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

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gringo Fish

Ladies and Gents…. Hold on to your horses because you’re about to see my new home. That’s right—state of the art thatch roof 2 bedroom paradise, equipped with faux-wood (marley) floors, a dual-latrine with bats both above and below grounds, a nice backyard area for bathing and cooking, and a hammock for your relaxation pleasure! Ta-da! Plus, it’s right in the center of the village, so “Ix Na Gringo” is on constant display…. I finally understand the “fish bowl” lifestyle!

It’s perfect. I love my life.

So after all the hard things that had happened in the past few months: someone breaking into my house and robbing me; my organization closing down and all my work from the past year and a half going out the window with its closing; and being uprooted from one temporary home to another until finally finding my new residence……… things have actually taken a turn for the better!

I finally have a new home: Pueblo Viejo Village. It’s been a little over 3 months so far in the village and it has been amazing. I lived with an awesome host family the first 2 months who took care of me, introduced me to the village, and kept me from going insanely lonely at night. We have no water or electricity in Pueblo, but that is almost my favorite part about it! Life is so different from anything I’ve ever experienced. I bathe and wash my clothes in a beautiful river, a little nook for just my host family and their families. I love meeting the women down at the river! My “na” (mom), “na chin” (grandmother), host sisters, cousins, aunts, and any other women in the family. It’s always a fun party:children swimming, never wanting to leave the river; women washing and talking the latest gossip while making fun of my inability to wash my clothes properly; and bathing in a natural paradise. Pure bliss. I only wish I could spend more time there every day.

My project framework has drastically changed from my previous project. I am now mostly attached to a primary school, working to develop a library and literacy program from infant 1-standard 6. (The equivalent of kindergarten through 8th grade). Talk about overwhelming! Especially since this is a small school of lone Maya children, who all speak Mopan Maya or Kechi Maya and therefore are all ESL students since the official language of Belize is English. [SO ANY SUGGESTIONS OR INSIGHTS ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED…. PLEASE EMAIL ME!!!! Thanks!] Not only is the language barrier an issue, but we pretty much have zero materials to work with in the school. Every teacher was given one roll of tape, 2 markers, typing paper, and a ruler….oh, and a broom. Talk about very basic! We are working with the bare minimum, unless teachers choose to go spend their own limited budgets on materials. So while I’m excited to try to establish a productive program, it’s a daunting task with several obstacles to overcome. Wish me luck.
In addition to the school’s main request of me to develop a reading program, I am working with a lot of after school programs. I have become involved in the school athletic programs (big surprise, right?) and chess club. I also started a Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Club. With the help of the other two female teachers in the school, we have successfully launched our GLOW club with 23 girls attending! The principal and I also intend on working on a music club and establishing the feeding program in the school. There is a lot going on! I was on the September celebrations pageant committee, helping the girls with their talents and practicing for the show, and serving as the Master of Ceremonies on the night of the event (and speaking in Maya no less!) I am also working with re-establishing the women’s group through a sewing group, while learning how to sew myself! And almost for my own personal pleasure, I’m trying to make the women’s football team more legitimized and creating more opportunities for them to travel and play other female teams.

My daily life is hectic, but the general routine is something like this: wake up around 5:45 am and sweep, (my thatch roof usually gets the floor dirty quick—especially if it’s windy or rains in the night). Then I eat breakfast if I have something lying around to eat and head to the river. I stay at the river from about 6:45 to 7:45am, depending on if I wash my hair and if for some reason I have something big to wash like a towel or sheets which would take longer. Most days I either visit Nachin or Metodia on the way back, some neighbors who live on the path to the river—which usually means hot tea or maybe even more food. Once I reach back to my house, I finish getting ready for school, hang my clothes, tidy up my house some more, and usually entertain anywhere from 3 to 20 children stopping by on their way to school. The school bell rings at 9:00am, or somewhere in that general time frame. I usually begin my mornings in preschool and infant 1—singing songs and such. Gradually I move around to different classes and work on different areas with students. Right now we’re trying to develop an actual library/literacy center in the school for students to work with me on a more individualized level to improve reading and writing skills. At noon I head home for lunch or often visit families in the area. If I’m home, my house attracts the children once again for an hour of play time and ask the gringo 1,000 questions. At one-ish we begin afternoon classes until 3:30. After school I either have chess club, GLOW club, or house games (sports competitions within school teams). I usually don’t end up leaving school until 4:30 or 5pm. On days that I don’t go to play football at the village field, I try to visit different houses after I leave school and before the sun goes down, which usually means I stay for dinner. I reach home, maybe read a little, and call it a night. I’m usually in bed in the 7pm range.

