Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Week in a Nutshell

I was going to tell you about my busy weekend, but I think I will start a bit earlier.

I started the week earlier than I had hoped. Michael, the wonderful guy who delivers my water, was yelling Ms. Alli through my window and knocking on my door at about 8:30. Most mornings I am beginning to be conscious since my alarm goes off the first time at 7, this was not one of those mornings. I had stayed up late playing on the computer as a treat since I had worked a lot over the weekend and knew a lot was coming.

Tuesday was especially busy. I was at El Pescador, a local fishing resort, with the owner's dad Steve working on revising all of the materials for the Apprenticeship Program. After Steve and I finished I dug up a turtle nest that had 108 eggs. Since the nest was about to hatch around the time of Dean most of the eggs didn't finish developing, but 36 turtles made it out of the nest.

I finally finished my Fish ID powerpoint- 85 slides and over 200 pictures with descriptions. This is HUGE! in both the time it took to create and send out. It is going to help studying for the surveys which are fun but exhausting.

After working on the Education Project all day I had the entire committee actually show up for a meeting at my house. Why is this surprising? I didn't call anyone about the meeting. (The last meeting we were supposed to have got canceled since no one showed up, despite calling them, and I had made a very large pot of chili. I ate chili all week and froze chili and gave chili away.) So, as they come expecting to be fed, that was the previous agreement, I thawed chili.

After the meeting I worked until the earlier hours, went to sleep, woke up- kind of, packed, washed all of the dishes from my 6 guests, rushed out the door- almost without any money, even though I knew the boat had probably left. I reached the dock as the boat was pulling away. One of the guys I know- Ellsworth- asked me what I was doing. "Hoping the boat hadn't left." I no more than got the words out of my mouth before he was yelling to the boat and calling it back to the dock. To my surprise, it came back for me. I found out that it was the second trip back to the dock. A few of the people on board were smiling and shaking their heads as I boarded, and then two others, I didn't feel as bad. My trip to Cayo was nice. I was almost there when I looked up and Ashley, one of the new volunteers, got on board. I met up with my hostess Catherine and roommate for the night Rebecca, also first years. We hiked the "hill of death" by Cahal Pech from the bus stop to Catherine's host family. (I am happy to say it wasn't nearly as brutal as the first month I lived in Belize!) They haven't reduced the better than 45 degree angle of the hill, but they have smoothed it out some. We went to town for a fabulous dinner at Cafe Sol. We returned for Cayo Twist. I know that I must have burnt off every calorie plus more returning to the house. The next day I went to Benque, about 5 miles or less from the Guatemala border. I met with the printer for our Education Project, returned for lunch at Cafe Sol, then went to Belmopan. I was waiting on Maggie, another second year, she was on the bus headed to Hopkins. I looked up and a young man asked me what I have been up to and how am I. It took me only a second to realize he was one of the kids from The Guardians in Armenia. He was my assistant for the day camp we had last year. I had to ask his name, Rony. (in the blue shirt) I was excited to hear that he is still in high school and will be finishing up his tour guide license in about two months. He told me that the volunteer from Armenia was on the bus so I went and talked to "Epic". Maggie arrives and we are Hopkins bound. A few hours later we arrive and Christine meets us at the bus stop. Christine is as happy for me to unload my bags as I am. I remove a comale (said- kuh mall) and a box with three bottles of wine. Christine's house is perfect and Hopkins is peaceful. You open the window, there is a covered porch, a strip of beach and a few palm trees, a shelter to hang a hammock, and the sea. The full moon rising Friday night was gorgeous. Debo and Micah (second years) joined us on Saturday. We had a wonderfully relaxing weekend full of pizza and my now famous grilled cheeses.

