Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In the summer time...

Boo Creepy Foot Doctors, Hooray Blog!

Greetings, greetings, lovely friends.

I come to you live from Punta Gorda on a sunny and bloody hot Wednesday. Luckily I’ve been doing as much physical labor as I could today to keep cool.

1. School’s out for summer!!!!
Last week we had three and a half days of classes, which were mostly a waste of everyone’s time. No final exams, since they had all finished, so not much motivation to show up. Teachers sent students to the library with boxes of their books. The library is apparently the spot to store books for the summer. Kind of lame, as now all my tables have been commandeered by boxes, but I’ll survive.

Is that a Lawyer Milloy jersey I see? Yes it is.

On Thursday afternoon we had our Standard six (8th grade) graduation. It was very nice and the students were quite well behaved. For the first time, I watched the valedictorian speech delivered via video. Why, you may ask? Well, the girl who won is now living in the US with the rest of her family after they moved a few weeks ago. No fun to miss your own graduation.


Walking up two by two to the stage.

2. On Saturday, one of the teachers at my school had a party out in one of the villages. While the ride was quite long, the destination was worth it. Lots of tasty Mayan food, games of pool with small children, and nice Guatemalan drinks (the border is only about 8 miles from the village).


Village church.

Cooking up some rice.

3. I moved my bedroom. Exciting, I know. Now it looks like this:

New bedroom!

4. More painting was done by Lee and I:

The work of Lee.

The work of me.

5. The word of the day on Tuesday was “catawampus”: askew or awry.
6. I finally finished the book I have been writing. It’s about 200 pages, mostly of subpar writing and plot, but we’ll see how it looks after editing.

That’s about it, but I’ll leave you with a short story.

Friday. The first day of summer vacation. I woke up with great plans and aspirations of all I could do now that school was out. In the morning there was a boring teacher’s meeting, but it had wonderful food at the close, so that was fine, it’s vacation. At home I kicked back and opened a book, allowing the sea breeze to cool the sweat upon my brow. Early afternoon rolled around and I’d accomplished a few dozen pages and a nap. Good work. The time had now come for some popcorn. Right as I filled up a bowl of that wonderfully light and immensely enjoyable food, the children arrived.
With very little to do in this town at most times of the year, the summer is particularly boring for children. To keep themselves occupied, kids often show up without notice at our house, expecting some form of entertainment. This can include playing darts, coloring, finding random things in the closet you’ve never seen before, or sitting and staring at you while you’re talking on the phone. Most of the time, these are fine. But, today was the first day of summer! I’m out of school! I can’t be spending time with the children I just became free of!
I watched them walk in with suspicious eyes and moved my popcorn to between me and the couch. Then I proceeded to look very focused on my book and largely ignore any questions posed to me. This worked until I found a finger nudging gently against my head. “What do you want?!” I exclaim, knocking the approaching annoyance away from my skull. “Nothing,” came the reply. “Nothing huh, well, lucky for you, I saw an awesome pile of nothing right outside.” A quizzical look followed, then the three tramped outside to find this nothing. A quest had begun. I was left with my popcorn and the summer.
From outside I could hear them start to shout. Soon I picked out the words, “see the crab there!” “Look, a blue back!” “Two crabs!” Then the sound of bare feet running over the wood began again and I looked up to find eyes pleading for a bucket. Yes! Of course! A bucket is right here. Catch crabs and be merry.
Sitting back down, with a now cool bowl of popcorn, the book had ceased to work. Words and letters jumbled and danced and eluded being read. I picked up the bowl and ventured outside to check on the crab catching, just to make sure it was up standards, you know. Standing on the veranda I found the mission was going poorly. No crabs had been captured. For a moment I fought it. Comfy couch and book, or a fruitless search for nothing. I picked the latter.
For the next hour, (or was it three?) I crept around our yard, bucket in hand, children in tow, hoping to come across an unsuspecting crustacean. We looked under bridges, poked dead crabs in the drain, and laughed at Baxter being a dog. Yes, we did catch one crab, but that wasn’t the point. It was summer. Sure, summer means relaxation. It means catching up on long forgotten projects and seeing old friends. But it also means that search for nothing that has for so long captured our imagination. Tramping through the woods looking for something weird. Fishing at a pond. Sitting around a fire. What do we accomplish in these endeavors? What do we have to show? A fish. Maybe. What the summer means to me is not what we have produced, but the memories we keep with us long after the trees turn and greens fade away. So go out and find that nothing, and if you don’t find it, I’m sure you’ll discover something on the way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rainy bloggy

