Where in the world are we?

Where in the World are We?

25 November 2007

Thanksgiving in Belize

On Thursday, we joined with some other PCVs and celebrated Thanksgiving with a delicious turkey day feast with all the favorites.

Nicole hosted with members of her family who were in country to visit her. Other PCVs joining in the Belize City celebration include Johnny, Scott, Eric, Todd and Ashli. We also enjoyed the company of some of Nicole's co-workers and have a nice evening of great food and hanging out.

We took pictures of Nicole's fabulous Thanksgiving set-up and our lovely meal. It was so nice to have some comfort foods from home - we definitely ate well thanks to everyone's hard work.

The table - ready for the feast & The guys hanging out before dinner

Ashli and Johnny preparing the biscuits

Dinner was just delicious! Look at all the great choices

Our contribution was a chocolate cake topped with caramel and crushed m&m's - despite some challenges with an oven that does not have a temperature dial and seems to only go as low as 375, it still managed to come out moist and delicious!!!

We hope your Thanksgiving was also an enjoyable one and are excited now that the holiday season is in full swing - we love this time of year. The Christmas music has been playing in some stores around the city and now we will hear it everywhere as Belizeans get into the holiday spirit. We have learned a lot about ways in which Belizeans (particularly here in the city) prepare for Christmas, with home redecorations or renovations, making black cake and visiting each other, it is really a festive and exciting time of year.

20 November 2007

Garifuna Settlement Day - November 19th

Mural at the entrance to Hopkins Village in the center of town

This weekend, we visited the village of Hopkins situated along the Caribbean Sea in the Stann Creek District. We enjoyed a weekend on the beach and the celebrations of Garifuna Settlement Day. The village of Hopkins was created in 1942 after a hurricane washed away Newtown just up the coast. It is a traditional fishing village that is home to approximately 1,100 Belizeans, mostly Garinagu (Garifuna)

Celebrated on November 19, Garifuna Settlement Day commemorates the Garifuna people’s arrival into Belize and their escape from bondage. They arrived in Stann Creek in 1832 from the island of St. Vincent where they lived since 1635 when a boat carrying African slaves to the West Indies shipwrecked near St. Vincent Island. The remaining slaves escaped and found shelter on St. Vincent by the Caribe Indians who were already residing on the island. The intermarriage of the two groups created the Garifuna people. {information provided by the Belize Tourism Board website www.belizetourism.org}

The celebrations we enjoyed in Hopkins included a concert with Andy Palacio at King Kasava Restaurant (yes, our second time seeing him in two weeks, and this time we were much closer, we’re not groupies though…at least we don’t think so :)) in the center of the village and the re-enactment ceremony on Monday morning which was filled with drumming, singing, and traditional Garifuna dress. The story of how the Garifuna people came to settle in Belize is re-enacted as boats come to shore and a man comes ashore to ask the Governor if the people can stay. Initially, they are turned away and they head back out to sea, but they are tired and return to shore for a second plea and they are granted permission to stay this time. The celebration continued with cheers and more singing and drumming as the Garifuna people left their boats and came ashore. It was a really fun and interesting morning.

Andy Palacio performing at King Kasava in Hopkins Village

Garifuna singers and drummers; singing while we awaited the arrival of the boats for the re-enactment.

The arrival of the boats and eventual settling ashore of the Garifuna people

This weekend was our first real trip of rest and relaxation. Hopkins Village is a beautiful seaside community. We spent time relaxing on the beach and kayaking (well, Anthony did the work since there was only one kayak and an inflatable boat which Ginnie rode along in behind the kayak).
Anthony was pretty happy to be on the beach!

On Friday, we boarded the bus out of the city and made our way to Dangriga to spend the night with our friend Janine and had a wonderful dinner at the Pelican Resort. On Saturday, we were back on a bus out to Hopkins, well, to the junction into Hopkins where we hitched a ride into the village. Once we got into the village, our hostess, Bertie (fellow PCV), met us and introduced us to her landladies and the owners of the cabanas where we stayed for the weekend. We had a nice lunch with everyone and then hit the beach for some downtime. Walking through the village with Bertie was so nice as all the children hailed her and greeted us warmly.

This the view from the entrance to our lee cabana (we forgot to take a picture of the cabana - it was a small thatch roof room)

Putting up the mosquito net, because things live in thatch and because mosquitos like us

Our kayak trip - it would appear that Ginnie paddled, but this was just before handing it over to Anthony when he climbed into the kayak

On Saturday night we had our long awaited pizza! We’d heard about the amazing pizza place in Hopkins and it certainly lived up to its reputation. Having not had great pizza in many months it was fantastic. In fact, we went back on Sunday for more because you just can’t have enough pizza!

