Many happy returns

 I was reading something online that says that since Facebook came out, there's been a huge drop in the number of blog entries posted every day; people have been just doing short status updates on their social networking sites and twitter, etc. That got me curious and I decided to read some of my old livejournal entries. I was half surprised the site is still up here, and it made me very sentimental.

My last post was dated 5 June 2009, two months before my close of service as a Peace Corps volunteer. Since then a lot has ahppened. you can check my facebook for that!

Fast forward a year and a half, and I'm BACK here in Punta Gorda, chillin with my old friends again. I felt a strong compulsion to return after looking at pictures and thinking alot about the village. Conveniently my friend Rosendo Cal is a soldier in the Belize Defense Force and invited me to come to his wedding. So here i am, some pictures to follow soon!

All the livelong day

My time in belize is winding down, y'all. You officially have only eight weeks to come visit me!
The rainy season started on June 1st, just perfect...but not before surprising us with an EARTHQUAKE last saturday night. I woke up at around two in the morning, my whole house shaking. It lasted about thirty seconds, and the animals went CRAZY. Horses, ducks, chickens, pigs, screaming bloody murder...altough a good few of them were actually being bloodily murdered, because it just so happened the next day was the start of PLANTING Tiiiiiime!! Ah yes, when thousands of Mayan men go out in the sun for hours, make holes in the ground with pointy sticks (again, very complicated technology, you wouldn't understand) and throw corn seeds into each one. Seven corn seeds. Not six, nor eight. Ten is right out. Has to be seven.
Amazingly, I soon became able to pluck exactly seven seeds from my cuxtal, and throw them perfectly into a two-inch wide hole in the ground. Every man goes to every other man's plantation and helps him plant. This communal work philosophy is really something that should be adapted to other village projects...whatever. I'm tired of complaining.
anyway, when the men get back home, the owner of the farm hosts a massive Caldo feast, consisting of pig or chicken, and plenty of corn tortillas and potch (steamed plain corn meal in a leaf). The houses are very hot during the late morning, and I wear long pants and long sleeves because of the sun, and the caldo is made with peppers hot enough to incite hallucinations of time travel; so although it's delicious, it's equallly painful. I'll never get used to it. And I'll remember this stuff forever.



 Chicken caldo (cald chilan) with tortillas (cua)

 Good bye John and Cheryl!! You have been such great volunteers, and even better friends. You really made a dent in the lives of many children in Belize, and your art and love of people will stay with these people (myself included) for a very long time. Good luck in the next step in your life together!!

The best of times

Mom and I went to Mexico!!
Playa Del Carmen last week, for a VERY Non-peace corps vacation. The woman spoils me to no end, but you won't ever hear me complaining about it. I do wish Harrison and Grace were with us, but we still had a lot of fun.

It was a beautiful all inclusive resort between Playa del Carmen and Cancun, on the Yucatan Peninsula, in the state of Quintana Roo. on what's called the Mayan Riviera. The water is so blue, I've never seen that before. Not even in Belize. It was great to finally speak Spanish for a change (considering  I live in Central America, this is a pretty ridiculous, if true, statement), and I havd a great time meeting the staff and relaxing on the beach. The one incongruency nagging my mind was that this trip was very much a 180 degree turnaround from what I've been doing for the last twenty months. I come from rural indigence to get a massage on the beach...corn tortillas to strip steak, and a hammock and dirt floor to 2000-threadcount sheets and maid service. haha. ALSO, it was strange because i have this newfound love of getting acquainted with new cultures and languages, and being so uncomfortable in unfamiliar social situations and learning about myself, and then spending a week surrounded by Americans, where everyone around me is doing their best to make me Comfortable.
At anyrate, it was a great time, and I miss my family.
Close of Service countdown:  Three months and a week !!! Then what, you may ask? Well, I was hoping you wouldn't, actually.

Just around the riverbend

Sooo, what has everyone been up toooo?

oh right, this is my journal.