Life could not be better. I’m slowly moving in and setting up my house. With the help of some ladies, I built my own firehearth in my backyard so now I can cook my beans and rice just like every other Maya lady. And I just got a little puppy, Jenny, who is keeping me company and turning me into a responsible mom, haha. She is my soon to be guard dog. I have my mosquito net on top of my foam padded bed that sits on the floor, but it is an awesome bed! I named a little May baby Sean Patrick Cho when I was out on mobile clinic one day—an Irish Maya baby now! We're had two weddings in the village already and a lot of group plantings, which means baking for me and the women. I've been swimming in the Pueblo waterfalls and hiking to the caves.I've seen a lot of pig and chicken deaths (and along with it some serious bouts of diarrhea!)But I love every minute of it. Things are really falling into place. Pueblo is an amazing village with amazing people… I’m truly feeling blessed! Somehow great things have been the end result of all the terrible happenings of the last half year of my life….. I guess it’s true that when one door closes, somewhere there opens a window!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Needs, Needs Please!

So I've done a terrible job filling all you guys in on my life. Pueblo Viejo is amazing--- I'm loving it! Unfortunately, I'm running out of time to internet and will have to fill you in on my life there the next time I post. (I know, I know... insert sigh of disappointment here).

Anyway, I'm trying to get a quick blog out to the world to help me with my new life and some needs I could use in the village---some are major needs, and some just fun things I would like to have! (Some for my village and some for myself!)

1)flashlights/headlamp (&batteries!)-- I have no light in my new village!
2) 2012 agenda/planner-- a nice detailed one! :)
3)storybooks for any ages of children--trying to develop a reading program with no materials! (please someone send me The Giving Tree and any Shel Silverstein stuff!!!)
4)rubber cement-- I think that's what those blue things teachers use to hang up posters?? If you know what it's called, do tell!
5) stapler
6)memory cards for my camera--it uses the small cards-- Samsung PL210 microSD (PNY) cards...not sure how you find them... I've run out of memory card and computer space for everything down here
7) external hard drive-- the bigger , the better (or even just large flashdrives!)
8) Halloween goodies-- we want to have a Halloween fundraiser at school and hope to make a haunted house--- any props would be awesome! But please send them soon seeing as the mail takes long and Halloween is approaching fast!
9) Halloween candy--same reason, for our fundraiser and teaching the kids to trick or treat around the school!
10) Reading/literacy program materials--- I need help all you teachers!!!
11) tape
12) crystal light
13) crayons/markers
14)Christmas cookie cutters
15)Shower curtain
16)Flushable wipes
17) Christmas decorations and crafts!

My address is:
Mallory Begley
Peace Corps
Pueblo Viejo Village
Punta Gorda Town, Toledo District
Belize, CA

my email address is if you have any advice on reading programs!!!

Thanks for your support!

Until my next post...... Ka wilah a bahil!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's Not An Easy Road...

Phew! June and July were intense...But I'm happy to be past those months.

So now I'm officially homeless.... in a good way! I moved out of my PG home as of August 1st. It's nice to have one stressful thing out of the way. While I'm still in limbo at this point, I have a MAJOR exciting event to look forward to: our central america trip! In 5 days I hit Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua! I can't believe it's already here--seems like we've been planning this trip forever. So I have 2 weeks of CA travel before coming back to reality and my fresh start in Belize.

While I'm vacationing, PC will be doing site development for my new potential village. The goal is to be moved into my new site before Sept 1st--fingers crossed!

So after what seemed like an eternity of insanity... I finally have some sort of plan for the remainder of my PC time.

Central America--here I come!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sorry, sorry!

Ok... I'm terrible at this. So much for my New Year's resolution to blog more regularly, eh?

Well, what a CRAZY few months it has been! The last time I blogged was in February? In my blogger defense, I have a few drafts written up that I never completed and posted. Maybe I'll still post them anyway-- you'll just have to jump around with my life!

