Global Handwashing Day!

Global Handwashing Day!

My Pueblo Viejo Home

My Pueblo Viejo Home

My Pueblo Viejo Home

My Pueblo Viejo Home

My Latrine and Shower

My Latrine and Shower

Some of My Host Siblings

Some of My Host Siblings

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

Well, it hardly feels like Christmas time here in Belize.... I walk around in shorts and tank tops; none of the shops have Christmas ads, candy, or decorations; I have not seen one person dressed up as Santa, and even more strange I haven't seen anyone dressed as Santa ringing bells outside of local supermarkets for the Salvation Army; and I hardly ever hear Christmas carols (even though I think they do play on Love FM-- I just don't have a radio!) It's hard to feel like the Christmas season has really started-- or maybe I'm just finally adjusting to the non-commercial Christmas season! (breath of fresh air?)

Anyway, in the spirit of the holidays, I'll put out my general Christmas list for the world to read.... haha. (Email or facebook me for my current address!)

My Jungle Christmas Wish List:

• Tapestry for my walls
• Cookbooks (easy ones)
• Belts
• Facewash
• Biore Strips (the jungle is terrible for my face!)
• V05 hot oil hair treatment
• Tank tops
• Pictures and frames! –(I need some familiar faces in my home)
• Flashdrive
• IPod
• Wallet (the clutch kind, preferably)
• Bananagrams
• Cleats
• Gatorade/crystal light packets
• Aussie leave-in conditioner
• Agenda –good one!
• Baseball mitts (for kids)
• Soccer balls (for my football team)
• Yoga & Workout dvds
• Tic Tacs
• Razors
• Quick-dry towels
• String (to make bracelets with children)
• Belize, NY, and SC maps


Some things are just more necessity-type items, as always! haha Who really WANTS razors for Christmas?? And for those of you who love me, but just feel you may be too lazy to put the effort in for an international package, you can always donate money to the Mopaneers La Ruta Maya fund! Matt, Dan, and I are officially racing in La Ruta Maya-- a 4 day, 175 mile canoe race from San Ignacio to Belize City. We have to find mulah for a fast canoe, paddles, life jackets, registration, food, water, rehydration salts, sleep stuff, gas for our support crew, and truck rental!

To see the route we are canoeing (and take pity on us) go to: http://www.larutamayabelize.com/main/Portals/0/route_map.jpg

I'm planning to set up a PayPal account or something of the sort, so contact me for details!

Anyway, hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! It will be weird spending my first Christmas away from my family, but luckily I have an amazing Belizean family of friends down here.

Thank you in advance for any packages! I promise to be a better blogger in 2011!

Red Wine, Catamaran, and a Wedding

This past weekend turned out to be a quite eventful pre-holiday event!

It all began on Thursday, when we had our Christmas party for the Rovers and Toledo staff. It was a nice luncheon, and they even had rum and beer for everyone! Even though hardly any of the Rovers drank, being noon on a weekday and them being Mayan women...it's not their culture. But the food was a nice change of pace and it was good to be out of the office for the afternoon.

Then the real party started on Friday! I was lucky enough to be invited to the Ministry of Human Development's Christmas party. The event left from Tourist Village in Belize City on a big Catamaran boat! It was all government employees under the Human Service's Dept, plus two PCVs, (I was allowed to bring a guest). Unlike most things I go to in Belize, this was a pretty elegant affair- probably the nicest thing I've been to in this country thus far! I even had to have my mom ship down one of my cocktail dresses from my closet just for the occasion, having nothing suitable for the event in my wardrobe down here!

So the adventure began about noon-ish Friday, as we headed up in the Ministry's truck with our driver, Fido. The deal for the party was the Ministry provided transportation but not lodging in Belize City, which was huge because it saved us $50 a piece and we just stayed with another PCV in the city. We got into Belize in record time, heading to a fellow PCVs house to make Christmas cookies and get ready for the boat. Around 7pm we headed to Tourist Village, all spiffy in our elegant-wear. Of course we were one of the first few people there, because we should've known the boat was leaving 7:30 sharp, Belize time. People wandered in anywhere from 7:30-8-ish, and the boat didn't actually pull out til a little after 8:30. It was a nice boat, decorated in Christmas lights and red ribbons, and PACKED with people. I had my doubts that all the people on the dock would fit on the boat, but I it was deceptively smaller from outside. The PG Vibes, a local band, played for the evening. They threw down some Beliezan punta-renditions of classic Christmas carols along with a lot of the popular Belizean music. During their breaks, the dj blasted wedding-style old school music, which is always my favorite. Even though, I must admit I thought I was an expert in "wedding/old school music" knowledge, but these Belizeans gave me a run for my money! It would be the first beat of a song and they were already yelling and singing along! It was truly amazing-- I felt like a failure! haha

But overall the event was really nice. We had a delicious ham and turkey Christmas dinner, with dessert and tamales to go, lol. There was also an open bar with RED WINE--yes, you head right--WINE! We danced with some important Ministry staff, even trying to get some moves in with the Minister, who started the night by saying, "Tonight I am not the Minister... I am here to party!" He even jumped in and sang with the band, (but his son IS the lead singer, so he has some pull...haha) It was quite spectacular... a night sailing under the brightly lit up Caribbean sky! Awesome...

We finally rolled back into Tourist Village around 1am, and our partying shoes were ready to be hung up. It was a great night!

Saturday, the Ministry brought us back to PG, again in record timing. I was exhausted from the night before, so I called it an early night.

Sunday morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to catch Bol's bus into Crique Jute to attend a Mayan wedding! I was pretty psyched for the event--I even wore my Maya blouse and a long black skirt to match-- I'm practically a Maya gyal already.

I met Dan by his hill before walking to the church. The service was Baptist and lone Maya-- aka, there was 3 hour of clapping and very little dialogue that I understood. But it was a very nice and lively ceremony. The bride had a beautiful dress and there were cohune leaf arches framing the doorways of the church. Contrary to the very elegant attire of the boat ride event, the wedding consisted of women in mostly traditional wear and men in jeans, though that was still pretty calssy. The mother of the bride was even barefoot in the church, which made me smile in appreciation of this culture. Overall, it was a nice, nice ceremony.

After the service, everyone packed on a bus to San Antonio village, which is only the next village over, to go to the reception. San Antonio was where the groom's family was from. We got served eken (pig) and it was so nice! Pig, rice, beans, and red fanta- the combo of champs! We hung out talking to Dan's villagers and meeting new ones from San Antonio.

After a long period of repetitive conversations, we decided to take a walk around the village. There was a football marathon down at the field where 21 teams were participating in! It was huge! There were tons of people and music playing and it was a big party vibe from down there. We saw some of our friends from the Indian Ville team, and watched their team win the first game. (They ended up winning the whole tournament after we left). San Antonio was a hopping place! Not only was there a big marathon going on, but up the hill the school was having a bizarre. They were selling tons of food and had various prizes for people. I couldn't believe how much activity was happening in this village on a Sunday! It was busy for ANY day of the week, for that matter!

We headed back to the wedding after hanging out for a bit and ran into one of Dan's villagers on the road. I know the man because he works at ITVET, where we ran both the computer and chess camps. He just told me how his son had a baby and they named her Mallory! I have officially made my mark on Belize! hahaha I left a legacy.... in Dan's village, hahaha. How random! Anyway, we danced a little merimba at the wedding before expressing our gratitude to the family and heading out.

What a pleasant (& quite diverse) weekend!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wondering What's Kept Me From Blogging These Past Few Months??

Hello people of the world!

First of all, it's been way ridiculously long since I last posted.... sorry! Maybe my New Year's resolution will be to post regularly! I cannot believe it's DECEMBER already!! This is going on my 9th month here in Belize!! Can you Belize it??!

Time seems to FLY by here! (well, I guess that's true of anywhere-- but it seems to be going by extra fast lately!)

Things have been really good in Belize! Let me fill you in on some of the exciting happenings in my life in recent months! (since I have been TERRIBLE at keeping you informed!!)

I recently finished my first grant to help fund for a girls camp we our holding in July 2011. It's called Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) and it's for teen girls from all over the country. It's a weeklong camp put on by the Peace Corps WID/GAD committee, which focuses on gender equality and women's empowerment. I'm also the Fundraising Coordinator and Public Relations Coordinator for the club, so I've got my hands full in that project!

In other news, December 1st was World AIDS Day. The Peace Corps HIV/AIDS Committee collaborated with the Toledo HIV/AIDS Committee and we put on a very productive 2 day event. On Nov 30th we held a candlelight vigil at central park in PG town. Students and adults came to hear speakers, poetry, music, and to light the candles. We even got a bonus because PG's "dancing bum" gave his own little performance after the event! He's always a source of entertainment on the streets of PG... Then on Dec 1st, we held a torch run--which basically was the local high school men's football team plus me and Taylor. So we were the only girls and the only PC reps. It was interesting! We just did a loop around town... not a very long run. But it was fun. The kid in front held a torch that actually had the Olympic rings on it-- I felt pretty legit! hahaha Following the run, we had a full day's event with 8 different high schools from Toledo. There were skits, songs, a rap contest (which I judged--because clearly, I'm qualified for that sort of thing!), speakers, and HIV testing. Our PC committee along with other organizations had booths where students could walk around and ask questions and get information about HIV/AIDS and related topics. It was a very productive day!

In relation to HIV/AIDS and testing, I've become friends with the nurse of BFLA (Belize Family Life Association) and will be helping her both out in the villages and in town, promoting safe sex talks and offering HIV testing and PAP smears. I'm very excited to have this opportunity! The women in rural villages don't always get into town or are too afraid to come forward to be tested or have proper check ups. So BFLA is going to bring the check ups and testing to THEM by going home to home! It eliminates both the embarrassment and inconvenience associated with coming into town.

As far as my organization and primary project go, I recently gave a "Designing for Behavior Change: Conflict Resolution" seminar to our supervisors from Toledo and Belize. It was a successful presentation and I went on to present a modified version to our Rovers at the last Fourthnightly Session we had (our bi-weekly staff meetings). Both seemed productive and I was glad to put some of my PC training to use! Now my Belize City supervisor wants me to set up a workshop with the Rovers in Belize and Toledo focused on Conflict Resolution. In addition, I gave a talk on "Professionalism in the Workplace" with the Toledo Rovers, which also went very well. I am working with another PCV in the north to organize the workshop on Conflict Resolution and I think it will be extremely beneficial to our organization. Petty fighting tends to be one of the major issues we face when dealing with these girls. So work has been busy and good! I spend a lot of time in the office, which I hope to change in the new year, but for now it works!