I was the only one to stay until Monday, I had a meeting in Belmopan. (I stayed up reading the final Harry Potter, I am sad to know the series is finished.) Christine walked me to the bus stop at 7. At 9:45 I was in the office. I don't know what time I was supposed to arrive, but I can not imagine that it was supposed to be before 10. The driver was a lot quicker than the one Maggie and I had on the way to Hopkins. I met with Anna for career advice and was excited with what she had to say. Anna believes that I am very organized and am an excellent planner, despite what many of you believe. She suggested a few things: corporate trainer- similar to what I was thinking before; program evaluator- paperwork and designing paperwork for other people, ok, not really, but that is what I thought of; corporate giving- I would get to designate which groups receive money, do fundraisers, and stuff like that; and Peace Corps Country Desk person- I would help people getting ready to go in- country, their families, and lots of organizing and planning. My favorite probably would be the corporate giving but I would probably do better starting with something like the Country Desk position to get more experience planning for large groups. I also spoke to her about how these employers might view traveling after PC. She said that they would probably see it as an asset, but definitely not detrimental. YEA!!!! I love options that allow me to travel.

Yesterday I felt bad most of the day, same as the day before. I went to a meeting about de-reserving 2,700 acres of Bacalar Chico- my park- and literally millions of acres in other parts of the country. A lot of people showed up and there was a demonstration today. The government claims that they will not be de-reserving it, but agencies around Belize, residents, local government and associations are strongly recommending that they put it in writing.

I worked until about 4 am this morning to finish revising and typing a booklet for the Apprenticeship Program. It was so nice to have peace and quiet to focus.

Despite needing to focus on my project I baked absurd numbers of mini and normal chocolate cupcakes. I also made dinner, including my own tortillas. I haven't mastered these yet and I had to place a call to my friend Enes for help. They ended up being the best I have made yet so that is a good sign.

Ok, now I am going to buckle down for a few hours before heading to bed. Goodnight.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

How to leave a comment...

If you have tried to leave a comment but can't, make sure that you click on the "comment" versus the pencil. The pencil is what I use if I need to make corrections to my entry. Enjoy!

Great Neighbors

I don't know if I have mentioned how fabulous my neighbors are, but they are! Well most of them.

The Bradley's herd... I will start with Blue since I can hear him right now. He is a little mixed breed pup (part pit bull) that is ferociously defending the yard right now from... hold on I will go check. Ah, the wind. It is 12:30 am in the low season. I can't wait until next month when there are actual people to defend the yard from. My favorite is Max. He is the oldest dog and the best guard. If he is awake and moving about or lying on my porch, he always greets me by wagging his tail and whines a little as I approach. He is 15 years old and loves me. I know this is true because he greets his people the same way. Then you have Poppy Chulo. He is a little black dog that has grown on me greatly. His mom, Sweety is not a favorite. But that could be linked to the youngest daughter Stacey squealing the dog's name, loudly, at my bedroom window at 6:30 in the morning on several occasions. You have the cats, Baby and Nuggy also known as Meow by me. Nuggie is my favorite since we can have long conversations and will actually purr for me. I think there are a few more cats, but I am not their type. Amy has Trapper, aka Fat Boy. If Trapper could actually talk he would say, "Hoooowwllll, I'm a hound dog." (In a southern accent. He is a Wilmington dog.) Trapper always makes me feel like I am a great chef. Whenever I cook anything, (or even open a can of food,) I can find him drooling at my screen door.

Then we have the people... The Bradley's are my landlords. Mrs. Bradley is Maritza and Mr. Bradley is Alberto. I usually call her Maritza and him Mr. Bradley as I usually want to call him Alfonzo. Don't ask me why, but I do. They have three kids. Christina is the oldest at 16. She has changed a lot over the last year. At first she was helpful, then obnoxious, and now pleasant again. Shadonny is 14 and has grown up a lot since I have been here. Right after I moved in I caught him and several friends throwing rocks at a guy that the dogs don't like. He is now actually polite to me and others. The youngest is Stacey. I think she is 13. I would love to say that she is a great kid, but the fact that she yells and squeals ALL of the time prevents me from noticing some of her other qualities. One of the nicest things the Bradleys do for me is bring me fish. It doesn't happen often, but it did on Monday. I was in the middle of working when I got up to do something. Mr. Bradley was at my door with a huge tuna fillet and 2 wahoo steaks. I had the tuna the other night and I am saving the wahoo for when I get back from my trip on Monday. The best thing however is the fabulous discount they give me on the rent.

