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!!!! firstname.lastname@example.org 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!