Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Not done yet

I know, I know. Haven't finished typing up my notes from Belize. It's coming. I'm just wiped out right now. Back soon.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

February 6


Last day of work.

I think we can say we completed our projects here. We finished the floor just after lunch and the ceiling in the office. The bathroom is done. The dining room and kitchen at the school are done. There is still the stuff for the bedroom to go back in, but really most of that the Robideau's need to go through themselves. Although I would've loved to go through and purge, purge, purge. Oh well, next life maybe.

For lunch today Miss Rhoda made us something special! She made us fresh tacos (actually tostadas, as I have recently found out) and homemade salsa fresca. OH MAN! So amazing. So incredibly spicy, but still so amazing! Julia told us the bowl of salsa was soup (it was still hot) so I filled a bowl, threw my spoon in and swallowed a full spoonful. Figured out pretty damn fast that it was not soup. We had a good laugh at my expense.

This afternoon after school, we took 9 or 10 (yes, 10) of the kids to Old Belize to swim at the beach. It rained off and on while we were there and it wasn't exactly hot. I had no intention of going swimming and am glad I didn't. The kids enjoyed it - the beach, swimming, the water slide, jumping around, splashing. And it was fine while they were in the water and moving. But a lot of them didn't have towels to dry off, just a change of clothes, if that. Little Kevin, Leroy's brother, just shook and shook with cold. Janice had also wrapped him up tight in a her towel. So tight that he lost his balance and fell over sideways into the sand. The poor kid couldn't even put out a hand to stop him. Because he was wrapped so tight he couldn't move himself to get out of the sand. Janice and I did giggle a little at that but she got him sorted out quickly enough. On the way home in the van, we ate ALL the popcorn that Julia made last night. Crazy. I should've taken a picture of that. Anyway - the kids LOVED the popcorn. The bag was empty when we got back to the school.

Today was a lot of fun. Loud, a little chaotic but we didn't lose anybody and nobody got hurt so that was a success. I hope the kids enjoyed it too and remember it for a long time. I know I will.

Tomorrow we're supposed to go to Caye Caulker so I hope it's warm and sunny!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 5


Note to self: never run after a robber. Gun, no gun - just don't. Still - have started fantasizing about hurting yesterday's robber. Stiletto heels are featured prominently.

Short work day today but as ever - tiring. Julia and I tiled most of the floor in the room. Julia glued the floor, I placed the tiles. Tomorrow we'll finish up the cut pieces along the edge. Damn but that room looks almost like new already! We are good!

Jen and Janice spent the morning at the school sorting some supplies for the teachers. But they had to make a quick get-away after being called to the principle's office. Yesterday afternoon while Keith, Janice and Julia were at the police station, Jen gave the kids some street chalk (I was hiding out cleaning the stove in the kitchen, terrible, I know ...) to keep them occupied after she'd played a million and one other games with them. Where she gets the energy, I don't know. Anyway - this morning as Jen and Janice were walking through the school yard, a voice called down to them from the upper floor classrooms, "Good morning". Janice apparently said hi back, but Jen says she knew right away. It was the principle. And she was calling them up to her office. Because the ground of the school yard and a lot of the walls were covered with chalk drawings and words (only 2 f-words, which we rubbed off before school). Well, Miss Garbutt (truly her name, and apparently cousin to our new young friend, Egbert (Eggy) Garbutt, I kid you not) was not impressed at the state of her campus that morning. Jen and Janice were given a talking to and it was understood that no more chalk would be handed out to any child, student or not. Aiieeeeeeee! Of course, later that day it poured and I mean POURED with rain and all the chalk got washed off. If only it had rained during the night! Miss Garbutt (can't help myself) would've never known the difference. Ah well. Chalk it up to experience (pun completely intended ;)

For lunch today we didn't get robbed. Yeah! No, the Robideau's took us to Old Belize. About 15 minutes away by car, there's a restaurant and cultural interpretation centre as well as a man-made beach and water slide. Lunch was nice; unfortunately it rained most of the morning and early afternoon. The museum part gave us a tour of Belize from 100 year ago. Our guide, Frank, was interesting, even though we were noisy and he had to start his presentation twice before we noticed we were about to be given a tour. It was hard not to get the giggles!

On the way back into town, we dropped Mrs. Robideau off at home (the Major had left us earlier to attend a funeral). From there we headed over to the handicraft market. They had such beautiful things there (and also at the souvenir shop at Old Belize) - great carvings and wood work. Here I was able to buy a beautiful salad bowl set made from 7 types of wood found in Belize. It'll match the chopping board at Old Belize! Then we stopped at another little outdoor flea market (i.e. tourist trap). Other than a pair of earrings, we didn't buy much.

The others all played with the kids while I got dinner ready. When dinner was ready that meant it was goodnight to the kids as well.

