Sunday, June 24, 2012

Steve's Turn to Write about Life in the Fast Lane

This has been a week full of excitement for me. At the Polyclinic staff meetings, the administrator has been asking each of the work sections to produce an educational program that can be played through the TV monitor in the waiting room. Our video for the nutrition section, which I created, is about 10 minutes long and has great music in the background. The still pictures have simulated motion with zoom or zoom and pan (Ken Burns effect). The weak link is still the narration which is done in my foreign sounding voice. It is hard to persuade a native speaker to do the voice-over, although it would clearly add credibility to the educational message. We still have time before the administrator’s deadline.

Screen shot from the movie

We seem to be well into the rainy season with really heavy rain early in the week. I was amazed to see the torrent that Stann Creek has become. It was amusing to see the birds riding chunks of debris zinging along in search of food.

Tylon, my work counterpart, and I went to Belmopan for three days of Peace Corps training on project design. I learned a tremendous amount of material from dreaming about making a change in some little part of human society all the way through goals, objectives, evaluation and management to writing an effective grant proposal and finding funding sources that share some common interest. We worked together on our own project and had extra help from Ms. Carmen Silva who is in charge of the grant program at the US embassy.

Me with Tylon and Carmen Silva
Helmuth Castro, on "loan" to us from Peace Corps Honduras

We also had great team-building activities. One of my favorites was a competition between two blind man’s buff teams. It was a quiz, and the various answers were taped to the wall at the other end of the room. The blind-folded team member had to find the sheet with the answer on it. The answerer of the question could see the seeker and the answers but could only give directions with hand signs to the speaker on the team who could not look at the wall or the blind-folded team member. What a great way to make learning fun!

Blind Man's Buff. In the background you can see Mickie Post, one
of the PCVs trying to manhandle her opponent to win the game ;-)
Since she weighs less than 90 pounds, we felt the strategy was a gamble.
For a culture exercise we had a dance break led by Des and Gwen, who both work for the Ministry of Education. Des is also with the professional dance group we have seen perform the traditional Garifuna dances. I tried to shoot video and dance at the same time but finally gave up in favor of trying to learn to dance.

On Saturday we had a work-day in Hopkins village. Several other volunteers also gathered to paint the building at the Sandy Beach women’s co-op restaurant, which is Meghan’s main project. The ladies also taught us cooking lessons in Garifuna native dishes. Cathy pitched in to pound the boiled plantain to make hudut, to be eaten with the fish soup.

Here is Cathy mastering the mortar and pestle.
Belizeans call it the mahtah.

Ken Post and Meghan partaking of the hudut and fish stew.

We had also hoped to see Meghan’s dog Belikin who is a sister puppy to our FuWe Dog, but she was out on a walk with a neighbor, and we missed her.

Several other events were notable. One was dinner last night with the other two married couples in Peace Corps Belize. I still cannot believe that none of us took a picture. This morning our dog got a bath. It is probably the last bath she will get in the plastic tub that she has outgrown. Fortunately Breezie was there with the camera for all of us to enjoy again. 

Future baths will be outside with the water from the
rain barrels. FuWe is now 35 pounds!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Beautiful Plants of Belize

The rainy season brings more than just mildew and blue crabs. All the trees and shrubs that were just staggering along have awakened to Belize's "spring" season. I'm feeling pretty lazy today, so it seems like a good day for PICTURES. We've accumulated quite a few, so we'll share!

For your viewing pleasure.  Please do click on the pictures so you can see them at full size. Sorry, sorry, sorry, Aunt Jean. I know this is going to wreak havoc on your dial-up connection.

Everybody's favorite, the Flamboyant Tree (sometimes called the Royal Poinciana), are everywhere in Belize. Main flower color is orange, but sometimes we see them in yellow, white and purple.

 Banana trees and coconut palms.

In our front yard

Other palms.

Cohune tree. Provides fronds for thatching, and fruit
for very high cholesterol oil. Wood for furniture and
Decorative shrubs and bushes.


Every kind of hibiscus you can imagine

Bougainvillea. The "bountiful" time for bougainvillea is still ahead
of us. Sometimes the spiky vines look like they are taking over the
front of a building.

Don't know what this is, but ain't it pretty? Some kind of coleus?

Looks like clematis
Crape myrtles are popular, but they have trouble with so much rain.
They don't like "wet feet." (See the flamboyant tree behind?)

Crape myrtle and a mix of others
 And just some plain old flowers.

Vinca (periwinkle) is very popular

Everybody has some of these, but I don't know what they are.

White lilies grow wild everywhere

 Ornamental trees.

Camouflaging the outhouse??

