Their Sense of Pride Gave Me Goosebumps

Raw, passionate, and proud.

September was a month of celebrations for Belize, including the remembrance of the British victory at the Battle of St. George’s Caye, and Independence Day, commemorating 36 years of freedom from Britain.  Wrapping it all together on the last day of September was the country’s second TEDx event, held in the capital city of Belmopan.

As an avid listener of TED talks, I was intrigued when I started seeing Facebook advertisements about a TEDx event being hosted in-country.  If you’re not familiar with TED talks, I’m not referring to the stuffed animal bear who talks to Mark Wahlberg, but rather the short, inspirational talks featuring “ideas worth spreading.”  Started in 1984, TED talks have been geared towards sharing notable ideas originally focused around Technology, Education, and Design, hence the acronym “TED.” But today, the overarching theme is much broader and encompasses many different topics that appeal to the greater public.

The theme of this year’s event was “Celebrate.”  Appropriately so, since the past 30 days were filled with triumphant festivities, and more generally over the past 36 years since Belize became a sovereign nation.

Their Sense of Pride Gave Me Goosebumps

Photos from this year’s Independence Day parade on Ambergris Caye!

Hosted at the University of Belize (go Jaguars!), the auditorium was delicately crafted.  In a vast space with hundreds of academic chairs, there was a strong sense of togetherness.  The front of the room was draped in black, with the iconic, gigantic red TED “x” popping from its placement on the right-hand side of the stage. A balloon logo, created by the letters C E L E B R A T E, was proudly lodged on the large screen in the center of the stage, above the wooden letters spelling “TEDxBelmopan.”

Their Sense of Pride Gave Me Goosebumps

Their Sense of Pride Gave Me Goosebumps

And the most notable feature, bringing together the theme and the space we occupied, was the geometric shapes hanging from the ceiling.  They symbolized the 5 classical elements of life – earth, wind, fire, water, and space.  Without these 5 elements, the emcee mentioned, there would be nothing to celebrate today.

Their Sense of Pride Gave Me Goosebumps

The theme was well achieved on Saturday, when 6 of Belize’s industry leaders came together to share with over 200 people (plus a livestream) their reasons to celebrate – specifically movements aimed towards preserving the Belizean culture and educating society.   The six speakers were chosen because they are viewed as some of the most motivating leaders of the community.  They have the capability and the will to inspire change for the better.

It was a humbling experience.  I was one of the few non-Belizeans in the audience and, admittedly, many of the Kriol-spoken references went right over my head.  But there was one common feeling that, although it was never directly said, spoke to me the loudest.  It was so strong that I, as a non-Belizean, began to feel it as well.  It was the authentic sense of pride that Belizeans have for their country.  How do you truly measure pride?  Think about it.  By how many flags one has or how well they memorized their national anthem?  Not quite.  It’s the genuine passion and love that they exude.  It’s felt.  And both groups, the speakers and the audience alike, demonstrated that by asking thoughtful questions and proposing meaningful changes for progress.

Their Sense of Pride Gave Me Goosebumps

A paint-by-numbers painting for all of the attendees to contribute to.

Towards the end of the event, the emcee asked for audience participation to highlight the major takeaways from the presentations.  While all six speakers had inspirational & powerful messages, there were 3 that continue to linger in my mind… ultimately 3 mindsets that have the ability to preserve the country while progressing forward.

  1. “Don’t ask children what they want to be when they grow up.  Ask them what problem they want to solve.” – Dr. Elma Kay, PhD Scientist
  2. “We must think globally, but cook locally.” – Chef Sean Kuylen
  3. “We are but one.” – Joshua Arana, Garifuna Drummer

As Joshua referenced, and was apparent throughout the audience, unification among the people is powerful. Although it was a small sample size, 200 people of a 370,000 person country, to see so many motivated people come together to further their knowledge and network with other like-minded individuals was truly inspirational.

Their Sense of Pride Gave Me Goosebumps

Joshua and me post-show.

Besides heightened respect for these leaders and for theConsumer Resource Guide people of Belize, the other big takeaway from this event, for me, was the reminder to embrace the country and its people for who they are.  When spending time abroad, in a new culture and lifestyle, there will be times when you’ll want to point fingers and criticize when something is done differently, and most likely slower than you’re used to.  If I had a nickel for every time I heard a tourist or expat say, “Well, back in the U.S. where I’m from, we do it like {INSERT YOUR METHOD HERE},” I would have had the means to buy Blackadore Caye before Leonardo DiCaprio.

Respect the people, the culture, and their ways of life.  There may be a reason for what they do and why they do it. Even if it’s just for the sheer purpose of passing on generational knowledge.

Their Sense of Pride Gave Me Goosebumps

Photo Credit to San Pedro Scoop.

If you’re thinking about living or spending time abroad, take Mike Cobb’s “Are You Ready to Live Overseas” quiz if you haven’t already.  You’ll thank yourself later for taking the time to really understand what’s important to you.  While it’s an exciting adventure full of growth and learning, it’s not for everyone, so I encourage you to take this test first and find out!

Although I am not a native, today Belize is my home.  After attending this TEDxBelmopan event, it reaffirmed what I had always felt about the places I have lived… it’s the people who make the difference.  Through culture, Belizeans have proven to be some of the most inspirational and welcoming people in the world.  And that’s what makes it home to me.

PS.  We weren’t allowed to film or photograph during the presentations, but I was able to capture a few seconds after the sessions ended. Watch the quick clip below to hear some authentic Belizean music!

Their Sense of Pride Gave Me Goosebumps