Friday, July 10, 2009

Bye-Bye Belize

Absence of things, of peoples and places…is this missing what the heart has encountered. As soon as we attach a name to what we see, hear, smell, taste and feel memories begin and the heart has been imprinted.

The memory that is and will be Belize…I have named the moments and things that sometimes frustrate, sometimes become wearisome and sometimes annoy. I have named the travels that my senses have taken into the scary, the exciting, the beauty and the melodies of the country I shared my life with for almost two and a half years.

What will my heart miss – what memories will I take away – I cannot know as I rejoin my children, family and friends already placed in special chambers of my life prior to the time spent in a place that was once new and is now known to my inner being. It is all flowing in the current of my heart.

Will it be the choir of twenty plus dogs howling though my sleeping hours or will I miss the songs and dances the multitudes of birds sing as I wake in the early dawn? Will it be the windblown garbage that is carelessly strewn everywhere or the indescribable blue-green pearl essence of the sea I am privileged to everyday? Will I miss watching the living carcasses of starving animals walk the roads or the wonder of seeing a jabiru, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, toucans, crocodiles and a jaguar in the wild. For sure I will miss the wildness the rainy season brings, especially the cacophony of thousands of Kermit’s friends expressing their joy after the violence of a nightly storm passes.

Time in three villages – I have already forgotten the stench of latrine effluvia and replaced it with smells of caldo and pan tul cooking on the fire hearth while patting cua with my host family mother and sisters. How can I know if I will miss eating meals with my “lone” corn tortillas or poch and no utensils? And what of the pikni I see everyday and the music of their laughter that tickles my smile. No cars, no television, no daily weather and news updates – just what the day brings in either a flurry of activity or hammock time reading 900 page novels.

My neighbor – Miss Vincy – 33 years old, my son’s age – 7 children, ages one to eighteen years old…feeding and sleeping no less than 5 more pikni. Miss Vincy loves her children and her drink. The beauty of those 7 children with three different fathers among them is without words. Three meals a day is a luxury in the new little cement house she purchased with the correct political vote. I’m feverish on a day with something unknown. The gate opens and I am ready to shoo away the little face carrying some porridge for me that Miss Vincy has sent, somehow knowing I was ill. I am humbled by the gift from meager means.

All of us agree, the few choices we have here make life a simple act in the theatre of Punta Gorda town in Belize. There are no department stores, movie screens, no coffee huts or one stop shopping and the small number of restaurants specialize in few entrees, almost all including rice and beans…will I miss the uncomplicated and simple choices as I return to the land of plenty? Rules of engagement - all “booty” entering our stage either by mail, included in carry-ons of visiting friends, or known suspects returning from trips must be shared.

My cool early morning runs take me into the bush as it hums and howls into wakefulness. I hear but don’t see the evening creatures slither and slink into the dense foliage or canopy awaiting the cover of darkness and stars to light their time of day. Riding our bicycles to work or to market - the known and unknown smiles greet and hail us. The afternoons bring the symphony of children’s chatter and young voices calling Miss Karey as pikni come through my weather worn gate carrying flowers for me. Their unwashed clothes, their sugar worn smiles cannot take away the glow of their beauty and sweetness. I will take these warm memories and wrap myself in them as I move into colder climes on in this journey called life.

What will I miss

All of it

Friday, June 5, 2009

Almost Finish

Oh ye of great concern,

Don’t be, Belize is still on the globe and the shaking has stopped. (For the most part) We want to get up to Placencia because we heard there are some giant cracks in the ground. They also apparently had their water tower damaged and the tower in Mango Creek came to the ground. Both of these villages are setting on sand and old Mangrove swamps. As we get the story from our local geologist, Brian Holland, the ground is a bit like wet cement and a layer of Jell-O; so when the earth starts shaking something is coming down.

The temperature has been up where it should be for May. We had a little thundershower Monday morning, June 1st, which happens to be the traditional start of the Rainy Season. So the beginning of the day was cool but the afternoon was a bit of a steam bath. Tuesday the 2nd, we had a Big-ass thunderstorm, about 5 hours worth, and a following down pour for a short time. Wednesday the 3rd, thunder and light rain all morning. Thursday the 4th, heavy cloud, thunder, but no rain til the afternoon and cool all day. Welcome Rainy Season! And hurricane season soon come.

