Monday, September 28, 2009

San Antonio home life coming to an end

Laundry Time
Edrei and Glendy
Reaping Peanuts & Collecting rain water to bathe in
Ladies and Gentlemen- My Latrine!!!!!!!
My host Dad reaping Peanuts

On Friday I find out where I will be living in Belize for the next 2 years!!!!! Stay tuned!

The Belize Zoo

Howler Monkey
Tapir- Belize's National Animal
St. Herman's Cave in Blue Hole National Park
Our guide and PCVs in the Cave

Caracol Mayan Ruins

Rio On Pools
Doorway for the Mayan rulers to pass through with their elaborate head dresses
The main site at Caracol
Huge Ceiba tree. That is Roger down there
Climbing to the top!
At the top!
Looking down on the main square
Our guide, Sandy (PCV) and our Language Trainer, Federico, on the way up
Yet to be excavated....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Manissa's Birthday

Manissa's Host-mom hosted a huge party for her 38th Birthday in San Antonio. It was complete with a giant pot of Rice and Beans, a Pinata, and games for the kids. Here are some pics from the party!

Manissa's host brother, Johan. He is 2.
Cake in yo' face
"Take a bite out of the cake!"
Manissa's Birthday cake
The Balloon game again
The Balloon popping game
Kids going crazy for the candy
Federico, our Spanish Trainer (LCF), dominating the Pinata!
Rice and Beans to feed a village!!! and baked chicken!
It was a Giant pot of Rice and Beans!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More pics

Concert at the school
Host mom and kids in the Hammock
Party time
Parade in San Antonio, Belize
Host family reaping peanuts! It's harvest time folks!
Host brother and sister at the Parade for Belizean Independence Day!
Christen and her host mom, Selma, in the parade!
The kids with their tats!
The kids at the start of the parade
Getting ready to start the parade at the school


Edrie and Glendy!!
Christen and her hostmom
Roger and I chopping onions
Our classroom- the unfinished house of the Village Chairman
Christen on our walk across town in the morning

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever

The reason I have not updated my blog in about two weeks is because I may have had the Dengue Fever. I became violently ill on Wednesday September 2nd. I had a massive headache at night but thought it was because I drank a Coca Cola that day and had not had much caffeine since arriving in country. (The coke is made with real sugar here in Belize and is muy delicioso!). So I took two Advil and went to bed. I woke up the next morning shivering at about 5 am. By the time I managed to get out of bed, I was super hot with a fever. I told my host mom that I was not feeling well and I thought I had a fever. She said that everyone in the family had been sick over the past month with a fever- sometimes lasting 3 days, sometimes lasting 7 days. Great. She also said that her husband, Benjamin (host dad) just started to feel poorly as well and had the fever. I decided to not go to school that day and stayed at home to see if I could rest it off. I spent the entire morning alternating between fever and chills. My body ached with muscle and joint pain. At one point, my teeth hurt so badly that I cried in pain for an hour. It was the strangest sensation. By this time, I had notified a fellow PCT, Christen, that I was not feeling well and she had relayed the message on up Peace Corps. By lunchtime, the home stay coordinator had driven out to check on me. She contacted the Peace Corps Medical Officer, Nurse Jackie. She left, but I only continued to get worse. My APCD, Jay, was coming out for a site visit and was told to check on me in the afternoon. By then, I was feeling terrible and felt as though I might pass out from exhaustion, inability to eat, and headache and muscle pain. Nurse Jackie said to bring me in to Belmopan. So I packed a quick bag and hopped in the jeep with Jay. The 1.5 hour car ride was so horrible. I was desperately thirsty and sick to my stomach on top of the previously listed aliments. By the time I reached Jackie, I was not looking good. Her assistant, Kent, drove me downtown Belmopan to have blood drawn to make sure I didn’t have Malaria or Dengue. The clinic is a small building in an alleyway right in the heart of the market place downtown. It was kind of sketchy but was clean and sanitary nonetheless. I had blood drawn and the results were to be ready in the morning. Kent drove me back to the Garden City Hotel and checked me in. Jackie gave me some liquid Nyquil so I could sleep. I crawled into bed at 6 pm and slept until 6 am. I awoke, feeling a bit better than the previous day as the chills had stopped. It was Friday, and everyone was due at the office for core training. I packed up my bags and walked the 15 minute walk to the PC HQ. After arriving, I began to feel sickly again. Nurse Jackie said my blood work did not show Malaria or Dengue, but that Dengue can sometimes not show up right away. I spent the day resting on a couch, sitting in the back of training, and visiting with the Doctor. Every Friday, Dr. Craige comes to the Peace Corps office and sets up shop so everyone can filter in with their various alignments of the week. He is always super busy but is a very nice guy and very thorough. I had a terrible headache all day and was given 1000 mgs of Naproxen, yet the headache persisted. I spent Friday night at the hotel again as I did not feel well enough to make it back to San Antonio. On Saturday, I felt better and was driven back to my site. I still had hardly eaten anything for 3 days and was feeling weak and tired. I spent the weekend resting in bed. The muscle pain and fever was gone, but I still had no appetite and thus was very weak. I did manage to make it on the field trip to the Iguana Sanctuary on Sunday, but felt as though I was going to pass out the entire morning. As soon as I got home, I collapsed into bed and stayed there most of the day and night. My host family was good about taking care of me, aside from the time my host mom served me a plate of cauliflower and a boiled egg for dinner while I was sick. I don’t know if she thought that would make me feel better or what.. but no way. Then the itching began. I spent Monday night wide awake in bed aggressively itching the palms of my hands and my feet. It was unlike any rash or itch I have ever experienced. I took Nyquil, and two Benadryl, but still could not sleep. I lathered my hands in cortisone itch cream, but still I had to itch. It was so incredibly uncomfortable and annoying that I spent most of that night pissed in bed with tears of frustration. The itching on my palms stopped, but continued on my wrist and my feet for the next few days. I was starting to feel a little bit better and able to eat more during the week. On Friday, I went back in to Belmopan feeling 90 % better. I saw Dr. Craige again to show him the strange rash. As soon as he saw it, he said to me in his Belizean accent “ AHHHH, I think you had the Dengue.” How do you contract Dengue?? It is transferred by mosquitoes. A mosquito has to have bitten someone with Dengue and then must have bitten me to infect me. There is nothing you can do about it but treat the flu like symptoms. If you get it a second time, it can be lethal. Kent took me back downtown Belmopan to have more blood drawn to send it to the states to check for Dengue again. So this is where it stands now. I am awaiting the results of my blood tests in the states to confirm that I had the Dengue. I am now feeling 100% better and am back to normal after spending over a week in bed and missing out on some training.