Julia's prepared some the hugest bag EVER of popcorn for our trip back to Old Belize tomorrow afternoon with some of the kids. I just hope it's sunny. It would be a shame if the kids couldn't swim. At any rate, should be ... loud!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

February 4


Today started off normally enough. Slept terribly (couldn't get my earplugs to stay in) but didn't feel too bad this morning. We all went over to the Robideau's and worked until noon. Keith was off with the Major to the Rotary Club for lunch which left us on our own for lunch. We decided to bring a picnic with us and catch some sun down on the water front.

We had eaten our lunch and were all relaxing and enjoying the sun when a guy came up to us and asked for a dollar. This is a pretty common occurrence here being that we're white. Usually we just refuse and that's the end of the story. Not today. Today Julia refused him. He asked a few questions (why wouldn't she give him money) but when we wouldn't give him any money, he did finally leave. I was lying down on the cement at this point, just chilling, listened to this exchange and found it a little off. But the guy left so I dismissed it. Just made sure I was hanging on tight to my backpack and relaxed again. A few minutes later though, he was back. This time he tried to hit Janice up for a dollar. She wouldn't give him any money either. This time he didn't want to take no for an answer. Janice finally reached into her bag to give him some money but he reached over (from on his bike) and grabbed her bad and rode off on his bike.

I didn't see this happen. All I heard was suddenly Janice saying "He took my bag." She didn't sound excited, scared - just like she was stating a simple fact. I swear, the second I heard "he took my bag", I was sitting up, jumping off the cement barrier, pulling my backpack on and started to run after this guy, tightening my backpack as I ran. I never thought twice. About half a block away, as the guy was turning up a street, the girls were yelling after me to stop, to come back. I couldn't figure it out. I shouted back something stupid about we could catch him, come on. He wasn't riding fast. But then then Julia shouted after me (she had to shout, I was too far away for her to just speak in a normal voice) "GUN!!!" I was still running though but now I looked behind me, kinda slowing down as the word was sinking in. Julia shouted again "HE HAS A GUN!!!" I was almost at the corner where this guy had gone with Janice's bag. All of a sudden, I got it. This guy had a gun!

I didn't see this guy face on. I couldn't even tell you the colour of his bike or what he was wearing. All I could see was Janice's purple metallic bag hanging off his left hand.

Anyway, apparently Janice only noticed the gun when she finally decided to give him the dollar. Julia saw the shape of it under his shirt the second time he came by. We walked around the block hoping to see the bag thrown down on the ground but couldn't find it. Janice didn't want us to go down the street he'd come up. She wanted to stay on the busy street and get back to the school.

So we picked up the few things we needed at a couple of different hardware stores, stopped for an iced coffee and made our way back to the school. We were going to clean and paint the stove/sink/fridge wall in the kitchen. Janice needed a little time on her own, so she went back up to the church to chill for a bit. Julia, Jen and I started in the kitchen.

When Keith got back, Julia told him what had happened. He was shocked of course. He took Janice and Julia to the police station to report the theft. That took a lot longer than he thought it would but they took the situation very seriously. At any rate, at the very least, Janice will have the police report for her insurance and will hopefully be able to get back a little money. Luckily Janice didn't have much in her bag. Only about $6, her water but also her camera and her watch. Obviously she was upset about losing her camera but was glad not to have been hurt. In fact, all of us felt pretty much the same way.

Think we all felt pretty terrible about the whole thing. I'm kicking myself now for not being more aware of what was going on. I should've got up after the first time that guy asked for money. I should've made sure we all had a good handle on our stuff or at least made sure we had a dollar easily available to hand over without having to open our bags. So stupid. And then running after him. What the hell was I thinking?! Well, I didn't know he had a gun. All I could think of was pushing that asshole off his bike, getting Janice's bag and then hurting this guy. Really hurting him. Kicking him, stamping on him ... I'm not a violent person so I'm having trouble thinking of how I can hurt this guy. Kicking and stamping is all I got.

Anyway ... the day did end on a happier note. We had a BBQ for the kids. Hamburgers and hot dogs for all the kids. And there wasn't a crumb left. Luckily we had some potatoes and I was able to cook those up for us, with a little bit of salad on the side.

The girls played outside with the kids until 8pm and then we had our down time. Our week is coming up fast to its close. Our work at the Robideau's is nearly complete and the same at the school.

Tired now. It's been a long day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

February 3


I'm beat. Think we worked hard today.

The Triple J's stayed here at the school this morning to do their workshops with the kids. All three of them are super happy with the way it turned out. They did 2 hygiene sessions with the younger kids in the morning and then a sexual health one with the older kids in the afternoon.

