Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Saturday was a relaxing a fun day. We drove in Punta Gorda in the morning to shop and experience Market Day. Many of the people from the remote villages leave their homes as early as 4:30 am to take the bus to PG to shop for produce and other supplies. Trying to maneuver our big van through the crowded streets is quite a challenge, Ann is an excellent driver!
We bid farewell to the sisters at the Nazareth Retreat Center and headed over to Tranquility Lodge. We were in for quite a treat! The Lodge is set way back in the rain forest and is lovely. There are four rooms in the air conditioned main lodge and three thatch casitas. We pull keys out of a basket to decide who gets each room. Marilyn/Emily, Anita/Sam and Nick were the lucky ones (haha) who got the thatch huts. The owner told us to be sure to pull the mosquito nets over the beds, not for mosquito protection, but to keep off the iguana poop that might fall from the ceiling.
The new owners of Tranquility Lodge, Lee and Suzanne, are amazing people who made us feel right at home. They cooked a delicious lunch of chicken wings, nachos and salad. After having no salad all week, I know most of us were pretty excited to see lettuce. After lunch we headed to Cyrila's Chocolates. This is one of the projects from the Micro-loan program. We learned all about the cacao plant and how it is grown and harvested in the rain forest, and well as the ecology of organic farming. We got to try our hand at shelling the roasted cacao beans, which is much harder than it looks! We then made chocolate by hand, using the ancient method of grinding the beans on specially shaped stones. We even got to sample our hand made chocolates. Cyrila's makes several kinds of chocolates, all of which have a high percentage of cacao and ad are delicious. We purchased some to bring home, we'll see who of you are lucky enough to get some.
Dinner was at a the Mangrove, a seaside restaurant in PG. After dinner and a few loud games of table top shuffleboard, it was off to bed. It turns out that it is VERY dark and VERY loud in the rain forest at night, especially when a huge rainstorm comes in at 3 am! Nick slept through it, but Marilyn and Emily discovered that there is not much sleeping done in a leaky thatch hut in a huge thunderstorm (Sam and Anita wimped out and bunked in extra beds in the AC rooms!) Some of the group had planned to head to the ruins on Sunday morning, but after the bad storm were worried about the condition of the roads an decided to cancel that plan. This turned out to be a good idea. Lee, the owner, reported to us that the young woman who was supposed to come in from Jacintoville to help cook had called to report that the road to Tranquility Lodge was completely under water and impassible! This meant that we were all stuck there until the water receded!!!! No panic yet! Several people went down to check the water and it looked to be about five feet deep and completely covering the only entrance to the Lodge.
We had planned to leave around 11:00 to head out to San Lucas for mass at 1:30, and visiting with our friends in the village. We had a number of pictures, school supplies and other things to deliver there and in Santa Teresa. We kept ourselves busy all day with a shuffleboard tournament, complete with Olympic music and team photos. Lee checked the water every hour or so and it was slowly going down. By 2 pm the road was open, but with over an hour ride each way out to San Lucas, the unknown height of other river crossing and the threat of more rain, we made the hard decision to fore go the trip. This was a really tough decision as we were all looking forward to a proper goodbye to our friends in San Lucas and Santa Teresa :(
We packed up the supplies and drove into town to leave them with Dorla Bowman to deliver later this week. We were all more than a little concerned about the threat of more rain and the possibility that we would have to wade out of the Lodge! So we had Frances, the owner of the bus company, drive in on Saturday evening and we loaded up all of the big suitcases for him to lock in the bus overnight (on high ground!)
Headed in to dinner at Asha's by the Sea, a restaurant literally built on a dock, we could see the bay through he slats in the boards under our feet! In the typical small world fashion we have come to expect, we discovered that Asha's wife (a marine biologist who helps out at the restaurant) was actually from St Peters, MO! A huge storm blew in while we finished dinner which made the drive back to the lodge really interesting. Again, we are all amazed by Ann's fine driving skills. The highlight (or perhaps lowlight for Judy) was when a large lizard fell from the thatch ceiling right on her shoulder! She was much calmer than Anita, who ran, screaming, in the opposite direction! We like to think the lizard was more traumatized than we were, but I doubt it!
We managed to squeeze everybody in the AC rooms and got a few hours sleep before our 4:30 am departure time! We all went to bed praying that we would not be wading out to the road to meet the bus! Our hosts, Lee and Suzanne, had hot coffee and cold water bottles to send with us, the rain held off, we had an uneventful ride to Belize City, no problems going through Customs, and on time flights all around. Whew, that is the most stressful part of the trip!
It was hard to say goodbye to this great bunch of people. Everyone was so flexible and so willing to jump in and adapt to the ever changing plans. We have so many reasons to say BANTIOX (thank you!)