The final major project news I have is my women's football initiative! I went to a meeting with the Ministry of Sports last week in which I was not only the only white person present, but also the only female present. I have to admit it was a little intimidating-- football is a guy's thing here and I felt out of place in more than one way. But I was glad I stuck it out... I definitely made an impact by just being present because people on the streets recognize me from that night. So it only brought about positives! My main reasoning for attending the meeting is that I want to start a women's football team in PG. In the north football is much more equal, (the majority of populations being kriol or mestizo)...but in the south things are still very different. I decided going to town is not the best way, so I'm now getting my foot in the door by working with the local high school: Toledo Technical College. TCC supposedly has a women's football team, though they don't practice and I'm not sure if they actually have a season. But last Friday I forced myself into a meeting with the director of sports at the school, (since I had given a Role Models talk to one of the classes earlier that day), and he was able to set me up with the coach and deemed me essentially the assistant coach for the team, starting Monday! I'm excited to work with them-- I feel like I'll get really frustrated in this role, but it will definitely be worth it.

So that's basically my "work life" as of lately.... I'm busy in weird ways, but I like the randomness of it all! Variety is essential to my sanity!

I was going to write more, but I think I'll save my dually hectic social life for another entry!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Toledo Thanksgiving Celebration

Since everyone knows Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday (yum, yum), some of the PCVs down in PG and I decided to make as big of a deal as we could of it! So we formed the Toledo Thanksgiving Party Planning Committee! (yes, I now have every season of the Office on my computer, so this is my latest addiction! haha) Anyway, we invited Belizeans, staff, and volunteers from all over the country to come celebrate with us and it was a HUGE turn out! We had roughly 50 people come celebrate the holiday with us! We had every kind of traditional American Thanksgiving dish, along with some Belizean dishes as well! And-- get this-- I cooked the turkey!!! No joke!!! Now, I can't take all the credit-- Dan did spend 5 hours in the kitchen at my office helping me baste this bad boy-- & solving minor obstacles as they came our way! First the gas wouldn't light, then the aluminum pan cracked and all the juice leaked out, then the juice burned everywhere and it was a smoky disaster..... but after those minor speed bumps, we ended up with a juicy, delicious bird! It was a big hit at dinner and I was so proud of myself!!! Only a few weeks before this cooking triumph, I messed up making hard boiled eggs for breakfast--- true story! hahaha

We started the holiday off with a traditional American football game at Union Field in PG town. It was a fun morning event-- and I actually got sunburned without even realizing it! haha November and still in the heat-- oh Belize! My team won.... I think.... even if they didn't, I refuse to admit anything else! haha. But I did jam my finer pretty badly! So I'm typing to you with a sore finger.... and I keep trying to quote Gretyl from the Sound of Music and saying "I have a sore finger" in my best Austrian accent, but I've been told my accents just aren't really that good! shocking! After football, we cooked and showered all afternoon before the big dinner event! We held everything in Parish Hall-- we were legit with these Turkey Day festivities! Everyone ate lots and we took pics and had a general fun time! It was really nice to spend the holiday with my favorite people from Belize-- made me miss home a little bit less that day!!

Thanksgiving seemed to last from the Tuesday before til the Sunday after! It was tiring by the weekend! People were trickling in and out all week long-- but it was a fun time! My house was a BIG disaster-- it was traffic central. But it was totally worth it!

We got to celebrate Dan's birthday early, which was just another excuse to make more food and party! haha We ate some nice vegetarian food and made him a cake with homemade icing! (courtesy of Amy!) And we found trick candles at the Chini!! It was hilarious! My new favorite Canadian, Marina, had never seen trick candles before and basically flipped out when they kept relighting!! It was amazing! hahaha.

Having had the serious responsibility of cooking the turkey--the most important part of Thanksgiving-- for a party of 50, I now consider myself an expert chef. haha. So I decided to try my hand at one next cooking experience: breakfast! On Wed I made French Toast for the first time! It was delicious-- if I do say so myself! (& I cooked for 2 other people-- they said so too!) hahaha. I'm pretty much the next, cuter, slightly more feminine, Emeril! Bazinga!

And I'm gonna learn how to make latkes on Friday! I'm pretty pumped about it, too!

Welcome to the holiday season!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Meh-hee-cooooo!!!

The following week my Belizean “boss” took me and the intern to Chetamul, Mexico! My first time to Mexico ever!! It was so cool! He brought us in to Belize City and put us up in a hotel. I hung out with the Belize City PCVs all day because I almost never see them. I also tried Lebanese food, which was awesome, for the first time! Early the next morning, Shawn picked us up for our big Chet excursion! Lucky for us, we got to take his car across the border, which was the best way to experience Chet for the first time. (Otherwise, you take a bus). On our way to Chet, we passed through OrangeWalk and Corozal, picking up other staff members for the journey as well. This was my first time in all these northern towns! I had never been past Belize or Cayo! Every minute was exciting! At first I was a bit skeptical about going to Mexico with work people, who I barely knew and didn’t have much in common with, but it ended up being such a fun and awesome day!

Once we crossed the border, we had to fill out all the immigration stuff and exchange some money. Then Shawn just drove us around Chet to see the general feel of the city. It was so clean!!! Much cleaner than I imagined Mexico to be! And it was so….westernized! So unlike Belize, basically!

Our next adventure was…brace yourself…Sam’s Club!!! I was in awe!!! I felt like I was at home!! Craziness!! It was fantastic! I got so excited I almost forgot I was in Mexico! The walked in and was like “Hey!!!” And he said Buenos Tardes and I felt stupid… Sam’s Club was so awesome! Except everything was in Spanish and in pesos, so it seemed ridiculously expensive and I was confused most of the trip. I got overwhelmed with my options and ended up coming out of there with only a bottle of conditioner to show for it.

After Sam’s Club, we went to the actual MALL!!! Hello, USA!!! I literally felt like I was at the Galleria at Crystal Run. Oh man! But I embraced the familiar environment! I bought a pair of earrings and a headband. I shopped! Oh man! I even ate a Big Mac at McDonald’s in the food court! (Which I can officially go the next 2 years without! My stomach hated me!) It was madness! After a fun afternoon of Americanism, we headed to the Free Zone to make some last minute purchases—mostly everyone wanted to get liquor, hahaha. And the guys bought Mexican beer. But I was able to buy a cute dress for cheap! It was a great day!

On the way home we belted out some Celine Dion: It's All Coming Back To Me, (I thought of Britt and Converse soccer bus rides--oh, and i DID the choreography!). It was really fun… I bonded with my Belizean co-workers. Sadly, the trip ended and I was back on my way to PG on the 5:15am bus the next morning.

Belize Meets Cornhole...

My blog has had over 1,000 hits! How exciting! So thanks for reading my random PC life story!!

After my week in San Miguel, it was a big party weekend: Michelle’s 30th Birthday! (Michelle is another PCV in Punta Gorda.) She and her husband, Nate planned a big party weekend for it all. Nate even made a cornhole board, for some good ole fashioned American fun! It was a huge hit! (& cool to play with all the Belizeans who came to the party!) It was kind of a potluck on Friday night, everyone brought food and different things to cook and we made punch. It was really fun! The food was awesome! We had music and hung out outside… it was great! Plus, a bunch of people from the North came down for the celebration! It was good to see people! After it got too late to run the music from their house, we moved the party to Sports Bar to go dancing for a little while. It was a fun night.

Saturday morning I woke up and headed to Cayo for a football match. It was the first game of our 2-series finals. We played Belize City and won 2-1! I played so crappy in the first half, but really stepped it up in the 2nd. Thank goodness! It would’ve been a waste to travel 7 hours on a school bus and not even played well!!! Midway through the game is downpoured on us. It was such a fun game. And when we won, the celebration after the game was INSANE!!! My team and our fans went crazy! We had about 75+ fans there! They had a little bar stand set-up too, and people were drinking and having a blast… it was such a cool experience! After the game everyone was squirting our team with shilling bags of water—kinda what they do after racecar wins with champagne? It was like that, but with these little square bags of water. Hahaha It was great!! Everyone was taking pictures and making comments like, “you can do it, white gyal!” Because they like to make fun of me and I usually get that joke or “run, white gyal, run” hahaha. It’s all fun though!! I really love my team!!!

After the game I got a ride back w/one of the girl’s family to Belmopan. I got dropped off at Bryan Dwyer’s house for his going away party, he’s our PTSO (which I’m not sure what the acronym stands for….but he’s important). He’s leaving for PC Honduras…. We will miss him so much!!!

Anyway, I showed up smelly and sweaty and soaked to the bone, thinking it was only he and his family and other PCVs going to be present…..wrong! Almost ALL Peace Corps staff and PCVs were there—dressed up!! It was a nice, classy party! WHAT!!!! DID NOT GET THAT MEMO!!! AH! I was so embarrassed! And I stunk! I was only going to pop in for a brief appearance and then I ended up making a grand embarrassing entrance! Yikes! Luckily, the Dwyer family is ridiculously nice, and Bryan’s 13 year old daughter gave me some clothes to borrow. Confidence booster: I fit into a 13 year old’s clothes; confidence killer: I also borrowed a bra from her…and it fit. Sad.

The party was really fun after I didn’t stink anymore! They had hummus, and all kinds of amazing food, and wine! Yum! But I was glad to leave because I was exhausted that night!

The following day we were supposed to have a tournament in Esperanza, and I went all the way back out there only to learn that it was cancelled. Epic fail. But it ended up being a good day because I got to eat fried chicken and mash potatoes at my coach’s house and hang out with him for awhile. Then we went to support our teammates who were playing in a softball game down the road, which was cool. It was a relaxing Belizean afternoon and I enjoyed myself. Around early evening time, I headed back home.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Daring Adventures of San Miguel Village

After computer camp in Crique Jute, I just did NOT have enough village time in my life!! So I headed over to San Miguel village, which is one of the villages our RCP program is in. I was there for a week doing full-day supervisions with our Rovers, while staying with my new PCV pal, Tracy!

I got abandoned for a ride by my organization...again.... so I took the noon bus into San Miguel on Monday morning. When I arrived in at Tracy's, she had made guacamole and cake--instant friends!!!! It was DELICIOUS. We ate and then headed up to work on her World Map project at the school. Pretty much as soon as we started painting with the kids, it started to downpour.... oy vey! So not much got accomplished as far as helping her out that day!

