Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Last Day of School

I have a fair amount to share seeing as I didn't get to post on Thursday, so you'll have to bear with me as I recount the final days of my teaching at San Pedro High School. To begin, Thursday was a relatively boring day for me. Miss Usher had the students take a test on pronouns where they had to copy a paragraph that was written on one side of a piece of paper and write it on the other side. I could tell this annoyed some students, because it probably would have made more sense for the students to just fill in the answers on the front side of the paper, but after speaking with Miss Usher, it is important for students to copy correct writing so they can get accustomed to it. While I counted on this taking maybe 15-20 minutes, most students took the entire class period to answer this test, which seems a bit ridiculous to me. I expected good grades on it, seeing as students took so much time concentrating on it, but I was sadly disappointed when I graded the tests and a majority of the students only got five out of the ten questions correct, and many got fewer than that. Heck, a handful of students filled in all of the blank spaces with nouns and verbs. This was frustrating, to realize that I spent two class periods with students and they didn't even walk away with the concept of what a pronoun is.

One of the things that surprised me on this day was when I entered a classroom and two students were sitting in plastic patio chairs.  I should probably point out that, since all students stay in their rooms all day, they all have "their own desks," meaning, when I asked a student to move to a different part of the room, they would take their desk with them. When Miss Usher asked the students about what happened to their desks, they simply didn't know. I figured that maybe a teacher needed extra chairs, but when the students went searching for their desks in the other classrooms, none could be found. This was a strange occurrence, and one that I couldn't imagine happening in American high schools.

During the tests on Thursday, I saw Miss Usher whisper to students and they would give her money. I wondered what was going on, but I assumed that it had something to do with the trip they are taking to Las Vegas. When I got to school on Friday I was surprised to find out that Miss Usher was collecting money from her students so each class could buy me a gift to remember them by. When the first class came out, Miss Usher told them to take a seat on the bleachers so that I could get a class picture of them. After that, one of the students made a quick speech. Each student was so well spoken and they speeches were extremely nice. Most students spoke about how nice it was to have me in class and how much they would miss me; I was very impressed by the speeches and was really touching to think that maybe I was able to have such an influence in the classroom, having only been teaching for three weeks. 

Next, someone from the class presented me with a gift from the class. I got so many cool things: a mug that has a map of Belize, a key chain with some Belizean sand, a black coral necklace, a hat that says San Pedro Belize, and a ceramic plaque with a picture of my 1A students that has all of their signatures. I couldn't believe I was getting so many gifts. The rest of the time the students asked me questions and we talked about my future plans. I told them that I hoped to come back one day, that I'll be teaching at a middle school when I return home, and that I will make sure they each get an email from a student back home. Miss Usher made it a point to tell me that all of the students asked if they could have a party for me the last day and that she was merely the one who collected the money. I don't know if I believe this, but it was an extremely sweet sentiment and it really made me feel good about the time I spent with the students here in Belize.

After I met with all of my classes, I thought the day was over. After school we knew that the school had planned an assembly. We were all gathered in the staff room when we heard our names announced and we were called to the auditorium. When we got to the auditorium, all of the students were seated on the outside bleachers of the basketball court overlooking five empty chairs. Guess who the chairs were for. As we took our seats in the center of the court, we saw the school rock group, Rocking Peace, take the stage. The band played four songs for us, including Katy Perry, Guns 'n Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine" and two songs by Central American rock sensation, Mana. This was a really cool way to send us off. While it was only a school rock band, the students were really talented and it made us feel like we had VIP tickets to an actual Guns 'n Roses concert. After all of this excitement, Miss Martha, the co-founder and chairlady of the school thanked us for all of our hard work, which was also quite nice.

After the assembly, we went into the conference room to have a quiet party with the staff. They made rum punch, queso dip, pimento cheese sandwiches, and a fruit cake they referred to as "better than sex cake." This was quite delicious and it was fun to mingle with the staff members. We will be having a party on Sunday at Mr. Gustavo's house to send us on our way.

All in all, this was a great day. I think that many of us got caught up in the work we had to do to prepare everyday for class and all of the excitement of being in a new country that we never got a chance to sit back and think about the relationships we were building with the teachers and students at San Pedro. It was obvious that the students cared about what we were doing and they realized the sacrifices we went through to be there with them for three weeks. At the end of the day, I felt appreciated, as if my time here in Belize hasn't been wasted and that I will always have some fond memories to look back on as I move forward in my teaching career. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Acting Out

Today was another long day here on La Isla Bonita. I don't mean this in a bad way, it was just full of excitment. Today, I had my lesson prepared for Miss Usher's classes, but when I got to school, she explained that she wanted me to do it a particular way. As I mentioned in my previous blog, Miss Usher told me she wanted me to present a lesson on plays and drama. I had to describe "dialogue" and "stage direction" to the students. I planned on doing this with notes and then using everyday examples. Miss Usher wanted me to go a little further and do some drawing. I'm probably one of the worst drawers, but it is very hard to tell Miss Usher "no."

I began class by explaining the purpose of dialogue and play direction and then started drawing a stick figure of Brad Pitt and had students imagine that he was the star of the play we were creating. From there, I drew a picture of Angelina Jolie, who approached Brad and told him that she was breaking up with him because she found a new man, Mr. Will. The students really enjoyed this scenario. I then explained that the plot thickened, as I decided to break up with Angelina for another woman. When I asked the students who I started dating after Angelina, without any fail, all of the classes shouted "Miss Usher." I don't know what kind of twisted students pair up a twenty-three year old guy with a fifty-nine year old lady, but all of them got a kick out of imagining us in love. Anyway, the moral of the story is "what goes around comes around" and that Angelina was the one who suffered in the end after she broke it off with Brad. Both the students and myself had a good time with this.

After the drawing activity, it was time to demonstrate some acting. I have never claimed to be any type of thesbian, but I had to model some of the concepts of playwriting explained in the textbook, so Miss Usher and I then acted out a scene from "A Man for All Seasons" by Robert Bolt, which tells the story of Thomas More, who was jailed and eventually killed after rebelling against King Henry VIII for taking the head of the church away from the Pope. Anyway, there was a dramatic scene where Miss Usher, who played my wife, Alice, had to grasp my hand in the air and we had to say goodbye. It was very dramatic. There wasn't a dry seat in the house.

Anyway, after performing the play and having a quick discussion, I realized during my first class that there were still ten minutes left in class and there was nothing prepared. I suppose Miss Usher knew this going into class because she took over and began reviewing the topic from yesterday. In each class she discussed heroes and why we need to have heroes, but not one of her lectures was the same from class to class. One of the classes got a lecture on why Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks are so important, one class got a lecture on the holocaust, another was told that they need to stop North Korea from sending nuclear bombs into space, and another class learned about the plot of the movie "Australia" with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman that made her cry. Somehow, everything she said had something to do with heroes and standing up for what you believe in, but it all seems like a blur to me now.

