Friday, October 23, 2009

Swearing in as a Peace Corps Volunteer!!!

Yesterday was our swearing in ceremony for Peace Corps Belize 2009-2011! It was a great day!! We had a ceremony in the morning at the Governor General's House, a futbol game against the second year volunteers and staff, and a dinner at the U.S. Ambassador's house!! In the morning we took the Oath, heard from the Ambassador, the Country Director, and a some volunteers. Each language nominated a volunteer to give words of thanks in the languages that we learned. We had Spanish, Maya Ketchi and Kriol. Then we nominated Roger to give the closing remarks to our class. It was a beautiful tropical day with the sun set high in the sky! Host families and counterparts were invited to the ceremony and the lunch that was followed. We then went back to the hotel to change into our soccer gear and head to the field. The game was fun, and we lost miserably to the second year volunteers. After the game we showered and changed back into our formal wears and headed to the U.S. Ambassador's house on the U.S. Embassy compound. This Ambassador was a political appointee by Obama because he was his roommate in College! So he is new to the whole ambassador gig and is enjoying himself thoroughly. Most importantly, he really believes in Peace Corps and fulfilling the missions and goals world wide. He told us that his son is wanting to join the Peace Corps right now and related very well to our experience. His wife, along with the house cooking staff, prepared an amazing meal complete with Wine and American Beers. It was an amazing night and very memorable way to celebrate such an important day.

The scene on the Ambassador's back porch
PCVs Taylor and Charles
The state china and leftover dinner.

The Menu!

The Ambassador on the left, and PC Country Director, Steve, and his wife on the right.
Just hanging in the entrance way of his house.
Signing the guest book... look closely and you can see someone already spilled wine all over it...
The bar on the porch
Diggin' in to some appetizers- Lumpia and Cheese Toast

PCV Heather!
Shaking hands with our Country Director, Steve.
Business and Organizations PCVs with our Technical Trainer, Valentino...
Peace Corps Volunteers Belize 2009-2011!!!!!
PCVs Lilly and Taylor!!!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Confirmed Tropical Disease--Dengue Fever!

Yesterday all the Peace Corps Trainees arrived back in Belmopan. It is so great to see fellow PCTs again and hear stories about everyone’s new site placements! These past two weeks were Peace Corps “lite” in our new homes- It was a taste of what is to come for the next two years.

Most importantly, today I got my blood work results from the states and our Nurse said I was positive for Dengue Fever. There are a handful of kinds of Dengue, so she wanted to take more blood to send back to the states to identify the severity of the situation… One form, Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever, is characterized by a rash under your skin that forms because your red blood cells are bursting and losing oxygen. Nurse Jackie is a bit concerned because I had such a rash on my hands and feet. Sooooo she wants to see if the rash was from the Dengue, or because of the fever and other such symptoms. She kind of got me a bit scared, but I will be fine. She just said to be careful about bug bites and continue to bathe in Deep Woods bug spray!!! I will keep you updated on the status of my Dengueness… But I feel fine and am doing great here! On Thursday we will swear in as official Peace Corps Volunteers. There will be a huge ceremony where the newly appointed American Ambassador will swear us in. Then we are attending a reception at his house on the American Embassy compound. It is supposed to be super nice and will be a great night!!!! Love love love~!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Photos of my Village

This is the community center and Internet Cafe and bus stop- bustling downtown Mile 25!!!
Possible home for 2 years : The house is unfinished upstairs but there is one bedroom on the main floor with a toilet and shower out back.. It is perfect! I am going to get a dog too.. haha.. a dog... Some one send me a book about raising a puppy please. I have no idea, but everyone here has dogs for protection and safety.

This is a view of the house I might be renting for the next two years.
Another view of my new homestay house. I am staying with Guatemalan Immigrants that came to Hummingbird years ago. They speak only Spanish!
My new homestay house where I will stay for the next 1.5 months in Hummingbird mile 25

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 1 of the next 2 years!

