Belize Adventures

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

maybe a more accurate description about my trip to Nica

this is an email that i wrote to JVI about my trip. i think it more accurately captures some of the emotions i was trying to convey in the prior post.

i went with my work, hand in hand ministries, and spent a week 'building a house' in a neighborhood not too far from the dump. i have 'building a house' in quotes because we all knew that that was not really what we were doing; we were building relationships, opening our eyes and our hearts, learning lessons we may never verbalize, and experiencing joys, struggles, challenges, gratitude, and love in a culture not our own.

however, without a doubt, the best part of my trip with hand in hand ministries, was the part spent not with hand in hand ministries. i went two days early so that i could spend time with the nica jvs. wow. i thought i was overwhelmed by the process of getting there---saying goodbye to my roommates, getting on an airplane (what!?!? the last time i was on an airplane was to arrive in belize), getting OFF the airplane and having a minor panic attack at the busy-ness and modernity of the san salvador and then managua airports, and then touching down in a country not my own (and yes, i consider belize my own). yes, i thought i was overwhelmed. however, as i walked out from the gate area, i was more than overwhelmed--i was overcome--as i saw ed & barb from the HHM office, whom i expected to pick me up, but then i saw 4 other sets of hands waving and jumping from in between the crowd of expectant people. i might have caught a glimpse of the sign that was made for me (JV MARIA), or i might have turned away too quickly, having so many emotions at once and not knowing what to do with them. i inadvertently bypassed a security checkpoint person in my haste to rush into welcoming arms of JVs that i knew, and one that i didn't know.

the feeling was amazing. it didn't matter that i had not seen these people in a year and a half, nor did it matter that i had never met their new first year roommate. what mattered was that we were JVs and we were so happy to see each other and hug each other and just 'be' with each other.

we spent the rest of the night talking, sharing, catching up, telling stories, and saying things like: "you do it that way? we do it like this" and "no way, you have _____. you're so lucky!" and "in _____ we say this, not ______". what i wanted to say over and over was, "i'm so lucky."

indeed, i felt so lucky to be there, to be hearing these stories, to be sharing my own. i stopped often, took a deep breath, and reminded myself i was blessed for all i was experiencing. i was so happy.

it seems cliche, but i don't know how else to describe it, other than, it was almost magical to be there. it was instantly re-energizing and re-inspiring to merely spend time with them; the time spent conversing about the 4 values and later the challenges that came from those insights seemed like extra bonuses.

we spoke dreamily of a joint nica/belize retreat. having the joys and renewed spirit from seeing another country's jvs and wanting the rest of the belize jvs to experience this too, i was (and continue to be) strongly in favor of it.

without much more to say, i'll close by reiterating my gratitude to the JVs for all they brought me.

enjoy the pictures, the day, and each other!

blessings, maria

Monday, January 21, 2008


Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Managua, Nicaragua. I was joining a group from Kentucky for a week long Hand in Hand Ministries immersion trip. First, though, I arrived two days early to spend some time with the Nica JVs. I was so nervous when I got on the plane—I haven’t been on an airplane in a year and a half after 25 years of pretty consistent airplane travel. There are no direct flights from Belize to Managua, so I had a layover in San Salvador. Oh my gosh—the second I walked off the airplane into the modernity of the airport, I almost stopped breathing! It was, well, developed. There were stores, people, metal walls, glass window, everything you would think an airport would have, right? True, true…….but the Belize City airport, with its 4 gates lacks the modern conveniences one would expect. I kept repeating in my head, ‘this is what it is going to be like Maria, this is what it is going to be like…….’ thinking of my return to the states. Thankfully, my gate was two gates away and I didn’t venture far because I was overwhelmed. A next short flight and I had arrived safely in Managua where I was greeted with a sign (JV MARIA) and many sets of waving hands. I completely bypassed the security stop and went straight to the JVs whom I hadn’t seen in a year and a half, yet with whom I felt an instant connection. We went back to their house and talked for maybe 4 hours about the differences between my community and theirs! Oh, and we drank beer too---and it wasn’t Belikin----ahh, Managua!

The next two days I bummed around with the JVs, loving every minute of it. I had to stop several times to catch my breath and recognize that the bursting feeling inside me was because I was just so happy. I don’t know that I can truly explain it—it was almost magical to see them, hear their stories, see their workplaces, pray with them, listen to them (& sing along) while they played guitar, go to the market with them, and just be. It was really fun to share stories and talk about all the tidbits that we’ve heard along the way from all our other JVs that are all over the world.

Sunday night, I went to the airport for the third night in a row! I arrived there Friday, went on Saturday to meet Josh’s dad & sister, and went Sunday to pick up the rest of the HHM group that I would be with for the week. We went back to a really lovely ‘guest house’ (a hotel, basically) where we stayed for the week. The week consisted of going to the work site every day where we attempted to construct a cement block house for Martha, Josue, Estevan, and Enrique. Throughout the week, there were many side trips to Hand in Hand sponsored sites, families’ houses, a pool with the sponsored kids, the dump, the boys’ home, and a ‘leper colony.’ I learned so much. I met amazing people. One can never really share everything from a trip like this. I probably can’t even recognize all the lessons I will carry with me yet.

