Monday, February 26, 2007

Meet some Kiddies!

Since we spend most of our time working with children here, we thought it would be nice for you all to 'meet' them!
We are working a lot with one specific family in a village called Succotz, not far from San Ignacio. Our work with this family is not limited to their academics, but includes life skills in general.

This photo has a few of the older kids in the family. The eldest, a boy, is 14 years old. The girls beside him are 12 and 9. We are hoping that they will soon be able to help their mother in caring for the younger children in the family.
Here are a few of the younger ones. These kids are around 7, 6, and 9. The fourth little girl is from the picture above.

Here we are on the way to the clinic. The second little girl from the left is the youngest, and is actually the niece of the other kids.

Just wanted to show you all these wonderful, energetic smiling faces.
Any donations we received (in regards to literacy) have gone straight to these children to help them to learn English, learn the alphabet, learn to read or improve their reading and math skills.
Thank you!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Guatemalan Weekend

Hello everyone!
We're back from an adventure in Guatemala. We began this weekend by heading off to the Guatemalan border, which is about a half hour away from San Ignacio. From there we bargained our way to a $5 US mini bus ride to Flores. Flores is a cute little touristy town about 2 hours from the border.
Here is a picture of the streets of Flores, Guatemala.

We spent the night in Flores, filling our time with souvenir shopping and watching CABLE! Woo Hoo! Don't we know how to travel!
Saturday morning we had a little sleep-in and headed out for breakfast at Cool Beans with the group of volunteers that we were traveling with.We arrived at Tikal late Saturday afternoon. Tikal is said to have the largest and most impressive Mayan ruins. We decided, along with the other group members, that we would not see any of the ruins on Saturday and do a Sunrise Tour on Sunday. On Sunday morning we were woken at 4:30 to do our Sunrise Tour. It was still really dark out! We hiked for about 20min until we reached the towering ruin that we were going to climb and watch the sunrise on top of. Here is a picture of the stairs.
We were on top of the temple for about an hour and a half waiting for the sun to rise. Nancy decided to take tons of pictures to make sure she got the best shots. A lot of them sucked! It was a pretty amazing feeling hearing the jungle waking, being above everything and looking at the horizon.
Here is a pic way before the sun began to rise.
Here is a good shot with the sun all the way up. You can see two other temples poking their heads out of the tall jungle trees.

Here is a picture of (from the left) Lee, Sarah and Steph on the top of the same temple we saw the sunrise on.Enjoy the rest!
Talk to you soon!
Don't forget to comment...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Placencia Weekend

For our fourth weekend in Belize we decided to travel to the village of Placencia in South Eastern Belize. As you can see, Placencia is on the Atlantic Ocean, but what you can't see is that Placencia is a very long peninsula (approx. 23 miles). The beaches there were much nicer than we had previously seen in Hopkins, but at the same time the area was very more expensive and very tourist-like.
Another interesting thing about Placencia is the sidewalk that runs through the village. The sidewalk is a separated by a pathway that acts as Placencia's main roadway. It is the world's skinniest road or something like that...
One thing about it being a touristy place - the food there was awesome! The first night (Friday) we ate at an Italian place with homemade pasta. (I'm drooling right now thinking about it!) The owners are often the servers in the restaurants. On our last night we were sharing an appetizer plate because we had pretty much no money left, but we didn't want to order right away, we just wanted to drink our waters. I was explaining the budget situation to the server - making sure it was okay to take our time with free water and she told us about her 25 year old son and his budgeting, so she said our platter included free rum punches!
So, at the request, well really based on comments from our mothers, we've included some more pictures that have us in them so that you can see us - alive and well! This is us at the Italian place; right on the waterfront.

Here's Lee lookin' particularly stylish! Selling the coke in a glass bottle!
And.. Nancy. Enjoying her Fanta... as you can see - right by the ocean. Well, maybe you can't exactly see, but it's right there behind me.

And Lee made the first big, exciting purchase this weekend! He bought his own set of tortoise shells! You may recall, the Garifuna people in Hopkins played these. Here's a shot of Lee giving it the first try!
That's all for now. Heading to Tikal next weekend with a big group.

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Belize Zoo and Mount Pine Ridge

Welcome to the Belize Zoo!
The zoo was started by an American woman who had helped with the filming of some documentary on local wildlife. Throughout the filming the animals had become tame and would not be able to survive in the wild. So, the zoo was started. The zoo is the last resort for animals. They are often animals that have been used, taken in as pets or hurt. All the animals are local and the zoo emphasizes the protection of the animals and their natural habitat.

