Welcome to the VOPA project. You are now part of an ongoing scientific research program operating in central Belize since 1997.
Please keep in mind at all times that you are not here as an individual, but as a representative of the VOPA project and conduct yourself accordingly.
Give yourself time to adapt to the new schedule and climate—realize your own limits, pace yourself, don’t compete with others, and drink lots of water. If you are unhappy or feel ill, please let the staff know immediately so the issue can be dealt with. The staff is always open to questions and to help make your experience with the VOPA project a great one.
As with any group living and working in close quarters, there are rules that have been developed to make things operate smoothly and comfortably. Please observe all the project rules and try to pitch in wherever you see there is a need for help. Everyone will appreciate it.
Visitors are only allowed during one 3-day break (TBA) and will have to arrange their own accommodations at Banana Bank Lodge.
Schedule Monday through Friday—breakfast and lunch will be arranged in the Valley of Peace village.
Students can also arrange for their own breakfast and lunch (grocery stores are in Belmopan). We head out to the site at 5:30 AM. Duties are assigned and some duties require getting up earlier.
We will all wash the day’s artifacts before dinner at 6 PM. We will have an evening lecture once a week on Monday.
In order to get a full night’s rest, please remain quiet in the as a courtesy to those sleeping. That is, no music, loud talking, door slamming, etc. We encourage you to drink lots of liquids and to use more salt than you would normally—it has been found to help with potential exhaustion in the field.
-conserve water and electricity as they are very expensive.
-you can buy local phone cards to make local and international calls; I don’t recommend bringing international calling cards because you can only use them in the phone company office, which closes relatively early (and sometimes we are not back from the field) and are not open weekends.
-Wifi available; however, no streaming is allowed–it slows down the system for everyone.
-Smoking is restricted to the outside. Do not litter.
Your Room—you will be living in close quarters with a number of people and will have a roommates. Try to be at your best, thoughtful, considerate, and tidy. Communal areas, like the bathrooms and dining rooms should be kept clean; while we likely will have maid service, they will only clean once a week.
Laundry – c. $10US per load, can be done onsite.
Mail—Packages must be picked up at the post office (bring $ for packages and an ID) before 4PM weekdays. Average lag time to and from Belize is 7-10 days. Mailing address: Banana Bank Lodge, Box 48, Belmopan, Belize, Central America.
Excursions—if there is a general interest in making a particular trip to a local wonder or archaeological site, a trip can be arranged. The costs are the responsibility of the student. A trip to Tikal is required (for an overnight trip staying in El Remate, it costs c. $300 for travel, hotel, food, entrance fees, zipline over the jungle).
Our reputation as a project in Belize is crucial for the successful continuance of our work. You are representing VOPA, archaeological projects and Americans in general and will be judged by your conduct. Belize is a small country, and we are conspicuous members of the local society.
Any substances which are contraband in the US are contraband in Belize and are not allowed on the VOPA project. This also goes for any breach of Belizean law. Should any transgression occur, the individual or individuals will be expelled from the project, given a ‘F’ grade, and reported to the local authorities. In addition, no one is allowed to have sexual relations with village workmen or villagers at all; this infraction also results in expulsion and a failing grade.
Security—Behind the laid-back facade of Belize, the real world looms. Belize has problems with crime just like those at home and city awareness habits apply here as well. At night we highly recommend the use of taxis and not straying off alone. Belize has its good and not-so-good parts and caution should be used. Our building security is very important—please lock windows, doors, and vehicles.
Regarding money, credit/debit cards, and cash–don’t bring traveler’s checks (hard to cash)
For the Institute of Archaeology of Belize, you will all need to provide a copy of your U.S. driver’s license and passport (on same sheet). I will also need to submit a list of names (as they are listed on the passport) and passport number; please email me them when you have them. They also require a 20% administrative for room and board costs
Bring a U.S. driver’s license in case you need to drive in Belize.
Students must purchase international insurance via the Study Abroad office. Register for course credit as you would for any other class.
You will need a valid passport, an airplane ticket including a return ticket or adequate funds to demonstrate ability to return and $37.50 US departure tax (included in ticket—need to check). We will likely get a group fare through a local travel agency; if not, keep in mind that airplane tickets that are purchased in advance are often much cheaper. Most airlines fly to Belize from Houston, New Orleans, or Miami. If you wish to take a cheaper, scenic route, airfares to Cancun and Merida, MX are often much cheaper and there is excellent bus service to Belize.
You will fly into the Belize International Airport in Belize City. Once I get the final list of students I will email you all each other’s email address so you can fly together—I will arrive a few days earlier to set up housing. Once you arrive to Belize, take a taxi to the bus station and catch a bus (try to get an express bus) to Belmopan; take a taxi to Banana Bank crossing; hit the gong, and a boat will pick you up. When traveling on the bus in Belize, buy your ticket before getting on the bus.
Required inoculations and immunizations: tetanus booster, Malaria (chloroquin; buy 2 doses in the U.S., and buy the rest in Belize for much less). Suggested: anti-diarrhea medicine, oral re-hydration solution, Pepto Bismal pills.