We did get to go to a wedding last weekend. The daughter of our host family in
Medina Bank, Bernadina, got hitched. She was the one who was always there taking care of us. She did most of the housework, cooking, laundry and was our good buddy.

We went up on Saturday and spent the night in Medina Bank and then travelled to San Roman, about 35 miles more, on Sunday for the wedding. We got a chance to swim in the ‘Rok I ha’ again, should we say bathe in the river, not much water. But we had mosquito nets before and this time we were the main course. If we don’t have malaria now we won’t likely get it.

Looking for work occupies as much time as our jobs do these days. We have a few reports to fill out for the end of service. Other than that we are planning travel time more than anything. Let us know if you hear of any great opportunities for work. We would rather not have to include “ Do you want to SuperSize that?” as part of the required job vocabulary, not that there’s anything wrong with that, otherwise we’re open-minded.

We did get a chance to go to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve. WE went with a couple from Canada who just came down to volunteer with Plenty Belize to do organic agriculture things. Sorry, we never got a picture of the buildings, but in this compound of maybe 10 buildings we stayed in the bunkhouse and were the only ones in the compound that night.
WE did 2 really nice hikes, very vertical, and swam in the falls after, just so we could cool down and sweat-up for the hike back. The most amazing part was the lack of bugs! There was hardly a mosquito when we went swimming and we even tubed down the river about an hour before sunset and were not feasted upon.

The plan as it is now………….Our desired extension remains a possibility but it grows less likely as time goes by. Peace Corps applications are up over 125% so the pool for recruits is deep. Our departure date is August 18th. Right now we are thinking of a short trip to the east coast to check-in with some new friends and old family. Trish, I don’t mean you’re old, just that you’ve been around longer than our new friends; I’ll stop there before I can’t climb out of the hole, and then moving back into the old abode the beginning of September. Roughly. All plans subject to change with little notice. Much depends on any bites we get on the job search lines.

There are some incredible stories that continue to unfold about hospitals, government ministries, NGOs, family life for some, boarder disputes, adoptions, oil exploration, conditions on the reef, etc., etc., etc. There are some other fun things we will certainly miss.................But we will only bore those of you who are interested when we return. Everyone has the right to tell us to shut-up. But we wouldn’t mind doing a few talks to groups if anyone has some attentive gathering of curiosity seekers in mind that may be interested in hearing about our adventure.

Hope all is going easy for everyone. Of all we have learned, patience and really trying to live in the moment are the 2 biggest quests for improvement in our lives. We’re sure that can only help when we return to the insane-o world as much as it does here. A good-old American chicken would be a nice help too.

Love to You All,
Peace to the World,

Karey and Michael

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Coming Up to The Close

We know it has been ages since we have written but time slips away as easily here as it does in the states and access to the Internet is sketchy at best right now. The past 3 weeks every morning by 8:40 the Internet is down and comes back up sometime after 7:00PM. That’s just a bit before bedtime. We are typing this up in WORD and hope to do a copy/paste in a moment of connectivity. If you are reading this IT WORKED!

These past several months have been challenging and rewarding. Working for the Peace Corps is much like being in the states except of course the amenities and availability of EVERYTHING. We are involved in many ways in the community from adult and child literacy, computer training and our main work water, sanitation and hygiene.

One of the most fun things we have been able to help with is the Belize National Youth Chess Foundation’s annual Chess Olympiad. Last year was the first annual event and again this year we helped. Because of our efforts we were treated to a great overnight stay at Caves Branch Resort 5 star jungle resort. The couple that own this, Ian and Ella Anderson, are the driving force behind the foundation.
Dios to our family and friends,

When we arrived they asked if we had any issue with having kids stay in the front part of the room, a beautiful queen bed in the back and 4 bunk beds in front. The whole program is for the kids so we said “NO Problem”.

After finishing supervision of painting of last minute banners we retired to our room around 10:30PM to find the bunks empty and we alone. A short refreshing respite, very short, we were up at 5:30 to get breakfast and catch the ride into get set up for the tournament. The tournament itself seemed to go quickly. The bus ride back home was long and punishing. The return home culminated in a 17 mile ride from a village in the back of a pick-up with 5 kids, rain sprinkles and no jackets. Peace Corps……Always an adventure.

