Belize Adventures

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

turning off?

so, i was writing a letter to my friend kate (hi kate...if you read this, then you'll read it twice because it's in a letter on it's way to you in england!) and i was sorting out some of my thoughts on Belize recently.

lately, i think i'm starting to shut off to the discouraging reality surrounding me. belize is pretty violent lately (gangs, killings--especially bike-by killings...i'm not kidding and it's not funny) and unfortunately, i know a lot of people affected by it all, on both sides. so, it is getting increasingly more violent here while at the same time, the situation is not getting better in terms of my clients' access to food or resources. it is generally just a bad situation now. and i suppose this is not new, but i think the increase in violence has made me look at my community and belizean society differently.

just today, my supervisor came to me and said, 'you know who died?' my first response was 'who else?' being that i know a few people who have died recently. he explained that the son of one of our recent recipients of a house was in a 'chiney' (little shops owned by chinese people...that's for another discussion!) with a black mask on, armed, and intending to rob the shop. instead, the owner pulled out a gun of his own and shot the young man in the forehead. he died on the spot. as my supervisor and i both sat there in silence, i think he thought i was trying to digest this while what i was really thinking was, 'yep, another killing by someone else connected with my work; wonder when it's gonna stop; is it? hmm..., well, what can we do, not much, okay, moving on....' that is what i was thinking. that's not okay with me.

anyway, because i don't have the answers, nor can i fully grasp ALL the implications of this, i think i'm just shutting down to the reality. and this scares me. it scares me because i don't want to be someone who sees violence, poverty, & hunger and who accepts it -- OR WORSE -- who ignores it! but i also know that for various reasons (the most pressing of which is that i am not belizean, did not grow up here, and don't/won't ever REALLY 'get' it) i can't entirely understand this place and thus get frustrated with my inability to affect change here.

i console myself with my belief that for right now, at least, what i can do is love one person at a time until i love as many as i can, and hope that love permeates throughout the community. i think that's all we can do sometimes.

my community is also involved with a local faith and justice organization (the only one, i'm pretty sure) to organize a candle-lit walk and prayer service to end the violence. the theme is 'stop the violence. dees streets da fi all ah wi'. it will take place oct 20th. we hope to have parents and family members of the victims come speak. we hope it's powerful. we hope it helps. and if it doesn't, i'll just keep loving one person at a time, and hoping that others are doing the same.

Friday, September 14, 2007

yep...some more...

some things about the pics: a few of the marathon....the pretty absurd medal ceremonies and all....and a few of the great flood of 2007 we had a 'tropical depression' in the midst of all the hurricane madness, so for a day or so, EVERYTHING in belize was under water. people were saying they hadn't seen it that bad in 10 years. thankfully (as in most cases) we were fine; it was our neighbors who bore the brunt of it. one of these pics shows how people were getting around town...on inflatable rafts (and canoes and the like....) also, the bridge that goes over the drainage ditch outside our house (that we like to call the moat) washed away down our we either had to swing on our gate across the moat (see picture) or just go right through...which is what i ended up doing and had water up to my mid thigh...not so fun.

the ones in the next post are silly ones of us in community night and one of the sunrise over the water last saturday morning.

some more pictures...

hey guys--here are some more random pics. i put a few more on the picasa site, so when you have a chance and want to take a peek, go here:

Thursday, September 06, 2007

time of my life?

I got an email the other day regarding my pictures saying that it certainly looks like I am having the time of my life. Certain days, certain moments, I suppose this is true. However, it gave me pause and made me wonder if I am portraying the wrong things to friends and family in the states. Also, it made me look at what I’m doing here. I’m not here to have the time of my life. Belize is not a two year vacation for me. I wear a black ring on my right hand made from a tree in Brazil. This ring was given to me (and the other JVs) by a priest in Punta Gorda. He gave it to us, not with the expectation that we would wear it, but with the hope that when (if) we did wear it, it would serve as a constant reminder of our thoughts and actions. You see, this ring symbolizes ‘solidarity with the poor.’ I am only supposed to wear this ring if I feel that I am choosing to be in solidarity with the poor. Does having a conversation with a mother who’s child is on the run because he murdered a man mean that I am in solidarity with the poor? Does sitting in my big cement house listening to gunshots indicating the string of violence lately but doing nothing about that violence mean I am solidarity? Does going ‘without’ when I have the choice mean that I am solidarity with those who go ‘without’ because they have no choice? I don’t know these answers. But I wear my ring. I wear it when I am sitting with someone talking about how she might be able to find food for her children tomorrow but I also wear it when I go to the caye. I don’t want to not play football and go to Cayo for a game, but I don’t want to not be in solidarity or forget the reasons I chose to be here. Can I do both? Lots of questions.

I think I’m not too good at expressing my ‘real life’ here. I have resigned myself to allowing others to think my Belize life is similar to so many others’ Belize vacations. I welcome questions about my job, my neighbors, my journey so as to have a better starting point for stories or explanations.

I am thankful for moments like that, a two line email or a flippant comment, that give me pause, that make me think about my time here, that make me actively choose to wear my ring.

Monday, September 03, 2007

hurricane felix...

hey guys...

another email about a hurricane watch here in belize....geesh.

hurricane felix currently looks like it is heading south. it may hit belize, but more likely it will hit honduras. however, as one can never predict the path of a hurricane, we will be preparing as best we can up in belize city.

we're supposed to get a tropical storm today and tomorrow AND THEN the hurricane (or the hurricane winds and rain) on wednesday. everyone is getting ready today, packing up, buying supplies, and heading inland.

i'm at work right now but just for the morning. soon i'll be heading home to get the house ready. ha. getting the house ready will, i predict, be embarrassingly simple, like last time. we will likely put the impenetrable black trash bags on our windows (note the sarcasm), move things up from the floor and possibly move mattresses and such in the hallway.

then, we will go bunk with the jesuits in SJC again.

like last time, we are in no physical danger and the worst that is going to happen to us is sitting in a concrete building with no electricity---meaning no fans or airflow, since all the windows will be boarded up.

again, like last time, the folks who need your thoughts and prayers are our neighbors and friends who have board houses and no place to go....also, the pg volunteers and their friends/neighbors, as it looks like they will be hit worse than we will.

if we do have electricity, i will try to email updates when i have them. otherwise, sit tight and know that myself and the other volunteers are safe and that we will email when we can.

on a fun note, my housemates and i participated in the BDF (belize defense force) running events yesterday and did really well. quite similar to last year, we decided very last minute to participate and thus had little physical or mental preparation.
kate ran the full marathon--crazy--and won! (again)--VERY crazy!!!
maria and monica ran the 1/2 marathon--why in the world we did that is beyond me--and placed 2nd and 3rd, respectively! what!?!?
molly ran the 10k, WON it, and immediately went home, showered, and went to work (she works at the parish and had to be there for mass at 9am.

so, that's good news in the midst of some troubling news.

i'll try to write more about the events above because, as you probably guessed, i have some pretty fun and funny stories about the day!

be well and pray for those who are going to be affected by all the rain and winds.

blessings, maria