I’m sitting here in my house, listening to mix tapes from the 90s I found in the old JV house. For those of you who were not aware, there used to be two houses for JVs in PG. One, our current house, had male JVs upstairs, while the downstairs was home to Belizean JVs, a short lived experiment whose aim was to get Belizeans volunteering. The other house, two buildings over from my library, was the land of female JVs. Today it is a guest house and home to forgotten cassette tapes. We were without a functioning tape player for a number of months, depriving me from their scratchy tunes, but, courtesy of Fr. Jeff, a player has arrived at our humble abode.

“Juuuuune, come too soon.” Paul Simon was the writer of said words, though he clearly was not a teacher. School has thankfully reached its climax this week with final exams and Standard Six (Eighth Grade) graduation. By the way, Summer Lovin just came on the tape player. Ah Grease. Sorry. Yes, school will end next Thursday, thus bringing about the glory of summer. For the first time since high school, I will not be working at the YMCA Camp Lyndon. Very sad, but I hope they will make it spectacularly without me. With Sirs Thom Busby and Christopher Wiklund now leading ranks there, I think it should do well. Next summer, friends.

Since the end of school means the library will be closed for a few months, I have begun to collect books. Now, if you ever find yourself in Belize and are in need of ideas of how to bribe children, pencils would be my suggestion. Today, I put up a sign outside the library: “Return a book this week, get 5 pencils.” Approximately thirty children jumped on the opportunity in the first hour, including some who had not stepped in the library since September when they borrowed the book. I have around 1300 pencils at my disposal, so that should cover the checked out books. That is, unless a child comes in with 25 books they stole earlier this year. Not quite sure what I’ll do if that happens.

Now, what are you going to do for two months Jeremy? This is what you have been thinking, I know it. Well, JVs must find some summer placement to keep them busy and out of trouble. Matt, my glorious housemate, departed on Monday. It was most sad and the house feels very strange without him. He also left the job of coordinating service groups, so I have valiantly taken it up. I will be doing that, along with working with the Food For the Poor program which operates in the villages. Besides that, mom and dad are coming (yeah!!!!), and I hope to get a big mural painted on the library. A group is coming to tear off the gross looking plaster then is going to paint it white. My hope is to paint a big mural, with lots of help from the PG children. If you have a few dollars lying around and feel like donating to help cover paint costs, I would be much indebted to you. I’d probably send an original watercolor or hand drawn postcard to you. Just saying.
Jeremy Shea
SPC Rectory
PO Box 25
Punta Gorda, Belize

All other mail is welcome. Nothing is better than getting something to read here. CDs of awesome music are also welcome, as are cassette tapes.

I don’t have any pictures this week. Sorry about that. To compensate, I leave you with a poem of my own creation. Thanks for reading, once again. Please please comment, unless you’re Barbara, and Zarko has disabled commenting capabilities and you have to resort to other forms of communication.

Untitled 34

Drops of rain run rampant
From skies of grey,
Escaping the booming of thunder
Rippling through the air.
Warm sheets cover the inert form,
Clenched tight in the morning;
A reluctant surrender.
Light flashes through memories
Of garages, of cars parked at
Beaches, watching the storms.
Of African rooftops, comrades
Doubting the protection from bolts,
Choosing instead to imitate the fear.
Tea steams beside the window
Tapping the sound of rain.
Late are the screams of school,
Of the early arrivals, pushed
Exasperatedly from the door by
Parents, looking forward to nothing
Less than a school break.
Final sigh before work.
Stormy Monday. See the Allmans.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Comeback Blog!

