Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hit the Ground Running

Cathy here (sorry, no pictures this time.) – In case you didn’t catch my Facebook status post on Monday, it said something like, “Who says that starting out with the Peace Corps is slow? By 10:30 this morning I had two training presentations and a one-day commitment to work at a youth camp.” By the end of the day I had added two more trainings.

I arrived at my “office” about 8:00. There are two floors: the downstairs is the Women’s Department (where Michele Irving is the director) and upstairs are several other organizations, all a part of the Ministry of Human Development, what we would call Social Services. Downstairs was locked so I went in through the upstairs entrance, introduced myself to the ladies upstairs, and got their contact information.

Downstairs I started the “group” computer to check out what it could be used for. Michele and I had talked about my teaching the POWA ladies some computer skills. Ten minutes later when it had finished booting, I tried out a few applications. A bootleg copy of Windows XP is installed. I know this because a polite note kept popping up warning me that I might not be using a genuine certified copy of Windows. Every click of the mouse brought a 5- to 15-second wait. Same for when applications, even small ones, were loaded. I tried to see how much RAM and what speed processor it had, but the little executable file that brings up that info was MIA! Internet worked, but too slow – impossible.

Michele blew through about 8:30, rushing to get to Mile 9, a village called Hope Creek. The Women’s Department was sponsoring training for women in making vinegar. (She ended up spending so much time out there this week that I started calling it Vinegarville.) She thanked me for looking at the computer and said we’d talk about it later in the day. Then she was gone and I was on my own. That’s OK – I’m a grownup and can figure out how to manage my time, right?

A steady stream of people came by looking for her, including a guy from BFLA, the Belize Family Life Association. It’s an organization that helps people with sexual and reproductive health. He wanted to confirm with Michele that she was going to teach Monday (the 20th) at his youth camp. The kids were to be “certified” as youth trainers.

After we chatted a while, he asked me if I could teach a session on Youth Advocacy or Youth Participation. Say what??? I told him that I could help with health-related topics. So then he said, “How about Anatomy and Physiology?” and I agreed. Man, I am ready to roll on that topic. Peace Corps gave us pages and pages of material, lesson plans and activities on many topics, ESPECIALLY anything that might relate to sex, drugs and HIV. Monday afternoon, three and a half hours.

Then Stevie called me from the Polyclinic to inform me that he had "volunteered" me to present at the monthly meeting of diabetics, a week from Thursday – Nutrition for the Person with Diabetes. No problem.

And so forth. By the time I received the email (did I mention that Internet speed was fine for me with my little netbook?) from the BFLA guy, he had added another session on essentially the same topic in July at another camp. (By Wednesday of this week he added yet another session on Tuesday, the 21st, on HIV/AIDS.)

Monday afternoon I went over to the office that will one day be the POWA headquarters to meet with Michele, some POWA women and some students from the University of Arkansas. A large group of them are here in Belize for about three weeks to help businesses, co-ops, and other organizations.   POWA wants to produce a product, called POWA Punch, that will allow them to be self-sustainable rather than relying on grants for their various projects.  

The punch is fresh fruit juice – they want to test market watermelon juice, carrot, carambola (star fruit), and pineapple. It’s packaged in a narrow plastic sheath, about 8 inches long, and then immediately frozen. When it’s time to consume, you just bite a tiny hole in one corner and drink or suck it out. It’s meant to compete with what everybody calls “Ideals,” which is colored sugar water like Kool-Ade. Kids pay a shilling (25 cents BZ) for the Ideals, but POWA thinks they’d pay 50 cents for their product. Diabetes is such a huge problem here, so this is just one more step toward improving life in the country. I really want to help them any way I can to promote the product.

The Arkansas students are helping by costing out the production, creating a business plan, and creating a logo and advertisements. The students are having a fun fair for school kids on Friday afternoon, with activity tables and games. POWA will bring a lot of samples and ask questions about which they like best, etc.

So that was Day 1. Ended up taking a walk with Ava and Meghan, a couple of other “Peace Corps” here in Dangriga. Fell asleep early and slept well.

The rest of the week was busy sometimes, and slow others. I’ve got my Zumba class set up for Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30-6:30. There are several – maybe 10 so far – who have told me they’ll be there. I’ll charge BZ $1 for a couple of reasons: 1) People think they’re getting something of worth if they have to pay for it, and 2) I will have to feed batteries to the CD player, big D ones, and they’re expensive. We’re holding class at a bandstand on the Caribbean Sea. Will have a picture in our next entry.

I’ve been walking most mornings with Miss Patsy, our host mom. We are out of the house by 5:30 and we walk about an hour, not very fast, but at least it’s moving. On some nights I walk again with Peace Corps, and soon we’ll have the Zumba! Just need to add some resistance training to get back my muscle tone. Since we arrived on May 25, I’ve lost 12 pounds. Steve has lost 28 pounds!!

One last note before I sign off. Today is Saturday, June 18. Patsy is cooking food for 250 people today. It’s for a ceremony called Ninth Night, originally intended to be held in honor and memory on the ninth day after someone is buried, but not always adhered to regarding the timing. There were four other women helping almost the whole day. Steve and I helped a little with the baloney sandwiches and the soup. They also made barbeque chicken, rice and beans, and macaroni salad. I’ve never seen food prep on this scale. It’s now almost 8:00, and they’ve been going since about 8:00 this morning. She is a very very kind woman.

All the women spoke Garifuna the entire day, only a little Creole. Cool!

Patsy is taking us to the Ninth Night. We’ll go about 9:00 and all the eating will start about 10:00 or 11:00. There will be lots of drumming and some dancing. I guess Steve and I won’t stay all night. She’ll stay until she’s too tired, probably very late.

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