Saturday, June 20, 2015
We were awakened by some fierce thunderstorms! We lost power for a few hours but we were all fine and still made it to the work site only a few minutes late. However, we were too dedicated - even the construction workers slept in because it was too much rain to work ;)
So we came back to Tranquility Lodge for a bit until the rain slowed down - which allowed us to do some more shopping for local crafts- and then headed back to San Marcos. We passed out the final flip flops, did storytelling drawings, made pipe cleaner monkeys and played with homemade bubbles. The rest of the afternoon everyone spent their time finishing up the playground.
Right before school let out, all of the children and teachers came outside where we wrapped a huge ribbon all around the playground and had an amazing ceremony. They did a playground blessing in Quechi, the San Marcos city council rep gave a speech, Sarah and Elaine gave another blessing and then the lead contractor cut the ribbon - with a machete :) We then welcomed all of the kids on to the playground for juice and cookies called "hard time" cookies.
After the work day we got cleaned up and all headed back to San Marcos for a celebration with the local teachers and construction crew. They made delicious cheese dip, BBQ chicken, baked beans, slaw and FLOUR tortillas. We added to the menu by bringing the cake we ordered the day previously- everything was fantastic!! There was live music by Jose and his family including a harp, guitar and violin. So of course we had to dance and were lucky enough to have traditional lessons from Jose's Godmother. We even got to wear the local Mayan traditional skirt to help with the dancing. One final note from the evening was how unbelievably clear the sky was when we left the celebration that night- it was magical.
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Friday, June 19, 2015
The whole group was together for the first time at San Marcos! But first Ann, Scott, Rachael and Hannah went into Punta Gorda for a breakfast meeting with the Punta Gorda Rotary where we agreed to partner with the St. Louis Rotary. We then joined the rest of the group at San Marcos to continue to work on the playground and teach in the schools.
We passed out flip flops, made bracelets with UV beads that change color in the sun, and played with the parachutes. We also gave them the three water filters to use at the school.
The playground crew sifted sand for plaster, plastered two of the three benches, mixed our last batch of concrete and made the third bench. We also tasted (which means gnawed on!) fresh sugar cane from one of the locals, Nacho.
We all enjoyed lunch at the Mayor of San Marcos's house, Vincento. It was stew chicken (it reminded us all of smoked chicken back home) and squash juice. We also ordered a cake as Vincento's wife is a baker, and we can't wait to try it. A few highlights over lunch was seeing their turkeys being called in for food, the cat "marking its territory" and holding three day old kittens.
We ended the day with a delicious fish dinner from the Sisters of Nazareth and were joined by Marcelia and Nestor.
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We kicked off the day with a delicious breakfast at Tranquility Lodge as we have every day with fresh fruit and fresh fruit juice. We continued to split up in to three groups for the last time as Thursday and Friday we will all go to San Marcos as one group.
Santa Cruz R.C. School - Carolyn, Kim, Liz, Sandip, Sarah, Hannah and Rachael- Hannah and Rachael brought two water filters and showed the teachers how to use them. The water at the school is not clean for drinking so these filters will allow everyone at the school to have clean drinking water. The rest of the crew focused on passing out flip flops for all students, edible art and making solar UV bracelets (which we called magic beads that change color in the sunlight!). The bracelets came with a nice lesson from Sandip about the effects of UV light. The kids also played with the parachutes we brought and they LOVED it.
Pueblo Viejo School - Hannah, Rachael, Carolyn, Ann, Sandip- flip flop day!! The kids were so excited for new flip flops. We also met with the principal and teachers and they presented Ann with a certificate and Hannah, Carolyn and Rachael with baskets as "thank you's" in hopes to continue the partnership and relationships. The kids ended the day with a traditional Mopan dance- it was really cute.
Both teams at the schools met for lunch together at Santa Cruz. They hosted a lovely lunch comprised of rice and beans, and chicken. After we finished eating they presented us with some certificates- specifically for Ann and Rachael as a thank you for their help in the community and an invitation to return- and homemade jewelry for everyone.
