21 June 2009
My dress was made by this teacher. We talked months ago about the design idea and she made it entirely from scratch with no pattern - just a picture I drew, my measurements, and 2 yards of fabric. I love it!
The staff had just as much, if not moreso, fun as the students dancing the night away. I joined in and Anthony even showed off a move or two, helping a teacher win her bet that he would dance. I suspect he'll do far more dancing at his banquet when we switch roles and I play photographer (although, I know his teachers will not let me get away with using that as an excuse not to dance...)
The students give a big cheer of excitement for their accomplishment in finishing primary school. Congratulations, Standard VI!!
20 June 2009
On Thursday, the 18th, we held our formal opening ceremony. A couple teachers and students met early in the morning to decorate the library for our invited guests. Anthony came along as well and helped with final placement of our posters (some of which he was instrumental in designing!).
Immediately following the ceremony, the invited guests (which included our Reverend and Local Manager, Reverand Goff; the Methodist Schools' General Manager, Mrs. Bennett; our PC PTO Bryan; and Ginnie's counterpart from YES, Inda) joined some teachers and the student library monitors for a ribbon cutting. Ginnie and Mrs. Bennett were given the task of cutting the ribbon but Ginnie's scissors couldn't get through the material! Mrs. Bennett got a clean cut on her first try, but everyone insisted we get the other side cut, so with some persistence Ginnie made it happen!
The guests and library monitors then spent time browsing the shelves and sharing stories of their favorite books. We began to notice the students separating themselves with a selected book and getting right to reading, despite all the discussion surrounding them! It was fabulous :)
Here are a few of Ginnie's favorite library quotes; she used them in her remarks for the ceremony.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” ~Dr. Seuss
“I've traveled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners,
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners,
I've been where no-one's been before,
Learned secrets from writers and cooks
All with one library ticket
To the wonderful world of books.”
~ Anonymous ~
"A library is a hospital for the mind." ~ Anonymous
15 June 2009
Two weeks. Two years has come down to two final weeks. “Where did the time go?” - I ask myself this question multiple times a day lately. There were certainly moments in the past two years when I asked, “How much longer do I have?” but those were few and now I am feeling blue that only two weeks remain.
In my true Ginnie style, I have myself pretty fully booked for these last two weeks of service – a library opening to prepare for, a final teen mom session, the Club GLOW Fun Day, a session with the leadership group, and Standard VI graduation events – so there isn’t much time to just brood, but I can’t help feel at every moment that I need to take it all in because this is the “last time I’ll see/do ... .” Fortunately, I have the solace in knowing that I am not leaving Belize, but it doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to my volunteer projects and all the people who have been my family, friends, support, coworkers, and so much more throughout this adventure. I am feeling very excited to continue to be a part of Peace Corps’ work in Belize and know this is the right next step and a good way to continue my service to the people who have so openly welcomed me into their lives and culture.
When Anthony and I decided several years ago that we would join the Peace Corps, I could only imagine how this experience would impact my life. I had no real expectations, just wanted to do what I could to help the community in which I was placed and to learn all I could about a new culture. This experience has been the greatest of my life so far, and I am extremely grateful to have Anthony right by my side to share it. He earns much of the credit for getting us to this moment as he has been considering Peace Corps service since at least his college days. We found the ideal time in our lives to take on this journey; it's only inspired us to continue to dedicate ourselves to work we find meaningful and valuable and which helps others develop into their best selves. Peace Corps is such an outstanding organization and I believe strongly in the three goals and the vision of the grass-roots development work we do. By living and working with the people of our communities, we truly became a real part of their way of life. The only problem: it’s temporary and eventually we have to part ways.
