I know the quotes of Jane Austen as well as any Shakespeare, poetry, or biblical passage. Her words have at times, narrated my thoughts and provided me with humor in the good moments, and comfort during my hardships.
In her novel, Sense and Sensibility, heroines Elinor and Marianne Dashwood suffer the cruelty of jealous family members and fickle men. The pair receive help from a neighbor, Colonel Brandon, whom Elinor describes as, “the kindest and best of men” for his generosity, gentility and selflessness.
I thought of these words when I met Bruno Kuppinger, or “Mr. Bruno” to the locals. Kuppinger is the owner of Sun Creek Lodge and its adjacent tour company.
Kuppinger embodies the “kindest and best of men.”
The club of a rare few.
Kuppinger is a Belizean, by way of Germany – an identity that is singular, in that his journey of belonging has been uniquely his own. Kuppinger left Germany at the height of what any westerner would call “success”; a profitable career in banking supported by the requisite financial spoils.
Kuppinger set out to change that definition. ”I watched as my mother passed away when she was in her forties, then a dear friend in his thirties dropped over on a tennis court from a heart attack. I asked, ‘There has to be more to life than this?’”
Armed with the support of his friend – (the only one who knew he was leaving Germany), Bruno packed two bags, and booked a ticket to the end of the world.
“I did not know what I would be doing or what would happen. Belize looked like a good idea.”
Fast forward fifteen years and you cannot be in Toledo without hearing about Bruno. The lodge with its cabanas, hand- built by Bruno, has served as the hotel base of operations for his tour company, Toledo Cave and Adventure Tours. He is a ‘Justice of the Peace’, a member or the tour guide association, BTIA, and a tour operator trainer. He also owns a woodshop and furniture store, is building a restaurant, and has the ground laid for a ‘house of chocolate’.
As busy as he is, I had his complete focus on making my time in Toledo, (Belize’s southern most district), the best that it could be.
“I love it here and every day I get to be with nature and enjoy it.” stated Bruno.
I visited several places in Toledo: The Belize Spice Farm, the Agouti Cacao Farm of Eladio Pop, Tiger Cave, Lubantuun Maya Site, Yok Balam – The Jaguar’s Paw Cave, and a handful of restaurants and their kitchens, thanks to Bruno and his guide staff. The tours provided both a taste of Toledo and a much-craved context for some of Belize’s most interesting and storied food: that of the Kek’chi and Mopan Maya.
Over the next few days, I will post the stories and pictures of my adventures, as well as my conversation with Kuppinger on the impact he has had in Toledo.
Kristin Fuhrmann Simmons