Like many days, probably the highlight of today was lunch, when we had rice and beans, coleslaw, and reef eel, otherwise known as barracuda. I had never tried fried barracuda before, but it was pretty good. It was a perfectly round fillet with the vertebral column in the center of the meat. It tasted like any other oily fish, but it was pretty interesting because the skin was really crunchy. Miss Usher brought me a cookbook today, so I'll have to prepare some reef eel when I get home.

After a long day of teaching, we had to stay after school because we were giving the staff of San Pedro High School some staff development. Dr. K asked my fellow high school teachers and me to do some break out sessions, teaching teachers about some techniques and tools that we use back home. My topic that he chose for me was concept mapping. I like concept maps and think they're useful, but an entire 15 minutes on circle maps, bubble maps, double bubble maps, tree maps, and flow maps isn't terribly exciting. I can be a pretty charismatic person at times, but I struggled at making concept mapping enthralling. While some teachers were really into it, I could tell that I was losing others and they would prefer sitting at home or taking a nap. All-in-all it was a pretty typical example of professional development.

After our professional development, it was time to go home and relax, right? Wrong. We decided to work on a service project where we would paint the high school basketball court. Today ended up being a really good day for painting the court because it wasn't too hot and the mosquitos weren't out in full force at the school. The court is beginning to look really nice. I hope the students appreciate it. If nothing else, it is something for them to remember us by.

Surely after all of this action it was time to go home and work on lesson plans, correct? No no no. Tonight was Amanda's birthday, so we all went out to dinner in town. We went to a pretty nice place called Lily's Treasure Chest, which is located on the beach. I'm rather confident that we all smelled bad from a long day of teaching, sweating, professional developing, and painting, but none of us seemed to mind. Amanda seemed to enjoy it, and it was nice to celebrate her birthday. It truly seems like we are a small little family at this point. I figured that by the final week of this trip, we would all hate each other or grow really close; luckily for us, it is more the latter.   

I'm now sitting in my room putting the finishing touches on tomorrow's lesson will be a test on pronouns and we will continue our lesson on heroes. I'm surprisingly not feeling terribly tired from all of today's excitement. I think I'm getting used to this Belizean lifestyle of working hard all day long. It has helped me to appreciate the hours teachers in the United States work. While I still think teachers don't get compensated for the amount of work we do (and the torment some students put us through), at least we are given an environment that is conducive to working (that is, unless your health ratings range somewhere near a 70). While I probably went to school at 7:30 am and worked on lesson plans until 10 pm during my internship, I have seen some teachers who work both at the high school and junior college who get to school at 7:45 am and don't leave the school until closer to 8 pm. This is crazy to me, but I fully realize that there are teachers in the United States who lead the same ridiculous schedule, namely coaches. Anyway, the point I'm getting at is that both my internship at Laney and my teaching here in Belize have given me a pretty good taste of what teaching has been like. While the schedule can be very demanding and students never seem to realize how hard you work outside of school and how much you care about them and their academic success, there is not another job that I can think of that could make feel me so happy and fulfilled day in and day out.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rainy Days and Tuesdays

Last night I had one of the best night sleeps I've had in about a week. Typically I wake up three or four times in the middle of the night from either a heat stroke or a mutant mosquito sucking on my back. Last night I had no problems. This morning I woke up and felt something I hadn't felt in a very long time- cold. It seems as though it rained last night and into the morning and this cooled down the island. I couldn't believe waking up and was wonderful.

I realized that there are some down sides to rainy weather here. First of all, the dirt roads instantly turn to mud roads, which makes it virtually impossible to ride your bike to school without splatter mud all over your paints, primarily your backside. Also, all of the puddles are a breeding ground for the nasty mosquitos. This wouldn't be such an issue if I didn't have to go into a garden every time I need internet here at Ak'bol. I'm still debating whether checking my e-mails are worth all of the mosquito welts that are surfacing all over my body. So far, I haven't been able to function without my e-mail, so my body continues to get eaten alive. 

Having said all this, I can't complain. It was a nice cool day and I had another good day of teaching. One thing I realized today is that no matter how cool it is outside, it is virtually impossible for me to leave the school without being drenched in sweat and covered in chalk dust. I don't know what it is about teaching at San Pedro High School, but I just feel like coming back to my hut and throwing away the clothes I've worn that day because they are usually covered in filth. I can't imagine what it is like in Belize during August. That must be horrible.

Anyway, today's lesson was on heroes/heroines. In true Miss Usher style, she told me I would be teaching this lesson twenty minutes before our first class. We discussed what heroes are (most of them believed that they were super heroes) and then she asked me to discuss Nelson Mandela, since the textbook had a picture  of him in it. When I looked for some facts of him in the book, they didn't have any. I pride myself on being a pretty worldly guy, but I honestly don't know that much about Nelson Mandela. I know that he is an equal-rights activist in Africa and that he spent a long time in jail for his beliefs that went against that of the African government, but I am very unclear on the specifics. I was stuck teaching a lesson I knew little about, so for much of the first part of class, I had to pretend like I knew a lot more than I did and dance around any questions students had. This was probably the most uncomfortable teaching moment I have thus far.

After this discussion, students had to work on listening comprehension, so I had to read a story aloud about a boy who saved his little brother from a burning Hyundai pick-up truck. Students then had to recall setting, characters, plot, and theme of the story. After that, students shared stories about heroes that they have seen. In one class, I had a student share a story about one of his peers, Charles, who apparently saved a really large woman from drowning the other day. the students were really happy for Charles and we all gave him a round of applause, which was nice.

The rest of the day was really fun as well. Today I got all of my students' e-mail addresses so that they can exchange e-mails with students at Laney High School. When I explained my plans to get their e-mail addresses so that they could talk with students back in the United States, a lot of them became very excited. I think that some of them are looking for romantic connections, but I had to explain to them that this wasn't (a reference they didn't understand) and that the distance might make any chance at a relationship rather difficult. Either way, they were excited to communicate with the students from America. It should be interesting to see what they write.

Before I left today, I made sure that Miss Usher told me what we would be teaching tomorrow to prevent another "Nelson Mandela incident." I'm teaching drama and play-writing to my first form students, which is an interesting change of pace from today. I'll be sure to write tomorrow to let you know how it goes. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Back to School Blues

I have to admit, it was awfully difficult to back to school today. I had become accustomed to waking up at 8 am, taking my time eating my chocolate banana pancakes, relaxing on the beach, and then working on my class work. Needless to say, waking up at 6 am, in order to teach a full day of school was no day at the beach. However, I survived and had a good day. It didn't take long for me to get back in the groove of things and realize why I was on this trip.

