So it's rainy season. It's also September, which means nothing gets accomplished in school. Sure, school is in. The kids come to the building daily, but that doesn't mean they are learning anything.
While I don't live in the Toledo District that is mostly comprised of indigenous Mayans, the country is small enough that any news is news everyone hears about.
It's been awhile. I would and should apologize but then again, I will just use the excuse that I was busy. It's not entirely true but it kind of is.
Since most kids have nothing to do during the summers, I decided to have a chess camp and work with the Belize National Youth Chess Foundation to host a chess camp in the village. The community center let us use the space for free and all the boards were provided by BNYCF.
We had 18 kids come for 5 days and most of them are very qualified chess players now who can teach other kids once school starts and the excitement grows.
I made a little movie for them and attached it above.
The 2010 census is happening in Belize just like back in the mother land. I didn't think I would or should be included but the nice little census guy assured me that I should be included. I agreed with this authority of the law and quickly realized a few things:
- All I do is skew results
- I'm probably the only person in the country who lives in a 5 room house with no furniture
- 5 bedrooms but no stove? Yup, that's me
- AC in the house? yes. Bathtub? yes. Radio? No
- Hours per week you work? Define work...
- Religion? none. - That's not an option, can you pick one? No
- Children? 172 of them ranging in age from 5-14 (he didn't like that answer)
- Ethnicity? Is gringo an option? No. OK, I guess I'll be white.
Either way you look at it, I shouldn't be included in this census but since I live there more than 6 months and plan on being there more than a year longer, I get counted. I'm not sure if its just a ploy to increase numbers or to find out just how many outsiders call their country home. Either way, I'm counted and from the numbers, I don't think I did a great job of representing the average Belizean.
In case you couldn't read it the first time. I doubt they even know who Bob Barker is and the question that will forever be in my mind is "What does great dog taste like?" For those of you who don't speak a lick of Spanish... Se Vende = For sale
My little friend hanging out in my tomato plant, there is usually a huge lizard there too but he is a bit too fast to take a picture of
- 9 blisters
- 7 ticks (1 found 3 days later between my toes)
- countless bug bites
- Many splinters
- 2 bad burns on my hips from my pack
I made the mistake of reaching a tree instead of falling, only problem was the tree had thorns. This is after cutting them all out
Hay mucho polbo = There is lots of dust. This is what happens when you hitch hike and have 1 leg hanging out of the truck because there isn't enough room for both of them
Speaking of hitch hiking, you know you are beginning to get integrated when you can pass out in the back of a truck sitting next to a police officer on his way to work. Classic Emily. She is classy after all
You do the math... 24 seats x 2 people per seat should = 48 right? I guess 84 sounded better. Welcome to public transport in Belize. I'm pretty sure I've been on a bus with well over 100 people. Somehow it works
The sign still stands today. The breads, the sauces, the cheeses, pictures... everything is like a real Subway in the United States. The only problem is just because there is a picture of it on the menu, or a oven that says Subway on it, doesn't mean you can expect it to taste anything like you'd want it to.
- Last Sunday- 112 degrees with a heat index of 123
- Last Monday- 109 degrees with a heat index of 117
- This Monday- 100.9 degrees at 8:30am
Those may be the extremes but that doesn't mean we get a nice 80 degree day anytime either. It's hot everyday. It hasn't rained in weeks and I sometimes get hot showers now due to how hot the water gets in the pipe before it turns cold.
I shower on minimum thrice daily. Yes, I just used the word thrice. I don't care about cleanliness, I care about cooling my body from extreme heat.
Luckily, most of the day I sit in an air conditioned computer lab in pure bliss until I open the door and the sweat begins to pour.
The worst part are the nights. My idea of cooling off is rolling over from my back to my stomach so the sweat from my back can be cooled by the 2 fans blowing on me. I'm like a rotisserie chicken, ever 5 minutes, just turn me over.
It's a great life and I wouldn't change it for the world but I am beginning to understand why Mateo (a 3rd year volunteer) said he had to go home before the summer because he simply couldn't do another summer here.
I guess this the beginning of 2. I hope I survive. Just be thankful my water isn't metered so I can shower all day to keep cool.
I shouldn't even waste my time on this but since I did St. Patrick's Day and Fat Tuesday, I might as well fill you in on this one too.
