Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Greetings!

Greetings on the last day of November. Not that I actually believe the calender any more. This whole hot weather when it should be cold has boggled my mind.

This was a fairly uneventful week.

There were awesome sunrises!


Sometimes the ocean is very calm:


I saw a neat bird:


Alyssa left for the states, but before, she was wonderful enough to take silly photos of our community, like this one:


On Thursday, America's Thanksgiving, we had dinner with the Jesuits. Nothing like some tasty turkey.
On Friday, in PG, we celebrated Children's Day at school. Essentially this is somewhat like field day in the US, where there are a bunch of outdoor games. One difference was the presence of karaoke. The kids got together in the parish hall, sat in front of a tiny tv, and sang for hours on end. It was awesome. This video took me hours to upload.
video

Kids hanging out on the sunny day. Hooray no classes!!!


Taking off on one of the races. I tried to enter the races but I wasn't allowed. Ah well. Probably for the best. I would have pushed a kid over if he started beating me.



Alright, this was a short post. I'm sorry. I am also rushing back to the library to get some work done, so my time has been limited.
Stop by for next week's post: "The Different Sides of Punta Gorda"

Happy December!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A long, wild week

EEEEE!!!!

Ah ha! I meet you again on a Monday. The internet has been down for a few days so I’m back again in the world of speedy communication.

Editorial Note: Last week I posted a picture of Garifuna dancers with masks on, taken at the Battle of the Drums. These men are in fact the “white men”. When the Garifuna people were still in slavery, they were told to put on traditional performances for their masters. To get a bit of revenge, they created this masked character who openly mocked the white men, who realized nothing of this jest. Thus, this dancer has become a part of the dances to this day.

So, one week ago, I arrived at work like any other normal Monday. Around 9:30 I found myself working with one of my reading groups when a teacher entered the library. She said that one of the Infant I teachers had just gone home sick, so with another already out, they were down to two and needed my help. I said, sure. Bad choice. Infant I children are around 5 years old and the worst human beings on the planet. In fact, this particular class might have included the very top echelon of terrors this generation has to offer. I believe they would have been better off had there been no authority figure present at all. I was punched, attempted to be robbed, mocked, and utterly ignored. I got home for lunch trying to figure out how to get out of teaching in the afternoon. No plans materialized. In the end, I survived, yet if another teacher walks into the library from Infant I, I shall be running far away.

This week was culture week at all the schools. On Tuesday, St. Benedicts, where my housemate Allison works, held their culture day, so Peter Claver students trekked to the back of town to check out the festivities. There are seven main cultures in Belize, though since St. Benedicts is quite small, only a few were represented by the students. There were some good dances and interesting displays in the classrooms. Mostly the students just ran around, causing trouble and playing soccer.

Thursday was the day of Peter Claver’s culture day. All the kids were dressed up in their traditional outfits, making for a splendid fashion show.

Dressed up.


Sweet outfit, man.


Why can't we Americans look this cool?




I wish this was how they dressed for school everyday. The day kicked off with a reenactment of the Garifuna people landing in Belize, albeit in a motor boat filled with children.

Eagerly awaiting things.


Yeah! Sweet outfits. Carlos is in the background. He sells donuts his mom makes. I eat lots of them.


Waiting for the arrival of the Garifuna boat.



The boat coming into shore.


Kids drumming off the dock.



There was then an 18 hour mass. Ok, maybe not that long, but a church filled with energetic children who are listening to a pretty old, blind, Garifuna speaking priest is not the best situation.

Garifuna mass. Thank God this ended.


The rest of the day was filled with more dances, presentations, food, and fun.

Mass of children gathered at school.



All of this was the lead up to Garifuna Settlement Day. Held every November 19, it celebrates the arrival of the Garifuna people to Belize. Now, there is a big reenactment at approximately 6am on Friday. I awoke at 5:45. Out my window I see nothing but rain. At further inspection, I found a few men bailing out the boats on which the landing will be performed. Eventually, after a long delay, the boats set out. They came to shore three times, with the first two ending in rejection by a British governor. Now, I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure there were no British governors waiting on the shore of a quite uninhabited location in Belize. However, that’s the tradition, so on we go. On the third time the boat tries to land, the governor allows the boats to land and celebrations ensue.

Yay! They landed!!


The sizable crowd, with surprisingly gathered in the face of the rain, marched off to church. I marched off to dry clothes and tea.

Dancing off to mass.


The rest of the weekend was filled with a barbecue at our house, much revelry, and finally relaxation. I enlisted Lee, my British friend, to do some painting in the room I’ve been fixing up downstairs. Joining us were the one Alyssa DeConto of Sandwich, and Ekat, formerly of Russia, then the US. We spent a few hours putting up some quite excellent images. If you find yourself in our house any time soon, feel free to come downstairs and paint something up there (or down there. I’m very much hoping for floor paintings).

