palette is enough for me).

7.  Choose clothes that travel well and do not wrinkle easily.

6.  Roll your clothes inside out to prevent wrinkles, pack tightly, and avoid getting dirty from inside your bag.

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5.  Bring multipurpose undergarments – I love convertible bras for this reason.

4. Wear your bulky clothes and shoes on the plane – always have a sweater/jacket, scarf, and/or socks in case the plane is freezing.

3. Use every nook of space in your luggage.  For example, I always put my socks or belts in my shoes.  I also keeps them from getting flattened.  If I have a fragile item, I wrap it in my clothes to pad it.

2.  Always leave space a little space in your luggage for gifts or mementos from your vacation.My carryons include a packable purse (Black Longchamp).   Included in my essentials are my dissertation field/data notebooks (yellow).  They never leave my possession!

1.  The following items belong only in your carryon/personal item!!!  Do not let them be away from you in case you get stranded without your checked luggage: prescription drugs, computer, camera, all chargers, jewelry, passport(!!!!), and anything else that is really delicate/valuable.

I am sure I am forgetting to pack something, but isn’t that part of the charm of traveling?

 

After the Lecture: What does an Ecologist do with their summer “break”?

That is a good question!  Hopefully this post will provide some insight.Jenise Snyder working with wetland plants in Belize

First though… who am I and what am I going to blog about this summer?  My name is Jenise Snyder and I am a full-time Biology Instructor at Ursuline College.  I have been teaching at Ursuline for 3 years.  I am an Ecologist, specifically a Wetland Ecologist and have been studying tropical and subtropical wetlands for the past 12 years.

As a Ph.D. student in Ecology at the University of California, Davis, I have been investigating how excess nutrients from fertilizers impact naturally low nutrient wetlands in Belize.  Part of my summer travel will actually be to work on writing the final chapters of my dissertation.

The rest of my summer travel is for vacation… well not really.  As an educator, you kind of never take that professor hat off.  So while I am going on vacation to Miami (Florida, not Ohio) and Belize, I know I will be collecting snippets of information, pictures, and  legally collected specimens, that will be used in my future classes.

So what am I planning to do on vacation?  Well first off, go to the beach!  My hometown of Miami has lovely beaches that I plan to visit and soak up the sun.  I will do some eating too.  I love Cuban food namely: café con leche, flan, and some pastelitos (little pastries).  Plus, I am going to visit my family.

In Belize, I am on a surf and turf vacation.  I will start off exploring some Mayan ruins in Central Belize.  Then I will head to the islands for some snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and some serious lounging in a hammock.  I am looking forward to going to my Belize as a tourist and not a researcher for once!

The final and longest leg of my journey will be to Davis, CA, a college town about 25 minutes southwest of Sacramento, and 130 minutes north of San Francisco.  I am renting a home here and will be hanging out with my Ph.D. advisor and lab colleagues.  While I am here, I hope that I can finish writing the last bits of my dissertation, as well as work on some future research projects.  But all work and no play is no fun, so I imagine that a trip or two to Sonoma or Napa Valley to do some wine tasting will probably happen.

So yeah, I think this is going to be a pretty amazing summer.  I hope you enjoy my journey.

My Travel Itinerary

  • 5.23 – 5.27: Miami, FL
  • 5.27 – 5.29: San Ignacio, Belize
  • 5.29 – 6.3: Caye Caulker, Belize
  • 6.3 – 6.4: Miami, FL
  • 6.4 – 8.10?: Davis, CA