We arrived at the zoo very early (we were the first visitors of the day). The animals all seemed to be very quiet. However, as the day went on the zoo got pretty noisey. While we were visiting with the jaguar (see picture) we started hearing some crazy sounds. Was it the tapirs? (National animal) It sounded like dinosaurs - really. We felt like we were in Jurassic Park! We decided to follow the sound and it turned out to be the howler monkeys! They're so loud!! We filmed it, so we have a sound clip to bring home with us. Anyways, here are a few pictures from our excursion.

They had four macaw parrots . They were just amazing. Their colours are incredible bright - especially when they fly!

And the toucan: the national bird. This toucan was fantastic. Perfectly kept and groomed. The toucan was probably the top pick for everyone who went.Mount Pine Ridge is a day trip with a local tour company. It costs $30 US and it was well worth it. The soil on the mountain has a higher pH, so trees like pines grow there but not the usual palm trees that you see every where else in Belize. We made four stops on the trip, after a 2 hour long drive in through the super bumpy, muddy road.
The first stop is at Rio Frio Cave. It is a huge cave nestled in the forest. This is a picture of what it looks like from just inside the mouth of the cave.

Here's Lee on his way into the cave. There was a stair case in, some climbing on various rocks and you can get down to this natural sandbar on the floor of the cave. A small stream/river flows through.
Here's Nancy also near the entrance to the cave. You can see the water leaving the cave behind her.
The next stop was at an area that had several levels of water. There were some pools, some areas with semi-strong currents and then other areas where you had to be careful. The tour provided us with lunch (fresh pineapple, banana, watermelon, some plantain chips, sandwhich, water..) so Lee and I climbed to a rock right by the small falls to eat. Then Lee ventured into the falls - I didn't have the guts, plus I had the camera :-) So here he is!

The third stop is at Big Rock. It has a high waterfall, then a great pool area to swim in. In this picture you can see some rocks in the bottom left corner. We swam to them and climbed them so that we were in the pool directly under the water fall. Lee swam across that pool (Nancy stayed behind again) and climbed up on the rocks on the other side (where you can see some water hitting the rocks on the mid-right. He did a quick jump and the current just about slammed him back into the rocks that Nancy was sitting on.
It turned out to be a great trip. Lots of swimming, waterfalls and so on. Relaxing. We ended at a resort that overlooked 5 Sisters Falls, but you had to pay extra to go down there so we all stayed back on the veranda and relaxed. Here's a shot of the group. This is all the current volunteers (although, someone is arriving tomorrow) and the guide.Lee, Nancy, Ellie, Jackie, Bev (all from the Ottawa area, some on the QC side, but all have lived in and around the school), Sarah from Bristol England and Stephanie from Miami, Florida.

We hope everything is well back home,

Friday, February 2, 2007

Great Crazy News!

Travel time baby!

We just got word that schools get two weeks off at Easter, which leads into our last day. The 4th week ending on our departure date. Since all or most of our work is in schools we too have that Easter holiday. Aka we get a whole month off!!! Look out C.A., here we come!

COMMENT if anyone has tips on places to go in between Southern Mexico and Costa Rica!

Woo Hoo!

Volunteering at Conerstone

Hello Everyone!

So there have been a few questions about what volunteer work we've been doing here in Belize. I guess thats a fair question since it is the reason why we're here! For people that don't know Nancy is in the HIV/AIDS program along with youth and Lee is in the Literacy program along with Environment.

Until this afternoon our schedules have not been full. Just today we visited a near by village called Succotz(which borders Guatemala). In Succotz we set up a 2 hour session, 3 days a week that will involve tutoring and offer life skills training to a family of seven children who have learning disablilties (so we're told) and are behind in school. Nancy will tutor four of the children while Lee will tutor three.

We are also working Monday and Wednesday mornings (Lee also works there in the afternoon on Monday) in a local primary school library. Lee is looking after the upkeep of the library and helping kids sign out and return books while Nancy will be teaching kids on how to use and how to act in a library (since most of the kids have never stepped foot in a library).

We are both teaching a creative writing class at another local primary school (different from the library one) an hour a day, three days a week. We are teaching two groups of eight kids who are in standard five (or grade seven).

Also we are both tutoring/reading with kids. Lee tutors/reads with a boy and Nancy tutors/reads with two others.

Nancy is also doing research for an HIV/AIDS newsletter run by another volunteer at the foundation. She is in the process of setting up a presentation for HIV/AIDS/STIs at the prison here in Belize...we'll keep you updated!

By now you might all be wondering, why is Nancy not doing very much HIV/AIDS stuff and doing more youth/literacy stuff? Well she has found, along with other volunteers, that there has been a lot of HIV/AIDS awareness going on here in Belize. That is very good and everything but there is a sense that people are getting sick of listening to it. At the same time there is a lot of need for help in education.

If there's any questions just COMMENT!