Our jobs are considered to be 24/7 but the PC allows 24 days a year for taking a break. This year we finally are taking those days since we only used three of our 48 last year. In February, Brian and Donna our best buds from high school came down and we went to Caye Caulker for almost a week of seaside relaxation, a ‘ruinas’ tour (Lamanai), reef snorkelling and daily cocktails! From there we treated our best buds to a 3 hour local bus ride and water taxi to Placencia for a couple of days.
On our schedule was MORE seaside relaxation, cards and daily cocktails. From there back to the water taxi, 3 more hours on the bus to home sweet home in South Belize. Brian and Donna stayed at the lovely B&B Coral House Inn. Our kind friend, Ms. Dita loaned us her pickup and we got to share village time and friends with B & D.

Next on our schedule was a trip this Easter with brother Frank, sis Jody and husband Mark. We spent six days in Antigua, Guatemala. Antigua is the second most visited site in the world next to Rome on Easter. Local businesses, families and organization create hundreds of beautiful colored sawdust and floral carpets on the cobblestone streets of the city during Holy Week. Several processions beginning
Holy Thursday pass through the streets over the carpets and new ones are created for the next day. The processions have up to 80 people carrying dioramas, for lack of a better word, depicting various scenes of Passion Week. All of them followed by small bands playing dirges. The windows on the streets have purple coverings until Good Friday and then some are switched out to black. Antigua is a very beautiful
old city – the history dating back to the 1700’s. A very romantic place to sleep, eat and visit.

During our time there we climbed Volcan Pacaya, an active volcano. As excited as we were to see hot lava it was a bit of a fright when you are so close you can’t stand the heat. It was an all day adventure and with two hours to go our van managed two flat tires. We limped home with only one tire where there should have been two. No worries – it’s Guatemala and we only had about 70 miles to go.

We also visited Lago Atitlan. A beautiful lake surrounded by 3 ‘volcans’ but the weather didn’t cooperate and we had minimal viewing of the grandeur….however, if you like to shop…and if you like table runners Guatemala has them all.

Our time grows short – only 3 months left. Last November we asked for an extension (another tour of duty) with the PC in another country. At the time our country director said it should be no problem – the Manleys “will be an easy sell”. Since then, however, the difficult times have also affected the PC and the chances are growing slimmer. So, we are “attempting” internet searching for possible work anywhere – we even clean toilets and/or latrines! We can train on economical water saving techniques like how to take a bath in less than ½ gallon of water, economical health tips – cabbage instead of lettuce daily (pound for pound a better deal), cut paper towels in half for everything – economical, less waste etc., ride bikes, buses, hitch – no cars and the list goes on….

Sunday, the 3rd, we celebrated Karey’s dad’s birthday with a trip to help our friends at Sun Creek Lodge, who buy the way, just received the National Belize Tourism Boards award for the ‘Best Small Inn’. We were also going into San Marcos to take pictures of the “in progress” project to retrofit bathrooms in the community center in the village. The Rep from the NGO where Michael helped get the grant for the project was in town and she wanted to take some pictures for the next board meeting.

All work accomplished we took the short-cut from Sun Creek to the Highway to catch a bus. Just as we came to the road a fellow in a 300D Mercedes saw us and stopped to see if we wanted a ride to town. Rejoicing in our marvellous luck, we looked both ways, crossed the road, jumped in for a free ride and thanked Karey’s dad for the birthday present. We quickly realized the gift to be a Trojan Horse.

As we got into the car we noticed the pint of 1 Barrel (local Rum) in the console. We were hopeful he had just purchased it in Dump so he hadn’t had time to complete the process of inebriation. Unfortunately, he probably had just stopped to buy “one next one”. As the driver, later to be introduced as Lindford, began to drive we quickly realized his impaired condition. Michael asked if he wanted him to drive. When Linford looked over at Michael we drifted into the left lane. After correcting that issue Michael said we will just get out at Laguna Junction, Linford looked over at Michael again and drifted for the shoulder. Again helping in the correction of our mistaken trajectory Michael asked again if Linford wanted him to drive so we, and the car, would all arrive in town in one piece, we drifted into the left lane again. After correcting the slight error again, Linford stooped the car to put on his seat belt; we jumped.