And MANGOS. Belizeans loves mango and children gleefully climb the trees to retrieve them. Or find something to reach with.
This is our neighbor's tree, heavily laden. And the reason there is
fruit still there is because they have a really mean pit bull to protect it.
He got several mangos from this effort :-)
Happy Father's Day, everybody!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Halfway Day

Well, today marks one year in our assignment, with one year to go. Steve and I celebrated last night with a $25 BZ bottle of Chardonnay!

It seems appropriate to list a few landmarks and firsts that happened over the last year.

  • For Cathy - Raised a litter of puppies.
  • For Bofus - Ate some exotic dishes - iguana, barbecued alligator, hudut
  • For Cathy - Did art for money ;-) (kids paid money at a fund raiser for face painting)
  • For Steve - Pushed himself to try something really different - face painting. He did NOT want to do it, but decided it would build character. Not sure if he'll ever get talked into it again.
  • For Bofus - Realized that we can be fully functional without hot water - for two years!
  • For Bofus - Some new vaccinations - Rabies!
  • For Bofus - Played MegaBingo.
  • For Cathy - Photographed all the bars and brothels in Bella Vista.
  • For Steve - Had the front wheel stolen from his bicycle.
  • For Bofus - Showed our families around Belize. We were really proud to show off this country!
  • For Bofus - In October, we had to get a blanket because it was getting down to 70 degrees at night.
  • For Steve - Went nit-picking. Washed the heads of 110 kids to get rid of lice.
The past two weeks have been relatively uneventful. I'm still writing writing writing. Steve still goes in to the Polyclinic every day, and SOMETIMES has something to do or a place to go. Look below for a nice description of a trip he took this past week.

Doggy Stuff

The rainy season came early this year. Along with the rainy season, we welcomed the blue crabs to our yard. They live in deep holes in the sand back there, and there seems to be an endless supply of them! They are big big suckers, with HUGE claws. Our dog, FuWe Dog, and her mother, Princess, now have great play toys. They love to corner the crabs and harass them. 

Last week, Steve and I stood on our back porch watching the whole drama of the dogs making the big moves on the crabs, laughing like crazy. All of sudden, FuWe started yelping LOUD, and spinning around and around. Then she ran up the steps to us with a big crab claw hanging from her lip. I would have got a picture to share, but FuWe was pretty insistent that we go ahead and get the claw off. 

The event has not seemed to squelch her enthusiasm for crab play - especially in the middle of the night :-(  These five pictures are worth five thousand words - give or take.

Girls Club

My friend Aidra and I are planning to start a girls club at the end of June. We will invite 8 girls, all around 11 or 12 years old. We are hoping to help the girls with a lot of life skills, but we don't want the meetings to be preachy or like school. That was one complaint we both had with the Pink POWA meetings - too school-y. We are of the opinion that the girls will gain in self-esteem and learn leadership skills just by being a part of a quality group and by the examples that Aidra and I will set.

We'll have some fun games and ice breakers, some silly, some challenging. We plan to have some dancing or Zumba, some music and culture exposure, and some crafts or art. Each meeting I will do something with music from another country, explaining a little about the culture of that country and maybe talking about the lyrics and meaning of the song. Aidra will focus specifically on the Garifuna culture, either with dancing, food, stories, but emphasizing the traditional Garifuna values. 

Every meeting we'll try to have something that the girls 

make to take away with them. I hope that we'll be able to focus on some self esteem issues, or people we admire, what makes a leader. We also hope to have some real artists come in to talk with the girls - expose them to some of the talent right here in Dangriga. 

We have high hopes. No doubt I will find occasion to write about this some more.  


In addition to the rain, we are having some very hot days!

Here's Steve's story:

Friday I went with the public health inspector, the HECOPAB trainer, and met the community health worker in a village up the valley because their water system was testing positive for enteric bacteria. Some of the people were getting gastro-enteritis from drinking it. 

Armed with brochures, we went door-to-door throughout the whole village to ask people not to drink the water without boiling it or treating it with a little bleach to kill the organisms. We started out in pairs with a Spanish speaker in both groups and gradually transitioned to individual efforts. My little bit of Spanish was enough to get the message across, and some homes had a child who was bi-lingual to help me. 

It was especially nice to get to talk with the community health worker as we walked along. I learned a tremendous amount of information about her family and the village. 

It was a hot day with a heat index over 100 degrees. I drank a huge amount of water and produced the most sweat I have seen in years. My hat, shirt, and trousers part way to the knees were all soaked. When I got home I rewarded myself with a seat in front of a fan and a liter of ORS (oral re-hydration salts) over ice. 

When we signed up for Peace Corps we were told that we would do a lot of walking, and I am really grateful for comfortable shoes.