Friday, December 3, 2010

The rest :)

So normally one would expect a blog entitled "November" to follow the one entitled "October" since we are now in December. However, I am having a hard time grasping the idea that November is already over. Where did it go?

The weather here really throws me off. IT has been 16 months of relatively similar weather. Yeah May was crazy hot, the summer was rainier, and December is much "cooler" but really there isn't a huge difference in seasons. I wear the same clothes during the day all year round. I am worried, though, that I am getting a bit too used to it and something may be wrong with me. Last year Christmas time did not feel a whole lot like Christmas seeing as I was walking around in a skirt and tank top or tshirt the whole time. Yes nighttime was cold and that helped, but the days? This year, though, I have had goosebumps and actually have said the words "I'm freezing" in the middle of the day. Since when should I want a long sleeve shirt when it is the mid-upper 70s? Overnight low of 60 and I wear flannel pants, a sweatshirt, wrap up in a blanket and still feel cold :(

This all leads me to two thoughts...

1. I have adapted way too much.
2. While I am very excited for my trip home for Christmas in 10 days, it may be a miserably cold experience. :)

Crazy October

Yeah... that says October and it is now December. I may or may not have been slacking a lot on updates. I'm sorry.

October is a bit of a blur. It was a crazy month full of hurricane consolidations, and festivities. Each time there was a tropical storm/hurricane coming I would climb the hill up by the school and wander around with my phone attempting to catch a strong enough signal to receive a text or call PC to try and find out what was up. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not so well. Then I would go back to my house to pack up everything in case it flooded (why do I live in the lowest spot in the village?) and then pack my emergency bucket. At first I kind of laughed about the idea of carrying around a five gallon bucket with my belongings in it, now though I am realizing it is just about the best way to travel. First off, you always have a seat. Hitchhiking a ride on an empty bus, sit on your bucket next to the driver for some good conversation? Stranded on the side of the road waiting for that non-existent bus? Sit on your bucket while everyone else sits in the mud and nothing will ever get wet. :)

Anyway, Tropical Storm Matthew I don't remember so much. I know there was really really hard rain for a day or so, and then nothing. When the storm was actually supposed to hit ground it just disappeared. My house a bit flooded I guess as when I returned home things were damp and drying out. Thankfully, though, nothing else was really wrong.

Anaya's Dedication

So I am now the Godmother of a 4 year old Mayan girl. Her mom asked me a few months ago if I would be willing to do it and I agreed. They were going to dedicate her on her 4th birthday at the end of October. Anaya is my little buddy, so I was happy to agree. She spends a decent portion of her day at my house or following me around and when I come home on the bus she runs out to greet me. Besides I have learned a good amount of my Q'eqchi from her and she learned a lot of English from me.

So these are apparently big celebrations. They brought in musicians from a few villages away and we were cooking for 2 days prior. We baked 20lbs of flour into bread; took 220lbs of corn to the river to wash and then to the corn mill, then we made that all into poch; the men butchered 2 pigs and we made it into caldo. There were a lot of people that were supposed to come in on Sunday for the celebration. Unfortunately this is the same day that Hurricane Richard hit Belize. We had a rushed ceremony at the church that morning and then I ran off with my bucket to PG for consolidation, while everyone else went to enjoy the caldo before making their way to the school for shelter.

A note on Hurricane Richard:
Thankfully the south didn't experience much. We did not even have rain in PG. My villagers said there was a lot of strong wind, but only a little rain. They spent 1 night in the school for shelter. However, the middle of the country did experience the brunt of the storm. There was around 100mph winds supposedly and a lot of flooding. This came shortly before harvest time for oranges, so the citrus industry was hardest hit (around $30million). Mostly down here it was power outages (which leads to no water) and no buses running due to debris on the road. Since my village doesn't have electricity, once the bus started running again and I made it home, it was back to life as normal for us.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

These Moments

There are some moments from my time here that have definitely touched my heart. They are the moments where I feel at home, feel loved, or just feel like there was some kind of breakthrough in my relationships with the people here. I am not sure if I have shared many of them, but I wanted to share a few of my favorites, moments I hope to never forget.

