Saturday, January 10, 2015
It's Saturday night and the rain has continued all day. Our Mass on the beach was moved to the balcony of the hotel where it was dry. The Mass was a special treat for all. We all shared special memories from the week. The "bread" for Eucharist was a flour tortilla which was the perfect end to the week. We were all happy to give thanks (BANTIOX!) for this wonderful shared experience.
Friday was a bittersweet day for all, joy at end of the week celebrations and a little sadness that we have to leave our friends.
In San Lucas the students worked on a beautiful activity to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, made word puzzles and completed paper globes. The students surprised our team with a beautiful banner signed by all of the children. The banner will certainly find a special home at All Saints.
In Otoxha it was a fast last morning. As soon as we got into the villages the kids begged us to "dance with us, Miss!" so we lined up and made a total spectacle dancing the Cupid Shuffle in yet another village. We did an activity with each class including making Fruit Loop necklaces and mini marshmallow/toothpick structures. We were invited to two different homes and served the Royal Rat (gibnut) in one of them. This is an animal that looks like a giant (up to 25 pounds) guinea pig. After lunch we were treated to a lovely presentation by the students and teachers. They sang their national anthem and gave gifts and lovely speeches to al of our volunteers. Father Don was able to drive over to Otoxha and join in the celebration.
The day in Corazon Creek was full of celebrations. Our teachers and construction crew were invited to lunch at the home of Sebastian. He serves as both the Alcalde (mayor) and the Catechist. From there they moved to the new Catholic Church where they presented a chalice and paten to the church. They were gifts from the wife of a member of the Knights of Columbus who passed away. Sebastian was surprised and pleased.
After lunch the group moved to the community center for a presentation by the children. Almost every family showed up as well. They performed their native dances and invited Rose to join in! One of the families let her borrow a native blouse and skirt and helped her get dressed to dance. It was a sight to see! After the dancing, lovely speeches were made as gifts were presented to all the team members.
The day there was not yet over. Each family was presented a solar lamp and given instructions on how to use them. In a village with no electricity this is huge! We heard that one of our scholarship students who received a lamp last year sat up reading until 2 am, just because she could.
Saying goodbye to our friends in Corazon was not easy, but we know we will be back again next year.
Father Derrick Vo and Dorla joined us for dinner back at the retreat center and it was nice to visit. In the small world way that is Belize, Father Vo was in the seminary with the nephew of our teammate Linda.
We had another wonderful moment involving Linda. Her family donated some money "for a special need." Ann asked the Sisters if they had a special need and they told her about a man in a remote village (Dolores) who needs to travel to Belize City for a colon operation. He does not have the money for the cost of travel and medical care and the Sisters were looking for a way to assist him. Once again, the hand of God was with us as the cost of the operation was the exact amount that was collected by Linda's family :)
There are so many other wonderful stories about the week that we will share with you when we get back home.
We are hoping for a sunny day tomorrow, or at least a dry day!
Thursday, January 8, 2015
The quote of the day was from Rose. She was walking to the home of a family for lunch when the father picked her up on his motorcycle! When she got back to school she was happy to report: "I just had my first motorcycle ride!"
Our new friend, Molly, a Peace Corp volunteer in Corazon, drove back to join us for dinner at the Retreat Center. It was hard to tell if she was more excited about the delicious dinner or the chance to take a REAL shower! We're pretty sure it was a shower! We loaded her up with lots of supplies to take back to the village tomorrow. It made our day when she told us that we already feel like her family :)
We broke out the iPod and introduced Corazon to the Cupid Shuffle. We definitely provided the comic releif as we had most of the village lined up watching us dance! Nick was a good sport, telling one of the men that if he would get up and dance that he would join him and sure enough, they both did.
There were several amusing moments in Corazon today. After all of the s'mores were "baked" there was about a half bag of marhsmallows left over. We offered them to a few of the local men who were doing construction and the next thing we knew all of the guys came running over, just like little kids, to get their marshmallow!! It was a highlight of the week to see their joy at getting such a simple treat.