Linford tried again to persuade us he was just fine but left in frustration when we continued to refuse and ask if Michael could drive, concerned for him and everyone else on the highway. He drove off with a heavy foot on the pedal and was out of sight, over the hill. We walked only maybe 100 yards when we looked up to see him driving, in reverse, somewhat better than he was driving forward, and in the right-hand lane. Questioning if he could continue under control we ran back to a turnout and got off the road.

After going a bit too far past us, Linford put it in drive, came back to us and asked if Michael wanted to drive and could he drive? Michael replied yes and that he even had a Belizian driver’s license. Linford asked to see it, he was satisfied, although we still question if he could actually focus, and he relinquished the driver’s seat. Linford said: “You are afraid of me.” Michael replied: “No, I’m afraid of that”, pointing to the bottle of Rum.

Now knowing Peace Corps may read this we will invoke the ‘Emergency Clause’. We considered a slight rule breaking to be out weighed by being blessed with an opportunity to save somebody’s, possibly multiple bodies’, life. Linford proceeded to inform us that when he has been drinking he likes to drive fast, “like 100MPH”; Hell yes we are happy to be driving now.

All parties arrived safely in town, we thanked our guardian angels, we stopped at the office so Karey could send her dad a birthday greeting, (Dad, thanks for letting us borrow one of your guardian angels), Linford took his time but finally made it into the driver’s seat and we know he returned safely to his house.

There is a good story to remember on a birthday. Best one we have of late and a good way to say we are still safe, happy, working and being watched out for. Thanks for all your concerns, prayers, thoughts, well wishing and Love.

Warmest Wishes,
All Our Love,

Michael & Karey

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Holidays Everyone!!!!

Have some turkey and stuffing for us!!!

This year we chose a more civilized Thanksgiving. If you didn't see it, this is our turkey from last year.

We hear the holidays creeping up have brought cold upon most of you especially in the northwest. We are now putting on long pants at 70 degrees instead of shorts! What will we do when we come home YIKES! We are trying to miss the cold as we are currently enjoying sweatless days of sunshine and sea breezes averaging around 80 degrees with a rain shower or two in the mix.

Recently we were invited back to our original permanent home San Marcos Village for a baptism. Our host family the Chubs - a family of now 11 children and four grandchildren were having a gathering for the christening of the 4th grandchild Malanda Kairy (yes that is the new spelling of Kerry, Karey, Keri, Carrie etc.) Malanda Kairy has an aunt just four months "younger" than her. Although the baptism should have been the main attraction, it was actually the 2 white people in church that held most of the kids attention. Then we had Caldo at the house with bunches of other people, chickens, dogs, ducks and the usual village fauna.

Michael has procured a grant of $2000BZD from the International Friends of Belize to build toilet facilities at the San Marcos Community Center that is also the hurricane shelter, third grade classroom and healthpost. The community is very excited for this project to happen. This will also encourage visiting medical and dental teams to stop there now that they will have a place to pee! Some we guess are just too fussy about the Mayan sized latrines.

Thanksgiving Day we were going to have local chickens for dinner but Michael McGuire another PCV found a turkey. So, a few of us gathered for good grits at the Manley Manor and had TG Day dinner on our "veranda". It looks like a big crowd will be gathering at our house for the Xmas holiday as well.

Our good friend, Ms Deeta is back and we are going out to her house tonight for what will become a solstice event. Deeta's interesting husband Zack, who we have not met is with her now. We will send news on this one.

Today is Thomasita's birthday so we will take a batch of brownies to her and Alane. Then TOLCA office party on Tuesday. Then a possible Christmas Eve gathering. Then our house for Christmas dinner. Then going to Thomasitas' church for Boxing Day. Then a News Years Party is forming at Brian and Anne's 'Dog House'. Just can't get any better than this.

We miss our lightening bugs we had last year as Christmas lights. We still have some egrets floating down for our snow scene. Our green colors are all around and this guy stopped by for some vibrant green.

