Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I intended to wish everyone a Merry Christmas before Christmas, but my body had some other plans. I am feeling better now, though, and had a really nice Christmas here in Belize.

I stayed in my village with my host-family and spent a few days cooking, playing games and just enjoying having some time together. It is pretty much just a big family day here. My host-father is a baptist minister so we went to church on Christmas Eve about 9pm and it was supposed to end at Midnight, but we were there until 1:30am. The pentecostal church joined us and it made a total of maybe 40 people. After church we went back to my host families house for a Christmas meal (yes at 1:30am) of chicken caldo, corn tortillas, and I don't really remember what else right now. It was a really late night, but somehow we managed to be up early again cooking for Christmas day. The whole day was just a lot of cooking and games. Our Christmas meal here was BBQ gibnut, black beans, cole slaw and cake. A bit different than any other Christmas meal I have ever had, but it was good. Gibnut is a little bush animal, it tastes a lot like pork, but they hunt for it in the middle of the night in our village.

I attempted to get a family picture before Christmas, but it is hard to get 16 people together at once, so here are a few attempts with different parts of the family and just some random fun pictures:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

3 month update

Yes I have three posts in one setting, but I feel like I need to catch up a bit on some things (and I figure while I have some relatively reliable and pretty quick internet uploading pictures and writing is probably a good idea).

So life in my village hasn't changed a whole lot. I go to school twice a week and work on math with some of the children for an hour or so, and help cook lunch one day a week when we feed the kids at school. Other than that I am really trying to just get to know the people in my village. The alcalde has agreed to go house to house with me to help bridge the language barrier when it comes up and to let people know why I am around.

My host sister had her baby a few weeks ago, so our family is still growing a bit. He is a very healthy boy, but has not yet been named. I think they are considering Abner, but they have the whole first month before they have to name and register babies here. It is good to have her back home and doing well, though :)

(If you leave the door to your house open to cool it off you could find lots of interesting things in your house, including multiple ducks and cats :)

I have decided that I am not going to move out of my host-families house. I was required to stay with them for one month (which is over), but it looks like I will be there for my entire service. There is not an empty house in my village, there was talk of building a thatch for me, but it just doesn't seem very feasible right now. So, my host parents suggested I just stay in the little house in the compound and when I am ready to have my own space, my host brothers will move back into the other house. I can put a gas stove in this house and live in it on my own. I am really excited about it, because I wasn't too excited about living in my family, but really wanted my own space. So this turns out to be the perfect compromise. :)

My host brothers love to sit in the doorway of my house and play cards. They definitely love Uno.
These are two of my host-nieces Anaya and Naomi. They love having their pictures taken and then jumping up and down and looking at them. Anaya is my little buddy. She is three and doesn't quite understand that I don't really speak K'ekchi very well. It has proven to be an amazing way to learn K'ekchi.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

So we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner here in Belize yesterday. We had an inservice training for a day and a half and then were able to cook and have a dinner with most of the volunteers and staff. The food was amazing, and it was really nice to be able to celebrate the holiday together.

It would have been nice to see family and friends from home for Thanksgiving and be able to celebrate with them, but since that isn't possible, I am glad that I was able to have wonderful people to spend the holidays with. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

It has been a little more than a month since swearing-in, so it was good to get back together and catch up for a bit. I really enjoyed seeing friends and hearing how things are going in all the different villages and towns. This country is so diverse and the experiences we are having are and will continue to be so different. I live in a Maya village with 30 households, Misty (below) lives in a similar situation but much farther from the highway, some of the people lives in towns with washing machines and internet in their houses, and we have 5 or 6 languages people are learning and working in. It is just really interesting to get together and hear all the different stories.

Children's Day

We had a field day here at school last week. The kids spent the day having relay races, contests and we had a nice lunch for them for the feeding program that day. I have a few pictures of the kids and my school. My principal judging the relays. The two buildings in the background are our school.