We headed back to Tracy's and Greg came to hang out w/us. (He lives in the next village over). We hung out for awhile before deciding to go to Greg's house for the evening. Tracy brought over dinner she had made and frozen and we went to Silver Creek to stay at Greg and Kevina's. Their house is SO nice! It's a really neat thatch house that's in a compound along with other families--so cool! We had a delicious shrimp scampi meal and then played bananagrams all night--which I had never played before and am now officially addicted to!!

The next morning Tracy and I headed back early to shower and get ready before I met the first Rover, Guadalupe. I had a productive day of supervisions and stimulations, a PB&J lunch, followed by the most amazing and dramatic adventure of my time here in PC.

So Tracy tells me about these caves that are just outside San Miguel village. Loving any kind of adventurous activity, I was immediately on board with the idea. We borrowed a bike from her host family, and I borrowed clothes and sneakers from Tracy, and we headed into the bush to see this awesome cave. Now, let me preface this story by telling you that Tracy is a huge animal lover. She has a dog that stays in her house, Blackie, who she takes care of, as well as two of the neighbors' dogs who hang out looking for food and attention: Mickey and Sleepy. When we walked to the school for the World Map, they followed...and when we biked out to the bush, they followed again. Quite loyal, these potlickas. So anyway, we 2 gringas and 3 potlickas go biking out of town on our little adventure. It's about an hour bike ride or so til we get to the Maya Dam. We have to climb down the side of the dam, cross over the dry rock area, hike in a little bit of jungle, until we finally reach the caves. Quite exciting!

So we get up to the cave mouth and I'm videoing and taking pictures...it's absolutely beautiful! Tracy has her headlamp on and I'm trying to get close to her light to make my way through the cave. The beginning part is just dark and damp, and I'm stepping in puddles and bumping into things. All of a sudden I see a bat fly past me! We're in the dark and this thing starts swooshing by, dive-bombing us! We freak out like 2 little girls, assuming upward fetal positions on the ground...oh boy! There was screaming and grabbing on to each other, but we finally gained our composure and headed onward. Next we reach a small opening, about the size of a manhole, that we had to climb up through to get to the major part of the cave. It's a difficult climb, but once we made it through the cave becomes lighter in the wide-open space. It was amazing! We are exploring the cave and looking around all the different areas, while we hear the 3 dogs whimpering from outside. They could not figure out how to get in! Tracy and I continue walking around and climbing different areas, just taking in the scenery. All of a sudden, Mickey shows up inside! The brave little dog made it into the cave! Not long after, we once again had 3 dogs at our heels as we explored the cave.

After a good while, we decided it was time to head out. I was hungry and ready to dig into the next amazing dish Tracy had prepared. We make our way back out of the cave--very carefully. We get to the outside and rest on some rocks, once again hearing the whimpers of 3 pitiful dogs. It's kind of amusing, because we know they can get out, but they are just being babies! So Tracy and I are giggling as we wait on the rock for the dogs to find their way. After about 10 minutes or so, brave ole Mickey gets out and is back along with us. It takes Blackie a good number of minutes after Mickey, but he soon makes it out too. So now we only hear Sleepy crying inside, unable to make the trek. At this point, Tracy and I can't see him but we are looking at this giant cave mouth while his whimper echoes out it. If a stranger were to approach the cave right now, they would probably freak out! So I take a video and Tracy is cracking up--it's hysterical!

Finally, we decided we have to go get this mutt or we'll never reach home before dark. Right as Tracy is about to head back in, I see Sleepy come out on a high ledge near the front of the cave mouth! We have no idea how he got that high! But he is still crying. So we think that maybe we can scale the outside on the cave mouth and get up to the ledge he is on. I climb up and get to about the equal height of Mickey, but there is a large gap between his ledge and mine, and only a steep drop in between us. So I scale back down the side and we decide it's time to head back inside. We are able to get all the way up to the ledge Sleepy is on. I was up first, while Trace waited. But Sleepy didn't trust me and wouldn't come down, and I was too nervous that he would bite me, that I didn't try to grab him. So Tracy got up and was able to get him down the first really high ledge.

We're all happy and glad we saved him and we get to the next sort of difficult ledge, and Sleepy freaks and runs back up to the top! At this point, it's starting to get dark and we can't be out in the bush in the dark-- it's too dangerous. So we figure that he's just being a big wimp...if he wanted to make it out, he could. He got down the hardest ledge, the rest was easy. He will surely follow once he realizes we are definitely leaving.

We head home and are confident that this dog will find his way.He's a Mayan potlicka, for crying out loud! Meanwhile, we are cracking up hysterically at the ridiculous afternoon we just had!

We eat lasagna and laugh pretty much the whole night. Officially the best ab workout I've had in country thus far. haha.

That night, there were weird sounds coming from the spare room I was staying in at Tracy's. I wasn't sure what the sound was, but it woke me up a couple of times. Tracy mentioned earlier that she may have rats, which I'm used to, but it didn't sound like rats. I woke up in the morning and we were talking about rats and rat poop, etc. I looked upstairs under Tracy's spare bed and saw there was a MASSIVE amount of poop. Now I know rat poop and gecko poop look similar, but Tracy said she swept under the bed before I came and rats and geckos don't poop that much unless there are millions of them! I shine a flashlight around the ceiling and realize there are bats up there! She has a bat nest in her house! No wonder I heard weird sounds all night!! (She's all clear now though, her landlord took care of them).

Meanwhile, still so sign of Sleepy that morning. The hilarious story was suddenly becoming less funny by the minute. Tracy went into town for the day and I went on supervisions with another Rover, Wilhemenia. During the afternoon, one of Tracy's neighbors comes asking about the dogs and if I knew where they were. I played dumb and pointed to Blackie, asking if she meant that dog. I felt terrible! Tracy was feeling guilty too, texting me to hear if any positive updates happened in the village.

I went to Guadalupe's house during the afternoon and stayed over for dinner. She made some amazing escabeche, which is a chicken soup with noodles and tortillas and potatoes. It's like kaldo, but not red and different spices--hard to describe.
I had a relaxing evening with her family. They were very nice and made amazing food. I left around 7 and her brothers rode me home so I wouldn't walk alone in the dark.

When I got back to Tracy's, the Sleepy tale was now a sad story. We realized that we were going to have to go back to the cave to rescue that dog.

Thursday morning we woke up and Tracy made a hearty breakfast of eggs and hash browns, which I know she was really just buttering me up because she convinced me to stay an extra night to come rescue Sleepy with her.

I did my RCP supervisions that morning with Florita, the final Rover in the village. Then I had been invited to lunch by Wilhemenia's family, but Florita told them I wasn't coming because I was going to her house for lunch. Typical village drama. So Florita was jealous and mad, even though she never actually asked me, just assumed. Ey yey yey... these girls. Basically, there is a lot of drama because there is a spirit curse in San Miguel. It possesses people apparently. So families have been falling victim to it and thus leaving the Catholic church. So now there are feuds between the Catholic villagers and the villagers who are members ofthe House of Prayer. It's very dramatic, esp for a village where there are only 2 last names!! (In other words, EVERYBODY is related!!) Madness! Nonetheless, I was glad to have lunch at Wilhemenia's. We had kaldo kax with cassava in it! Cassava is soooo good!! It was a delicious meal! And her family was extremely nice and welcoming. I really enjoyed myself.

After work stuff was done, Tracy and I gathered our gear for the hike ahead of us. Tracy had been telling Roger the story throughout the past few days, so he knew all that was happening. He starts telling us to be careful, that there's a chance the dog is already dead, maybe an animal like a jaguar is eating it, etc. (Which San Miguel has had jaguar incidents recently). So we pack a hunting knife, a large kitchen knife, rope, dog food, a bowl, water, flashlight, headlamp, etc. We were READY! So I'm kind of excited to go on another adventure, ready to go! And as we;re biking over, Tracy is telling me all the stuff Roger has said to her. As we get closer and closer, I start to panic. Tracy says,"I feel confident that if a jaguar pounces on me that I could stab it and get it off me." And I respond with, "I don't!" I started to freak out a little as we made our way! I even made Tracy change the subject! hahaha. So we headed back in, past the dam, over the rocks, through the bush, and towards the cave. Every 5 steps I'm looking over my shoulder and saying, "what's that?/did you hear that??" Completely FREAKED at this point! Keep in mind this dog has been alone in a cave for over 48 hours now... For all we know, he could've fallen, been attacked, currently being attacked, etc...The chances of him being alive, let alone completely unharmed were not in his favor. But finally, as we near the cave mouth, a howling cry starts....the best whimpering cry I've ever heard! Sleepy was alive! And fine!! We were elated!

We climb in and he is back up on the top ledge... but in a matter of seconds he makes it all the way down to the bottom, past the 2nd ledge. I could almost strangle that dog with how easy he was able to get down! Then we got to the manhole part and he freaked. Exhausted from the emotions of this adventure, Tracy and I were NOT letting him escape again. We tied the rope around his neck and I pulled from through the hole and Tracy flat out kicked him down it! Don't worry, he found his footing and was completely fine. Oy geyvult!

We near the opening of the cave, and almost as if the cave wanted to spite me in one last way before leaving, I get knicked by a bat right in the ear as it swooshed past my face! Really? Is this real life? hahaha

So now it's mid afternoon, and we're heading home with Sleepy. Meanwhile, let me remind you that the owner has asked both me and Tracy about the whereabouts of her dog--both of us playing dumb about it. (Can you believe, the one Belizean dog in the WHOLE country who the owner actually CARES about what happens to it! Just our luck!) And Mickey's owner has now tied him up because they think there's a dognapper on the loose. And we are already suspect because everybody saw us leave the village with 3 dogs, and come back with 2. So we are riding home, hoping Sleepy will be glad to be free and run back to the village. Wrong! He is stuck to us like glue! He won't leave our sides! Crap! We're completely screwed!

It's about 4pm, so we decide we'll just wait out the sun before we go back. The sun sets around 530 or so, so as long as we hang out here, nobody will see us with Sleepy. As we are walking around doing nothing, we pass almost EVERY SINGLE person in the village. Two truckloads of men from the farms pass by us, then the young guys come down to the river to bathe while we are sitting there with the dog...everyone! But we still wait it out. The sun doesn't actually set til
around 7! So finally, it gets dark and we make our way home. Right as we walk towards Tracy's house, her neighbor is sitting outside and immediately yells, "Miss Tracy...Sleepy is back!" Tracy smiles and replies with a one word answer and we go into hiding for the rest of the night. Oh MAN!

Basically, we were heroes it what this story comes down to. Even though we had to hide our heroic acts from the people of San Miguel. In a way, that kinda makes us like Batman and Robin... at least, I think!

I ate one last great meal at Tracy's before bed and catching an early bus back to PG in the morning. What an adventurous week!!!


