Belize Adventures

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

alligator heads

this picture has nothing to do with the title....(wouldn't it be funny if it did and i posted a pic of us all wearing alligator heads as masks or something? i think that's rather humorous...perhaps you have to be here to think it is as funny as i do!) this is a picture of our st. vincent de paul group at st. martin's church. the white guy in the back left was on an immersion trip with my work and he is a part of st. vincent de paul in the states so he wanted to come to our meeting. his group is our 'twinning partner'---strange name, but it means that quarterly they give us money! yea! he took this pic at our last meeting and sent it to me over email. the white guy in the back right is my roommate chris. my other roommate, kate, was taking the picture, and another roommate, adam, decided not to attend this meeting because mostly they're boring and hot and long (which they truly are but the group does such good work that we all keep going to the meetings and participating in the work anyway!). my other two roommates, monica and danny, are not a part of st. vincent de paul. the gentleman in the back row, second to the left is bernie. he's my supervisor here at hand in hand and he was also my homestay dad when i first got here. he calls me his daughter (my roommate chris was there the year before so chris is his son) and he is one of the greatest people i've ever met. he is an amazing example of love. he gives every single person (and he does know EVERY SINGLE PERSON in belize) the same amount of respect and attention as the next, be it me, our clients, our coworkers, or the guys on the street who are hustling for money. he's really great. the gentleman next to bernie is santos diaz. i love this guy. for some reason, he's taken a liking to me, and we joke all the time. i love it when he thinks something in the meeting is funny and he cracks up. mr. diaz is yet another example of love here in belize. he, too, treats everyone as equal and believes we all deserve the same amount of love and compassion regardless if we have money or status or anything. moving on....i'm not going to describe everyone in the picture; that would take too long!

onto the matter you've all been wondering about....alligator heads! hand in hand just finished building a house for ms. dorla. the first time we went to look at the land where we might build, there was a huge fight between ms. dorla's brothers and neighbors and there was shouting and barking and it was pretty intense. it seemed that there were more dogs than people! the next time we saw her, we asked exactly how many dogs lived there and she casually replied, 17. seventeen dogs!!! what!?!? and don't think they're big healthy dogs...those are few and far between in belize. they're skinny, sickly, mangy dogs. one of them had a huge gash where his ear attaches to his head and came up and brushed past my leg before i could stop it. i was freaking out that i was going to get mange! anyway, a group from kentucky just left and finished her house. it looks great and she loves it, which is the best part. abel went to go take a picture of the finished house yesterday and came back with this story. as they were walking into the yard, beto (one of our builders) stepped on something. when he looked down, he saw that it was an ALLIGATOR HEAD. i'm not kidding. a real alligator head. just the head folks, no body. seriously. ms. dorla's brothers had caught the alligator in the river right next to her house, CHOPPED the head off, sold the rest of the body, and left the head in the yard for the 17 dogs. abel said that by the size of the head, the alligator was probably 6 - 8 ft. long! can you imagine, just chopping the head off an alligator and leaving it for the dogs!?!? what kind of treats are you all feeding your dogs lately--i bet it's not as good as alligator head! (abel took a picture...if i can get him to email it to me, i'll post it!)

well, that's it for now.
happy ash wednesday and beginning of lent.
be well.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

long one....

warning, this one is LONG! i'm just saying....

Well, it has been a while, huh. Let’s see….the holidays were tons of fun around here. Very hot, but fun. I had a week and a half off for the Christmas holiday and I enjoyed every second of it. It seems like the holidays were so long ago that I barely remember all the details I wanted to share! We went to midnight mass on Christmas eve and then woke up early on Christmas day to exchange presents. We all got (or made) each other stocking stuffers and then we each had one person in our community for whom we got a big present. We spent the morning relaxing and reading the books that we all got from Chris’s mom—it was slightly reminiscent of a Metzler family Christmas as we immediately launched into our new books. Family—it definitely was making me very unhappy, though, as we all opened our few presents all at once and there were no clues to our presents or anything! J It is a JV tradition to go to a lot of different families houses on Christmas day for dinner. We narrowed it down to three families this year and only ate dinner at two of them, but whew, we were STUFFED. We had two big meals right after one another and we had to clean our plates each time. Christmas dinner here is not too different from the traditional Belizean meal—Turkey (and/or Ham), rice and beans, salad (again, no greens, just lots of mayonnaise in the form of cole slaw or potato salad), stuffings (yep, they do add the extra ‘s’ here!), and cranberry sauce. Not THAT different from home. Our third family stop offered us food and we thanked them very much but could not eat another bite. We got home around 6ish, I think, and retired pretty quickly to our rooms. Christmas day was the birthday of a friend of mine from football and she had invited me to a party at her house that evening. I could only convince one of my roommates to go as the rest were all in a food coma! While Monica and I were waiting to bike to the party, an acquaintance of ours showed up. We get visitors all the time because everyone in Belize City knows where we live. This guy rolls up in a truck, opens the car door, and out hops a monkey. Yes friends, he brought his pet spider monkey over on Christmas day! I was getting quite a kick out of it and we devised a whole story of the miracle of the Christmas Monkey! (We like to make up stories around here---it’s the little things….you know?) It was pretty funny. Then Monica and I headed out to Sal’s party. Little did we know that Christmas is the night to PARTY in Belize. When we left our house, we could barely hear each other over the battle of the stereos coming from beside our house. Our neighbors were apparently having a competition as to who could blow their eardrums out the fastest. I wish I was kidding. On the way to Sal’s, we must have passed a dozen houses with music blaring and people milling about outside, spilling into the street. I don’t know what I expected at Sal’s, but I didn’t expect a raging party---I guess I should have. The funniest thing to me, though, was that there was tons of alcohol, a huge stereo system, an area for dancing, and it was all for Sal’s family. Monica and I were the only two not related to her! As I was out on the dance floor with the Caribbean Sea at my back, a palm tree to my left, a nice breeze, and a Belikin beer in my hand, I said “Monica, this IS Christmas day, no?” It was pretty surreal.

