Monday, January 31, 2011

Great Resources

'Tis the last day of January, and we have spent the month trying to learn as much as we can about our assignment and the country of Belize.  How did we ever function without the Internet and email??  Here are a few of the sources we were lucky enough to find.

Mallory's Blog - Belize It or
Mallory is a PCV in Belize right now.  She arrived last March, so she's one year ahead of us.  Her blog is an excellent read, lots of information about the lifestyle of a (young) PCV, the food, the outdoors recreation opportunities, the hazards (lots of critters - rats, big biting lizards, roaches, spiders, bats).  If you take the time to read some entries, you'll really get to know her and you'll feel like you're right there beside her in all her adventures. VERY descriptive and energetic writing style.

One of the most important things we learned from her blog is that we will probably NOT be using Spanish down there.  We WILL be learning Kriol (their spelling), and it's pretty easy 'cause it's English Creole, not French.  If we go to the southern part of the country, we will learn some dialect of Mayan.  So I've stopped my Spanish lessons; Steve continues because he doesn't have as much of a background as I do.

We wrote to Mallory to say hello and strike up an email connection.  She was SO very nice and generous with her information.  One of the most important things she said is that it's fine to explore and research Belize, but that we'll have a better experience if we don't show up with a lot of expectations.  She suggested that we might be able to buy things we need from the volunteers who will be leaving in June.

We'll be meeting her in March when we arrive.  ALL the current PCVs in Belize  are together for a couple of days when the newbies arrive.  Looking forward to meeting her.  It's possible she's doing the same thing we will be doing - but I don't have any expectations about that, right?   ;--)

Rachel by telephone 
A friend from my Zumba class referred us to her friend Rachel, a volunteer in Belize in the late 90s.  Rachel generously talked with us a LONG time to fill us in on her extensive knowledge of life as a PCV in Belize.  She still visits Belize every year or so, and owns a home there with her father!  She talked about her family there, meaning her host family, with whom she stays very close.  

Her information was very succinct and practical.  She could not say enough about how friendly and helpful the people are.  She suggested that we should take "nice" clothes and keep them neat and ironed (yikes), because that is the way that the people there will expect us to dress, just like them.  I had heard that before about people in Latin America, that they want to look crisp and neat (to "defy" the heat, I guess.  "See, I still look good even though I'm frying!").  Well, assuming that we have electricity, I say "go for it."

Rachel agreed about not arriving with a lot of expectations, just take things as they come.  As a side note, the Peace Corps brochures, interviewers, and employees ALL talk about being flexible, so these ideas gibe.  Rachel said some PCVs who had done tons of research were incorrectly perceived by the Belizeans as "know-it-alls."  

Rachel also sent us links to newspapers websites, and email addresses of retired PCVs.  WOW - what a wealth of information.
Newspapers in Belize (the first 2 are the ones  most circulated in the country, and though "nonpartisan" tend to sometimes print articles that appear to have political slant)...
Amandala: founded in 1969
The Reporter: founded in 1967
The Belize Times: political paper of the PUP - Peoples United Party (blue party)
The Guardian: political paper of the UDP - United Democratic Party (red party)

YouTube videos
Holy smokes - I can't believe we didn't check this out earlier.  Just type in "Peace Corps" "Belize" and step back.  Here are a few of my favorites. (kinda old but covers a lot)

Norman from Puerto Rico
Norman is a returned PCV who has served THREE tours with the Peace Corps.  I know his mom and two sisters from Zumba class.  They have been telling us about Norman for about a year now, but he's been most recently in Vanuatu (coincidentally on the same island as some other friends of mine in the Peace Corps, Alex and Lucas, and he knows them).  OK, so he finally came home, but we haven't been able to connect yet.  He's originally from Puerto Rico, so we went down there right after Christmas and will return in February.  

You'll notice I didn't describe him as a "retired" PCV.  That's because I think he's planning to go back for a fourth tour of duty later in 2011!  I do think that we'll be able to learn a LOT once we connect.

Other blogs we like - A PCV who served in Belize.  Her blog includes a lot of info on her work there, and lots of pictures. - Alex and Lucas are in Vanuatu with the Peace Corps.  They married about three (?) years ago, went to work in Antarctica for 6 months, traveled around the world for another six months, and then went to Vanuatu.  Lucas does a great job of describing what Peace Corps volunteers do and their day-to-day lives.  They don't have easy access to the Internet, so it looks like there are gaps in the time, but he's pretty disciplined about getting a good description of what going on all the time.

Pat from Chapel Hill
I met Pat at one of my Zumba classes - surprise.  She and her husband go most years to Belize as health volunteers as a part of Project Belize.  They conduct medical clinics in villages for a week or so.  There are about 25 people who participate, some repeaters like Pat. She filled me up with great stories about her visits and the people there.  She warned about Belize City, the crime there, but loved talking about the nice, loving people.  Hmmm - seems to be a theme here.  

Pat also gave us some great ideas for host family gifts and "handouts" for people who come to our training sessions.  I think I will talk about those in a later entry.  If you've made it this far down, you must be taking NODOZ.