Well, well, we meet again. Looking back, I realize it has been more than a month since the last blog post. For that I am sorry, both for myself and for you. I have been feeling like I have been in a funk for a while now. I didn’t know if it was finally culture shock or just something else. I didn’t know what to do. I fasted for a few days. Ran a lot. Stopped running. Laid awake for hours. Slept for hours more. Nothing seemed to work. Then I thought of the blog. I hadn’t really thought of it in a while. I think I saw it as a growing forum for my writing. It was more a place to display my skills (or lack there of) than a place for me to share my life. It had been a place for me to process my weeks in Belize, even more so than a way to share myself with you. It became something healthy for me, even if no one even read these entries. I have found my camera lying forgotten, my eyes closed to the beauty of Belize around me. I need to open up my eyes again and start writing my life. This is a thank you blog. Thank you for those who read. Thank you for those who comment. For those who ask for more. For those who encourage me and make me feel like my time here isn’t a waste. Thank you for thinking the blog of a 23 year old is somehow worth your time in reading.

Storm cloud a' raging

What has been going on these past weeks, you wonder? Well, that is a fine question.

Immediately after coming back from Nicaragua, I found myself in Hopkins. Hopkins is a mostly Garifuna village about halfway between Punta Gorda and Belize City, right on the water.


There are wonderful sandy beaches in Hopkins, something I often wish Punta Gorda had. I suppose that would draw more tourists, so I guess our lack of beaches is good in that sense. We were in Hopkins for a week for Reo-Orientation/Dis-Orientation (Re-O/Dis-O). For this retreat, our wonderful staff from DC, Daniel and Margaret, came down. It was a great week of reflecting on the past year here, as well as getting to spend some quality time with the second years who are soon departing. I also spent a long time lying on glorious hammocks by the sea. We also found our prior to the retreat that Father Jeff, our in-country coordinator, Jesuit Provincial, and most excellent friend, will be leaving Belize in a few weeks to be reassigned in Denver. It was great to spend some time with him before we say farewell (which was on Friday for me).

Starting school after two weeks of Easter vacation then a week long retreat was a bit odd, especially since I had a site visit by the ol’ bosses the first day back. While I was a tad stressed out at having boss people visit me, I didn’t have much to worry about. It turns out my worksite is a whole lot less stressful than the other PG volunteers, so my visit was a breeze. It was great being back at school and seeing all the kids, some of whom were concerned that I had left for good. Never fear, small children, there is a good twelve months before that happens.

This coming week will be the fourth straight week during which I will have had a service group from the US in the library. While the company is nice, I haven’t been able to work with my reading groups, which isn’t ideal. They had been going fairly poorly, as the kids have really stopped caring about what they were doing, but it was good having them in the library and hanging out, no matter the headaches they cause. I’ve spent time indexing my National Geographics, memorizing the world map, reading Max Weber, and going some serious thumb twiddling. I’m getting really good.

I suffered a bizarre injury the other week. While removing my shirt on a particularly hot Sunday night, my hand came down upon a pair of sunglasses, shattering them. A large shard lodged itself into my hand, causing immense pain. I quickly wrapped up my hand in a Fairfield shirt (the one that had conveniently just been removed) and quickly walked over to our nurse friends’ house. They drove me to their clinic, opened it up, and gave me five stitches. My first stitches ever! The wound healed nicely, until Friday night, when I tripped over Baxter walking down the stairs, which caused me to tumble head first down a number of steps. Apart from some cuts and bruises on my arms, legs, kneecaps, and side, I tore open the cut again. Once again, my hand is wrapped up, hopefully to help it heal sometime in the near future.


Other events include a teachers’ weekend, where I got to go on a trip to San Ignatio and Guatemala with my staff. During said trip, I won $150 in blackjack at a casino. Solid. Barbara and Zarko (aunt and uncle of moi) visited briefly but twas a great visit.

On a sad note, Matthew Wooters, glorious community mate of Jeremy, leaves tomorrow morning after two years of service in Belize. We had a party for him this weekend, which was a whole lot of fun. He will be dearly missed and the room next to mine will be empty for a few months. However, we have two guys coming on August 1 to start their two years, so the arrival of John and Greg is being looked forward to already.

Matt's Party Goers

More party.

I shall miss you Matt.

Well, this felt great. Hopefully the next blog will be in the next week, perhaps two. If it isn’t, I expect someone, perhaps you, to call me out. Please! It’s for my own good. Thanks for reading.

checking out the sea.