Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Last Blog of Jeremy (from Belize at least)

The time has come, Jeremy said, to speak of different things.

This is it, the last blog from Belize.  On Friday I had my last day of school.  The library is now all packed up, ready for the summer.  I turned my key in, so there's no going back now.  Unless I went and got the key I suppose.

I thought about doing a picture recap of my experience here.  That would take 8 years to upload, so I won't.

This experience has been incredible and I will hold onto it for the rest of my life.  However, I'm ready to go home.  I look forward to seeing all my friends and family I have missed and eating copious amount of ice cream.  Autumn and winter will be nice too.

I'll miss the beautiful sunrises of PG.  Excited children at school, books, and tasty meals prepared with love. A great JV community and a ramshackle house.  I'll miss many things I'll only realize once I'm gone.

I could ramble on for hours about Belize, but that's what I've been doing for two years with this blog.
Thanks for reading, by the way.  This week we should reach 14,000 views.  Quite an accomplishment.  I hope you've learned something or at least enjoyed the pictures.

And so, we end.

I can't wait to see you soon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

We near the end

Hundreds of Happy Hellos from Punta Gorda. 

As I write this, I only have about six days of work left. Things are winding down and will soon come to an end here for me in Belize. It's an odd feeling, bittersweet as some say. However, I still have one more blog after this one to post, so enough sentimentality. 

Last year I came in first place in the JVC photo contest. This year, the new contest involves taking between three and ten pictures over one week to show what life is like. Thus, this blog is: 


 We begin as I always do, at school. Rain has been a constant lately, keeping my laundry damp and my windows shut. It is even raining during the day, which only happened a handful of times last year. One day it rained during lunch break, so about a quarter of the school never came back in the afternoon. We manage though.
One day, in an attempt to get some good candid pictures of the students, I loaned out my camera at break time.  Many poor pictures were taken, though this one was pretty decent.  Bravo Clifton.
Between 2:30 and 3:30 I've been running an art club for the younger students who are waiting for their older siblings.  Usually we just color and draw and they try to cause as much trouble as they can. I really like this picture, namely because of the contrast between the foreground and background.  
Also this week was a huge headache for me.  The school had to submit a banner for a competition, and due to my artistic endeavors this year, I was put in charge.  Sadly, we didn't get the material for the banner until the day before it was due, so mayhem ensued.  I enlisted a number of students to come help paint, but I still was up at 3:30am the next day trying to finish.  It turned out well, but the results have not been heard. 
Two weeks ago the JVs in Belize had our Re-Orientation/Dis-Orientation retreat.  The bosses from DC come down and ran this retreat as a chance to reflect on the past year and look ahead to what is coming.  It was great, though the average temperature in the shade was about 90.  One of the JVC staff members was Pat Cassidy, who lived in PG the two years before I arrived.  It was great having him around and we forced him to help us make fried plantains.  
Those fried plantains were used for Al's Birthday!  It was a most glorious day and we had a bunch of choir ladies for dinner to surprise her.  Kathleen made nice cake and there were candles.  Hooray!
When I wasn't organizing the school banner, I completed probably my last library painting.  It's on the ceiling in the middle of the library.  Here it be.
Last Friday was Teacher's Day.  Last year we went on an overnight trip, but this year it was only a day trip.  We got to hang out at Belcampo Lodge, which costs $400US a night to stay there.  We got a crazy discount to use their facilities, like the kayaks, the pool, and mountain bikes.  Mostly we just hung out and enjoyed nice drinks and food.
This weekend was Cacao Fest.  Since Belize, and this district in particular, produces a great deal of chocolate, what better way to trump up interest (as if more interest in chocolate was needed) than a three day festival.  On the last day there was a big concert/performance at Lubaantun, the closest Mayan temple to me.  Sadly it rained, very, very hard.  Also, riding in the back of a pickup in the rain is the worst. 
At Lubaantun, after the rain cleared, I ate a whole lot of food.  Then we got to watch the traditional Mayan Deer Dance.  It was very cool.  Here's some of the guys.  
Part of the deer dance includes audience participation.  Since the monkey is always playing tricks on people, this is a chance for payback.  
Mayan children playing a ballgame at a temple.  Classic.  

That's all for today.  Check in sometime next week for:

Bye now. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Easter Storm Sharks

Today is the 28th of April and I find myself sitting down to write one of my last blogs from Belize. In a month and a half or so, I will be departing Punta Gorda and return to the great town of Sandwich. It is slightly daunting thinking about America, so I sha’int right now. Instead, Belize!

 I like this leaf.
Since last time, we had a two week holiday fromschool for Easter. It was incredibly relaxing. On Easter Sunday, there was a huge celebration in front of my house, complete with a volleyball tournament (my team got destroyed), eating contests, a greasy poll, and live music. Hundreds of people were out, so it was very cool to be in the center of all of it.
Shortly after Easter there were a few water spouts in the ocean. They were fairly far away, which was good news for my wooden house.

After the holiday, school began once again. It seems teachers just realized the library is there, so I have been super busy with research and painting. It’s good.

My birthday happened, which was neat. Thanks for the lovely wishes to those of you who sent them.

The main event of the past few months occurred on April 21-22. Rachel Graham, who is a director with the Wildlife Conservation Society, and is known as the “Jane Goodall of Sharks”, happens to live in Punta Gorda. Her organization is trying to get students in Belize to see the sharks that live off the coast, in an effort to improve Belizeans knowledge of them. She organized for twenty students from my school to take an overnight trip to the Belize Zoo and then to go snorkeling off the reef. Of course, a trip with that many students needs a few chaperones, and of course, I volunteered immediately. It was incredible. Rachel rode up on the bus with us and answered questions from the students and gave them things to think about.

 Rachel et al.
On the first day, we drove four hours or so to where we were staying, which was right by the zoo. Before we went to the zoo we had some downtime, so I took the boys on a hike around the area. For most of the students, this was their first trip away from their parents, so they were all excited. We took a twenty minute walk around the jungle and I didn’t realize these kids never get out into nature. Everything was new and exciting for them. The plants, the animals, small ponds. It was very cool to see their excitement.

"Devils Gut Cactus"
Pine trees!  Ok, probably not exciting for you, but they don't exist in Punta Gorda.
After walking around, we went to the zoo. Rachel knows the founder of the zoo, so she gave us a private tour, mostly focusing on the apex predators, or the animals on the top of the food chain.

Jeremy vs. Boa Constrictor
Friendly Jaguar

The following day we left early for the reef, though the boys chose to wake up at 5am for some reason I’m not sure of. When we reached Belize City, it turned out the sea was very rough where we were planning to go, so we ended up heading out to Caye Caulker’s Shark and Ray Alley. This was good, as half of the students can’t swim. Rough seas may have been a bad idea. The boat ride was about one hour, during which the excitement (and queasiness for some) grew.
On the Boat!
Getting some final instructions
Finally we got to the reef and started seeing dark shapes in the water.

What are those dark spots?
Everyone crowds to see what's going on.
Nurse Sharks!!!
Nurse sharks and Rays!
More sharks and rays, with the reef the dark strip of water in the distance.
We jumped in the water, snorkel and fins firmly attached, and swam around for about an hour and a half. It might have been longer, I don’t know. I was having too much fun. Afterwards, we ate lunch on Caye Caulker and got sweet shark t-shirts.

A long bus ride later, we were back in PG, ready for school to start the next morning.
I like the lighting in this picture a whole lot.

This week was long, after having twelve straight days of student obligations, but thankfully the weekend has arrived. My sanity is slowly returning.

Next week, the Belize JVs will be visited by our bosses from the office in DC. Site visits and an end of the year retreat are on tap. It should be fun, so until next time, thanks for visiting. Neat flower

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

And so April came to be

I bid you a fond hello on this Wednesday of Holy Week.

Before we go anywhere else, check out my shop on Etsy:
I've been making my own sea glass jewelry over the past few weeks, and after seeing how many loans I need to pay when I return to America, I figured the time was right for selling. If you see anything you like, let me know. Perhaps we can work out a blog discount. Send it along to your friends and family. The summer is a great time for sea glass jewelry.

That's my sale's pitch, so onward!

