a corollary to my previous entry

People I'm thinking about right now:
Chris Strunk Dustin Woodward Lauren Bedell Anita Dutrow Donna Austin Sue Peters Dolores Galanti Pat Meaney

"Those homosexuals are so dramatic and flamboyant. It makes me want to...just set myself on fire." - Luceille Bluth

Two women are at a Catskills Resort. The first one says "Boy the food at this place is really terrible." And the other one goes "I know, and such small portions!"

The solution to most any problem is salt water: Sweat, tears, or the sea.

 

Things my village needs: A rice huller, toothbrushes, toothpaste, stationery, erasers, sharpeners, pencils, books!!! (2nd grade reading level




Welcome to Miami

Hey all, Happy Holidays to everyone I haven't gotten to talk to lately.
I have been having a great christmas; I'm in Florida for the week. First in Miami, where I got to look at attractive people and hug my mom and eat a hamburger and watch TV.

Then up to Orlando where I saw Myrna, my costarican babysitter from my childhood. That was quite a trip.
Then off to Venice where I hung out with Grandma for two days, and her boyfriend Cliff. We met his family, and ate a LOT. My family from NY was so pale, I couldnt believe it.

It's incredibly weird to spend your first Christmas without your dad in a Non-Snow, Non-cold environment, let alone a subtropical place like Florida.

Anyway, after this crazy four days, I've been FORCED, by my voluntary responsibilities, and the US government, to return to the jungles of Toledo, to continue my work. But it's been a good six month break.

My computer has decided to explode, (the fan broke, so it overheats and shuts down after five minutes of use); I'm forced to manually fan the back with a piece of cardboard for as long as i wanna use it.

but this Christmas I really lucked out; I guess there are some good things about peaec corps.
I got a solar charger for my ipod, and a NEW ipod, from my mother EIGHTY GIGABYTES. I dont even nkow if that many songs have ever been recorded in the history of music. But I'm not complaining, anyway. 
What else, some clothes, money, books for my village school; CD's, I'm just a happy camper.

nobody's gonna see us together

Journal entry 12/14/07

 

            I just got back from Belmopan, after an all-volunteer conference. It was SO Great to see everyone; and every time I see the volunteers from the North, I milk it for all I can, because there’s no telling when I’ll see them again!! But I got to share pictures and stories from my village, and got to hear about everyone else’s experiences.

            I also got to say goodbye to Eileen, George, Anna, and ELVA, four of my favorite people, office staff, who are all leaving in the next month; the two consecutive country directors, our training director, and our trainer. Ah well. They have given me such amazing support as a trainee and new volunteer, and I wish them all the best in Arizona, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Love you all!!

            Last night I got the privilege of attending a Christmas dinner at Ambassador Dieter’s residence, where I was asked to be the piano player for the evening. Notice I said ‘piano player’, and not ‘pianist’. There is a difference. When I gave my senior thesis recital at Casadesus hall, Schubert, Bach, Mozart, Chopin, I was a ‘pianist’, but when I go to music theater class and act as a human jukebox for an hour and a half, that’s me being a ‘piano player’. So I was the background music at this shindig, and in the midst of my producing the ‘audible wallpaper’, as I like to call it, I did get to meet a buncha great people, including the Mexican and Brazilian ambassadors, as well as the deputy prime minister of Belize. So I have been lucky here. It’s just amazing how people who LIVE in and are IN CHARGE of this country have no CLUE as to what the living conditions are like in the Maya villages. When I said we don’t have electricity, I got more than a few raised eyebrows, and since it was dinner I decided to refrain from breaking the no-latrine news to anybody.

            Anyway, I’m back in town, ready to head back to Corazon tomorrow; plus I gotta start buying supplies for building my house…demolition starts Monday!! So excited.

  • Current Music
    Judy Garland - The Trolley Song

I'm 23 now, but I won't be for long


Yesterday it was my birthday…hung one more year on the line. I got a great letter from Elke, cards from Grandma and my mother, and a slew of facebook comments. Thanks everyone!