So where to begin? I'll give you a summary of the major events of the past few months.

March began with La Ruta Maya canoe race, (trust me I will post the blog about that adventure!). It was 170 mile race from Cayo to Belize City--across the country of Belize! It was really, REALLY hard, but such a fun 4 days! I rowed with my two best friends down here, Matt and Dan. We had a few obstacles along the way, (broken oars, broken seats, canoe flipping), but we pulled through in 64th place! (out of 81) And the first Peace Corps team to finish! wohoo!

March ended with a trip to Tobacco Caye with a bunch of volunteers from our group to celebrate our one year mark in country! One year! Madness. We had a nice weekend of kayaking and snorkeling and soaking up the beach life. Nice, nice!

April--what happened in April? April was pretty low key for me, I believe. I did a LOT of work with HIV/AIDS, launching the Sex Chatz men's initiative discussion group with another volunteer in town and Belize Family Life Association (BFLA). I also worked in the high school with the BFLA nurse teaching sex ed-- I became known as the "sex lady".... hmmmm.... But it was such a rewarding working month! On top of those two awesome projects, I coached my Big Falls women's team to the semi-finals of the Delhardt-Courtney Cup.

May was the beginning of tough times down here. Matt had a football marathon on May 1st to raise money for the feeding program in his village. We played out there on "team suk"--the team of gringos. hahaha! It was a fun day, but as we left to head home on the 4pm bus, apparently things went south. The night ended with drunken men arguing over cheating and nonsense, ultimately resulting in a man drinking poison to kill himself. The guy was Matt's friend, and he was pretty shaken up by the whole event. It was all very sad.
Mid-May I took a trip up to Chetamul, Mexico to watch the first movie I've seen in over a year! Crazzzzy! And to eat McDonald's--what else! haha. While up north we also had a Gibnut and Black Orchid game (our Peace Corps football teams)in Yo Creek, Orange Walk. I played three games that day and was dead tired! I played in the women's game and we won our first Black Orchid game ever! Then I played in the men's game and scored a goal and think I truly embarrassed the goalie. I felt kinda bad....but I was kinda a big deal. hahaha. Then we had a final co-ed game and I'm pretty sure my legs didn't work anymore. I was so tired! I think I was pretty much useless that game. But it was a nice northen trip.
As May neared an end I felt myself feeling more and more homesick and down in the dumps. I think it was the one year slump they say is pretty common for PCVs. Things were just very hard. I looked forward to my birthday to kind of knock me out of it. My birthday was awesome! I had a surprise fiesta-themed party with an authentic Mexican pinata! It was a really fun night. Unfortunately, the next day was my actual birthday and I still felt homesick, Matt got physically really sick, and other things were happening all at once.... Things started to go awry.
May ended with a nice little visit from some totally cool people. It was a nice break from the downward slump everyone seemed to be in.

I thought we would be over the hill once June rolled around, but I was oh so wrong. June started with some rough times. A bunch of stuff happened, leading people to be sent home. It was really hard to deal with. Once I got over the initial shock of saying goodbye to some of my closes friends, I found out my main partner organization, BFLA, is going under due to a “financial crisis”. All my HIV/AIDS work was with BFLA…Nurse Cus is awesome and it was a shock to hear they’d be closing in one month. As if that wasn’t enough to put on my plate, only 4 days after hearing about BFLA’s closing, somebody broke into my house and robbed me, taking pretty much everything valuable I own from my house. Luckily, I happened to be at my friend’s having dinner at the time, so I was not in the house when they showed up. They ripped my burglar bars right off my window and came in through the back bedroom. It was a shock to come home to and has been a hard thing to deal with. Now I am in the process of moving and essentially starting over my Peace Corps career. So that’s June in a nutshell. The hardest month I’ve had in Peace Corps, and probably one of the hardest month’s I’ve had in a long, long time. But I have to try to make the most out of things—it can only go up from here. I’m most likely moving to a small Mayan village in western Toledo, which will be a fresh start full of new experiences.

Wow—this turned into a much more downer post than anticipated. Look forward to hearing about the new chapter of my PC life because it’s gonna be great!
In the meantime, I may finish some older drafts and post them to entertain you folks…

Next time den!