San Marcos Playground- Elaine, Erika, Scott and Leah. We dug our last holes today! ... Or so we think. We filled the second bench mold with concrete to set and also built the swing set mold and filled that with concrete as well. Belizeans don't skimp on their quality - these benches aren't going anywhere (see the photo). We enjoyed a lovely lunch with Jose Mas where he showed us local fruits and spices around his property, and ended the day back at his house to enjoy fresh coconut.
We all ended the day with a trip to the House of Weavers to purchase some local Belize goodies followed by dinner with Dorla back at the lodge. The new joiners to the trip received their "ring" as part of the All Saints Belize trip which was special for all of us.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
We split into 3 groups again for work day 2.
Group 1- Liz, Kim, Sarah and Christian- Santa Cruz R.C. School. Today we focused on art lessons. We had a Henri Matisse painting activity, we made Jack and Jill dolls, and we taught the Infant 1 (kindergarteners) how to do the alphabet in sign language. We also "exercised" the alphabet! I.e., arm circles for "A" and dancing for "D". All of the hands on activities really allowed us to bond with the kids.
Group 2- Hannah, Rachael, Ann and Carolyn- one of the Pueblo Viejo schools. We focused on several crafts with the kids. We did the edible color wheel - the kids thought the icing was paint so once we told them to eat it they paused and didn't believe us! So the teacher had to tell them in Quechi that it was icing and THEN it was gone in 5 seconds :) The preschoolers were also practicing graduation which was a highlight of the day for many of us. They practiced their procession, and song and dance. They also met Juan Pedro :)
Group 3- Elaine, Sandip, Erika, Scott, Leah - the San Marcos playground. Today the weather was much more favorable! Mostly cloudy and a few showers to cool us off. We built the mold for concrete benches, dug bigger holes for the swing set, and started the teeter totter base. The teeter totter base hooks were not very strong so the locals quickly crafted new hooks out of rebar. A few highlights include a serious run-in with fire ants, Mr. Spinach showing us how to really use the water pump, and refreshing coca colas to end the day.
We wrapped the day with a group debrief including personal highlights for each of us so far. And we enjoyed another delicious dinner from the Sisters of Nazareth.
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Sunday we split up in to two groups...
Group 1- Ann, Scott, Rachael, Hannah, Elaine, Kim, Erika, Leah- we went to the Corazon Creek Technical High School graduation and saw the All Saints scholarship recipient Arnaldo Quib. He was so well spoken and had really grown compared to four years ago. We stopped at two graduation parties filled with Caldo, dancing, and mahmmy (spelling?) fruit. We saw the newly built church at Corazon Creek and delivered the altar cloths that Sister Rose's friend made, saw Concepcione's new baby, and also saw our favorite sales woman - Delfina!
Group 2- Christian, Sarah, Carolyn, Liz, Sandip - we visited some local spots including some Mayan ruins, the earth ship (a house made of all recyclables), went swimming (and diving!) in the swimming hole at Tranquility Lodge, and may or may not have had a special moment in the mud... Just a couple of pushes and we were free!
Monday we split in to three groups...
Group 1- Kim, Liz, Hannah and Rachael at Santa Cruz R.C. School - we focused on water lessons! We introduced the kids to Juan Pedro (a puppet!) that showed them proper hand washing techniques, we had the kids draw village maps to understand their village's source of water, and we learned the local term for using the restroom (imagine a room full of 6 year olds saying "sh*tting"!).
Group 2- Erika, Ann, Elaine and Carolyn at one of Pueblo Viejo's schools- we focused on art lessons- mainly edible art, yum!! We helped them learn their primary and secondary colors with an icing and cookie color wheel. We also helped them learn shapes with marshmallows and toothpicks. Infant 2 (6 and 7 year olds) sang us songs at the end of the day while the principal played the guitar - the principal wrote all of the songs and the words were all about the school.