In between Christmas and New Year’s, the first years (meaning, the three girls in the house) headed down to PG to visit the other JVs. It was a GREAT break from Belize City. I often forget how different the entire rest of Belize is from Belize City because I bike around the city all day every day. Oh, and about my job….well, I am now no longer at the Outreach center with the kids. After the holidays, they switched me to only working at the main office, which means that I’m doing the outreach to the families full time. I am really thankful for this switch. I do miss the kids very much, but I have the opportunity to stop by there every once in a while with things to drop off or errands that I’ve invented to get a chance to see them! My work load increased exponentially in January with the onslaught of groups coming from the states. We had a group every week in January and we have two more in February, March, and April, each. I have been busy making sure all the land is ready and filled, checking on land papers and coordinating details with everyone. I’m not at all in charge of the groups (Abel, who IS most definitely in charge of all the groups is AMAZING and works his tail off the ENTIRE time groups are here—he had ONE day off in the month of January) but when groups come, we all have more work. I have been really satisfied and fulfilled in my work lately. I’m able to fill my days more with work and stop by more families since I’m already out in the city doing other errands. I swear, I have biked every inch of this city, and some days it feels like I’ve done that AND more….good thing Belize is unbelievably flat and offers not much in the form of hills or resistance, unless potholes count.

Umm…what else to report. Football is on hold right now. The team I played for is on break, apparently. Our coach is waiting for his visa for the states and expects to leave any day now! Bummer, huh. I ‘practice’ a few times a week with one of the men’s teams, and by ‘practice’ I mean, I run around and try A) not to get hit by their passes and shots and B) try not to get in their way as they run circles around me. It’s not so much fun, but I’m hoping that the little amount I do touch the ball helps me in the long run. My friend Sal, that I mentioned above, plays for a different team and I think I’m going to start going to practice with her. We’ll see.

Everything has been pretty low key lately. I know I said this before, but I have really been noticing what a normal life I lead here. Maybe I’ve always led a normal life here, but I’m just seeing it now because things are settling down and it is really feeling like home. I’m getting hailed more and more often when I’m out and that is both really fun and affirming that I am fitting in slowly. But, as much as I feel like I’m fitting in, I’m also reminded that I will never be Belizean and that I’ll always be seen as American, a foreigner, or a tourist. I get these reminders pretty often too.

Even though I do feel like I live a normal life, there are still things on a daily basis that make me laugh and that I wish you all could witness or experience. You know, the moments where you say “where the heck do I live!?!?” Like when I am biking to work and a horse passes me on one side and there are a few chickens on the other side. This is unusual because my bike ride to work is devoted to avoiding cars and potholes, not farm animals! But every so often, a horse will go down our street! Or times like just now when my coworker’s boyfriend left the office and yelled, ‘maria’ and I replied ‘hmmm.’ He didn’t want anything; he wasn’t calling me; he was just leaving. When you leave, it’s totally normal to just say the person’s name that you are leaving and the adequate response is grunt or a ‘hmmm’. It’s times like that I wish I had a mental notebook to record these things.

One more story—the first years (the three girls) will be participating in a 4 day canoe race called la ruta maya in march. (I’m sure I will have a whole entry dedicated to that, so I won’t go into too many details here.) We have been practicing, if you can really call it that, a few times (very few) on the sea. This race will be on the river, you see, but we’re using a canoe from Sal (man, she’s handy, huh) and she lives right on the sea. We already take 4 people in a 3 person canoe because Sal doesn’t trust us with her canoe by ourselves (and rightly so!) and on our first time out, one of my roommates thought it would be fun to bring one of Sal’s puppies in the canoe with us. Sparkle willingly hopped in and the person who wasn’t rowing had to hold him. Great. So, if you have images in your mind of me cruising past palm trees and gliding through the beautiful Caribbean Sea, erase them. This was neither tropical or picturesque (as it is with most of Belize City). So, we’re battling the waves IN THE SEA and Sparkle lost his lunch ON MY LEG. Poor Sparkle got seasick and poor Maria was the one holding him. Thanks. A lot. We hop out of the canoe and I’m still trying to hold Sparkle who is freaking out at being in the open ocean and Monica and Sal are trying to tip the canoe to wash it out and the waves are getting bigger and the storm is rolling in. Yes friends, of course a storm is rolling. I did tell you that this wasn’t tropical, right? We put Sparkle back in the boat and once again, Sparkle throws up. Awesome. We tip the boat again, and Sal starts yelling, ‘rain da come, rain da come.’ We’re already IN the water, right, so we don’t feel the strong sense of urgency that Sal apparently feels. She starts freaking out and yelling about the storm and the rain and screams ‘HURRY, HURRY.’ Monica and I find this endlessly amusing and are trying our hardest not to laugh as Sal says “can you see why I’m freaking out?” We can’t, and are paddling ferociously back to shore while trying to hide our laughter at the whole situation. We thought we upset Sal and that she was never going to let us back out on her canoe but when we got to shore, she steps out of the water and says “that was awesome!” with a huge grin on her face. The girl, literally, was screaming at us seconds before. We’ve dubbed her our coach and I guess she takes that role very seriously. All in all, that story should serve to illustrate that we are not fit to participate in this race and that I will have a million more stories just like that one, come March 12th when we cross the finish line!

As always, there is so much more I want to write about, but at present can’t think of the stories or the words. This is long enough already.

Thanks for hanging in there while I didn’t write for ages. I hope this finds you all well.