(To read Tracy's version of the story, go here:)
http://tracyhodson.blogspot.com/2010/08/good-story-or-bad-story.html

Crique Jute -the Village that Wants to Adopt Me

In July I did a computer camp in Crique Jute, which is Dan's. The camp was at ITVET, which is a technical school right outside the village, about a 2 mile walk from Dan’s house. This is when I fell in LOVE with Crique Jute village. The people are so nice and friendly! The village is a little untraditional, because instead of people’s houses being close in the valleys of hills, the people of Crique Jute have their houses up in the mountains. It’s almost like each family has their own jungle palace, high on a mountain top. There are, of course, some houses down lower and in between mountains, basically whatever land they can get. But as you walk or ride or drive down the dirt road through Crique Jute, you will see only a small number of houses, because most are hidden in the jungle above. It’s amazing and beautiful! The first week of camp was taking it all in for me. I’ve worked in a lot of villages, but seeing a new village always amazes me, especially in Crique Jute! Dan was still living with his host family that first week, which was one of the first houses as you enter the village, completely in the opposite direction of ITVET. So we were in really good shape after making the trek back and forth several times a day that week! His host family, the Pops, lived up on a very high mountaintop. They are my favorite and their house is definitely why I call the houses palaces. They have pretty much every type of tree you could imagine there! Avocado, (which they call pears), starfruit, pepper, mami, cacao, lime…you name it! They basically never have to come down! They even have their own private creek down the side of their mountain where they bathe and do laundry. It’s awesome down there! Like a paradise! It’s quite a hike down, but amazing once you make it! So beautiful—I don’t even have words to do it justice!

Modesto Pop is the nicest, cutest little Mayan man. He is married to Dolores, who I am determined to challenge in an arm wrestling contest once I get in shape because her guns are HUGE! They have 12 children (yes, you heard right!), which no wonder she has huge guns- washing 14 sets of clothing on the rocks and making tortillas for 14 people a few times a day! It’s hard, HARD work to wash on the rock and flatten tortillas! You’d be surprised how much of an arm workout you get! Anyway, they are the sweetest family. The children are so cute and respectful. They have really become one of my favorite Mayan families! The first day of camp, Dolores prepared a kaldo kax with some amazing lime juice since she knew I would be visiting. Yum! I got to have a few meals with the family that week, and got the kids to come out of their shells a little and play with me—which meant teaching the girls Miss Mary Mack (they LOVED it!) and never hearing the end of it til this day! Whenever I make a random visit over there, at least one of the daughters tries to play it with me! Hahaha.

During that first week, Dan and I fumbled through teaching kids, most of whom had never even touched a computer before, the basics of computers. It was very difficult and frustrating at times. Some of the kids were quick and got it right away, while others were lightyears behind. Having no experience in really teaching kids (or camp for that matter!), it definitely tested my patience and tolerance levels! Luckily, I was the more calm and tolerating one than Dan! (I was also the brains behind the operation…hahahaha). At least the computer lab was air conditioned!!!

In the after hours of camp, Dan showed me around the Jute—we went through the trails behind ITVET and swam in the creek. We saw the creek down behind Dan’s future home, and painted some of the walls in his house to try to make it look less cruddy. The house had been vacant for over a year and needed some work. We also took advantage of the Crique Jute movie theater! (aka: the projector in the ITVET computer lab that we could play movies off of in the AC!) I also became friends with the security guard, George, who told me he would miss my face when I left Thursday afternoon!

By Thurs, I had to get back because I had RCP stuff to do on Fri. I hung out w/PG folk at my temporary home at Nate and Michelle’s for the evening. Early morning Friday I had to get up and prepare our agenda for the Fourthnightly session. It was a loooong, long session- an all day workshop. Ugh! It was a little frustrating because one of the supervisor’s didn’t even show up to the meeting, and the Rovers didn’t take things seriously. Luckily, Allyson our intern from Barbados is strict and has her act together, so she laid down the law. I'm a big wimp... hahaha.

I was exhausted by the time the session ended! But I was planning on moving out of Nate and Michelle’s and in with Taylor that evening, so I got a second wind of excitement. The plan was that Taylor’s landlord said she was a building a second story above Taylor, so Peace Corps approved me to live with Taylor while construction was underway. Unfortunately, construction was supposed to start July 1st…. we still have yet to see anything! Anyway, I had some help from people moving me in that day, which was good. Dan came into town and Pedro, a guy who works with Nate, brought me his truck to load stuff into. After out mini-moving party, we hung out after. It was a nice Friday evening! I spent one last night sleeping in Michelle and Nate’s before moving in to Taylor’s for good!

Saturday I was supposed to be out of town with football (as usual) but our game got cancelled, so I was actually in PG town on a good market day! I spent the morning shopping and buying groceries- it was so great! I love the market! Something about it makes me feel so grown up! Hahaha Plus, you pretty much see EVERY Toledo PCV on Saturday market days, so it’s like a big reunion! Haha.

Saturday night was my first night in my next temporary home! (PC vagabond!) Somehow I left my Rainbow sandals on the front step, and when I went to take them in as we closed the door for the night, one was gone! I still can’t find it to this day!! I think maybe I potlicka ran off with it. Sad. Another pair of sandals lost to Belize. Belize: 2, Mallory: 0. So my living situation at Taylor’s was a mattress on the floor. My “room” was separated by a small couch and a dresser. I’m a very classy lady. It was actually quite a cozy corner I had set up there!

The next week I was scheduled to go to San Jose village to do RCP supervisions for the week, along with a parenting session. I was all packed and ready to head out and the other supervisor never came to pick me up. I was scheduled to leave by 7:30am in order to get to the village by 8:30. By 7:45 I was calling and texting people and nobody would answer. So I hopped on my bike and headed to the office. Samuel, the supervisor, was running around doing God knows what! He said we didn’t have the car until noon, then we didn’t have a car at all, then we did again. He basically had no idea what was happening. The Rovers only work til noon for stimulations, so if I left at noon it would be pointless. I got really frustrated and decided I would just show up to Crique Jute to finish the 2nd week of computer camp, (since I really enjoyed my first week there and I was already packed to be gone for a week!) I had some time to kill, so I went to the market with Laura and went to lunch with Matt—since people were in town for the afternoon. I then hopped on the noon bus to San Jose and got off at Dan’s house, since he had moved into his own mountaintop palace over the weekend.

Week 2 in Crique Jute was fun again! This time there were a lot of other PCVs popping in and out to help. Nate came Tues to Wed, Sam and his friend showed up Wed, and Matt and Rion came Fri! It was a full week and so much fun! We visited the Pops a few times, all of which we were fed. One of the days I wore my Mopan dress that my old host family gave to me. The family really appreciated it. Modesto’s parents, (who live in a house at the bottom of Modesto’s mountain), saw me from behind with a braid in my hair and asked Dan where he found the Indian girl! Hahaha I was a huge hit with the Pop family, and I was glad I wore it! Now his village likes me better than him and I’m officially banned from Crique Jute! Hahaha. Just kidding, they love him. But Dolores did tell me she liked having a girl Peace Corps around to help. When Sam and his friend were in town, we did graffiti on Dan’s kitchen walls. It was really relaxing to paint and Sam’s friend did a really cool Mayan drawing! It was awesome! I may take up graffiti-ing as a hobby!!
On Friday, camp ended with us giving the kids certificates and taking pictures with the Dean of ITVET. They loved it! All in all, I think the kids learned a lot and it was a successful computer camp!

After camp, Matt, Dan, and I were heading into the junction to catch the bus to town, when my COMPAR truck drove by and we were able to catch a ride in. Good timing. The perfect way to end a week is in the back of a pickup truck! Since the three of us hadn’t seen each other and been all three together in awhile, we spent the afternoon/evening just chilling at my house with a little, much needed, Mopan reunion. Good times….

Then Saturday was an awesome/depressing day... All the 2nd year PCVs are starting their COS (close of service) process. Saturday night we had Rion's going away party because he was the first one to leave of my 2nd year friends I'm gonna miss! We had a nice time at Nate and Michelle's playing card games and being silly all night. I miss you, Rion Smith!!!

Sunday: Roo, Taylor's cat, pooped all over my bed. That's all I have to say about that.

Holy Toledo!

So Toledo gets the most rain out of all the districts in Belize. And pretty much during rainy season (June through Nov) there are thunderstorms EVERY night! there's a thunderstorm happening right now as I type!

On July 8th, (I made a note of this date!), there was the LOUDEST and scariest thunderstorm I've ever experienced in my life! I was woken up to an earthshattering crack complimented with the brightest lightning show I've ever seen! I jumped with each bolt! Literally, it shook me to the core! I was in a solid, cement house, but I've never felt so scared! I tried to cover my head with the pillow, but alas I decided to appreciate Mother Nature's power.... I went to the front door of Nate and Michelle's and watched the crazy storm. The power blinked in and out with each strike of lightning and crash of thunder. I was really in awe by the sight! It made me feel like a little girl scared in my room at night.... except if I was a little girl, I would've been balling from this storm! Intense! I was in awe of the show, watching the rain pour down over the empty streets of Punta Gorda Town. It was right as I was about to end watching the storm when I saw the most interesting sight! A pack of seven potlickas (local dogs) came walking down the street like a gang. They were all adults, all different types of mutts, all walking together and waiting for each other when one would stop to mark his territory or sniff another.... it was really quite a sight! I couldn't believe in this whirlwind of madness outside, these 7 dogs just strutted down the street like they owned the town.... which, I guess, they do! Anyway, I watched them confidently stroll away in the wicked storm before I returned to my foam padding for bed....Holy Toledo! What an interesting night!

But like most stormy nights, I woke up to another hot and sunny Belizean day....

The following day, I went to San Antonio to visit Rion, a fellow PCV. His village is one of the larger ones in Toledo, so the buses are pretty frequent. It's relatively close by, so it's an easy bus ride. It was a fun adventure. We hung out and made pizza! (real pizza!) and then went to the San Antonio falls for the day. The falls are so beautiful!! It was a nice, random, little get-a-way for the day!

Updates, Updates, Updates!!

So I have been procrastinating on my blogging and it has become a this huge daunting project now.... So here goes on the updates of my life:


Ok, where to begin! These past few months have flown by! I can’t believe I’ve only got ¾ of service left! It seems like yesterday I was stepping off the plane. It’s been an amazing ride so far, and as each day unfolds I cannot wait for what’s in store.