             I should talk about La Ruta Maya, my latest crazy activity.
The Ruta Maya is a 175 mile canoe race across the width of Belize. It took four hours (in our case, thirty something hours), and I paddled with my two friends, Emily and Pat from the Jesuit Volunteers International.

The second day, we paddled for ten and a half hours. Usually, I find that the only thing worth doing for ten hours at a time is being unconscious, however; at the end of this grueling awful ordeal, we still looked like this:
or maybe this was contrived due to the fact that we were being photographed.
It's up to you.

 That's me with my paddle, or "boat-moving stick", sitting in the rear, or "back" of the boat. (It's okay if you don't understand these "nautical" terms. I'm flanking them with useful context clues.)

Putting it together...

I've got some GREAT executive summaries for latrine material funding; but I don't know where to send them!

Does anybody have any Ideas about any good international aid organizations? I try to research but I only have a short time here in Punta Gorda every week. I'm trying to teach our village council about raising funds and self-mobilization and all that. The general trend is to just nag the local government minister until he comes through with a handout; which is entirely non-sustainable and eventually damaging to development.


Pictures!!Some of our beaaaautiful home gardens! I'm so proud. This is the Chiac family of Corazon. Look at those tomatoes!

This is the road where I run everyday; cattle pasture, mountains and jungle. That's my friend Cezar on the bike, going to water his horse ; )


mother nature's son

So last week I rode my bike to San Lucas, the neighboring village, to visit my friend Matt and some church group that was visiting him, doing some work. Ladies from Milwaukee, Wi. So I told my teachers I was going, put on my green hat and ipod, and rode thirty minutes through the jungle over dirt and rocks until I got there.
I mostly chatted with the ladies while they did arts and crafts with the students (tie-dying, sun catchers)
and after about an hour and a half i reached up because i felt something lumpy on my head. "There must be something in my hat!!" I nonchalantly blurted to nobody in particular. Upon removing said hat, I expected to see any possible range of things, but this range did not include the truth: a six inch black scorpion just hangin' out upside down inside my hat.
It had been there for at least two hours, including the full length of the bumpy bike ride. Didn't sting me though, miraculously.

Today I'm house sitting for the Jesuit Volunteers, International.

Heads up to the Amazing Fox News network for referring to the first lady of the United States as "Obama's Baby Mama" on Thursday. I don't have the link but you can google it.

as we stumble along...


That’s my new favorite word.

No, I do not have malaria, but pretty much everyone in my village does, and it’s the focus of my education work in Corazon these days. The statistics for last year show that we’ve had 64 cases, making it the number three village in all of Belize.


If you don’t know anything about malaria, it’s still very widespread in the western world, and billions of dollars are being used to research eradication methods.


It’s caused by a small parasitic animal, neither bacteria nor virus, which first invades the human liver and then spreads, causing high fevers, chills, and delirium.


The only way to get malaria is to be bitten by an infected Aedes Aegypti mosquito, who in turn became infected by feeding on an infected human.


So the best ways to stop the spread of malaria are to reduce mosquito numbers/avoid getting bitten; and if you are infected, to take all of your medicine, for the full dosage period. The medicine used is Chloroquine phosphate, a quinine derivative which tastes nasty and needs to be taken every day for exactly two weeks.

Annoying. So people don’t want to do it; and so they don’t get fully cured, and the disease can pick up momentum and spread.

It's gonna be a happy new year

Happy 09!! I really wish I had pictures of the vacation to post, but my camera broke just before I left, so I'll just have to paint you a picture in your mind.

Imagine this scene as it unfolds before you, if you will::

I went home for Christmas.
It was good.

the end

haha, juuuust kidding.

