Saturday, June 30, 2012

Construction Picture

We have wifi today at Tranquility Lodge, so I thought I would share a quick picture from the construction site on Friday. That's Sam in the red hat, Donna in the yellow tee shirt, Randy in the dirty scrubs and white (well formerly white hat!), and Bob at the bottom left. Somehow this seems like it would NOT meet any safety standards in the USA!

Saturday morning

We had a hot and busy day yesterday and didn't get into town to update.  I wrote "Move my picture, Miss" and forgot to explain!  When the children in San Lucas want us to take their picture they say, "Move my picture!"  I have never heard that expression before in any other village. Of course, after we take their picture they have to check it out on the camera and many of the kids have had fun getting to take pictures with our cameras, I know those pictures are my favorites.
Friday was a busy day. The construction crew was working at the Hope Center in PG. I wish I could post pictures now to try and show how rough the work was for them.  They were pouring a concrete roof on a building. This meant that the concrete had to be passed up some makeshift scaffolding by the five gallon bucket full, then dumped into a wheelbarrow and rolled across the roof to be emptied.  All this out in the extreme heat, humidity and sun.  Rough work to say the least!  Our guys plus Donna and Sam were troopers.  Donna and Randy were on the bucket brigade passing concrete up to the roof and Sam was the master of the wheelbarrow.  The local guys were impressed by how hard Donna and Sam were working, women do not usually work on construction in Belize. We think Sam may have a marriage proposal in the works from Samuel Ack who worked with her all day on the site.
The teachers were told that there would be about 20 kids each in two sessions of Art Camp. Imagine our surprise when only five kids showed up!  When we asked one of the girls why her friends weren't there she looked at us like we were crazy and said, "It's summer!"  Despite the small crowd, we had lots of fun.We made beaded crossed, cookie color wheels, pipe cleaner animals and did some water color painting.  It was a great day. In the afternoon a few more kids showed up, thirteen all together.  We had lots of goodies to hand out and there were hugs all around at the end of the day.
Last night we were treated to a party at Dorla's house in honor of Donisio's graduation.  Dorla has a fabulous rooftop party deck and it was a beautiful evening to sit outside.
Right now we are hanging out in PG for a couple of hours to shop at the Farmer's Market.  We check into Tranquility Lodge this afternoon and will be taking a chocolate tour (seeing the process of making chocolate from the Cacao plant to the candy bar!)
The week has gone too fast, I am looking forward to these last days in Belize with this amazing group of people.  The word of the week is Bantiox (thank you in Kekchi). We have so many reasons to say BANTIOX!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Move my picture Miss! 

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


Did I say Plan B?  By today I think we are up to at least Plan S or T!  One of the items on the packing list is a flexible attitude, good thing we all packed one.

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


To say today was an adventure is an understatement!  We headed out right on time this morning, drove for about an hour to discover that the bridge at Blue Creek was under water and impassible!  We had a lot of rain last night and it is a very low bridge.  This meant that we had to turn around and drive back to where we started to take the alternate route, a mere two hour ride down some of the worst roads in the country.  The good news was that this meant we had to travel through the village of Corazon Creek, where Ann had planned to make a stop later in the day to speak with the principal about some potential scholarship students. Good thing our Plan B always seems to work out!

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


We met at the airport at 4:15 am on Saturday morning to begin our adventure!  After a stop in Houston to catch up with our teammates from San Francisco and Seattle, we were on our way to Belize!  June must be a big month for groups traveling to Belize, we have never seen the airport so crowded.  Our bags all arrived promptly, and, as usual, Ann charmed the Customs folks into only charging us $15 total for the 23 bags we brought into the country,
We made a stop at Amigos Restaurant on our way down to Punta Gorda, and despite hitting some pretty heavy rain, still made it to the Nazareth Retreat Center in just about five hours.  Since most of the drive was in daylight, we were able to enjoy the beautiful countryside.
On Sunday morning we headed to Mass at St Joseph church in the village of Jacintoville. Father Frank Schmidt said Mass, he is originally from Washington, MO.  Most of the prayers and songs were in the Mayan language of Kekchi.  The gospel was the story of St John the Baptist, and Father Schmidt's advice to us ws to go out and make a difference! Perfect words to start the week.  After Mass, one of the men from Jacintoville invited all 13 of us home with him to share dinner.  We hope that he asked his wife first since she was making chicken caldo and homemade tortillas.  The dinner was delicious. We then headed up to the Lodge at Big Falls to check it out for future trips. The little cabanas are hidden back in the forest and it would be a great place to stay.  Our next stop was back in Punta Gorda at the graduation ceremony for the University of Belize.  Donnisio Sho, an assistant to Dorla Bowman at Socio-economic Outreach was getting his Associate Degree in Agriculture. Some of us have worked with Donnision various projects.  The ceremony was nice and we were happy to share in Donnisio's big day. He will be continuing his education in Taiwan! He earned a scholarship to pursue his education.
First thing Monday morning we headed into town to pick up some paint for the school in Santa Teresa.  In typical Belize fashion, this involved stopping at three hardware stores, two of which were not yet open, and then winding up back at the first store!  We hit the road for Santa Teresa and were thrilled to discover that a large part of the road had been paved since the last time most of us were here.  The men of the village were working hard, along with the older students, to get all of the walls scrubbed and ready for paint.  Children are the same everywhere, kids, water, what  mess! 
We broke out the hand puppets and led the children in a rousing rendition of Old McDonald had a Farm!  For some reason, Farmer McDonald has a frog on his farm, but the kids didn't seem to question that.  Kathy and Judy helped the little kids make their own sock puppets, complete with bow ties and flower accents.  The bigger kids made beaded crosses, despite a few false starts (by the adults, the kids did great!)  At lunch time, we were invited to lunch at the home of Ofelia Sam.  Ofelia is one of our scholarship students and has just completed her third year of high school.  She showed us her report card and was proud to report that she is ranked fourth in a class of 20 students. Her mother cooked us a delicious lunch of chicken caldo and tortillas. 
Meanwhile the guys made a trip back into PG to get more paint and some wood to repair the outer doors of the school.  In the afternoon all of the students in Santa Teresa had their health and hygiene lessons and practiced their tooth brushing.  Sam, Donna and Ann went down to San Lucas and spent the afternoon playing badminton, volleyball and soccer with the kids.  They caught a ride with Mauricio and while they were getting ready to go, a woman was walking up the road carrying a tiny little baby and asking for a ride to the doctor. We came to discover that the baby was only a week old (delivered by C Section!) and she had walked over five miles to the health clinic only to find out that the doctor was not available. Talk about one tough lady!
All in all, a fabulous and exhausting day!  It is HOT and humid, but we are happy and having a ball. More tomorrow!

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Mission Continues!

We are excited about expanding the All Saints Belize Mission project to include a new trip this month! A group of thirteen volunteers (seven returning teammates and six newbies), from as far away as Seattle and San Francisco, head to Belize on Saturday, June 23.

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!