Thursday, September 29, 2011

No got nottin fi do!

Not much going on here, but we don't want anyone to think we've dropped into the Caribbean Sea.

  • Holidays are through for awhile. Independence Day (September 21) celebrations included fireworks, performances, and multiple parades. 
Fireworks started at midnight and lasted about 45 minutes!

Miss Stann Creek

  • The state funeral for the former prime minister of Belize, the Right Honorable George Cadle Price, was held on Monday, September 27. The service was held in Belmopan, the capital (lasted about 3 hours), then the body was transported to Belize City where he was buried with other members of his family.  Here's a nice picture of him as a young man.

  • I think we've made our last major home furnishings purchase. We found these chairs at a store that carries new and used goods from the US. The gal likes to bargain, and we got these chairs for half of her original asking price. Our living room is now very comfortable and is set up for nice social gatherings, don't you think?

  • Thought you might gain some insight into why I talk about traffic and roads so much. Below you will see the map of downtown Dangriga. The main street through town is one-way, south to north. However, the river, North Stann Creek, divides the town, and there are only two bridges. In order to save citizens from having to drive the extra distance to the other bridge when going north to south, an "expert," town council members, and other interested parties came up with the traffic pattern you see in the graphic. Red lines represent one-way, and double-black lines are two-way. The streets not marked are also two-way. Our house on Magoon Street is marked with a star :-) 

  • Steve is battling a nasty skin rash, most likely due to a photosensitivity caused by his blood pressure pills. Burny-itchy-red-dy!
  • My Zumba classes have dwindled to 3 PCVs and one Belizean. I'm hoping it's because September was such a busy month with all the holidays. Strength class is about the same, but we hold all of them.
  • The resource booklet I mentioned in our last blog entry has given me a chance to learn a lot more about Dangriga and its organizations. I have interviewed people from the hospitals and clinics, police department, churches, schools, different social services organizations.

    The most interesting was the police chief. I was dreading that place, kind of intimidated by those guys. He began the interview by telling me (rather sullenly) that they didn't offer services, that people think the police can do everything. I asked him to just describe to me the different branches within the PD and what they do. By the time he got through all of them, we had identified many services they provide (Of course, I knew it all the time, but for some reason he did not start out with the same belief.) In addition to protecting and defending, they also have a community liaison division, a police cadet "club" for kids, a first-time offenders program that offers community service for the offender, scholarships, and it goes on and on. It was time for me to leave and he kept remembering "one more thing" that I ought to know about.
  • Training of trainers starts back up this weekend. I just found out today - Thursday. So I guess I'll hustle to pull something together . . . .

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Sad Loss for Belize

There are several things to write about, but this must be the first. The Father of Independence, The Right Honorable George Price, passed away today. He was 92 years old, and was the first Prime Minister of Belize after their independence from Great Britain. Very much loved. He died just two days before the 30th anniversary of Independence Day. Of course, this is the only news on any radio or television station. LOVE-FM and LOVE-TV have invited anyone who would like to extend their condolences or offer a tribute to write it on their website. The radio and television hosts are reading all of them to the audience.
Holy smokes! It's fresh off the presses, and Wikipedia has already entered the date into his entry.
I was planning to write about our crazy rainy season and other water issues today.
First off - last week's deluge. In the space of 4 days, we had at least 15 inches of rain. It wasn't a slow steady rain. It was hard, stormy downpours that lasted for hours. Sometimes we'd see the sun for a couple hours (just long enough to get fooled into doing a load of wash), and then it would come back full force. Some roads and properties were knee deep (MY knees - and I'm short - so 18 or 20 inches) in water where it couldn't run off. Our backyard was only about 6-8 inches deep. We could hear the dog sloshing around back there chasing crabs and big lizards.

