Today was our seventh day in Belize and our third day of service. It rains every night here and last night was no exception. After another 4:30 a.m. wake up and a nice breakfast, courtesy of the Regina and Desiree of the Nazareth Retreat Center, we headed out to the work site. Unfortunately, the rain last night was stronger than we expected; the road leading to Jalacte (the village where the library is located) was muddy. We were forced to turn around and head to Punta Gorda when we came across some school buses that were stuck in the mud. On our drive back we were surprised to see that as we gave the kids a heads-up that their bus wasn't coming on time they stayed put and continued to wait. Belizean school kids are very dedicated to learning.
Its day 2 of service and we've accomplished sooooo much! We started the day off with a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call (aka Jeff banging on our doors), had our last breakfast at the Tranquility Lodge before we packed up the truck to head to the service site. We managed to finish all of the trimming on the outside of the library and one of the two rooms on the inside. All we have left is one room and the railing! Everyone has been working so well together and always team up on a project, that's probably why we've been moving so fast. Outside of painting the library it has been nice to take break and play with the kids in the village during recess or lunch. They are so light hearted and curious about everything. A lot of the time they are shy but once they warm up to us they are very talkative and rambunctious. I think I will probably miss them the most.
After we finished setting up the second room for a paint job we left the site for the day to head to our new home for the next 3 nights, the Nazareth Retreat Center. Once we pulled up we were greeted by Sister Steven; all of the sisters here are beyond kind to us. We quickly cleaned up from painting and walked around the grounds of the beautiful retreat center. There is a rosary walk right next to our rooms, marked by grey stones designed with colorful rocks to lead you in praying the rosary. On our walk we also saw their church and met Sister Josefina (Jeff LOVES her). However, our exploration outside was rudely interrupted by a stray dog that was barking at us (I guess he thinks he lives here). It's ok though because dinner was about to start anyway. Regina and Desiree graciously cooked us rice with red beans, fried fish, mashed potatoes, plantains, stir fried vegetables and delicious homemade pie, yum. Before the night was over the group had a great debrief session in the lounge. We discussed about how we've acclimated to the environment and how our perceptions of Belize have changed us. Personally, the culture here has truly changed my definition of a "home" and happiness. Though at first glance it may not seem as if they have much, their homes and families are abundantly rich in love, support, humility and faith. I feel as if I've taken so much already from this experience and its only Day 6!
(Mom, Dad and Tra' I'm doing great! I was the only one in the group to not get bitten by any bugs but that winning streak ended yesterday. But I'm having fun and yes, I am safe. See you all when I get back!)
Tranise Garland '13
It is day 2 and you will be happy to hear that we are all still alive and well, with just a few hundred bug bites per leg. We woke up today to the sound of a slight torrential downpour on the tin roofs of our lodge. After a delicious breakfast of leftover lunchmeat and PB&J, we packed up our things and headed to the Maya Center Mayan Museum for a pretty unforgettable cultural immersion with Julio. Julio's passion for developing a relationship between the Mayan people and what he calls the "internationals" was clearly seen through the demonstrations we witnessed and participated in today, including learning about the history of the Mayan people in Belize, crushing sugar cane, dancing a traditional Mayan dance and each taking a turn grinding coffee beans and corn and making tortillas over a fire.
We then travelled south towards the Toledo Region and stopped at Coleman's Café, where they had a buffet lunch (consisting of authentic Belizian food, like curried rice and beans, beef, fried plantains.)...Click here to read more.
Belize is hot, humid, and awesome. We landed in Belize City yesterday at 10 a.m., stopped at Sky Mart and "The Mall" for water and lunch (they didn't have Old Bay, we checked, BUT they were indeed selling machetes for 4 dollars), and started the three hour drive through the beautiful Belizean countryside to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Jeff Abel's friend (and now our friend), Julio and his wife cooked us dinner-stewed chicken, rice, homemade corn tortillas, and banana cake. One word: deeeeelicious. Julio is quite the practical-joker (he told us we were having squirrel for dinner).
We fell asleep to rain pounding on our tin roof and cicadas.
Today, we got sweaty hiking through the sanctuary (Bear Grylls style)...Click here to read more.
At the end of May, students enter a journey to Central America, where they help construct churches in Mayan Villages, work in Mayan schools, experience Mayan family homes and food, all the while exploring the beauty and nature of God's gifts in this glorious country. Activities such as caving, hiking, snorkeling, drumming and dancing are just a few of the adventurous activities that are experienced on this service trip.
More information can be found by contacting the office of social justice at (301) 447-5310.