Welcome to Beautiful Hummingbird Community- Mile 25 of the Hummingbird Highway!!!!

This quaint, unbelievably beautiful village is situated directly in the middle of Belmopan and Dangriga. Belmopan, is where I have spent a lot of time since arriving in country as that is where the PC HQ is located. Dangriga, is a lively town on the coast of Belize that is bursting at the seams with the vibrant Garifuna culture. I have only passed through Dangriga on the bus heading down to Punta Gorda Town, but from what I saw and all that I have heard, I am sure that I will love this culture and town on the coast. Most people in Hummingbird head to Dangriga to do their major shopping and relaxing.

Yesterday was the day that each and every Peace Corps Trainee had waited years for—the day that we finally met our counterparts. A Counterpart is the person that requested to have a Peace Corps Volunteer join their Organization, School, Village, etc. They, also, have been waiting a long time to finally greet us. Counterparts and Trainees filled the function center in Belmopan yesterday. Everyone was eagerly scoping out the crowd to try to pinpoint their counterpart. I spotted my counterpart from a far because there were 5 of them, whereas all other counterparts came alone, or with one other person. 5 of the women from Horizon Women’s group in Hummingbird Community arrived to greet me. They all gave me a giant huge and whispered in my ear how grateful they were to finally meet me. You see, Hummingbird Community has never received a Peace Corps Volunteer before and they have tried for 2 years to apply and receive one. I’m pretty sure I had a tear or two in my eye as I hugged each and every one of them. I felt comfortable and at ease immediately. I couldn’t have been happier. We spent the day in the workshop reviewing the role of Peace Corps, expectations of PCVs and Counterparts, and rules and regulations of the Peace Corps as a whole. At the end of the day, everyone loaded up there bags and headed out of Belmopan to their permanent sites. Some travelled by bus up north to Orange Walk Town, others had fancy company cars whisk them away to Belize City. The ladies and I piled in to my main Counterpart’s truck. Her husband is a mechanic and had been in Spanish lookout, which is a large Mennonite community, buying parts for a car and picked us up on the way back. On our way out of town, we stopped by the Belmopan Market to pick up some Avocados. I told Mrs. Myrtle earlier that I loved the fresh avocados here in Belize. So she stopped and bought some for herself and gave me 3. Mrs. Mrytle is the village chairlady of Hummingbird Community. She is a dynamite lady!!! She not only is happily married and has 3 children and two grandkids, but she serves as the chairlady, head of the women’s group, is the village nurse, runs the internet café and does any and everything else to help out her community and improve its livelihood. I can tell that we will have a great time. Esmeralda is a well-kept older women who has worked her entire life as a public servant for the ministry of Education. She knows a lot of important people around Belize and dedicates her life to helping poor children to find the funds and support to get an education. As she says, she is investing in the future of her country and the world. She is an amazing women also and I am excited to work with her. The women are all very generous in taking care of me. Whenever I have been out with them walking or visiting, they always offer me fruit or water and such. Today when we road the bus to the schools down the road, they paid for my “passage” to get there. They are very nice and generous.

Hummingbird Community is a village that spans 5 miles of the Hummingbird Highway- Miles 25-30. There is a distinct center of town complete with the community center and new Internet Café, Futbol field & BBall Courts, bus stop, 3 small tiendas (shops) and a few houses. There are about 700 people and 70 houses that span these 5 miles. Houses are situated close to the hummingbird “highway” and fall back in the Mayan hills!! This village is supposedly one of the most beautiful villages in Belize! The community is filled with diverse people, just like the entire country of Belize. There are Spanish speakers, Kriol, Maya Mopan, and English. My counterpart and the fellow ladies speak in Kriol. So I am already starting to pick up more Kriol. My new hostfamily in Hummingbird speaks only Spanish and no English. They are both Guatemalans that have lived in Hummingbird Community for many years. My host”mom” is younger than me by a few weeks! She is very quiet and shy. She is married to Fidencio, who is 43 and has lived in our community for over 20 years. He is a farmer and has built a large house for him and his family here. They have two children; Johan, who is 4 & Maribel, who is 2. They are very kind and quiet. It also proves challenging to communicate with my broken Spanish and Kriol- but we are getting by. I have a large room and the house has an indoor toilet!!!!!!!!!!!!! But- the water simply runs from a hose through the window to flush the toilet, so we have to collect used toilet paper in a bin next to the toilet. I still have a bucket bath as there is no running water in the pipes right now. Fidencio has rigged a system of hoses to the toilet, sinks, and “shower” area through windows from the creek the runs by our house. I will stay here for 1.5 months and then I can move out on my own.

