Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Month for Celebrating

I am proud to say that we have two new high school graduates! That puts us up to six people in our village that have graduated from high school! :) High school in Belize is not free, and definitely not cheap either. Students are required to buy their own books, uniforms, PE uniforms, and pay tuition. All of these fees add up to around $400 a year per student. Most students who quit or are pulled out of school leave due to financial reasons. The government does give a subsidy for the first two years of high school. Some students are able to find scholarships for tuition, but they are hard to come by and do not usually include books and uniforms. So each time one of our students, supported by their family, is able to overcome all the obstacles in their way, and graduate from high school it is a definite call for celebration :)

This year Rosaria graduated from Julian Cho Technical HS and Manuel graduated from Tumul K'in Center of Learning. I attended graduation with Rosaria in PG Town, and saw that over 100 students graduated this year from JC! The ceremony was fairly similar to one in the states and was followed by the traditional reception back in the village. I did not attend Manuel's graduation as it is a bit further away and would have involved spending a night or two in another village; but I did attend the celebration at his house afterwards. My mom was also around for that one, and will hopefully have a chance to share her interesting experience.

Any celebration in the village is always followed by a reception of sorts. Mostly this includes going to one house where the ladies have been cooking and baking all day to enjoy caldo (usually pig or chicken soup) and tortillas or poch. The preparation for these takes a lot of work on the part of the women. To feed the whole village for my goddaughter's dedication we cooked, cleaned, ground, and made poch out of 220 pounds of corn. The men were the ones to slaughter and clean the pig so that the women were able to cook it as well. It is a fun integration and social time, though. Usually there is a lot of laughter and jokes while baking and getting ready for all of the visitors. It really is a weird celebration the first time you go, though. You arrive, someone comes and hands you a bowl of caldo and points to a central bucket of tortillas, and you find a place to sit yourself down to enjoy your meal. Any meat you don't finish you wrap up in a banana leaf with a few tortillas and carry home for later. When you are done you hand your bowl to one of the ladies, say thanks, and go home. Somehow this seems like a completely normal celebration anymore. Is there really a graduation, birthday, wedding or dedication that doesn't include caldo and some sort of corn product?

Anyway, back to graduations. We also held a graduation for the primary school students on the last day of school. Three students completed standard 6 (8th grade), and passed their high school entrance exams. All three were accepted to high school and will be attending next year thanks to some assistance from the government and outside scholarships! We had a really short ceremony for them in front of the other students, and a few parents. Afterwards the kids played games, watched a movie, and enjoyed themselves before lunch. A few mothers came to school and prepared rice and beans, and stewed chicken for the all 77 kids and the teachers to enjoy as a part of the ongoing feeding program :)

In case graduations weren't enough for one month, there was also a wedding! Sesaria and Augusto got married on Sunday June 19th. I was not able to make the wedding as I was visiting with my family, but I have lots of pictures (I left my camera for them to use), and attended the celebration with the family 3 days after the wedding. Sesaria explained to my mom (who was visiting the village for a week) and I that they believe that three days after the wedding you should wash your wedding gown, open all your presents with the help of family, and take down all of the decorations. So they had a little gathering at their house; all her family that lives in the village attended. Everyone participated in opening her presents at the same time, and packed them into big basins for her to sort out in time and then helped to undecorate everything. After this was completed we all enjoyed the necessary caldo (this time duck), and wished them congratulations.

With 2 high school graduations, 3 students finishing primary school, one wedding, and a visit from family June was definitely a month for celebrating! :)


  1. Wow, that's a lot of celebrating!

    I'm surprised to see that the bride and groom are in very "American/traditional" get-up. Heavily influenced by other countries? Or...?

  2. I keep trying to reply to you Megan, but it just doesn't want to let me. Maybe this time it will finally work :)

    So yeah I think it has been influenced a bit by other countries, but especially by the church. Not to say that the church insists upon a white wedding that looks like anything in particular, but I do believe that is where the actual wedding ceremony has come from. The churches insist upon something more formal, and a marriage certificate. The above wedding was at the catholic church.

    Traditionally, and in my village it still for the most part holds true, marriages are arranged. Sometimes you know the person and sometimes you don't. The man will pick a woman he wants as his wife (whether he knows her or just has seen her from afar, yes it really happens) and he will tell his parents. The man's father will go to the girl's father and ask her father to engage her to his son. That was a confusing sentance. But anyway there are series of three meetings between the parents of the couple, and the last meeting, if the response is yes is a celebration. The whole of both families will attend and the elders of the families witness the agreement of the engagement/marriage. At this point the girl goes to live with the man and his family and they are essentially married. She calls him her husband, they live together, the elders have witnessed and approved it. However, now that many of them go to church they have weddings in the church as well. The thing is it is like they are already married but they do that just to make the church happy? I don't know how I feel about it. All the weddings I have seen so far, excluding the one above, the bride was already pregnant or had children, and had customarily been married for months if not years.