Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To be Thankful!

After a long weekend full of dancing, drumming, laughing, eating, more dancing, and a bit of singing, I feel the need to express how thankful I am. As tomorrow is thanksgiving what perfect timing! This weekend was Nov 19th, Garifuna settlement day. I wrote a post last year describing it so I won't bore you again. This year I believe it was even better than last year.
Before I start I want to make this very clear. I am so thankful (perhaps more than ever before in my life) for my family and friends back at home in the states. There is NO way I would ever be able to do any of this without you. Especially my parents! So thank you mom and dad! I am also so thankful that I will get to spend the bulk of the holiday season with them when I head to the land of snow and freezing wind in Dec for almost 3 full weeks of eating, laughing, and hanging out. The thing is that I think about this every day. I think about how lucky I am to have supportive people in my and people to back me up even if they don't love it or might be more at ease if I was doing something different, this thought never slips from my mind. So thank you!
However I often forget to be thankful for what I have here and now. There are so many people here (many whom I have talked about in this blog) that have become family to me. So many who watch out for me and take care of me. I truly never expected to be accepted in to a family, to have a group of friends whom I'm so close to I consider them brothers, to fall it love! That I for sure never saw coming!
But often because life here has become to everyday for me that it all feels so "normal" to me I forget how good I have it. I have come to realize that I may in fact be the exception to the rule. I do not know many other volunteers that have formed the relationships I have and managed to feel successful in work. I for sure have the best of both worlds but living in it, it is easy to forget.
This weekend I was reminded completely how lucky I am. I had two other volunteers visit and after watching the boats come in we walked to my host family's home where we hung out and laughed. We also got to help make the Hudut. Part of this meal evolves beating plantain. One of the friends that came living in a Spanish village and has never gotten to try Hudut let alone make it. After we were sucessfully in Hudut coma, we continued on our way. After a quick stop for a smoothie we make it back to house for a few minutes of relaxation. And I mean I few! within 10 mins Derrick called to inform us the parade was starting. After a few we hurried to catch up. There was drumming and dancing on the beach following the parade. After a few hours everyone packed up and headed home to relax after a LONG day and get ready to go back out at night (it was probably 7?) Well we had other plans. I met up with the boys (fritz, Hilton and the newest addition Troy who is Fritz's brother and teaching at our school this year) and we decided to go out! We went to our favorite Karaoke bar and danced the night away. We were the only people in the bar... but i think that only made it more fun. Soon derrick and his best friend met up with us and joined in. While dancing (which is for sure a once a year event for me) I realized that most of my favorite people in this country are in that room. It was awesome. I was reminded of the close friendship I have formed and so grateful for these guys in my life. After the dance party the night was pretty uneventful, we went and got food and headed home. This year was so different from last year. Last year I think I was still an outsider where as this year I was just another member of this amazing community I'm blessed to call home!
If Saturday wasn't enough to remember I was standing on the side of the highway last night when I realized I had missed my bus and it was getting dark. Then I head "KIMBERLYYYYYY" Wayne and Mr. Nunez pulls up next to me on the way home from a meeting! Saving the day even dropped me off in front of my house! Than today, I went home from school for lunch today planning on having some Raman. This morning I had let Margret and Derrick put all their things in my house as they were having people come and pull their ceiling down. I reached home to find Marget in my kitchen (after scrubbing my stove and sink which I had been putting off for months) making hudut!
This holiday season I have so much to be thankful for! Aguyu means home in Garifuna and I think this has become my new favorite word. I am thankful this year to have two homes in this crazy world!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

small things or big things? who cares?