Ekat rocking the Menonite fishing



Alyssa and her abstract painting.



Lee and his awesome elephant



This was my painting. I shouldn't have picked one with some much detail. Darn tiles.



Well, I must depart. Christmas music is now heard wafting through the warm air of PG. I can smell the snow. False. December? Ok, that is definitely in the air.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving my friend. Happy turkeying.

And cranberry sauceing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Full work, foul play, feasting, and festivities (and alliteration)

Huzzah! I greet thee on a fair Tuesday. Why not Sunday, my avid readers may ask. Well, the school has far faster internet, so uploading pictures is much more pleasurable while at work. Yesterday I was forced to substitute for infant 1, preventing me from uploading then. So, away we go!
This was my second full week of school this year. If you are confused with the date, I will remind you that this is the second week of November. Yes, school began in September. Don’t worry, I don’t think there’s another full week until Christmas.
To celebrate this happy occasion I got some solid work done with the reading program. It was awesome to have one group go find some books and have a child read a sentence to me. I couldn’t have been more happy.
Fun fact for the week: Back in the 1700s, there were a group of men who lived in Belize and cut down trees to send to England. These men were called Baymen and were governed by laws similar to those used on pirate ships, which, surprisingly, were quite progressive and democratic. Everyone, including slaves, had a say. Anyways, these men would, on occasion, travel up to the American colonies, and in particular to Boston. While there, a number attended the Old North Church. At this time the church was without a steeple, so the Baymen went back to Belize and raised funds from selling lumber. These funds were donated so the steeple could be built. As you know, from this steeple Paul Revere hung two lanterns to signal the arrival of the British by land. Today, supposedly, the front row of the Old North Church is reserved for men of the Bay, or anyone from Belize. Quite cool.
This month has also been a busy one on the sports scene in PG, and when I refer to sports, I mean marbles. Since there’s drier weather, the conditions are much more favorable to the marble players, who tend to have battles in the drier patches of dirt. I, being quite intrigued by this huge phenomenon, had some kids teach me how to play. After a few games I seemed to understand the many rules, though I don’t think I’ll go professional any time soon. I was playing with some kids when the vice principal walked by and she commented that she could beat me. I was devastated.
Apparently the excitement got to the heads of the children, as Friday culminated in a great violence spree at school. Kids kept running to me, exclaiming stories of “bust eyes,” “bloodied lips,” and “kicks in the stomach.” Now, when trying to describe the scene of school to you, I will make you imagine yourself in 1950. Perhaps earlier. Maybe Huckleberry Finn era. Break time consists of marbles and fighting. Children just start brawling as soon as school ceases, and not just the boys. I see girls waging fierce battles with some of the boys, haymakers a-flying. The teachers make no effort to stop it, except when one child comes crying to them. Perhaps the wave of injuries will spur some crackdown on break time antics. I doubt it though.
On Saturday I woke up early to do laundry. Around 5am. I tend to wake up at that time as I’ve been working on a book. Anywho, I threw my laundry in, then decided to make some tea upstairs at home. Walking in I noticed things looked a bit askew, with the window above the sink open and a bottle of wine, recently procured from the Jesuits, sitting in our sink. Then I noticed the drawers in our dresser in the living room were open. At that point I realized we had been broken into at night. Luckily no one was hurt nor were any items of great value stolen. Only some wine and chocolate that had been given to us by Father Jeff earlier in the day was taken.

In the face of such adversity, we performed valiantly. While Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Belize, we decided to have our own on Saturday. We invited some people we are thankful for and threw a big dinner for them. Included in which was a 13 pound turkey, sweet potatoes, coleslaw, rice and beans, fruit salad, corn loaf, and a number of other dishes. We had twelve people over and feasted our stomachs out. I’m still full and we’re a day removed from the food.
Al squeezing limes for lime juice.

Kathleen cutting up some sweet potatoes.

The table was set. Included are awesome autumn leaves my mom sent me this week. Thanks mom!

Festive table setting.
Friends and guests.

Passing the food around.
Our quite lovely house.

After the meal we headed over to The Battle of the Drums. This is the big event that PG has every year. This coming Friday is Garifuna settlement day, and the Battle of the Drums kicked off the week of festivities. The Garifuna culture and language is on some list of endangered cultures, as there are less than 600,000 people left in the world that can claim Garifuna heritage. According to Wikipedia (sorry) "In 2001 UNESCO proclaimed the language, dance and music of the Garifuna as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Belize."
So, on Saturday, six of the best drumming groups from Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras competed for the big prize of best group around. The sports complex, where it was held, was totally packed. I loved it.
The face-off portion of the event, where two drum groups were on stage together, one following the other.


The group from Guatemala doing their thing.


One of the trophies, for second place I believe, with the judges in the background.


Each group had a few women who would dance at various portions of their songs.