Monday, February 28, 2011

This is What I Call Life

So this weekend I felt was typical in my sense of the word these days. Saturday the boys and I caught a ride up to Machaca Hill—this beautiful jungle resort 5 miles off the Southern Highway—to do some extra rowing before the big race. We rowed for a few hours in the hot morning sun and called it a day around noon.

It was a pretty happenin’ Saturday in PG. Toledo Community College was having its annual fair, so tons of football and food was happenin’ at the field. We grabbed some bbq for lunch before I had to jet to get my team organized. It was our Big Falls “Lil Swaggers” first match of the Delhardt Courtney Cup!

Of course the 3:30 match started around 5pm…. But we put in a good showing and ended in a 2-2 draw. The field was ROUGH and after only a few knocks to the ground, both of my knee caps and one elbow were pouring blood. I can honestly say I don’t think my knees have ever been scraped up so badly—they are still oozing 2 days later! They feel like 3rd degree burns! It’s quite terrible….especially since I need them for the canoe race this weekend! I can’t afford any extra scrapes or bruises!

Anyway, it was a really fun game! There were a TON of people, though I know most weren’t there to support us, but still! It was awesome!

The next maanin it was a party on Bol’s bus at 6am! A bunch of us were heading to Santa Elena (Matt’s Village) for a next football marathon! We were representing not only the lone gringo team, but the lone team with females on it! Our name was Team Suk…. Now, now don’t confuse our name with Team Suck, because even though we kinda sucked, we were named suk, (pronounced “sook”) because it means “white” in Maya. So we were the white team. Very politically correct, I know.

We were a lee bit nervous to play… these guys were for serious! And we were apparently playing round 1 versus the best team there—a team from Guatemala! Doubly international! Hahaha. But we held our own. Apparently, the first time I received the ball there was a massive wave of laughter from the crowd—a white gyal with ball skills! But I didn’t even hear it; was just told about it after the game. We ended in a 1-0 loss in the last 2 minutes. I think we were spent. We basically left Dan the whole half of the field to defend on his own: an easy breakaway, 1v1, and goal. But we didn’t embarrass ourselves! We put on a decent showing…and it actually worked out better that we didn’t win because Dan and his friends had plans in his village and they were able to catch a ride heading to San Antonio earlier than the bus… so it was all perfect!

After the game, the rest of us chilled in Matt’s village. They were selling caldo kax and tamales and all sorts of goodies to support the newly started feeding program in the school. So it was not only a good cultural experience, but it was for a good cause! We enjoyed some homemade meals, soaked in the HOT HOT rays, and had an afternoon of football. Nice, nice!

Lucky for me, Gomier, our local Rasta vegetarian chef came all the way from town to see Matt’s village and the marathon. He’s SUCH a chill and nice guy! He gave me a ride back into town that evening, saving me 2 hours and 5 bucks! Wohoo! Haha. We even stopped to bathe at the San Antonio Falls….so beautiful and refreshing.

I got home around 4:30 in the evening and took a moment to realize that this is life….. How did I get this lucky?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Amazonian style

So as I mentioned in previous posts, the Mopaneers are planning to tackle this year's La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge. It officially begins one week from tomorrow!!! Eeeek!!

In preparation for this event, Matt, Dan, and I have been working out on our own--with whatever makeshift weights and activities we can get our hands on. Personally, I filled up pvc pipe and oats cans with cement and made faux oars and weights. Nice, nice.

Anyway, in recent weeks we've tried to get all three of us in town to train on the rivers. At first it was pretty rocky---we are not really canoeing competitors or experts by any means! The guys are pretty comfortable and know what to do, but I think I can count the number of times I've actually been IN a canoe on one hand prior to this! During our first practice, I asked "what do you mean by paddle forward?"-- which now is the source of a good make-fun-of-Mallory joke every now and then!

