What’s something that you’ve seen so far that has been surprising?
I think the most surprising thing I saw during my time in Belize is the “leapfrog” effect of technology and other social norms. I saw many examples of this, but the first and most obvious one was during a clinical visit we had with two sisters. The girls were 15 and 18 and were coming in for flu like symptoms that had not resolved over the last 2 weeks. They told us how they had no medication at home and couldn’t get to a doctor anytime soon, so they were relying on our clinic for help. While I was examining one of the sisters, the other one pulled out an iPhone! I couldn’t even believe it. How is it possible that these girls don’t have purified water or proper medication at home, yet they have one of the most technologically advanced cell phones on the market? In addition to this, they both had tattoos! In my head, I never imagined that people living in sanitation conditions like I saw in San Joaquin could get a tattoo and have it heal properly. It is so important to keep the fresh tattoo clean and free of bacteria or infection, and they didn’t even have purified water that they could drink. I began to question if Westernization is a positive or a negative thing, a question that has been there for quite some time. The United States is often used as an example of a country to follow in terms of advancements. How helpful are we being if these people are still drinking bacteria-filled water and living with untreated chronic diseases, but have iPhones? Is Westernization really a good thing if we can’t pass on our advancements in an appropriate order for these people that need our help? I thought of the things that same amount of money could buy for their family and felt very hopeless. Granted, I do not know the situation in which they obtained the phone, and it could have very easily been a donation. However, this is not the only example of this that I have seen, and it was surprising each time.
Another thing that I felt was surprising along the same lines of the iPhone is the amount of American movie and television show references they have in Belize! For some reason I didn’t imagine movies like Minions, Frozen, and Disney to be popular in Belize. I saw many in clothing that had pictures of Disney things all over them. In gift shops and stores, there were often Minion figurines or things of the sort. It really made me realize we are more alike than we are different. I have stopped trying to use the word “them” and say “us” instead because I have noticed so many similarities between the people of Belize and myself. Even though our culture and living situations are vastly different, we are so much more similar than I ever imagined. I believe this is another example of Westernization in Belize.