First thing I should mention is that Ak'bol is inconveniently located two miles away from the high school, so we had to get bikes (and no Mother, they didn't come with helmets...sorry). I haven't ridden a bike since my sophomore year of high school, so this has proven to be quite a surprise to me. However, it is nice to be able to go around town with such ease. It makes our treks much more fun, as well. So, it now takes us about 15 minutes to get to school by bike, which is tolerable compared to the 45 minutes it takes by foot.

Anyway, I felt quite unprepared for today's lesson, seeing as Miss Usher didn't want to ask the teachers in the English department what they needed help with and she didn't give me any plans herself. With that being said, I was pretty sure I would working with Miss Usher for the rest of this week. Since she didn't give me any plans, I just assumed I would be observing a lesson she had worked on for today. Boy, was I surprised when she told me that I would be teaching the first form students subject-verb agreement today. On top of that, a minute before we went into class, she told me to do the ant rap again. I was not too excited about doing the same lesson again, but she's the boss.

I began the class with a review of the ant rap and then I had students rap it back to me, because Miss Usher explained that they would have an exam where they had to memorize the rap. Next, I reviewed subject-verb agreement and then we played a game where I would yell out a verb and either singular or plural and two students would write a sentence on the board using that criteria. The first team to finish their sentence got a point. This continued for the rest of the period.

Probably the highlight of my day, like many days, has been the food in the cantina. Today, I was helping to serve meat pies, when I was told by John to look at what was in the pot on the stove. When I looked in the pot, there was a decapitated armadillo floating in some boiling water. Mr. Gustavo went hunting over the break and was going to make us some armadillo tacos. Thus far, I have not been one to turn down new foods, and I wasn't about to deny this treat a try. When I finally got a chance to make my taco, I had some armadillo, tomatoes, and onions with chili peppers. At the risk of sounding cheesy or cliche, it just tasted a chicken taco. I enjoyed it, mostly because it tasted like any other taco I had eaten. When I open a restaurant, I think I'm going to have quesadillas stuffed with armadillo and call them quesadillos...sorry that was stupid.

Anyway, I did have a low part in my day. The class of 1G had forgotten or refused to do their homework over the break and as a result Miss Usher made them stay after school and do the homework three times. Now, this wasn't some short assignment. Students had to copy three long paragraphs from their workbooks on to paper and then fill in the correct verbs. Once they did this, they had to do it two more times. Of course, Miss Usher asked me if I would stay and watch the kids. After an hour of watching students copy and write in silence, I began to wonder if this was more of a punishment for them or for me. As soon as students finished, I had to collect their work and make sure they didn't skip any sentences. There were at least five students who tried to leave early by skipping sentences and I got really angry that they would do this. I tried to reason with them and explain that I wanted to be there as much as they did, but there was no reason to cheat and try to sneak it past me. This was a bad way to end the first day back, but I'm excited at the prospect of tomorrow being better. 

Overall, I'm glad to be back at school. It makes being in Belize seem more important and I feel like I have a purpose. I'm starting to get the itch to get back home and see everyone, but so long as I'm here I'd like to feel like I'm doing something productive. Being at school and working with the students makes me feel good about my time here; it gives me a reason to wake up at the crack of dawn just so I can ride my bike.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Since nothing is really happening today, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk a little bit more about the Belizean culture, specifically something that is unique in my opinion. As I have explained, the school is tightly knit to religion, specifically Catholicism. As a result, students have to take a scripture class at school, there are crucifixes scattered throughout the school, and before school starts, the teachers often take part in a staff prayer. While they are also very religious, students also have a course called life skills, that is more like our health and wellness class that teaches students how to make good life decisions. 

What we learned early on is that Belize has the highest rate of HIV and AIDS. Throughout the town you see billboards and signs that promote the use of condoms and safe sex. I found this extremely interesting, especially given the inherent religious nature of Belizean culture. Having taught in the south, there is a clear debate between those who believe in teaching abstinence and those who believe that we need to teach our students how to practice safe sex. While I'm not going to share my personal views on this topic, I think it is fascinating that Belizean culture is able to put their religious and personal views aside to preach for a cause that best serves everyone, especially young adults. It seems as though Belize has realized that HIV and AIDS has become an epidemic that has gotten out of control and, as a result, they moved away from the push for abstinence to a campaign that tells people that, if they are going to have sex, be safe and use protection. 

In America, we have this great debate and it seems like one that constantly conflicts with our personal morals. Whereas the United States cannot seem to settle on what is best for our culture, Belize has whole-heartedly adopted a plan to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases by choosing a campaign that best suits them. They realized that people were going to have sex no matter what, and decided to teach them how to practice is safely. I don't know how successful this campaign has been, but I can't go a block without seeing a billboard that promotes safe sex. It is crazy to me, because I think topics such as this are rather taboo in our culture and we have a hard time discussing this, for fear of angering someone. This is not a topic I necessarily feel strong about, but one that is seemingly unavoidable here in Belize.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Quiet, Mosquito Infested Week on the North Side

I'd like to begin this blog by apologizing for my lack of writing this past week. I wanted to blog, I swear I did, but the days have been so quiet and uneventful here on the north side of San Pedro that I had little excitement to share. This is our second week of Easter break and I have been using it mostly to keep up on my school work to prepare for graduation. I've been working on a teaching notebook, my inquiry project, and my portfolio defense and it has been a rather boring week. However, I have had some opportunities to leave Ak'bol yoga resort and explore some of the sights and sounds of Belize.

For example, on Tuesday I decided that my chi needed some aligning, so I decided to give yoga a try. Dr. K explained to me that people who do yoga get real muscular because yoga provides a workout that you don't get by simply lifting weights. I had felt like a bum this entire trip because my goal to join a gym fell through and I haven't been running like I had hoped, so yoga was a perfect chance for me to get back in the swing of things. It was this morning that I realized yoga wasn't for me. My body simply doesn't stretch and move the ways the yoga instructor, Kirsten, was trying to make it. She would constantly remind everyone that "there is no competition or judgement" when doing yoga, I think because I looked like an idiot trying to replicate the moves and positions and she didn't want me to feel bad, but then she would come over to me and stretch my feet and legs for me and begin much for no judgement. Anyway, after our hour and a half session, I was ready for a nap because it tired me out. The next day my core was burning. I think this was a sign that I need to hit the gym when I get back because I am obviously out of shape.

On Wednesday we decided to go snorkeling. All of the science folk were quite excited for this because they got to look at all of the beautiful marine biology- I just wanted to get out and do something. This proved to be a bad choice. It started pretty well. We saw some cool coral and fish on the reef. We even saw a barracuda. Midway through the tour, I started to swallow a lot of salt water and began to feel queasy, but I kept following the group because I'm a trooper. I was so excited to hear our tour guide, Steven, tell me it was time to go back; I had survived a day of snorkeling without chumming. As soon as we got to the boat, Margo and I simultaneously started to feel like we were going to throw up. Unfortunately, I was the only one who followed through with this feeling and ended up feeding the fishes the ham and cheese fry jack I had for breakfast. I felt absolutely terrible. To top it off, Steven decided to take his sweet time talking with the the other tourists while my face was a ghostly white color. Finally, Margo had enough and told Steven to step on it. By the time we got back to the dock, I ran to land and rested in the shaded cabana by the sea, in case I needed to ralph some more. Luckily, the feeling had passed and Dr. K's wife brought out a soda for me to settle my stomach, which helped a lot. We made plans to take another snorkeling adventure next weekend and I think I'll sit that one out.

I spent a lot of time Wednesday getting my bearings back and taking care of school work. By Thursday I was ready to get back out and see more of Belize. We decided to take a trip to Caye Calker, a quiet island south of San Pedro. This was a nice, relaxing day. We did some shopping and I got some goodies for some people back home and we spent some time at a place called Lazy Lizards. This is a bar on the end of the island that has absolutely beautiful blue water. What makes this place even better are the characters we met at Lazy Lizards. There was one guy who approached me and said, "I know you." I was confident that I hadn't seen him before. He went on to explain to me that we had met twice in previous lives and that we were doing some immoral things. I was fascinated by this guy, but not enough to stick around and find out more about my previous life. There was another guy who wore a hat made out of palm leaves and had several different aliases he went by including "Thanks for helping me" and "Dr. Aloe." He rubbed some aloe on Amanda's back where she had burned and then let us feed the fishes by holding out sardines and letting the frigget birds swoop down and take the fish from our hands. This was really cool. 

After Lazy Lizards, we decided to look for a pool hall. When we couldn't find one, we asked someone for some help. The guy we found was named Charles and he was from Brooklyn, New York. After failing to find us a pool hall, he decided he was going to follow us around and host us for the rest of the day. He took us to the bird sanctuary, where saw one bird hidden in the trees. After that, we decided to walk on the beach and just relax until our taxi came. It was at this point that I realized Charles was a pathological liar. He explained that he was a carpenter, plumber, electrician, substitute teacher, and the reigning karaoke champion for three islands in Belize. While impressive, Alberto explained to us that he knew the karaoke champion of San Pedro and it wasn't Charles (I suppose they take their karaoke very seriously here). After humoring us for the afternoon, we had to say goodbye to Charles and we went back to San Pedro.

Once back at the dock, I was excited to see some of my students at the bar. Now, I know that students aren't allowed at the bar because if they are seen drinking in public, even if they are 18, they will be expelled from school. They were all wearing the same shirts and I realized it was the school rock band. They were at the bar to put on a show to raise money for the school. I was really impressed by the band. They had some really great musicians and the lead singers were really exuberant. They really got the crowd into it and it was fun to see these students doing what they love outside of school.

After that it was time to go back to Ak'bol. Staying there has been interesting. The lack of air conditioning has presented some issues for me, not because it doesn't get cool enough, because some nights it does. However, we need to keep the windows open in order to get air, and there are no screens on the windows. As a result, I have been eaten alive by the mosquitos that past few nights. This has not been enjoyable. However, the lack of television has forced me to work on my school work to the point where I think I will be well prepared for my final assignments when I get home. 

Overall, this has been a quiet week, which has been nice. We are all a little nervous to go back to school on Monday since we have been away for so long. It is crazy to think that there are less than two weeks left in Belize. We will be sure to make the most of it. 

Monday, April 13, 2009

Back to La Isla Bonita

On Saturday it was time to leave the mainland to head back to San Pedro. After packing our bags, it was time to say a sad goodbye to Herman and Paradise. I should mention that this was not a day any of us were looking forward to. Not necessarily because we didn’t want to go back to San Pedro, because I think all of us were ready to get back on the island, but because all of our stomachs had had enough of the traveling and this was just going to be one mode of transportation to the next.

Personally, the day went by rather smoothly. We took an express bus from Corozal to Belize City, which was surprisingly nice. It was more like an old charter bus than a retired school bus. It had pleather seats that reclined and the bus wasn’t packed. After our two-hour journey from Corozal to Belize City, we took a cab to our water taxi. We hopped aboard our express water taxi and after an hour an fifteen minute trip on the water, we were happy to be back on Ambergris Caye. Dr. K was also excited because his wife, Megan, was in town for the next week, so this only added to the excitement of being back.

When we got on the island, we had a boat take us to our new “home” for our final two weeks here: “Ak’bol Yoga Resort.” When I first heard about this place, I thought it was pretty hippy dippy, my feelings were totally accurate.

When we reached Ak’bol, I was happy because I realized that we would be staying on the beach. We had to walk five minutes to the beach when we lived at Pedro’s- it was horrible. Now I just walk out and I can see the beach. However, my joy quickly turned to apprehension after we were taken to our rooms. When we got to the first room, we looked in and all we saw was a wooden platform, with two beds, and a ceiling fan. We don’t have TV, wireless internet, and we have a communal bathroom down the hall. I could see the faces of my compadres fall when the realized what we’d be dealing with for the next few weeks. Remember when I said I wanted to see what it was like to live with less technology- be careful what you wish for.

To be honest with you, I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay thus far at Ak’bol. Yesterday, all I did was sit on the beach and read my book. They serve breakfast here all day and everything is healthy. Yesterday I had multigrain banana pancakes and I usually detest anything lowfat or health-food conscious, but this was really good. I’m even considering doing some yoga tomorrow. It gets a little warm at night without air conditioning, but I’m coping with it well. I slept like a log last night and I’ve gotten more sleep here than I have this entire trip. I think what we all needed was a relaxing time to finish off what has been a fast-paced and somewhat stressful experience. I think Ak-bol will be good for all of us.

Corozal: Day 2

This was a very sad day, because Allison had to go home. I think she had a really good time on her Spring Break. We were very busy the entire time, so I don’t know how much relaxation she got on her vacation, but if nothing else, it was education and she got to see me, sounds like a great break to me.

After she got her cab to begin her journey home, we got a van to take us to Orange Walk so that we could go on a riverboat tour of Lamanai, another Mayan ruin. At this point I was a little “ruined-out” from all of the Mayan touring we had done, but I felt like I needed to go just to check it out- I’m glad I did.

When we got to the place that would take us on the river tour, we ate some breakfast and chatted with the owners of the place. There was a really funny guy who made it his job to scare Margo. At one point we were sitting and talking and he took a live baby crocodile and placed it on Margo’s hand. They’re lucky she didn’t fling that guy across the room the way she screamed. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have done the same myself, but it was pretty funny. I’m not a big fan of reptiles, but even I thought this guy was pretty cute and I even held it.