Still, we've been getting some time in on the river, and things are looking up! We finally got out rowing strokes in unison, can turn fairly well, and have a general stamina that I think will lead us to successfully complete the race. We will not win it by any means, (those people are insane!), but we want to finish.....preferably not in last! haha

The entire race starts in Cayo and finishes in Belize City, crossing the whole country of Belize. We will row 49 miles on Day 1, 60 (!) miles on Day 2, 34 miles on Day 3, and 25 miles on Day 4! 170 miles total~! Our arms burn with our workouts now so I can only imagine how miserably sore we will be after each of these intense race days! But we can't complain too much. We practice rowing along the Toledo rivers in straight jungle. It's like the Amazon! Literally, it looks like out of a movie. One day we paddled right beside a crocodile! (Which caused massive paranoia for the rest of the day). Another time we got caught in random patches of torrential downpour, where we felt like the cloud was raining just over our heads and nowhere else....but no complaints because it was very refreshing! MY favorite practice was spent following a snow white egret, who would perch a few hundred yards from us until we almost reached it, and then fly off just to perch a few hundred yards again. It was like our unofficial river tour guide for the morning. Rowing in an environment like that really makes you take a minute to stop and think about life--how beautiful everything is! It also reminds me how lucky I am to be living in this untouched wilderness so close to home....

Nonetheless, I am confident in Team Bembes, (which means strong women in Kriol). We are representing WIN-Belize (Women's Issues Network of Belize), which focuses on a special interest in women’s issues and a commitment to the improvement of social and economic opportunities for women and their families in Belize. WIN-Belize has been fighting for women’s equality since 1993.

So not only are we participating in one of the top 5 hardest races in ALL the world, but we are doing so for a good cause! Our bodies will be tired, blistered, sunburned, and in general pain--- but it will be worth the experience!

So keep your thoughts with Team Bembes March 4-7, 2011. If only we could have a waterproof video camera to document the ridiculous antics that will be occurring in the boat.....

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Don’t Read This If You’re a Vegetarian!!!

Not too long ago I was able to spend some time in Crique Jute. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty much my adopted village by now. The villagers all know me and--brace yourself--one guy even named his newborn daughter Mallory after yours truly! So I’m officially a legacy! With a name like Mallory, my heir will do great things in that Maya village! Hahaha
Anyway, I went out to help Dan thatch a hammock house… or as we would say in maya: na’j uk’aan. A couple of his villagers came to “help” us out, (aka- do it all themselves). Since I had previously thatched a house with my host brother, the men were impressed with my knowledge of thatching! I knew the number of leaves to use, the rotation, where to put the sticks that hold up the leaves while tying, and a few other general tid bits. Normally the women would be inside cooking during a thatching event. But, as you know me, I decided that I would be part of this thatching experience. Unlike the last time I thatched, the guys even let me get up on top of the beams and tie on some of the cohune leaves! It was so awesome!!
The thatching only took about 2 hours or so because the house wasn’t too large. Afterwards, Dan had made his grandmother’s chicken soup, which he jokingly told the guys was “Gringo Kaldo.” Traditionally, the women members of whoever’s house is being built will cook a kaldo, whether it be chicken, pork, etc. So to tie in a little American influence into the typical respectful gesture, Dan made his own version of kaldo. It was nice, even though we ate it at like 10am because we finished so quickly! Hahaha

