Belize Adventures

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Il Ladro di Bicicletta

Il Ladro di Bicicletta

Yesterday I faced a really big dilemma. I was at the hospital talking with a woman who is in total denial of her HIV status. The hospital social worker called us and asked us to come over and talk with her about getting her daughter tested and also about trying to convince her to take her ARVs. Normally, our nurse would go over to talk with her, but our nurse was in Corazol for the day, so they asked me to go. As I was biking over to the hospital, I was thinking, ‘what the heck am I doing!?!? I am not qualified for this!!’ I got there the nurse was ready to send me in immediately (the daughter was admitted to the pediatric ward and the mother was in there with her). I had to tell the nurse that I could use a little more information on the situation---seriously, she was just going to send me in and I had no idea what I was doing! The mom is in denial of her status and looks to be in pretty bad shape and while the daughter is in the hospital, the nurses wanted to get her tested so she could start receiving meds if she were positive. Okay. Fine. I still had no game plan but went to a meeting room and met with the nurse and the mom. I started just by saying I worked with Hand in Hand Ministries and explained a little about the center for the kids. She wouldn’t shake my hand or even really look at me. When I got to the part about HIV/AIDS, she started saying “no no, my baby clean. My baby no sick, my baby clean.’ Over and over. We went round and round to explain that we wanted to be sure that her baby was not sick so we wanted to do this test. No luck. Then we started talking about family and other things and she was VERY hard to understand because she was talking creole and her speech was really slurred (not because she was under the influence, but because she only had one tooth and poor pronunciation). We finally got back to the test after talking in circles for a while, and I told her that I knew it was really really scary to get this test and it was okay to be scared and I would sit and wait with her the whole time. I don’t know if that’s what did it, but she agreed. Phew. The nurse went to go get the paper and the mom said she had to go buy something and went out of the hospital! I was so scared that she wasn’t going to return and she hadn’t signed the consent form yet! But she did come back just a few minutes later. The test was only supposed to take 10 minutes but of course, no one could find the woman who administered the test and I ended up being there for a few hours. I talked some with the mom, but she is pretty sick and has no energy, so she rested a bit too. The results came back negative, which is fabulous, and the mom was so happy. She was lying in a cot near her daughter’s crib and didn’t want to talk, so I told her I was also happy and left. That, my friends, is not the big dilemma I faced. But I wanted to share that because that’s where my mind was when this next situation happened. I came out of KHMH (the hospital fondly known as Kill Him, Murder Her—KHMH, very well respected place….) and went to unlock my bike. My bike lock had been almost completely cut through! I was confused as to why someone would stop when seriously, the lock was almost totally cut, but thought to myself “wow, this is going to be funny when I tell my roommates that someone almost thieved my bike.” A KHMH security guy then approached me and asked if that was, indeed, my bike and when I replied in the affirmative, he said “you’re lucky I needed a walk!” He was taking a break from sitting in front of the building and needed a walk (even though his job is security and I would guess that the security of the bike rack DIRECTLY in front of the doors would apply to that position). Luckily, he saw someone trying to cut my bike lock and called the police. He told me that I had to go to the police station and make a report. WHAT!?! I don’t know that I can clearly convey the randomness that I faced when the security guy is telling me how lucky I was that he needed a walk and how I now had to go to the police station to make a report because they caught they guy and they’re waiting for me. What. Okay, I bike on over to the police station and take my bike inside because I no longer have a lock to leave it outside, and they good people inside say, “it’s the lady with the bike!” too funny. I bring my bike into the police officer’s office and he tells me that they have the guy down the hall (!?!?) and do I want to press charges? Umm…I’m sorry, what!? What does that even mean here!?! He says if I don’t press charges, they let him go. Meaning to me, that if I do press charges, they do NOT let him go. Right. So I apparently look confused because the officer offers me some more info. he had a beat up backpack on his desk from which he pulls out giant wire cutters and says, ‘he used these.’ Um…okay. He then shows me a lock that was completely cut through and says that there were two thieves and one of them cut through that lock and rode away on the bike before they could catch him. Again he says, do you want to press charges. I ask what exactly that means and he starts with “well, you would go to court and testify…” and I interrupt and say, no no, I don’t think I want to do that. The officer says, we have two witnesses plus you and all you would have to do would be to come in and say this was your bike. Essentially, this guy is going to prison if I press charges. Which, coincidentally, is where my roommate adam works! Another officer comes in and says some joke about hattieville (which is where the prison is located) and all I could think of was that I would be sending this kid to prison! That’s not okay! I ask if that is my only option. The officer says, well, do you want the price of your lock back? I think, yes, this is the first logical thing I’ve heard yet and yes that is exactly what I want and nothing more. Great. The officer says “well, you just have to sue him and….” What—I don’t want to SUE anyone!!!! I ask the officers what they think I should do, since I really don’t know what would be the right thing to do here. I explained that I’m fairly new here and they know more about this sort of thing than i. The second officer tells me that he can’t force me to do anything but he really thinks I should press charges…. the kid was in last week because he stole his mother’s cell phone….he’ll be in again…and miss, I’m sorry to say this but he could hurt someone….next time he could hurt you or hurt me….i can’t make you do anything, but I would press charges….
Right…everything is much clearer now. I was leaning towards not pressing charges, oh, because sending people to prison is not really my thing, and now I feel TERRIBLE and GUILTY and still don’t want to send him to prison. Another hard thing was that he didn’t actually thieve my bike---he thieved someone else’s, yep, sure did, but I was riding mine and would be riding right on home from the police station. So how could I send a kid to prison for not thieving my bike!?!? But he totally did thieve someone else’s! you see the dilemma I faced!?!? I wanted to ask the officer’s if I could make one phone call and call adam and say ‘WHAT THE HELL SHOULD I DO?’ I felt like I just didn’t have enough information about anything—about the procedure, the courts and whatnot, about life here, about the best thing to do….I ended up not pressing charges and the police were terribly disappointed with me. I felt so conflicted, but I also knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to press charges. when I went back to work, everyone there told me they would have pressed charges. great. But when I went home, my roommates said they wouldn’t have, which made me feel like I was, in fact, a sane person and didn’t disappoint the whole of Belize. So that was my dilemma. I’m interested to hear what you all think and what you think you might have done.