Group 3- Christian, Sarah, Sandip, Scott and Leah - we dug holes. Oh and mixed some concrete. In 100 degree heat. And we survived. :) In all seriousness, we started the day with a wonderful welcoming from the San Marcos city council rep. We started building the playground from scratch which consisted of the locals weed eating the area, digging holes for three benches, filling them with concrete and cutting/tying rebar.
We ended with a nice dinner from the sisters of Nazareth and preparing for work day 2.
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Monday, March 23, 2015
And the adventure continues…….I just pulled a tick out of my leg in the lavatory on a flight to Phoenix! American Airlines oversold our flight from Miami to St. Louis. We should have seen this coming when the agent in Belize could not assign us seats on the second flight.If all goes well, we should be in St. Louis by 5am.
Saturday (yesterday)in Belize was productive and enjoyable. After breakfast, we stopped by a coffee shop in Punta Gorda to meet with the Health Chair of the Toledo District. Health officials are well aware that many communities need lasting solutions to the water crisis and they are continually prioritizing future projects. Mr. Vernon said that the government of Belize would welcome any assistance provided by Solea Water. While strolling through the market in search of hammocks for Rachael and Roy, we met up with Shantell and her cousins.
Missionaries from Colorado had scheduled a sports day at San Francisco De Jeronimo school in Pueblo Viejo. I didn't think that we'd get a chance to see any of our little friends, but they were all at the school when we arrived. Mr. Sho, the principal, invited us to have lunch at his home. It was nice to see his wife Marta again and meet their newest addition, two-month-old Stephen Jr. We discussed possible solutions to the village's water crisis and how our mission team might begin to address solutions when we return in June. Rachael measured elevations for a possible well and tested water from the pump from which the children were drinking. A small crowd of curious kids gathered around to watch and ask questions, giving Rachael an opportunity to remind them of the importance of drinking clean water. Joshua was intrigued by the water testing. I think we have found our future "Community Water Committee"! After meeting with Mr. Sho again to discuss his many ideas for improving the school and community, we returned to the lodge. Marcelia and Nestor Assi invited some of our close friends to their home for dinner. Nestor had asked Marcelia to prepare a very special caldo dinner for Mr. Roy. It was so nice to catch up with, Nestor, Marcelia, Dorla, Shantell, Romana and Oscar. Back at the lodge, we enjoyed some refreshments with Lee and Suzanne before calling it a night.
Francis and Elliot arrived at 7am to take us to the airport. I really don't mind the four hour drive to Belize City rolling through the scenic Maya Mountains dotted with thatch homes and hillside crops of bananas, corn and oranges. It's nice to kick back and reflect on the success of another unforgettable trip to Belize. We usually progress far beyond plan A, B, or C on most trips. I'd say flying to Phoenix instead of St. Louis qualifies as "plan X", but Racheal and I are making the best of it. Roy was smart. He flew to Dallas today to visit his family.
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Friday, March 20, 2015
Last night after dinner Rachael, Roy and I had planned to prepare the buckets for today's visit to Machakil ha. Within seconds Lee, Rick, Lester and Ingrid joined us to drill and file holes and remove the edging from the lids. With their help, we had thirty buckets ready and loaded in less then 30 minutes! It's a beautiful thing when Midwesterners, Belizeans, and Canadians join forces to help others!
