Monday, April 12, 2010

Tobacco Caye

A few weeks ago, I had my first visitor to Belize! I met Jeannie on Semester at Sea in the summer of 2006. Jeannie, and her husband Minor, were on the ship as adult life long learners when I did the program as an Undergrad. I have since stayed in contact with them as I lived in Seattle and they lived in Medford, Oregon. They visited me in Seattle and on a West Coast road trip last summer; I stayed with them in Medford for a few days. It has been nice to keep in touch with such interesting and kind people. Jeannie is a huge traveler and has been to over 100 countries!!! Her husband Minor signed up for a medical mission in Guatemala. So Jeannie came to visit me first, and then together we went to Guatemala to meet up with Minor and travel around. Jeannie had been to both Belize and Guatemala before, but was very excited to come see Belize through the eyes of a Peace Corps Volunteer! After spending a few days in my village, getting to know my friends in the village and sharing many meals at different houses, we headed out on our grand adventure.

First stop- Tobacco Caye!!!

Tobacco Caye was pure paradise!!!! It is only an hour boat ride off the coast of Dangriga. That makes it a mere 2 hours from my village! Very close! The boat costs 35 Belize each way- so it is a bit pricy on my PC budget, but well worth it. We had reservations at Paradise Cabanas on the island- arguably the best place to stay on the small caye. The whole Caye is about the size of a football field. There are a handful of options for places to stay. Most places include all of your meals because there are no real restaurants on the place. Just 2 bars and a snack shack. Paradise Cabins were 40 USD a person for one night. That price includes all three meals a day… and your cabana hangs directly over the crystal clear blue water…… It is perfect! The caye feels very small and personal. It is a great island escape. The highlight of my trip was spending the afternoon diving for Conk shells with a local that is originally from my village in Belize!! It was yet another testament to how small this country really is. Anyways.. It was awesome.. We carried a small wooden canoe out there with us and swam for hours diving for fresh Conk shells. I was interested in finding the prettiest shell while he was interested in finding the biggest conks to sell and to eat! It was great fun.. The water was so clear and shallow all the way around the caye. It was perfect snorkeling.


Sitting on the ground crossed-legged reading with a pile of cute kids= changing the world?!

When you join the Peace Corps, nothing about the recruitment process warns you about the deep frustrations and depression you will feel once here. They seriously trick you into thinking that the Peace Corps is all about sitting around the campfire, and reading books with children and laughing and teaching them to wash your hands- thus, consequently, changing the world forever…..WRONG… It is not all rainbows and butterflies…. When we first arrived in country, we talked a lot about the many challenges of being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize. Our nurse even put up a graph that was similar to a SINE function in math that showed us how happy and excited we would be when we first arrived. She called this the honeymoon stage of the Peace Corps. Everything is new, the people are kind, there is hope that we can make a difference and change this country. Then, at the 6 month mark, you sink deep into a hole, filled with frustration, loneliness, misunderstanding, hurt, and depression. Soon after you are back on top of the roller coaster, flying high and feeling positive. Well today- I am on my way back up from the obligatory 6 month low. I struggle with being able to relate to anyone back home, outside of this acute bubble I live in here, the daily challenges and struggles I have here in Belize. How it is so difficult to relate to and work with my local community members. How their lack of willingness to help with any project or get excited about anything to improve their very own community is so annoying. How they view white people as dollar signs and expect us to bring some tangible item, like a playground, a building, and school, and then leave. That is their view of development, and rightly they should have it. Every day I battle those stereotypes and reassert my role in this community and country. I find solace in working with the children of the village because they have yet to be molded into such thoughts and perceptions.