Little Magdalena

This is probably my favorite story to tell when people talk about trying to integrate into their village. There is a little, six year old girl here named Magdalena. For my first six months or so in the village I would see Magdalena as I was walking to the school, or shop, or wherever and she would freeze. She would stare at me with her huge brown eyes and this frozen look and say to the kids with her “tyibiru li saq” which roughly means “the scary/evil white lady”. I would kind of smile, say good morning and feel really awkward as I walked away. Then one day I was walking to school and I hear a little kid come running up and they grab my hand to hold it. I look down and it was little Magdalena. I look at her so confused as she holds my hand and walks to school. I said, “Magdalena, I thought you were afraid of me.” She just looked at me and smiled. Now when I see her she always yells “Ms. Megan” and run up and hold my hand if we are walking the same direction.


This is one of my dear friends. She is 2 years old, and definitely a fair-weather friend. Thankfully “bad-weather” easily and quickly blows over, never lasting more than a few minutes. At first meeting she was scared and would not come anywhere near me (in fact she has this response to pretty much everyone, particularly white people). In the last few months, though, she requires her mom to come visit me in the mornings, and if I am at their house, usually refuses to let me leave. I am not even really sure when the breakthrough occurred, but on a nearly daily basis she will wrap her arms around my neck and say “la'at infriend!” (you are my friend!”) and it is sometimes followed by her squeezing my face and kissing my cheek. This is the girl that I could not look at without her running to her mom and hiding from me. Unfortunately there are the moments, like when I steal the jar of sugar she is eating by the handful, she will yell “moko infriend xMegan!” (Megan is never my friend!). Like I said, thankfully these moments do not last too long. :)

Xan Katerina

Xan Kat is a lady who I have started visiting more recently. At first I was hesitant to go visit her because she speaks only K'ekchi, was really shy and didn't say much the one time I went, and just always seemed standoffish to me. I don't know why I thought this, but I did. Anyway I went to her house and it was amazing. She is adorable, she smiled and laughed and talked. She tried to work through my confusing K'ekchi with me and I loved it! I have gone back another couple of times, but what happened the other day really made me feel good. I was leaving my house to go wait for the bus to town for the market. I saw her at the road and she was about to moved to wait in the shade. When she saw me coming she stopped, got a huge smile, waved and waited for me in the sun. It may seem like no big deal, but expressions of emotion like that are few and far between and it made me feel so at welcome.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Very Special Day

So today is a very special day. It is the birthday of my wonderful grandmother, who is also probably my most faithful blog reader. I know that each of my blogs is printed and taken to her (thanks Jenny!) so that she can enjoy them. So I am writing this one especially for her.

My grandma has always been a great supporter of me in my life and everything I have tried to do and I love her dearly for it. I always look forward to going home over holidays and breaks to get to spend a bit of time with her. This year I am a bit far away and visiting family is not exactly easy, but I am excited for the next time I get to see her and give her a hug.

Since I was small she has been collecting Family Circus and Lockhorns cartoons out of the newspapers and giving them to my brother and I. Very few letters have I received in my life without several of the cartoons inside with her letter. So the first letter I got in Belize I whined about not getting one, and now I have several taped up inside of my house for my enjoyment :).

I know that usually when she gets an update from me she carries it around and shares it with everyone. My hope is that everyone will do me a favor and give her a great big hug for her birthday from me since I am not there to give her one myself.

I love you Grandma. Thank you for all of your love, encouragement and support. I hope you have a wonderful birthday, and I will see you soon.

(I am pretty sure your cake would look something like this, but the number of candles may be off by one or two, don't forget your firetruck)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Black Orchids Football

So I played in my first Black Orchids football game this past weekend, and it was a blast. The Black Orchids is our Peace Corps Belize girls football (soccer) team. We went to Trio Village to play their girls, and the Gibnuts (the PCV guys team) played their mens teams.