This past weekend was also super exciting as we all got to travel to spend it with a current Peace Corps Volunteer. Some people went way up north to Corozol district, while others went way down south to Toledo. I went down south to a small village called Blue Creek where a PCV, Heather works for a school called Tumul K’in. A group of 8 of us were dropped off at the Belmopan bus station on Friday at 4 in order to catch a bus down to Punta Gorda Town. PG is on the coast in southern Belize. It is a 5 hour bus ride and we didn’t arrive until past 9 pm. The bus was hot and long. We all stayed in a hotel in PG town on Friday night before dispersing to visit current volunteers in Toledo district the next morning. We all woke up and had breakfast at a little restaurant run by an expat. In fact, the entire seaside, chill town was filled with expats- Brits, Americans, Canadians and Germans. We saw a ton of Gringos all over the town. It was strange but PG has a great feel. It is know for moving at a much slower pace than the incredibly slow pace of the rest of Belize. Thus, it is a true sleepy seaside town. Taylor, a fellow PCT, Heather, the PCV we were visiting, and I caught the noon bus out of PG to Blue Creek. It was about an hour ride on a dirt road with a bus filled with Mayan people. They were all really traditional Mayan people wearing bright colored dresses, and most of them were not wearing any shoes. Blue Creek is a village of about 250 people. Most people live in thatched roof houses with limited electricity and no running water. There is, however, a large river that runs through the town and is its namesake. We spent the afternoon hiking through the jungle that surrounds the river to visit some caves. We had to wade through the river and climb along the side of it to reach a view of the caves. The water was too high so we could not go swimming in the caves but it was a great trek in the jungle. Heather lives in a cement house with running water and electricity on the edge of town. She lives on the Tumul K’in campus. It is a boarding school for high school aged kids. On Sunday, we woke up at 5 am to head towards Rio Blanco waterfalls. We paid a villager with a pickup truck to drive us 30 mins down a dirt road to catch the bus. We arrived at the falls at about 8 am to have the entire park to ourselves. It was like a scene out of the movie, The Beach. The jungle surrounds these beautiful waterfalls. We explored, hiked, waded and swam. Another PCV, Patrick and PCT, Kevin met us there. They walked 4 miles from his town to get there. We spent the entire morning swimming and jumping off the falls alone in this natural wonder. It was an experience that people can only ever imagine. Shortly before noon, we decided to head out. There was no bus for us to catch so we were going to try to Hitch our way back to Blue Creek. The boys headed off on their 4 mile walk back to Patrick’s Village and we started walking. It was hot, we were tired and thirsty. Once reaching the first village, we asked around of there was someone that could “charter” us back to Blue Creek. Chartering is when you pay someone with a pickup truck to drive you somewhere. I suppose like a taxi, but they are not exactly advertised. Most people with a pickup truck will drive you anywhere for a price. Considering we were hot and tired, we paid someone to charter us back to Blue Creek. Riding in the back of the pick up truck was another one of those only in the movies experiences. The road is rough, so you are bouncing around in the bed of the pickup truck. But the sun was shining high and there was a perfect cooling breeze. Heather, Taylor and I spent the rest of the day resting in the hammock. We made amazing guacamole and fried chicken for dinner at Heathers. The Avocados are so amazing here. They are so flavorful and unlike any avocado I have had before. In Kriol, they call them Pears. We woke up at 4:30 am on Monday to catch the market bus at 5 am to reach the junction to pick up the express, air-conditioned, James line bus back to Belmopan. It was a quick ride with the air conditioning and we were all back in Belmopan by 10 am. It was an awesome weekend and I am so glad that I felt well enough to go and didn’t have to stay in Belmopan for the weekend. The Dengue itch has subsided and life is good. We all stayed the night in the hotel in Belmopan Monday night because we had Spanish class all day Tuesday at the PC Office. On the bus home to San Antonio on Tuesday, I couldn’t stop smiling. I had an amazing weekend and was really excited to be heading back to San Antonio. I actually missed my little room and my host family. Since I have been back, feeling better, they have been so great. I have had super meals, no more cauliflower and boiled egg whites. Tonight I had homemade Tomato soup and flour tortillas. It was one of the best meals I have had since arriving in country. It was literally mashed up and boiled tomatoes with onion, lime, and pepper. So yummy. And I told my host mom that in the states I eat oatmeal everyday, so now she will make me oats for breakfast. Which is far better than the mornings I was served Raman noodles with the 6 year old children. My host mom said that I only have 18 days left here in San Antonio. I was surprised to know that she had checked on that and seemed sad to find it out. I am really feeling comfortable and happy in my house on a hill in San Antonio. And after seeing the families in Blue Creek, I am content in knowing that my family actually has a lot going for them in San Antonio. I have made great strides in integrating into my host family and am deeply saddened at the thought of leaving them in 2 weeks.