It's pretty simple.
Once again, no one drinking, no one dancing. No need to go out and party like a fool.
I'm starting to think its more because places of the world like this have something the United States doesn't have: Culture.
Not that the US doesn't have culture, but not a unified culture. Unless you count being xenophobic or flying an American Flag outside your house having culture, but sorry... I don't.
I see culture every day. It's unique, beautiful, and inspiring everyday. Some of it may be boring, but it was created hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago when things were as exciting to watch.
Speaking of years, the US is pretty young. Only 234 years old. May seem like a long time but in the grand scheme of things we are young. Belize may only be 28 years old but the culture was here long before colonialism ever came around.
I think the most disappointing thing about how the US celebrates made up holidays that are supposed to represent other countries' culture is how unwelcoming we are of other cultures. People are busy getting drunk right now, with sombrero on, dancing salsa, trying to be Mexican while in the same country we do our best to keep Mexicans out.
The US is what it is today because of the influence of other cultures and mass immigration, but somewhere along the way, many people decided we couldn't fit anymore. Or better yet, we don't want anymore. Now, those people are Mexicans or anyone of Latin decent and Arizona doesn't want them.
I just hope no one in Arizona is celebrating Cinco de Mayo while at the same time hoping more "Mexican looking people" get arrested for being anything other than white and speaking a language other than English.
Crazy how fast we celebrate the culture of the "other" while making damn sure they don't become one of "us."
Bill Cosby used to host this TV show back in the day that I never watched but was titled "Kids Say the Darnedest Things."
Yes, they do.
I had them make Mother's Day Cards and then we would print them out. Seems easy, seems fun. Not easy, not fun, but perhaps very funny. Some of the best quotes were:
- "Mom, thank you for not lashing me, I love you."
- "Mom you are beautiful and big"
- "Mom you are fat."
- "I love when you cook for me"
- "Your eyes are the color of mud"
- "You are the best mom I have in this world"
I wish that some of these could be funny if only taken out of context, but for most of them, its simply what they wrote. When I would ask the kids if they were sure that's what they wanted to say, they were adamant about it. I asked the teacher and she said it was fine. Who knows. As much as I try to understand cultural communication, there are some things I may never get.
I may be completely wrong too and the meanings of what those kids wrote is not even close to what I think they mean. Bottom line is every single kid out of 149 mentioned either "I love you" or "Happy Mother's Day," so that has to count for something.
And on that note, Happy Mother's Day a bit early Mom. I love you and sorry I cant be there this year. I'll try my best to call you.
Go to your local Kroger or King Soupers today and check out how much mangos are. I bet they are over $1 each. How much are they here?
Why? Well, just like money in the United States, they grow on trees. They are everywhere. Sounds delicious right. But there is a catch 22 in every situation.
For some odd reason, Belizeans love salt and pepper. So instead of waiting for the mangos to become ripe, they pick them, peel them, and put salt and pepper on them until they taste good.
The idea of waiting for them to become ripe when they are sweet and delicious seems to fall on deaf ears. Similar to sarcasm and inside jokes.
The catch 22 is something I am waiting to find out. Will there be so many mangos once they are ripe that we must eat them before they go bad? By eating them now when they are green, does it help them so none are wasted?
I don't know the answer to this, but if kids keep coming to school everyday with salt, pepper, and mango in a bag and in a few months when they are ripe I cant find any of them... I'm gonna be pissed.
Think about that next time you go to the grocery and think about buying fresh fruit. Is it really fresh if there are only 3 months of the year where people who live where it grows can eat it?
- At 3,675 feet Victoria's Peak is the highest mountain in Belize
- Fewer People have climbed this mountain than Everest
- The hike usually takes 5 days 4 nights with stops at 12k, 19k, 19k, 12k
- The hike is 27k up and 27k down to make 54km
- 54km is roughly 33.5 miles
- We hiked it in 3 days 2 nights only stopping at 19k and 12k
- It was the worst decision I've ever made
- 8 left for the hike, 5 made it to summit
- I made it
This was part of the Jaguar Preserve, but we didn't see any. Look at how happy we looked, we almost enjoyed one another.
Now, for those of you who prefer more of a story... here we go.
