Where in the world are we?

Where in the World are We?

26 April 2010

Just Another Day ...

...in Paradise?

It is not uncommon for a Belize PCV to hear some sort of remark about how we are so lucky to live in Belize since people simply don't know the real and true Belize in which we liv e(such things as "wow, Belize? people choose to go there!", "how'd you get that gig?", "that must be nice" have been said along with the wide-eyed face that express the idea that someone thinks we have it so easy and live in a tropical beach paradise). Many tourists come to Belize and either stay on Ambergris Caye in the crazy-tourist town of San Pedro, which is nothing like the Belize I live in (and I can say that now that I have been there and seen it) or they get off a cruise ship in the Tourist Village that is a fancy strip mall with shops that are not from Belize and are probably the same at every cruise port. These folks, sorry to say, have no idea what Belize is like, and that is sad.

So, for all our loyal readers (if you're still here since we rarely post these days... in fact, this one has been sitting in the queu for quite a long time {meaning months}!!!) we will share with you our Belize and what a weekend looks like in the Gordon-Tarzia home.

We start with laundry:

We fill a bucket with water and detergent, then add the clothes. We tried using the mop handle for a while for swishing it around, but actually have since evolved to washing it in the tub (not sure why our house has a tub - no one takes baths and it doesn't have a faucet for a bath anyway, guess it was meant for laundry :~) ), which involves filling with water and detergent and then swishing it around by standing in it (with clean feet, of course) and simply moving around. For smaller loads, we bought a new Guatemalan bucket that Ginnie just swishes with her arms.

Next, Ginnie scrubs the laundry with a scrub brush. We've also moved up to a bigger brush - this was when I was using a nail brush that came in a package at one point in our service. Yeah, that was not so fun, it always slipped out of my hands and did not cover enough area at all, making the scrubbing process way too long. It's already tough on the back to try to find a good place to sit to reach the clothes, so the quicker we can get through this phase, the better.

After the clothes are clean, Anthony (since he has far more upper body strength, especially before Ginnie's P90X, but we tested it, his is still better!) wrings everything out. Before we moved to using the tub, he just wrung it into the kitchen sink. With the new bucket, we just started putting it up on a table in the kitchen which saves the backache during scrubbing, so we are back to the kitchen these days.

Ginnie feels she should hang the clothes since Anthony does the hard work of wringing, but he usually just helps too since it's getting hotter and with two people we can get it hung much faster. I love drying our clothes on the line. In Belize City we were spoiled with an American washing machine (here if a family has an electric washing appliance it is usually a spinner washer; we used one at our first host family home in Armenia Village and it's just as much effort as the hand washing, but it saves the wringing with it's spinner ability!). Being that we are temporary residents of Belmopan and those spinners are $400 for the small ones, we just opted to live like the majority and wash it with our hands, though many people in villages have rivers where they wash, not a bathtub and kitchen table and sink.

Next, we move on to checking in with the fridge:

We have a small fridge (Ginnie is taller than the fridge) with an internal freezer. This is just not a good idea in a tropical climate because the thing is always trying to work against the heat and then the freezer just freezes over with ice and consumes everything within it. We like to make things and freeze them, but it's a bit hard to do these days. Again, we were spoiled in the city with our nice big, modern fridge with a separate freezer. Those were way out of our budget, so we had to buy this thing and make it work. We didn't expect the amount of trouble with the freezer. Every so often, Anthony has to take our knife to it and chip away at the major ice chunks. This also helps in keeping the rest of the fridge cool, because once it creates a lot of ice, the rest of the fridge is warm - maybe you wouldn't expect that, but I'll take things out that are not even slightly cool when we are in major need of de-icing. Who knew we'd go from de-icing our vehicles to de-icing our fridge?

Anthony's smiling now, but he sure wasn't when he started workin' on that ice monster!

The fridge's contents await their return to the cold as Anthony makes the appliance usable once again.

Our resident lizard hangs out on the porch to torment Maya, what a fun game they play:

Often, we have to distract Maya from the local wildlife. On this day, our resident lizard was on the porch; Maya was a bit nutty as she stared and tried to claw her way through the glass doors. She really thinks she's bigger than she is.

Speaking of Maya - it's bath time:

Another fun weekend activity is Maya's 4-to-6-week bath. She gets pretty dirty on our walks around the neighborhood on the dirt roads of Belmopan. She also loves to play outside when we hang the clothes and gets herself in the tall grass and finds the messy. This is not her favorite activity, but she always feels so soft and smells so nice afterward. Being that we have limited availability of products here and the idea of pet products has not quite reached Belize, we don't have pet shampoo. So, I found some baby shampoo from China and that is what we use. It hasn't seemed to be a problem, so it's all good. Probably we don't need 20 types of dog shampoo, anyway, I mean see-russ!

