Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The End of My Journey and the Beginning of Another

NOVEMBER 2011 - I am slowly settling in Denver with my son and his family.  The transition back to the States is not as bad as most volunteers experience.  I realize  from the start that I would not have a hard time, living as long as I have and experiencing a variety of life transitions, this one would be a piece of cake.

JANUARY 2012 - I was wrong.  These past couple of months were interesting.  After spending the first month visiting with friends in California, I returned to Denver to start my life as a grandmother.  I discovered that my life in Belize was very much connected to the people and the country.  Fortunately, in this new world of electronics, I continued to keep my friendships with them.

My motivation and energy are at the lowest.  I still struggle to fit into my new life in the suburbs and living the American life.  I credit these feelings to the winter months of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  It's taken me all this time to finish my blog, but with the new year I look forward to documenting my experience with a photo book to show my friends and family.  If anyone is interested in seeing my book, please contact me.

I want to thank all who have read my blog and followed my two years in Belize - there is so much more to write and document but that will be for another time.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

OCTOBER 22, 2011 - My Last Day in Belize

I have now completed my two years of service to the exact day from 2009.  What a roller coaster ride!  I'm sitting in my hotel room in Belize City overlooking the sea and the swaying palm trees; it's a bittersweet feeling because I'm leaving wonderful friends and family (my Canto host family).  I leave today at 3:15 for Denver, back to my family.

The last ten days were hectic trying to finish with projects, training, and saying good-bye.  Ms. Moody, my wonderful 71 year old lady gave me a tribute at her church with a traveling prayer, a choir song, and money to buy a Belizean souvenir.  The Belmopan Library gang gave me a fond farewell with a poster and card and cupcakes.  The PC volunteers here in Belmopan gathered for the last Chinney lunch and card games.  The gang at NAVCO gave me a wonderful send off with certificates of appreciation, a Belize flag, pictures, tote bag, and all signed a NAVCO shirt. Ms. Moody composed a special song which she sung with such a lovely voice.  Each gave a word of appreciation which made me realize how much I was leaving behind here in Belize.

Yesterday was my last day at the Peace Corps office, interviewing with the country director, the program manager, training manager, and the medical nurse.  Again, I felt so much appreciation for the office staff for helping me through the two years.  I had to spend some time trying to get my bags under the 50-pound limit for the plane - what trauma!  It's amazing that I even had stuff to take home considering that I was down to sandals on my feet and two sets of pants and top to leave Belize with - I gave most of my clothes to my Belizean friends who really needed it.  I took the bus to Belize City with my bags - I wanted to save money to spend on a nice hotel for my last day.  I kept thinking that I was almost home without any glitches and traumas, needless to say, that wasn't the case.  Half way through the bus ride, the back door flew open and out went my backpack and suitcase - bouncing on the highway.  Fortunately, a government vehicle was behind the bus, and the driver was able to stop and retrieve the bags - both pieces didn't break open although my brand new suitcase was cracked, scraped and looked beat up.

I won't end my blog just yet...I want to write one more blog to end my journey as a Peace Corps volunteer which was amazing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 10 - Time's a Ticking...

It's hard to believe that I leave in two weeks.  I have mixed feelings about leaving Belize and the work here.  There is so much more that can be done here at NAVCO and the districts, yet, I know that I can't do everything.  Well, the NAVCO board finally took action against the president and ousted him this past Wednesday.  The board members are relieved and now eager to move forward with the organization.  This helps me in giving them concrete strategy to move forward.  It is exciting to see finally that the organization will be strengthened which, in turn, will support and grow the districts into strong, operational advocates for the village councils.

I'm slowly eating out of the house, packing, sorting, and check listing what needs to be done to leave the country.  My termites are creeping down my wall.  I keep hoping that the population won't explode before I leave the house.  Because of the leak in the toilet, I have to turn off the water until I'm ready to about learning to conserve water.  I felt so hassled about doing this until I heard from other Belizeans that it's a common practice to flush after several uses and, of course, sans toilet paper (it's disposed with in a trash can next to the toilet).

I was riding the bus last week when I saw another rider with some large paintings.  Curious, I asked about them.  She was the wife of the artist who lives in Benque and was on the way to Belize City to the art galleries.  I called her a couple of days later to see if I could buy a painting.  We met at the bus stop, and I was able to buy three beautiful paintings - a wonderful keepsake of Belize.  Then I found a Mayan lady from Armenia Village who makes intricate baskets and bowls.  She invited me to her home for a birthday celebration - hers and her son's.  I took great pictures of her place, the countryside is beautiful, and I met all her family.  Of course, barbecue, the main stay for Belizeans, beans and tortillas were delicious, and it was fun to watch them cooking on the comal with wood.

Still lots to do this week:  finish the Village Council Training Manual, give a workshop in business writing; continue to train Jacklin on the financials for both NAVCO and Cayo DAVCO; meet with the newer PC volunteers to get them up to speed on the work to continue; and finish training Jacklin on the NAVCO website.

I'll try to post one last time before I leave Belize.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September 21 Belize Independence Day!