We all met at the junction and waited for our ride into the village. The football field was nestled in the middle of the banana plantations by the village. They just had a big area they did not plant in and turned it into a nice football field. The girls played first, so as we ran out onto the field we realized a couple things. 1. It the rainy season, the field was a swamp. 2. The other team doesn't have shoes, so we should probably play barefoot too.

The game was a muddy, but fun time. I think it was probably best, because of the swampyness to be playing barefoot, but it was a new experience. You run and try to stop and turn around and end up just laying on the field, or continuing to slide forward sometimes on your feet. It was great when you would steal the ball and kick it only for it to land in a puddle of water and float there instead of rolling :) I am pretty sure we were a good comedy show. Due to no subs, and the amount of games being played we only played 15 minute halves. The game turned out 3-2 with the Trio girls winning.

Afterwards we all went down to the river to jump (or crawl) into the cold, but brown water to "clean" off a bit. Somehow I managed to come out muddier than I went in, I'm not sure. It was a fun Sunday :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tobacco Caye!

Alright so we of course had to celebrate our 1 year here in Belize! A few of us had an adventure out to the beautiful Tobacco Caye for a weekend. It is about the size of a football field, surrounded by beautiful water, and definitely a good place to relax and catch up. We had a good time snorkeling off the beach, swimming off and under the dock (shade is nice), and just hanging out in the hammocks for a couple days.

One Year In Belize

I am not really sure what to say about this. I have been here a year. Some days it feels like forever, and some days I don't even realize how fast time is flying. I remember the last week before I left to come to Belize, I started getting really scared. I knew that this is what I had wanted to do for quite some time, but the reality of it hit me and it was really scary. No one else ever seemed to have this thought, though, so I kept it to myself and really didn't want to talk myself out of doing it. I was always excited, especially after staging when we were making our way here, but I was really a bit worried too. Two years suddenly felt like a long time. I can say, though, as soon as we got here and I walked off the plane I felt the biggest feeling of peace I think I have ever felt. It really hasn't left the entire time I have been here. There are days that are no fun, bad days, days I wonder what I should be doing, but I never doubt that this is where I want to be, and where I need to be.

Since I have been here, as most of you probably know, projects are pretty slow. I have had a really good time working with the feeding program at the school, and tutoring some of the kids for their national achievement exams. Basically I was teaching story writing and helping with math after school. Other than that, though, up until this summer I was really just wandering around talking to the ladies, and enjoying building relationships with them. I think sometimes I discount the importance of this. I know it is important to build relationships, but I think sometimes I forget how much we get to teach each other in these conversations. They open up to me about things I never would have imagined now. We talk about their relationships with their family, they ask about family planning, they ask me to teach them to cook new things, they teach me to cook new things (armadillo, what?), they ask me about the states, and what life is like there, or things like if we too have trees. I don't think you can discount how important each of these little conversations can be. Like my last blog mentioned, we have now started a women's group and I am loving it. Thankfully things are starting to pick up a bit. Development is slow, it takes patience, and it is not always tangible, but that doesn't mean nothing is happening.

I am definitely looking forward to what my next year will hold here in Belize, am very thankful for the opportunity to live here, to be blessed by the friendships my villagers have offered me, and to offer whatever I can in return.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Women's Group

I am very excited to say, that my village has decided they want to start a women's group. I was a bit nervous at first as only one lady approached me with the idea, but it has gone really well. I set out on an adventure to invite every lady in my village to our first meeting about a month ago, and after about a week and a half I manage to get through all 40 households. Those ladies like to talk!

So we have had about three meetings now, and have successfully elected officers. We do not have any kind of income generating project in mind for the future, right now they really just want to take trainings on how to cook different foods. To me that is really exciting! I am excited for the opportunity to teach them to cook different things, and bring in other to help. The diet here is pretty limited, and could without much additions be made a lot healthier. We also plan to bring someone in to teach them to make coconut oil, at their request.

I am enjoying working with the ladies. We have a really good mix of about 12 or so ladies from a few different families participating. At the moment it is pretty much a cooking club, but you know that works for me if that is what they want. :)

coming soon (hopefully): 1 year in Belize update!