After I got kicked out of my host family's house, I moved in with Nate and Michelle. I lived with them for about 10 days or so.... maybe. (this is all the first week of July, by the way). It was fun!
In the meantime, our security guy, Daniel Mendes, came and approved a new house for me and another PCV, Taylor, to live in. The house is currently one story, but they are extending the top to a second apartment......Temporarily we are allowed to live together in the bottom, and the plan is to then have me move to the top. The only glitch - oh Belize- is that they were supposed to start construction on July 1st and they have yet to start...... oy! So we shall see....

I cooked my first meal in Belize.... the very ethnic spaghetti and meatballs! hahaha BUT for someone who has no cooking skills whatsoever, I did make the meatballs from scratch! go me! Speaking of cooking, I’ve been trying to learn to cook, but failing miserably. Yesterday I tried to hard boil an egg…. The yolk came out all liquidy (yes, it’s a word) and the rest was hard boiled. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna get sick from that! Hahaha. But I DID cook eggplant with pasta and onions, peppers, and garlic the other night…. I was proud of myself. That counts as a legitimate meal! I think I’m gonna need somebody to send me cookbooks…. Preferably cooking for dummies!!! Hahahahaha

I’ve also become quite acclimated to the bugs and rodents of Belize. Call me dirty, but I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor in Taylor’s house for awhile, and I had a cockroach crawl on the mattress in the middle of the night and I was just too tired to even bother knocking it off. Yep, it’s true. I’m much less creeped out by bugs these days. Last night a HUGE cockroach crawled in my hair in the middle of the night. I woke up and brushed it off and thought it was a piece of hair itching me. Then it crawled back on my face and I realized it was a cockroach. So I knocked it off again—very casually. And then got my spray and killed it. And I wasn’t grossed out at all! Weird. I’m officially Belizean.

Throughout most of the summer I spent the majority of my time in the villages of Toledo. I was either working for RCP or doing summer camps in Crique Jute village. So that’s my big excuse for not blogging! Haha Being in the villages makes it hard to get computer/internet access—at least long enough to write a blog!


Meanwhile, I enjoyed a lot of the World Cup in Belize.... everyone-both Belizeans and PC alike- seemed to really get into it! It was exciting! Except every team I rooted for would lose....so I would move on and find a next team and they would lose.... it was a vicious cycle! haha


But, my absolute favorite thing about Belize is the atmosphere of a rural Toledo village. Every village you go to has its own feel, dialect, and little ways to make life work. Some have no running water, some no electricity, and still others have neither. And yet, they get by, day to day. As an American, it’s surprising and hard to get used to this simplistic lifestyle. We tend to try to fill up every second of our days with work or entertainment of some sort. You rarely ever find a family who hang out after dinner in the darkness, just enjoying each other’s company. I sometimes think of Belize as just a few generations behind the States, but in a junglesque environment. When I was in San Jose village for the week, we had no electricity or running water. We bathed in the river around 4 in the evening, just before dinner time. We prepared dinner and by the time we ate it was dark out, so we sat around a kerosene lamp. Once dinner was over, the family gathered around the transistor radio and listened to the news or music for the remainder of the evening before going to bed by at least 8pm. Can you even imagine the last time you went to bed at 8? Most people probably haven’t seen that day in awhile! But then they were up again at the crack of dawn, starting the daily chores all over again. Washing, preparing breakfast, etc. It really gives you time for self-evaluation. That’s what I like the best. You are forced to sit alone with your thoughts, which are easy to avoid in the States. Whenever I get overwhelmed and stressed, watching a movie/tv, surfing the internet, or listening to music is an easy way to avoid what needs to happen and have some mindless enjoyment. In the village, you find plenty of time to read and write and THINK! Oh, to think without distractions! It’s fantastic! Maybe it’s just me, and I have no will power when I’m trying to get something done and a tv or computer screen is in front of me….easy choice! I immediately opt for entertainment! To not have that option is refreshing, really.

Anyway, enough ranting about technology…. Back to my actual life down here!

Monday, September 27, 2010

sorry, sorry, sorry!!!!

Hello, hello!!!

I'm so very sorry for keeping my oh-so-interesting (maybe?) life private the past 2 months!!! I think I procrastinated and then....well, it became a daunting task!

I'm working on giving you a full-updated blog --in separate doses...so it's not overwhelming....

But here's the recent jist:

I have officially been in Belize for 6 months!! Can you believe it?? I can't! Essentially, it's the end of "freshmen year" if you wanna look at it in college terms.... Wow. Time has flown by! I feel like I just got here! It's crazy!!!

We survived Tropical Storm Matthew!! It was supposed to hit us directly and there was quite a lot of panic around Belize! The WHOLE country closed school down! I thought it was kinda funny to go watch the news at the local restaurant and hear her say "All schools are closed." Kinda crazy how small this country is!!
Anyway, Matthew ended up to just be a little bit of rain.... I guess a good bit of rain, but no real wind or anything exciting... I actually did my laundry while we were getting "into shelter." hahaha

In other news, I'm slowly becoming the emperor of Belize... Yes, you heard right. Emperor Maaaallly. I am officially the ONLY person working for my organization in Toledo District. Unfortunately, though I am really digging the whole almost-Emperor status, this is not really my role as a PCV.... so I'm working with Peace Corps to figure out a happy medium with my org, so I can help them out, but not be running the show... I'm not here to replace Belizeans for free labor... I'm here to help Belizean counterparts in a sustainable way-- it's not sustainable if there is nobody here to sustain it in 2 years!!!

As far as housing goes: I'm am no longer the nomad of Peace Corps! I officially have a house! Hurray! I'm living no longer in Indian Ville, bu on the south side of PG. It's my first house I've ever lived in on my own, though I am living with another PCV who will be in country for another month or so. But essentially, I am finally settled! So that's one thing that's off my back!

In other news, my football team won 2nd place in the Belize Women's National Tournament.... and I made it in the newspaper! It came out about 5 days after the game--news doesn't travel fast here, I guess!-- but it's a full article about the Gentle Touch Strikers, (yes, that's our name), and it's got color pics! And I got a medal! wohoo- best souvenir ever!!

Oh, and then I biked 26 miles in a relay triatholon!! My team came in 11th place... but not last!!!! hahahaha We also got a medal! (But everyone who participated did...so I guess that doesn't say much! haha) BUT, I was very proud of myself for completing the 26 miles of biking. Of all the 3 sports I could've been in, I got the one I've never done before!! Running and swimming are wayyy more comfortable for me! So I was proud I didn't die! OR get hit by a car--because they didn't stop traffic! Even though I did get lost twice, once in a traffic circle and I ran into a street sign with my bike and broke my toe.... The other in a ghetto neighborhood in Belize City.... well, let's be honest, all the neighborhoods are ghetto in Belize City... hahahaha. Nonetheless, it was an awesome day! So many PCVs participated and we teamed up with the Embassy, so that was really cool! We had a good group of supporters who came out to cheer as well... it was a really fun day! And we ended the morning with a mimosa brunch at Pat and Kerry's house, which was the perfect end to an exhausting, but rewarding morning!

More exciting news, I am back in the technological world! I now have a netbook and thanks to the computer stylings of Greg, it's all suped up (I'm positive that's spelled wrong) with goodies that will make it awesome! yay! thanks greg!!

In Final exciting news from the Belizean desk, Dan, Matt, and I have decided to do next year's La Ruta Maya. A 178 mile canoe race from San Ignacio to Belize.... oy vey! So I'm gonna need lots of support in coming months to motivate our training!!!! We have 6 months!!! eeeek!!! I think we can do it.... maybe...I hope! hahahaha

Ok, I promise to do a real blog and give some more details, but I'm running to try to miss this GINORMOUS rain cloud about to erupt on my head....


But shout out to my Dad for quitting smoking! I'm so proud of him :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

MY JOB as a PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER!!!

Ok, well i LOVE to post all the exciting adventures and fun things I experience in Belize, but I've gotten a lot of comments about what I'm actually doing here in this country, besides "playing chess and taking vacations" as my brother Sean put it.

Well, to start off, the first few months of Peace Corps is supposed to be focused on integration. So I've gotten to know locals in Punta Gorda town, and then I've had this amazing opportunity of traveling around the country with my Belizean football team, (which, by the way, we are the Gentle Touch Strikers...and the champions! We won our football tournament!) Anyway, so I've been SO lucky to have found them and spent a lot of time exploring and enjoying all of Belize. But I have still been working!!

So the organization I work for is COMPAR, which is the Community and Parenting Empowerment Program (I don't know why the acronym for that is COMPAR...weird!). Anyway, more specifically, I work for the Rover Caregivers Program underneath COMPAR and the Ministry of Human Development. My role is to go into the rural Mayan villages in the Toledo District and do early childhood development for babies infant to 3 years old. We have local girls in each village who are the "Rovers" and they do the actual stimulations with the children. The people in the office, including myself, then go out and supervise and train them in their work. Since a lot of the Mayan families don't sing to their children, or practice colors or letters or shapes, it's a really great program preparing the children for when it's time for preschool.... it also gives the children some one-on-one attention that they don't always receive in huge families. We try to encourage the mothers to sit and participate in the stimulations with the child as well, in order for them to learn how they can help the child when the teacher is not present, and also so the child and mother can bond with some one-on-one attention, even if it's just a mere hour a week.

The second half of my job is educating the parents. Education is still a secondary priority to most families in Toledo, thus you will find many families where one or both parents only went to primary school, and may not have even finished that. My role is to do weekly seminars in the various villages giving talks with the parents on different topics, ranging from health and nutrition to malaria and dengue fever prevention. We cover any and every topic that seems important and pertinent in this area. In addition, we usually follow each talk with some sort of activity based on working with their child. For example, we'll do a talk on nutrition and then offer a variety of recipes or food options they could use to cook instead of lard and sugar. Sometimes we will do talks that are unrelated to our activities that follow, for example a talk on alcohol abuse, followed by a toybox making session. The activity part of the session is to teach the parents some of the songs or games we do with the children so they could continue doing it throughout the week with the child. (Each child has on 1-2 sessions per week with their teacher). We just began doing a toybox session with parents, which we will follow with in coming weeks making a different toy from household items. Most children don't get toys like kids in the States, so if we can make sock puppets, or balls, or rattles, it's a huge deal to the children. We encourage the parents to do these activities themselves, so once we leave them, they can make more of these in their own home. We try to promote education that can continue once we leave.

Our program is funded by UNICEF, and it's a really great program! The best part about my role is that I spend a few days a week going out into the villages and getting to know various Mayan communities and families.... both Mopan Maya and Q'echi. Also, I've even spent weeks at a time in the villages, doing full supervisions of the Rovers, which has allowed me to stay overnight in the village---I love it! I adore the villages of Toledo.... they are beautiful and so cultural.... it's definitely an experience not every person can get when coming to visit Belize. Very authentic and amazing!