After a nice meal and some practical jokes, we were ready for our riverboat tour. This was great, we would be traveling at 60 mph and all of sudden the tour guide would yell out to the driver he would stop the boat. He would then point out a crocodile, or bird, or iguana that was nearly impossible to see. I don’t know how this guy spotted them so well, but it was really cool to see these animals in their habitats. My sister would have loved to see all of the iguanas in their habitat, as she has one of her own.

This was all really cool, but quite possibly the best part of my day was when we came close to the trees and we saw two spider monkey’s swinging from tree to tree. The tour guide, Carlos, then started making a kissing noise and got some bananas. Sure enough, within a minute those monkeys were on our boat! Margo got to feed one of the monkeys and I was really jealous (I was also a little bit nervous after hearing about the monkey that beat

 up thatwoman a few weeks ago…luckily nobody was beaten up by these monkeys). To the right is a picture of one of the friendly monkeys that jumped on our boat.

After an hour and a half ride on the boat, we reached Lamanai. This was really neat. It was much bigger than Xunantenich and it had a few different things we hadn’t seen before. For instance, the artwork was different. We saw shrines, and stelas that were illustrations of kings. We also saw a ball court, which is where Mayans would play games with a ball and a hoop and the captain of the winning team would be sacrificed to the gods. The rationale behind this is that, who would you rather sacrifice to your gods, the best or the worst? I’m thinking I might have thrown a game or two just so I could live.After climbing another big ruin, seeing some haller monkeys in the trees, and looking at all of the natural flora, it was time to leave.

It was a really relaxing boat ride back, with exception to this one lady. I should preface what I’m about to say by telling you I’m very proud of my northern roots. I love New Jersey with all my heart, but once in awhile you come across someone who just gives all northerners a bad name. On our trip, there was one lady who was so loud and obnoxious and she had to have a comment for everything the tour guide said. Carlos would be explaining how eleven percent of the Belizean community was made up of Mennonites and this lady would say, “Oh, I live outside of Lancaster County and we have so many Mennonites. They are a lot like the Amish and we also have Quakers too…” or one time Carlos pointed out the blue herons in the trees and this lady had to add, “Ohhh, those are the little buggers that eat all of the gold fish out of my pond back home. I’d like to have a word or two with them.” It’s not even like this lady was being discreet about it, she felt like she was the center of attention. On top of this, whenever something was pointed out, she felt compelled to stand up and block everyone’s view of what we were looking at. As a result I have some great pictures of the wildlife of 

Belize with this woman’s head in it. To the left is one such picture where I tried to get a shot of a Belizean rum distillery and instead a got a close up of this lady's head. At times I had visions of a crocodile snatching this woman from our boat, but then I realized that it was Good Friday and that it wasn’t very Christian of me to think such things. Alright, I need to calm down. I can feel my blood pressure rising as I reflect on this lady. Whatever, I’m over it. Not even this lady could ruin my beautiful day on the river.

Off to Corozal

For the last leg of our trip to the mainland, we decided to go to Corozal Town, which is a small town on the mainland where most of the teachers at San Pedro High School grew up. I don’t know the specific reason why most people at the high school travel to San Pedro, other than they need the jobs. Work on the mainland is highly sought after, mostly 

because it is much cheaper to live on the mainland than it does on San Pedro, mostly because San Pedro is a tourist destination. I was stunned at how cheap everything was on the mainland; everything was almost half the price. Subsequently, most teachers have a small house at San Pedro, and often come to Corozal on the weekends. I know that Americans do some crazy things for their jobs, but to live in two places seems crazy to me. It seems to be the way the culture is organized here.

Of course the downside of this is that it separates families. There is one young teacher at San Pedro High who has to teach on the island while his family lives in Corozal. He has a one-year-old son who lives with his grandfather and goes to work with him. When his father comes home to Corozal for the weekends, his son doesn’t even know him; he calls his grandfather “dad.” I suppose these are the sacrifices 

some people have to do for their livelihood, especially with an economy that is currently floundering.

Anyway, we got to Corozal in the afternoon. When we left San Ignacio, we were told  

that we were staying at a place called “Tony’s Luxury Beach Resort.” Based on the website, it had beautifully decorated rooms, which a beachside view. It looked fantastic. When we got to Corozal, we realized we were staying at the place across the street from Tony’s, Paradise Villas and Apartments. When we got out of our van, we were greeted by this little white man with an accent who 

called himself “Herman the German.” This was an interesting character. He was very accommodating and friendly, but he started making some inappropriate sexual comments and I started to feel increasingly skeeved out about this place. In any other experience in Belize I would accept these off-color comments and consider this part of the culture we are experiencing, but with this guy, it became clear that he was just a weirdo. You’ll understand why in a second...

Herman took us into our “luxury villas” and everyone was excited to see that it had more amenities than we had been used to this entire trip. We had a living room with a TV, a full kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom. It would be nice if it wasn’t decorated as if we were living in the seventies. Now, I never got to know my grandparents, but I imagine if I had, this is what their house might have looked like. It was honestly like traveling in a time machine to see what interior decorating used to look like. Of 

course, the icing on the cake was that the master bedrooms had two mirrors: one on the wall and another on the 

ceiling. According to Herman, each apartment had a romantic honeymoon suite. I was one of the lucky ones to 

get this bed with the mirrors, lucky me. To the left is a picture of John, Anna (Herman's much younger wife), Herman, and myself.

After putting my things in my room, we decided to take a cruise around Corozal. Herman was nice enough to take us in his old Dodge Caravan. Again, I must explain this hot rod. It had yellow flames streaking down the side of the van, with a huge spiderman decal plastered on the hood of the car. The front windshield had the word “maldito” written in stickers, which translates to “evil” in Spanish and the word “Lucifer” was written on the back windshield. The car was so dusty that I’m pretty sure gang members had used their fingers to write some graffiti on the car. To top it off, when we borrowed the car the next day, there was a gun sitting between two empty beer bottles in the middle console. I wish I could tell you I was lying about any of what I have written, but this is the honest truth. Herman claims he bought the car like that, but I have my doubts. But I digress…

We finally made it into town and as we walked around, we found that this was the quietest town we had been in thus far. This was the farthest place from a tourist destination as there didn’t seem to be much to do. To be honest, it reminded me of the quiet town in which I was raised. It had a small town feel and I could tell, while it was a very poor area, it was probably an okay place to grow up. This was supported by the fact one of the teachers, Mr. Gillharry, showed us around and explained how much he loves coming home. He and his friend, Elson, took us on a tour of their hometown and showed us their high school, which they call community college, and their junior college. After our tour of the town, we went to a grocery store to get food so we could cook for the first time in three weeks. We then went back to the villas so we could relax in Paradise for the night.