Li Ch'ina Ch'o

It may be more accurate to entitle this blog "Eb li Ch'o" (The rats) instead of the little rat, as I definitely have at least three now. I like to think of them as just one little one, though :)

So the battle with the rats has continued and I am pretty sure I am down about 5000 to 1. I was alright and just getting used to having a rat in the house until he ate a hole in the piece of foam I use as a mattress. That was a bit annoying. So was him finding his way into every possible place I have found to hide my vegetables. Stealing two bandanas and my shirt to make his nest was kind of sad too, along with the pieces of plastic I use to pat out tortillas. I managed to recover all of those things as we pulled out three different rats nests.

So one day my good friend Safaria who owns my house told me to come over and borrow some poison to put in the middle of balls of flour. She said the rat would eat them and it would all be over. So I went to her house and made a few little balls of uncooked flour tortilla, her husband filled them with poison as he was concerned I would poison myself. They have this weird idea that I am clumsy or something, I don't know hehe. Anyway I took all five balls and put them in my house in places I see the rat, and the next morning all five balls were gone! I was so excited. Unfortunately there are no dead rats. On top of everything there are now three rats instead of just one. How do you poison a rat with that much poison and it survive?!! Since then I have just been putting out the trap, but with no success.

Last night when I got back from my weekend away, I found my house smelling like dead animal, and again got excited that maybe my rat problem was over. Unfortunately, though I found a dead, half-eaten frog. I hate rats!

My house owner and his sons came over this morning and we chased the rats around the house with machetes, but eventually they went away (it really was amusing). They will come back, but eventually they will die. If they would peacefully live in my ceiling alright, but they just can't seem to handle keeping to themselves.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My House Under Attack

I have had a bit of a crazy week in my house. I think that the rain is making all the animals (and children) act a bit crazy. For some reason my house seems like a reasonable shelter to them all.

Sunday night I woke up about 2am to the sounds of a rat chewing on cardboard, running across the ceiling (between the ceiling and the roof) and then running back to chew on more cardboard. My assumption was that it was building a nest. So didn't sleep a lot that night, never imagined a rat could be so loud. The next day I went to borrow a rat trap from my host sister and planted it in my ceiling with a nice big piece of plantain in it. Either my rat doesn't like plantain or he just is a bit to smart to walk into a metal cage.

It was two more nights of him running around building his nest. So finally I took down the cage, and removed the now moldy piece of plantain, replaced it with some bread and set it on the floor next to my bed. I managed to catch him the next night. He was surprisingly small, and I felt a bit guilty taking him to my host dad for him to feed to the cat, but I was excited to be rat free. So I carried him next door, and they brought out the cat. The cat was watching him intently, so I opened the box and the cat intently watched the rat run away :(

So my host-sister then decided to point out the fact that it takes more than one rat to build a nest. So we decided I probably had two. Now I realize I definitely have two, as they both went running up the wall to hide when I walked in the house last night. Back to putting out a trap again.

As if rats weren't enough, I also have these unpleasant little fire ants building their nests inside my house. I saw a big nest outside my house and walked inside to look and sure enough it was inside too. So I moved around my stove and table and taking advice from my neighbor I poured boiling water all over them. Four kettles later and a lot of mud they were all dead. I spent a while cleaning the mud up, but was happy to be rid of the biting creatures.

The next morning they had moved to the opposite corner of my house. So I went through it all again. Then Wednesday they had moved to the middle of the wall and set up another home. Thursday was when I really regretted not having any kind of ant poisen, though, as I woke up and stood up and uncomfortably discovered they had built their nest next to my bed. They didn't come back today, so I am hoping I am rid of them for a while. Any one have any suggestions on how to get rid of the tiny red ants that like to attack my feet? They are also building in my water house, but I decided I can live with that for now.