After all these seemingly non-stop celebrations since September we will be glad to get back to something resembling 'normal'. Garifuna Settlement Day was another party. We went down to the park and Thomasita badgered Michael into dancing the Punta with her. He actually got some compliments for a decent performance for a white guy.

A great friend Karey made at the hospital, Yvonne, her kids actually chop our yard, asked us to go with her and some kids up Cerro Hill. We walked a bit more than a mile from her house to the base of the hill and headed up. The climb took about 45 minutes with the frequent breaks. Luckily a young Mayan neighbor teenager came with us and brought the machete. He lead the way and chopped the encroaching flora from the path. If we would have been alone we would just be getting back. The view was
great. The kids ranged from 10 to 18 years old and they were a bunch of fun. Yvonne said we are the oldest people she has taken up the hill. There was a radio tower on the top at one time and the old cable was still laying on the path. It helped when going up the rock sections. Yes, we did feel it for a few days. Haven't gotten much hiking in for awhile.

Well that's a wrap for now. Hope everyone slows down and truly enjoys their families and friends during the Holidays. Look around you, we are truly blessed to be living in the states. If you have trouble finding the reasons for your happiness, come down for a visit.

Love You All,

Michael and Karey

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dios to all our family and friends,

We know it has been a long time since we have been in touch but our time is being consumed. Being in the small town of Punta Gorda we find ourselves very busy. Everyone knows everyone and we are all "hailed" out to be of service.

Michael is involved in Red Cross Disaster Preparedness work, HIV/AIDS work and various development projects in villages.
"Me works" with the hospital in many areas, computer training and work, nutrition training at the hospital (would think they would have that knowledge??), a pharmacy database for a free medical clinic staffed by a monthly rotating group of med-students both from the US and from the UK. We both continue our work on the UNICEF funded WASH project in water, sanitation and hygiene. Working with the hospital and clinic has led to the impression that I am a nurse or doctor and people are starting to show up at our door looking for help.

I spend time getting people the help they need and or getting them to the clinic for help and assistance...anything from illness to dental health.

One of the biggest areas of our health work has to do with maternal and child health. There is momentum growing on the part of the women getting to the hospital for deliveries. Due to a high instance of hypertension (high blood pressure) and urinary tract infections (due to lack of sanitation) many pregnancies are at risk. Our local hospital can only handle simple pregnancies and simple fractures and stitches everything else has to be ambulanced to another area for higher level care.

This is a very patriarchal society and men still have the majority of say for the whole household. In many of the village households women are only allowed to speak anyone outside their home with the permission of their husband. He may also not allow them to get medical care at the hospital either due to custom/tradition, prejudice towards the medical personnel or who knows what. There is a wonderful existence here between many ethnic groups but 99.9% of the doctors are Nigerian or Cuban and the Mayan men don't want their women "open" to these doctors. There recently was a woman from one of the villages near by who tried to get to the hospital for delivery but her husband found her, returned her home - they delivered the baby and there was an infant mortality 2 days later. Heartbreaking.

Recently, we tried to get a Mayan mother, Carmelita to take her seven year old son to the doctor for an infected tooth that was causing serious infection in his gums and moving onto his inner lip. We gave her passage for the first visit but after that her husband forbade her to seek further help. He believes it is the spirit of a person or animal that the mother saw during her pregnancy that needs to leave the body before healing can begin. In some instances if they know the person or animal they will cut a lock of hair and burn it around the individual to inhale to release the spirit. Challenges exist.

Currently, we are in evacuation mode. We have been stuck in Belmopan due to a tropical storm that passed thru. We are all stuck in a the Peace Corps hotel that breeds mold faster than...It has been six days and we are all begging for may be today!!! This is the most rain we have seen all season...and the early rain did take out a bridge that keeps us from taking the bus to the North when we are in our southern living region. We wait for news as to the condition of the temporary bridge at this crossing.

It wasn't easy, but we made it through the month of September. Wish we collected as much money as Obama did that month but at least we didn't work very hard because every other day is a holiday. School is seldom in session. The 3 day weekends were welcome. The parades and festival gatherings broke up any monotonous ruts we have developed with regular working days.

