Thursday, March 19, 2009

First Days in La Isla Bonita

Okay, I suppose the best thing for me to do is first set-up this blog. The idea behind this weblog is to share with those interested in reading my experiences while I am here in Belize. For those of you who don't quite understand what I am doing, I'll fill you in. In January, I began the final step of receiving my teaching license by teaching some fantastic students at E.A. Laney High School in Wilmington, NC. I taught there for ten weeks and absolutely loved it. I learned so much about teaching, about students, and myself. After this wonderful experience, UNCW gave me permission to finish my internship in Belize. I will be here for five weeks indulging in the culture, the sun and beach, and education. So thats where I am today.

Yesterday was absolutely crazy. The morning began in Charlotte where we were staying at a Best Western. Our flight was at 6:00 am, so we decided to get up and moving around 3:00 am. This was a God awful time to wake up and as a result, I wasn't really with it. Subsequently, I got into a shuttle for the airplane and proceeded to lose it in the van. After calling the Best Western and searching for it, nobody seemed to find it, so I was really starting off on the right foot (I'm gonna need a job when I get back because I don't think I can afford to live without my iPhone!) I decided not to harp on this issue and just let it go; I wasn't going to let a small issue such as that to bother me.

Once at the airport, we boarded a plane to Miami, went from Miami to Belize City, and then took a puddle jumper from Belize City to the island in which we are staying: San Pedro (aka La Isla Bonita). By the time we reached our destination, Pedro's Backpacker Inn, I was ready for a nap. However, soon thereafter we had to visit the elementary school to meet with the principal and staff for those who would be working there. I was excited because the school was very cool and the principal, Addy (a Hoggard High School grad...weird) was excited for us to start; but, I got the feeling that the teachers were a little less enthused. This took some wind out of my sails about the experience because it seemed like they really didn't want us there. After leaving the school, we returned to Pedro's.

Pedro's is a little hostel. We happened to get the four "deluxe" rooms, which means we have air conditioning and a TV, living large. I'm not complaining, it has everything we need. We live 10 feet from a pool and 20 feet from a bar and pizzeria. It has everything we could want, 
especially since we plan on being out living it up in San Pedro, rather than in our room. Last night Peter, the owner of Pedro's, treated us to pizza and we were happy to eat it. It was actually good, and I tend to be an elitist when it comes to my pizza. We all had a good time, but none of us lasted past midnight, especially with the two-hour time differential here. 

Today, we woke up at around 10 am and got some grub from the locals. We thought we would be able to get breakfast from a local "deli," but surprisingly their breakfast hours are much like that of McDonalds. Subsequently, we ate some local lunch at 10 am. We had beans and rice (not to be confused with rice and beans, which allegedly is a different meal altogether) with curry chicken and plantane. To wash down our meal we had some watermelon juice, which was very refreshing. 

After breakfast, we spent some time taking it easy by the pool and watching the first round of March madness (I was soooo happy we get all of the American TV stations, so we won't miss any of the games). I was anxious today because we were meeting with the principal of the high school and the staff. This was an interesting experience.

When we got to the school, we were introduced to Emile, the principal of San Pedro High School. As soon as we got here, he took us to the auditorium (an outdoor basketball court with wooden canopy) and he told us he was going to hold an assembly to introduce us to the WHOLE SCHOOL. This was actually very fun. The crowd was roughly 350 students dressed in their all-white uniforms. After our trip advisor, Dr. Kubasko, spoke a little about why we were here, they let us all introduce ourselves. I was stunned at all the cat-calling these students did for the young ladies teaching science. I was a bit flustered when I introduced myself and I got a loud standing ovation, mostly from young Belizean girls; rarely have I ever seen such enthusiasm for language arts! We taped our introductions, and this is the warm welcome we received.

After the assembly, we met the staff. This was so wonderful. We met as a big group and discussed what our goals were for this experience, and then broke into our two respective groups. I'm the only English teacher on this trip, so I will be responsible for cycling around and working with five different teachers over the next five weeks. One of the most exciting parts about this afternoon was how receptive the English department was of me. Two of the teachers have bachelors degrees in teaching and the rest have high school degrees. They are very much willing to learn what we teach and one teacher has already asked me for a good alternative to the five paragraph essay (honestly, that is still something we struggle with in America, so I look forward to tackling this issue with someone else over the next few weeks). 

Miss Estelle, the head of the department then took me aside and showed me the school. She explained to me that instead of grades, they have "forms" and there are four "periods" in the day: A, C, E, and G. It seems as if I will be working during all four periods. She also explained to me some other important details. For instance, Miss Estelle has received permission from parents to hit them any way she sees fit. I don't expect to hit any students, but she told me she does it to teach them respect and how to behave so they will be success as they enter the second, third, and fourth forms. 

Miss Estelle also expressed that race is a touchy subject. Students have some resentment about their skin color, particularly black students. They don't like to be separated by color (as anybody wouldn't), but apparently school does not provide a discourse for racial issues. This is a subject I won't touch with a ten foot pole. Tomorrow they have asked me to come to school that I can meet the students and teachers to be acclimated. Miss Estelle suggests I come early so I can talk to students about their personal lives in the morning. She is under the impression that they young men will be more willing to open up to another male, especially if I take a vested interested in their lives early. This is something I will try to do.

This blog is running quite long, so I'm going to stop here for today. We are about to go to dinner. I will be writing in the next few days to let you know what I'll be doing. I can't wait to fill everyone in with this excitement. It is truly a feeling I have never experienced. I send my best to everyone and hope that all is well. 


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