Between the rats, the ants, the ever present dogs and chickens from my neighbors I thought my house was pretty well occupied and that I had had enough battles for one week. So I sat down Wednesday to rest in my hammock for a bit in the afternoon when a soccer ball flew into my house and nearly hit my head. I got up to go talk to the kids that like to play in my yard and ask them to relocate their goal a bit. This was our conversation...
Me: Your goal cannot be my front door, okay?
Juan: It is not your door, see the cans? (Two cans placed about 5 feet apart and sitting maybe 2 feet in front of my door)
Me: Oh so if you don't stop the ball and they score a goal, you will stop it in the two feet before it goes in my house?
Juan: Yes :)

Anyway, it was a good week. A lot of fun was had as I wandered around trying to meet the three new families that moved into our village this week. The women in my village have decided they would like to start a women's group, so I am working with them on that whole process. It has been a bit frustrating at times, but a good project to be working on.

My host sister, Safaria, decided that I finally needed to get my Maya clothes made. So she went with me to take them to a lady in the next village and I picked them up this week. Maybe I will have pictures soon. I haven't worn them yet, but probably will Sunday when we have our next women's group meeting. Safaria and I finished sewing my uuq (skirt) together on Monday. Looks good, I think.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ha'an Awi...

I can't believe it is already July! I am not really sure what happened to the month of June... I am going to try and figure it out right now, though.

The beginning of the month started off with a wonderful birthday I already told you about, and a little too much bus riding for my taste. After that I got a few weeks to hang out in the village.

School came to a close in June and with it came a lot of last minute finishing of projects. We finished purchasing everything for our school feeding program and the kitchen looks amazing now! Looks amazing may not be the right words, but it functions very well now that we have pots, pans and a stove! We were able to cook a few meals for the kids the last week, and I am looking forward to seeing how things develop next year as more women get involved in the cooking. I appreciated my dear friend Emily coming to visit and helping me out cooking with the ladies and doing some organizing and planning in the library!

I did some talking with different village leaders and we have come up with some ideas for projects that I have been researching this month in terms of planning and figuring out who to approach for assistance. I have no idea where any of them will lead, if anywhere, but it is exciting to be working on some projects that are more related to my field and would be great for the community. I will talk more about them maybe as things start to progress a bit.

I am really thankful to have made some good friends in my village. It helps keep me going. Sometimes the work is really slow (well always) and sometimes it can be really frustrating, but to have people that I know genuinely care about me, people I can laugh with and joke with it makes life so much more enjoyable. There would really be no point to do things like this without the relationships. I love seeing that people are trusting me more, and used to having me around, they comment and give me a hard time when I leave them for a few days, and it is neat to feel at home here. I know the stronger the relationships get, the more work we will accomplish eventually. Plus it is helping out a bit with language learning. I feel pretty confident in my ability to understand what people are saying in Q'eqchi now. I am not always the best at speaking to them in return, but at least I can understand a lot of what they say. I got some help with verb conjugation and tense and whatnot so hopefully with some practice I will manage to say the right things eventually.

Alright a lot of rambling, but more to come still...

So we had a practice hurricane consolidation. As a lot of you know I don't actually have any way to be reached when I am in my village. My phone doesn't get service, the satellite phone they gave me a long time ago got taken away because it was broken, and we don't have a community phone or any vehicles. So I may be right on the highway but I never know what is going on. I knew sometime in June we would be having a hurricane consolidation drill and it got to the last week of June and I was just kind of wondering which day it would be. I ran into town with a friend because we were planning to go to the beach for a day, but when we arrived all these texts came in saying "you are on alert, you are on standfast please do not leave your site and prepare your emergency bucket for consolidation". So we sadly went back home and I got all my emergency supplies that I felt like packing for the non-hurricane packed up in my five gallon bucket and we went to town the next morning. Normally they would have come to get me because I wouldn't have known, but when I arrived they said alright we will be consolidating tomorrow so please just head into town. Drills are always a bit weird to me, but the day of it was pouring down rain so I guess at least it felt appropriate. When I arrived to the PC office in Belmopan and met up with the 100 or so other volunteers things felt a bit chaotic and weird. They gave me the satellite phone and made me feel rather disaster ready with my giant phone, plastic emergency bucket and my somewhat chewed up (by a rat) solar charger for the phone.