The group from KY was amazing. I loved them! If I had done nothing else that week, they would have taught me more than I ever would have expected. They were a riot—in the very best of ways! I, often, witnessed their boundless kindness & generosity, mostly because it was directed at me! Quite unexpected.

I kept pinching myself because I had come from two magical days with the JVs to a ‘guest house’ equipped with hot water, a washing machine, hot coffee and cold milk, and a cooler full of beer. Does it get much better than that?

I think the neighborhood kids stole the show, though. Each day when we pulled up in the big red mini-bus, 30 or so children came RUNNING to the bus screaming our names. One of the group members said that he felt like a rock star, as he tried to navigate the short walk from the bus to the house with 10 children hanging on him. They were beautiful, energetic, sassy, silly, and loving children. Most of us walked away with notes or tokens that the kids so generously gave us. They were pretty special.

Ed & Barb (& their daughter Jacquie) run the HHM office in Managua. They are AWESOME. I really love them! In fact, I want to be them when I grow up. They so seamlessly negotiated 13 demanding Americans, 30 Nicaraguan children, multiple families, language differences, learning gaps, the pilot house building project, questions, concerns, problems, and everything else in between. They are humble, caring, genuine, and inspiring. And I told them just that!

I spent the last day with the JVs while the rest of the group went to the market and to a lagoon. We took a lot of pictures and made a few videos for my community to watch upon my return.

I am unsatisfied with this rendition of my week, but I know that I won’t ever be able to capture it all. I hope this gives just a small glimpse of it.

And always, questions, thoughts, and comments are appreciated!

And as Margaret said often, God bless you!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Christmas Poem

My roommate Molly wrote us a nice little Christmas poem. Clever, no? I thought so. Hope you enjoy it. Even though Christmas is over, the holiday spirit can still be around!

Off to Nicaragua. I'm going with Hand in Hand Ministries--just like HHM runs trips to Belize, they also have week long trips to Nica. I will be meeting up with a group from Kentucky in Managua. But first, I get to hang out with the JVs there! Yea! I'll try to write a post about it in a few weeks.

Thanks for all the thoughts, prayers, cards, and little presents throughout the holidays. All, truly all, have been appreciated. Thank you.

‘Twas the day before Christmas, when all through Belize

Not a raindrop was falling, not even a breeze;

The palm trees were decorated in yards with detail,

In hopes for a lee bit o’ shade while enjoying some ale;

The JVs were a-lounging, all sweaty and hot,

Sharing family holiday stories, which perhaps they should not;

Trey’s on the sofa, guitar in hand,

And Mon’s out on the verandah surveying the land;

Maria is sprawled, reading a book,

And Kate’s in the kitchen: the talented cook;

Molly is sipping a cup of hot tea,

While the lights shine colorfully from the fake Christmas tree;

When out on the lawn there arose such a yell,

Just Frankie, they thought, and neglected to dwell;

“Now, white people!” he exclaimed, through the burglar bars

“let me in, I bear gifts,” his eyes shown like the stars;

A broken fan in one hand, a flower pot in another,

They let dear Frankie in—after all, he’s like their brother;

After some drunken stories about France and the army,

Frankie offered a lone swimmie plastered with “Barbie”

He was thanked for his thoughtfulness, generosity, and cheer,

But was helped out the door as the night drew near.

Next up the stairs was a girl named Angie,

Silent and scornful when Molly called her “Flangie.”

She sat at the table while the volunteers reminisced,

Recalling traditions, apparel, and movies they missed.

Angie left quickly, as fast as she came,

She wouldn’t even accept the Christmas cookie they offered—boy, that was lame.

The JVs settled ‘round the table, for a game of “Oh, Heck”

When, yet again, they heard a knock from their deck.

Oh Gosh, they thought, not another passerby;

It was growing late—they were tired—and Christmas was nigh.

Through the door they heard but a chuckle,

And around a big box, they saw a white knuckle;

It was Fr. Harrison, S.J., that jolly good fellow!

He was dressed in his fake Crocs, and a t-shirt of yellow,

A box of goodies, he held in his arms—

His eyes bright with love, hospitality and charm.

He looked a lot like Santa, the volunteers thought with glee,

With his white beard, box of gifts, and round-ish belly.

A wink of his eye, and a twist of my dread,

He conjured some crackers and a vegetable spread;

Some chocolate, some ice cream, some candy canes, too,

Some apples, some cookies, some wine of fresh brew;

And giving a nod, to the shocked faces around,

He smiled and turned to leave without a sound;

And behind him he closed gently the old metal door,

Lest they could hear, “at least they’re not Peace Corps!”

And to bed the volunteers headed, to be rested and ready

For the Christmas festivities scheduled already:

To Rosie’s, to Mrs. B’s, to Dawn’s, and Ms. Jean’s;

With great joy, good company, and plenty of rice and beans.