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Thursday, June 28, 2012
This morning we finally dropped off the infamous blue paint at Santa Teresa! From there we drove on to San Lucas for a school mass and the graduation ceremony for the three students graduating from Standard 6 and moving on to high school. The mass was lovely, with all of the songs and prayers in the native Kekchi. It is interesting that many of the people from the village make a point to give the sign of peace to every visitor in the church. Miss Dorla Bowman gave the graduation speech and the while village celebrated by cooking and sharing a delicious lunch with us. We had caldo and potch (a cornmeal type loaf wrapped in banana leaves, delicious!)
After lunch we visited a number of homes and purchased wooden bowls, bracelets and other crafts. Then we drove to Santa Teresa and were treated to another lunch!! This time we were served rice and beans, it was spicy and very good. The head of the Parent Association treated us to lunch in his home and a few of the teachers tried to teach us the Punta dance moves popular here. Sam entertained us all with her dance moves, we are not sure exactly where those are popular!
We were surprised when we arrived in San Lucas and found that the men had painted the entire outside of the school building this morning! The light blue looks great with the dark green shutters and doors.
Tomorrow is Art Camp at St Peter Claver in Punta Gorda and working on the Hope Center. It is hard to believe that we only have one more day to work with our friends here :(
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Started the day back at the hardware store hoping to pick up the paint that had been ordered on Monday. All we knew is that the paint was, supposedly, on the bus. After standing around for an hour, we found out that the paint was, in fact, put on a bus in Belize City yesterday. That was the good news. The bad news was that the bus was still sitting in Belize City along with our paint. So after a very late start, we arrived in Santa Teresa. We worked on Pen Pal letters with all of the students and had all of the kids "shop" for new flip flops. They call them "slippers." It is interesting that the boys are fine with pink slippers or glittery ones.
While we were working on that, the construction crew was busy repairing some doors and shutters. The guys were amazed that the shutters on the school are made of MAHOGANY! This is a local wood and is plentiful. The men started with a big chunk of wood and used a chain saw to cut it down into boards. Quite a sight to see. Meanwhile, Ann, Nick, Emily and Kris headed down to San Lucas. They were only a few minutes down the road when a can of paint that was in the van rolled, hit the door and exploded! Of course this was the oil based paint that was actually going to be returned to the hardware store. Our ever resourceful team member, Kris, had the brilliant idea to cut off the bottom pant legs of her scrubs to use to clean up the mess! Between that, baby wipes and some used lunch bags, they were back on their way in no time! In San Lucas they read a story, worked with wooden block letters and built construction paper roller coasters. The biggest hit of the day was the parachute activities. Thanks to donations from the students at St Dominic, we were able to get a LARGE parachute. The entire school was able to play with it at the same time. The kids had a great time and the teachers were exhausted!
After lunch at Santa Teresa Donna and Randy helped the little kids make Play Doh shapes and decorate paper dolls to look like the children. Anita, Judy and Donna worked with the older children on two Readers Theater presentations. The Standard 3 students practiced and presented The Giving Tree and the older children presented an Asian Folktale called The Deer Mouse.
It was a full day!
On the way home, we took a detour to the village of Aquacate to check out the roof of the church there. In January one of the men from the village made a request that we help the village repair the roof. The road to Aquacate makes most of the other roads in the country look like city streets!
Sam was able to spend the day with a Physical Therapist from the Hillside Clinic. They visited an 8 year old patient in his home in Laguna, made another home visit in Punta Gorda and stopped in at the clinic in San Pedro Columbia. Many women here wind up needing PT for their necks and backs since they carry their babies in a sling balanced on their head.
The highlight of the day might have been the cold bottles of Coke on the way home, might not have been the coldest bottle ever, but might have been one of the best!
Tomorrow is Mass/graduation at San Lucas followed by lunch and then an invitation for a second lunch at Santa Teresa! We are so blessed.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
So we continued on to San Lucas, arriving just about 20 minutes before their lunch break. Dropped off Anita, Ann, Kathy and Judy, the rest of the crew drove on to Santa Teresa. When they arrived in Santa Teresa, Bill, Bob, Nick and Randy were excited to discover that the men in the village had completed all of the indoor painting except for two rooms (they ran out of paint), and also about half of the outdoor trim. The teaching group, Sam, Donna, Marilyn, Emily and Kris were not so happy to discover that there were NO students at school. They had been dismissed at noon for Report Card Day. Good thing we always have a Plan C!
The whole group wound up back in San Lucas, thirteen team members in a school of about 60 kids! We made sock puppets with the little kids and then enjoyed some singing led by Kris. We all enjoy the Hokey Pokey! The older kids did a great job on their beaded crosses and then got to put together small solar powered motors. The rest of the afternoon was absolute playtime and it was wonderful! There was some wicked volleyball and the sound of children yelling "Whoop Whoop" when they scored could probably be heard three villages away (thanks Sam!) The construction guys chased kids and played soccer and probably sweat more than they ever have in their lives. It was hot and steamy and quite possibly one of the most disorganized days ever, but also one of the BEST!!!