We camped the night before at base camp (0 km) and left at 6am. By the pictures, you can tell we look clean and well rested. We didn't know what we were about to get ourselves into. We left full of smiles and the first 12 km were a breeze. Most of the trails were nice and wide with wooden bridges over the streams so we wouldn't get wet. We were chatting it up like it was a Sunday stroll without a care in the world. The 30 lbs on my back was nothing. I may have only brought bagged re fried beans, a loaf of bread, some tortillas and a jar of peanut butter, but I had more than enough. Its only a little hike.
Heather, hating her life first. This is 15k when most of us are already thinking "Why the hell am I doing this?"
Adam wringing out the sweat from his bandanna while we caught our breath and pounded fluids.
Adam trying to be sexy at the waterfall. I just wanted water. More H2O please.
At 18 km, we got our first glimpse of old Victoria herself. It was intimidating how steep it was. The picture does not do her justice. We pulled into 19k and thought we were close to death. There was not much talking anymore and most people ate some food, drank fluids, bathed in the river, set up tents, and went to bed around 7pm to wake up at 4am for the hike to the summit.
Me, making it to 19 km, when I was pulled to the site by the spirit of Rambo.
Katie's feet, mine didn't look any better. Lt. Dan was right about those socks after all.
We left the next morning by headlamp at 5am. I couldn't figure out why, but then after awhile I realized the trick our guide was playing on us. He had hiked Victoria's 25 times and knew how us gringos would react if we knew just how steep the hill we were climbing was. Lucky for us, we could only see as far as our lights would show and just took it one step at a time. One of the hardest things was after the 20 km point the marker signs stopped showing up, but we didn't know that. We thought that the 20th km was the longest one yet and we had been hiking for hours and still hadn't come close to 21 km. Then Marcelo, our Mayan guide, told us we were past 24 km. This was when your mind began to play tricks on you.
Determined. Ready. Stubborn.
Steep hills and luscious green jungle below
Climbing the rock
If going up was hard, going back down was humbling. Different parts of my body now hurt that never hurt before because now my body was being used to stop itself from falling down instead of pulling itself up. This is when your feet scream and you grab for a tree to hold your balance only to find that its covered in thorns. Coming down was inspiring because when looking down at some of the hills you had climbed only a few hours ago, you had to wonder just how the hell you did it in the first place.
I wish I could say that we all loved each other and made it to the bottom to a grand feast but I think we were all so sick of our own smell and filth that we just wanted to go home and sleep. I was in bed that night by 7:30pm and I didnt even reach home until 6:30. To make things better, I couldnt walk. But we will leave the injuries for another blog post. With other, not so great pictures.
In the end, was it worth it? Probably not. I am very proud that I made it to the top but it's not something I look forward to doing again. That mountain pulled out all I had and it took all I had. It wasn't even about physical endurance because everyone's tank was on empty. It came down to mental toughness and the decision of whether or not you were going to let the grade of the hill decide the grade of strength in you. When I tell Belizeans that I climbed Victoria's Peak, they usually first ask what it is? Then I tell them and they say "Why the hell would you want to do that?" Before I left, I thought I had an answer. Now, upon return, I'm not so sure.
Views of the Grand Caribe Condos
I got out there on a Wednesday and left on Saturday. I had originally planned to leave on Good Friday but as you can see, there were better things to do than go back to the village and read. Instead, I could sit out by the swim up bar and read there with ocean breeze keeping me cool. Much better than the Orange Walk heat.
Swim up bar and a view from our room. Life was tough.
We stayed at Grand Caribe, which is about 3 miles north of the bridge to mainland San Pedro and its a paradise that is discovered but you wish hadn't been. San Pedro was amazing. It was like Mexico, except people spoke English. And not like Mexico at all because most of the people you saw were white.
This was tourist haven. There is nothing wrong with a place like this. But there is something wrong if you come to Belize and this is all you see. San Pedro is just one of the many things that are amazing about this country, but its a place like this (and pictures like these) that make people from back home think there is nothing wrong with Belize.
I have now been to most of the tourist destinations of Belize and I can say that San Pedro is the most beautiful but my least favorite. The problem? Too many white people.
The sign says it all... "Living the Dream."
I may have worn my sunglasses at night, but look at those fishes. Yes, I said fishes... it's Kriol