Monday, March 23, 2015

March 22nd
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

Friday, March 20
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

Thursday, March 19th
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……