Housing options are limited folks!!! The ladies have secured a house right next to the internet café and community center for me. It is one the women’s sister who moved to the next village over. The cement house is large with two bedrooms, BUT, BUT, BUT it has NO BATHROOM. There is a latrine in the far back corner, about 35 feet from the house that I would share with like 23 other people who live in thatched houses around this available house. AND the bathing area is a 3-sided tin room in front of the house with a clear view of 2 thatched houses in front. My dreams of an indoor toilet and bucketbath were crushed momentarily. I did speak up and tell the ladies that it was a nice house but I was really hoping there would be an indoor toilet. We had a good laugh about how I don’t like it when the cockroaches(cucaracha) stare at me when I pee in the middle of the night. They chimed in with their stories of giant rats and tarantulas running past them on the path to the latrine at night. Hahha..

Yesterday after my first dinner with my new host family, I headed to the internet café to meet the ladies and chitchat ( shsh in Kriol). The café just opened 3 months ago and they are still struggling with running it on top of all their other family duties and jobs. The place was teaming with students wanting to use 2 of the 5 working computers. As I was checking my email quickly, in walks 2 white Bwais ( boy in kriol) One was 73 year old Mike from Bellingham, Washington an the other was a Canadian named Sean. Mike has built a giant house in the hills at the start of mile 25 and has lived here for over 20 years. Sean lives in a thatched house with his wife and 4 small children. He has been here for about 10 years after passing through on a backpacking trip and never leaving. He stayed and only returned to Canada to bring over his wife. He has raised his children here and has a business with selling eggs and vegetables. Mike owns a bed and breakfast and is a really kookie old guy, but very likable. Today, Mike told me that he has a wooded house on his land that he could rent me. I told him that I wanted a toilet and a stove and he said that he could make that happen. So I have not seen the place yet, but I can see his house from the main road, and it looks huge. I think tomorrow I will venture up there and see what it is like. He said it is not too big, but as long as there is a toilet and a stove and a water pump, I will be fine. I like the idea of living out of the center of town more than the pervious cement house that is literally 5 feet from the community center and 3 other houses.

Today I also went for a walk this afternoon after returning from meeting with two schools in the next villages where the children of Hummingbird attend primary school. On my walk, I ran into Adelma, one of the women from the women’s group. She took me to her house way on top of one of the hills. It was a very steep and muddy climb. On the way up, we passed by a handful of thatched and cement houses that she told me all belonged to various family members of hers. Once we reached her house after about 20 minutes of climbing, there was a jaw dropping view of the valley and village beneath. I can’t believe that her house literally sits on the edge of the mountain with a picturesque view of the Mayan mountains and valley beneath out of each window and door. I now want to see if there is a house or maybe build a thatched on the side of one of the mountains. I will take pictures next time, but it really won’t do the justice to the view and the feeling of sitting on front of this young Mayan women’s house above the lushness below. I really like Adelma as she is a very outgoing and strong women. She works for a shrimp farm all the way near Punta Gorda. She commutes to work, leaving Hummingbird at 5 am and sometimes not returning until midnight or later for 3 or 4 days a week. She is tough and very friendly. She has three children, the first of which she had when she was 16. Adelma also has some connection to the Mennonite community that is near Mile 25, but I have yet to explore that Pandora’s box further.

Sorry Mom, I will try harder to proof read my blogs.... Internet time often does not allow time for a reread.