So I left on 10 December for Cancun, Mexico. It was a long bus ride (about two days on an old US schoolbus, considered the Belizean national busline.) I spent a very sketchy night in a questionable guest house in Corozal, the Mexican bordertown. The next morning I bought some pesos and took a gorgeous sleek coach bus to Playa del Carmen, which was culture shock way before I was expecting any. I stayed at a beautiful hostel by the bus station, but not before passing a super Wal-Mart. (!) I went in, just out of curiosity.
And thoroughly enjoyed myself. I mean, as much as I like to think Ive broken myself of the chains of consumerism and US consumeristic imperialism, I have to admit, it's nice to have things available and cheap. And a cereal aisle longer than the grand central parkway is fun to see, too.

I used a lot of spanish in Playa del Carmen, but I think I must have heard every language I know of in that day; very very touristy. Though the beach was very beautiful and the water was very blue, I knew it was time to get going; so i headed for the airport a little earlier, and walked around Cancun.  ALSO very touristy, almost like Disneyworld.

Finally, landed in New York on the 11th; Mom and Grace picked me up at the airport, and quite frankly the theme of the trip was this, and I've mentioned it many times during the last weeks: I felt as though I've never left.

Aunt Dolores drove up from North Carolina, and it was great to give her a hug. She''s a small lady, so my hugs are particularly rib-crushing. She brought my wonderful little cousin Jenna, and her friend Doyle, who is very nice. We went into Manhattan (sighhh), saw the Met, Rockefeller Center; went to the Union Square Market, and bought a computer for one of my friends in the village.

We had a great little get together at my house on the day after christmas, after spending the 25th at my mom's brother's new place in Ramsey, New Jersy. Despite being in new jersey, we all had a GREAT time (kidding)

I do hope to amass some pictures at one point.


NORTH of the Border

So I'm on my way home for Christmas, I've been sitting in the Peace Corps office in Belmopan for the last three hours, mooching free internet...on my extended busride to the North of Belize, where I will cross the border into Mexico. From there, it's another four hour bus ride to Cancun and Tulum, where I will be FORCED to stay until my flight ot new york leaves on Thursday.
My life is so hard.

I wanted to share some pictures of the latrines we built this month; as you know latrines are a big part of my work here in the village, and we were fortunate enough to complete six in the last three weeks, with funding and materials from the Humana: People to People organization. THank you all so much. Everyone was really great at being self-motivated, coming to wake me up at five thirty every morning "Let's build my toilet, Mr. Rob!!"diggingSo I'm all sore from digging. But everyone worked so hard and I'm very proud of them.

And the finished toilets are beautiful

So for now, I'm going to think about New York for Christmas (I can't handle another hot Christmas, I don't know about you guys)
And I miss my family more than anything. Though I only have another sevne months down here in Belize, I needed to see ny again before I went back.
okay i hope everyone has a GREAT holiday, and New Year, let me know if you wanna hang out when I come home! I certainly want to see everyone I possibly can. JohnPaul, we're definitely on for that Tuesday or whatever it is. I'll call you.

I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night.

Unless there's a new moon; which happens like, once a month.
This is when one really appreciates a lack of electricity. Like when you're bathing outdoors in the pitch black, and it's only six o'clock.
The stars look like the sea in the moonlight, there are more down here than I've ever imagined that there were. It's beautiful. Come visit me.

Then I was riding my bike and crashed headlong into the village alcalde. Neither of us had a flashlight. It was quite funny. Neither of us was hurt, luckily I was wearing my stylish and all-important bicycle helmet. Ah yes, the helmet. Peace corps volunteers, as you may or not know, are required to wear a helmet during all instances of bicycle riding, under pain of administrative separation from the Peace Corps. Needless to say, it caused more than a little curiosity and the like from my village during my integration period.       By now however, everyone is quite used to it, and the children think its the coolest thing in the world.

I cannot stop thinking about my impending trip home to the United states of america.
I'm home from this wednesday (the tenth) until the end of the month (the twenty eighth). I won't have a phone so contact me via internet, and we can See each other. I miss everyone.