While all that was going on, Keith and I continued working at the Robideau's. We did do a little bit of shopping after lunch. Got Jen a new air mattress as hers has a leak. Anyway, work - in the bedroom I got the first coat of paint over the base this morning and then a second coat this afternoon. Keith got drafted by the Major to help him with the ceiling in the DHQ office downstairs.

I'll admit, it was good to be alone for awhile. For some reason this time (trip) I'm finding the constant people and noise a little hard to take. It's not that anybody's pissing me off or anything like that. I'm just glad for a little alone time is all.

This afternoon after the girls finished the sessions, they came over to the house and helped finish up. The bedroom is looking pretty nice now. We'll be able to start putting the floor down tomorrow! I hope I get to use the drill :) The bathroom still needs another coat of paint it's looking miles better already.

Tonight after supper we took the 5 of us and 15!!! of the local kids down to get ice cream. Crammed all 20 of us into the van. Despite the crowd, the kids were amazingly well behaved. I thought for sure it would be complete chaos but it wasn't so bad. The people at the shop were great. They didn't even blink when I said 20 people were about to descend on them. Guess they're used to tour buses.

Oh yeah - this morning after a lovely break with fresh orange (peeled ever so kindly by Mrs. Robideau. I don't even remember the last time anybody peeled me anything. That woman is so nice), Keith was going to show me the work that needed to be done there. The Major come out and started back to work. Keith was helping him a moment later and before I had a chance to leave, the phone rang. Major asked me to answer. I hesitated, looked at Keith - who could hardly contain himself, and answered the phone. "Good morning, Salvation Army." Took the message. Hung up. And then Keith burst out laughing. Smart ass. Wait until Mom hears about this. She will laugh too.

I have a lot of thoughts about this country. It seems like it should be extremely beautiful and well kept but so far, in the city, that is precisely what it isn't. It's extremely poor, dirty and in complete disrepair. I know the tourists go to other areas of the country but surely the do see some of the city. There is a Tourist Village here. Feel confused, overwhelmed, tired. But all the same very glad to be here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 2


What a day! Woke up to a crazy loud rain storm. Up here in the church it sounded like a train or a truck or something ridiculously loud was going through. Plus we can also hear the rain beating down on the tin roofs all around us. I could hear it through my earplugs (which I am very glad to have, by the way) and could not figure out what the noise was. Anyway, it rained basically all morning. So much rain in fact, that many roads were flooded and caused traffic problems.

Our morning of painting went very well. Jen, Keith and I started on the Robideau's extra bedroom while Janice and Julia worked in the bathroom. We came back to the school for lunch. Miss Rhoda is the cook at the school and sees that about 100 kids get their lunch each day (some also get breakfast). Back to the house after lunch to finish up our first day.

While Jen, Janice and I painted this afternoon. Keith and Julia took the two boxes full of medication and medical supplies (donated by Health Partners) to a local clinic. This was a great success and much appreciated. Think they said they took some pictures.

After cleaning up we came back again to the school and painted the bottom portion of the "dining room" walls in a dark green. We got the kids to help us tape the ledges and even gave each of them the brush to paint something on the wall before we covered it up properly. The little kids loved this! I made a simple girl happy face with hair. Picasso I am not.

Miss Rhoda came back while we were painting and made us these fry cake things. Like a beaver tail, but I guess it's a Belizean version. Whatever - they were amazing. And then Mrs. Robideau came by and brought us some pizza for our dinner. Must've cost a fortune here! There was still some left over, plus the food from yesterday and Saturday's leftovers ... we're not going to run out of food any time soon. I just hope we get to eat it all before it goes bad.

Tonight the other girls played Tag and Hide n' Seek with the kids while Keith and I painted a second coat on the walls in the dining room. The paint dries so fast here. Crazy. Later, while the girls were preparing for their workshops tomorrow with the school kids, I sat outside and chatted with some of the kids. They are at times loud, quiet, violent, caring, playful, bullies. It's very confusing.

The Creole and their accent is hard to understand but I'm starting to get it. Sometimes though I have to ask the kid to repeat something they've said two or three times and it still doesn't make any sense to me. Ah well. Even now, 8:40pm, there are still a bunch of them outside, chatting, laughing and arguing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February 1

11pm now. Long day but fairly relaxing.

Kind of an awkward start this morning. Couldn't figure out how to open the door to the school to go to the bathroom. Tried all four keys. Twice. Damn door would not open. Decided to just sit outside and wait until Keith woke up and opened the door. Didn't have to wait long. All my messing about with the keys woke him up and about 30 seconds after I stopped all the jingling, he opened the door. Sigh ... I'm such an idiot. The inside door didn't even need a key to open, all I had to do was push.

