Thursday, May 19, 2011

Packing Up to Leave Camalote

Cathy here. We’re sad to be leaving our Belizean friends here in Camalote, but happy to complete our preparation work. We have had our last class in Camalote. I can’t say I came anywhere close to enjoying the classroom activities. I’m glad we had it, and I know I learned a lot about working with groups. Truthfully, when my friend Alex, who serves in Vanuatu in the South Pacific, told me, “Remember, pre-service training bites the big wahn,” I really thought she meant that it was some boring thing that we just had to get through. Not quite. The assignments were very challenging, and we had a rough go with our group, mainly because of one person. Each day was a real test of patience and understanding – at which I sometimes failed, I’m sorry to report. Steve, of course, was very supportive. He’s always rock steady and he didn’t let the problem get in front of him.

Not to worry, however, because NOW we have MADE it, and are about to receive our assignments. We won’t learn of the specific assignment until Tuesday morning, May 24. However, my program manager assured me that I will really like what I’ll be doing, and that it takes advantage of my skills and interests. Yay – maybe Zumba?? Computers?? It seems likely that Steve will do something with the Ministry of Health. They’ll be so lucky to have him, doncha think?

A Day in the Life of a Peace Corps Trainee

Here’s what our “typical” day was in CBT (Community-Based Training).
  • Wake up between 5:00-5:30. Get up soon after, bathe and dress.
  •  Eat a breakfast cooked by Miss Sala, usually a combination of the following: bread (fryjack, toast, sweet bun, or johnny cake), beans, scrambled eggs, turkey or pork bacon, watermelon or papaya or banana, OR my favorite – waffles! We have beans (the smooth refried kind) most mornings.
  • 20- to 30-minute walk to the classroom (depending on how many people we stop to chat with) on that busy highway I keep complaining about. Arrive by 8:00 a.m.
  • Morning activities with our LCF (Language and Culture Facilitator), Tanisia. The majority of this portion is learning Kriol language, through vocabulary lessons, dialogues and role play, and some non-traditional learning activities. Peace Corps calls those NFE – non-formal education. We frequently finish between 10:30-11:00. So we have downtime waiting for lunch when we cas work on our technical assignments. One guy who lived nearby usually leaves for lunch. He takes a nap and a shower and we are always JEALOUS.
Building on far right is our little classroom
  • Lunch for the rest of us, always provided by our host moms, is either a bag lunch or a hot meal delivered at about 12:00. If Miss Sala knows she won’t be able to cook, she “orders” our lunch from the school “cafeteria.” The cafeteria consists of a tiny 8 X 15 dark room next to an open shelter, maybe 20 X 20, with a few picnic tables. I’m not sure what they charge for a hot plate of food (usually rice, slaw and chicken or fish or a tamale-yum!), but I do know that when we had our Health Fair and I got food and drinks for some of the booth vendors it cost BZ$13 for three plates and 5 bottled sodas. That’s US$6.50, folks.
  • After lunch our schedule is not as predictable. We might have someone lecture on a content area (NGOs, government structure, health education used in schools called HFLE or Health and Family Life Education). Many times we have a field trip to keep things interesting. During the second half of CBT, frequently we have had SDL, Self-Directed Learning, when we work on the various assignments and projects on our own or in groups. We take this opportunity to ride the bus in to Belmopan to shop or go to the PC office to get air-conditioning or internet or to print something.
  •  On Fridays everybody goes to Belmopan for the day for instruction that concerns all of us (usually health and safety topics, and facilitation techniques).
  •  Sometimes we come back to the house and do laundry (they say “wash”) or take a nap. We take our showers (yes, most people bathe twice a day) in the late afternoon.
  • Most days we get a “Coke” and las galletas (cookies) from one of the shops near our home. The one across the street is called B and B Shop. For those of you who know me well, you should appreciate how appropriate that name is for me. The shop is one of the few places that has Coke Light. Miss Braselia owns and operates the shop  and she also drives a taxi in the mornings.
  •  Miss Sala helps coach the girls’ softball team in the afternoons, and then does her own workout until about 6:30. So unless I am cooking (rare), supper doesn’t get started till about 7:00, usually another hot meal with rice or potatoes or both, beans, and chicken. Most recently she has fallen in love with STEAMED broccoli and cauliflower. I guarantee you she’s the only Belizean in Camalote who feels this way. We are SO LUCKY. Steve and I usually sit at the kitchen table to eat. Miss Sala always eats her supper in front of the TV.
  •  After supper, Steve and I play around on our computers or read. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, we watch and play Mega-Bingo with her. $2.00 a card, progressive jackpot (last night worth $193,437!), and six ways to win. We are living the culture! Since we started playing, we’ve probably spent $32 for the two of us; sometimes Miss Sala buys our tickets for us. Haven’t even come close to winning anything :--(
  • By 9:00p.m. we’re both droopy and have a lot of trouble staying awake past 9:30. Steve always sleeps straight through. Wish it were true for me. When I wake up between 2:00 and 3:00, I either play games on the laptop or read by flashlight. Problem with either choice – the light attracts the flying insects, which attracts the geckos, which attracts the rat. So I never do either for long.

