Summer Solstice 2017: How Will You Spend The Longest Day Of The Year?

Sun shining on the Caribbean Sea at Caye Caulker

June 21, 2017 (today) is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, where the sun is at the highest point in the sky. It is officially the first day of summer, and the longest day of the year as it is the day we have the most sunlight. In different parts of the world in a multitude of cultural traditions, the day marks a time of renewal and healing; a time to let go of/burn things of the past that no longer serve you. It is a time where self-care and self-love is extremely important.

I, along with many of my friends, have been going through a major shift. It can have many names, but simply put, we are at a time where we have found that we need to make many changes, whether they be very small or monumental, to move forward. Personally, I have been exhausted. I know a part of it has to do with my lack of establishing proper boundaries in my work and personal life, along with anxiety about my life path and future. Add in spreading myself too thin and not affirming my strengths to the mix, and you get one exhausted/confused/drained Andrea.

It can be extremely frustrating to work toward many goals just to have the rug ripped from beneath your feet, reverting you back to stage one. To be honest, at this point I have lost count of how many times the hypothetical rug has been pulled from beneath me, but what I am realizing now is that it was probably pulled for a reason. Maybe what I thought was the right path, wasn’t. Maybe I had to start again because if I went down my intended path, I would be greeted with unsavory individuals who do not have my best interest at hand. As a self-identified control freak (I am working on this), it would feel like my world stopped when something wouldn’t go my way. I would turn off from the world, fall into a depression, and ruminate on my shortcomings, negatively affecting those around me.

In shutting off from the world and finding almost too much comfort in solitude, you don’t hear what the outside world thinks. Yes, in the case of the outside world being negative, it is great to take time to yourself to renew and refresh, but how about when they have great things to say, and you are unavailable to hear them? An event that mirrors this sentiment just came up in my life last week, and it really opened my eyes.

Sunset at Caye Caulker

For maybe the thousandth time since I began the blog, I considered shutting it down, again. I have had trouble writing as I have been going through a lot in my personal life, and the act of just starting a post was quite debilitating. I would go through moments of skimming back on blog archives as well as my social media, trying to pinpoint when & where things went downhill. I couldn’t find an exact spot, but I did notice the places where my posts did not occur for months on end. During another wallowing in my sorrows moments, when I was simultaneously decluttering my space, I received a message on Facebook from a friend from college. I was actually surprised to hear from her, as we had not spoken in some time.

My friend, Damaris Vasquez-King, is a teacher at Soundview Academy for Culture & Scholarship, a middle school in the Soundview section of the South Bronx. She reached out as she had been following the blog, and wanted to gauge my interest in speaking to her students for a career day. I immediately said yes after I was told the date. Prior to this, I had never spoken to youth about my career path because I never felt sure about it, and thought I would not have enough information to speak on. I admit, I had to psych myself out a bit for the speaking gig, which was on June 15th, because I thought I would fail. To my surprise on that day, I did astronomically better than I expected.

I spoke to a group of about 24 girls in her class about blogging and freelance writing, a bit about myself, and what types of topics I cover. I was slightly nervous, but calm as the girls were very inviting, and genuinely seemed interested in what I was saying, despite being the last speaker of the day. Throughout my talk, Ms. Vazquez (Damaris) added how she used my blog as an example to her class of how you can use a blog/online platform as a place of positivity as opposed to malice. I almost shed a thug tear. I had no idea, and it really made me feel really proud as in that moment, I knew my words were positively affecting the next generation.

It is so easy in the realm of blogging to get caught up on numbers, especially when you want to work with big brands. Partnership deals are great and all, but if what I am doing cannot be a place of positivity or teach someone something new, why even do it? It shifted my focus completely, and since I have been thinking more deeply about my vocation that I believe was written way before I got here; to teach.

So on this Summer Solstice, I will be kind to my mind, body, and soul, and really dig deeper into what my next move is. Perhaps, I can teach you something.

 

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

#ALifeInTheDayinBelize: Simple Pleasures, Food, & Drink In Caye Caulker

The motto of the island, “Go Slow”

In my previous post on Caye Caulker in my #ALifeInTheDayInBelize series, I discussed the stillness of the island, and how much I believe it is a great place to unwind and reflect. In addition to its stillness, Caye Caulker is a wonderful place to enjoy a true Belizean culinary experience.

The entryway of Tropical Paradise

I’ve been spoiled growing up with the food of the women in my family, who put their all into Belizean cooking, never skipping a beat. Whenever I return, aside from the beautiful sites, I am very much focused on finding great food that is reminiscent of my family, if not better. Tropical Paradise is a hotel and restaurant that rings true to this.

Breakfast favorite, Lobster Scrambled Eggs w/ Fried Jacks

I’ve visited Tropical Paradise a few times in my years, but on this occasion I was truly set on good meals. Whenever you are out at caye, it is always suggested that you eat some lobster, and the restaurants in Caye Caulker have been making a breakfast of Lobster Scrambled Eggs with Fried Jacks for years now, the offering at Tropical Paradise being the most popular.

