Where in the world are we?

Where in the World are We?

21 June 2009

"This Day Ill!" (aka Club GLOW Fun Day)

Today 6 GLOW girls came over for our end-of-year party. It was described by Nolvia in the words of the title, "This day ILL!" I am really glad they had such a good time. I don't think Anthony or I sat down once during the 4 hour festivities, but we really enjoyed it. "Big op" to Anthony for being our pizza dough chef, our tie-dye timer and rinser, and all-around awesome support.

The day began with tie dye (thanks to Erin and Mrs. Tarzia for the dyes) since we needed time for the shirts to soak, rinse, and hang. The girls enjoyed making random knots and patterns with their elastic bands to see what surprises would be in store once the shirts were finished. We had a grand plan to mix colors to make a few more options, but the girls were most happy with red and blue.The day continued with making personal pizzas on Anthony's infamous whole wheat dough. We offered pineapple as a topping and no one took us up on it - no adventurers today. The girls loved tomatoes, onions, and cheese: lots of cheese :) We also made Ginnie's banana-oatmeal cookies. They are a modified recipe from applesauce-oatmeal cookies; since bananas are super affordable, the recipe is one the girls can bring home to make (Yolanda even wrote it today to take home). All the girls took part in the cookie making process and were eager to measure, mix, and shape the cookies; and even more eager to eat them!

While the pizza was cooking, the girls sorted through the variety of beads to select what they wanted to use to make bracelets and necklaces. We also popped in the movie "Cinderella Story," which Taniesha brought along. Once bellies were full with pizza, the girls finished the movie and an intense game of UNO began. In the meantime, shirts made their way through the tie-dye process and the cookies came out of the oven and found their way immediately to the girls' bellies. I gave the girls their gift bags filled with fun activity pads, crayons, stamps, erasers, and a personal card reminding them how special they are.

The day truly was a fun day; Anthony and I were pretty pooped after all the energy and excitement of a house filled with pre-adolescent girls, but it was worth it for the giggles and the smiles. I have really loved working with GLOW and am so proud of the girls for being leaders in their lives and communities. I have no doubt these young women will take Belize by storm and succeed in everything they do. They have made my life richer for being a part of it and I will always have a special place for them in my heart - I love you, GLOW girls: Keep GLOWing!

Trinity's Standard Six Banquet

Last night Trinity held its banquet for Standard VI students. Like last year, the big event took place at The Smokey Mermaid restaurant at the Radisson Fort George Hotel. It was a really fun night: the students looked amazing in their beautiful dresses and fancy suits, the meal was delish-os, and the dancing was all about the punta. Students had a great time and we enjoyed celebrating with them.

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!

Mariesha is a GLOW girl. I am very proud of her as she heads off to high school!

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

TMS Library Opening Ceremony

The Trinity Methodist School Library is now officially finished and ready for use by the teachers and students of the school!

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!).

The ceremony took place in the church and involved a few speeches, items performed by students in each of the three divisions, and a very touching certificate presentation to Ginnie. Our goal was to inspire the children to enjoy reading and get excited about the books. The looks on their faces as they came into their new library showed their enthusiasm and eagerness to begin browsing the shelves and opening their minds to the wonderful world of books!

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 :)

Ginnie's dear friend, Lindy, joined the gathering and sought out a Mickey Mouse book to read. As we flipped through the pages he took over the story, picture-reading a suspenseful tale involving Mickey and the Barracuda Triangle and an evil plot to destroy Mickey's planet. He's quite a story teller. After lunch, Ginnie brought each of the classes up to the library for their first official visit. Many children have been in and out to help and to take a peek, but for several this was the first time seeing their new library; the looks of excitement and wonder as they walked in made all the months of work well worth the effort. The Infant II class got so excited when I took their picture, they held up the books they had selected to browse. Teachers remarked on how quiet all the children were when they sat to look through the books; one even said she wasn't sure how this space could transform so greatly and wondered months ago if it would be finished and now she just wants to bring her class all the time. She's already asked for all of Ginnie's library activities!

Everyone at Trinity is extremely grateful to all of the family and friends who made this library possible through book donations, funding support, and conducting book collections. We can't express enough gratitude to show our appreciation!

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

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye

Reflections by Ginnie

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

New Mailing Address

With school coming to a close on June 26th and our new roles with Peace Corps we have a new mailing address (it'll remain listed under the mailing information tab to the right).

Virginia Gordon/Anthony Tarzia
Peace Corps Belize
PO Box 492
Belmopan, Belize
Central America

Anything mailed to the school at this point will not make it to us before the 26th, so please begin using the new address.

As always, please let us know if you send something so we can look out for it.

We'll have some new posts about our end-of-school activities and the official opening ceremony for the Trinity Library soon! Take care of you in the meantime :)

01 June 2009

Outreach Activities in Orange Walk District

Over the last week we were out and about at different training and outreach events for the HIV/AIDS Committee. On Tuesday Anthony participated in a training event in Belmopan that was run by PASMO (Pan American Social Marketing Organization). The training discussed different methods and ideas for organizing and running successful community outreach events. The day concluded with a short stint at the Belmopan Market where committee members and their counterparts ran a satellite table to distribute materials and educate people on the HIV/AIDS.
On Thursday, we both headed up north to Orange Walk town where we met and worked with a few other volunteers, The Women’s Department, and the Belize Family Life Association. The festivities began early on Friday morning when we all piled into a truck and drove out to the villages on the outskirts of town. The first stop was a small rural agricultural high school. While at the high school, we set up a tent and a couple of tables to meet with students, play games, and share information about HIV/AIDS and other STIs. The students were very eager to join in the fun and really seemed to take away a lot of important health information. The main purpose of our visit, however, was to visit each of the classrooms and facilitate four 45 minute sessions with the students. We began with brief, but thorough, discussions on specifics related to HIV and AIDS and then entered into a couple of games, which really helped the students get moving up and about the class. One of the games we played was focused on Healthy and Risky choices. Students were read a statement and asked to travel around the classroom to the spot that they most agreed on (Safe, Low Risk, and High Risk). After they reached their spots, we questioned them as to their choices and asked them to also tell the rest of the class why they believed what they did. We did this for around 125 students aged 13-17. It was a lot of fun, and the students really seemed to enjoy having some new faces in their classroom.
                                                               Anthony working around the satellite table; Ginnie back in her element as she teaches high school students about HIV/AIDS

Anthony questions students about their choices as they play through a risk game

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.

 Anthony throws out some tough questions at the students of August Pine Ridge Primary School


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.

  Some of the different youth groups prepping for the march on Saturday morning

                                                               The young Belize cadets hold their signs as they wait patiently for the march to begin

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.

  Our March from the tail end as we wind back toward the center of town

  The kids taking a well deserved break after the long and quite toasty morning march