23 December 2007
This weekend, we volunteered at an annual chess tournament held in the city for children throughout the country. Competitors came from as far away as Dangriga and Orange Walk to play against other children in their age categories and put their chess skills to the test.
Anthony served as the director of the 8 and under category (basically, he watched games for illegal moves and checked to confirm a checkmate and then recorded all the scores)
Anthony has been learning chess and teaching Ginnie. It was amazing to watch some of the matches as the children were very focused and working hard on their strategies. Some of the players study past games to build their knowledge of best moves - we really have a lot to learn.
Contemplating a next move
Throughout the country, there is a movement to bring chess into children's lives since it develops strong critical thinking skills, and builds patience and discipline. It is a game that requires one to plan far ahead and face the immediate consequences of a poorly- or hastily- made decision. There are numerous benefits to learning chess and many volunteers are involved in chess clubs or working to incorporate chess into activities with children.
During each round, the auditorium was silent for the players to concentrate
Decorations around town. The snowman is on the roof of our landlord's house - we never even noticed until the night we went looking at the lights!
While it's much warmer than we are used to at the holidays, the spirit is certainly surrounding us and we can't help but feel in the Christmas mood, despite wearing shorts and heading to the beach for our Christmas celebration.
07 December 2007
The conference was held at the George Price Center in Belmopan and of course we stayed at the Garden City Hotel. One of our favorite parts of traveling back to Belmopan is being able to eat at Antonini's. PCVs really overtake the place when we come in because of the delicious chicken burger, chicken salad, burritos, and nachos. They also have amazing coca-cola and fanta floats (some of our faves are coca-cola with coconut pineapple ice cream, orange fanta with raspberry ice cream, and orange fanta with vanilla ice cream - just like a creamsicle). We ate there two nights because not only is the food fantastic, but the prices are right in the Peace Corps budget! Unfortunately, we did not take pictures, but will have to to continue documenting our PC eating experience:)
Bust of George Price in front of the Center
Waiting to start the conference
This Christmas tree was inside the large conference room
A nice view from the conference room
Couldn't resist including this picture of 2 PCV's presenting - does anyone else the resemblance to famous video game characters?
There were many great activities connected to our conference weekend, including a Thanksgiving Dinner for all of us in which each district prepared a different side dish - ours in the Belize District was stuffing, and having Clare as our leader we really made a great vegan-friendly fresh homemade stuffing. (Side note: Ginnie still does not like stuffing, but she worked hard at shredding bread and crumbling pecans for the dish and even tasted it, still not a fan of it, but as stuffings go, this was good) The dinner was really good and it was so fun to just spend time with all of PC/Belize. The dinner was held at the Country Director's house which was a nice place for a party. Afterward, back at the Garden City, the first annual arm wrestling contest commenced. Anthony put himself in the competition and after a good effort, he was taken out in the first round, but we are proud of him for jumping in! Ginnie has no upper body strength and after seeing the girls round, was quite happy she didn't compete. It was fun to watch, though.
Making the stuffing
This is a Thanksgiving Feast!
Anthony put up a good fight in the arm wrestling
Just hanging out
On our second night, a dance party was held at the PC Volunteer Leaders' house and many of us enjoyed a night of dancing to some faves from the states as well as to the punta, of course... The dancing was fun and the whole busy week led to very little sleep, but great moments with our friends.
We are both serving on volunteer committees and had really productive meetings at the end of the conference and are really excited about the upcoming projects that will come from the committees. We are going to find ourselves getting even busier as the new year rolls in, but that is a positive thing and we still have many ideas for our school projects and for other opportunities to volunteer here in the city. As those things pick up, we'll be sure to share them.
Now that we are back in site, we have finished the final week of school and have 3 weeks of holiday break. We are going to take some time to explore parts of Belize we have not yet seen and to travel out of country to see more of Central America - we'll be sure to share our adventures and photos. Since we love to have Christmas celebrations, we will host our first lee gathering this weekend to make holiday treats, listen to Christmas music and enjoy time with our PC friends. Hopefully the holiday season is treating all of our friends and family well - we wish you the best!
02 December 2007
In addition to all the new meals we are creating, we are also trying out a lot of baking. We figure since we have plenty of time to devote to cooking and coming up with new ideas, we have no excuse not to try everything.
Whole Wheat Breads and such
Our first major baking activity came with our own whole wheat bread. We were buying it but the ingredients always included some kind of shortening or item that just wasn't needed, so we decided to do it ourselves. Ginnie made the first loaf and it came out pretty tasty - just slightly dry so it crumbled sooner than we would have liked, but we still ate it! The next loaf was Anthony's and we still struggle with the dryness, but it may have to do with our oven that is just really hot, or we need to focus on a sandwich bread recipe - maybe there is an ingredient or something that would help. If anyone has a tip, feel free to write in the posting section and we will try it out.