Before I even made it back to my site after the consolidation drill I got a call that Tropical Storm Alex was on its way. We didn't end up getting consolidated and it didn't get too bad, but definitely has 6+ inches of rain fall on Sat/Sun.

Alright I think I am done with some rambling for now, maybe next time my thoughts will get a bit more organized :) Miss you all!


I realized I forgot to explain "Ha'an awi" . It is Q'eqchi and it means "the same thing". For some reason it is the new favorite saying of the kids in my village. They will say "Megan" and wait until I look or say what and then they will just say "Ha'an awi". It seems to be turning into a battle of who can say it first. I have no idea why it is so funny, but they do it to everyone. Drives their parents crazy too. I am pretty sure it is the only Q'eqchi Emily learned during her visit. Makes sense, though, with as much as they say it... :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More Mini Updates

Polly the Parrot
So my host sister came to me one day and said "Megan, I have a parrot!" She was pretty excited as one would imagine. So I went to her house and saw said parrot. At that time it was tiny and had absolutely no feathers. A week or so later it started to get green feathers and look more like a parrot. She decided to name her parrot Polly (I found this really amusing). So the parrot has been around for a few weeks, it gets fed masa and they give it water. All in all they take good care of it. I guess I should mention it was brought home by her husband after he found it nearly squished under a tree they were cutting down. I have to sadly report, though, that Polly the Parrot died Sunday. My little host niece brought me a box and said "look!" and the poor parrot was laying in the box dead. I had grown pretty attached to the squawking little creature and will miss him!
My Furniture
I was told that my house lacks furniture and whatnot. I have to agree. I do have buckets to sit on/store water and food in, but other than that I have a hammock and a small table in the kitchen. So Bernadina and I decided we would build me a shelf for my books and things. There were some scrap pieces of wood in the yard that we collected, and then we went to her father to borrow a saw and hammer. Unfortunately it takes a really long time to cut lumber with a really dull hack saw. But eventually we managed to build a slightly slanted, but very useful shelf. :)

This picture makes me believe it is the rainy season, but I keep getting told it isn't. The neighbor's ducks seem to believe my yard is a pond every time it rains and I am tempted to agree with them. This is what was happening outside as we were building the shelf inside.

I am proud to say that my village has 3 new high school graduates! Before this year only one person in the village had ever completed high school, but two boys and one girl graduated from High School this month.

Mango Sadness
My newly discovered allergy to mango trees/mango skin is a bit sad for me. The kids keep picking the mangoes out of my trees and bringing them to me. I love mangoes! Sadly I just have to say no now. The kids are always picking fruit they see that is ripe out of my yard, and then insisting that I eat it all (which normally I don't mind). I will figure out how to peel and clean a mango without actually touching it, or find someone nice enough to do it for me soon.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'm 25 Now and Other Random Comments

I haven't updated in a long time so I feel a bit guilty. I have been informed by one very impatient (but well loved friend, you know who you are) that I may be causing her slow death. I feel that is quite dramatic, but to amuse you I am uploading (with very slow internet) three pictures and going to tell a couple funny stories for you.

Veronica came to stay in my new house with me for a bit, and it was a wonderful visit from an old friend, but also a good enlightening time. It reminded me of things that I have just become accustomed to and no longer see as strange. At some point in time I will have to post "Veronica's list of 'that is not normal'", but for now I will just mention a few. Things like chickens walking through your house at random, bathing in an area with a tarantula that you refuse to kill (look back to the rescued by a 7year old post and see how I have progressed :), washing my clothes on a rock in the river next to all the other ladies in the village, running out of food before going to the market so picking random things that grow in your yard you didn't plant but actually are good food, etc. She also told me my K'ekchi is getting good which made me feel great, but then I remembered she had never heard K'ekchi before that so anything probably would have sounded great. Anyway she was amused with the chickens and I was a bit annoyed with them always being at my house when I don't own chickens, so here is a picture of my new house and "my" chickens.