This is one of the dancers who was dressed up in the quite elaborate costume and mask. I'm still not sure what they represent, but when I find out, you'll know.


Perhaps my favorite non-scenery photo I've ever taken.

Well dear friend, I must bid you adu and get back to work.
I hope you enjoyed reading my stories and procrastinating your work. Until next week.
Farewell!!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Novembrrrrrr

November has arrived with a vengence! Well, if you consider 70 degree weather vengeful, but hey, it's chilly for here. I feel I often start these blogs with a discussion of the weather and you probably could care less. Granted, I'm shocked that most of my rambling discussions of my weekly life are read in the first place. Ah well. We begin.

So, if you recall, the library was virtually destroyed on Friday for the Spooky House. Instead of troubling myself over the weekend with the cleanup, I relaxed and collected seaglass (of which there is absurd amounts) and took pictures of neat things in the ocean.

1. Cool sea life.


We also had to say farewell to Chris, who worked at Ya'axché, one of the conservation agencies in town. He was heading back to England.


On Monday, I arrived in the library to find it worse than I remembered. However, over the next three days and 30 hours, I put it back into order. In fact, it now looks better than it did before the disasterous haunted house. Included in the restoration was organizing 10 sets of encyclopedias and reference books, along with the 50 volume set of Great Books, from Socrates to Kierkegaard. I'm currently making my way through Plato's Republic.
On Wednesday I finally finished after alphabetizing the young adult novels. I decided it would be fun to count how many books I have read and found 120 novels, 80 picture books, and 40 in-between books. I definitely should be the librarian.
Also, I discovered that if your last name starts with B, C, G, H, L, M, S, or W, you have a much higher liklihood of being published, especially those C and H authors. They are powerhouses.

This weekend we had our fall retreat for JVC. For it, we got to meet up with the Belize City community and spend the weekend together, relaxing and reflecting. The location of the retreat was in Cayo district, in the north west of Belize, near the town of Benque, which is right on the border of Guatemala.
We left on the 6am bus on Friday for Belmopan.

Nice sunrise from the road.

The busride was only 4.5 hours from PG, as we were on the express bus. The ride back, not so quick.

Matt and a cute baby we met on the bus. No, it was not travelling alone. It had a stuffed animal as well. Just kidding, the mom is sitting in front of us.


After arriving in Belmopan, we hopped onto the bus to Benque, where we found Jon, Pat, and Brian. From there we cruised through the hills of Cayo, savoring the cool air. It really felt like fall this weekend, especially up there. The corn had been picked, so there were a lot of empty fields, just itching for a hayride. We got off the bus and walked a mile to the place we were staying.

Most excellent road on the way to our place of residence.


The Lodge at Clarissa Falls was quite lovely and fed us an insane amount of food. I think we all considered the fact we might have eating problems after seeing how much we kept throwing down. Or we aren't used to having no budget and no need for limiting intake. Either way, the food was tasty.


GOOSE! This was particularly scary when Jon, Pat, and I were walking back into the place at midnight and it was standing in the middle of the road, waiting for us.



The town of Benque happens to be the site of Xunantunich, a excellent Mayan ruin. On Saturday, after lunch, we piled into Father Jeff, our in country coordinator's truck, and headed to see what there was to see.

Christin and Pat checkin out the countryside.


We had to take a ferry over the river, then walk around a mile, uphill, to the site.

Pat sitting atop one of the smaller buildings.


Woah.
So Xunantunich, or Stone Woman, covers only around 325 square yards and has 16 some odd structures, most of which haven't been uncovered. The main building is known as El Castillo, which rises 130ft above the jungle. The site began to be studied around 1895 and has since been cleared out by various archeological groups, like Cambridge University. One of the most impressive features of the site are the friezes that are found on the sides of El Castillo.
I'll let the next pictures and captions speak for themselves.

Jon wondering how quickly he could climb this.


The side of the El Castillo.


Steps leading to the roof of the temple.


A view of Benque and Guatemala, only a few miles away.


Hey! It's me! Lookin out over the complex.


Hanging on top.


Friezes, pronounced "freezes" (right, dad?) on the main building.


Closeup of the frieze


We spent a few hours there, then decided to head back to our place. Instead of taking the $1 bus ride, we decided to hike back along the river, which took around two hours. It was awesome getting to stroll through the woods and fields, chatting with excellent people.
Rapids in the river.
Man fishing by the river.


Awesome tree on the hike back


Well, that's pretty much it. Apart from the 10 hours journey back home, including the 6 hour bus ride from Belmopan to PG. It goes much slower when you stop every 5 minutes to drop off and pick people up. I got some great people watching in and wrote 10 pages in the story I'm writing.
Thus week is the second full week I'll have had. This year. Three months in. Not bad.
I hope you enjoyed your read/perusal of the pictures.
Come again and bring a friend.
Farewell!!!