This past Saturday might have been my proudest day so far as a Peace Corps volunteer. There are many things that I have been proud of and am proud of. First and foremost the relationships I have formed here. My host family, friends, and students. I'm proud of the work I've done at school; however this is sometimes hard to keep in mind on a day to day basis. There are many volunteer who do huge events and workshops that reach a large number of people. These are usually the stories we hear about. However my work has mainly been small things, day or day interaction or helping out or giving a teacher a suggestion. I have started 2 reading programs and believe that kids are reading much more than they were, but I was still comparing myself to other and the big events they were doing. It’s so easy to compare, the whole time I was working hard and doing something that I truly felt would be sustainable, and I still think it will be. No, I know it.
I first starting to realize that maybe, just maybe the day to day interaction and those "small things" as I call them really are the most meaningful this summer. I had a few people from Peace Corps come down and spend the day with me. They talked to my counterparts, friends, and host family. We had the conversation how I feel like I'm not doing these big things. After hours of talk I realized that those "small things" together make a big difference.
After months of "small things", Saturday was a big thing! Our community had a library, when I came to Hopkins it was being opened only by the last Peace Corps volunteer that was here. She left and there it sat. The library had originally been named after the Peace Corps volunteer before her who had started it. This building full of books sat there for a year. No one to open it and no one to take care of it. I started searching for someone in the community who might want to be a library, last May I finally found her! I also began to work with an agency in Belize called the Nation Library Service. Together we also developed a board, which consists of 6 indivuals as of now. These board member, and mainly the librarian have been working hard for months and it was all worth it on Saturday when as had a re-opening of the new and improved Hopkins Library and Educational Center!!!
We opened the library for 5 hours and had 31 new members! There were adults and kids that came and hung out and read. It was amazing! I loved every minute of it. However the hard work is nowhere near over. Starting this Saturday we are going to start making new bylaws for the board. We are also working on getting some land donated so we can build a new building (our roof is leaking and isn't hurricane ready). We want to get computers and more books but can't until we have a place to keep them safe. There is hard work still ahead but I now know that Hopkins will have a library! The hard work was defiantly worth it!
ps. I posted new pictures!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A new school year!!