Good news, since the initial writing, we have found a strategy to keep the bread moist - use less flour. Anthony's most recent loaf stayed soft and was perfect for PB & J!
The next great baked good was made by Anthony when he created delicious pretzels. We were inspired by Clare who kept telling us she was making them and we never managed to get to her house when there were any left because they are just that good. They came out so well, that we even made peanut butter and jelly pretzel sandwiches - a fabulous treat!
Fresh baked pretzels; maybe we'll call them "Uncle Anthony's" pretzels (you know, to compete with Auntie Ann's...)
Of course, any good Belizean kitchen will have its fair share of flour tortillas, and we have been making them fairly often. They are a great asset to many meals and are also perfect for peanut butter and jelly (hence the reason getting our bread perfect is not too troubling since we have so many other options, but we still will work on the bread recipe).
We have made some really yummy dinners. One of our favorites was again introduced to us by Clare - Taco Soup. It's made with red kidney beans, black beans, and corn all cooked up together and then topped with shredded cheddar cheese and crumbled fritos - we eat it quite frequently. Ginnie has been working on cooking beans so they come out just right. After a few attempts that resulted in beans that were either too hard or just too plain, she managed to get some pretty good ones last week. The only thing to perfect now is the balance of water to beans so they stew just right. It is nice to cook everything from scratch though, we know it's fresh and doesn't have any preservatives or added things we don't want.
Vegetarian spaghetti made with garbanzo beans - it's really yummy (and that is Anthony's latest soft homemade bread in the bowl)
We have developed a new appreciation for soy meat - we use it for a lot of our cooking. We just found a great brand that is like a ground meat consistency and it tastes great in many dishes - add it in with the Taco Soup, on pizza, in spaghetti and in many stir fries and we have a great source of protein.
Ginnie was really missing Turkey burgers, but we can't get ground turkey here and the ground chicken just doesn't have the consistency we are used to and since we stopped cooking with the meat, it was difficult to actually make a burger. Whenever we go out, the chicken burgers are really chicken breast, so it just wasn't working. We thought we'd just go and buy garden burgers until we saw they cost $12.40! So, Ginnie did a little research and found recipes for veggie burgers and made her own homemade veggie burgers. And, to make it a true burger dinner, she made homemade french fries too - all with the fresh veggies from our favorite fruit/veggie stand. It was a great meal to create and it's pretty easy to make good veggie burgers - you can't really mess up because you can just add in and take away things you don't like!
Next style made with black beans and brown rice - delicious (and more homemade fries - baked this time)
We love pizza. Anthony often made homemade pizza in the states, so as soon as we were on our own, we started working on pizzas. Anthony has made a lot of pizza in the past couple weeks - they have all been delicious. He has a new dough that just comes out perfect and with all the different topping choices, we haven't had the same pizza yet!
With the challenge of our oven temperature, we were a little worried we would not have cookies (also with the extremely high cost of chocolate chips, Anthony has to live without his favorite cookies); however, we found some great no-bake recipes and made our first batch that came out really yummy. Of course whenever you mix chocolate and peanut butter how can you really go wrong?
Despite their look, these are delicious chocolate, peanut butter and oat cookies - highly addicting and so easy to make, it is dangerous!
We kept talking to other PCVs who make hummus and decided we had to try, since it's such a fantastic dip for chips and pitas. We found a basic recipe and picked up our ingredients (it's so easy to make, worth it since I remember hummus even being pricey in the states) and Anthony made up the first batch. It came out fabulous and now the only thing to do is try it out with some different add-ins to change up the flavor. We will definitely have this on the table when we have people over for dinner!
Ready to eat
At our recent All Volunteer Conference Ginnie sat in on a session on making a basic curry. It was so easy and tasted so good, she decided to try it out. For the first one, it was just a basic lentil curry, but at least we now have the strategy and can start experimenting with different veggies.
Lentil Curry over white rice
As you can see, we have had fun with cooking new things and keep just adding to the menu. The photo-journal of our Belizean culinary experiences will be a long one it seems! While it may appear we have a lot of time on our hands (and it's true we do) we are staying on track with our volunteer projects at our schools, attending Spanish class three nights a week, and reading the books we are so grateful to receive - the major difference appears to be that we do not need to sit in a car commuting for 1-2 hours per day and we can walk to the market to get our groceries and not spend an entire day at Target (although that is something we occassionally miss) and with no malls and bookstores to distract us for hours on end - well, plenty of time exists for cooking!!