On this particular day, Anthony was the bather, but usually it is actually Ginnie's job. If Maya is really lucky, she gets her nails clipped, too - oh how she LOVES that (no, she doesn't, you should try it sometime, I've never had a dog shed so much in a few minutes' time).

For an added bonus, let's kill a whole ant colony crawling up the side of our house:

We like to entertain friends and on this particular weekend, we had friends from Belize City come for dinner. As they were leaving, they pointed out a CRAZY congregation of red ants (the evil fire ants, people!) right inside our front door. Earlier that day our lawn chopper guy (once Anthony tried to machete-chop the yard and it was clear that would NOT be part of our weekend routine) hit a huge ant hill. We didn't think much of it until now. The ants, seeking a new home, came to ours. They covered the walls of the front of the house and had started making their way in. Thank goodness for guests, if we hadn't seen them, Maya would have been eaten alive that night and we would end up all bit up. Anthony took out the toxic Fish spray (which I am certain is killing us, as well as the bugs) and probably sprayed the entire can on our house and the inside.

The result was mass death and piles of dead red ants falling from the walls. Anthony then took the broom to sweep them back onto the yard where they can fertilize our grass I suppose. Let that be a warning to all red ants - you're not welcome!!

And, here is Maya being narcissistic - I just thought it was funny:

Maybe she couldn't stop looking at her freshly washed, gorgeous self. Truly, I'm sure she thought she saw a gecko or lizard or other crawly thing and was trying to coax it out to torture it, kill it, or both. My sweet dog is not so sweet as it turns out (when it comes to crawling things and especially geckos and lizards, but we've got more to say about her adventures in Belize at another time).

And, of course, no weekend would be complete without ample hammock time!

Typically, all of this takes place on Saturday so Sunday can be devoted to just relaxing, hammock time, good books, some TV on DVD, or making homemade treats. Rain will always move Saturday plans to another day. Not to mention the other activities in the mix: the bike ride to the shop for items for the week; daily sweeping 2-3 (-4-5); and now the new addition to the weekend is our weekly session with our Spanish teacher, a student at the University of Belize (UB) from Colombia who we work with to help improve our Spanish and to help him improve his English - it's so fun!

By the way, this post really makes it look like Ginnie does not do much, but I do actively take part in all these chores and get my hammock time in, too (when I can get Anthony out of there!). It just so happens I am also the one who always thinks to get the photos, so there you have it.
Hopefully, you can see that life in Belize, while pretty fantastic with its slower pace, wonderful people, and simple pleasures, is NOT all beaches and tropical tourist nonsense.

PS - This is post 101! How cool!

18 April 2010

Ginnie's 90-Day Personal Challenge/Experiment

My Personal Challenge: P90X

There was a lot of talk going on around Peace Corps Belize about this P90X workout program. I heard of some volunteers who were going to try it and was curious. Anthony got a copy of it and I decided I would do it after pre-service training in November. After training, I considered my schedule and decided since I would be traveling for the holidays and didn’t know what I would have for available space, I would wait until I returned and start on January 4th. Then, the climate change from New England to Belize (and the crazy arctic chill that made even Belize cold) caused me to suffer migraines for a week (not fun), so an intense workout regimen was not a good idea. As soon as I was back to normal, I began the program on 11 January.

P90X is a 90-day intense exercise program designed to get you into the “best shape of your life.” In reading over the accompanying materials before starting, I wondered if it was going to actually be beyond my ability level, but I made the mental commitment to do it. I took it on as a personal challenge, as well as a bit of an experiment – I wanted to know if something like this actually works. I always read about workout programs and would see the before and after photos and wondered about them, so I figured if I saw the results on myself then I would believe. I believe!

Check out my stats:

I lost a total of 2 & 7/8 inches from my upper body to my thighs and gained a total of 7/8 inch in my biceps (with a little more in the left because it had more to gain!). It’s spread out in different areas, but I had the highest loss in my waist, then hips and chest, then thighs – interestingly, my right thigh lost more than my left and I learned throughout the program my left leg is definitely the stronger of the two; I just didn’t expect that. My body fat percent also went down by 5 percentage points (that amazes me)!

With the fit test, I improved in everything:

Test........................... Before Day 1............... After Day 90

Vertical Leap
(just jumping straight
up from standing)...... 12 inches................... 13 inches
~~~ To start, they said women should be able to jump 3 inches, so I guess I didn’t have much to
go with this one.

(regular form,
not on knees)................... 12.......................... 26
~~~Done to failure – when the body cannot do another rep

Toe Touch
(seated hamstring
stretch)..................... +3 inches................ +8 inches
(fingers past toes)
~~~One of my goals was increased flexibility and this really makes a huge difference to me!

Wall Squat
(back against
the wall, legs in
seated chair position)..... 51.24 seconds.... 2 minutes, 19 seconds
~~~This one is just plain nuts!

Bicep Curls................. 47 (with 3.75 lbs).. 102 (with 3.75 lbs)
~~~If I’d had a heavier weight to begin it would have been nice because it’s just not enough resistance. I used the same light weight for the final test since I wanted to compare – it’s just ridiculous, though. But, you can see the biceps are a lot stronger!

In & Outs
(abs – seated
with knees bent in to chest,
feet off floor, then straighten
and bend legs in without
touching floor) ..................... 25................... 100
~~~Done to failure – when the body just couldn’t do another rep

You can read more about the program here. There are routines for every day (Sunday is a rest or stretch day, and I did the stretch because I found it relaxing and because it’s really important to stretch when you’re doing this work to your body; also, I really wanted to work on my flexibility – which has improved greatly, too!). A key factor of this program is “muscle confusion” so you don’t plateau. This means the workouts have varying versions for similar muscle groups so you work them in different ways, and that you change up routines every phase (there are three phases). There is an accompanying nutrition plan, which I did not follow due to eating a vegetarian diet and the limited availability of items in Belize. However, I will say that I had to do the increased carbohydrates in the third phase because I just wasn’t taking in enough calories for energy and that first week I was crashing miserably.

My goals were to tone my arms and legs and lose inches around my waist, hips, and thighs – all of which I did. Am I in the best shape of my life? Considering I’ve never really tested my fitness like this before, I can’t say for sure, but I feel great. I am proud of accomplishing my goal and I am excited that it worked. I didn’t really have much weight to lose, but I managed to drop 3 pounds. I exercised regularly prior to the program and am now back to a more regular, less intense routine, but I will continue to include a P90X workout in my regimen and expect I’ll do the program again sometime. We recently got Power 90 (also by Tony Horton and less intense, but reportedly people get great results with this, too, especially those who rarely or never exercise) and I think it will be a good program to do as a way of staying in shape without such high intensity. With pre-service training in full swing, it’s a lot harder to do a full hour (and then some) workout every morning, so going back to 25-30 minutes is nice, but feels a little like I’m not doing anything. I’ll readjust, I’m sure. I’m now trying the 30-Day Shred program by Jillian Michaels that my sister-in-law gave me when I was back for the holidays; it’s too boring for me to do the same thing every day, so I mix it up with other cardio routines I have and yoga, pilates, and tae-bo or kickboxing.

I definitely recommend the P90X program to anyone considering it or looking for a challenge to change up your exercise routine. I feel like I was preparing for some major sporting event, but I’ll just say I was building up my stamina for pre-service training!

Here are some other things I did in the past 90 days:
Ø Watched 5 seasons of The Office (how did I not watch this before? It’s Hi-larious!)
Ø Completed the visits for all my site development locations; traveling from the far north district all the way to the southern-most district
Ø Attended and participated in 13 mid-service and entry-into-site visits and events
Ø Facilitated sessions for the all volunteer conference and in-service trainings
Ø Supported the HIV/AIDS Committee in the first steps of their Designing for Behavior Change survey preparation
Ø Reviewed several grant proposals for volunteers (all of the most recent applicants received their grants!)
Ø Celebrated a friend’s wedding
Ø Had a visit with the Tarzia’s and traveled to some new places in Belize
Ø Participated in the training of trainers with the language and culture facilitators to kick-start pre-service training
Ø Prepared the calendar for all training activities for the education trainees
Ø Welcomed the new trainees and began pre-service training
Ø Went to Mexico for Anthony’s birthday
Ø Read several good books
Ø Drove the PC vehicle and spent four days on the road following La Ruta Maya River Challenge to support the HIV/AIDS Committee in their outreach to over 1400 people
Ø Witnessed the introduction of Fresca to Belize (and even got a free one) - I mean that's exciting, true? It's now bottled here by Bowen and Bowen
Ø Visited two Maya Ruins sites
Ø Began watching Merlin (a great show from the BBC)
Ø Started Spanish classes with a Colombian student from University of Belize
Ø Pondered next steps and think I have a good idea of what I want to do with the next aspect of my career; I think…and I took a practice LSAT just to see, no definite plans at this point, though (I don't want to be a lawyer, necessarily, but think a joint law degree and subject specialty could be a good idea for working in development and human rights)
Ø Participated in a Yoga Mala for the Spring Equinox and completed 108 Sun Salutations
Ø Did not post to the blog! – Anthony did the only one that came out in the past 90 days, and that’s why I am now committed to posting something more often!

There sure is a lot you can do in 90 days – even with a daily hour-long workout in the mix!