Belize Adventures

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Marathon Saturday

well, yesterday was marathon saturday. not just because it was a looooong day, which it was, but because there actually was a marathon. let me start at the very beginning: last monday one of my housemates found out that there would be a marathon on saturday, a mere 5 days away. this set the entire house in motion. not only would there be a marathon, but a half marathon, a 10k, and a 5k. immediately, all my housemates start thinking about actually running some distance at the end of the week. on tuesday, it was confirmed that we were actually eligible to run in the marathon and wow, did the discussion ever begin. each housemate had thoughts about what distance he or she wanted to run and thoughts about what distances other housemates should or should not run! the marathon/running talk could possibly have taken up 90% of our general conversation. one of my housemates decided that she wanted to try the marathon---now, she runs every day mind you, but the marathon was 4 days away....4! and hello--we're in belize--it's not like it is ever hot or humid here or anything! crazy. two of my other housemates decide they want to try the half marathon, and myself and another housemate were going to try for the 10k. now, i don't know if you know this about me, but i'm fairly sure i am quite vocal about the following fact: i HATE to run. hate it. really find no joy in it at all. and yet, there i was decided that i could run 6 miles in the belizean heat. i think maybe i was caught up in the thought that if one of my housemates could run 26 miles, surely i could run 6. again, let me remind you that i have NEVER run any sort of organized race in my life. ever. i somehow missed the vital piece of information that there was a 5k race---i'm quite glad i missed it though because, had i known, i probably would have run 5k instead!

so--we're talking talking talking about this race, but everything is pretty loosely planned, which seems to be the norm. kate (the marathoner) had a starting time of 5am, so we all get up around 3:30am (WHAT!?!?) and get ready to go. we had to put two bikes in the truck and first go lock them up at the track. the track was the finish line of the race and i'll explain about the bikes later. then we're driving in the pitch dark to find this kate's start line. really, there's only one highway, so we know it has to be somewhere along the road. we turn around a few times hoping to find some, any, indication of a start point FOR A MARATHON. we ask a few people (very few---who, after all, is up at 4:30am!?!?) and they point us in the direction of a few cars parked on the side of the road. mere minutes to 5am, a few more cars pull up and kate is quickly registering and pinning a number on her shirt. it was all very haphazard! we then left her so that we could get to the starting point for the half marathon! it was so terrible to just leave here there and drive down the road, knowing she would be running the same path! we dropped the two boys off for their 5:30am start and then monica and i continued down the road for the 10k. seriously, monica and i could not stop laughing at the hillarity of the situation. we were completely unprepared for this in every way possible. we were driving the parish truck, we had not trained AT ALL, we were frantically putting sunscreen on, we had just left our housemates at very unorganized start lines, and it was all too much for us. we, also, quickly registered and before we knew it, everyone was lining up to start. no joke, monica was still standing at the truck lathering up with sunscreen as i was yelling for her to get to the start line! all of a sudden, everyone (everyone being, oh, 25 or so people) starting SPRINTING. monica and i quickly fell to the back and were AMAZED at the speed at which people were actually running! i told monica that i was NOT in this for speed, and we laughed again at our utter lack of preparation. we jogged along and actually PASSED people---will wonders never cease. now, for those of you who have seen marathons, heck, even any organized race in the states, do you have a picture in your mind of the scene? well, COMPLETELY disregard that and now picture us ragtag group running along the side of the HIGHWAY in belize with bikes, cars, trucks, people walking on the sidewalks, etc. we were actually running along the highway, but the highway here is a two lane road that is paved (mostly) but has a TON of potholes that were filled with very dirty water from the previous night's rain. sometimes we were on the sidewalk, sometimes we were on the gravel where there was no sidewalk, mostly we were on the road with cars going past us incredibly close. this whole thing is just so funny to me!

we were really lucky to have an overcast morning, so the heat was not TOO bad. we were NOT so lucky to have a breeze the entire way---yeah, as you guess it, we were running AGAINST the wind the whole time. i turned to monica and said, i do not like this one bit. i am having no fun. what am i doing!?!? however, when we got to the track, did one lap and crossed the finish line, i was very proud of myself for having run the longest (and to date, only) race of my life!

my accomplishments were soon to be overshadowed by my two housemates who came flying in from the half marathon. and after them came kate. kate ran the ENTIRE marathon with 4 days notice. not only did she finish, she WON. she was the first female finisher and got a prize!!! isn't that amazing!?!? we could NOT believe it! they made her stand up on a podium and everything! it was embarrassing for her, but we loved it!

but, let me get back to the bikes. after seeing our two housemates finish the half marathon, monica and i got on the bikes and biked the exact same route we had just run to get the truck! what a buzz kill to run that whole way and then half to bike it back! ha! we piled the bikes in the back and had to get the truck back to the parish so that the members of the st. vincent de paul society (aka, my other roommate) could use it to distribute rice and beans! so funny. monica and i then took 8 nalgenes, sunscreen, shirts, and whatever else was in the truck back to our house where we quickly replenished the water, made some sandwhiches and BIKED BACK to the track! we got there RIGHT as kate was crossing the finish line. it could not have been more perfect timing!

in sum, monica and i like to think that we did a biathalon yesterday while running support crew. it's really the only way i can feel proud of my measly 6 miles in light of the fact that my roommate RAN and WON a marathon with 4 days notice!

at dinner, i looked at kate and said, 'kate, you do realize that you won a marathon THIS MORNING!' getting up at 3:30am sure makes for a looooooong day!