The teachers in Corazon, Mary Pat, Cathy, Mike and Rose made bracelets with solar beads, made Fruit Loop necklaces and TRIED to bake s'mores in the pizza box solar ovens. Of course right after the s'mores were placed in the ovens the rain started! This did not dampen their enthusiam one bit.
Corazon Creek was a busy place today. The construction crew was pleased to see that the men of the village had already poured the new concrete floor for the outdoor classroom by the time we arrived this morning. Ther rest of the day was spent painting the school both inside and out.
Hans, Jen, Jody and Linda finished the Pen Pal letters with the students and sang This Little Light of Mine while the kids each got a small little battery operated tealight. They were invited to lunch in two homes where Hans took one for the team by eating BOTH his and Jen's bowls of caldo!
In Otoxha Rick gave a first aid presentation not only to the children, but to several adults in the village as well. There is a new Peace Corps worker and a new Health Care Volunteer in the village and they were excited to learn from Rick and promised to put the first aid kits to good use.
The most special moment of the day was when the group was asked by a family to bless their grandmother who is very ill. They were honored to pray together with the family.
At San Lucas, Don, Jill, Mary, Ann and Allie worked on art projects, pen pal letters, made fruit loop necklaces and formed letters out of pipe cleaners.
We are all a little sad that it is already Thursday :( The week has gone by so fast. Today was a crazy and wonderful day.We took the long route to our villages, stopping to shop for carved wooded items from our old friends in Mabilha Village. We have had a lot of rain and the roads today would make a great new ride at Six Flags!
Lots of rain today in Otoxha, which was a problem as this was the day we were teaching about solar energy and attempting to cook s'mores in solar ovens. We learned that children everywhere love marshmallows, even if they are not cooked!
Sorry,this one will be short and sweet. We got back from the villages just in time to shower and head over to visit Dorla at the House of Weavers. This is a shop at the Socio Econmic Outreach office that sells crafts made by local women. The profits help support their families.After shopping, we were treated to a delicious dinner at the Mangrove restaurant in Punta Gorda.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
On the way home we stopped for a "Chocolate Tour." We learned all about the process of making chocolate and saw how it was made by the ancient Mayans. We got to try our hand at shelling the cacao beans, and most of us were very bad at it! The IxCacao chocolate tour was one of our first microloan recipients and have done so well that the loan has been repaid. We were able to purchase freshly made chocolate bars, we can't promise that they will make it home.
In San Lucas the lesson of the day was solar energy. The students successfully baked s'mores in solar ovens created from pizza boxes. The kids all got solar beads and were totally excited when they changed color in the sunshine. The teachers were treated to lunch and had cahoune cabbage.
In Otoxha, the children got their pen pal letters from students at All Saints, this is always a highlight for them. They love looking at the pictures and traded letters so they could learn about other new friends. The oldest students made 3D paper globes, the project took a long time, but the result was worth the effort. The Standard 3 and 4 students made beautiful projects honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe. The teachers were also treated to lunches in two homes. One home served black beans with a fried egg. It was spicy and delicious. In the other home we were served beans and rice with stew chicken, also delicious. Anita visited with her "sister" Anita and was allowed to carry her two month old baby in the traditional Mayan way, in a cloth papoose strapped on her head!
The students in Corazon got their flip flops today, finished their art projects and did a lot of math games with dice and playing cards. Rick and Mary Pat presented first aid lessons to all of the children. The children learned about the Heimlich manuever and got to practice on each other. All of the volunteers were treated to delicious homemade lunches.
First we would like to point out that it was sunny and in the 80s today. We heard that it is just a bit chillier back home!We all had a great day today. The construction crew scrubbed walls and sealed up the roof in Corazon Creek in an effort to keep rat bats out of the new ceiling that will be installed. They got a first coat of paint on the outside of the school building. The roof looks finished on the outdoor classroom.