They had a relay race where they had to run holding hands in a circle, collect oranges from one end of the field and take them back to the other.
This is one of my host-brothers and my host-niece.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pictures: My host family's house, the view of the mountains (not the best picture, but the only one I have with me) and the school's library that I organized :)

So my host family keeps growing. There are now 15 of us (a distant relative moved in with us a week or so ago), and my host sister will soon have her baby to make us 16. I am really enjoying staying with them. They have taught me to make tortillas, tamales, and a few other things. They tell me they want me to stay forever and not leave, but at some point in time I will probably move into the house next door on my own. They can't imagine why a girl who is 24 is not married, with children, would live so far from home and then to live alone on top of all of that. My host-mom told me "You could live alone, Megan, I don't know. You will get bored alone." (The house I will move to can't be more than 50 feet from her house) I might miss out next door though. I might not get to watch in amazement everyday as my 8 year old host brother peels an orange with a machete.
Right now I am working at the school in my village. There are 77 students in three classes. One teacher has grades 1-2, one has 3-4, and the principal teaches grades 5-8. I am doing an after school math program with 5th graders and helping them get their feeding program started. I spent my first two weeks helping to organize the books in the school so that the kids could check out books. The first day they were allowed to check out books every student checked out a book and were super excited to have something to read!
As for my learning to speak K'ekchi... I can understand basic questions and basic conversation if they slow down a bit. The three year old in my family thinks I understand everything she says, though.
This weekend was a big party at my host family's home for the three year old's birthday. Unfortunately they killed the pig so that was a bit traumatizing to hear and watch... However, funny story about this weekend. The little girl doesn't speak English yet, but has "learned" an English song. She messed up the words a bit and this is what came out:

"I'm so glad Jesus is a boy, I'm so glad Jesus is a boy... Alleluia, Alleluia Jesus is a boy!"

I'm not quite sure that was what the song actually said :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Swearing in Tomorrow!

I have now been in the country for two months, and will soon be an official volunteer! Our swearing in ceremony is this Thursday.

I have been living in my village for a couple weeks now and am really enjoying my host-family! Things were quite overwhelming at first, but after a bit of adjustment I am doing really well. My host family is quite large. My host parents have 9 children. Their oldest daughter is married and lives across the village, she has 4 children. Their next daughter lives next door, is married and has a daughter, but her family eats with my family. Their 3rd daughter lives in the family compound with her husband and will have her 1st child around Christmas. So when everything gets added up there are 11 of us that live in the family compound, and 14 of us at every meal (sometimes 20). They can't even imagine how I grew up with only one brother and are convinced it must have been boring and lonely.

My host family has taught me to make tortillas, re-taught me to do laundry in the river and now my brown socks actually come out white again :), and have been helping me to meet some of the community members. They make really great food with a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables which is really uncommon in the diet here. Every time they give me something new to eat they say, “I am not sure if you can eat this, but you can try it.” It has almost always been good, but has sometimes been a bit amusing. My 19 year old host-sister (the one that will soon have a baby) was cooking one day and brought me a plate and said: “Would you like to try these? We call them donuts.”

We have a really nice river in our village called the Deep River. We go down to the river every afternoon/evening to do our laundry and bathe. By the end of the day, the freezing cold water is definitely something to look forward to.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Random Updates :)

So quite a bit has happened since I wrote last. I had my very first “tropical illness”. It actually is not even remotely a tropical illness, but it freaked me out enough. I had a fever for a couple days, felt really sick, dizzy, and kept getting more and more open sores coming from who knows where. They brought me to the capital and I stayed here in a hotel for a few days to rest up. I saw our PC nurse and found out I had impetigo. I guess it is a bacterial infection and apparently really common for small children in the US. Glad that is pretty much over :) I am sure I will end up with something stranger in the future.

We went on a four day road trip to Toledo to see all of the sites for the healthy communities trainees future sites. I guess our placement officer wanted us to be able to see where we all could be going and get a feel for the southern part of the country. It was a nice trip, but a lot of time in a car on some bumpy gravel “roads”. The sites were all gorgeous and really cool. The most remote site was a little Maya village with thatch houses and each house had a solar panel. I guess they got funding for a solar power project and Internet cafe. It was just weird to be so far out and see thatch houses with solar panels. This is a beautiful country, and it was nice to get out and see some of it. :) We made a little side trip to see Rio Blanco National Park and the waterfalls. It was beautiful, the water felt amazing, but cliff jumping was required for swimming.

Last day with my host family

I never realized how hard taking group pictures would be until my family asked me to take a picture with all of us. My family wasn't ready so I went up to take Misty's first. Her host sisters refused to have their picture taken, so it took about 10 minutes to get the 7 family members together. When we went back to my house my family took quite a while to get themselves together for the picture. My 10 year old host brother insisted upon being on the horse during the picture. So I asked him to get close enough that it could be in the picture. Our family portrait is now a picture of half the family with my host brother on a horse in front of the rest of us...