After the exhausting morning in the heat, we took our much needed relaxation time before hitting the dirt path on a visiting walk. We headed to the hill Dan’s host family lives on to witness a pig being killed for a Baptism. One of the boys in the village had raised his pig for a year and a half and the men were killing it for the special day. The pig was 410 pounds!!! By far the biggest pig I’ve seen in this country yet…maybe ever! Hahaha. Though we just missed the actual slaughter of the pig, we got there just as they were shaving off the hair. Since I love the gross and gory stuff, I got right up next to the men, touching whatever they would allow me to. As they brought out the knives and machetes, one of the guys handed me a huge knife and pointed to the neck! He let me slice the neck off!! It was insanely cool and surprisingly easy to do. The only tricky part was the actual bone, which he took over and broke through. The pig head was enormous! I couldn’t believe it. It was probably the size of my torso in length. Ok, maybe not. I’m not a good judge of this sort of thing—it was really big!
We spend the remainder of the evening hanging with random villagers and helping where we could with the pig stuff. They gutted the pig, and cut off all the feet. Then all the insides were given to the women and we went down to the creek and washed them up. They ate EVERYTHING! They even sliced open the intestines, cleaned out the pig crap, and washed it thoroughly….and then brought it up for cutting and cooking. It was insane! The washing portion took a really long time! It must have been a few hours! It was a long, loooong process.
While I hung out in the river with the women, I seemed to attract every child under the age of 10 to my hip. I was being jumped on, tickled, attacked, got a new hairstyle—you name it, they did it. It was pretty cute and funny at first, but wore me out quick! The cutest part of playtime was one of Dan’s host sisters, Sonya, the cutest little 5 year old girl you’ll ever meet—she told me she loved me! It was so cute. She later went on to tell me I was her mom… which got really awkward when we were hanging out with her actual mom…hahaha.
After the insides were cleaned out, we headed back up to the hill. The men had started frying the skin for chicharon. The women went inside and started cutting up all the insides and making corn tortillas. I took advantage of playing with the kids for awhile before going in and helping with the MASSIVE pile of massa that had to be flattened into tortillas. Haha
The first batch of chicharon was a little bit weird. It was not the full skin, it was the layer right under the skin that was sort of meaty too. I was not a fan of that too much. I took my first bite and it tasted exactly like pig—not in a good way. I actually got nervous at first, thinking that maybe I had lost my appetite for pig after cutting one open. Ham is my favorite meat, how could this happen! Luckily, once the real chicharon came out, all my worries were put to rest because I was back on track. The chicharon was crunchy and nice and I’m sure extremely healthy. (Isn’t everything I eat down here healthy?)
I was feeling pretty proud of the day’s achievements by this point. Little did I know, the best what yet to come. As Dan and I tried to make our way out of the party, they brought out pig tongue! For serial! They fried it up, as they do everything, and—yep—I ate pig tongue! Pig tongue—not a fan. It tasted like a tongue! Hahaha. It was chewy and hard to swallow. I was done after half of one piece. I thought that was the last of it, but as we said our goodbyes, I was handed a bowl of pig liver! Hahaha True story! So we sat and ate our livers and, I have to admit, it was pretty delicious! Liver is by far my favorite part of the pig—at least of the parts I’ve tried! It was very flavorful and really nice with tortillas. It left a good last taste in my mouth before finally getting out of there.
All in all, it was a pretty successful and enjoyable day in the village! I had a blast! I love experiencing new things like that! Where else am I going to get to do something as awesome as slit open a big head and then eating it’s giant tongue??? Hahaha….
Belize it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fall Fun!

Aside from my very crazy and hectic work schedule, I still manage to have time for fun! (You gotta do it all when you're in Belize!) Let me start from recent events and work my way backwards (with the exception of Thanksgiving-- which I gave its own blog—and the Christmas holidays, which I’ll tackle another day…)

Fall…for the most part….
.... November was a big Garifuna month, which is a culture of descendants of Carib, Arawak, and West African people. And PG is one of the first Garifuna settlements in Belize, so it was a BIG celebration! Garifuna Settlement Day was Nov 19th, and there was a big party and drumming and all sorts of fun events all day in central park. A bunch of the village volunteers came in town for the day’s events. Even though PG was originally a Garifuna settlement, it has gotten much more diverse in recent years. Nonetheless, we ate some good ole’ hudut, which is a coconut milk stew that is usually served with some sort of fish. I’ve had it with shark before!! We spent the rest of the night watching punta contests, listening to drumming, watching the women in their gorgeous traditional skirts, and dancing. It was a very culturally exciting and fun day!

Because PG has very strong Garifuna roots, the entire month of November was filled with various events to commemorate Garifuna Settlement Day and the Garifuna people. One of the best ones I went to was The Battle of the Drums.... so cool! Drumming groups from all over Belize, and also one from Guatemala and Honduras came to compete in the competition. If you’ve ever been to Battle of the Bands in middle or high school—it’s kinda like that…. but way more awesome! Hahaha. For me, more awesome means more culturally diverse! What happens is they start off with various songs, including the Belize national anthem, all sang in the Garifuna language… which is a very bubbly and poetic language. Though I didn’t understand ANYTHING they were saying, it was beautiful to listen to. Following various songs from primary school children, the “battle” begins. The first part is lone drumming—teams from villages and towns throughout Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras are paired off against each other. The first part, I have to admit, gets a tad bit repetitive because I don’t have keen enough of an ear to actually appreciate and distinguish the differences between the groups’ styles of drumming. BUT the second part of the show down is so exciting! First each group comes out and begins drumming. Then one member from each group starts to act out different cultural activities—whether it’s hunting, washing clothes, farming, etc. After that portion of the drumming and acting is finished, the “jabiru” dancer of another group comes out and starts doing traditional dancing. The jabiru is a dancer that wears a mask and a decorative headress. But the catch is that the drumming group has to match the dancers beat—how cool! It was really awesome to watch! The drumming groups and dancers are so good! At the end of the night, there is a competition for the best “jabiru” dancer, as well as a winner of Battle of the Drums. Hopkins Village was the winner this year, and a woman won best jabiru! (It’s traditionally a man’s role).