Then of course, trying to be as quiet as I can, I made all kinds of noise. Dropped my soap. Nearly shrieked at the cold water only shower. Made a wooden bar fall on the floor. Sigh ...

Before church started, Keith and Julia went to move the van so we could get out later and go pick up Janice and Jen from the airport. While they were doing that I started taking pictures of the school yard. I was still doing this when they walked back, with a few of the local kids in tow. The kids wanted to know why I was taking pictures of their school yard. If I told them that schools in Montreal didn't have dirty cement walls and topped with barbed wire they wouldn't believe me. I just let them think I'm a crazy white lady.

We made a quick trip to the local market for some fruit. Better prices than the grocery store (I think) and much better looking produce. We got some yummy mini-bananas and a gorgeous pineapple. The guy at the market told us that if we were going to eat the pineapple today, we should pull the top off. He did that for us in one pull. Very impressive. Apparently you should only do this if you're going to eat the pineapple that day. Huh.

We got to skip out of church half way through (woo hoo!) to go to the airport. Back in town, we walked down to the DC's house for lunch. It's about a 10-15 minute walk from the school. Mrs. Robideau made us a typical Belizean lunch, served buffet style because there was just no room to put 7 of us around a table what with all the stuff that got pulled out of their spare room. She made fried plantains. My favourite. They were delicious. Also rice and beans, plus potato salad, some chicken dish and some fresh veggies.

Janice and Jen both seem very nice and friendly. Jen is quick to laugh. Janice is a little more quiet but it's easy to see she's completely genuine and kind. So our Triple J is complete (took a picture of the three J's in front of a water taxi place actually called "Triple J"!). We seem to be a good mix of characters.

Those kids played hockey and football for hours non-stop. Crazy.

Tonight we went for a drive around Belize and wound up at the Casino. At the bar we ordered a bottle of coke and 5 glasses. Heh - bet they weren't too happy with that order. The bar had this living room set in white fabric covered completely in clear plastic. So weird. We arrived just in time to see the half time show (Bruce Springsteen) then back to the school to sorted our bags for our work this week.

Finished the day with a game of Dutch Blitz. First time I heard of this game but caught on easily (if slowly) enough. Didn't do so hot but that's OK. Have to see if I can buy this at home.

Looking forward to starting work tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

January 31

After an early start from home, I made it to Belize on time and with all my luggage. Keith and Julia were here to meet me.

We're staying in the church. The girls anyway. Keith will be staying down in the school, in the eating area.

Discovered that if you keep the ceiling fans on while trying to heat water for pasta on a gas stove, it will take about half an hour. Funny how fast it went once we turned the fans off. Note to self: keep the fans off in the kitchen, no matter the heat.

Speaking of heat. It's warm, low 20's tonight. Not as hot as I was expecting. But that's OK. Anything is better than snow, ice and freezing temps.

Did a quick drive by tour of Belize City tonight. Will do a more complete tour tomorrow once Jen (Julia's cousin) and Janice (friend of Jen) arrive. They arrive late tomorrow morning. "Downtown" Belize reminds me very much of Panama. Particularly the difference from the rich to the poor. And how close one is to the other. Sometimes no further than across the street.

Have so far been introduced to Charles, Ishmael and Isiah? I can't remember his name! Kids that live just on the other side of the cement school fence. Julia & Keith played soccer with them before dinner. They played to 5 goals. It was pretty funny. Those kids may be genius with a soccer ball but the hockey sticks are awkward in their hands.

Monday we'll start work at the Divisional Commanders' (DC's) house. Mostly organizing, painting and new flooring in there for the new officers coming in to the quarters this spring.

These kids LOVE Julia. I can see that already. She's a magnet. Right now they're huddling close around her and playing Spider Solitaire. They can't get close enough.

It's been a long day. Think we're all pretty much ready for bed. Our bathroom is out the church door, down the flights of stairs, along the alley and in the school building ... hopefully won't need too many middle of the night visits.

Belize apparently lives off the tourists but none of that wealth is trickling down to this people in this area. The people around us are living in shacks - it's hard to believe. Many don't have a proper roof, windows, not even proper plumbing it seems. Garbage pick up looks to be nothing more than taking it outside to the curb and then letting the street dogs loose on it. How do these people survive?

What do people earn as a "good" living here? What's going on that they are so poor? It just doesn't seem possible that they can go on, day after day, like this. It's hard to understand.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Home again

Back from Belize. Had a great time, took loads of pictures and learned some new skills and a little bit of English Creole too.

Am in the midst of editing 487 pictures so bear with me. I'll get them up to flickr as soon as I can. Will also give you the day-to-day updates of the trip starting tomorrow, probably.

This was just as intense emotionally as the past trips to Panama but in different ways. I'll get to that soon.

All in all, I'd go again in a second.

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6:10pm - New flickr set is up here.