San Ignacio: Day 4

This was another pleasant day because we didn’t have any big plans. I slept in late, ate breakfast at my leisure, watched some SportsCenter in my room, and took my time. A few of the people from the group were planning on going to the zoo, and Allison and I were going to go, but 

decided against it because we were not feeling good. Instead, we decided to take a taxi and stroll around San Ignacio for the day. This was fun. We ate some food at a place called Eva’s Kitchen, where we had one of my favotire meals to date, stew chicken with rice and beans and cole slaw. After lunch, we just hung around the town and went shopping. I was able to get some gifts for people back home and che

ck out the town. What I realized this day was that San Ignacio is very different from the other cities in which we’ve been staying for the simple fact that it is not really a tourist’s city. By this, I mean that there is a lot of poverty and the town doesn’t seem to cater to the needs of tourists. The shops are for the people of San Ignacio instead of the gift shops we have seen everywhere we go. While at San Pedro, we can go to our r

esort when we feel uncomfortable; here at San Ignacio I felt like I was really mixed in with the culture. I think it was good for our group to see so that we could experience the other side of Belize- the side that doesn’t make it 

on the brochures. To the left is a picture of the town of San Ignacio.

After we got back to Cahal Pech, Allison and I relaxed a little and waited for the others to get back from the zoo. Apparently they saw a lot of cool animals and were stunned by the fact that the only thing separating them from the animals was chicken wire. Imagine if a jaguar got angry one day and went on a rampage. Luckily on this day, the animals were calm and everyone made it back safely.

Later that night we were looking for places to eat on our last night at San Ignacio and I suggested that we go back to Hannah’s. I might have been selfish in wanting to eat there again, especially since there were other restaurants we hadn’t tried yet, but nobody disagreed with me so we ate there again. Instead of changing it up, I decided I needed to eat the curry again one last time, so I got the lamb curry. This was another amazing meal and a great way to end the trip in San Ignacio.

San Ignacio: Day 3

On day three of our time in San Ignacio, we decided to do another cave excursion. Instead of waterfalls, this was an educational trip to Actun Tenochil Maknul, or ATM for short. We had to take a van for almost an hour and a half all the way into the jungle. Once in the jungle we had a forty-minute hike to the mouth of the cave. I expected this to be pretty similar to the cave excursion I went on in at Caves Branch, but it was very different.

Once in the cave, we had to swim and hold on to the sides of the cave to get from place to place. We were in the water for a majority of the time until we reached a rocky portion of the cave. Once there, we had to take off our shoes and walk 

in our socks. The purpose of this was so that the oils from our shoes didn’t compromise any of the artifacts we were going to see from the Mayan culture. This was extremely cool. We were able to go into rooms where Mayans held different ceremonies. We saw pottery that had been broken 

for religious purposes and human remains from people who had been sacrificed to their gods. It was really fascinating to see all of this history live and in person. I have never really been a history buff, but even I was astonished by the culture that believed in so many rituals that seem crazy by today’s standards.

After getting out of the ATM caves, we had some time to relax outside of the jungle. It was really crazy to see all of the people who still lived out in the jungle. It was clear that they rely on the resources that surround them. They wear modern clothing, but other than that, they don’t seemingly use electricity or running water. On our way home, we saw a woman washing her clothes in the river. I’ve always 

wondered how people can live like this, but they seem as happy as can be. They don’t know any other way of life and this is how they choose to live. It was refreshing for me to see. Sometimes I wish I could live without a lot of the technology that we utilize today, but I realize that, after 

living with cell phones, TVs, cars, and computers it would be difficult to imagine a life without them. Seeing a lifestyle

that didn’t require modern technology was truly eye opening to me. To the left is a picture of the UNCW spelunking team. It actually looks like one of those family portraits you can get at the mall...a little creepy.

Once we got home to San Ignacio I took a quick nap after a long day of spelunking. That night we had to travel to several places until we landed in a small sports bar that had the NCAA National Championship on TV. We were excited to watch it until UNC starting running away with the game. What a horrible championship this way. Granted, I wanted UNC to win the game, but I was hoping that it would at least be close. We ended up leaving shortly after the second half started and we got some pizza. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a pizza snob and as bad as some of the pizza can be in the south, it doesn’t get much better once you reach Central America. I think I will stick to the traditional food of Belize because I find myself pleasantly surprised every time I try a new type of food, and I’m disappointed whenever I have American cuisine. 

San Ignacio: Day 2

When we woke up the next day, nobody had made plans. This was a change. It had seemed like everyday had an itinerary and we couldn’t really deviate from it. I’m by no means a control freak, but I like to have some choice in my schedule and this day was the first in a while where I could do whatever I wanted. Allison and I strolled into town and saw Dr. K and the gang waiting at a bus stop. They were going to Xunantenich, 

a Mayan ruin twenty minutes away from San Ignacio. This was Allison’s first chance at building her Mayan unit for her history students, so we jumped at the opportunity.

Before we could get to the ruins, we had to cross a bridge. This was no ordinary bridge. There was a man who would operate a twenty-foot wooden plank that moved from one side of the river to next through a crank that pulled the bridge on a pulley. This was v

ery different. Once we got to the other side, we had to travel up what seemed to be a vertical incline that went forever. I haven’t been to the gym at all since I’ve been here and I was getting my work out on this day.

We finally got to the site and were ready to experience some history. Xunantenich wa

s one of the smaller villages during the Mayan time period. There is a lot of mystery with regard to Mayan life and how they came and went. Xunantenich disappeared before the Spanish Inquisition and, if I recall correctly, failed as a result of social and economic shortcomings. While they were very primitive, we owe a lot to the Mayans. During the classical period that had 

developed language with hieroglyphics, political systems, they had religion, and even some credit them with inventing the wheel. They are a fascinating culture. They’re architecture is one of the most impressive artifacts we have, and I was able to climb them! How cool.

We decided to climb the tallest ruin there. Again, I got a good workout from this climb,

but it was well worth it once I made it to the top. We had a view of so many cool things; on one side we could see San Ignacio; on the next was a forest of trees; on the next we could see Guatamala. This was incredible. To the right is a picture of Allison and me atop the tallest ruin at Xunantenich. 

After our trip to Xunanatunich, we got back on the bus and decided to explore San Ignacio. We were hungry so we stopped at a place called Hannah’s. To this date, this is the best food I have had. First of all, they raise all of the meat they serve on a nearby farm. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love milk and I have been deprived of it for most of my trip here (I know it seems a bit immature, but milk tastes so good and it builds strong teeth and bones, so don’t judge me). I had two glasses of milk and for lunch I had the best pork curry I have ever had. It was simply amazing. Every bite was better than the first. It had a slight kick to it, but only enough to add a little bit of heat to the meal. The pork was perfectly cooked. Ahhhh, I need to stop talking about it as it’s making me hungry.

Once we finished our meals, it was time to head back. Since we hadn’t had a chance to see the village yet, Allison, Dr. K, and I decided to walk home. An hour and a half later, we were exhausted from walking what must have been five miles, uphill, in the Belizean heat. This was when I learned that MILK WAS A BAD CHOICE. It sat in my stomach. I could actually feel it curdling in me from all the heat. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it was at this point that I decided maybe water would be better for me.