 

Today I had to come into town on the schoolbus (stupid Tuesdays)… for a meeting with the Toledo Children and Adolescents (TOLCA) organization. We’re working in conjunction with 
UNICEF and the Ministry of Health to improve hygiene and health education in rural villages. 
What this all means is that our village gets a free FLUSH toilet for our school. Corazon is very excited about the project, more excited about the fact that they don’t have to pay for it. But I hope to have everyone in the community try out the latrine once it’s done, see how they like it. As of now,
 there is only one pit latrine in the village, used by the schoolchildren; everyone else just uses the bush. The problem with this (besides the obvious) is that the pigs in the village are allowed to roam freely, 
and love to eat human feces (along with anything else that’s made of carbon and isn’t bolted to the ground). In addition, the children rarely wear shoes, so we have the highest rate of intestinal worms 
and blood borne parasites in the country. I say this stuff a lot, but it's why I'm here.

Our meeting today concerned matters like these, how to get communities to pen their livestock, incorporate hand washing and teeth brushing into the daily routine, and finally, work on issues of water sanitation and nutrition.

 

            Yesterday I woke up at 5 to the sounds of piglets squealing in agony. It sounded like they were just killing them, but very very slowly. I ran over and witnessed another new event: porcine castration. That’s all I’ll say about that.

 

            Then I went out with my host father and brother, Manuel and Leonardo, to the plantation. The job for the day was harvesting the end of the summer crop before the fall planting, to occur next week.

The plantation, or ‘C’al’, in kekchi, is a 45 minute walk from the village, close to the next village of San Lucas. Then the turn off into the jungle, where you walk for another twenty minutes or so; until 
we reach the cornfield, which is not a field as we know it, but a 5 acre patch of cleared jungle with corn stalks every 4 feet or so.

I’m not lying when I say I spent eight hours in the burning sun, breaking corn off the stalks\ (90% of which were hopelessly infected with weevils and earwigs and mites and other awesome stuff). 
“Oh, the pigs like to eat them.” I resented this information, because I hate pigs. I spent my whole
 day off harvesting pig food. But I got to hear a lot of good stuff about Manuel and his life. Corn is, in every sense of the definition, a way of life. When my host dad was growing up, corn tortillas were all 
they could eat, three meals a day. No rice, beans, flour, just corn. The only money would come from selling pigs, and it would take two days to get to PG town, by foot through the jungle, 
because there was no road. It’s going to sound ridiculous, but his story really made me 
appreciate all I have in Corazon, and how far the village has come in 20/30 years.
 

 

Finally I’d like to say a big THANK YOU (If you’re reading) to some awesome volunteers from St. Louis Missouri, (Anita, Donna, Barb, and several others whoes names I have forgotten) who stayed for a week, helping to teach in our village, offering their hands with tutoring and some super fun activities to supplement my  health promotion campaign. The kids still talk about them, and their amazing contributions of time (and toothpaste ; P ) is definitely appreciated. Love you guys!!

  • Current Music
    weezer

11 nov

I cannot believe this; but next week marks my FIFTH month in Belize. So far it’s been nothing but a huge mix of experiences, and I’m glad I get to share it with you!!

 

I feel like a criminal having internet access in the Peace Corps; especially working/living in third world conditions, but I’m going to neither complain nor take anything for granted, and hopefully my karma will straighten itself out.

 

Last night the parish priest came in from town with a gas generator, projector, speakers and a dvd player!! We watched, I couldn’t believe it, Bruce Almighty, and once everyone went to bed, highly confused but laughing about that wacky Jim Carrey, Father George goes “okay, eees time for ze next moooovieeee” (He’s from Berlin), and he pops in Braveheart. I was in heaven.

 

Tonight I went spearfishing with my host brother. The whole idea scares the crap out of me. Okay, let’s go diving blindly at night with sharp pointy springloaded death implements and bump into each other underwater.

 

The garden’s doing GREAT; unfortunately the one plant that’s doing the ABSOLUTE best is the okra. Jeez.

 

My birthday is this week, and I’ll either be really happy or really depressed. Happy because I’ll be too busy to think about it, or sad because I’ll just be stewing over how much I miss home and my friends. People don’t celebrate ANYTHING here; most children don’t even know how old they are, or when their birthday is.