Lee was kind enough to prepare a delicious breakfast for us before we hit the road at 6am. After picking up Manuel in Otoxha, we drove to Dolores to load up the horses for our ride. Our guides bagged stacks of 30 buckets and lids and then strapped them to a disgruntled horse. We had heard that the trail was passable during the dry season, but I think most Americans would disagree. Marcos and the other guides had to coax the horses through hilly, horse-belly deep mud, over fallen trees, and over extremely narrow wooden bridges. Without stirrups, we just had to hold on with our legs and hope for the best!The teacher, Mr. Rash, had to abandon his dirt bike in the mud about ten minutes into the ride. We strapped the 50lb suitcase of hygiene care bags to the back of Rachael's horse.Mine already carried assembled buckets and filters on each hip. Roy had a large duffle bag in his lap.Poor horses! The 6+ KM ride lead us Machakil ha where we waited for men from each household to join us in the village's Catholic Church for a bucket filter purification system workshop. We felt like a well-oiled machine just two days in. Roy provided most of the step-by-step instructions while Rachael and I chimed in helping students requiring further assistance. Manuel translated and answered questions.The men seemed pleased with their handiwork and thanked us several times. After some water testing and a meeting with Guillermo, the village health worker, we were invented to Mr. Pukul's home for lunch with his family. Thomasa Pukul prepared eggs, stew beans and tortillas.Finally, we rode the horses back to Dolores, and drove Manuel home to Otoxha. After a quick shower and refreshments back at the lodge we drove to Punta Gorda for dinner at Emery's. Now we are all happy to be sitting on cushy couches at the lodge. This will be an early night. Roy just commented that if anyone complains to him about having a big but he is going to tell them it's an ASSet for riding horses through the muddy rainforest
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Thursday, March 19, 2015
Our flight arrived in Belize City at approx 1:20 pm yesterday. After negotiating with customs officers, we agreed upon a "reasonable" duty for the water filters. We stopped in Belmopan, the capitol city of Belize, for provisions, linner(lunch+dinner), and the 60 five-gallon buckets that we had ordered from Javier. Finally at around 8pm we arrived at Tranquility Lodge. After enjoying refreshments with Lodge owners/great friends Lee and Suzy and company we returned to our rooms for a much- needed good night's sleep.
We just arrived back at the lodge after a productive first day. During the dry season, March- May, the roads aren't so bad, but I learned to hang back behind other vehicles stirring up clouds of dirt. We stopped to say hello to Shantell and Juio and "our" students at Corazon Creek school. They have a beautiful new building, courtesy of a Canadian Rotary Club. The school looks better than ever with a fresh coat of paint and thatched roof that we helped to build in January, along with new sidewalks. Next, we drove to Mabil ha to see if that village had bucket water filter systems. Our friends Candelaria, Concepcione, and Ruda were doing laundry in a creek near the road. We told them to hop in the van, drove them home, set up water filter systems in their homes, tested the water at their village water pump, and finally drove them back to the creek. We stopped to visit Santiago and Margartia, who have a bucket filter system that has not been working. Rachael replaced the filter and reminded them to backwash it more often.
We had a little time to visit with the students in San Lucas and their teachers/our friends Phillip and Romana. Then, as promised, families came to the church at noon. A couple of weeks ago, they built beautiful new lavender and blue pews, using paint remaining after we renovated the school n 2013! Today we provided thirty bucket filters for the school and homes in San Lucas!!! Roy drilled holes in the buckets for the hose fittings and Rachael explained how to assemble and maintain the bucket filter systems. We all had a hand in helping with assembly and I collected $5 Belize from each family, which we donated to their Catholic Church at the end of the day.
Students at Corazon Creek and San Lucas were surprised to see only three of us in the van. They asked for other members of our mission team by name. Projects presented by January's awesome education team still decorated classroom walls,reminding me how blessed I am to be one of thee representing so many who give so much for the people of Belize!
On our way home we made a couple of stops to greet friends along the way. The principal of the school in Blue Creek,Mr. Chee, and Mr. chub would like for us to include a visit to their school in our itinerary for January, 2016. We drove to Punta Gorda to drop off San Lucas' health worker, Mr. Bo and returned to the lodge.
Rachael, Roy and I are very happy with today's accomplishments and we can't wait for tomorrow's big adventure, riding horses to deliver 30 purification systems to families in Macahkil ha village.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Almost all packed and ready for tomorrow’s trip to Belize! All Saints Parish is partnering with Solea Water to provide clean, safe drinking water for two villages in the southernmost district of Belize. Every family in both villages will receive a bucket purification system which filters out bacteria and viruses responsible for causing waterborne diseases. We plan to hold training sessions helping adults assemble, use and maintain the systems. Because our mission team travels to Belize twice each year, we can check in to make sure the filters are working and fix any problems. That should not be a monumental task as these Sawyer filters maintain the highest level of filtration available and provide one million gallons of clean water! Stay tuned……