Anyway, so for everyone who has been reading and enjoying my ridiculous stories and adventures, here's a little of the work I am actually doing here in Belize!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

When Life Hands You Lemons.... Make a Lemon Drop!

The following day (Tues) was the 29th of June. Mr Assi finally spoke to me--all he said was I had 2 days left in the house. Ahhh. So I ate and left for work early because I felt awkward at home. Work was actually a really fun, good day. We got an intern from Barbados who will be working with me for 2 months. Because she was knew, our big boss took us out for lunch-- yay free lunch! haha
That afternoon I spent time hanging with Michelle.... we walked around and took pics and chatted...very touristy, but nice. I needed a good relaxer. I tried to look around for some places to rent before heading home for dinner and quality time with those cute little puppies!

I went to bed early Tues because Nester, my host bro, took me with him to thatch his house in San Antonio village on Wed! Me, Nes, and Omar left at 5am that morning! Soooo early! I rode in the back of the pickup all the way into the village--already a great start to the day! Since the poles were already up, all that had to be done was the actual thatching part. We met up with some village men and headed down to the river to grab the cohune leaves that had already been chopped. There were probably 50 leaves! And these leaves are HUGE.... each leaf is basically it's own tree. They are the entire length of a house... I don't even have a good way to describe it. So google it! haha Anyway, we had to drag the leaves and pile them into the back of Nes's pickup.... it took us four full loads of leaves to finally get them all over to his lot. Meanwhile, the Maya ladies bathing and doing laundry in the river were all staring at the crazy white girl dragging leaves with the men! hahahaha Once we got the cohune leaves up to his place, we had to split them all in half, because when you thatch you stack each half on top of the other. It was really funny, because I had split the leaves before during training when we built our garden, so when I walked up and split a leaf with no instruction, the guys were all really impressed. But after about 5 leaves, I started to get tired! It was hard work! And they split them SO fast! They can do about 4 in the time I finish one! hahahaha Eventually, I learned a trick to thrust my hip into the leaf and get it to split easier---that sounds really weird, but it works!
After they were all split, the thatching began! 4 guys got on the poles up top, and Nes and I stayed on the bottom. We separated the leaves into two stacks, based on which side they were split from. Then we passed up 8 leaves at a time, and after every 8 leaves, the guys used a large pointy stick and some wire to essentially "sew" the leaves together onto the poles. It was really cool! As the thatch got higher and higher, it was harder to pass the leaves up to them. I was sweating my butt off!!! During the whole time, the guys were drinking liquor to hydrate.... every now and then a glass of water or two...but mostly just rum. hahaha. I didn't want to drink because it was weird being the only girl and in a village. Gotta play it safe!
I had to be back to look at a house to rent, so we piled in the truck and started to head home.... But Nester pit stopped for a beer at the village bar and we all went in and before I even opened my mouth, had a beer. So much for being a girl in a village! I was so paranoid, but I guess since I thatched a roof with the men, I'm entitled to a beer with the men! Even so, I tried to be discreet and not be seen in the bar.
After our pit stop, we headed back into town. I made it just in time to look at a house out in Hopeville, a small area right outside of town. Michelle came with me to look at that house and then three other houses in town. I liked them but either they were too expensive or about to be rented by someone else... everything seemed to just not work out. After the house shopping, I hung out with Michelle at her place for awhile. We had a few stouts and made some dinner before I headed home to my host family. Luckily, everyone was already asleep by the time I got back!

The next morning I woke up early because we had workshops at COMPAR. I told Mr Assi in the morning that maybe we could negotiate extending my stay over lunch... maybe I could pay him weekly or something of that sort. He didn't oppose, though I can't really remember him saying yes either. But the family was sitting around the table and it just seemed like an "ok." So I went to work and came back around noon. Mr Assi wasn't home yet, so Mrs Assi insisted that I start laundry. I had been dreading laundry (it's such a LOOONG process), but I had nothing else to do. Finally, Mr Assi came back and lunch was on the table. I get inside and it was just me and him eating some pigtail. He asked if I had found any places to stay and I told him no luck as of yet. Then, without even being sympathetic that I had just explained I had nowhere to go yet, he told me that he needed the key to my room by that evening because they were leaving for San Antonio. He was rude and I was completely caught by surprise! We were the only two in the house and I wanted to cry! So I told him I would pack when I finished and went outside to get my laundry done as quick as possible. I had texted a few people, and before I knew it PC heard about the situation. But I couldn't talk because I was there with the family, so I left them in limbo for a few hours. Then, like an idiot, I got my phone wet and it stopped working! Right in my hour of crisis! Ahh, I was so upset!
So I finished up my laundry and proceeded to start packing in my room. I had to leave briefly to go look at another house, but I told Mr Assi I would be right back and finish packing. I came home and nobody came in to talk to me or help me or really say anything at all! I thought it was so weird. So finally, I finished getting all my crap in order and started bringing it out to the veranda. Once nearly everything was out, Tonya comes out and asks me where I was going. She said, "Mal, you goin on a trip?" And Mrs Assi and the family come to look and I told her no, that I was moving. I suddenly looked like a major jackass. I realized that Mr Assi didn't even TELL his family that he told me to move out. They had no clue whatsoever!!! I felt so stupid to assume it was a family decision, it was Mr Assi being bitter about PC. So I tried to explain that I had to leave. I went to collect my laundry that was still wet, and Mrs Assi and Romana told me to just leave it and stay one more night. Mr Assi wasn't in the room so I was trying to tactfully tell them that I wasn't welcomed another night. That he was the one who wants me to go, even though I don't have anywhere to go. So I felt really bad. Mrs Assi insisted I at least leave my laundry to dry and come get it tomorrow because they will be gone but Romana will be home. Mr Assi asked me how I would be leaving and I told him I would call a cab, but then Mrs Assi insisted Nester take me in his pickup truck. He, Cor, and Ant helped me load up and took me over to Nate and Michelle's house. Tonya started crying. She gave me a hairtie and some trinkets as a gift and was so upset. Mrs Assi gave me a pillow and some sheets. I felt weird accepting them w/Mr Assi in the next room just not saying anything. Before I left all he said was, "did you leave the keys?" and I told him where and left. Mrs Assi started to cry.... I felt like such a jerk.
We headed over and they helped me dump my stuff into Nate and Mich's spare bedroom. I told Antoinette that I would love to have stayed but I think her dad really wanted me out. The only comforting words I got that night were from her: "Sometimes I don't know what Daddy is thinking..." The way she said it made me feel like she understood the situation. Anyway, I said my goodbyes to them, and then sat in the empty house and starting crying. What a bad way to leave... What a bad situation!
I was a lot more upset than I even realized... I felt bad because Nate had to come home to me balling my eyes out... What a rough night.

The next day I didn't really do any work. I needed to relax. Michelle came home and we hung out. She went with me to grab my laundry and be completely done with the house. We went to watch the world cup game at Sports Bar before I got on the 2pm bus up to Cayo because I had another football match that weekend. Luckily, we made friends with the owner, Felix-- good connection to have. haha

I headed up to Cayo and was happy to escape the madness that had just erupted in my life. Luckily, I had a good weekend planned for me! Out with the old and bad, on with my life and fun! I got off the bus in Belmopan around 7pm and was starved!! I had been talking to Bernardo, my old host bro, and he came to meet me on the walk from the bus terminal. He had asked me out on a little date! (But I really wasn't sure it really was a date til that night, hahaha!)He didn't even tell his family, which is huge because they would've all wanted me to come visit and we couldn't have had dinner. We caught up and chatted all the way to the pizza place where he ordered a pizza for us to split --he asked me what toppings I wanted on it-- and got us two cokes... pizza is a BIG deal in belize....it's expensive stuff! He ordered and paid.... cute little guy! It was definitely a date... hahahaha. We had a really great time and talked a LOT about football. After dinner he walked me to my friend's house where I was staying. I dropped off my stuff and hung out with them and then we went to go watch his game. I was glad they came with me, because I would've been the only girl out there that night! It was just safer to have 3 of us instead of just me, too. Esp since the game was at 9pm...so late! Nardo's team tied, even though they should've won... I could tell he was a little angry about the outcome. But it was nice to watch.
At the end of the game he came over and I went to tell him "good game" and as I opened my mouth a HUGE FLYING COCKROACH went in it!!! I started spitting everywhere...how gross! I could not believe it!!! Well, I can believe it because it's me and weird things happen to me. hahahahaha

Saturday I left Belmopan and headed to Cayo, a different bus but only an hour or so trip away. I got there early and walked around the market for awhile--- Cayo has the BEST market! I actually ran into Alana and Eluvia, my old host family! They were so cute and hung out with me as I walked around. Eluvia wouldn't let go of my hand the whole time. It was cute. Finally, I met up with Amber in Cayo and we went to lunch. We were hanging out, when I get a call from my coach that the game was moved from Cayo to Esperanza! Ahh. It wasn't too far away, but still, I was in Cayo. So I had to get a taxi over to the field, but since I was late he took me off the starting lineup. So I had to sit out at first...sad, especially because Amber, Dena, and Jenna came to watch! But I got in and they got to see my team kill Dangriga 11-2! Intense! hahaha. After the game, my friends left and I was invited to one of the player's houses for the post-game party. It was awkward at first, because most of the team live all on the same hill. So we all walked over there and they went to change and eat dinner and do their own thing before we all met up and I was just hanging out. But soon the fun got started and we drank some rum and partied it up with some Belizean music... it was a good time! And the guys even gave me a ride back to Cayo to stay with Amber for the night, so I didn't have to worry about getting home! It was a fun,fun night!

The next morning was the 4th of july! Amber, Jenna, and I headed to see Dena's house and have breakfast with her. She made us pancakes!! Yum! They were delicious! And her place was so adorable! We ate and chatted and I had to scurry out of there in order to get the bus back home.... long journey ahead of me! The bus on sunday sucks! So it was packed and I was hot and gross and just wanted to make it home. I left in the morning....somewhere between 9 and 10... and got back to PG finally around 5 or 6. Dicky, a PCV in town, was having a 4th of July bbq and a lot of the village vols were in town. So I cleaned up and headed over there for a night of fun. A lot of ppl were there... even a bunch who were PCVs! It was a fun shindig. Owen and I played a fake Mayan flute and made it into a production... I played the entire My Heart Will Go On song on it...even though it was basically me just humming loudly into this wooden decoration, hahahahaha. The party ended relatively early, which I was glad because I was exhausted.