Haily in the front, Jadyn behind the chair
We’ve gotten close to the little girls next door – Jadyn and Haily, five and three years old. Steve tells them stories on the front steps in the evenings. I like to talk with them about flowers and birds and silly things, or just throw the ball, play hide and seek, or watch them ride their bikes. If we come walking home from school when they’re at home, they come running – “Mr. Steve! Miss Cat!” Big hugs and, “You could tell us a story?” (Kriol way of asking that question.) We’ve been telling them we’re sorry we have to leave but that we want them to come visit us when we get our new house (in Dangriga??). I explained that we plan to have bunk beds for our guests, and described a bunk bed. Jadyn said quickly, “I could sleep on the top?” She’s quiet and sweet. Haily, the bold one, shouted, “I want to sleep on the top!” They’ll probably both sleep up there if we can rig a safety rail.

In Sala's kitchen after getting big girl lip gloss
This weekend we are hosting a Family Appreciation Dinner for all the hosts. Music, entertainment, good food (fried chicken, kalalu, salad, mac and cheese, cornbread, juice, and chocolate cake), at the school cafeteria. Our group will get together for a while on Sunday to work on our last two projects. Monday is a play day at a park, kind of like Senior Day – going cave-tubing.

Well, that’s it for now. Maybe more details than you want, but I really did want you to get a flavor of what we’re experiencing here.
Next time I write, Steve and I will know what we’re going to be doing and where!


Lew said...

It has been wonderful reading about your experiences, regardless of which of you was writing. I had held onto hopes for too long that I might be part of your cohort, but I am now happy that I will be in Macedonia.
Best wishes and go Tar Heels!

Ed said...

I have really enjoyed reading all of your blog! I can't wait to hear about your assignments. Good to see Steve looks good. I could imagine him losing weight, but he looks great.

take care,


Anonymous said...

Hey Cackie! So enjoy your posts and will be thinking of you guys on Tuesday morning when you FINALLY get your assignment -- ohhhh, hope you two are pleased with what they tell you! And LOVE the detail about your experiences -- I'm reading them so keep on a'writing them. I cracked up about why you can't read-by-flashlight for long any night -- too funny. Miss and love you both, Toni

Anonymous said...

Ditto on the pleasure to be had from your posts. Great details and, as far as I'm concerned, never too many. You sound like the ideal PC volunteers! Looking forward to the next chapter. xoxo

Rebecca said...

Ditto on the pleasure to be had from your posts. Great details and, as far as I'm concerned, never too many. You sound like the ideal PC volunteers! Looking forward to the next chapter. xoxo

Jim Weaver said...

Thanks guys for all the information. Following your comments along is "like" living your adventure. Looking forward to hearing about your assignments.