Netti Pot

My host dad has discovered my Netti Pot. They have watched me rinse my sinuses a few times and are super intrigued by the thought, just as I was when Bruce first introduced me to Netti pot in Seattle. My host dad kept asking me why I did it. I told him about my sinus problems and that it helps me to breath through my nose. He said that he too had problems breathing through his nose. I told him he should try my nettipot. And try he did. He was choking and coughing and the whole family was watching him and laughing. This was before I left for the weekend to PG. I then asked him when I returned if he had been netti potting and he said yes! That it had helped him !!!

SO I think I will give him my netti pot and have someone mail me a new one... hint hint...

peace and love!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Saturday August 29th.. Home stay in San Antonio, Belize

This is my third night with my homestay family in San Antonio, Belize. Today I have felt the most comfort since arriving on Thursday. When entering a complete stranger’s home to live for 5 weeks, one must remember that it will take time to feel as though it is a home. I was very excited a first. In the honeymoon stage of joining a new culture if you will. Then I felt some crisis with the latrine, bucket bath, no electricity and flea bites all over my legs and bugs living in my bed. But then tonight I had a great evening with my host mom and the little kids. We played and talked all night long. I feel more relaxed in my new home.

My Village

San Antonio is located about 9 miles south of San Ignacio on the west side of Belize close to the Guatemalan boarder. San Antonio is a town of about 1800, yet it feels like there are more like 800 people. It is very small with only a few tiendas (stores), a tortiallria, an internet cafĂ© with limited hours, and 7 iglesias (churches)!!! 7 churches for a town of 1800? Crazy. The jungle surrounds the town. It is very lush and green. It is charming and I have a beautiful view from my house as we live on top of a hill. I have class every day in the village chairman’s unfinished cement house on the far side of town. We sit in plastic chairs and speak Spanish. It is so hard to pay attention with the heat and sitting all day in small chairs. I walk 20 mins to class in the morning, walk home for lunch, walk back for class, and home again at 5ish. Everyone in the town is related and knows everyone’s business. There are the Tzip and the Canto families. That is it. Everyone is a cousin of so and so.. and everyone knows all about everyone else.