Trips are planned to places we have not taken the time to go see. With the projects we have going on the next 10 months seem like they are going to fly by. We will have a house to go back to but we need to figure out how soon we want to get there. There are now a few places to stop and see people on the way home.

Since we are not at our usual computer we don't have pictures to enter. We will post another blog before the end of the year and add some pic's.

Love to All,

Michael & Karey

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Come the Rainy Season.........

We continue the ardent watch for the Nim li Ick, The Big Wind in Ke'kchi. So far the hurricane season has treated us well, can't say as much for Texas but they have more room. After the first deluge that flooded the north the weather now is a return of the dry season, it has been hot and, for the most part, dry. One night of exception brought us some back-up in the drains at the house but the flood waters receded quickly.

Apparently the weather is good for commerce. While Michael was finishing some work on our favorite single mothers food booth,(pictured with Thomasita), he saw a pick-up truck from a village going by. The truck pulled up at the store next door. As his son waited by the truck, the driver, Marcos, went inside and soon returned with 2 Cokes and the woman who runs the store following behind. Leaning over the bed of the truck he pulled back the cahune palms and a sheet of plastic. Reaching in and gathering up a chunk of red meat, he proudly displayed his product to his customer.

Approving of the quality, she pointed to several other pieces and Marcos' son promptly got out the scale, the tin dish to place the meat in for weighing, loaded the desired chunks of flesh and weighed up the sale. Finding a plastic bag he loaded the purchase into it, handed it to their customer, wipe his hands on the properly designated 'cleaning rag' and proceeded to open his coke.

Yes, of course they put the plastic sheet and cahune fronds back. Do you think they care nothing about food handling? They may not have, a food license from Public Health, education in proper hygiene, ever heard of ecoli, ever considered refrigeration but they do know how to butcher a beef steer. And after all, it's only 15 miles to town from their place. What could grow in that time? Needless to say, we don't buy beef locally.

We also enjoyed our second trip to Belize City. Not that we ever really want to go there but that is where the doctors and dentist are the Peace Corps wants to use. Michael lost a filling and had a wonderful experience with a Cuban dentist.

The appointment being a 8:00AM, he arrived a little early and sat in the shade until 8:20; not bad, could have been longer. The doors were opened and an older gringo, even older than Michael, who had been waiting in a Chevy Tahoe out front went in first. Soon becoming the second appointment for the day, Michael settled in to a undetermined wait in a 16'x16' room with a Chinese girl who had come in without an appointment.

Only 50 minutes later it was his turn. First being asked to try to adjust the air conditioner, he was able to at least get the fan going. The furnishings were of an earlier design but looking very professional. The doctor took her first look with gloves and mask in place.

Returning with the injection and the remote for the air conditioner, he was asked one more time to see if he could get the compressor to operate on the unit. Attempt failed; a reenforcement fan was brought in by her able assistant.

Still with the gloves on she began her work. At one point the assistant came in to ask about the items she wanted to order. Able to understand only a little Spanish when spoken at that velocity, Michael was unable to figure out everything that was being ordered. And apparently the assistant was having trouble as well because she had to hand the clipboard to the doc. Holding the board in her gloved left hand she punctuated her instructions with the drill by tapping the sheet with it while she reiterated the order list. Michael, breathing deeply, offered a small prayer for protection from germs. O.K., back to work.

Almost done drilling it was time out for a phone call, remove gloves. Returning while putting gloves on, Michael could not determine if they were new gloves or the old pair, time for one more quick prayer, the work began again in earnest until another question came in from the able assistant. The note book she carried came to the doctor, and grabbing it again with the left hand, more prayer, pointed out the correct selection with the drill once more.

OK, enough, the filling finally replaced and leveled to satisfaction Michael took his leave. Through the door and into the waiting room, now jammed with possibly 20 people, he exited with haste. Not knowing how many of those people had appointments, we will never know the fate of that poor Chinese girl with the tooth ache.

Karey had to go to have her foot looked x-rayed. She sprang it some time ago at the Dog House when we were house sitting. The picture is of the Dog House from the sea that Michael took on a quick morning kayak. She stepped of the spiral staircase in the back that leads up to the roof deck. The deck looks out over the sea and in back over the pool. Thanks Peace Corps.