Well it's been 6 months so I thought it was about time to update this thing.
School started this week, today is day three. I have a feeling that it’s going to be a great year!
Now for the last 6 months. It’s been crazy! Jackie came for like 10 days and it was awesome. We had a blast and ate like kings! Than three weeks after she left my parents and Bobby came for a visit. Once again we had a blast and ate like kings! I than spent the summer doing... a lot of relaxing. I spent a ton of time with my host family which was really nice. I also went on a few relaxing weekend get a ways. The end of school last year was crazy stressful so a month off was just what I needed. But don't worry I did do some work. I read with kids and prepared for this school year.
Here is something I'm really excited about. This year at school we are implementing two new reading programs. The first one is DEAR. That stands for Drop Everything And Read. When school starts again after lunch at 1pm every teacher in the school will do a read aloud for ten minutes, then everyone in the school will do silent reading for 20, including the teachers. I'm really excited about this. I have a friend in a village in the far south that tried this at her school and it worked wonders. (update: everyone is loving this!! The teachers are really getting into their read alouds and the students are loving the reading, always coming to ask for a good book!!)
The second program is more of a contest, I think when I did it in school it was call "book it" it was sponsored by Pizza Hut. Clearly.. here it is not… Basically the kids keep track of all the time they spend reading outside of school. At the end of the month everyone adds up the time and if we meet our goal everyone gets a prize. The prize is going to be something fun, an extra gym class or a movie afternoon. The point is to simple get them to read more. The more they read the better they will get. I'm also hoping by them reading for fun and not a history book they might also learn to enjoy reading.
We started these both on Monday so we'll see how well they will work. Another thing I'll be doing this year is more testing. Last year, I testing almost every student on their reading level. This year the ministry of education wants all students to be tested, however this year I will not be doing the testing. The teachers will be and I'll be teaching them how to do it! Which is awesome, it's exactly what Peace Corps is all about, transfering skills. Well Goal one anyway.
I hope to spend most of this upcoming year in classrooms helping out teachers. Many of the teachers seem very open to this idea so I'm excited for that! A few teachers are on internship and doing a great job but they are excited to learn more! There are also two new teachers who have never taught before and hopefully I’ll be able to work with them a bit.
Another really exciting thing that is happening is our library is finally opening!!! As some of you know when I came to Hopkins there was already a Peace Corps volunteer here. She was running the library, by herself. When she left she left the keys with me. I wanted NOTHING to do with it!! However I REALLY wanted to see it open and being used! After months of searching and looking I found a woman in the community that was very excited to get in there and take care of business. Her along with 3 other women have formed a library board and taken it over. I am still on the support committee and still helping them. So far they can cleaned and repaired things and reorganized the library. Currently they are working on cataloging all the books. On October 1st we will have a grand opening!! From now on everyone will have to sign up for a membership. This will be free for children and a dollar a year for adults with a onetime fee of $5 for a card. That’s right they are going crazy!! Real library cards and a computer system for checking out books! Thanks to a great donation they are getting 4 new laptops and internet. Once they are open they will begin computer classes, films class, reading group for adult, kids story time and reduced cost of internet for those in school. I’m really excited for this and so happy that the library will be open again!
On a non-school related note: my birthday!! I’m not a huge fan of making my birthday into a big deal but this year it was great!! I was forced, well strongly encouraged to have a party. Derrick took care of everything a head of time and cooked for us. Laura and Amy (two other pcvs) were in charge of everything else.. Including making almost 50 tortillas!!! We BBQed and sat around and drank. It was great and I’m so glad that they made me do it! Than for my birthday dinner they treated me to a pizza dinner!! Yum!!!
So all is well here! School is great, life is great! Also I’ll try to put up some new pictures this afternoon and post again before 6 months!
(by the way I wrote most of this last week!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Well it took me a few hours... but I added more pictures, they are all from Sarah and Kim's cameras from their visit. Maybe I'll add more of my own later!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It’s crazy to me how something that was so... feign is now so every day and well almost boring. I have settled into life here and there isn't really anything big happening. But because I'm getting emails and messages begging me for a blog... here ya go!
I'll try to think of anything interesting...
-Last Friday night my host family held a mass at the church. If you remember back to when I first moved to Hopkins I stayed with my Host family. Shortly before I moved in my Host brother who was about my age had passed away. Well this week was the one year anniversary of his death. So Friday night we had mass. After everyone went back to their house for a "reception" basically to eat. I hung out with the kids of course (some things never change), but after we broke a hammock that belonged to their neighbors, I decided to go talk to some adults. Everyone just sat around and ate and drank. I think this is something that we as Americans need to do more of. Finding reasons to get together and celebrate life and being alive. I'm pretty sure I was the last one to leave that night. We had Monday off due to a national holiday (National... benefactors day?) so I had a nice long weekend. I left my house twice. Once to get a coke and some flower at the shop, and once to pay my rent. BIG weekend! It was nice and relaxing and I enjoyed every minute of it.
-Work is... going. Still doing the same thing. Pulling kids out and reading with them. I did get standard 4 to start some cool stuff. Last week we started a reading contest, I believe it was book it when I was a kid. If you read so many hours each month you got a free pizza at pizza hut. Well we done have a pizza hut, but we have the kids documenting and parents signing off on how many hours the kids read each night. At the end of every month if they read X amount of mins collectively than they get a prize. Last month they got an afternoon of watching movies and eating popcorn. These kids are not reading 30-60 minutes every night. This was inspired by students in standard 6 that I pull out. She was reading at a Standard 2 (third grade) level and come back a few months later is not reading at a standard 6 (or grade 6-7) level. I was so impressed and confused. When I asked her what she had been doing, she simple said her mom made her read for 30 minutes every night. All along this is all she needed a little push and some practice. Once I was done talking to her I realized this is what standard 4 needs too! Mr. Coleman agreed it was worth a shot and we both are seeing how much its helping. Next year hopefully we can implement this school wide!
-It's getting hot again... not really looking forward to the next... 8 months of heat...
-My parents are officially coming in JUNE!!!!!!! I seriously could NOT be more excited...
-My sister is coming for 2 weeks in May!!!!! We might kill each other...c but what an amazing place to do it!
-Lunch is in 22 mins. I might starve to death before then...
-I'm going to Honduras sometime in the next few months to meet up with a friend from college, probably this summer.
-I'm going to be really busy.
-In 2 weeks it'll be one year since I moved to Belize.
-One year goes faster than I would have ever thought.
-To celebrate I'm going to an island with the other volunteers!
-I'm going to stop now. I'll write more soon! That’s a promise!

Monday, January 3, 2011

America is crazy!!!

