Jr. the Jag enjoying a chicken foot!
ATM caves... You have to swim into the Cave System
Dad and I after the hike in..
Fran makes some damn good Lobster on Caye Caulker
Benji choppin' Coconuts for us to drink!
Dad getting trimmed up at the local barber shop in San Antonio, Cayo.
A few weeks ago I hit a real milestone in my service- the one year mark. We were warned that the days would drag on and on but the months would fly by. I could hardly imagine this to be true during the year spent preparing for my 27 month service...saying those words.. "27 months" always brought cringes hidden beneath smiles from friends. Nor could I imagine that time would actually move quickly during Pre-Service Training, my first 2 months in country, where we spent days in a makeshift classroom, learning languages, strategizing how to best help and serve, and adjusting to the suffocating heat and humidity that peaks during the exact months of our arrival.
Yet here I sit, having lived in Belize for an entire year. An entire year spent living in this foreign country, sharing meals and laughs with village friends, learning to make tortillas, swimming in the river, helping the pikni (kids) further their educations, working with the women's group in achieving their goals, starting a community library, summer school program, and sporting program. This last year has brought some of my highest highs and lowest lows. It has been challenging in ways I will never be able to articulate. This makes me feel so alone in this adventure. Sure there are other Peace Corps Volunteers working alongside me in Belize and around the world. But everyone's experience truly is unique here. For example. PCV Adam, lives in Belize City- 3 hours by bus from me. He lives in an apartment, has cable TV, wireless Internet, A/C, Hot water, washer and dryer, and a water cooler in his Apartment. He works with the Audoban Society of Belize. He dresses in business casual daily, has a gym membership where he works out along side high ranking Government officials in Belize, and he has a queen sized bed with 700 thread count sheets. I kid you not. Granted the sheets were sent from his mom, but still..... He esentially works a 9-5 office job- and he loves it... That is his Peace Corps experience and he really brings invaluable skills to his work place in order to better the capacity of his counterparts in better working to protect Belize's natural resources. It is a perfect fit, and he could not be happier.. That being said.. I did not sign up for the Peace Corps work 9-5 and live in a big city with all those ammenaties...
I have closer to the ideal Peace Corps experience in Hummingbird Community. I share meals with neighbors. I attend church events in all 3 different churches in my community. I bathe in the river with the kids. I help them with their homework when they hail me at my house after dark. I go along with neighbors to visit their relatives that live all over belize. I attend wakes, funnerals and weddings. I attend birthday parties all over the village. I never say no when I am invited somewhere from a villager. I live with a family in the village, in their home. I go to bed when the sun sets and rise with the roosters at 5 am. I fight ants, cockroaches and rats in my house. I talk about the weather in Spanish and Kriol. I greet and hail everyone. Through these few examples, you can clearly see how Adam and I live very different lives, full of very different challenges while serving a few hours away from one another.
One of my biggest challenges here has been my own loss of autonomy. Living in a small village, I really am on display 24/7, 7 days a week. If I don't open my front door in the morning, people will say, "Miss Emily, you just get up? You like sleep too much." Just because I don't open my front door to announce to the entire village that I am awake at sunrise, does not meant that I am still sleeping! It is mostly because I am walking around in my underwear and I don't want the Chickens to come in my house, which they tend to do when my door is open! If I am waiting on the roadside for the bus. People will always ask where I am going and what I am doing and when will I be back. Everyone knows everybody's business! And if they don't, they make it up! It is very frustrating.
I am so lucky to have one family in particular that makes this whole experience that much richer. The Guerra family are my neighbors. Pete and Glendi Guerra own one of the three shops in our village. They have two kids, Evelyn, 13, and Benji, 11. Pete and Glendi have adopted me into their family and I participate in most of their family events. I eat dinner with them most evenings and spend most of my free time with them. They are so kind and generous, and above all, have made we feel welcomed and comfortable in my community. We joke about what it would be like if they ever got the chance to ride in and airplane, and come to the states to see me. They challenge a lot of my thoughts and ideals about family, religion, life and development. I engage in those conversations right back to learn more about how they work as a family, what they think about development, religion, education and so on. I have learned so much from them. It truly is a unique experience I am having, being adopted into this family and having the chance to learn about the intimate inner workings of Belize through the eyes of Pete and Glendi and the entire extended Guerra Family.
I digress... I think I started this blog post about reflecting on this past year and how time flies...... back to that... Time is wiiiiiizing by!!!!!!!!!!! Which is good and bad... I only have another year to live in this Central American Paradise?! I have so much work to do so much to see yet, so many more experiences to have, so many more!