Site Assignment Day!!!

The exciting part of the day was site assignments!!! For the next two years I will live in Medina Bank. :) It is a Maya village of about 200 people, so pretty small. I am really excited to be there, though :) Who knows what I will end up doing in reality, but they want a lot of help with health education and water. They only have 2 teachers and a teaching principal in their school. The classroom we visited there last week was standard 3-6 (grades 5-8) all in one room.

I am leaving for the village tomorrow and will be there for a couple weeks before I swear in as a volunteer. The village made a “schedule” for me of things to do for the first two weeks. Pretty much the whole schedule says “meet with ____” :) It will be nice to have a much more relaxed and less crazy schedule for a while.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pictures :)

This is the wonderful village of Armenia, where I have been living for a few weeks, and will be for a bit longer.
This the my host-family's house. The house is the thatch building on the right, and we have a covered area to hang laundry, hammocks and hang out outside on the left. My friend, and fellow trainee, Misty lives next door with my host-mother's mom.
This is the area Misty and I's host-families made for us to take bucket showers. It is made from cohune leaves. It is amazing, but sadly we have discovered a lot of tarantulas like this area after dark :(.

These are my five host siblings. Carlos is 10, Estella is 7, Adelinda is 5, Manuel is 3, and the youngest is 1 and I can't spell her name. They are some awesome kids, the oldest 2 speak English, and Adelinda is learning since she just started school. The village is mixed Spanish speaking and Q'eqchi speaking, but schools in Belize are taught in English.Manuel just cracks me up. The first day he ran away from me screaming and crying, but now he is like my best friend. His older siblings have taught him a couple words in English and he has no idea what he is saying. So he will run in and out of my room saying things like "Take Picture!" or "Stickers!". He is hilarious. They have yet to teach him what "I'm the big sister" means, though.

So pictures are super hard to upload here, but I am working on figuring it out. I hope you enjoy the few I got uploaded this morning :)

Rescued by a 7-year old

So people like to tell me there are these nasty things called tarantulas here in Belize, but for a long time I didn't believe them. I liked to follow the "seeing is believing" rule. That worked really well until I found one in my bucket shower area. I got out quickly and found the only English speaking kid in my family that would listen to me. My amazing (sometimes) 7-year old host sister walked out there with me, looked at it and calmly said "you get it down and kill it". I laughed so hard. Misty (who also uses this shower area) got her host siblings and between the five of our host-siblings the tarantula was defeated. I don't think they will ever stop laughing at us freaking out. They don't understand why they are so creepy, but seriously those black, fuzzy things are not my friend.

Friday, September 4, 2009

quick update :)

I have been living in my training village with my host family for a week now. We come into Belmopan from Armenia every Friday so I thought I would update really quickly. I wish I could upload pictures, but it is wayyy too slow right now.

I am living in a thatch house with a great family. There is a tiny corner of the house blocked off for me (about the size of my 'bed') and the rest of the house is one room that is for my host parents and their 5 kids! The kids are 10, 7, 5, 3 and 1. It is really normal for a family to sleep in one room and not have any privacy, but they are getting used to me liking a bit of privacy here and there :)

I have a latrine that is unfortunately only about 4 feet tall, and a door that is even shorter. One of the other trainees lives next door and our families built a little circle area out of cohune leaves to give us some privacy if we want to take bucket baths instead of bathing in the river (which I really appreciate!).

Q'eqchi is a crazy language to learn, but it is getting better. It helps that my family doesn't speak English at all, and they love to study with Misty and I! It makes daily communication harder, but we seem to be learning a bit faster.

This weekend we are building a school garden and starting to build the school latrine. Our trainer gave us each a machete! (I know it sounds like a really dangerous gift for me, right?) So tomorrow will be an new adventure in learning to use the machete :)

I miss you guys!

Tawil Awib (take care)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Moving tomorrow!

