Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sex is Just a Math Lesson

I can promise no redeeming social value NOR cohesiveness to this blog entry, Folks. Just some pictures and a hodge-podge of items :-)

  • I have had two weeks of teaching HFLE (Health and Family Life Education) since our last entry. I am enjoying my time in the classroom, even the trying times. For 3 of the 5 different groups I am teaching basic Sex Ed - that is, puberty, anatomy, safe sex, HIV, and relationship skills. When we start into this track, we have one lesson where we ask the class to work in three groups to create a list of what they have learned about sexuality - one from their families, one from their friends, and one from the media. The highlight of my first class, from a 13-year-old girl:

    Sex is just a math lesson. Add the bed, subtract the clothes, divide the legs, and multiply the cells."
    Love it!

  • Steve has been busy lately, working with a young woman from HECOPAB (Health Education and Community Participation Bureau). He and other PolyClinic people and PCVs have gone out to villages (house to house) and schools, primarily to talk about hepatitis and hygiene. He also presented at a workshop for Community Health Workers. This is work that he loves! Because he's always the one taking pictures, he's not in these snapshots.

KC Mcauliffe, PCV from Independence Village, teaching about

This is Mariza Allamilla, the HECOPAB director for Stann Creek
District. She's teaching about washing hands. Wash your hands for
as long as it takes to sing the Birthday Song TWO times.

  • Last weekend, our host mom, Sala Longsworth, and her best friend Beka Jones and two daughters came to visit us in Dangriga. Good times!

Beka standing, Jadyn, Haley and Sala

Glitter eyes - Jadyn

Face Painting - Haley
  • This week Steve and I attended a meeting at HelpAge, an NGO supporting seniors in Belize. After the meeting, I gave them a sample of Zumba! We may decide to have a regular class for the members starting next month.

Waka Waka
  • The puppies are getting SO big -  some of them over 6 pounds. They were all about 1/2 pound when born six weeks ago. I've given names to them just so I can keep track when I'm giving them special attention, like holding, deworming medicine, walks. Our dog, Fu We Dog, is the cutest (I felt compelled to include that observation) and smallest.

    One of the puppies has been given away - the big male, Africa. Not my choice to do it so early, but it happened. Good luck, Africa!

    We have begun the weaning process, and it's a LOT of work! The mother, Princess, wants to eat the puppies' food, so I have to tie her while they eat. She yelps and yodels the whole time. IF there is any left over, she gets it, but that's pretty rare these days.
  • Beginning Friday, the puppies became bold enough to climb the long tall staircase to our back door (where Princess hides from them when she needs a rest). I was NOT happy about it, because the side of the staircase is open and they could easily fall off. At the beginning, we just pulled across a wooden gate that was already there to block off the stairs near the bottom. That worked until today when most of them made it to the top and the others were on their way up. They were outside the door crying.

    SO - Steve went to work trying to block them. The first attempt held them back for about 20 minutes. Readjust our thinking - just improve the existing gate, right? No luck. They were back up within a half-hour. This time, Steve went down with all his tools, and extra boards, and I don't know what-all. He came back with a self-satisfied smile. I felt confident that I could take my shower and not worry about getting dirty hauling puppies around again.

    By the time I got out of the shower, the puppies were yelping. Steve and I went out on the side porch and looked out on the back steps. There were two puppies trying to get through the gate. There was one puppy inside the gate, and looking back at the other two. We looked all the way to the left, and saw another one all the way at the top, looking back at us and wagging. Steve said with a sigh, "Puppies 3, Steve 0."
Anthony and Princess
Steve and a pile of puppies

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Change of Plans, Saying Goodbye to Kirstin, and Puppies (of course)

There's been a change of plans - my plans, Peace Corps' plans for me. My original assignment was to work with POWA, a women's advocacy and empowerment group. I thought it was a dream come true, made to order for me.

I was the only one dreaming. To put it in the most positive light, they do not need a PCV. Their organization is well-developed and runs smoothly. I had very little to do and the connection seems to have dried up.

So I have spent the last two or three months trying to decide what to do. I'm not sure if PC management will try to find another official assignment for me. Some might think that it's a pretty nice situation to have expenses paid just to laze around in this tropical land. Many people say, "Well, part of your assignment is cultural. You get to know the people and they get to know you." That's true; the Peace Corps' mission has three simple goals:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the Americans.