Oh, July has turned out to be an interesting month thus far!

Hurricanes Galore!!

June 22nd:

By Tuesday, we were in "Standfast" mode for our practice hurricane, which meant we would probably be evacuating for the drill on Wed. Typical me, I never got the call from our warden because my host mom was having me peel shrimp and I wasn't around my phone for awhile! haha. But Cali came over to tell me to check my phone and let them know I got the call.

Sure enough, Wed morning we got the call to take the noon bus to Belmopan. So it was a huge gringo fest, as everyone from Toledo brought their bags and hurricane supplies and headed on the bus up north. It was really funny and kind of ridiculous how many of us were on this bus....but still fun to get to see everyone! I think the conductor was overwhelmed by all of us, he couldn't tell us apart and skipped me and Cali at first when he went to collect money! We arrived in Bmp after 5 and headed to the PC office. It was a little bit of a walk, especially since we just got there, checked in, got a paper with instructions on it, and then had to head back out to the Garden City Hotel. Luckily, some of us got a ride back out there. Wed night was free for us... we just had a curfew so they could account for us during "hurricane zeus." We were able to go out to dinner and hang around in the hotel with everybody before then. It was fun! We had a couple of birthdays to celebrate--which meant cake and candy! woohoo! -- and then Kevina did hair cutting for everyone who needed it! I got a little trim trim. haha

The next morning, we all headed to the PC office bright and early at 8am. We had talks and went over the good and bad points of the hurricane drill--just standard things we have to do but are never fun... After that, nobody was in a rush to get home, so we hung out and got lunch, watched WC games, and did nothing.

Laura had 2 friends drive down from NY, all the way through Mexico, and into Belize to come visit her! So we met and hung out with them for a couple of days! They were pretty cool guys, and they gave us a ride into Placencia for Lobster Fest weekend! (Lobster Fest was this big weekend event that everyone was excited for because it was partying, dancing, games, events, lobster, the whole 9 yards!) We got a hostel with them for the night and had a fun time! Since we were in their car, we beat everyone there.... but soon enough the party started.

Lobster Fest was so much fun, but we barely got to enjoy it because we had to evacuate for a REAL tropical storm! (alex!) We had booked a hotel for the rest of the weekend, (a really nice hotel with a hot tub and tv and everything!) and we couldn't even enjoy it! Saturday morning we were told to get to PG and wait further instructions. Everybody was really bummed. We ate breakfast and headed back down south. Luckily, all the village people were put up in the hotel in PG, so we hung out and watched the World Cup and watched movies for the next 2 days. Thank God we never had to get fully consolidated to Belmopan again! hahaha At one point we did attempt to get some exercise, and a few of us went to the football field to kick around. Otherwise, it was straight bumming it was a few days! hahaha.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, I headed home to my host family. Unfortunately, Mr Assi was now home for summer break. He had had a little run in with the PC bosses and the Ministry of Education out in the village he works in and was not a happy man with Peace Corps. So he was pretty rude to me and made me feel very awkward when I came home. It was a weird situation, because he lived out in the village during the school year, so I don't really know him. I know and love the family, but when he came home, Mrs Assi never left his side! And they wouldn't speak to me! The night I came home after Lobster Fest weekend, nobody even got me for dinner...they ate and I was in my room reading and nobody bothered to tell me! It was so strange! Luckily, I'm close with the 2 daughters, Cornelia and Antoinette. I almost feel like their older sister... they tell me about boys and ask my advice now! It's cute.

Anyway, what a crazy week of events!

Placencia Mental Health Weekend!!!

June 18th:

So luckily for me, my football team was traveling to Placencia for a game!Saturday morning, I set out and headed up to Placencia for my first time! I met up with KC, a PCV in Independence, and we took the water taxi over. Beautiful!! Molly was also coming down for the game, and she brought Kim from Hopkins--our own little party. To top it off, Owen, Zander, and Cassidy were in town for Owen's b'day....so we had a whole little crew! We met up at the beach and KC paid for a night in a lovely hotel for us....she's so nice! Our mother hen!

We spent the morning swimming and relaxing by the sea, getting some sun.... probably the worst thing to do before a football match! hahaha. But it was much needed after the stress of last week and just being busy and overwhelmed. (It's amazing that it's a $9 bus trip here.... to paradise!)

Finally, around 3:30 Molly and I headed to the field for our game. Typical Americans, we were about an hour early... the team didn't even arrive in Placencia til about 4:15! (Our game was supposed to start at 3:30).

Our team barely warmed up and we got out there and looked like crap!! We were passing to nobody and missing stupid shots--it was terrible! We were down 2-nil by halftime. In the 2nd half we finally got our act together. Around 70 min into the game or so, I hit a through ball to Naki and she had a perfect finish! The momentum of the game instantly changed. We pounded in 2 more goals, to finish with a 3-2 win! (It was like the US World Cup game.... but our goal counted!) haha It was really great!! The team was pumped after the game! One of our fans came with a cooler full of Mexican beers-- non Belikin! woohoo! We drank beer and rum and had a little tailgate dance party! It was so much fun! And I felt like I was integrating in the best possible way! The girls were teaching me Kriol and it was just really, really fun! I learned "wah don kill ya, fattn ya!" Which basically means, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger (fattens you).

Finally, they all had to pile into the bus to get back to Cayo. I got a ride back to our hotel and hung out with my friends. We ate and chatted and finally Cassidy and I decided to go out dancing. We headed to the Tipsy Tuna, which actually one of our fans was playing the drums at that night. So we said hi to him and he bought us a drink and then we ran into random people we knew! Cassidy saw a guy from her village, and then another guy who she hitched in with once. It was such a random night, but we danced and met people and just had so much fun! It was fantastic; really a hilarious night!

We headed home after we were beat from dancing and enjoyed our nice air conditioned hotel room....ahhhhh. The next morning I woke up late and relaxed for awhile. We all left the hotel to check into a cheaper place for the next night, because KC was leaving and we are poor! hahaha. So we moved our stuff and were heading to the beach when Ian, the guy we hung out with from Cass's village, called to invite us out on his boat for the day!! Twist my arm, we all agreed to go.

Ian was able to call in a favor and get us some snorkeling gear, so we got a free snorkeling trip! My first time snorkeling, too! It was beautiful!! We went out around the different cayes of Placencia... we snorkeled in the clear, blue water. I swam around coral, so beautiful. And we saw a LOT of fish and creatures! We saw stingrays, barracudas, giant starfish (that we picked up), sanddollars, and I even picked up a HUGE conch shell and Ian gutted it and we ate it! I never had conch before!!! It was a little bit weird to just eat right there, but not bad! hahaha. It was such an amazing day! Oh, lovin Belize!

We got home that afternoon and were pooped! We all kinda crashed and laid around lazily. Once we got the motivation, we got up and made garnaches with the stuff we bought on the way home. As we started to use the stove, we realized it wasn't working, so Cass went upstairs to make friends with our neighbor and borrow his stove.... turns out he's a former Peace Corps volunteer!! He was an older man, named Time, and he served about 30 years ago! He was such a cool guy, a real hippie from Cali who had just left everything to come travel down here and ended up falling in love with Placencia. He's been here for over a year now. We brought him up some dinner and hung out on his porch that night, just talking about PC and all kinds of random stuff. It's so great having random encounters with people like that!What a great night!

The following morning was the end of our trip....sad. Mental health weekend was over. Molly and Kim headed out on the bus early, while Cass and I had a little bit of time to kill before heading back on the water taxi. It worked out that I caught an express bus home from Independence, so I got home quick and had AC! woohoo!

Almost as soon as I walked in the door of my host family's house, I found out that we were going to be having a practice hurricane consolidation in a day or two and that I would be leaving for Belmopan. Ah! I just got home! I tried to explain what would be happening to my host mom, to no avail, and went out to make sure I had hurricane supplies.

That night, Mrs Assi decided to make homemade bread. Apparently, she wanted to teach me how...but she just started making it and never said anything to me! It was like 9:30 at night and I was tired and I started to head in to bed and that's when I found out she was making bread for me! I went in to read for a little and told her I would be out soon, but I was so tired, I just passed right out with the light on. The next morning, she told me she tried banging on my door at 1:30 am to tell me it was ready.... I sleep like a log, so I never even stirred. But why the heck would she make bread so late!!! Crazy lady, hahaha. Also, why would she try to wake me up! I was so happy that it's impossible to wake me out of my coma of a sleep because I had to get to work early the next day.... I would have been very cranky!

All in all, Placencia weekend was amazing!... But I could barely get back into the work routine because I awaited to hear further instructions for our practice hurricane event soon to follow...

world cup and PCVs

Monday 6/14/10:

Another working day. The internet was down, so I did a LOT of productive things at work! The best was, figuring out that COMPAR has the exact same camera as me! So I uploaded their pics and then uploaded MY pics to the comp too! Yay! I could finally share my pics! A lot of people were in town Monday, so I seemed to run into PCVs wherever I went! I watched the World Cup game before heading home to my family. I had some fun playtime with Pachy til he peed on me…. He peed right through my skirt and when I stood up it looked like I was peeing---oh boy, that kid!
I had football that night, so I finally asked if I could make myself a meal before playing. Since everyone knows I can’t cook, 2 sunny-side up eggs it was! Delicious! Finished off with mangos…Hahaha.
I met up with Sam to kick around at the field before playing with the Jah Roots. They were heated and more competitive than usual that evening—I thought there may be a fight a couple of times! But overall, I still had fun! And I played well, so I was pumped! I started learning names of the guys and I’m officially becoming a friend—well, maybe an associate. Hahaha
That night I used my great chess workshop experience and taught Cor how to play! It was fun!