Ann and Don had a busy day, they ran errands in town dropping off donations in town at the hospital and education office. They met with Socio Economic Outreach regarding the partnership with All Saints Parish. In San Marcos village they checked out the Qoi Hotel for piglets that need a home. Improvements here were funded by All Saints. Then they traveled to the villages that will be visited in June, Santa Cruz and Pueblo Viejo where they met with teachers and dropped off donations.
The quote of the day came from Jen. As we were driving along the road we saw a little boy ,maybe four years old running with a small machete in his hand and she yelled, "Don't run with machetes!"
Monday, January 5, 2015
It has been an amazing day! Our construction crew had the experience of a lifetime going into the rain forest in Corazon Creek to chop down the palm branches to build a thatch roof.
Be assured our team(Hans,Nick, Chris, Dominic, Mike, Rick,Jen and Vernon) were NOT swinging machetes, they left that to the experienced men of the village!) Our team did get to haul the branches out of the forest-the children found this terribly amusing as this job is usually done by horses!
The progress on the new outdoor classroom was fast. By lunchtime the posts were up as well as the support structure for the thatch.When we left at the end of the school day the roof was almost finished. Each of the 32 families in the village were asked to chop 25 palm fronds for the roof. The pictures of the entire process are something to see.
The teachers in Corazon, Ann, Allie, Rose and Cathy had a crazy day as the students had been moved out of the school and into three different buildings because of the construction.They presented health and hygiene lessons and worked on several art projects. All of the volunteers in Corazon were treated to a homemade lunch. They split up and went to three homes were they were served cahoune cabbage or chicken caldo. It was all delicious.
Anita, Nichole, Jody and Linda spent the day teaching in Otoxha. We had some significant rain overnight and this morning, which made the questionable roads even more questionable! They also did the health and hygiene lessons as well as lessons on tangrams with the older students. The littlest students had fun with flannel shapes and the middle group did a very special religion project.
Apparently there are more families in Otoxha who want to feed us than we have teachers, so we went to two different homes for lunch. Nichole and Linda enjoyed their first authentic Mayan lunch, chicken caldo and homemade tortillas.
Mary Pat ,Mary, Don and Jill spent the day in San Lucas. Not only was it the first day back to school after the Christmas break,but it was the first day of class for a new principal! They presented the health lessons, worked on tangrams and made puppets with buttons. A solid day with old and new friends.
We have a presentation tonight from Dorla with updates about the Socio Economic Outreach program and then more planning for tomorrow's lessons. We don't think it will be a late night for any of the construction crew.
Mary seemed to have the best quote of the day when she saw our dessert and proclaimed, "There is always room for jello!"
We arrived at the Retreat Center about 10 pm last night after a long day of traveling.The sisters welcomed us with a nice snack and hugs all around.
Sunday morning found us split into two groups for the morning. The first group went to visit the ruins at Lubantun. There were no tour guides available that early on a Sunday morning, but Chris and Mary were happy to step in. There was some speculation that they were embellishing their facts, but everyone learned something about the ancient Mayans.
The rest of the group headed straight down to San Lucas for Mass. We arrived about 11 am (for noon Mass) and most of the villagers were already in the church singing hymns in their beautiful Ketchi language. The priest who said Mass is newly ordained ordained and from St Louis! In typical Belize fashion, noon Mass did not start until about 12:20, mostly due to the fact that it was the third Mass that Father Derrick had said that day with many miles between each village. The hymns, prayers and readings were all in Ketchi, it was an amazing experience for all. At the end of the Mass,Father asked us all to come forward and be blessed by the parishioners. Powerful moment indeed.
The rest of the day we spent visiting old friends in several villages.
We came back to a delicious chicken dinners which energized us for an evening of organizing supplies and planning lessons for Monday.
Best quote of the day: Cathy when asked how the ruins were: "They were gray, they were rocks."