November flew by between Garifuna and Thanksgiving activities. But it was overall an excellent month. I spent a LOT of time hiking Sero Hill, one of the times even being at 4am in the dark!! I was scared howler monkeys were gonna get me for sure!! I also finally settled into my OWN house and painted it! It’s a lovely mixture of aqua green and baby blue—so Caribbean!

October was pretty fantastic as well! I officially got my own house—which was long overdue! And after a quick trip to the States for a family wedding, I was able to have a fresh start in my own place! I ended the month in Placencia with some friends for Halloween. We dressed up and had a blast! Since Placencia is a little more prone to tourists, we even saw some kids trick-or-treating! But they used shilling bags instead of pumpkins or any other types of sacks!

Not to mention…fall in Belize is perfect weather! For once I wasn’t pouring sweat as soon as I stepped out of the shower!! I seemed to wear JEANS for most of the time! It was amazing! I even used some thin blankets to sleep in at night! Belize is amazing in the fall!

Back Track: August & September Part 2: The Work Stuff & September Celebrations

The first week of August, the head guy from COMPAR stopped by my house, (while I was having a little dinner party!) to tell me that he was leaving to do a 2 year education leave in Jamaica on top of letting go of the other supervisor in the office…. In addition, our intern Allyson was leaving at the end of the month to go back to Barbados. So I officially turned into the ONLY worker in the entire Toledo COMPAR office! Ahhh! Oy vey! And before he left, we had to take care of conflicts among the Rover girls in the village. There’s been a lot of petty fighting going on among them. In many of the villages you can find one small dispute will turn into a major break between villagers. If you do something to piss off my family member, then I won’t be friends with you or ANY of your family or help them in any way. That’s kinda how it works. Anyway, I do not deal well with being a person of authority when it comes to confrontation, so this was extremely hard for me. So work has been difficult lately, trying to find my appropriate role without actually becoming the boss. Luckily, just last week they hired a new COMPAR supervisor and finally a new RCP supervisor (all in the first week of October! It only took a few months!). So I’m excited to start working with them. Now I can actually try to implement sustainable practices! Peace Corps just gave a Designing for Behavior Change workshop and I formulated a conflict resolution plan and I can’t wait to present it to my counterparts and get the ball rolling on this issue! It was really helpful… and motivating!

