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The Office of Social Justice Service-immersion Experience
Keyword: nazareth retreat center
After a wonderful night’s sleep, we arrived at Reyes’ home where we were welcomed to indulge in a delicious breakfast that consisted of some sort of fried dough called Jack Cakes, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, and beans. This may have been my favorite meal so far, but I am still eager to see what other foods we will be tasting this week. After breakfast, Reyes took the group on a tour of his cacao farm. Along the way Reyes demonstrated his vast knowledge of the land and Mayan culture by giving us an overview of the different types of plants that may be used for food, art, and even medicinal purposes. I was very intrigued by the connection that the Mayans have with the earth and everything that springs from it. Nothing is ever wasted and even the smallest things, that many of us may take for granted, are given a purpose. Reyes’ cacao farm was a great thing to witness and we even got to taste the inside of a cacao pod, which was not chocolatey but fruity! It was pretty cool to find out that Reyes’ cacao farm had been in his family for many generations before him and that he plans to one day hand it down to his sons. After the tour of the cacao farm we were able to see the process of how a cocoa drink is made. Reyes’ wife is an expert at this process and even allowed us take part in it and taste the end result, which was delicious.
 
Belize - cocoa farm- chocolate drink
 
Although it was sad to say goodbye to Reyes and his family, after having spent a good portion of last night and today with them, I was very eager to see what our next destination was all about – Punta Gorda. My first impression of Punta Gorda was that it had a strong Caribbean feel to it. Our first stop in Punta Gorda was the Nazareth Retreat Center, the place where we will be staying for the rest of the week. It is very big and very beautiful. The sisters that we have met have also been very nice and welcoming. After unpacking and getting settled in our room we all went to grab lunch at Waluco’s, a great restaurant that surprisingly had many foods that are also common in America, such as burgers and quesadillas. I ordered some very delicious barbeque ribs. We ended the afternoon with a refreshing swim on the Gulf of Honduras.
 
Eddy Caiza Class of 2014

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!

Journaling

(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

 
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