a cold day

A cold day

This is going to be short, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to share the most exciting news yet: it’s been cold the past few days! I’m not kidding. I have actually felt cold. This is tremendous. I really wished that I brought my camera to the center yesterday because the kids looked so darn cute all bundled up with coats and winter hats and everything. We normally have play time outside for a bit, but one of my coworkers decided that we couldn’t play outside today because IT WAS TOO COLD. We seriously had a ‘cold day’ and since we will never ever ever have anything close to a ‘snow day’, I was pretty happy. I came home last night and changed into sweats and a sweater and was so happy. My roommate had sweats, a shirt, a long sleeve, and a fleece on. And just like everyone ALWAYS talks about how hot it is, everyone is now constantly talking about how cold it is. Last night at dinner we were discussing this and talking about the temperature. This is my favorite part of the whole story. One of my roommates has a clock that also displays the temperature (don’t be thinking it’s warmer inside than out, as we live in a cement house with no insulation and doors and windows that are never fully closed). After all the bundling, the sweats and sweaters, and the ‘cold day’ for the kids, the temperature on Adam’s clock read: 73 degrees.

Friday, November 03, 2006

old news...

Birthday celebrations!

So---my birthday was a while ago, but I thought I’d give the update of the multitude of birthday celebrations!

One of my housemates had friends in town who took us out to dinner at a very nice restaurant on Wednesday night. It wasn’t exactly FOR my birthday, it just happened to be the night before, but hey, I’ll take it. The meal was FANTASTIC. It’s this Italian restaurant that is just awesome—the owner is from italy and goes back once a year and brings lots of ingredients that you just can’t get here in belize! Man, and my housemates’ friends went all out---we’re talking appetizers, salads, wine (GREAT wine—well, anything that’s not Belizean wine is great wine!), gelato (yuummmmy gelato), coffee….the works. It was such a treat. Honestly, I don’t know if you get the picture, but man it was good.

After that amazing dinner, I had a check in with one of my other housemates. We do check ins with two different housemates once a month. It’s just a good way for us to spend intentional time together—seeing how all is going in each other’s lives. So, chris and I went to the princess hotel and resort, which is the NICEST hotel in belize city. We wanted to go on the roof, but couldn’t figure out how, so we went on the top floor and found a veranda off a conference room. We sat out and talked and talked and talked. Some security people came in and told us we couldn’t be there because the conference room was supposed to be locked (it was around midnight at this point!) but offered us the option of going down by the pool! I told chris later that I was glad we didn’t get in trouble and he said we wouldn’t get in trouble—we’re white! Only white people stay there, so they just assumed that we were guests of the hotel! And go down to the pool we did. We sat down there for a while longer, enjoyed the breeze and the conversation, and then walked right out and biked home. It was fun.

Then Thursday was great because I didn’t have to go to work! My supervisor’s birthday was in September and he didn’t go to work on his birthday---so I threw it out there that I wasn’t going to work on my birthday. (good thing his birthday came first, huh!) I mostly was kidding, but as the time came closer to my birthday, my supervisor said, I hope you do nothing and relax all day. I was like, WAIT, really? I really don’t have to come in? so I didn’t! and it was lovely. I did relax and I did do nothing! I went to football practice in the afternoon and my roommates made a great dinner and cake! Fr. Dan always comes over with ice cream for someone’s birthday, so we can always bank on that!

Friday turned out to be great too! After work, I passed my coworker Miss Cherry’s house. I stopped in and met her kids and husband. I really like Mrs. Cherry and that was the first time I was able to meet her family. She is the cook at the center for the kids and she feeds me well two days a week! She loves that I have never tried half of the things she cooks! After seeing all of her family photo albums, I began the very long process of leaving. This isn’t always, but most of the time, it takes quite a while to actually exit someone’s house. You must begin long in advance of your next engagement or when you told someone you’d be home. I underestimated the powers of Miss Cherry and her husband and I ended up getting home way later than expected. However, the long wait was due to the fact that Miss Cherry was in the midst of making tortillas and was determined to send me home with about a billion---okay, maybe just a pound, but it felt like a billion. I looked at her youngest son Kyron at one point and said, do you always eat this great? His chubby face lit up and he nodded vigorously. So cute! After that we went to a farewell celebration for one of my coworkers. He is going back to the states after 3 years of being in Belize. The evening was wonderful and it turned into a Tuesday night dinner! Food and drinks and music ended with all of us sitting around with a guitar and some drums and some singing! Does it get any better?

