By Crystal Soutière, Blue Ventures Volunteer, Sarteneja, Belize. After the beautiful full moon on Tuesday April the 19th, we were landed with a couple of days of bad weather at our dive camp which meant that diving was off the cards for a while. Luckily we were able to leave Bacalar Chico Dive Camp early on Thursday morning to go back to Sarteneja in order to prepare for one of Sarteneja’s biggest events of the year, the Easter Regatta. In the two days leading up to the big weekend, we prepared some posters to help inform the local community about what we at Blue Ventures, are all about. Whilst brainstorming for ideas on how to attract and get people involved with our stand (which was to be set up on Easter Sunday), we came up with a great idea, which was to build a piñata for the kids in the form of a lionfish. The lionfish form, in particular, was chosen as a means to raise awareness of their current status as an invasive species in Belizean waters.
On Saturday, Naomi (our expedition medic), Desi (our fantastic chef) and I went to Orange Walk to gather supplies for the following week at our dive camp in Bacalar Chico. This trip took us the majority of the day, bringing us back to Sarteneja on a fully packed bus by 2pm, leaving us with a few hours spare in which to eat and get ready for the celebrations which were due to start that evening. At the event, we found there were multiple food stands, as well as a dance area with a live-band playing typical music from Latin America; a combination of Meringue, Cumbia, Reggae and Punta. Punta proved to be the favoured music of the night and the band decided to start a dance competition. Whilst the lead singer started to announce who he wanted on stage, five Belizean girls started to push me to the front, saying he was calling for me. I hesitantly and nervously went on stage, finding myself to be one of only two girls to perform, with the other girl being one of the locals. We were asked to start off dancing slowly with Punta and then gradually dance faster and faster until we were in a full out Punta. Luckily I had already learned a bit of Punta dancing from a friend in Canada who is originally from Venezuela. At the end of the competition, the lead singer asked the audience to cheer for the best dancer on stage. Excitedly they cheered the loudest for me, and I won, receiving a CD as a prize! The remainder of the evening was spent with a few drinks and lots of dancing.
Sunday morning we all got up early to put the final finishing touches on our posters, and then made our way down to the beach to set them up. We spent the morning displaying our information and watching the boat races in which Desi was a participant. Desi won the first round of sailboat racing! After that, the piñata smashing took place at noon, which the kids absolutely loved. Much to their excitement, dozens of sweets cascaded out of the somewhat battered lionfish after they had each taken their turn at a couple of well-aimed swings.
At around 1pm we packed up the stand and got ready to enjoy the rest of the events. First Jen (one of our Field Scientists), Ed (fellow volunteer) and I went for a refreshing swim in the sea which also gave us a good vantage point from which to watch the second round of boat races. We then wandered over to a local bar called Pablito’s, where we joined the rest of the Blue Ventures crew for lunch. A number of us then wandered around the beach to have a look at the other events taking place, before rendezvousing back at the Blue Ventures house for dinner. Another lovely meal, followed by the big Sunday night dance. However, in light of the previous night’s exhausting escapades which had been full of dancing, Sunday night for us was consequently a little bit more relaxed..! All in all – it was a great weekend!