On our last night in Dangriga, the locals threw us a goodbye party/dinner at Pals. The dinner was steak, lobster, chicken, and fish with a variety of sides. After dinner Peacework played a slideshow for us saying thank you that had pictures of all of us from the past 3 weeks. It was really emotional for everyone there. After the slideshow we danced with the locals on the beach for hours; I didn’t want my last night to come to an end. I will really miss all the people I have met in Dangriga. John and Denver were two of the security guards we had. I really enjoyed getting to know them and am thankful that they took the time to keep us safe. To the community of Dangriga – thank you for welcoming us with open arms. You are the nicest community of people I think I’ve ever met and I’ve loved living here this past month. I will never forget the memories I’ve made here and will cherish and remember it forever. – Getting on the bus to leave in the morning everyone was a little emotional. I’m so grateful I had this amazing experience in Belize and I’m glad I’ve made friends that will last a lifetime.
Since our trip was coming to an end soon it was time for community day. Community Day is a fair that our university students put on for the community of Dangriga. The health, social work, business, and engineering teams all set up individual booths and had games relating to their specific field for the students to come participate in. My job at community day was to be a face painter. The kids went crazy over it. I painted so many kids faces I can’t even count how many. My shift was 2 hours and then someone relieved me. When I wasn’t paint faces I hung out with the kids and played soccer with them. It was so fun and see all the kids come from the different schools. A few kids even recognized me from the classroom and called me Ms. Julie. Since community day in Dangriga I started to realize that my amazing adventure was about to end. All the students in Dangriga changed my life in many ways. They are the sweetest kids I have met considering they have so much less than kids in the United States. Working with these kids has been such an amazing and humbling experience. I’m so thankful I got this opportunity.
It was prom night in Dangriga for the seniors who graduated. Prom was being held at the nice house directly next to the Chaleanor Hotel. They made a red carpet going down the road leading down to the house and had speakers everywhere. There was a DJ announcing and playing music. When we were sitting in our hotel room we could feel the whole entire hotel shake. We decided to go outside and checkout the prom. Hundreds of locals lined the streets surrounding the red carpet. All waiting to see the couples walk in. Each couple entered individually in their own creative way. One of the couples road in on a huge fire truck. The boy stood on top of the fire truck in his bright red suit and danced as it drove in with the sirens blaring. He jumped off the fire truck and opened the door for his date. She stepped out wearing a stunning sparkling red dress. The DJ announced their names and they walked down the red carpet. The whole crowd of locals cheered. Another couple drove up in a huge white limo. When they got out the whole crowd went crazy and took pictures of them. The prom lasted until about 3 in the morning and the whole town stayed awake and partied the night away. Considering we were in the first room on the bottom floor in the hotel directly across from the prom we didn’t get much sleep that night.
Judges for the day
Dr. Jensen, Meghan, Becca, Erika, Caleb, and I took a visit to the Stann Creek Junior Ecumenical College to be the judges for their business competition. The Stann Creek Ecumenical Junior College is a comprehensive community college offering a wide range of academic programs with emphasis on Arts, Business and Science orientation. The business students we were evaluating split up into two groups and had to create a real life business plan. The first group made a “Butterfly Tour”. Their business pitch was to clean-up an abandoned forest right near their school and make a path through the forest. The tour would include bird watching, knowledge about different types of trees and a butterfly house at the end. The team also planned to have a kids playhouse and a snack bar selling fresh fruit juice and salads. The team designed uniforms, a model of the envisioned butterfly tour, business cards, and brochures. The second group wanted to create a “Gourmet Coffee Shop” which would be located in the heart of Stann Creek and offer multiple coffee drinks and pastries. The group also had calculated profits for the day, menus, a model of the coffee shop, and designed uniforms. After each group presented we had to deliberate as judges as to which plan seemed more realistic. After a while of judging we decided to award it to the Butterfly Tour because their startup costs were a lot more affordable and their business plan was more in depth. It was very interesting working with an upper level group of kids who have such big dreams of having their own business. We awarded both groups with Arkansas Razorback t-shirts and I’m glad I got to be part of their competition.
Weekend in San Ignacio
For our second weekend excursion we went to San Ignacio. We stayed at a beautiful resort that overlooked the city of San Ignacio. San Ignacio was a city inland filled with so much culture. The first day I was there, Meghan, Lauren, Dr. Jensen, and I made a visit to the Belize Green Iguana Conservation. Green Iguanas are endangered in Belize because citizens like to catch and eat them. The Green Iguana Conservation catches these iguanas and tries to keep repopulating them so more can be released back into the wild. While we were in the cage with the Iguanas we got to feed them, when I held the banana the iguanas would all run towards me and even leap onto my back. On the walk back from the iguana cages our tour guide pointed out a huge termites nest and told us they were great sources of protein. Dr. Jensen grabbed an ant and ate it with no hesitation. She encouraged all of us to try eating one so I ate one to impress her, it even popped in my mouth. The next day in San Ignacio we visited the Mayan Ruins of Xunantunich. Xunantunich is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, well within sight of the Guatemala border which is only 1 kilometer to the west. While we were there we got to climb the “wedding cake,” which is what they called the tallest pyramid there.
