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