Around mid August, I went to San Jose with Allyson to do RCP supervisions and begin the pilot stage of our Literacy Corner program into 15 homes. We each stayed with one of the Rover’s families in the village, which of course was fun for me! And it was fun to be with Allyson in her first village life experience! We bathed in the San Jose river and explored the large, mountainous village. The village has no electricity and both families we stayed with didn’t have running water either—we were roughing it! It was so much fun though! It was so nice and relaxing. We ate by kerosene lamps at night and went to bed around 8pm! It was a very simple and pleasant week. I got to work on my tortilla skills that have sadly been wasting away in recent months! And we listened to the Tumul K’in radio station at night, which is a Mayan radio station playing songs and broadcasts in both Maya and K’echi. We also listened to Love FM, the national station, and my final soccer game was on the news! That was cool to hear!
During our San Jose trip I tried groundmole for the first time! Mr Peck, the dad who I had stayed with, had just killed it before dinner time. I have to admit…. Groundmole tasted like sewage. They gave me groundmole feet and they still had the hair on them! It was not a dish I care to explore again!!
The trip was successful. We got all our literacy corners set up and had a very cultural week together! It was a good week! The final day in the village, our Belize City supervisor came with all the Belize Rovers to see what our girls do. I love watching their interactions because their work styles and lifestyles are so different from each other. Toledo is like a whole separate country compared to Belize City. So the Belize girls got to watch our girls do their work and then we all came back for a workshop on Friday.
The Belize supervisor took me out to karaoke Friday night. I was SO excited for a night of karaoke fun…. It was very different than what I expected! Haha We basically sat at a bar and sang songs off an old school computer monitor that was behind the bar. It was definitely an interesting experience!
In September, I was able to head to Belize City to do a workshop with the Rovers up there. While I was in Belize, I was able to take advantage of the various September Celebration events. Since September marks Belize’s Independence Day, St. George’s Caye Day, and Carnival—it’s a BIG PARTY month! I was able to see the parade for St. George’s Caye Day and even march (or shall I say dance?) in a crowd behind one float! It was so awesome! My counterpart even gave me Belizean colored beads to give me some pride! (Ironically, they are red, white, and blue beads! Haha) But it was a very, VERY fun day! Carnival was also an awesome experience. There were tons of elaborate costumes and dancers and it was an amazing sight to see! I loved all the excess—it was fantastic! It was one big party in the streets of Belize!!
By the time Independence Day rolled around, I was back in PG. (Sep 21st). We celebrated by going to the parade and then hanging out with locals in the area all day and night. We partied at Sports Bar til 4am on the rooftop! They had a tent and no amount of rain stopped the party! It was crazy! We left around 4am and the postman told me the next day that he didn’t leave til 8:30am!! We were early birds!! Hahaha But it was one of the most fun days I’ve had in Belize! I sported a Belizean football jersey and got so many compliments and words of appreciation. It was really cool!

Following Independence Day, we had a Mopan review training at Tumul K’in Learning Center. Tumul K’in is a Maya high school that has kids from all over the country study and also learn about their Maya heritage. It’s a cool place. It’s in Blue Creek village, which is a beautiful place. While we were outside the classroom, we hiked to the caves and around the river—it’s truly amazing out there! (Hence the pic at the top of my blog!)
Unfortunately, our training was cut short by a hurricane evacuation! Hurricane Matthew stormed in and we were consolidated to PG for a few days….aka, home to me! Luckily, Matthew did not bring any damage to us, but it looked like it was gonna be a bad one at first! It was an exciting end to the “summer months” I guess you can say! Haha

Back Track to August..... Part 1: Mogggy and Mr. Lieberwinik

Mogggy & Mr. Lieberwinik!

After my Mexico experience, I was welcomed home with some Northern exposure…. Molly came to visit (& help me with COMPAR!). It was nice to have my northern buddy come down. She got to see my office, Taylor’s house, and a few of the villages I work in. (The villages in OrangeWalk are WAYY different than the Toledo villages!) Even though she may have gotten a little carsick on the way to San Jose, the bumpy, hour and a half dirt road ride, I think it was worth it once she saw the scenery. We just happened to have to hike up a huge hill to do supervisions on one of the Rovers, so she really got a great view of the village and Toledo. After our San Jose supervisions, we headed to San Miguel for a parenting workshop. Molly works for NDACC, the National Drug and Alcohol Council, so she gave a presentation on the negative effects of drugs and alcohol on the family unit. Though San Miguel is our hardest village to get parent participation, we had a decent showing of mothers. After Molly’s part of her presentation, we did a toy box making workshop with the parents and children. Each family brought in a box and we brought supplies and showed them how to decorate the box accordingly. It was surprisingly successful, since we usually don’t make much of an impact on that particular village…. Plus, we also got to stop by Tracy’s for lunch—hot dogs and mac’n’cheese! It was a good business day!

Towards the end of the week, Dan’s dad (Mr. Lieberman) came to visit…or as they say in Crique Jute: Lieberwinik. (“winik” is “man” in Mopan). Even though it was Dan’s dad, it was nice to have somebody’s parent come for a visit…. We all kinda word vomited our lives to him the whole time! Hahaha. Luckily, he stayed in the nice hotel we have in town, so I got to take advantage of a pool!! Mr. Lieberman spoiled us that weekend! It was so, so, SO nice!!! Hopefully, my parents can return the spoilage soon!

Washing Pan Di Rock

Washing Pan Di Rock
Crique Jute Village