 

So UNICEF is supposedly helping us out to build some flush toilets for the school, but I haven’t heard a word from them in two weeks. I REALLLLY hope this isn’t one of those experiences that makes people disillusioned and cynical about NGO’s. I’m not the kind of person who gets disillusioned easily, though, so we’ll work it out.

 

I’m starting the research for my house; if you don’t know I’m moving out of my host family’s thatch for the remainder of my tour; I’m going to try living/cooking on my own  (GOOD BYE CORN TORTILLAS!!! SEE YOU IN HELL!! MWAHAHAHAH!!!)

Anyway, the most likely prospect is an abandoned PC volunteer house by the school, which hasn’t been used since the Reagan Administration, meaning much work to do.

 

I’m also shopping around for some cheap solar power for a few lights in my village. Right now the going rate is $2000 Belize (1000 US), and I’m trying to go local to save on shipping.

 

I’m listening to the Dvorak 9 right now; I miss music history, I miss Alice Mitchell and Dr. Reardon (is that too weird?) I got a letter from Sue Peters, It is hilarious and I framed it.

 

College really was an amazing time in my life, and I will never forget it.

Also, I love Belize. That is all ::curtsy::

  • Current Music
    "from the new world"

A weekend in the...

capital!

Back up in belmopan todayy, big soccer game; the PC volunteer team is playing the belmopan 4-H organization. Goooooo gibnuts!!! 

A word on the gibnut. A gibnut is a large rodent indigenous to belize and most of Central America, basically an overgrown guinea pig (about the size of a small dog). It's weird, and mayans love to eat it. It's a little gamey, but generally tastes like pork. 

Calling all readers - I have a great opportunity for anyone in the States who wants to help me out. As many of you know, I'm trying to start a chess club in my village school, as part of the National Youth Chess Foundation's push to teach 1,000 children to play chess this year. Chess is a fantastic teaching tool, and really stimulates memory skills, problem solving, strategy, as well as a ton of other great qualities. I'm looking all over the country, but the only good, durable chess sets seem to come from the US. theres a great website http://www.thechessstore.com
anything in the "chess bags/travel set" section is ideal for us, and they're only around 10 dollars. It's a great creative opportunity to help out a  poor village in Belize!!! So please let me know if you're interested, or send anything (also accepting book donations for our library) ... particularly early children's reading books (1st grade reading level, VERY simple Dick & Jane type stuff)

For my penpals, I have to apologise for not having written lately, I've been getting pretty busy with school. BUT this weekend should be a little better timewise!

I am sad today; our country director Eileen Higgins AND our training director Anna Tonnes have both decided to resign, Anna moving to Peace Corps mexico and Eileen moving back home to the States. its quite a shock to all of us, and I'm going to seriously miss them both alot.

One day more

14/10 2007

            Okay, so it seems I’m stranded in town for another day, I missed the one bus to my village so I have to wait til Monday to get back. Which is good because I FINALLY get to go to church, on a Sunday. A real mass, in English, with an American priest. I cannot TELL you what a welcome experience it was. I felt so refreshed in the familiarity of the service, just as I know it at home. I went to St. Peter Claver church, right on the water, a church run by Jesuit priests (my favorite kind). My aunt Chris keeps writing me and telling me I should become a priest, and even if I don’t, Peace Corps is enough of a religious life anyway. She’s completely right. I feel like Jesus or John the Baptist in the desert out here, sometimes. I have more doubts every day than there are hairs on my head, but then maybe one or two good rewarding things happen to me, like I teach something that someone actually understands, or someone really wants to help me with gardening or learn about a health topic, and I feel good again. I just wish it weren’t so dang erratic.

           Anyway, I’m just sitting around with nothing to do; I’ve been wandering around looking for other volunteers, but they all seem to be out of town or something. I did find Nadov at church…a Jew, normally, his family ‘invites him’ to church with them every Sunday, though I get the feeling that he doesn’t have much of a choice. But of course he’s just too nice to say anything about it. Anyway it was good to see him, though I think I might have scared him off, seeming a little too excited. Haha. It’s amazing how weird an extroverted person gets when he’s isolated from the people he loves. Okay, I’m starting to sound like a freak. Talk to ya next week!!