I don't think I have mentioned Amy and Sterling much, but they are the best. When I went to North Carolina for Christmas, I went to visit my Aunt Pat in Wilmington. When she was later asked what she did over Christmas by a co-worker, they figured out that I happened to live in the same country, then on the same island. While we knew each other were from North Carolina, Amy from Wilmington and Sterling from Brevard, and we had all graduated from UNC Wilmington, we did not know that our family members work together. Such a small world! But it gets better. Not only are they my neighbors, but they and their son William used to live in the house that I now live in! Whether this is the reason, they feel sorry for me, or what ever else, they also let me use their washer and dryer for FREE!!!! While this is something that may seem trivial, this literally saves me $150 to $200 BZ a month. To have laundry done here it is about $17 a load and I generally do two a week. I will be treating them to something special when my time here is up! When I need something I know I can go next door and borrow it. I really can't say enough good things about them. William is not yet two but he is really smart. Amy told him to say Hi to Alli. Since that point he says Hi Alli when he sees me. Too cute!

Well, I best head to bed. I should get up early so I can head to the mainland and do some work.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

life on the island with grilled cheese sandwiches

Life on the island has gotten a bit busier lately. The projects I am working on are moving along and I have just gotten signed on to a few more. Oh well.

The education project I have been working on is at the point that it is coming together thanks to the funding agency CORAL. I finally have a direction, or more accurately, multiple directions that it is headed. I am going to go to San Ignacio (out west) to meet with the printers on Thursday. I am going to try to convince the others in the group that the "book" we put together is in the form of questions and answers. Mom sent me some examples of this type of book and said she and her students like it. (YEA, teacher friendly!!!!) Then we will also have games that are laminated so they will last longer.

ACER- the Ambergris Caye Emergency Rescue group meets on Thursdays, well sometimes. It has been slow lately since two of the founding members are out of the country. We have a group, Bandage International, from Canada coming the first week of December to do training. I am supposed to be setting up some of the details, but I haven't heard from the guy from Canada.

The first weekend in December is going to be busy. The first (Saturday) is World AIDS Day. I will be assisting for activities to raise awareness and educate the public on HIV and AIDS. The second (Sunday) is the 2nd annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade. Last year we had 8 boats. This time we will probably double our numbers.

Apprenticeship Program- We had graduation 2 weekends ago for our second group of kids. We are getting ready to start the next batch. It should go smoother. This will be the third "class" and not during the hurricane season. We still have to get letters of references and performance reviews for most of the kids from the last class. So far 11 kids have graduated from the program. There is an article in the paper and a bad picture of me... I tried to do a link directly to the article but it doesn't want to load for me. Click
HERE instead, enter the site, then look for the article, if you want.

The graduation took place the weekend I had a house (nearly) full of guests. Four fellow Peace Corps Volunteers joined me in San Pedro to get certified to SCUBA dive. They spent most of Saturday in the water and were cold when they got back to my house. I made a not too bad version of hot chocolate to warm them up. They were enchanted with some of the ingredients of my refrigerator. I have chocolate syrup, cheese, and pickles and a somewhat secret stash of Easter treats still left. I have the privilege of having access to the only good pickles in Belize. I have Mt. Olive pickles. To say this is actually a bit of an understatement. I buy Mt. Olive pickles in gallon jars. Why you might ask would I spend such a large chunk of my budget on pickles? Comforts of home. I ask you why spend $16.10 Bz for a medium size jar when I can buy a gallon for $17.00? Yes, I spend the equivalent of $8.50 on a gallon of pickles and I am on my third gallon (The diving crew ate one by themselves and they did replace the gallon.) I don't want to think of the others that I bought before my discovery. PLEASE! don't tell me how much they cost in the States, my wallet will be upset. What could I possible do with that many pickles? I have invented the Best Ever Grilled Cheese in Belize for my friend Dawn. Turn your stove on low. Place your kamal (flat metal disk) or frying pan on the burner. Lay two pieces of bread on your cooking surface. You take a pickle and slice it "Sandwich Stacker" style and put it to the side. For each piece of bread, butter one side, put mayo on the other side. Lay one piece of cheese on each of the pieces of bread, on the mayo side. Lay slices of pickles on top of the cheese of one of the slices of bread. When the cheese starts to bubble up turn the stove off. Toast the bread as dark as you want it. Place the pieces of bread together and enjoy. Be careful though, the cheese will drip. (Sorry Mom!)