Tuesday 6/15/10:

Village day, once again! I did my supervisions all morning, and some office work in the afternoon. I left around 3 and passed Michelle during her run—I asked her to come hiking with me and Cor because we were going up Sarah Hill again. It had poured the night before, so the hike was very slippery and muddy! I didn’t really prepare Mich for that, and I felt bad because she was slipping and sliding. I was torn because Cor was practically running up it no problem (she’s used to it), and Mich was struggling a lot and I was in the middle. Eventually, Michelle decided it was too slippery, so Cor and I finished the hike together. And the second time was just as good as the first—beautiful! I love that hike!
I spent a lot of time on my butt on the way down—the mud definitely was not on my side. Hahaha. But it was fun still. We met Michelle at the bottom and were exhausted walking back…. Luckily, we were able to hitch with someone back into IndianVille—yay! It was good we hitched because I made it home just in time to grab my spikes and head to the football field for practice!
That night we had more thunderstorms…. Which was cool because I showered after soccer outside in the thunderstorm…. Two-fold shower! Hahaha

Wednesday 6/16/10:

I took the day off from EVERYTHING on Wed! I woke up stressed….people were yelling in my house and madness was happening… come to find out, Panda, one of my host family’s dogs, had puppies the night before! Sadly, one died the first night, so only four remained. They were outside in the thunderstorms!
We had a PCV meeting with the PG police that morning, basically where the guy told us that we stand out and not to hang out with druggies…. Obviously! They also told us not to hang out with Rasta guys because of how they look….. interesting. All my football guys are Rasta men! But, I took what they said with a grain of salt, because they also said that we were just looked at as tourists anyway. Thanks a lot police force of Belize!
After our meeting, I enjoyed the various WC games with different people in different places. I enjoyed doing nothing for a full day! Oh life!
I went home and Mrs Assi made me a cohune cabbage meal that was surprisingly very good! I had cohune cabbage for 5 meals after that, so I got sick of it, but the first time was really tasty! I spent the afternoon playing with baby Pachy and Panda and her pups. Poor Panda—I felt so bad for her! The puppies are so tiny and cute…. Sad. I hope they make it!
I enjoyed a lazy afternoon nap before meeting people in town for dinner…. There’s always someone coming into town to visit it seems! Haha I rode my bike home and almost missed the rain…almost. I got drenched the last minute of my trip….fail. I went to bed listening to puppies crying all night…. So sad!

Thursday 6/17/10:

I started eating half of my meals and feeding Panda the rest. Poor mama dog! I went to work and Fido and I headed to the villages. All the recent rain flooded the bridge in San Jose, so after the long, long trip there, we couldn’t even get in and had to turn around! Ah, so bad! We did some of the closer villages before making it home for lunch.
That afternoon, the other dog, Scooby, chewed through my new bike handles and seat! Ahhhhh! I was so mad! Oh well, things get destroyed here!
I headed back in to work a little angry with Scooby. I then was told that I would be doing the staff meeting the following day that Samuel Choc was supposed to run…. Not prepared! I got overwhelmed and frustrated….. I was in the bitter barn. Haha. I’m not really supposed to be running staff meetings, that’s something the boss should do, so it was frustrating and when I tried to refuse, Samuel had the big boss in Belize city call me and kinda back me into a corner…. So0o0o, I agreed.
Luckily, I had football to get my frustrations out! Rion, another PCV, came into town to play that night—so it was extra fun! (And he helped me get out of going on a date w/one of the Rasta men!) I love these PCV boys that can always pose as my boyfriends….so handy to have around! Haha

Friday 6/18/10:

Friday I woke up and ran the staff meeting. It was actually a really good discussion and I got through to all the girls, (we call them Rovers). By the end of the meeting, they were even asking me questions and participating in the discussion! It felt rewarding! After we finished, I rushed to meet up with people to watch the USA world cup game! I went back to the office after the game and meddled around all day…

Seems like football was on the brain this week! I love it!

Dear Napkin, How I Miss You So....

Anyone who knows me even a little bit or has had the pleasure to dine with me knows how much I value my napkins....

I like to dig in and enjoy the disaster of messy eating, knowing after every bite I can regain my ladylike image with a swift wipe of the napkin. Well, in Belize...things are different!

People don't believe in napkins here in Belize... I mean, maybe they do, but throughout my host family experiences, I have yet to see a napkin.....not even a papertowel! But I just can't understand how they do it! On top of the fact that they don't use silverware either! I can't figure out how to use a tortilla to eat kaldo or pigtail or eggs and NOT get it all over my fingers and my face!! It's a mystery to me!

Kaldo is the worst of it.... you have spices and chicken and sometimes a potato or two. I just stick my hands in the bowl and really dig in.... but at the end of the meal, everyone else looks the same way they did before and I'm covered in remnants of all these ingredients!

Peace Corps goal 4: master the art of clean tortilla eating!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chess Club Weekend!

Friday (6/11):

Friday I headed up to Caves Branch (not far from Belmopan) to attend a Chess Club workshop! Who knew Chess Club could be so fun and cool???!!!! No offense, I always thought chess was kinda a nerd game....and chess club--even worse! But I really had no idea how to even play chess!
About 20 PCVs headed up for the weekend.... we ranged from some who never played to expert chessmasters. We arrived Friday morning....I got lucky because I was able to catch a ride up with my counterpart---so no bus fare! woohoo! The guy played music on his MP3 player that consisted of Punta, Reggae, Garifina music, and Celine Dion....the obvious combo!!! hahha
That also got me there as the first one to Caves Branch! hahaha. So I got to settle into my cabana and look around the gorgeous jungle lodge. Caves Branch is this beautiful travel lodge place that's straight up in the jungle, bordering a river. The scenery is absolutely AMAZING! It's so beautiful there! We stayed in cabanas that had thatch roofs and bunk beds and little kerosene lamps for lighting. The walls were just screened in so you could hear and see all the jungle around you. Our showers were thatch community showers in the middle of the compound--but they had HOT WATER!!! and good water pressure, too!! It was like a weekend in paradise!!!
Some of the beginners started with a chess crash course before our actual workshop began. I mastered most of the pieces and went off the play with everyone else in the pool. The pool was AMAZING! Two pools with waterfalls and a hot tub! So cool! It was like a resort!! I got to catch up with everyone and it was really great. We were served an amazing lunch before starting chess camp!
Chess camp was SO FUN! I genuinely had a blast learning how to play! The people running the workshop were so awesome and made it a very educational and entertaining experience! It was a full day of chess-ness, but it was fantastic!
After the session, we had time to hike and enjoy the river and the pool before dinner. Dinner was a buffet-style 3 course meal..... the best part of the entire weekend. It was FANTASTIC!!!! OMG, we had real salad, soup, bread, pasta, beef, veggies, fruit, CHOCOLATE CAKE, strawberry cheesecake, blueberry muffins! Oh man-- I ate about 7 plates of food and almost died afterwards!!! I think I gained 17 pounds just from dinner that night!!! I literally almost threw up I was so full!!! It was painful, but worth it. =)
We finished dinner and went back to chess. We got to play a real game! My first real chess game!! And I won-- Mallory, undefeated in chess....master! hahahaha Who'd ever thought I would go into the Peace Corps and learn how to play chess????!!! Madness....
The rest of the night we enjoyed the pool and hot tub....chatting and being silly all night long. Great fun! We stayed up ridiculously late....so nice.
The next morning was an early start. I debated showering, but was SO HAPPY I did! Those thatch showers were amazing!!! Aside from my door hinge being broken and the door swinging open for all of the jungle cabanas to see me, it was a great experience! hahaha We headed to breakfast and had round 2 of "Mallory stuffing her face til she wants to keel over and die!" hahahha It was great: fry jacks, pancakes (with syrup AND BUTTER!), awesome eggs, fruit--the whole 9 yards!! We had our final chess sessions between breakfast and lunch. Lunch was good, but I was tapped out by then! I quit!
After lunch, everyone went their various ways. Molly and I had to get to Belmopan for our football match, but I am a slow goodbye-er and we left a little bit behind everyone heading that way and missed the bus by about 30 seconds! Fail! Luckily, we made it to the Belmo bus terminal in just enough time to catch the bus to Cayo! We got to the field 30 min before the game and it was good, good! The team was friendly and they got us some jerseys and we found a SKETCHY latrine to change in. Literally, this latrine was a HUGE giant square in the ground--we thought we were gonna fall in! I was scared for my life! On top of it, we were trying to change from our dressy chess attire to the sportswear we needed on without ending up in the massive crap hole below! hahaha Scary! Luckily, Molly had a roll of toilet paper and hand sanitizer on her, so we were golden. It was a true PC experience! hahaha
We warmed up and they gave Molly some cleats to borrow. Neither of us had shin guards so they ripped up a cardboard box for us to use as shin guards-- so cool! It was a story I felt my dad would appreciate--he always tells those "when I played with nails coming through my shoes...." stories! hahaha
I started for the team in center mid, even though the coach hadn't even seen me play (his bro had recruited me!) But it was a good game.... very intense! They play like men, fast and less smart. It's more of a strength and speed game rather than mental and tactics. Still, it was good and we won! I was elated after the game.... it was the perfect ending after an amazing weekend at Caves Branch! So great!
We headed back on the bus to Belmo after and went to stay with Cisco and Kathryn--who, funny enough, moved to my training village--San Martin! So Molly and I decided to stop by my old host family to say hi before heading to our friends' house.
The Sotz family was surprised but so excited when we got there! Every person was trying to get my attention to tell me a different story--it was cute. And it was HYSTERICAL when I introduced them to Molly because they call me "Mally" (pronounced the same as Molly) because they can't say Mallory! SO they were very confused when we both had the same name! hahahaha too funny! Mrs Sotz fed us Ramen and gave us Sprite and it was awesome! Completely unnecessary, but awesome! Then, they gave me a traditional Mayan dress! Apparently, Mrs Sotz is making me one but she wasn't sure of my size....so she had me try on one of Sofia's old dresses and it fit, so they gave me it! It was so nice! The dress is a satin, royal blue dress with lace..... I'll have to take a pic of it! But they made me try it on (even though I was sweaty from my match) and they were so excited it fit and to see me in it! It was so cute! Sofia said, "Mally, now you a true Maya!"
We had Choni take us to Cisco and Kathryn's house when we were finished and we hung out in their cute little place with their landlord friends. We chilled and told them about the weekend and such.
That morning, Cisco made us the most AMAZING cup of REAL COFFEE!!!! Ahhhhh! I was in heaven!! Then we watched the World Cup game before I rushed into town to catch the bus home. I made it just in time for the 10:30 bus and Dan was leaving Caves Branch the same time, so he ended up catchin the same bus a little father down the road...
6 hours later we were in PG. Dan came to visit my host family and drop his stuff off.. My family was just gettin in from the village, so it was kinda awkward. But it was good because they all thought Dan was my boyfriend---yes, gets me out of marrying the cousin! Off the hook! hahaha A bunch of people seemed to be in town that evening, so we had some pizza and hung out. I had guilty feelings about being away from my host family too late again, and Dan had a fever, so we headed in early.
That night I walked from where he stayed home and this girl started SCREAMING at me! She was saying she would meet me later and all this really freaky stuff! She was probably about 12 years old--she seemed possessed! It was scary! She even threw her hands up in the air! Weird! I was freaked and rushed home! lol.
What an amazing weekend!

Washing Pan Di Rock

Washing Pan Di Rock
Crique Jute Village
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