We finally got back to Cahal Pech and I immediately jumped in the pool to cool down. Needless-to-say, I slept well that night.

San Ignacio: Day 1

Our trip from Caves Branch to San Ignacio was an inte

resting one. First, we had to take a short bus from Caves Branch to Belmopan to g

et to get a transfer at the bus stop. I don’t know that I have seen a more disorganized

 bus system ever. If you recall my explanation of Belize time, the same principles apply to buses

. I don’t know why they post a bus schedule if they don’t expect to follow it. We waited for about a half-hour for a bus that would go to San Ig

nacio. When we got on the bus some guy started

 yelling at the bus driver and tried to force us to get on the bus next to us. As we started to back out, another bus 

cut us off from leaving and blocked the exit. Apparently the bus we were on wasn’t supposed to leave for another fifteen minutes and they were making a big stink about

 ensuring that the right bus left at the right time (go figure). We had to jump out of the back of the bus. There was a young couple with a baby who didn’t want to jump out of the bus with their

 child, so they passed them through a window. That was pretty cool.

We finally got settled on another bus that was packed. The buses in Belize are school buses that probably should have been retired ten years

 ago. They are painted in bright colors that would put the Partridge family bus to shame. I felt like we should have started a family band as we toured Belize. Anyway, Belize doesn’t really have speed limits and as a result, the bus drives dr

ive like maniacs. They must have removed any governors because I’ve never been on a school bus going 90 mph. It was a little frightening because I don’t think buses are made to this fast. I saw some of my compatriot’s faces

 going green while we were traveling because the shocks were obviously shot and ever little bump resonated through your entire body. I think we were all happy to be on solid ground after our hour and a half ride to San Ignacio. 

Once in San Ignacio we jumped in a cab and got to our hotel, Cahal Pech. This was 

nice place with an amazing view of the city as it sits atop a huge hill. After settling in we had some dinner at the hotel restaurant, where I had spaghetti with marinara. I think I just wanted some good old-fashioned food that reminded me of home. While it didn’t taste anything like my mom’s sauce, it was nice t

o have something that tasted familiar to me. It’s the small things I’ve begun to miss while I have been here. After dinner, most of us had been tired from a long day of traversing caves and traveling on rickety buses, so we called it a day. Below is a picture of the view we had from our room at Cahal Pech.

My Excellent Adventures on the Mainland

To ease everybody’s mind, yes I survived my tour to the mainland of Belize. We did a lot of fun and crazy trips and adventures, so I thought I would write a few blogs about my days on the mainland just to catch everyone up and what I did and explain why I’m so very tired and happy to finally be back at San Pedro. 

I suppose the best place to start with my trip is from the top. We left Pedro’s Inn on Saturday, April 4 around 9:00 am to catch a water taxi from San Pedro to Belize City. Once we reached Belize City, I split off from

 the group with John so we could go to the airport and pick up Allison. I was ecstatic to see her and I could tell she was excited to be in Belize because she’s a much bigger traveler than I, so any chance she has to get out of the country she jumps at.

We then left to meet the rest of the group at Old Belize, which is more or less a tourist destination with a manmade beach and a five-dollar museum that takes two minutes to tour. This was nothing fancy and I was a little sad that this was Allison’s first impression of Belize. However, soon thereafter we got a van to take us to our first tour destination: Caves Branch.

We learned that Caves Branch is a great place because it had a lot of the “out-doorsy” things we wanted to do. When we got there, we realize that we were upgraded to stay in the cabanas instead of the barracks where we originally thought we were staying. This was really cool. These were grass huts with thatched roofs and bunk beds. There was no electricity except for a ceiling fan. We had lanterns for light and we had to take showers in outdoor showers. This was a really cool experience, especially for a guy who loves his TV and fancy amenities. I really enjoyed sleeping there and was upset we only got to spend one night there.

The next morning we all decided on taking different tours. Some people went cave tubing, others we

nt repelling down a cave, and I decided to go on the cave waterfall tour thinking this was my best chance to see a mermaid. While I didn’t see one, I did have an amazing experience. We had to hike about a mile in the jungle to a cave. I learned that you needed to wear long pants for this tour and of course I didn’t bring any. Lucky for me they had some extra pants that I got to borrow. The one catch is that these pants were a shiny blue material that made me look like a competitive speed walker: not a good look. Below is a picture of me in my fancy pants.

I sucked it up and got on the bus to the cave. Once in the cave we had to wear helmets with headlamps on them because, obviously, it is very dark in the caves. We had to crawl, climb, and swim through crevices and stalagmites. This was pretty physically demanding. By far the best of the tour was when we climbed up the waterfalls. We all wondered how we were going to make it back down and figured we would repel down with the climbing rope; boy, were we wrong. They made us jump down from the waterfalls. I’m pretty good with heights, but as soon as I was ready to jump the guide grabbed my shoulder and told me that was about to jump into a pile of rocks under the water. Apparently, that would have been a bad thing. I made a big jump and survived. This was definitely the highlight of the tour for me. I can officially say that I have been spelunking, how cool.

When we got back to the resort we found out that everybody had some really great tours and I think we all were pleased with the excursions we chose. After our excursions we had to pack our stuff because we had to catch a bus to our next destination: San Ignacio.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Week Two In Review

I'm feeling well rested today as we didn't have school. The reason being, the students at San Pedro High School were competing in a track competition on the mainland. It takes five teachers to take all of those students to the competition. So, with all of those teachers absent and no substitute teachers, the school wouldn't be able to function. It was nice to have a day off. I had forgotten how stressful teaching can be.

I took this day to work on some projects for school since I realized I was falling behind on my graduation requirements and I don't think my parents would like to pay for another semester of grad school. Having completed a lot of work, I think I can spend some time resting and relaxing as we travel to the mainland tomorrow. I'm terribly excited because my girlfriend, Allison, joins me tomorrow. She is a teacher at New Hanover High School in Wilmington and she is spending her spring break with me. Most of the people here are jealous that I get to see her because at this point everyone, including me, our missing our significant others. I'm lucky enough to see her and I can't wait.

I thought I would take some time to reflect on week two of teaching in Belize. This was another fun week at San Pedro High. I continually see my teaching changing and moulding to the needs of a different population of students. On Thursday I learned an important lesson about teaching students who don't speak English. As I was having students break into groups to practice there phone dialogues I noticed that one girl didn't go with her group. When I asked her why she wasn't working, I realized she struggled to give me a response. She speaks only Spanish and didn't understand my directions. I gave her the directions in Spanish, but realized that the people I put her with didn't speak Spanish, so she couldn't work with them. When Miss Usher realized what I did, she rectified the situation by setting her up with a Spanish-speaking student who would work with her. Had I thought on my feet, I probably would have asked the class who speaks Spanish, but at that moment I hadn't even thought about it. This was a good lesson for me. I'm sure I'll be better prepared with an ESL student next time.