So I feel like Belize is not a good place for me when it comes to random health things. I love it here, but my skin really does not. So for the past three weeks I have been going through this weird allergic reaction that we couldn't quite figure out and I was getting a bit tired of waking up with eyes swollen nearly shut. So today (on my birthday) I left my house at 9am on the bus to make it to my 2:30pm doctors appointment. I was only two minutes late so I felt pretty successful about that. Thankfully the doctor figured out what is wrong with me, so it wasn't a completely wasted 5.5 hours on the bus:) Apparently mango trees and cashew trees are closely related to poison ivy, and if you have known me for any length of time you have probably seen me for weeks (if not months at a time) with some ridiculous poison ivy rash. So apparently I am not longer allowed to pick my own mangoes out of the trees in my yard. I can eat them, but only after someone cleans them and peels them for me. At least I can still eat them. They are all coming ripe right about now and they taste amazing. So weird skin problem number who knows what will hopefully be resolved soon :)(I can't figure out how to rotate the picture so just use your neck and tilt your head a bit :))

I received a birthday card yesterday. One of those fun musical cards. I did not think about it when I brought it back to the village and opened it, but I got an amazing response. The kids love it, and constantly want to see "the radio" and listen to the song. There is a picture of my host-niece Anaya listening to it. It was amazing she came running to my house naked after her bath wanting to hear it and I told her as best I could in K'ekchi that she couldn't listen to it until she put on clothes, so she was back fully dressed (with shoes!) in under 5 minutes. I was impressed. I may soon hate the limbo song that it plays after hearing it non-stop for 20 minutes or so, but I loved seeing their response to it. Something that seemed so simple, but provides hours (literally) of entertainment and amazement.

Alright so dear Tracy, my fellow PCV and well loved pal, was planning to visit me in my village for my birthday. I wasn't completely sure she was coming, but when I found out I wasn't going to be there I let her know. So she decided to join me on the adventure up north to the doctor. She made me the most amazing chocolate cake with peanut butter and chocolate icing and lugged it through 7 hours of bus trips to get it here to Belize city. When I got on the bus with her a few hours into her trip she was contemplating singing happy birthday too me with the people on the bus, but thankfully reserved herself a bit. Needless to say cakes don't withstand heat very well, especially on buses. The cake tasted amazing, but may have been a little melty. I didn't mind, I enjoyed it very much with the forks we begged from the concession stand lady in the Dangriga bus station. It just reminds me of the great friends I have made here that would take a 7 hour bus ride, holding a quickly melting cake, on a very uncomfortable retired school bus, in the heat just so I don't spend my birthday alone. It was a good day :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

I can't think of a title :)

So my parents recently visited me and it was really great to see them. As we were riding in the car they were asking questions about different things we were seeing and I was explaining to them different cultural and economic things about the village I live in and some about Belize. My mom asked “why don’t you write about these things in your blog?” Since then I have been thinking about that question and I have come up with some kind of an answer, good or bad, I am still not sure.

I do mostly write lighthearted blogs with the amusing and sometimes awkward moments that lead to laughter that come along with trying to fit in in a completely different culture, or I write about fun events. Those things are easy for me to write about. I feel like coming up with words to adequately describe daily life here, the people, the traditions and culture that won’t lead you to misunderstandings or give you the wrong impressions is really hard for me. My thoughts change daily, things that once surprised or amazed me I don’t even notice anymore. Everything is becoming pretty routine and normal. Thankfully I have about 600 pages or more of journaling from the last 7 months to look back on when I want reminders. I will do my best to give a little bit of insight into what I have learned to love and grown to tolerate in the last 7 months here. I hope that you take these thoughts and realize my impression will or could differ greatly from any other volunteer you find in Belize, and that they are just that, opinions.

