25 June 2013

Back in the Belize Groove

Today was the first day of working here that I felt I actually helped people and that I, Laura, was needed.

Last week I discovered there was a need for English classes at a local nonprofit organization we do a lot with. So I did a lot of research for both ESL and literacy classes in the past few days. And today I taught my first English class.

And I loved it.

Like a lot.

I forgot how much I love teaching language. I feel like I'm completely in my element. I had three amazing students. All Spanish-speaking women who only know the most basic English. They were so eager to learn and ready for anything I would teach them. I had them write down five things they wanted to accomplish or learn in this class and they wrote things down like, "Learn the alphabet," "How to greet someone," and "Pay for things at the store."

Today we went over numbers (they rocked it), introductions and leave takings, and the alphabet. Yes, we straight-up sang the ABC song. They already knew the song, which was helpful. And we practiced spelling and numbers for a bit. They were so happy to be there and we set it up to get together twice a week. One of the women, who had been hesitant to commit to twice a week, said at the end of class that she was going to talk to her husband and tell him she needed to come twice a week. It touched my heart to see how earnest they were in learning. I felt like I had really helped them and that I was needed there. I'm so pumped for classes next week.

Then after a game of cribbage with our Scottish friend, Dave, I ran into the sister missionaries. They flagged me down and asked if I could go out teaching with them right then. (I had told them in previous weeks that I wanted to help them whenever they needed me.) I noticed that one of the hermanas was missing and put it together why they needed me. That sister had fallen down last week and chipped of two of her teeth, so she went to El Salvador to get her teeth fixed. (Apparently Belize is the worst country in Central America for medical care. Here's to hoping I stay healthy!)

So I got to go out with Hermana Reyes for a few hours. We went over to the sister city of Santa Elena to teach a family. We picked up their bikes partway there.

Let me tell you about these bikes: They were super old beach cruisers, heavy as all get out, and had super cracked seats. The sister who went to El Salvador is about 5' tall, so she had lowered the seat to fit her. So imagine me, a 5'7" girl sitting on a bike set for a 5' tall girl. Oh and I was in a skirt. I looked ridiculous. My knees were up in my elbows and my stomach and almost to my face. Not really, but it felt like it.

We rode our bikes up the pothole-ridden, no sidewalks containing, street to get to their house. Thankfully we walked the bikes up the hills.

And then we taught Elston and Diana. Diana is a member of the Church, but hasn't been going in a long time and her boyfriend/almost husband is investigating the Church. It was SOOO much fun to teach again and to get a feel for the culture down here. It really brought me back to Portugal. So many things were the same. The fact that people would go off on tangents for a long time and you had to pull them back, everything starts so late and takes so long. It was just delightful. I didn't feel the stress of time because I wasn't in charge! I just got to teach and listen and learn. It was wonderful.

I really felt like I helped people and made a difference. It was a very welcome change. Hopefully it continues.

18 June 2013

Can You Belize It?

Hello everyone! It's my fifth day in Belize working with HELP International and I'm finally feeling settled into everything. The adjustment to living in Belize was no big deal. It's so much like living in Brazil with some things about living in Portugal. So nothing's really been new for me, except that there are refried beans at EVERY meal. So I'm eating refried beans for the first time in my life. They aren't as bad as I thought they would be. (That's right, guys, with all of my years of loving Mexican food, I have refused to try refried beans. They just look like fecal matter. Why would I want to ingest that?)

The thing that has been the biggest adjustment is living in a tiny apartment with eight people I just met. That was a bit of a struggle for me. There is never an alone moment. But I've adjusted to that and we're all getting to know each other and bond. Everyone is really great in the group. There are nine of us in total for this "wave" (month). Seven girls and two boys. (We all feel so bad for the boys, especially when we make them watch The Bachelorette with us. [And we have a TV here? What? I have never had a TV since moving away from home. It's weird.])

I am sleeping in the room that has the bathroom in it. The sink is outside of the toilet/bathtub area, so there are constantly people milling in and out of my "bedroom" area. It's kind of nice to have people around all the time, but to be able to do stuff on my own at the same time. It's not as restricting as having a companion was on my mission.

There are ants all over the place here. On the counters, in the bathtub, in my bed. Fortunately they're small and they're not all over. Just random ants here and there, but trying to completely eradicate them is futile.

On Saturday we went to Xunantunich, Mayan ruins that were HUGE! (Pictures are forthcoming. I forgot my camera, so I'm depending on others' photos of the trip.) It was really fun to climb up to the top of the structure (a Mayan temple type thing) and look out over the whole area. We're planning a trip to Tikal while we're here and also to ATM caves where there are more Mayan ruins. This is the place to see all things Mayan. So rad.

Yesterday we started our volunteer work with HELP International. We do a lot of work with a women's shelter here and I passed out flyers to promote their free computer classes and a clothing sale they're doing. We also looked into opening up a bike rental shop, so I went around to Department of Labor and the Town Council (Town Hall) to look into it. I was shocked at how nice everyone was and how quickly we were helped. That was not what I had expected. But, seriously, everyone is super nice here. They're happy to help you and answer any questions you have.

I expected to be in a small town in the middle of nowhere, which I am. But there's a surprising number of tourists that stay here in San Ignacio because of the architectural draws of the Mayan ruins. There are also a lot of ex patriots here. It's weird. But everyone speaks English, so I guess it wouldn't be a bad place for an American to relocate to.

We're in the middle of a tropical depression here, so it's been raining like crazy. It's been a welcome reprieve from the suffocating heat. My hair is, of course, crazy curly and I wear scarves in my hair almost every day to cover up the wreath of frizz I have framing my face.

That's all I've got for now. I'll send more updates and photos soon.