I ordered this breakfast my first morning at caye, and it was everything that I had expected. The lobster was fresh and sweet within the eggs, so minimal seasoning was added. The fried jacks, which in short are triangular pieces of fried bread, was the perfect density and flavor that I had expected. I finished my meal off with a fresh lime juice to keep it light, to truly savor in all the flavors I had consumed. My belly was full and happy.

Lazy Lizard, in all of its glory

At The Point of the island, there is a lovely beach bar called Lazy Lizard which is popular both with locals and visitors. The open air space takes up the end of the island with a two-story palapa bar and two piers in which guests can lay out and chill throughout the day.

The view from the point

I visited with a few family members, and we were lucky to get a little table by the water. We ordered buckets of the local beer, Belikin and Lighthouse, which offer six bottles for $20-$25, which is a pretty consistent figure throughout the country. I myself ordered Rum Punch, as I am not much of a beer drinker, and was pleasantly surprised that their main ingredient was watermelon juice. Not to worry, the punch still packed a kick, which I am all for.

A bucket of local Lighthouse Beer

In between drinks and stories, I made it my job to take a little swim in the water. Caye Caulker has great swimming grounds, but do be warned that the areas to swim near The Point are quite rocky, so keep your eyes open! The water is also quite salty, so I would recommend you bring goggles if you visit.

I would definitely recommend Caye Caulker to those that love an authentic experience with a small town vibe. With great food, drinks, and friendly locals, it is an awesome place to experience Belize in a relaxed setting.

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

#AlifeinthedayinBelize: A Time To Appreciate Stillness in Caye Caulker

Peeking through the mangrove into the sea

If the purpose of a vacation is to unwind, reflect, and take in your surroundings, Caye Caulker is the perfect place to do so. Located approximately one hour north of Belize City, Caye Caulker is a friendly destination that is both developed yet untouched simultaneously.

Red mangrove in all its glory

The center of the island, where all boats dock, is full of guest houses and restaurants for visitors (which I will touch upon in my next post), and the southern part of the island is a bit more rustic, covered in mangrove and trees with land that has not yet been developed. During my trip, we were able to explore this section of the island, as it was there that housed the new cemetery.

The beautiful stillness in the cemetery

Although trips to cemeteries are often somber, I’ve grown to appreciate their beauty as I grow older. We visited this site in particular to pay our respects at the grave of a loved one of one of our cousins, who had passed just before we arrived in Belize. He had lived a full life, so the feeling was more of peace than of sadness. Stories and meals were shared, and it was evident that his spirit will continue to live on in the island.

The seaside view of Morgan’s Inn

We stayed at the guest house that he built, Morgan’s Inn, one of the few places to lodge that really encompass the Caye Caulker experience. There are four guest houses in total, built of wood with sleeping quarters, bathroom, and kitchen, with nice verandas to catch the sea breeze. It was nice to stay there because I really felt like I was away, considering that there was no television or internet, I was truly able to immerse myself in the beauty and simplicity of the island.

Bouganvillea

I see beauty in so many things, but I was particularly drawn to the flowers. Bouganvillea is a flower native to Belize that grows in a bush. It comes in a variety of colors, more so in the red and pink variety. This fuchsia-colored bougainvillea bush really awoken my senses. The color was so vibrant, and the leaves were so lush!

I know this is all so simple, but these things that may seem so minuscule are really what keep me going. These are the things I love to capture and share with you all, because you never know how much a simple photograph, or set of words can inspire another person.

I will let off here, for there is so much more to share about Belize. Stay tuned!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

Back From Belize, And Refreshed!

Outside my grand-aunt’s house in Belize City.

Living in such a fast-paced world, it is incredibly necessary to take that time to step back to reflect, explore, and re-charge. I had the opportunity to do so during the latter part of August as I visited Belize for 18 days. I used the time to be as offline as possible, although I did post some photos every now on Instagram when I caught WiFi. It was a time to be with my family and really explore the country in a way I had not prior. Usually, my time is split between Belize City (where the majority of my family lives) and Ambergis Caye (where our timeshare is located). This time around, we covered much more, visiting all corners of the country and meeting family, friends, and new experiences along the way.

Peeking through the mangrove in Caye Caulker.

In the Northern region of the country we visited Caye Caulker and San Pedro, which are big tourist destinations, in the center, Belize City and the nation’s capital, Belmopan, in the Cayo District in the West, Xunantunich (one of the most popular Mayan ruins in the country), and in the Sounthern Stann Creek District, the town of Dangriga (where we have family) and Placencia where we have roots and many family friends.

Sunset in Placencia.

I wanted to give you all a written and photo introduction to my tales of Belize. I captured a lot, ate lots of food, and have so much to share! Stay tuned for #AlifeinthedayinBelize!

*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo