Sunday, August 23, 2009

Staging in D.C. and First day in Belize!

PICTURES::: Me at 1:30 AM before leaving D.C., The ferry to the Maya ruins, and me at the ruins!!!Belize is amazing!!!!! I can’t believe this is only my second night in country! Travelling to Belize was an adventure in and of itself. We met in the lobby of the hotel in D.C. at 1:30 AM. I didn’t even go to bed because by the time we went into Georgetown to have our last supper in the U.S. and came back to the hotel to pack and shower, it was already midnight. So my roommate, Holly from Missoula, MT, and I stayed up. The PC D.C. crew put us on a bus, handed one person an envelope with tickets and official passports and sent us on our way. We arrived at the airport well before any one came to work at the airport. So we sat and chatted. Then there was Peace Corps Dominican Republic that arrived and joined our line of luggage in front of the AA check in desk. It was chaotic once the desk opened to finally check in 41 volunteers with two giant bags each. But we made it, on to the first flight to Miami. We all slept the entire way and had a short 2 hours in Miami before the final flight to Belize City. It was only 1 hr an 40 mins until we landed on Belizean soil. I was the second person to exit the plane and walk down to the hot tarmac. There were about 20 current PCVs cheering us on from the terminal entrance. It is so hot and wet!!!! WOW! Seriously… dripping sweat all the time. We walked in to the terminal and shook hands with the Country Director, Steve. Everyone gathered their luggage and went through customs. We then took a group photo and loaded onto a n AC’d bus. At this point, most of us had been awake about 30 hours. A quiet bus ride for 45 mins to a tourist joint for a sit down welcome lunch with current volunteers and rice. And guess what was served.. Rice and Beans, man…. It was actually good, served with fried plantains and watermelon juice! Every talks about the Marie Sharps hot sauce here and it is put on everything. I will have to get used to it, but sure enough, there was a giant bowl of marie’s hotsauce on the table. We then bused it straight to the PC HQ in Belmopan, about another 25 mins ride. The PC Headquarters is set up like a compound. It is a giant yellow building that is fenced in with a guard 24 hrs a day. Everyone walks through metal detectors and signs in when you enter. Alas, the building has AC!!! Woot.. spoiled for sure. But I don’t know how we could all sit through training sessions about health, security, language, etc without it. We had a brief intro to the team and some logistical info. We then, finally, at about 4 PM were dropped off at our hotel, the Garden Inn, about a 7 min walk from the PC HQ. The Garden Inn is run by Taiwanese, which there seem to be a lot of around here. Apparently it used to be really shitty with mold, and broken things, no AC, etc.. But they did some remodeling and every room has a little AC machine and no mold. Past volunteers likened the structure to a brothel. So we all had low standards and were pleasantly surprised. Spoiled in fact, as this will likely be the last AC we have. Still running on adrenaline, a group of us gathered in search of food and Internet. We ended up heading at this small burrito stand where for 2 BZ we had a burrito and for 1 BZ , four small empanadas. It was all delicious. Dinner for 3 BZ!! The BZ is pegged to the USD at a rate of 2 to 1… So cut everything in half here and it will be the price in USD. We made our way home and were passed out in bed by 7:30 PM.

Day 1 of training was exciting, long, boring, and exciting again. It is all important info, but sitting in a room, in small chairs lined up to listen to a lecture makes it challenging to pay attention. Training highlights included a presentation by the Tech guy to fill us in about the Internet at PCHQ. Apparently it is really slow going, especially with many people on it, but it is wireless! We also had a talk with the Nurse. She is a local Belizean and has been the PC Nurse for 21 years in Belize!!! She was really great and funny too! We also had the acting ambassador for Belize come and talk to us. He is a RPCV from Kenya in the 60’s. He was interesting and talked a lot about working for the state department and the Foreign Service. I am really interested in working for the Foreign Service so it was nice to hear his encouraging words.

Important food info:

Breakfast: spongy tortilla with eggs in it rolled up, watermelon and cantaloupe, banana cake thingy, and OJ.

Lunch: piece of chicken, yellow rice, pasta salad and salad salad served with delicious LIME JUICE!!!!

Training was over by 5ish and then a group of us headed in to town.. Belmopan is the capital of Belize by the way! We walked along the road for about 15 mins. Once arriving in town, we were in search of the phone store. Yesterday I got a cell phone in Belize. Part of me immediately regretted the decision. Most volunteers in Belize have cell phones and use them to send text messages to one another to organize projects and trips because calling is really expensive. The cheapest cell phone was 65 USD and was an old Samsung flip phone. After enjoying my iphone for the past 1.5 years, this phone was similar to one that I had in like the 9th grade. Other phones that are say, maybe 5 years older, more expensive. So a few volunteers and I took the plunge. The cell phones here are like 10 years behind the US and apparently takes like 30 mins for a text message to go through within Belize. But texting is the cheapest way to communicate with fellow volunteers. Calling is pretty expensive within country. The phones work with pre paid phone credit so I also got like 40 BZ of that. I paid in USD that were left over from the money we received in D.C. for staging! Sweet! It is completely free to receive calls from any where in the world. So that is great for me, and bad for you all who call!!! But if you call from Skype, it is like 18 cents a min I hear.

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