Eldest Son has advised me that his Rainforest Institute (study thingie at school) will be taking a field trip next summer – to Belize! (The upside to this is that he is suddenly willing to do all kinds of chores to earn money to go on this trip! He cleaned the pool today!)
I thought I was a reasonably intelligent and well-education person, but I confess I know NOTHING about Belize. I did find it on the map – Central America, east of Guatamala, south of the Yucatan – but beyond that I know nothing. Anybody got The Straight Dope on this country? And is it safe to let him go?
Been many times. Interesting place, #1 revenue is foreign aid. You didn’t say how old (early college, I guess?) The group tour should be just fine, as these things usually are (and the local PD keep a bit of an eye out on it all, foreign exchange & reputation at stake after all).
That said, the capitol is not particularly safe after dark. Not much reason to hang around there, anyway. Lotta dope, lotta attitude with violent tones:
Some border troubles at the Mexican border, occasionally at the southern tip or Guatemalan border, mostly in years past.
He’d probably be hanging around the preserve, or near Placentia… all safe & nice; sweet country people. Maybe a visit to the Cays (most go) - tourism driven, hence the authorities don’t tolerate too much monkey business against visitors, other than the usual pickpocketing, petty theft, watered down drinks, weaselly stuff like that.
Drink beer or soda. Nearly all of my life has been spent around developing countries, and [for what it’s worth] Belize is the only place where the water did me in.
Concerned ? All in all, not really worse than a trip to the Big Easy or the Big Apple, with better scenery.
Hmm, actually he’s high school age – just in to 9th grade right now, so he’d be 15 and about to go in to 10th when this trip happens. They’re talking rainforst and Mayan ruins. He’s not very street smart, unfortunately.
I very much appreciate all the input – this is gonna be a hard decision.
I had the opportunity to travel to China on tour with the youth symphony orchestra when I was 12. I was soooooooo excited. Then Tianamin Square happened, cancelling our trip (and presumably putting a damper on many CHinese students’ summer plans as well.)
I was so distraught by missing out on this great opportunity to visit an exotic foreign land that I eventually grew up to major in something thoroughly useless in college (Russian) in order to get the opportunity to travel. Let your son go to Belize, missing out on this opportunity now might send him careening down a life-path of obscurity.
Seriously, while I don’t know jack about South America, I do know that the rest of the world is not really as scary and dangerous as the US State Dept makes it out to be. And I’d be willing to bet that a group of 14-yr-olds on a school trip in a foreign country are probably going to held under the close eye of some sort of chaperone.
Aw, should be fine, if you’re confident in the supervision.
It would actually be a little tougher for a 20 yr-old, who would think they knew more than they did, and oh, put themselves in situations they wouldn’t have with a few years of street smarts behind them. Unless he’s some kind of wild & crazy teen (or his companions), and with competent supervision, the extent of bravado will center on how fast they climb up the temple steps, and competing on wildlife sightings, not going to dark alleys to buy grass or late night dance clubs where no one short of a local or a native New Yorker ought to be.
All this without touching on the experiential issues. Up to the parent, but any opportunity to see another culture, people, etc… either improves the person’s perspective, or makes them awful happy for what they’ve got.
[BTW, IMHO for wildlife I’d prefer Costa Rica, but little MesoAmerican history there.]
Belize isn’t the question; the people taking him are. If they have made adequate arrangements, know the country, informed local authorities and are competent to handle unexpected problems and keep an eye on all the kids, pretty much anywhere in the world short of Timor is safe, especially places that depend on tourism. Conversely, if they aren’t in touch with local authorities, don’t know the area, don’t have enough chaperones, or just aren’t smart, I wouldn’t let them take my kid to the zoo.
I travel, and most places like Belize are well aware of how a busload of kids being hijacked would affect tourism and their economy. And criminals know that the police know, and that the penalty would be something like being put UNDER the jail. They satisfy themselves with pickpocketing, theft, etc. In all likelihood, the worst case scenario is your kid gets his camera swiped.
Goshabooties. Well, I’m on the fence here. I’ve travelled a lot, but always for work-i.e., without kids. At his age, he just needs to TRULY understand that there is no such thing as a Quaint Poor Person. He will lose whatever is in his pockets. Aside from that, seeing the world and it’s inhabitants can only open his eyes. He will see and do things that will be with him forever. Just instill a healthy paranoia, without it becoming racist. It’s not Belize, or South America… it’s any impoverished country. Trust me, walking along the verdant banks of Lake Neufchatel in Switzerland is NOT roughing it, but it sure makes one aware of another kind of lifestyle.
My two cents.
I know from what relatives say that many many people in third world countries see Americans (Or westerners at least) as living ATM’s with no service charge :). In the Philippines at least, if one does not buy something from the beggars at the airport they get pissed and say things like “Bastos na bastos!” (Something like, “very rude”. At least my Aunt was called that the last time she was there).
By all means let him go. Travel is definitely a good educational experience.
I think since the US is so big, many americans don’t travel much outside its borders and have an exaggerated fear of the risks incurred in other countries. It’s mostly fear of the unknown.
I have friends outside the USA that tell me “Why would anyone want to raise children in that country, with all the shootings and the drugs?” There is good and bad everywhere. Maybe your son would be safer in Belize than at home!
Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.