My living conditions::

I know you all thought I was a PCV, but in fact, I am not on a “Paid Caribbean Vacation,” I am a Peace Corps Volunteer. I live in a small cement house with rooms divided by wooden walls and bed sheets hanging from the ceiling. I have my own room at the front of the house with a window that opens to the front porch. There is a large double bed sitting on a bed frame and that is about all there is space for in my room. I have my mosquito net that covers my bed and acts as a screen to protect me from the bugs that come in my open window. The first night here, I woke up with bites all over my legs. Could be bed bugs, could be fleas, could be mosquitos, could be noseeums, could be nerves. But boy do they itch!!!! I was complaining to my fellow volunteers in town about my bug bites, and to my Technical Trainer, Valentio. He told me to not be bothered by them and to not let it pull me down. So he is right.. They are just itchy bug bites.. It could be worse, and it is worse for most people in the world. So itchy chicken pox legs I shall have for the next 5 months. Today I also got my first welcome by the red fire ants in the back yard. While trying to hang up my laundry, I became overwhelmed with a burning sensation between my toes, on my ankles and calves. Now, on top of itchy bug bites, I have burning fire ant spots.

No one in San Antonio has running water. I am a professional bucket bather and I rather enjoy it actually. Sure I miss a warm shower, but who could pass up the dumping of cold rainwater all over your body. The rain water is so soft that it doesn’t even clean all the soap off your body.. ever.

Electricity is limited. In fact, my room has none. I wear my head lamp around the house and my hostfamily thinks its funny. But I think it is rather efficient.

Toilets.. What toilets?? I use the restroom in an outhouse, of sorts. Rather, it is a wooden shack in the back corner of the yard with a hole in the ground. And boy is it delightful.

My host family::

I live with a Mayan family. They are simple and very humble people. My host mom, Carlita, is very nice and kind. She speaks great English and is an amazing cook. She wakes up every morning to cook and clean for the family and is the last one to go to bed at night after cooking and cleaning for the family. My host dad is a hard working farmer in the village. He raises crops and sells them at the local markets and in San Ignacio. I have 5 siblings. One lives across the street with his new wife in a small and cute green cement house. The eldest daughter is quiet and shy, and loves to paint her nails. Today we sat on the porch and painted nails. She is really good and enjoyed the time we spent. The youngest three are 7-9 years old. They are so cute. My best friend is Edry, he is 8 and has no front teeth. He smiles all the time, especially when we color on the front porch. We walk next door to his grandmother’s house where she sells candy for the kids. A shilling ( 25 BZ cents or 12 US cents) will buy you a lot of treats from Grandma’s house. This is grandma’s income, so I like to support it. Three generations live within a stones throw of one another on top of the hill. It is amazing.

The coming 5 weeks will be very busy around here! I am commuting into Belmopan at least twice a week, sometimes 3 or 4 times a week for days of Language instruction and Core training with all the other Volunteers on Fridays. The commute to Belmopan is at least 2 hours by bus and a 20 minute walk from the bus station to the PC HQ. On those days, I will wake up at 5 am in order to be a our local bus stop at 6 am. Wahoooo. I can hardly wait to enjoy the long, slow, hot, bouncy, bus rides!! Also, One weekend we are all going to stay with current Peace Corps Volunteers around Belize. This should be a good time! On October 2nd I will find out where I will live for the next 2 years. After reviewing our schedule for the coming weeks, it seems like the days will fly by! Peace and Love.

My Spanish Skills…

Seeing as my host family is Mayan, they don’t necessarily speak Spanish. They speak enough, but they also speak Kriol, English and Maya. Soooo, this proves to be challenging when learning Spanish. They also love to practice their English because everyone in Belize has stolen cable from some small towns in Middle America. It is funny because the local news in Iowa will come on the TV and it is quit the strange sensation. None the less, my host parents love to speak English.. Which is great when we are having in depth conversations about economics and rich Americans in the Hammock every night, but not so great when it comes to my Spanish. The young kids, Edry, Gleny and Susi all speak to me in Spanish and I pretend as though I know what they are saying. It is pretty cute. The next 5 Tuesdays will be spent in Belmopan learning Spanish from teachers who teach Spanish at the University of Belize. That is where we will learn more of the grammar and classroom Spanish. My language sessions in the cement building across town are more conversational Spanish. Who knows.. I will probably be placed in a Kriol village in the Jungle of Toledo, Belize., Where Spanish will do little for me.

Most PCV got cellphones last week so we can all stay connected via text message and call home of course. Calling is very expensive, so everyone uses text messages to coordinate visits and such. We are trying to teach the elder volunteers, ranging from 50 to our oldest, 71, Dicky P to text one another! ha.. Anywho, yesterday I got a text from my fellow PCV, Adam. He is also Business Organization ( BusOrg) but he is with the group that stayed in Belmopan to learn Kriol while 5 of us are in San Antonio learning Spanish. He wrote “ Warm shower, my own bathroom, my own TV, and internet” I wrote back “ Bucket bath, outhouse, no electricity but the best home made tortillas!!” So … that is the division in experiences already. I cant believe it has only been less than 2 weeks since I left Seattle. It feels like a lifetime away from where I type under my mosquito net at the top of the hill in San Antonio, Belize.