Miss Usher continued to educate me later in that class. I started to give students I quick run-down of subject-verb agreement. I was going to lecture for about five minutes and then let them practice it in their workbook. During the middle of my lecture, Miss Usher got up and asked me if I wouldn't mind if she showed me another way of teaching this lesson. I didn't mind, I'd argue that learning a different way to teach is the reason why I'm on this trip. Miss Usher took the chalk and started drawing pictures and showing how a boy named Armando played by himself, which makes it plural. She then drew a picture of a girl named Korina and she is in love with Romundo "who all the girls want to be with because he is so dreamy." She showed that when they fall in love, together they make a plural situation. The students were laughing and getting involved and really understanding the concept being taught. After class, Miss Usher explained to me that the pictures are particularly important for the Spanish-speaking student because, while she might not understand words and letters, drawings are universal and it helps her translate what she is saying in English, into Spanish. It was at this time that I remembered one of my colleagues, Julie Lucier, give a similar presentation in graduate school. This puts her research into practice and showed me that indeed this is a strategy that is used, and apparently works. This was an educational day for me.

The rest of my week was fun as well. I really enjoyed rapping for the classes and creating the ant observatory. It was exciting for me to see all of these students working together to create this formicarium together. It also showed me how interesting students can be when they get out of their seats and work on something different from what they are accustomed to. I think too often teachers think inside the box, myself included, and if we were willing to take some risks, we might find new ways to inspire teachers to learn.

It became clear to us that Easter is a big deal on this island, as we have the next two weeks off. We didn't realize this when this internship was established and scheduled, but it gives us a good opportunity to see other parts of Belize. This next week we are going to the mainland of Belize. Tomorrow we get on a boat at 9:30 am which will take us to Belize City. After I pick up Allison from the airport, we will go to the Belize Zoo, and from there we will stay one night at Caves Branch. This is a cool place because it has some of the more adventurous activities we are looking forward to, like cave tubing, repelling, and zip lining. While I'd like to do all of these, they are a bit pricy, so I'll have to pick one adventure to go on. After a day at Caves Branch, we will be traveling to San Ignacio. We will be staying here for roughly four days because from here we can travel across the island to do all of the other sight-seeing and touristy stuff. I'm hoping to see the Mayan ruins in Lamanai, the old British prison, go to a jaguar preserve, travel to the Blue Hole for some snorkeling, and do a lot of fancy dining. After our time in San Ignacio, we will be traveling to Corozal, which is a quiet town on the northern tip of the mainland. The reason for us traveling here is that most of the people who work at the high school are from Corozal, so we're thinking we might be able to do a lot of free, local things with our new friends. That should be a nice way to end this crazy week of traveling.

For our second week, we have decided to take some time to give back to the community. Last night I was up until 10 pm helping to build a porch for the lunch lady, Miss Dulce, at her house. She hopes to turn her porch into a store front for her food shack. When asked why they were helping her, Gustavo said, "That's just what we do." They are all doing this out of the goodness of their own heart. After working a full day at school, some teachers have decided to give their time to help this lady with her business. I think this is great. While we are on our break, we will be looking for jobs such as this to give back to this community.

I hope everyone has continued to enjoy my blog this week. I was so happy to see all of the comments on my blog this week, particularly from all of my students. Whenever I see the students here in Belize, I'm reminded of the short amount of time I had at Laney and I miss them. They were a good bunch to teach and I was fortunate to have them as my first classes. They say you'll never forget the first class you taught and I'm sure that is the case with me.

I don't think I will be bringing my laptop for the next week, so I apologize if I don't get an opportunity to blog at all. I'll fill you in as I can. 

Take care everyone,


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sub Umbra Floreo

The title of my blog this evening is actually the motto of Belize, which translates roughly to "under the shade I flourish." I wasn't aware of this until Margo named her blog this and told me about it. I don't think I quite grasped what this motto meant until today.

It started like any other, a little humid, some heat in the air, but then somewhere around 10 am, someone turned up the heat. I was doing pretty well with it until I went into the faculty room and the heat just engulfed us. I was walking around during my free period only to find John had changed shirts in the morning because he had sweat through his first one. I think he lost his weight in water before 10 am. I wondered how I wasn't gaining any weight eating all of this delectable food, and it was apparent that walking everywhere and sweating will keep you in shape. It makes for a tiring day, but I've never felt so fit eating such unhealthy food. While I didn't sweat as bad as John, the heat was still very oppressing and it made me quite sleepy. As soon as the day was over, I changed into my board shorts and jumped in the pool at our hostel. EVEN THAT WAS HOT! Don't get me wrong, it was refreshing, but sometimes it seems like there is no escaping the heat here.

Enough bellyaching from me. I had another fun day of teaching. Today was especially fun because one class brought in all of their materials for their formicarium and we put together the ant colony. Students were really fascinated by the ants and even the students who misbehave were fascinated by the observatory they made. It was very impressive. From here, students will have to watch the ants as they hopefully build a new life for themselves in this false environment we created for them. After observing for a week, students will have to write a report about their findings. I like that we are making the lessons interdisciplinary. Dr. K even helped with the class so that he could help point out the queen ant and all the helpers to the students. It was a fun lesson.

I had a bit of an embarrassing moment today, however. As I was reviewing with the students, I asked them what the fancy word for ant observatory was and one student said "fornication." While I tried to ignore it, I told him that fornication was very different from a formicarium and I attempted to move on. However, one girl pulled me to the side and asked me what fornication was and I told her I didn't feel comfortable telling her. This is apparently when my face turned red according to Miss Usher. It was then that the young girl took out her dictionary and started looking for it. I thought I was in deep trouble, talking about fornication in class, but Miss Usher called the girl to over to her and explained exactly what it was. I was in the clear. This girl will apparently have a head start when she has life skills class next year.

Anyway, some of the other classes that were less prepared got a less interesting lesson- sorry, that's what you get. Today we reviewed how to talk on the phone with friends and then we started another fascinating topic: subject-verb agreement. I was hoping all my classes would be ready for the ant activity today so I wouldn't have to put them to sleep with this lesson, but they weren't, so I had them napping midway through the class. If students aren't prepared tomorrow, I'm going to have to continue teaching grammar. For my own sanity, instead of giving students notes, I think I might try subject-verb charades, where either one student or a group of students will do an activity and students have to make sure that the subject and verb match. I'll let you know how it goes.

Well, tomorrow promises to be another great day. It is our last day of classes before Easter Break, so the students should be in rare form. However, I have a feeling we are as excited as they students for a break, seeing as we will be traveling to the mainland for a week during the break. I'll fill you in more tomorrow. It's dinner time and I'm hungry.

Sending my best from Belize,