I love both of my worlds. In Belize I can do diving, fishing, horseback riding, going to school by boat, and others. In Belgium I can visit a museum, go kayaking, go to the fair, be with the family, and others. In Belize I have 11 TURTLES! (Even I think it’s a lot!)
In Belgium I have 2 dogs and 2 gold fish. In Belize I have all my friends and in Belgium I have all my family so l really couldn’t choose between them.

When traveling, that’s a whole other story. Let’s just say its long. First we have to leave the island, then we take the bus to go to Mexico, next we stay 1-2 nights at Playa Del Carmen. After we got a little break we head over to the Mexico Air Port. Once we are on the plane it takes at least 9 hours to get to Brussels (the capital of Belgium). It takes at least 1 hour to get to our house. After all that traveling we are extremely exhausted. Now this is my other world.

Protecting Conch: Strombus Gigas Alliance

The other day I talked with an expert of conch, Glenn Schwendinger, and I have some information to share with you guys about conch. First of all, we need to know the all the parts, we have the shell, foot, intestines, meat, pearl and other parts.

Uncle Glenn told me that he and other people (Strombus Gigas Association) are trying to protect the conch. If you didn't know the conch is endangered. And most people use only 10% and throw away 90% of it. Uncle Glenn is working on a way to use the whole conch instead of wasting it. By using the whole animal, the fishermen don’t need to catch more to make a living.

Some ways he uses the parts are, the shell as jewelry, plates, candle holders, salt and pepper shakers, rings, spoons, boules, and just as decoration itself. The shell is also smashed into pieces that are used for concrete and decoration for tiles. The more fine chips of conch (the powder) has carbonate in it and it is used for nutritional supplements for farm animals. Example: when you are preparing an animals meal, you put it in the food of this animal and then they have calcium carbonate in their diet.

• The foot is used for jewelry, wind chimes, and they are used to make structures.
• The intestines are used as fertilizers.
• Fun Fact: An old fisherman's tale, is that if you eat the enzyme rod (a part of the conchs' intestines, kinda like our small intestine) raw, you would gain strength.
• The meat is used for food.
• The pearl is used for jewelry. The pearl can be found in 1 out of 10,000 conches. It is a very rare item.

Now I will tell you about its babies.The conch lays 2 to 400,000 eggs per sack. That's a lot, but as they say, the more babies, the less chance of surviving. Conch babies have less than 1% of surviving. They take 3-5 years to mature. It is illegal to catch conch under 7 inches. The reason why this percentage is so low is because almost everything eats the babies.

There was however a place in Turks and Caicos that used to grow conch in protected national habitats but unfortunately a hurricane took it down. A university in Florida is studying and doing research about cultivating conch. (Growing them)

Some ways people get conch is by free diving. Then was fished out of shallow waters and conch went deeper into the ocean for protection. Now people get conchs with scuba tanks, Which is illegal and dangerous, dangerous because if you go up and down in the water too fast, you get decompression sickness. Decompression sickness is when you get air bubbles in you blood. Once you get this you can die or loose parts of your body. This is why it's illegal.

You may be wondering "why did the conch get endangered?" That is because it is easy to catch and it tastes good. In coastal areas, people began to overfishing them. The organization that protects endangered animals is C.I.T.E.S. (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) In Belize we are very good at following their rules.

I hope you have learned something new and I encourage you to check out the website from SGA. It is a website uncle Glenn made and has much more information.

Thank you Uncle Glenn!



A great Maya adventure on my BIRTHDAY!

Hey everyone! So the other day it was my birthday and my Teacher (Teacher Marissa), surprised me with a field trip to Marco Gonzalez. It is a Maya Site not a Maya temple. I am telling this because most people asked me "Louke, how high did you have to climb?" (you can climb Maya Temples) or "How tall was the temple?" etc... So anyway, I'm going to take you on the adventure I went on, by telling you the highlights of the excursion.

To start off with we went on a golf cart (on our island, we use golf carts, not cars) and it took an hour to get there. I was with my friends Xavi and Nicholas. Nicholas' dad was so generous to give us a ride.

When we arrived at Marco Gonzalez we went into a building called "the lab”. Inside there, the people that work there set up a table with artifacts they found at the site and explained to us what the Maya used them for. I took some pictures and will explain to you what they are.

The Maya harvested clams and they ate the meat. Then they cut rectangular or round holes in the shell and used them as a belt buckle or decoration.


So we were going to the site on a rickety bridge and I was teasing my Teacher by asking her “what if a croc would get us?” Anyway... Apparently the mangroves collect salt and keep it on their leaves. The tour guide told us to taste it and we ate salt!!! My partner (for the scavenger hunt) and I made the most ridiculous face because we didn't expect it to be so salty….

Once we arrived at the Maya site we scavenged for items... We found teeth, bones, pottery, and other stuff the Maya left behind.

We went to all the structures and the rocks that the Maya put in the ground are the foundations for their houses. Of course, the houses are all now weathered away (meaning they have disappeared because the harsh weather in our climate). The rocks remain as markings to the archeologists, indicating that there used to be structures there.

On the Maya Site there were dumps for material. What I mean is that the Maya gathered shells in a pile and when they were building and needed shells, they would take them from the pile. They are more like storage places and there are piles of conch shells that are more than 10 feet high, I'm not kidding! I would show you the pictures for proof but my GoPro died half way through. RIP GoPro...

