Firstly, there are no pictures yet. I have about 600 waiting my camera to be viewed by the world (no I won't put them all up), so hopefully next week will hold glorious images. So, for now, be content with tales through words.
Last Saturday the volunteers from Belize City arrived. Thus, our house, for the next week, held 11 people. While quite crowded, it was great to have so many people around. The first big activity, apart from figuring out how to cook for so many people, was to head up to Blue Creek cave, an excellent location in the jungle, or so I was told. We drove for around 40 minutes over some rather bumpy dirt roads, until we came to the place. After a short hike through the jungle, we came upon the river, up which we slowly made our way. Coming around a bend, a giant cave loomed above us, with the river pouring out. The cave was about 100 feet high and 80 feet wide. We swam upstream into the cave and were swallowed by the darkness. After a bit our eyes adjusted and found it to be quite amazing. We discovered a small offshoot of the river in the cave that flowed into a deep pool, a pool that we could jump into from the ledges. After a few hours we headed back through the jungle, looking very much forward to our next adventures.
The next day we travelled to the village of Barranco. There, we attended a mass in Garyfina, of which I understood absolutely nothing, the wandered around. Barranco is down the coast from Punta Gorda and is very close to Guatemala. We ate a hearty lunch of rice, beans, and chicken, then got a tour of a small soap factory. They had soaps that were made of native plants, including green banana that gets rid of wrinkles, cocoa that smells excellent, and sea salt. Then the gentleman that runs the Garyfina museum in Belize City gave us a tour of the large structure that holds the ceremonies. The ceremonies held (forgive me, the name they have escapes me) are for the ancestors of a certain family. They last for three to seven days, with members of the family coming as far away as Europe to participate. There is much eating, dancing, drinking, and drum playing. Sacrifices are made to the ancestor and at the end, a flame is lite to show if they are pleased or not. Oddly enough, it closely involves Christian practices, with prayer to Jesus closely intertwined with the ceremony.
Two days later, after some long teacher meetings at my school, we headed out to the village of San Antonio to go to the Rio Blanco waterfalls. As part of a national park, we had to pay $5 Belize to get in. Quick note: there is a fixed 2:1 ratio between Belize and American currency. SO, we are given $5 Belize a day for food money, thus $2.50 US. Which doesn't seem like a whole lot, I know, but it goes a long way. And living simply is one of the pillars of JVC.
Anywho, the waterfalls were awesome. Around twenty feet high, we spent a lot of time hanging out in the sun, jumping off into the cool river water, and just having fun. I took something like 200 pictures that day, mostly action photos of people jumping. They will appear, I promise. After the waterfall, we were to have dinner in San Antonio with different families, but they forgot the date. Thus, the next day, we piled back into a truck and set off for lunch there. I got to eat with three other people in a very friendly man's house. We had caldo soup, which is essentially chicken grease, with some corn tortillas. It was ok. The conversation with him was far more satisfying. I asked many questions about Mayan culture, including how the farming occurs (communally), how family structures are run, the perception of paved roads and what negative influences they could bring to the village (he thought there could be many problems, but supported the plan), and how land is distributed (most are communal lands that are shared amongst all Mayans, though people are starting to try and buy land, which is causing a great deal of problems). It was a nice lunch, and afterwards we got to see the church in town, built of stones stolen from a Mayan temple. Not the Catholic church's most shining achievement.
The remaining days with the full house were spent hanging out, reading, and doing some exploring around town. Brian, one of the Belize City second years, and I explored some paths that lead down the coast past town. They go on for quite a ways and I hope that when the nights start clearing up, there will be a good spot down there to stargaze, away from the lights of the town.
On the last day of the crowded house, I was sitting on our porch when Brian came up and asked if I wanted to play soccer. I said sure, then we headed down to the pier. There we met the Jamacians who live across the street, hopped in their boat, and took off. We headed up the coast for about 20 minutes, then down a river. A mile or so down the river we docked at a pier, got off, and found a small field carved into the jungle, with a few huts around. For the next 40 minutes or so, we played soccer, five on five, then chatted with the guys, who turned out to be employees of the park we were standing in. It was a very cool experience. Hopefully I shall do it again.
In the last day or so that the Belize City folk were here, I started feeling a little tickle in the back of my throat. It became quite sore on the last day. Yesterday, I woke up feeling quite miserable, so I decided to go to the doctor. I asked Matt where I should go and he said just drop by the hospital. Belize has universal free health care, which is great, in theory I suppose. I showed up, gave the nurse my name, address, job title, and age, then waited for the doctor. Two hours later I got in to see this very young man, in his mid-twenties I expect, and probably trained in Cuba. There are no medical schools in Belize, so all doctors go to Cuba to get their MD. He checked out my throat for ten seconds then informed me I had tonsillitis. He then scribbled down some notes on a piece of paper and sent me over the the pharmacy window. There they gave me a bunch of Tylenol, antibiotics, and weird liquid stuff in a Coke bottle for coughing (it tastes horrid).
Being sick in a foreign country is very unpleasant, though I think I'm making it through this one very nicely. I have spent the past two days resting, reading, and writing letters. I've also started playing with watercolors and intend on making my own postcards so I don't have to pay for the ones here. Living simply once again.
Well, that's pretty much it for now. Thanks for visiting!
Come back again next week for: PICTURES! (I hope).
Fare thee well!
3 years ago