So Surprise! I'm in the states. I came back the week before Christmas. After months of planning my dad and I successfully surprised everyone!!! (with the exception of the few friends who knew, and me spilling it on facebook before my brother got home)
Michigan has been great. It was for sure a shock when I first got back. There are just so many people here. and the food!!! there is just so much and so many choices!! CRAZY!!!! It didn't talk long to get back in the American swing of things. It was wonderful to be able to spend the holidays with my family and see some good friends. At times it was stressful because like any vacation there is never enough time for anyone or anything. I'm ready to get home and slow down and go back to my new way of life :) but It'll be hard to leave again.

After hearing that people actually do read my blog I guess I need to get back in the swing of things :)
to start I put most of my pics online. Enjoy and I'll update soon!
Love and miss you all!

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's been awhile...

So it was pointed out that I haven’t updated this is three weeks. Sorry about that. I haven’t been online much and when I do have free time I’ve been spending it in my hammock with a good book, or 5.
Everything is still going really well, I love this village a little more every day. Well Let’s start with the 19th of November.

November 19th is a national holiday, Its Garifuna settlement day. Since Hopkins is one of only a few Garifuna communities it’s a BIG deal here. It is celebrating the Garifuna people coming to Belize, after being exiled off of St. Vincent. On the 18th we had a rally at school, we sent some boys out in dories (canoes) to reenact the arrival. After we paraded back to school while singing and dancing and drumming. We than watched some Punta (traditional Garifuna dancing) and had some guest speakers. After we paraded around the village. We got a truck with huge speakers and danced through the streets it was a blast. After we came back to school and all the classes got to have some traditional Garifuna food (there a few different dishes most made out of ripe plantain or banana.) That night I had a few other volunteers come in to celebrate it. While it’s a national holiday there are really event in the Garifuna communities. Unfortunately it poured all night so the village was pretty dead, everyone deciding to stay in or head to Dangriga, where it was raining but had artist still playing.
Friday morning we woke up early and although it was still raining went to watch the real reenactment. It was cool. There were 2 boats with like 20 people and they came in and were turned away by a English guy just like when they came originally. They tried again and finally were allowed to stay. There was drumming and singing which lead us right into church. We than had a church service. It was all in Garifuna and about 2 hours. However I loved it. The Garifuna hymn and amazing and beautiful. I’m even learning a few!
After church we headed home and made some lunch! Yum! In the afternoon Molly and Jenna had to head out but 2 other volunteers showed up out of nowhere! Awesome! We saw Molly and Jenna off and than hung out for a bit. Later in the evening I got a call from Hilton (a teacher at my school) and he informed me that they were parading and where was I?? so we hurried up and caught up with the parade. I pretty much ditched my volunteer friends and danced with some of my students than joined some of the teachers. This parade conveniently stopped right off on the beach. They started drumming and dancing started. At first I was just standing with my friend Miles and Alison and Hilton and Wayne. But soon they were convincing me to dance. And so I did. I talked to lots of people and lots of kids laughed at me. By far I felt the most intergraded I had since I got to Belize.
The rest of that weekend was uneventful, mainly because the village was recovering from Friday night. The next week was thanksgiving and while my first big holiday away was hard I was fortunate enough to spend it with a lot of my new peace corps family. Monday we had a district dinner in Dangriga. The staff at the peace corps office donated a turkey for us and it was wonderful. Later on Thursday I headed up north to have another amazing dinner on Friday. There were about 30 of there included three staff member who made the drive up to celebrate with us. It was nice and I think really needed for all of us. There was a small group of us who spend the night and stayed up chatting. The rest of the weekend I spent in the north just hanging out. Monday it was off to Belmopan. We had a two day workshop for all the education volunteers. It was cool to get some good idea from each other.
Wednesday I headed home to Hopkins and haven’t left since. I love it. I love really being able to spend time here and not feeling guilty for missing school again for another meeting.
Unfortunately we got some bad news this week. One of the teacher’s mom, passed on last weekend. I went to the wake on Tuesday and the Funeral on Wednesday. It’s been a long, hard week. Although, I’m really glad I got to be here. This week really made me realize how important the guys I teach with have become to me. They are thoughtful, caring, strong family men and I feel always so honored when I get to walk around with them. They are now part of my family; they watch out for me and laugh not only with me but at me. They include me into this community and make me feel like I belong here just as much as they do. It’s amazing feeling that I wish I could communicate better. But I supposed that like the quote “the best feelings have no words”
I meant to bring some pictures to post but forgot so I guess that means you get another entry next week :)