I am leaving for community based training tomorrow, and will finally be learning some K'ekchi. From what our training supervisor said, we will not have any days off in the next 5 weeks except for the 2 national holidays. It will be great to finally meet my host family, and get some hands-on training. We are going to take a trip down to the toledo district to see all of the sites the 11 Healthy communities volunteers will be placed in, and apparently some of the most beautiful parts of the country while we are at it. They are all really remote, though, so our trainer bought us hammocks and said we will get to know each other well :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

We have been in Belize a couple days now. We have some more general training at PC headquarters for the next few days, and then Thursday we are leaving for our community based training sites! I will be staying with a host family there for 5 weeks while having language (K'ekchi) and technical training. I am really excited for this part! I am sure it will be hard, and definitely a bit different than where we are now (in the air conditioning).

Saturday was cultural day! We spent the morning driving to a little village by the border with Guatemala. We went to the Maya Mestizo cultural center and then had an awesome lunch while listening to Marimba and flute music, and watching traditional dances.

After the cultural events we stopped by Xunantunich, which was absolutely gorgeous! In order to get to the ruins you have to cross a river on this little ferry. It could take one car at a time with a lot of people standing around the car. It was a hand crank wooden ferry! The ruins were on the top of the mountain surrounded by rain forest. First Maya ruins trip, and it was definitely worth it. Saw my first howler monkey, and made it to the top of each of the ruins. We were close enough to the border, and could see so far from the top that you could see into Guatemala. Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself here :)

Swimming in the river was also amazing!!! It was really nice to have a break from the heat and humidity. Families, pets, random horses and all were swimming and everything.

It was a very good first weekend :)

We leave for community based training on Thursday  I will be staying in a little village with a host family and all of the other healthy communities volunteers. Time to learn K’ekchi

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I made it!

So after checking out of the hotel in Georgetown at an hour of the morning I don't often like to wake up for, and making through some craziness at the airport, I made it to Belize today! It was amazing how much chaos 41 Belizean Peace Corps Volunteers can make at an airport before 4 in the morning. To make it even better, the Dominican Republic group was there too, so I saw Ryan and said goodbye.

We made it here this morning and were greeted by a very enthusiastic and welcoming group of current PCVs and staff. We had a nice lunch with them and then came into the capital to see the PC headquarters and get settled in where we will be for the next week. We leave next Thursday for community based training.

I don't have a whole lot to say, but I am glad we finally made it here safely. It feels good to see even the littlest bit of the country that will be my home the next two years. The country looked beautiful from the airport coming in this morning. I can wait to travel around and see a bit more of it, and find out some more about what I will be doing. Its really hot, really humid, but what else would you expect?

Love you guys!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The adventure starts soon!

Two weeks from today I will be getting on a flight from Washington D.C. to Belize. I received my invitation to volunteer in Belize at the beginning of March and it has been several months of excitement, patience, no patience, and most emotions you could think of. I am excited that it is finally about to begin, and can’t wait to see what the next two years has in store with me.

I may as well start off with what I have learned from my volunteer assignment description, and the teleconference I had earlier this summer with some of the staff in Belize.

I am a Healthy Communities volunteer. This includes water and sanitation, as well as health education (and I am sure random other activities). I will be living in a K’ekchi Mayan community in the southernmost district of Belize. Like many other developing communities their places to do laundry, shower, and use the restroom are the same area in the river. So education on sanitation and the connection to health will be very important.

When I arrive in Belize on the 20th all 40-some volunteers that are arriving this year will attend training together in Belmopan for the first week. After this we will be split into smaller groups for community based training. During this time three will be 10-12 of us in the same community, each with a different host family, and we will focus on language and hands-on training. The national language in Belize is English, but I will be learning K’ekchi since that is the language of my community. During community based training we will come back together as a large group every Friday in Belmopan to have some bigger training sessions. When training is over in October we will have a swearing in ceremony, and I will begin volunteering in my own community.

So that is a lot of what I know right now. I should add that it is what they have told me so far, but flexibility is always a good idea :). It could, and I am sure will, easily change or have things added and taken away depending on the needs of my community and resources available.

So how do you contact me over the next two years? Good question :). At some point in time I will probably have a Belizean cell phone. However, I love emails, letters and messages on here :)

My email address is:


My address during training will be:

Megan Abbott

Peace Corps
P.O. Box 492

If you want to send me letters or a package, a bit of advice:

-Put postcards in envelopes or else they might end up on the wall of the post office.
-If you want to send a package, use a padded envelope instead of a box if possible. Boxes tend to be taxed and opened more frequently.
-Be patient! It can take a while for things to get to Belize from the US (date the letters!)

That is all for now!