Good news is I got to wear my rainboots a lot, and people were jealous! 
My counterpart, Michele, was very understanding, knew that I had to walk or ride my bike to the office. She said not to worry about coming in until the rain stopped. I finally went in anyway, because it seemed it would never stop! I found that the office was being moved to another location. (Think she was trying to sneak away? Kidding!) We were supposed to move on Thursday of last week, but now it's been delayed for a number of reasons until this Thursday. We'll see. It will be a longer ride for me, but a much nicer place.
People in Belize are different from us when it comes to getting wet. Not all of course, but many believe that if you get wet you will get sick. If you go to work out and get sweaty, they insist that you should not shower while you are sweaty because you will get sick. In other words, "Don't take a cold shower now. Wait until you are dry to take a cold shower."
Here's a story from Steve about water. In an email to his sister, he wrote:
"I have been working on our second bathroom to get it ready for you. You may remember that there is no hot water here. That is not a problem when the temperature runs 88 to 92 most of the time. Lately we have had some evenings with temperatures in the low 70's, and the water is cold. Well, the second bathroom has a "shower shocker" as they call them. It is a local heater that gives warm water out the shower head. It wasn't working, so I checked the power supply, and found it to be okay. I took the unit down and checked the internal switches; they looked okay also. I was about to throw in the towel when Cathy found a video on youtube that was in Spanish but told how to replace the heating element. I found that that was the problem and got a new one for only $14. Now we have hot water there. Next was the problem with the leaking shower doors. They are the sliding kind. I laid a bead of silicone caulk along the inside edge of the track to keep water from coming out from under the track. There was some improvement, but not fixed. I filed a notch on the inside track to encourage accumulated water to go back in the tub. Better, but not perfect. I now think there is leakage through some holes in the track. I plan to seal them with caulk as soon as the track dries out from my last adventure there. I am glad our parents taught us to fix things. I think it is remarkable how people here seem to tolerate stuff that doesn't work and never consider improving it.

Other stuff:

  • The young pikni have started back to school. They look so adorable in their uniforms. Even the youngest preschool students wear them. At three, Patsy's grandson, Tristan, is proud to be looking like the other kids.
  • I have been voted on to the WID/GAD Committee. Stands for Women in Development/Gender and Development. In other words, we work on gender issues in the country - including but not limited to, domestic violence, self-esteem and confidence in girls (with GLOW camps and clubs - that's Girls Lead our World),  gender identification and sexuality acceptance and equality. We want to add camps/clubs for boys and build our capacity (yes, OURS) in promoting safe homes for women in abusive environments.

    Toward that end, we have several initiatives for the next three months. One of them will target International Men's Day, in November. We will try to organize one-time lessons for Standards 5 and 6 (that's about grades 7 and 8) which will focus on Role Models for boys. The committee members will each come up with a lesson plan, talk with the principals and teachers in their district and get permission to deliver the lesson.

    Well, I'm pretty lucky, because we have a group right here in Dangriga, a large group of talented women called POWA. If you're reading this blog, you have already read about the training they are going through for Life Skills. This will be a perfect opportunity to try out their blossoming facilitation skills. I'll keep you updated on how this works out.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

About 30 on the Happy Meter

There are fewer "new" things to write about now that we're settling in to the home and "jobs." If any of you would like to suggest topics you want to hear about Belize or Peace Corps, please post a comment or send an email. We'll see what we can do :-) For now, we'll just let you know what's happened in the past couple of weeks.

I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that I had led some kids through some fun activities at the library summer camp. The theme for the camp was something like "plants and seeds and healthy eating," I think. The focus of my "lesson" was knowing the difference between fruits and vegetables. We pretended that we were captured by pirates and stranded on an island in the Caribbean. The pirates insisted that we learn about plant parts and which were fruits or vegetables. If we did what they demanded, they would give us a treasure map. So the lesson was loosely woven around that premise. We did Zumba - Pirate Treasure, Waka Waka, and a Salsa - throughout the morning. The kids loved that, for sure. We cut open fruits and veggies, tasted them (most had never had broccoli, but ALL wanted to try it). We played pass the balloon (a loud form of hot potato) and learned some fun facts. The treasure map had been ripped, so they had to put it together (like a puzzle) and then find all the parts of the treasure on the island. My able assistant, Ava, had put up signs around the library labeling Snake Lake, Tarantula Cave, Shark Lagoon, Haunted Forest, etc., etc. Anyway, brought the treasure back and it was all the stuff for salsa and chips. 

That was the high point of my two weeks (thus the excruciatingly long description). Here we are with the kids.

Not much else going on work-wise. I am working with a POWA woman, Marie, to gather information which will become a referral booklet. We will get services info from medical, legal, educational, civic, financial and other organizations. I'm hoping to have a big part in the layout and publishing of the booklet, since I have had some experience in that arena.
September is a big holiday month in Belize. It seems like the kids start back to school in late August, then immediately get out for BIG chunks of time. The first weekend, Belize City had Carnival, like a Caribbean Mardi Gras.