Monday, June 25, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
We will be working mostly in the village of Santa Teresa. It will be the last week of school for the children before their summer break, so we have lots of fun activities including some hands on science lessons and lots of arts and crafts. Of course we will be reviewing hand washing and tooth-brushing as well. We had a generous donation of a volleyball net, balls, and a parachute, so we will incorporate plenty of PE time into each day. We may spend an afternoon or two in the nearby village of San Lucas, the principal there heard we were coming and requested that we spend a little time with his students.
Our construction crew will be painting the school, inside and out, at Santa Teresa. They will also have the opportunity to do some work on the Senior Center in Punta Gorda that is being built by the Pallotine Sisters (they run the retreat center where we stay). There is also the possibility of building some pig pens to help support the Socio-Economic Outreach Program.
We planned our activities for the week and then recently found out that school will not be in session in Santa Teresa on Friday because of an end of the year teacher meeting. Daily change of plans are pretty much typical on a trip to Belize! So on Friday we will be running an Arts and Crafts Camp for 50 or so children at St. Peter Claver School in Punta Gorda.
Take a look at the map below. If you find Punta Gorda, that is the main town near where we will be. Go a little north and west to find Forest Home. The Nazareth Retreat Center is in Forest Home. The dark red road is the paved road, the smaller roads are dirt. Follow the main road NW to Dump (yes that is the name of the town!) and continue towards San Antonio. Head SW through Blue Creek, then through Jordan to get to Santa Teresa. This ride will take around 90 minutes each day.
We hope to update this blog each day while we are in Belize. So keep checking back to hear about our adventure!
Monday, January 30, 2012
Mayan leader speaks about 2012:
"We need to work together for peace, and balance with the other side. We need to take care of the Earth that feeds and shelters us. We need to put our entire mind and heart into pursuing unity and unity now, to confront the other side and preserve life...Now is the time to awaken and take action. Everyone is needed. You are not here for no reason. Everyone who is here now has an important purpose. This is a hard but a special time. We have the opportunity for growth, but we must be ready for this moment in history."
Friday, January 27, 2012
We all were touched by the love, compassion and energy the Mayan
villages shared with us and each other.
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Monday, January 16, 2012
A story to sample some of the humor experienced:
Trying to visit the Directer of Human Health Services, Mr. Vernon:
In the villages dogs were everywhere, roaming in and out of schools, in everyone's homes and even at church. So we became very used to dogs around.
As Ann, Jill and Rose walked on to Mr. Vernon's walled porch in the city they paid no attention to a sleeping, chained pit bull dog at the opening. Unfortunately Mr. Vernon's sister had died that morning and there were black ribbons on the front door. Though they had been assured by a neighbor he was home no one answered, so the ladies prepared to leave the porch. Jill stepped right over the Dog's chain and Ann looked at the dog as she passed him and said "oh I think that is a guard dog" - she must have reminded him of his job because on cue the dog stood up, started barked and growling and leaping toward them. Ann and Jill made it safely through the gate but Rose was now stuck on the porch. If one knows Rose one knows that our little, short, spunky Sicilian does not climb walls since she entered her 7th decade. Thank goodness there was a plastic chair on the porch. As Jill 'distracted' the dog Rose climbed the chair and Ann carried her over the wall to safety.
You better Belize it!
Sent from my iPhone
Mass on the beach Sat. evening was a great culminating celebration. Dorla- the leader of the Socio Economic Group and Mario a villager from Santa Theresa joined us.
'Here I am Lord' as a responsorial psalm connected our experience to the readings of the day.
As Judy traveled from village to village with her instruments she taught all the children the song "Be the Heart and Hands of God" which we used as our recessional song. San Lucas made a paper quilt to hang in the classroom with each child's hand outline and their name. Corazon students adopted the 'keep a pinch and pass it on' philosophy by holding their thumb and forefinger together and touching Carolyn's arm each day. Otaxha put the philosophy into action as Karen brought supplies to an elderly man who lived next to the school. Our construction team used their hands to build the bookshelves at Corazon's library as well as helped Punta Gorda's Pallontine Sisters continue their dream of building a community center for the elderly.
Sunday was a day to create our own experiences. Some chose a day in the hammocks and lounge chairs on the beach, others continued their shopping therapy, a group took a tour in the jungle on Monkey River to see and hear the holler monkeys, and our fearless organizer Ann set up a time for sailing and snorkeling.
An early wake up call on Monday will bring us back to all of our loved ones by Monday evening.
Sent from my iPhone
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Friday, January 13, 2012
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Monday, January 9, 2012
I am Mary DiMercurio, a retired teacher after 33 years in Missouri. This January I am excited to be teaching in a different environment and getting to know some Mayan families. We will be based out of Punta Gorda, where Bill Kren and I will try to update these wonderful
experiences every other day.
All Saints Parish is traveling again to Belize to share Christ's love and learning with our sister villages. In January 2012 we will be going to: San Lucas, Corazon and Otoxha, where we will build, paint, teach and share medical care with the villagers.
God Bless You for your prayers as we begin our journey.