My Village

I have been in this village about 6 months. Now that I say that, it kind of freaks me out that I am already ¼ of the way through my placement here. I am slowly feeling like I have a home here. There are several of the 30 houses I feel completely comfortable going to visit, sitting with them, talking, laughing or even just having comfortable silence. Something that has taken me a while to get used to is the way visiting takes place here. You can visit with absolutely no purpose, you don’t have to be bringing a message, or really have any reason to visit someone. It is perfectly acceptable to go and sit with someone and enjoy their company even if that means there are periods of 5 minutes or so that are (what I used to feel was awkward) silent. I am working on making myself comfortable visiting the rest of the houses here, but sometimes it is just hard. It is really hard sometimes to convince myself to go to a house where I know our ability to communicate will be minimal and cause a lot of confusion. I have to remind myself, though, that these are the visits that usually turn out the most amusing, most beneficial, let people see that I am trying, and help me to learn the most K’ekchi.

I don’t remember what I have written in the past about this village, but here is a bit of a description. I would say about 15-20% of the adults speak some amount of English. All of the community meetings and everything are held in K’ekchi and most women only speak K’ekchi (With the exception of my host-family who speak beautiful English). So while Belize is an English speaking country it is necessary for me to learn K’ekchi. Even if everyone could speak English, wouldn’t it be more respectful to try and communicate with them in their first language rather than having them make accommodations for me? Most all of the families here are subsistence farmers, their food comes primarily from their gardens, plantations or hunting. So typically we eat a lot of corn (I never knew there were so many ways to prepare corn) usually tortillas, beans, eggs, sometimes rice, and a few vegetables here and there. Thankfully, there are a lot of bananas, coconuts, sweet limes, oranges and some mango trees around so we aren’t short on fruits. As far as income, there really isn’t much. Several families have someone that works at the nearby banana plantations where they make about 9USD a day and are gone about 12 hours a day. We have 3 people that work with the school bus taking kids to the high school in town, and they make about 14USD a day, but they only work about 2-3 weeks a month. Some ladies go to nearby tourist areas to sell crafts and jewelry now and then. The majority of income though is just odd jobs here and there.

The families here are large; most have between 4 and 9 children. People are starting to get married at older ages (18-20), but it is not too uncommon to see someone who was married at 14 or 15. Families tend to stay close together and build houses next to each other. As you can imagine all of these things leave me hard to understand; 24, not a wife, not a mother, and far from my family.

There are three churches here that many people attend, but they all are blended with traditional beliefs and practices as well. Sometime I will have to write about some of them, they are pretty interesting to me. We also have a healer or bush doctor that a lot of people visit when they aren’t well, or they don’t get better after visiting the clinic.

My Typical Day

People ask me what I do, and this is why I don’t consistently have updates. On a normal day I wake up about 5 or so in the morning. About 6 or 6:30 I will open my windows and doors, depending on when I am ready to have kids playing in my house. As soon as I open them they tend to come visit. I make breakfast, read/play with kids for a bit. When I see ladies going or about 9am I will go to the river to wash clothes and bathe. I usually go with my host-sisters, but there are always a lot of ladies down there. It is an awesome time for socializing with the ladies in the village. Usually that takes an hour or two out of the morning. I am convinced my house always needs to be swept so that happens at least once a day. Usually there is a period of spider killing as well. After lunch I usually go to visit a few houses and spend some time walking around and visiting. The unfortunate part of a small village is I can walk around the whole village in about 10-15 minutes, but at least I know everyone. Everyone seems to always know where to find me too. When school is in session I usually go in the morning or afternoon a few times a week to help out in the “library”, help with some special projects or in the garden. I also teach after school 2-3 times a week storywriting and math to help with standardized testing and high school entry exams. Yes, eventually I will work on some kind of project related to my masters, or a bigger project that maybe will seem to have more of a point for those of you at home. For now, though, I am just getting to know people, working on a plan with village leaders, learning, building relationships and teaching them a bit about where I come from, like “Yes we do have trees and rivers in the US. Really, I promise.”

Alright I have been sitting here writing by candle light for about 8 pages right now so I think I should quit. (I didn't even manage to actually type it all up, maybe another time I will add some of the other sections I wrote about :) I am sure you have had enough anyway. Hopefully it will give you a bit more of an idea of where I am and what I am doing. I miss you all and look forward to hearing from you soon!