But I digress, Karey's foot........No visable breaks, just damn sore. We are hoping they will send us to Cuba for an MRI.

Karey continues to work with Vinel on her reading. A whole NGO program could be developed just to increase the reading level of the majority of primary students. Thomasita's Alane is just back from a trip to Guatemala to see her grandma and she too will begin Karey's ready program. (Pic - Vinel and Alane feelin' saucy)

Our computer class just keeps growing. There are 2 more computer programs getting started. One from EU funding and the other from Canada. As if we don't have enough on our plate, Michael is offering to help with those projects also. One must realize, even though we have our fingers in many pies, the baking time for these pies in Belize is quite long and requires patience waiting for things to heat up.

Other than that, a marvelous trip and learning experience in Guatemala, finding out there are even more NGOs than we thought and some project money showing up so we are busy again, we continue "livin' the dream".

Come see us, we can put you to work. Won't that be fun?!?

All Our Love and Best Wishes to Everyone,

Michael & Karey

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


We are settling in but yet life never seems to hold very still for us. We are either traveling to villages, house sitting for expats or back and forth between Belmopan and Punta Gorda for Peace Corps activities.

Last month Jody and Mark (Karey’s sister and brother-in-law) came to visit for too short of a time. They got to be involved somewhat in our daily activities. We traveled to Dolores a remote village in the southwest corner of Belize to be part of a health fair and brand new school/hurricane shelter dedication. It was our first time also visiting the village and we all found it very beautiful.

Jody and Mark also got to attend an annual Mayan celebration in Tumulkin where the children in high school (small boarding school in a village) still learn current curriculums but observe traditional Mayan practices. A shaman opened the day with traditional burning of herbs and incenses giving thanks to all four corners of the earth. After that people came forward for traditional healings by the shaman. There were traditional foods being served and games for both adults and children. Corn grinding and tortilla making competitions….catch the greased pig or climb the greased pole…all had a good time. Photos are on the way but we were not allowed during the shaman’s ceremony to take pics.

Mark and Jody treated us to a lovely dinner at Machaca Hill Lodge. Can check it online. It is located up a hill high in the canopy of the bush. The biggest thrill for us all was the visitation of howler monkeys in the trees including a mama and her baby. We all got photos and hope to get them to you soon.

The rainy/wet season has surprised us and began last Wednesday in full force. Today is our first day with no rain. The northern and middle parts of the country have taken a big hit. We’ve had two tropical storms hit at once Alma and Arthur. They are saying that this is the worst flooding since Hurricane Mitch in ’89 and Hattie in ’61 when 275 people were killed. So, far we only know of one fatality. Our area, while heavily rained upon remains in pretty good shape. The biggest worry is a bridge that connects us to food and supplies has been destroyed. So, far no one has panicked and the stores haven’t been picked dry - but this is the first day. We will all have to rely on each other as supplies get scarce. We’re just happy for a moments break to get our laundry done. Without a dryer you have to catch those brief moments this time of year. Nothing will ever really feel dry until just past the end of the year. We are “almost” used to that by now.

Our biggest hassle right now are the ants. They don’t like the water so they are trying to take over our house. It’s quite annoying – especially as you try to cook or sleep. You know they would take over the world if it wasn’t for bug spray!! Our natural remedies don’t work on these tenacious little buggers.

All schools have been closed – our computer class has been doing well – we are just running out of working computers and gaining students. We are hoping by tomorrow schools will be back in session. However, all our students come in from the villages via bus. Here, once momentum is broken it is hard to get the action going again. We hope for the best.

The Peace Corps has granted us driving privileges – this will help our WASH project immensely. We anxiously await the UNICEF dollars to take up the project again. Now that the flooding has started clean water education and practices become even more important – it will just be the travel that will be challenging. The rivers do flood a lot but patience is a true practiced virtue here – you wait two hours in your car and then move forward.

We have daily visits from local children. Even in PG town some living situations can be worse than one can imagine. We are going to have to put some rules in place as some of the children stay around expecting/wanting to be fed and entertained. They are very beautiful sweet children but we are not equipped to take it all on. Everyone of them is their own special story.

Well dear family and friends – trust all is well back home – spring blooms and hints of summer breezes.