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, 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
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