Field trip to Hopkins
On Wednesday of our second week we took a field trip to Hopkins, Belize, a town about 3o minutes away from Dangriga. Our reason for going there was to introduce the coding game to some students at a school in Hopkins, but we decided to go with the whole business group and both our instructors to make a fun day out of it. First we went to Sandy Beach. It was so beautiful, the pictures I took looked like a desktop screensaver. Whenever we were swimming in the ocean we saw two manatees poke their heads up in front of us, they were barely 5 feet away. Alex and Suzie tried to swim out and touch them but the manatees swam away. After we swam a few residents of Hopkins prepared us lunch, they made a traditional Belizean dish called Hidut. Hidut is a coconut milk based broth with cooked red snapper in it. On the side it always comes with crushed up plantains. It was unlike any dish I’ve ever tried before but it was delicious! After lunch the rest of the computer team and I split off to the school and the rest of the business team stayed to enjoy the beach more. Once we got to the school we played the coding game with the students for about an hour and they all loved it. They even said they wanted to play at home so we also gave them more coding websites to check out. After we left the school the whole business team drove down to the Jaguar Wildlife Preserve to float the river. It was about an hour and a half float down the river, the scenery was amazing. Luckily none of us encountered a jaguar!
My second priority after computer training was helping the teaching team in the different schools. The only school I ever taught in while I was in Dangriga was Holy Ghost. Holy Ghost was similar to an Elementary school and I helped in the standard 5 and 6 classrooms. The kids were probably all around the ages 10-12. One of the days our lesson plan was for the kids to get in small groups and come up with a product to sell. We brought supplies for the kids to design a product and made each item cost a certain amount of money. After they designed their product they had to add up the supplies used in their product to find their production cost. Each group had to act out a commercial to the class and come up with a selling price. At the end of the lesson the class voted on their favorite product and we explained to the class that the number of votes counted for the number of times they sold their product. The teams had to subtract their production cost from their total revenue to come up with their profit. All the kids really seemed to enjoy the activity and participated actively. My group created a “feather hat” and even let me keep it.
After a long week of teaching in the schools and computer sessions, it was time for our vacation in Caye Caulker. We loaded up the school bus and made our way to Belize City where we took a water taxi to the island. Caye Caulker was a small, beautiful, island about an hour off the coast of Belize. I stayed in the Popeyes hotel with Meghan and Rebecca as my roommates again. Our hotel room was more like a resort even compared to the Chaleanor back in Dangriga. Saturday afternoon in Caye Caulker was an interesting one to say the least. I had my first snorkeling experience ever! We had 3 stops on the snorkeling trip. The first spot was the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world. The different kinds of coral and fish we saw were all so interesting. The second stop was my favorite, we got to swim with sharks and stingrays. At first I was scared being in the water with the sharks and stingrays, but I got used to it quickly. I even swam down to the bottom and touched a stingrays back. The third snorkeling spot was a tour of different locations with different fish. I saw Nemo and Dory! Later that night in Caye Caulker, Andrew, Henry, and the other Andrew decided they wanted to get a tattoo. The tattoo “shop” was located in the living room of a persons house; Lisa adressed the tattoo artist with concerns about how sanitary and safe the process would be. The three guys got matching tattoos, the tattoo was a Razorback inside the country of Belize. I guess you could say the memories will be permanent. 😉
Half of the people in the Business Team were staying at Pals and the other half were at Chaleanor. Fortunately I was one of the lucky ones that got the Chaleanor. One of the nice things about Pals, before I diss on it too much, was the nice view when we ate breakfast there almost every morning on the beach. Pals is a 2-story light pink, beat up hotel, with hardly any air conditioning. You’re lucky if there aren’t ants crawling on the walls every night or if your floor isn’t flooded. It’s a good day if you can connect to the Wi-Fi or if you don’t wake up with bug bites all over you. On multiple occasions the students staying at Pals would end up sleeping on the roof of Chaleanor for these reasons. Chaleanor on the other hand has A/C and keeps the bugs to a minimum. The Wi-Fi only works slower when all the people from Pals come over to use it. Dinner on the roof of Chaleanor is always nice. The open porch looks over the town of Dangriga and has a nice breeze blowing through. Our meals at either location were usually made by either Tanisha or Eleanor. They were both fabulous cooks and would always provide many delicious options. Although I think I am going to be tired of rice and beans for probably a year after this trip is over. I’m so thankful for these women who took their time to feed all 50 Arkansas students. I’m also thankful that I wasn’t stuck living at Pals.
First day on the job
Today was our first day of teaching. It was going to be a computer coding session with girls only. We had our plans ready that we had made in Fayetteville memorized and were just anxiously waiting for the students to show up. 30 minutes after our session was already supposed to start about 11 girls showed up from Delile Academy. Of course they were 30 minutes late…haha…I kept forgetting we were on Belizean Time, apparently nobody is ever on time here. Since it was a girls coding session I was going to be the lead. I was so nervous. I started off the lesson by asking the girls to explain to me how to make a peanut and butter jelly sandwich. One girl told me to put the peanut butter on the bread. So I physically took the jar of peanut butter and set it on the bagged loaf of bread. The girls laughed and said “NO, you have to open up the loaf of bread and open up the jar of peanut of peanut butter, take the knife and stick it in the peanut butter, and then spread the peanut on the bread with the knife”. After they realized they needed to explain to me every step I told them explaining every step in the process you have to go through to achieve something is very similar to computer programming. Next we introduced them to the Minecraft game and showed them how to move to the next level and how you had to walk your character through the steps 1 by 1. The girls caught on to the game after awhile and really showed an interest in it. The session was only supposed to last an hour but they all wanted to stay after because they were having so much fun. After each coding session we planned on rewarding the participants with certificates. I’d say our first day on the job was a success.