It's Belize's 30th year of independence.  The national holiday includes ceremonies, parades, and fireworks. Last weekend, the Honorable George Price, the founder of the new nation, passed away at the age of 92.  This morning, I watched President Obama speak to the United Nations.  Since I've lived in Belize, I developed more awareness of the political environment both here at a micro level in a small country and at a larger level in our country - an interesting perspective watching world news from outside of the States.

 Since my last blog, I've waited for things to write even though life at NAVCO progressed. catch up, here's what's happening.  On August 6, we had a meeting at the George Price Center for the district boards - the meeting involved a leadership and motivational training which proved successful and all the participants learned and enjoyed the session - this training was expensed by the training grant which was received at the beginning of the year but the main gathering was used to alert everyone about the situation with the president.  Everyone agreed and signed a no-confidence letter to submit to the president by the NAVCO board.  Sad to say, I have to interject that the mode of operandi for Belizeans is to hold off and not take any action, and that is exactly what happened - the letter was not given to him, and life at the office continued badly.

Finally, the board met again last Saturday, September 17.  This time I coached and mentored the members to take action and unite.  I sat in the meeting and made sure the meeting progressed without digression and tangent to personal attacks, the motions and voting were correct.  The board members took the helm and actions were taken:  1) the president was to bring the NAVCO vehicle back to the office; 2) keys to the NAVCO bedrooms (he was using the bedrooms for his son and family) are returned to the office; 3) the budget was realigned to allow the organization to survive until the next fiscal year.  The last action reduced the president's salary to a minimum which he refused to accept.  He then announced that he would take a two month leave.

In the meantime, last week, the office was burglarized.  Three computers, DVD player, stereo equipment, and projector were taken.  Suspiciously, the three computers taken were mine which contained all the financial records, Ms Corona's computer which had all the chief administrative records, and Larry's PC where he had all the Village Council Act revisions.  Jacklin's computer in the front office and the computer sitting next to the electronic equipment were not taken.  The next day, the police held a suspect that happened to have a CD external device that belonged to me and was in my desk drawer.  Two days later, the police found the computers in a trailer on the show grounds not far from the office and arrested two other suspects.  The one suspect said that someone told them to take these specific computers but would not reveal the name for fear of being killed.

My time in Belize is short now, and I'm slowly waiting for the end.  I've come full circle here - when I lived with my host family two years ago, I sat at the Bull Frog Inn to use the internet and have breakfast.  I disconnected my internet service at home a few weeks ago and returned to the Bull Frog.

I keep hoping that nothing dramatic happens until I leave, like another hurricane, my tree falling on me, or any unexpected event to make life more difficult.  Finally, the heat decreased and it's not too bad walking outside.  The rain is still with us but that too is not bad.  Of course, I can't get away from Belize without another bout of termites and sure enough there is a slow trail of termites tunneling in my concrete wall.  I sprayed it last week thinking that it stopped the tunneling until last night when I noticed the tunnel was longer.  At a closer look, I saw the tiny little wormy bugs etching there way down the wall.  Fortunately, Anthony from Peace Corps is meeting with me on Friday about my water bill which was suddenly very high.  We're meeting with the water service to figure out if there is a leak or error in the reading.  I'll ask him then if he can spray one last time.

My San Antonio family will take most of my household things - I wanted Belizeans to have my things, especially in the villages.  They already took my table and chairs - my place is looking bare with only my sofa, tv, and bed.  I'm sorting out clothes - I plan to leave most things and bring back only the minimum.

My next blog will give you my plans on final days here.  As I get close to the end, I have mixed feelings about leaving.  Don't get me wrong, I am excited about coming home to friends and family, but I realize that I will lose something when I leave - the beauty of this country and the people are treasures and part of experiencing life.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20, 2011 Tropical Storm Harvey

Tropical storm Harvey...I'm in my house on the internet playing word game while the wind and rain pummel my trees and zinc roof - I guess I have one more storm before I leave.  Fortunately, I can stay in the house while the other volunteers have to consolidate at the infamous Garden City Hotel.  I'm watching very carefully out the back door the trees - looks like the big one is holding but the tree adjacent to it appears to be more likely to fall.

With my two years living in Belize, I take these storms in stride because I'm used to the downpour and the high winds.  I don't fear being in my house either - the tree is holding.

I'm slowly eating my canned and freezer food - trying to minimize buying and storing food stuff.  I made an inventory of my household items and gave the list to my San Antonio family.  They'll take most of the stuff.  Last weekend, they took the table and four chairs and two sofa chairs - my place looks empty already.  Other people eager to get my things - moving will not be hard since I'm leaving with two suitcases and a back pack - the same as I came to Belize.

My original projects at NAVCO are pretty much not happening - the situation is still the same, and I've pretty much given up on finishing them.  Instead, I will finish the Village Council Training Manual with PC volunteer committee.  The website will be solid hopefully with Jacklin at the helm - still need a lot of tweaking but I don't anticipate problems.  Then, finally, I decided to give sessions to my cohorts on business writing and grammar structure.  Giving these skills will help them tremendously.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July Updates

As I approach close to the end of my stay here, I find myself less and less inclined to write.  There is so much to write about my experiences with Peace Corps, NAVCO, and Belizeans but I decided that this is not the forum to ruminate personal feelings, opinions, and comments.  Instead, I'll give you fluff and a little what's happening here.