I often wonder why I have continually chosen positions in which I am forced to say goodbye to people annually: teaching, higher education, and now Peace Corps. I always see these times as bittersweet – we’ve reached the goal we set for ourselves and our projects and we can move on confidently to the next step, but we have to say goodbye to the people and moments that have impacted us so strongly in the course of our interactions during this time together. I am proud of the teachers, young women, and children with whom I have been so lucky to work and I hope I will find ways to stay connected. Certainly some of us will be in touch always, others may occasionally catch up, but still others will have only had these two years to be in my life (and I in theirs) and it’s hard to close out those relationships. It occurred to me today as I rode my beach cruiser through my neighborhood passing the shops who supply me with all my needs that I am saying goodbye to those relationships as well: my friend at the grocery shop who always gives me random discounts, the ladies at Chef who sell me my tofu, the family at the corner shop who provide our water, cokes, and brief chats... I will always have Belize in my heart and know this will be a home for me forever. I have an understanding of Belize that I will try to share with my friends and family; I sincerely hope I will be able to do justice to the beauty of the people and cultures of this lee, young nation. The most difficult goodbyes, however, are the ones I have to make to the children. Somehow, despite my numerous attempts at preparing them for my departure, they still register looks of utter shock when they ask “Miss, will you be here when school starts?” and I remind them that my service is finished when the school year ends. They are breaking my heart slowly each day. For some children, I may be the only person who pays close attention to them and shows them love, so it makes it that much harder for me to know I will not be there when they look for me in September. I still remember my second day at the school (which was also my birthday) when a young boy came right up to me as I walked onto the compound and just gave me a big hug; I have grown used to this daily ritual from various pikni and will greatly miss their love, too. I was overwhelmed with the scope of my role at that time and the one lee hug was enough to remind me why I came.
For all the sadness of saying goodbye, this experience was well worth every moment, and I am so thankful to now be a little Belizean. Belize gets in your blood (it may be partly due to the copious amounts of Marie Sharps and beans and rice, but primarily to the wonderful people). I am also grateful for all of my family and friends in the US who have supported both Anthony and me through this journey and have even helped our projects – thanks for everything. And to my Belizean family – you are an amazing group of people with so much potential, you will achieve your goals with persistence and determination and your undying faith and I will always be enamored with you and your incredible country.
In the words of that wise philosopher, Dr. Seuss: “How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”; “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
... and I’ll take with me the memories ...
11 June 2009
01 June 2009
After leaving the high school, we headed out to August Pine Ridge, a village of about 2500 people. In August Pine Ridge we met up at the primary school with a fellow volunteer and spent the afternoon first presenting to students different lessons on health and well-being and then utilized the remainder of the day as an opportunity to reach out to the remaining children and young adults through some games and other related activities.
When we first arrived in town, the school was closed early for the day. We waited for a student to run and grab a key, and in the meantime a few kids thought it easier to just open the door by twisting their hand through an opening in one of the classrooms. It was pretty hilarious as the first boy's hand was too big and they had to send for one smaller boy whose hand would easily fit to open the door. They are quite resourceful, we'll give 'em that.
The children not answering questions, or just waiting their turn, took time to play
It was a really long day, but definitely filled with lots of fun. The kids all played around the tables as their friends participated in different games. As we drove off, we all felt that it had been a great success and were already planning and looking forward to setting up more events just like it. We returned to town and reached with just barely enough time to grab a snack before heading back out to the BFLA office to help the youth group make posters for their Saturday March in town.
More kids being entertained by a spare truck tire; a few boys try their hand at some of our table games
Even as we packed up and took down the tent, many students would not stop helping us out and thanking us for the visit
The 5 PCVs who helped out with this event, pose for a brief photo op at the end of a long day (Anthony, Olivia, Jackie, Ms. Jemma from BFLA, Matt, and Ginnie)
A cow looks on as we pass; one of the many sugar cane trucks that pass along the road from the fields to a processing plant closer to Orange Walk town
On Saturday, Anthony assisted a couple of other volunteers with organizing the different groups to march through town in their mini rally. We had about 60-70 young people come out with signs and chants who marched for 45 minutes promoting healthy lifestyles, good choices, and self esteem.
The rally was quite a success and was well organized. After the rally, we returned to the market area where the remainder of the day was spent running an informational table, doing rapid HIV testing, and providing materials to the many people who came through the market that day. It was a tiring, but exciting, few days; by the time things were over, we were all ready for a long rest.
The kids taking a well deserved break after the long and quite toasty morning march