I distinctly remember last year titling a blog post April Come She Will, after the Simon and Garfunkel song. I almost did it again. Looking back, it's funny how little has changed. In that post, I lamented at the heat (it was about 95 yesterday), pondered the Easter break (what shall I do with the rest of my day?), and recapped a successful Sports Day (on Friday the Hummingbird house barely beat out Blue Jays for the championship).
However, things have changed. It is now April, which is before May, which comes prior to June. Bravo, Jeremy, you say. You've learned your months. Yes, I have. But June is when I depart from lovely Belize and return to America. I often tell myself it's too early to think about that, but when is it ok? The problem with dwelling too much on the future is you lose the present. It's the case with any person, anywhere. Be where you are, when you are, and you'll be happier. Unless you're being pried for information by an intelligence agency. Then it might be better to think of better times.
It will be a challenge for me to continuously stay present to Belize and Punta Gorda. It's a great place, but I'll be leaving soon. I have loans to pay. This summer I'll be working at my old stomping ground, Camp Lyndon. I'm looking forward to seeing friends and family. They're not things I can forget about or dismiss. However, I just need to accept those feelings and remember where I am.
Yesterday I went for a walk down to the water. It's a short stroll, perhaps ten minutes if I'm meandering as I do. On the way, I passed a number of homes of my students, who would shout, "Mr. Shea!" at me. It's nice to feel loved, or at least recognized. It was hot, but a nice breeze was blowing. The water felt nice as I walked in it along the coast. I didn't have any plans or commitments. It's vacation! An hour later I returned and showered and sat on the veranda, my laundry flapping in the windy sunlight.
All in all, life is good here right now. Yes, there are some stresses and worries, but such is life.
I hope you have a lovely Easter holiday, buy lots of sea glass jewelry, and enjoy work and play and friends and family.
Until next time.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A little delayed...

It's been a while, I know. It has been a struggle lately for me to get up the enthusiasm to sit down and write a blog, but on this day after St. Patrick's Day (no, they don't celebrate it here), I shall make a valiant effort.
It has almost been two months since I last posted. In that one, I was leading the cribbage series. Currently, I am down three games. However, I pulled off one of the rarest and most devastating wins possible, the Double Skunking. For those of you who don't know cribbage, you have to get 121 points through various hands to win the game. If the opponent doesn't get 91 points, you have skunked them, thus earning two wins. If they don't reach 61 points, it's a double skunking, worth three wins. Greg still hasn't recovered.
In February, things happened. There was school. Very good. I had a visitor, in the form of Katherine Driscoll, which was most awesome. It's always good to see where you live through the eyes of an outsider. It certainly helps me appreciate where I am a bit more. It was great having her here. Last month I also started an art club for the little ones after school, as many of them wait for their older siblings to go home. We've been drawing and coloring like professionals.
Greg and I went to the dump one day. It is scary. Here's some pictures.
Scary dump.

Road into the dump.

On the last weekend of February, the Belize JVs went on retreat in San Antonio. We stayed at the rectory in the village, which is made out of looted stones from a Mayan temple. It's haunted. The retreat was great and it was nice to get out of PG and relax and catch up with the Belize City folk.
I slept outside on the veranda so I got a good look at the sunrise over the jungle.

There were also CRAZY storm clouds looking quite ominous over the church.

March arrived, as you know, after February. The big event in Belize was the election. On March 7, the country voted for all the positions of government. There are two main parties in Belize, the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People's United Party (PUP). Essentially they're the same thing. Politics here are a bit questionable, so no matter what, companies end up having the final say. That said, both parties held a number of rallies, busing in people from the villages, as well as putting up signs and flags all over the district. I was a bit worried about election day, assuming it would be wild, but it was very quiet. There were no alcohol sales that day, so it certainly helped things. People were lined up to vote at 6:30.

In the end, the UDP, the incumbent party, retained their majority, but the PUP won a number of seats to at least gain some voice. We shall see what difference it makes.

Greg and I found a crab climbing the downstairs door.
Greg says he looks scary in this picture. "There has to be a better picture." Sorry, Greg, the others were worse. At least the crab looks good.

Last week, the glorious Fairfield University came to Belize. Unlike last year, they spent all their time working in Belize City with Hand in Hand Ministries, building a house for a lovely lady named Miss Rosa. I met them at the airport then spent the next four days with them. My skills as a master carpenter for theater Fairfield came in handy. It was a whole lot of fun hanging out with some great people, getting my hands dirty, and playing some good card games. Reconnecting with a place I love was well worth the many hours on a bus.

Heading into the worksite.

Moving the platform into place.

Taking a lunch break.

Looking good on the second day.

Since returning from Belize City, we have been entertaining Kevin O'Brien, the president of JVC. The two of us rode down together on the bus and we've cooked for him and showed him around PG and our work sites. He left this morning, so we wish him bon voyage.

April is fast approaching. We have the first two weeks off from school for the Easter holiday, so hopefully I'll have some time to write a new blog. Or I'll just be sitting on the veranda, enjoying the view that I won't have in a matter of months.

People have also requested more pictures of the library. Here they are! Adu!