People are NOT allowed to pick up shells or climb the piles. So they told us that one time, this kid picked up a giant conch shell and there was a giant spider in it and the kid was freaked out… Told you so, don’t touch them!!!
Ok I'm not going to tell any more because I challenge you to go and visit the Marco Gonzalez Maya site.

Thank you!!!
-My class
-My teacher
-And the crew of Marco Gonzalez


Say NO to offshore oil - Oceana Belize

I live in Belize on an Island called Ambergris Caye. Belize is a beautiful country as the nature is amazing. Belize is very special as it  also has the second largest reef in the world!
A year ago I got certified in diving, and I have seen the underwater wonders we have. Each time I am there I am amazed... we have so much fish and beautiful corals. I have seen Turtles, Dolphins, swam with Sharks and soooo much more.

Swimming with the Sharks!

Thanks to my mom's friend I learned about Oceana Belize. They are an organization who work hard to protect the marine life in Belize.
When I heard that an American company wanted to do Offshore Oil drilling, I was very sad. Because I wanted the world knowing about it, I was able to be part of making a video for Oceana, showing the world that we have to protect our reef and cannot allow big companies coming to drill for oil. Below you can find the video.

"Please Listen! Listen to the Sea!"
If you also want to help Oceana Belize, let Oceana Belize know!



Coconut tree in Belize!

See how many coconuts there are in this tree!

Everyone knows about coconut water and meat... but, even they are very popular in the world, a coconut has another SECRET that is super cool and DELICIOUS!!!!!
Have you heard before from a coconut apple?

Let me tell you a little story about the coconut...

Once there was a tree that produces coconuts, a coconut-tree! The coconuts in the tree were small, but over a few months the coconut will be ready to fall. (In that stage everyone likes to drink the coconut water) But luckily not all coconuts get eaten and people do forget about the coconut on the floor and the coconut gets brown. The next stage of the coconut is to grow a tree, when the tree is a few inches tall the monsterest beast comes and picks it up and grabs a machete...

Monster with a machete and the coconut!

The Monster with a machete and a coconut!

So when the coconut tree is a few inches tall, the coconut water (Which was in there before) is now sponge! This white spongy material is called the coconut apple. It is delicious to eat, is very sweet and tastes like coconut water! The meat inside turned into oil, which many of us use for cooking!

* If you want to use coconut oil you should process it first...(that's the best way)
* When the tree is a foot tall the sponge isn't good to eat anymore...
* When the tree is about one centimeter, the coconut apple is good to eat, but there may be still some coconut-water in there…
* Another way to eat coconut is to grill it on an open fire, and sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon.
* And enjoy!!!

Coconut fact...
Did you know a coconut tree can produce around 75 or more coconuts per year?
( that's a lot of coconut sponge! )

This one definitely has an apple

This one definitely has an apple inside.


Finding coconuts on the beach!

And this is the end of the coconut story!

*** Pictures are taken by Olivera Rusu and Louke van Noord***





Horseback Riding at Black Rock Lodge.

My mom and dad decided to go to Black Rock Lodge in Cayo. Cayo is located in West Belize, close to the border with Guatemala. This was a gift for my birthday… For them it was their first time, however not for me.
I went there before with a friend and it was so great! The nature there is beautiful, the owner of the stables is extremely nice and he has such beautiful horses! Because I had so much fun I wanted to go back!

We flew from San Pedro to Maya Flats with Tropic Air, and the flight took about 45 minutes from Belize Municipal, which is a small airport in Belize City.
Once arrived in Cayo, it took only about 20 minutes to drive to the Lodge.
Our neighbor, Uncle Jim and Auti Diane also came along… I love them a lot and it was fun to do a trip with them.

About Black Rock Lodge
Once I got there, the staff of the restaurant looked to me like, “don’t we know you?”( well some of them ) Of course I explained that I was there a few weeks before, and they were happy to see me again.
We had a great room… there were so many plants around it, and the room had no windows… It was so cool to sleep in the middle of nature. Of course the room had mosquito screens, so small visitors could not come inside.

The food at the lodge is also pretty awesome… They have each evening a set menu, that you can choose from. My favorites were their broccoli soup and they also served cheesy fries. (When I’m writing about it, I am getting so hungry again)

At Black Rock you can do a lot of fun activities… You can go River Tubing, of course horseback riding, you can even ride a horse to a cave system and then take them back to the stables... You can also hike to waterfalls. At Black Rock there are some other tours I didn't do or I didn't know about, so you can always find about that...

Most amazing Horse- Back-Riding ever!
For the Horseback-Riding, I went together with my mom, my brother Alexander and Uncle Jim. We did the Jungle Tour and it was amazing… the nature so beautiful, we walked with the horses in the jungle, went over mountains and we even went to a Maya Temple. It was pretty cool as when we went with our horses on top of the maya temple, we had an amazing view! There we took a little brake, drank some water and continued our tour.
All the horses had different personalities... The horses were great but I liked my horse called "Cookie" the best. He listened so well to me and was not lazy. My mom's horse name was Obama, he was old and not so pretty but listening very well too. At the end of the tour the owner pealed fresh oranges for us, which they farm themselves. I loved it there, and was allowed to stay as long as I wanted. The owner has so many pretty horses... there was even a baby one. I knew this as I had been there before, but got so  surprised to see how fast he had grown… If you do this tour, or stay at Black Rock Lodge, you don't want to leave, and go horseback riding over and over again.