So the project stuff is only one-third of the work. I feel like I have done a halfway decent job of getting to know the POWA women, our neighbors, and others here in Dangriga. According to my friend, Kirstin, who just finished her service, I can make a difference in people's health just by being a friend and setting examples. WOW - that sounds easy! She told me that in her first two years of service Burkina Faso (she was here in Belize for her 3rd year extension), that she had very little "work," per se. So she spent lots of time "hanging out" with the women in the village. As they talked, inevitably health topics arose in the conversation, and she used that opportunity to provide little tidbits of information. She said that over the two-year time she saw behavior change, an occurrence which makes every health sector volunteer's heart go pitter-patter.

But my type-A personality won't let me settle for living life as a retired person and setting a good example. I want to be "working."

So I've been job hunting. Kirstin is the one who suggested that I find schools that would like help teaching HFLE, Health and Family Life Education. Now this part of the school curriculum is intended to be taught by the regular classroom teachers, typically in Standards IV, V, and VI (that's middle school,  6th, 7th and 8th grades in the States). However, the topics within the curriculum make some teachers uncomfortable - sexual and reproductive health and puberty, sexuality, intercourse, HIV/AIDS and STIs.

I have easily located three schools that welcome my help. I might venture that I could offer my teaching services at any school, and the teachers would love to have an hour off once in awhile.

  • Kids First is a small private school. I will be teaching Stds. IV-VI all in one class, about 18 kids.
  • Gulisi is a relatively new school, managed by the Garifuna National Council (Read about them at I will teach three separate classes, Stds. III-V, on three separate days. Each class has 18-21 students. They will not have a Standard VI class until next year as the kids age up.
  • Solid Rock is a church-based school. I will teach Standard VI only, 21 kids, two days a week.
I start this coming Monday, January 16. Now some people would argue that teaching this way is not "sustainable," another term you will hear over and over if you hang around Peace Corps purists. We should be teaching the teachers how to do it, so they can carry on after we leave. Two ways to look at this. First, the Ministry of Education and Peace Corps have held multiple-day workshops over the past several years to train teachers in HFLE curriculum. That's the ideal way to handle this need, but so far it doesn't seem to be taking hold very well, at least not in any schools I have visited. Second, in the meantime, I can teach the kids directly and most likely WILL effect behavior change because they are hungry for any knowledge especially about SEX. These kids will go on to lead healthier lives, and serve as examples to their peers and teach their children, too. Maybe. So that sounds pretty sustainable to me.

I'm pretty passionate about the non-sex topics as well. All those life skills  that I've been talking about in earlier blog entries are important in a healthy and productive life (communication, relationship, and decision-making skills, knowing how to cope with stress and grief, dealing with peer pressure). I've got one heck of a good lesson I wrote on Respect. Can't wait to try it out.

So I'll keep everyone posted on how things go. Wish me luck!

As a related issue, I will include this letter to the editor of The Amandala, from an irate parent, someone who thinks that we are not teaching correctly.

Dear Editor,
I am extremely furious that the school curriculum in Belize is teaching our children to be homosexuals. As a parent, I blame myself for not being vigilant enough to know the content of my child’s classes.
But I direct the weight of my anger at the Ministry of Education, which portrays innocence when this immorality is brought to light. Who gave the Peace Corps the authority to dictate our school content?
It is clear today that the Peace Corps are indeed spies that are here to carry out an American agenda of God knows what all. These things are being brought to light bit by bit, and those of us who were happy that America voted in its first Black President are now seeing what the white Americans knew. He is indeed the Antichrist!
But coming back to the reason for my rage: I, like many other parents, demand answers. We must call the Ministry of Education, even the church-state schools, to task. Didn’t the teachers know the content of this course? Can’t they read and comprehend?
If the answer to these questions is “no”, I will believe the report that several of our teachers failed the PSE a few years aback. This, too, explains why many young adults cannot read and can barely think after leaving school.
The Ministry of Education is doing us an injustice! Our education should conform with the societal needs, business demands, and capacity-building technologies. Indeed, we are far from developing our Third World country constructively.
Instead, we are more progressive in teaching children how to admire the physical attributes of their same-sex classmates, and how to prepare for sexual intercourse. How pitiful, distasteful and criminal.
May I remind parents and the Ministry of Education that this curriculum content is illegal because homosexuality is, at this time, still illegal in Belize. An urgent commission of inquiry is in order!
If Faber sees no need for this, we can file a lawsuit.
(Signed) Jasmine Orosco


