Saturday, July 07, 2007

From Belize, a Web Special: Mom asks, Sarah answers.

Mom sent Peter and me an email today, asking us a series of questions. These are my answers (I'll let Peter answer for himself). I figure that if Mom is wondering these things, then maybe the whole world is wondering. (Maybe.) Also, I'm trying to be more public and more regular about both (a) my travel and (b) my writing. La. Here we are.

Does everyone speak English or English and Spanish?
Everyone speaks English, and some speak Spanish. Peter is getting to use his Spanish just a little bit, but I think he would like to be able to use it more. More people speak Creole and English (There's a Creole sign for a chicken place we pass every day to and from school: Dis da fi wi chickin! We're not sure what it means.), and we have to ask our students to repeat themselves until they drop the Creole and speak in English. There are a surprising number of Chinese here, too. Our classes actually look very Valley Stream-esque, without the Europeans, of course. And no Middle Easterners.

How many children are in your classes?
We have three classes, each with between 15-20, depending on how many kids come and when and whether or not the kids who are doing the soccer camp across the street and our classes decide to go to soccer or, for instance, reading. (You can guess which one they usually choose.)

What is the teaching the last week in another place?
We'll be teaching exactly what we're teaching now for two weeks (M-Th, then M-F) in San Antonio, a village of 3,000 people scattered across a little jungle hillside about an hour's bus ride from PG, where we're staying. We went in today to see if we could find the principal and make arrangements for our transportation (buses in the morning only go 2/3s of the way there, to the junction ("the Junction," they call it) where the highway turns). So, we hopped an old, green and yellow painted school bus, paid our $1.50 per person, and jumped and stopped and sped there. It was beautiful. Idyllic, almost. And so cool. Now we have one week left teaching here in PG (it feels like forever and also like three seconds) and then we'll have 9 teaching days of 5 am morning buses (5 am), and then we'll teach from 8-11:30, 12:00-1:30, and we'll take the 2 pm bus home. Shorter teaching day, longer day. But I'm hoping to do some swimming, maybe just after school, in this milky, shady river/creek that's at the bottom of the hill San Antonio's set on. There's a tree that reaches out low and over the water, and today on our way back, we saw 20-something-aged men diving from the tree and treading in the water. It was great.

What are you eating and drinking? (Can you drink water and eat fresh food or not?)
We spend a lot of our time negotiating food, as you can imagine. Peter is usually the one who spearheads this effort, asking right after we've eaten one meal, what we're planning to do for dinner. We buy bottled water and drink that. (There are a lot of little groceries around.) Annette brought a cool water purifying system, and we purify water through that and use that to mix with Kool-Aid (Drinki, it's called) or juice concentrate or powdered milk. We eat out once a day, usually for lunch, and we eat at any of the little shack-type restaurants that line our street. We just had fry jack and black beans and banana shakes. Fry jack is just deep-fried puffy dough, we dipped in this black bean paste (like really smooth refried beans but made of black beans) that we find in a lot of dishes (burritos, for instance). We love the black beans. We made french toast for dinner last night, splurging on margarine we used to grease the bottom of a pot (we have a little gas stove/oven). Peter bought this great brown sugar for cheap, which he used to make syrup Mom-style. It was so tasty--thick and brown and sugary. This morning, while we lounged, Peter went to the market and came back with a giant bag full of fruit we're excited to eat--fresh stuff. Bananas, papaya, mangos, watermelon, limes. But we will, likely, keep eating a lot of canned beans and canned tomatoes and canned corn, etc. But we've been eating well--very simply--and enjoying it.

What is the Church situation?
We're trying to figure out church right now. The nearest church is not, as we thought, close by. Apparently, it's across the water in Guatemala. A 45-minute, $30ish roundtrip boat ride. The problem is, the boat only leaves at 9:15 and returns at 2. There is a church in Belize, which is Dangriga, but that's a 2-hour bus ride. Also, we don't know where that is or at what time. This is our goal for the evening. We'll see what tomorrow brings, but part of me is excited either way. Traveling here feels so easy--just sit back and look at the beauty and newness and strangeness and miles we're passing. It all makes me feel more loving and older and wider-eyed.

What are your rooms like?
Our apartment is this little cabiny type suite at the third-floor of our hotel. It's very cute and clean. We have a front room, with small plastic table, fridge, microwave (which we haven't used), gas stove and oven we have to light with a lighter. Then we have two bedrooms off of that. Peter has one, with a double bed. The girls and I share the other; Michelle and I share a double, and Annette has a twin/full. Both rooms have air conditioning, but Peter's better than ours. I'm not complaining though; they're great. The fourth quadrant of the suite is a rather large bathroom, bigger than any we have at home. The toilet paper dispenser is a very cool, thick wooden fish. The bathroom is not scary at all. It is nice to go home. We live in apartment #3.

Is there anything we can do to help you?
We're doing great. I wished I'd brought an assistant for each class, so Michelle and I could have a Peter, too. We should come down here as a family. It's so easy, comparatively, and there's no reason the girls couldn't be helpful. In fact, they would be great helps to us, I think. It's a beautiful world, and it feels close to home--much closer--than Ghana in large part, I think, because we're on the same side of the same ocean. There's really only land between us and Dallas is just a few hours away.

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