  • Current Music
    rachmaninoff piano concerto no 3 (horowitz, of course)

dum da dum dum

13/10 2007

 

    Goood morning, world; another update from town

 

      I’m out of my village this weekend for a fantastic teaching workshop on chess! My dad taught me to play chess when I was like, eight years old, and I’ve always loved it. There’s been a push from some educators to start chess clubs in the village schools. It’s really a fantastic game for youth, because it teaches self-confidence, logic, strategy, sportsmanship, patience, among a kajillion other qualities. I’m taking this class with about 25 educators and volunteers, and it’s been a lot of fun. So by the time we get back to our classes, if I can ask anybody to donate a chess set (or four), we don’t have any funding for any of this extra educational materials so I’ll probably be making a few out of like, rocks and armadillo skins or something (kidding). But let me know if you’re interested in helping out.

 

      My mom mailed me a carepackage the size of a Volkswagen Golf, I got it yesterday. Rainbow cookies!!! AHH!!! I nearly fainted. But I didn’t. I just ate them. All of them.

Also I got a few donations of seeeeds! Our garden is starting to look GREAT, although our soil is not the most ideal composition, the compost pile is starting to come together, and soon I’ll – I mean we (hehe) will have our awesome vegetable garden.

 

       I’ve been fighting a recent bout of homesickness, and a cold. Mom calls me every week, and I’m starting to contact some great penpals back in Binghamton and Queens. I talked to my little cousin Paige online, she’s adorable. I feel bad about missing two years in the lives of all my little cousins and my family.

 

      Also, there’s a great organization called ClassConnect, which provides resources to any teachers in the states who want their class to collaborate/write letters/share ideas with a Peace Corps Volunteer. I’ve been interested in finding a class who’d like to write a letter a month or so, might want to learn more about Belize, Peace Corps, Social Studies, or the kind of work I’m doing here, just let me know!!

Life is what happens

Wow, life is starting to, and i never thought I'd say this; move extremely quickly around here; and I hope it holds out for two years.

So far, our village has started mapping our garden, my family is getting to work on the first private latrine in Corazon creek. They've opted for the elevated platform model, a lovely choice for high water table/mosquito areas.

one of my neighbors has been afflicted with malaria, and I needed to do some urgent pleading to get him to go to a doctor for treatment. Malaria and Dengue seem to be treated with a certain amount of apathy, as it only happens every few years, and nobody dies from it. The truth is, the high fever stage can definitely kill a few brain cells if you're not aggressive with the quinine treatments. 
Also, my host sister was struck with some acute appendicitis and went in for surgery on monday, while I was out. The recovery for an appendectomy should be a while, but they sent her back home after less than a day. Not good; I'm praying that nothign gets infected. That would be worse than a ruptured appendix...well maybe not really.
 
I miss everyone at home, and I'm reading all your linked livejournals. APPARENTLY, young dustin  has a tattoo, now; you can see the lovely picture on his lj ('_abattoirnoises') I miss him a LOT-alot; 
and mom, and grace and harrison and dad and chris and family and Everything else. Thats the one thing that never seems to get easier; thinking about them.

But keeping busy helps. we're starting some planning meetings to start a new library building for the school, and we applied for a national grant for a new school building and health post.

  • Current Music
    Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin

welcome to paradise

I have just had the GREATest weekend. it was like vacation!! i really needed a break, so i decided on thursday to take a bus up to orange walk, probably the farthest i could possibly go and still be in Belize

Orange Walk town is really really cool and there live the greatest girls Ever, namely Jenny Soto and Nikki the Mormon (Not her real full name). We went dancing and watched the Independence day Parade!
then I went to Belize city the next day for the carribbean Carnival celebration. they had a HUUUGE parade, and bigger parties afterwards. Everyone went to the Princess casino/hotel, but clare and I went back to her place and watched the Office and ate pancakes.

on a related note, I love clare. We spent hours walking around brodies and swapping itunes music.

today, im in belmopan, getting my books and encyclopedae together, to start building up the library in corazon. We start gardening this week. 
all in all, a good, much-needed mental health break.