Kirstin in the center
We said farewell to a special woman last weekend, Kirstin Krudwig. She helped Steve and me so much as we tried to find our way through Peace Corps Land. AND she and I both love to exercise, so we spent a fair amount of time doing Zumba, strength workouts, jogging and walking. She helped me with different crafts projects, including those bracelets I made for the POWA women. She's now back in the States (Wisconsin - heard that on her first full day back it snowed!) and will be moving to Washington, DC, soon. Her special man is there, too, so she is starting out her new life in a very happy place!  Here are a few pictures from our farewell party.

Steve and me, Kirstin, Meghan V, and Ava

View from the Pelican Resort where we had dinner

I drew this picture as a going-away picture for Kirstin.
This is where we had our Zumba classes, right by the sea.
And . . . as promised - MORE PUPPY PICTURES!
Their first day out of the doghouse as a group.
Their eyes had been open about 5 days.
They still stayed in a group for everything.
Same day. With Fu We Dog
Anthony with Fu We's sister
Princess being assaulted by the litter of 7.
Usually once the mother starts nursing them while standing up,
that means it's time to start weaning the pups. We don't have a
picture of her walking away while they try to hang on, but it's a
pretty hilarious sight!
All 7 puppies having their "solid" food. It's actually a mix of softened
puppy chow blended with water and dog milk replacement powder.
Who knew there was such a thing AND that you could get it in
There are no words . . .
Of the seven puppies, 5 are female and 2 are male. OR, as Anthony likes to say, "Five are females, and two are a MAN."


Here are some random pictures we forgot to post before. And my apologies to my dear Aunt Jean who has a dial-up connection for the Internet. I know these pictures really slow her down :-( but I always get so many comments on the pictures, so I like to include them.

Christmas Eve - Rafi and me
Christmas Eve - Steve and Anthony
Stann Creek leading to the Caribbean Sea. In the center in the
distance is Why Not Island. I'm treated to this view every morning
during my walk.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Home-improvement projects on a shoe-string budget

Cathy and I are very grateful for the tools sent to us by my sisters and Cathy’s son. We have a great collection for basic projects.

Cathy teaches Zumba classes in the park by the sea and got a speaker-amplifier donated since she serves in the Peace Corps. Unfortunately it is heavy and has tiny wheels suitable only for rolling over smooth floors rather than Dangriga streets which have an occasional pothole. The break-through on this project was a set of bicycle training wheels from the cycle store. The wheel brackets are held to the wood frame with lag screws, and a couple of bungee cords secures the unit to the frame. We had to pay for the wheels ($16 BZ) and the boards ($9).

The shelves in Cathy's "crafts room" are made from one beautiful mahogany board, one foot wide and cut in two equal lengths. The boards are supported with crates and plastic buckets. The crates were donated by a friend here and the buckets were purchased at the Saturday market. This was our big splurge - $40 BZ.

Before we had any chairs we would sit in bed and read, but we couldn't lean against the window screens at the head of the bed without damaging them, and the lighting was not good after dark. So we made a headboard for the bed with three cross pieces attached to two uprights that are tucked into the valance to keep them in place. Mahogany, of course. They also provide support for a clip-on light to make it easier to see when we read in bed. Cost - $35.

Lighting in the kitchen was limited to an overhead fixture and a low watt bulb in the hood of the stove. Fortunately there are several duplex outlets that lend themselves to added lighting. For the counter next to the stove I mounted a light bulb socket on one side of a wood scrap and a surface mounted switch on the other side and suspended it from the under side of the cabinet. A short extension cord completed the connection. A similar set-up over the sink is shaded by a board that keeps the light from shining directly into the face of the person washing dishes. We paid about $5 for the wood, and $4 for the electrical parts.

We borrowed two of the sliding closet doors for tables. One is supported by three plastic sitting stools, and the other is supported on two crates at one end and by a small shelf unit made from a scrap board on the other end. Cost - $0.

I helped build a doghouse for Princess and her 7 puppies. A neighbor two houses down donated some scrap boards that looked like they had been used for a concrete form, and a neighbor across the street donated two pieces of galvanized roofing metal (known here as “zinc”). I cut the boards (mahogany, no less), and the dog owner, Anthony, drilled the holes and drove the screws. The only cost was for the screws - donated by Nancy and Carol.

