I was surprised to find that upon returning home to Belize after a year in Canada, the most difficult thing for me to accept was that I was experiencing aspects of reverse culture shock, which is essentially feeling out of place in your own culture.
It hit me the moment I departed from the airport and drove the roads through my home country. With my community planning lens, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of intentional planning, absence of zoning and challenging placement of buildings. As time progressed, I also noticed I at times felt out of place during my experience with family, friends and coworkers. So much is different between our cultures, it took some time to navigate in the different contexts.
Belizean are calm, slow going and relaxed people and though these are remarkable thing to be, these qualities also appear in the attitudes towards work and professionalism. It was an experience in and of itself just to go from Canada, where everything was so fast paced and everyone was always in the hustle and bustle, to Belize where in comparison everything was very slow. However, I was keen to realize that maybe being slow and calm going was just what Belize needs to be and that I would be able to mix and blend both the Canadian and Belizean cultures and experiences to form one that works perfectly for me.
Research was also an amazing experience. My research title is: “Community Benefits Agreements and its application to Ambergris Caye: A guiding policy”. Even though I went with exceptional expectation to gather all the necessary information quickly, I soon realized that this was not realistic and the act of rapidly gathering data is almost an alien topic to many of the professionals in Belize. I found myself reconsidering changing my topic completely, however to my satisfaction, I was able to successfully complete my research with some innovative approaches. It was also an interesting experience to see firsthand the level of planning policy development we need in Belize and how I may be able to contribute to it.
Additionally, I was able to compare the various aspects of coastal resilience between both Vancouver Island and Belize. There are many similarities and differences, with both regions having a heavy reliance on the waterways, heavy protection of the riparian areas and of the forests. The most substantial difference between the situations in Belize and Vancouver Island is the simple fact that it does not matter how much Belize prepares, the impacts from climate change will be substantially greater for Belize than it will be for Vancouver Island, even if Vancouver Island does nothing more to further prepare itself for that eventuality.
- Eric Sanchez, VIU Masters of Community Planning Student & QE Scholar