We are back in the city now, and it was funny that as the weekend came to an end we were looking forward to going home and being back in our own house, so I guess we are settling in pretty well. It was very nice to be away in a quiet environment and more relaxed atmosphere and spend some time with other volunteers who were also in the village for the celebrations. We headed out of Hopkins on Sunday with Todd and Ashli, who live in the village of Silk Grass just a few miles from Hopkins and hitched a ride out to the junction where we were lucky enough to catch a bus heading to Belize City within minutes. Of course, we had a rather long bus ride back – Anthony had to stand for nearly the entire trip since it was full with many people coming back from the celebration weekend (only about 2 hours). We even ran into another volunteer, Liz, on the bus who had spent the night in Dangriga. After a long, hot, ride home in the rain through many flooded villages, we made it home to finish the restful weekend with a movie and some snacks.

We haven’t spent much time sharing tales of bus rides – they are interesting at times. The buses are old American school buses repainted with the colors and name of the company and they have no real capacity limit as we have been on many buses with people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the aisles and sometimes 3 people to a seat… Our longest bus trip so far is the one we took this weekend, which was about 4 hours. It was filled with interesting characters yelling from the back of the bus to the conductor and other passengers as they loudly commented on the floods in the villages as we passed them. It was a boisterous group, but provided some entertainment on the long journey. Our entertainment on Friday came from one of Ginnie's students and her companion who happened to sit behind us and enjoyed poking Ginnie and giggling or looking around the seat and hiding again - it was funny and the girls are too cute to get annoyed.
The portion of trip along the Hummingbird Highway is absolutely beautiful and the nicest we have seen so far. The scenery is just amazing with lush green hills. It was a bit scary on our way down to Dangriga, however, as our driver rode quite fast and at each stop we could smell the rubber burning on the tires. Fortunately, we arrived safely, but there were plenty of times we feared for our lives as we barreled down the hills and rounded corners on seemingly only one side of the vehicle! With all the people on the bus Monday it was clearly too heavy to move so quickly. Bus rides are one of the many experiences we hope to share with all of you who visit because it is a major part of Belizean life!

We wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving Day and hope you don’t get too sleepy on all the tryptophan. We are celebrating the day with other volunteers in the City and looking forward to a fun feast full of all our favorites from home as each person brings a dish.

Video of the Garifuna singing and drumming

11 November 2007

Wi Mi Gaan Fi See Andy Palacio

This past weekend many of the PCVs in the Central and Northern parts of Belize gathered together and headed over to Brodies on The Northern Highway. Brodies is an upscale American-like supermarket, very different from the more traditional Belizean markets and shops. The store, along with local radio stations and other businesses sponsored a free concert. It was the long awaited return of Belize's own Andy Palacio. The free concert was originally scheduled for early September during the independence day celebrations, but was changed when hurricane Felix threatened Belize.

Live From the parking lot at Brodies

Yeah, I still can't dance, but I try to entertain when I can

Anthony and Andy Palacio. Yeah, he's signing my CD. What's up?

Andy Palacio is a Garifuna and originally comes from the village of Barranco (almost at the very southern tip of Belize, not too far from Punta Gorda town). The Garifuna came as slaves of the British from West Africa in 1635. On their voyage to the Caribbean, their craft was shipwrecked off the shores of what is now known as the island of St. Vincent. The surviving Africans were welcomed by the resident Indian populations which after many years led to a distinctive afro-American-Indian population. In 1797, The French arrived to their island and siding with the Garifuna people, attempted to defeat the British who were seeking control of St Vincent. However, they lost the battle, were captured, and then sent into exile on a small island off the coast of Honduras. Nearly half of the Garifuna died en route. The remaining survivors, about 3,000 in total, journeyed out and began settling small villages on the coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Today there are roughly 250,000 Garifuna around the world, everywhere from Belize to Miami to Los Angeles and New York City. Concern has arisen as over the last hundred years or so, the Garifuna culture and language has become one of the most threatened in the world. When Andy Palacio was only 18 years old, he traveled to Nicaragua and met an old man who was among the last in his country to still speak the Garifuna language. The old man could not believe his ears when he heard the young Palacio greet him in Garifuna. He embraced Palacio and refused to let him go. The elder could not imagine someone so young could speak his language. He had believed the language would perish with him. Palacio believed that what had happened in Nicaragua was very likely to occur in his own country of Belize and from that day on decided to follow his passion for Garifuna music and use it as a vehicle to promote the Garifuna culture, and to inspire young people to be proud of their heritage. We have included a few clips on the blog for you to listen to. Palacio's music is very spiritual and is written and composed to echo the poignant history of the Garifuna. We had an amazing time at the concert and standing among the many Belizeans in the crowd we could certainly feel the powerful emotions behind the music.

Anthony and Janine

Keeping PCVs locked up post concert

Fellow PCV Nicole

Brodies decked out for the holidays

Hanging out at the concert

Challenges Volunteer Mark, also one of our old roommates

A shot of the stage

We've included some pictures for the many people that keep asking for more to be posted :) Aside from the concert, we are both very busy with work, enjoying our new freedom in our own place, and looking forward to doing some traveling in the coming weeks. We'll keep up to date as often as possible.

Here's a video from the concert, be patient, it may take a few minutes to load