The two main holidays are St. George's Caye Day (sometimes called Baymen's Holiday) on the 10th, and Independence Day on the 21st. Here's a short description of the two (totally plagiarized from another website, and I'm too lazy to cite it):

St. George's Caye Day
Celebrates and commemorates a battle in 1798 when the Spanish were defeated by slaves, Baymen and British soldiers. Around the country similar official ceremonies and parades take place. Carnivals, sporting activities, fire engine parade, and pop concerts held several days prior to this event.
Independence Day 
Numerous cultural, religious and sporting activities held a couple of weeks before St. George's Caye Day. Flag-raising ceremonies, parades, street jump-ups, music, dance and foods.

We've been doing a little entertaining, with a couple of overnight guests last weekend, too. So I've been cooking a lot. Except for trying to come up with a variety of dishes, I do enjoy the creation/cooking part. So anybody who has some good recipes that use basic vegetables, fruits, and ingredients, PLEASE share! 

And speaking of the kitchen, here's a word about critters. When we first moved in here, we had no bugs. Not surprising, since there was nothing here to eat! However, we have been discovered and run into quite a few bugs. I picked up a paper towel yesterday morning and a roach ran up my arm. UGGGHHHH. So I danced around in disgust and then gave the bug some medicine. Here he is after the medicine. When I took the picture, he was still kicking a lot. Our accumulation of mosquitoes, roaches, flies, and ants has attracted the geckos! More pictures later - I'm sure you can't wait.

So the title of this entry refers to my general outlook right now. Last Tuesday, I was ready to pack up and come back to the States. You'll laugh when you read the reason; it's so minor. I've mentioned in earlier entries that the environment is very trashy, and that it bothers me a lot. Actually, in our neighborhood it's RELATIVELY clean. Last Tuesday, when the garbage truck (yes, we have garbage pickup here) stopped to get the trash from our can, a pamphlet fluttered out of the can onto the street. The garbage man leaned over to look at it, but left it on the street, and went on to the next house. OK, so I've seen that done in the States, too. BUT - then our downstairs neighbor came in the front gate right behind the truck. He picked up the can to bring it in, leaned way over to see what the pamphlet was, left it, and walked in with the can. Closed the gate. P.S. A few minutes later I went out and picked up the trash.

That basic attitude, a pervasive "what's in it for me?" outlook by a large majority of the people here, and the lack of purpose that I am feeling personally, just sent me into a bad spiral. LUCKILY, I teach Zumba on Tuesday afternoon, so that helped pull me up a little. Whine . . . .

Luckily for you readers, here's Steve's wonderful take on things. He is such an amazing man. I am very happy to be married to him :-)

From Steve:  We are becoming more comfortable in our community with less anxiety about the unknown and the unpredictable.

We had a dinner party for our former host mom and her good friend. Everything turned out great except for one optional dish that only I ate. Afterwards we went to watch the community parade for St. George's Caye Day but unfortunately arrived just after the parade finished. It was still a nice night for a walk and talk with friends.

Things at the Polyclinic have improved tremendously for me. My counterpart and I have been working on a newsletter that has run into lots of obstacles and very little interest. We were able to print one color copy of the newsletter and are at a crossroad in its progress. I think cost of color printing will make each copy an expensive collector's item.

When I mentioned that we could just make it into a video at essentially no cost, my counterpart, Isaac, seemed skeptical. Thanks to simple video software I produced a crude initial effort with local music for the background in a few hours. I talked to several staff members about doing "voice-overs" for the script, and they seemed enthusiastic. We watched a few minutes of the production and drew a crowd. People who had given me blank disinterested looks (about taking movies of them) were no longer camera shy and wanted me to expand the video to include news about their area of the Polyclinic.

We continue to face challenges at home with little tasks of daily living. Often we ask each other where the nearest Walmart or Home Depot could be. Things that could be fixed with no real effort require parts or tools that are not to be found.

Cathy has been amazingly successful in the kitchen with creating a healthy diet with variety that conceals the lack of variety in her resources.

In the midst of feeling lost in a strange place, we are consoled by friends and family who send us their email messages. We are limited in our phone usage since I lost my phone and Cathy has almost no minutes. We are trying to wait until the cell phone carrier has a three for one special on minutes. I hope it will be anyday now.