We teamed up the same way to build three raised garden boxes for Ms. Loretta, a friend of Rafaela (Anthony’s mom and our landlady). The wood was rough cut and still wet, but it has beautiful grain and color. Ms. Loretta paid for everything.

Most recently we got an idea from Linda, another PCV who has been giving art lessons to Cathy. She wanted a drawing board made from Masonite. It works well for watercolor, graphite and colored pencils, and other art media.  The drawing paper can be mounted on the board. She suggested one small enough for carrying in a back pack and another larger one with a handle cut out for easy carrying. Masonite was $25 for a 4' X 8' piece.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

And Yet Another All-Night Concert

Happy New Year, everyone! This has been a fun week, and I want to share some of the highlights.

We continue to watch the newborn puppies. Tomorrow they will be two weeks old. They are just starting to open their eyes. I just learned that puppies EARS open at about the same time; they have no hearing yet until that time, only smell, touch, and a little taste.

They have become much more active when they are awake, and do not always sleep in one big lump of puppies. Sometimes they spread out into two or three smaller lumps. We have selected which puppy will be ours. Even though she is the runt of the litter, she is growing very well and she is the most active, already tottering forward on her four splayed out legs. Her coloring matches her mother's. We are going to name her Fu We Dog, which in Kriol means Our Dog, FuWe for short (accent is on the second syllable). Please prepare for more dog pictures. I WILL be an obnoxious dog owner.

Some of the bracelets. I made about 12.
We had an easy week (what else is new?), but much interaction with our Belizean neighbors and friends. I had made some bracelets for the POWA women, and delivered those around town. They were fun to make (Kirstin helped with them), and extra fun to see everybody over the holidays.

On Friday we traveled to Belmopan to visit with another PCV couple, Ken and Mickie Post. This is their second tour of PC duty, having also served in Jamaica 30 years ago (??). They met and married in Jamaica. It's fun to hear their stories of the Peace Corps "back in the day." While we were there, we visited the McCords for a little pre-New Year's party. Paul McCord is the work partner for another PCV, Shaz Davison. They work with an organization called VOICE, a seniors advocacy group. Paul's wife, Aurora, is a charming hostess, and the perfect foil for Paul's dry wit. We had lots of snacks and dinner, and then had a fun time with a game called Po-Ke-No - kind of Bingo with cards.

Cathy and Steve, Aurora and Paul McCord, Mickie and Ken Post,
 Shaz  Davison
By the way, Aurora made all the decorations on that tree. They are crocheted doilies. Really pretty up close. The top I'm wearing in the picture is a very popular Belizean style, a gift from our neighbor, Rafi.

The next day, we and the Posts went to San Ignacio Town for a Festivus celebration at Gabe and Shannon Wheeler's home. They are another married PCV couple. PCVs from all over Belize came to the party, so we had a great visit with folks in a nice relaxed atmosphere.

We did NOT do the true Festivus party, Seinfeld version. Gabe and Shannon had more upbeat activities (and lots of food and drink). They called them Lawn Olympics, and they got the games from a website that had Win It in a Minute-type competition. For instance in the Shoe Kick, we had to see who could kick their shoe the farthest. Steve won that one. We don't know which team came out on top, because we left early. I DO know that PCVs can be VERY competitive when presented with the right combination of challenges.

So - back on the bus to Dangriga. Crowded, hard rain, bad roads. I was a little alarmed by the dangerous combination, but we got home and went to Kirstin's house to snack away, watch the Times Square entertainment on her TV, and cheer TWICE for New Year - the New York midnight and the Belize midnight. For the Belize countdown, televised from Belize City, the host held up a big plastic clock, with a sweep second hand, and counted down the last 60 seconds. Wish I had a picture to show you . . . .

More New Year's Eve pictures:

Can't remember what's going on here. We were probably
goggling at Lady Gaga
Rafi, her son Anthony, and her friend, Nicole,
were just back from church when we got home
from Kirstin's house.
As you might have gathered from the title of this blog entry, we were blessed with a concert from the riverside opposite our house. It started about 12:30 and went till 5:00a.m.. I'm learning to get those earplugs in pretty tight, but it still doesn't block the sound at that decibel level. It's Dangriga!