The first part of July, I spent playing tourist again, this time, with my son, Ryan, and his wife, Amy, and daughter, Ayla.  The baby, Maxime, didn't come since she's a bit young to remember anything.  We started out at my place in Belmopan.  The heat and humidity gave them a first hand sweltering feel of what it was like to live in the Tropics.  In the morning, I took them to the market for breakfast of panades and sabutes.  They met Ms. Mary from the Belmopan Library and had lunch with my NAVCO people.  Belize Zoo was in the afternoon.

The next day, we walked to the terminal to ride the bus to San Ignacio.  We checked in at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel (if anyone plans a visit to San Ignacio, the hotel has all the comforts and beauty of the Cayo experience).  We walked to the market, the biggest one in the country. and met with Ramon and Lucina - they started selling at a stall there a few months back.  The kids had their first taste of pupusas which Amy loved.

We spent the day in San Antonio with the family.  Amy and Ryan had a chance to drive the pick up through the rough terrain in the Pine Ridge Mountains, Amy tried making tortillas, I took a family photo of the Cantos.

Back at the hotel, next day was cave tubing - an all day tour at Cave Branch.  Next day, Ryan and Amy went to the ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) while Ayla and I shopped in town and had lunch with another volunteer.  As I loved the ruin at Lamanai, the tour picked us up at the hotel, did the river and ruin tour, then dropped us off at the Belize City water taxi to head out to San Pedro. 

Ryan made the arrangements for the resort on Ambergris Caye - Coco Beach Resort was fabulous!  It was hard to fathom how we moved from my humble, cement house in Belmopan to the ultimate in luxury.  Fortunately, he got a great deal because this was off season in tourism and the hotels were running huge savings.  They went snorkeling one day, Amy went scuba another, then all of us went on a catamaran for a full day of fishing, snorkeling and sailing up and down the reef - the guide fished conch, cleaned and made ceviche for us to eat.  For lunch, they caught red snapper and we had a delicious meal of fish and tortillas.

This was the last of my visitors to make it to Belize - I was totally pleased to have both the kids to come. I'm finished playing tourist and ready to work as much as I can for NAVCO and my Belizean friends.

NAVCO - things are heating up with the board and the president.  Last week, the board decided to have an emergency/special meeting to finally resolve the issue with the president.  All six district boards (72 board leaders) will meet August 6 in Belmopan.  I hope that meeting will result in a positive move to get NAVCO functional again and that I can still continue my training before I leave.

GOOD NEWS - Ms. Mary was notified that BNE Trust approved the grant for the renovation and expansion.  Work will begin immediately with a completion date by end of the year.  Of course, that's wishful thinking but however the time it will take, we got the funds!!!  it's exciting to know that this project is moving forward.

CLOSE OF SERVICE - Our Peace Corps group just completed our retreat on close of service.  We had the retreat at Cahal Pech, a resort in Cayo.  I volunteered to be on the committee to organize the retreat, mainly to represent the older volunteers.  The retreat turned out great!  I was a little hesitant to go because of last year's group problems, but I am so glad I did.  We solemnly reflected on our experience; gave appreciation to the staff who in turn gave kudos to us; and had fun with a white elephant exchange, haiku reading, video of our times, and photo shoot of the group.  The close of service information from the staff gave a good handle on all the things we had to do.  I came away feeling much closer to the group and was impressed on how all of us changed and grew from our experience here.

I had lunch with Misael, my San Antonio family, in San Ignacio before heading home.  We sat and talked about my last days here.  It's exciting to know that my last days here will be with my San Antonio family - more details will come in a later blog.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26, 2011

June starts the countdown to Close of Service - four months left.  I feel that time is short but at the same time my daily living slows to a crawl.  Weather affects me a lot.  It's been hot, rainy, and terribly humid - I can't get energized and motivated to keep busy.  Because it's so hot outside, I find myself not wanting to walk and take the taxi or bus.  I still sweat profusely - will never acclimate to this climate.  I have a good rhythm for keeping cool:  wet wash cloths refrigerated, lots of ice cold lime water, and 24/7 fan in front of my face.  I always take a sweat rag, hat, and umbrella when I go out.

I flew into St Louis for the wedding - the temperature was 96 and humid, but strange as it may seem, the Belizean heat of 80's and humidity felt so much warmer.  Fortunately, while there, the temperature cooled down and it was a comfortable trip - of course, staying at a nice hotel and getting rides in vehicles made it so much more luxurious. 

Now, this week, my son, Ryan, and his family will visit me for the first time - it's exciting to show them Belize and have them meet the Belizean friends at work and in San Antonio.  Hopefully, my next blog will have pictures of their time here.

Work continues to progress slowly, but I look forward to a positive move and I can continue forward with my training.  Next month Peace Corps will have a Close of Service retreat to instruct us on how to finish our stay here in Belize.  Reality will hit then for sure.