i hope you all enjoy this long narrative!
be well.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

not enough

okay, i just re-read that post and it was awful. it was the most basic description of everything i have been up to. i'm posting again just to say, please email with specific questions. i think i'd do better in describing if i had a jumping off point. also, i have been inundated with names, faces, traditions, words, and can't seem to find my own words to describe them all.

some of the things i forgot in that last post:

my community: there are three first years and three second years in the belize city house. the three first years are all girls and i met the other two at orientation in DC. actually, i knew one of them from seattle, as she was a jv there last year. the other's name is monica and she's from montana--she just graduated from georgetown.

the three second years are all guys. they have been so helpful and patient with us as we ask a MILLION questions about the ways things are done around here. they have also been so great about giving us space to make our own mistakes and figure things on our own.

it will take some getting used to, but i think we are going to be a great community.

the heat: well, i have sweat more this past month than i have ever sweat in my life. ever. the boys keep saying that we'll get used to it, but they still sweat too, so i'm not too sure about that. the good part is, apparently it's not embarassing to walk around with sweat showing through your clothing, so i'm all set.

the house: we have a really great house. we rent the upstairs and downstairs of a house, so we actually live in two different houses. we have to go outside and then unlock the downstairs doors to get to the rooms of the three folks that live downstairs. i live upstairs and that is where our living room and kitchen are. i actually had the biggest room in the house (and my own bathroom) but ended up trading it for a smaller room because the other one was just too big for me. i like my little room now. it's cozy and it fits me better. yes, we have bugs (cockroaches and the like) but surprisingly you get used to them and they actually seem to have dissapated in the last week. there is no hot water at all. at all. but really, that's not a problem since i'm so hot 99% of the time that i couldn't even think about turning on any hot water. i'm pretty dirty a lot, but if you know me, then you know that's not a big problem. i might have to start showering more regularly though, with the amount that i've been sweating and all.

okay, i feel better about giving you some more to chew on. but i'm serious about emailing with specific questions because then i'll better be able to explain myself.

be well.

finally here

hi all! i am so sorry that it has taken me so long to post anything new. i arrived in belize on august first and have been so busy since then. in fact, i've been so busy that i don't even know where to begin this note.

we have just completed phase 2 of orientation. that means that all the JVs (both from the belize city house and the punta gorda house) have been hanging out and doing activities. the second year JVs planned talks and adventures for the first years, to introduce us to belizean culture.

we first were in belize city for a few days---it was basically a blur of talks and trying to get to know our house and housemates. then all 10 of us went on retreat to a place called banana bank. we went horseback riding through the jungle and saw howler monkeys up in the trees! it really was incredible. the downside was that there were more mosquitos (and bugs of all kind for that matter) than i've ever seen in my life. you know when you're sitting around and you get the feeling that there is a bug on your arm, but you look down and realize that it is just the way the breeze is blowing through the room? well that doesn't happen in belize. every single time you look down, it IS a bug on your arm! but most don't bite, so that's good!

let's the punta gorda volunteers went down to their home while the belize city folks stayed put. the three new first years went to our homestays. i stayed with a man who i will be working with at hand in hand ministries. after homestays, we went down to punta gorda for a week to run a summer camp with the jvs down there. PG probably has the same amount of bugs as banana bank and my legs still have the evidence of them! the pg house is pretty old and rickety, but it is RIGHT on the water and the view is absolutely breathtaking.

each day after summer camp, there was an activity planned for us. one night we went to the mayan villages for dinner and then to spend the night. we all broke up into pairs and had dinner with a family and then reconvened and spent the night all together. the ride to the mayan villages could possibly be one of the prettiest rides i've been on. driving up and down roads flanked by trees and plants of every shade of green imaginable. the trees seem to go on forever. it is just so beautiful. having dinner with a mayan family was such an honor. my partner and i were served first and we ate by ourselves because we were the guests, but then the kids came out and we played with them for a while. the parents eventually came out and we were able to ask a lot of questions and learn a lot about their lifestyle.

another one of our activities was seeing garifuna dancing. the garifuna people are a ethnic group in belize, just as the mayans and the mestizos, etc. garifuna are closely tied to their african ancestry and are amazing drummers and dancers. we were treated to a private show of drumming and dancing, and we even had to get up and try some moves on the dance floor. i don't think we impressed anyone but it was fun.

we also spent the night in a different mayan village and the next day went to a waterfall. we jumped off a ledge into the pool beneath the waterfall and it was so fun. i was TERRIFIED to jump....absolutely terrified. but it was such fun. i'll try to attach some pictures.

geez, i have been doing so much---this note does not do anything justice. it's hard for me to just write this, because everything i've been doing has been so much more meaningful than just the words on this screen. but i wanted you all to know what i've been up to, so this will have to suffice for now.

i still have not started my job, officially, but went out on a few home visits today and will slowly work my way into being there full time. a nurse from the outreach center took me around to meet some of the families whose children attend the center. all the houses we saw today were in very poor condition; i'm interested to get to know the families and their situations more. i was telling one of my housemates about my day and i was saying that i wasn't shocked by the poverty beacuse i feel as though i've seen a lot of families living in similar conditions in various countries, but that doesn't stop me from being saddened by it.

there is so much more i could write about---so much. please email if you have more questions; i would LOVE to elaborate on anything i've written or haven't written. i'm just going to stop this now because it's getting late!

i miss you all so much. i really do. the things i have been doing are absolutely amazing, but it still is difficult to be away from everyone and everything you love! i hope this finds you all well. drop me a line and let me know what's going on....any news, events, fun stories....i want to hear them all!

love, maria