Saturday was a lazy day for us. Football finals have been postponed two weeks in a row (there’s probably a reason, I just don’t know it) and so I literally loafed around all day. I went running with Monica in the late afternoon and then began thinking about the evening. We had a little party, just the 6 of us, and I got to pick the theme, which was ghetto fabulous. If I were better at the whole digital camera to computer thing, I could post some pics of us in our glory! Soon I’ll figure it out, I promise. That was a really fun night---just us, drinking some, hanging out, laughing---we went to bed so late! It was a miracle that we got up for church in the morning!

Now, perhaps it wasn’t so much a miracle as a rude awakening. The electricity went out at 6am. We all sleep with our fans directly on us and sleeping without fans is not so fun. I think Monica actually woke up when the current went out (everyone says “current gone, current gone” when saying that the electricity is out!), but thankfully I didn’t get up right at 6, but a bit later. Regardless of when we got up, we were all sweating a ton. Church was soooooo hot with so many people and no fans. We came home and whined about how we had no food and no current! Poor us! Little did we know that this was actually a scheduled thing---we have no TV and apparently we don’t listen to the radio because the rest of Belize knew and we didn’t! oh well. The electricity finally went back on around noon I think. That afternoon, my supervisor invited us all over to his house. His wife and I share the same birthday! We had a joint birthday party, but it was much more of a treat for us! The cake said ‘happy birthday Yvonne and maria’ and we both had to stand by the cake while everyone else sang. Carol, my supervisor’s oldest daughter, does this rhythm and sings while she bangs a spoon on a pot. Hard to imagine because I’m describing it so poorly, but it’s really neat. We all were EXHAUSTED from our many days of celebrating and left around 9ish and went STRAIGHT to bed.

I’ve been getting lots of cards from people and that has been so fun. Mail here is GOLD and each day I look forward to seeing if Chris brings home any mail for me. So, thank you to all for the cards!

What else---hmmm---it is raining raining raining today. So much so that the rest of my housemates did not have to go to work! Yep. Belize is at sea level (or below at some points) and floods so easily. Streets turn into lakes. I called my supervisor hoping that he would tell me to stay home, but alas, he told me he’d pick me up so I didn’t have to bike in the pouring rain. So now I’m stuck in the office with no bike to go out and do home visits, thinking of the rest of my roommates and how lucky they are to be at home relaxing. Whenever it rains, the bugs come inside---great, huh. Yesterday at the center, I was getting bit left and right by stupid sand flies. You can’t even see them so you don’t get the satisfaction of swatting them. Nope, you just feel the little bite and then if you’re super allergic, like me, you get a big red welt that itches like crazy. Man I love the rain.

I had a pretty good afternoon the other day. I felt like I could see that I was starting to make myself home here. I passed Miss Cherry’s house to borrow some dresses for the Hand in Hand fundraiser tomorrow night. I brought nothing fancy enough to wear—heck, I brought nothing fancy at all! Another volunteer with the Catholic medical mission likes to say that the volunteers sport the refugee look whenever we go somewhere nice with Belizeans! Belizeans go ALL OUT with dresses and shoes and the like and we all look like we just got off the boat! So sad! I knew I needed a little help with my wardrobe so I asked to borrow some things. After that I decided not to go to football practice because there was thunder and lightening and the rain was sure to follow, so I passed the Cayetano’s house. Gianne Cayetano is one of the girls on the football team—she wasn’t going to practice either! Mrs. Cayetano talked to me for 45 minutes about all her encounters with the Lord and I even tried to leave the requisite 20 minutes early, but to no avail. I was stuck there for a while. By the time I made it to my house, my roommates had already started dinner. The cooks for the night, being kate and chris, had made rice and beans (not to be confused with beans and rice) and stewed chicken—a nice Belizean meal. We had a guest—kate’s supervisor—and it was great. It was a nice evening because it allowed me to recognize the slow relationships I’m building. Sometimes I feel like I go to work and then come home, talk to my housemates and then do it all over again the next day. I like to see that I’m forming relationships here and making this a home.

Oh—big news—it’s starting to cool down! Everyone has been talking about the ‘cold front’ that is moving in. ha! That only means rain! But it does cool down a bit and everyone knows I love that. It has actually been a bit cooler the past week. So cool, in fact, that I put on sweats. Inside. By choice. More than once. Yep. And I loved it. I haven’t slept with a fan for the last two nights. All of this and guess what the cool temperature was---75 degrees. I’m not kidding. Sigh.

Well, I guess that’s it for this installment. As always, I hope this finds you all well.

Have a great day.