Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Last Post of This Great Adventure!

As promised yesterday, here are my top ten realizations/moments/ and things I will miss.  I decided to put them all together so that I could make it short and sweet.

10. I can't live without air conditioning for an extended period of time.  Call me a pansy, but it is true.  I feel like I've adjusted very well to the culture here and the way of life, but I never really adjusted to the extreme heat and am glad to be going home to air conditioning.

9. I've developed a passion for traveling and want to see more of the world.  Having the opportunity to student teach in Belize has only opened the door for me to travel to see other amazing places in the world.  Although they probably won't be for as long, I definitely have several places that I want to travel to soon.

8.  I'm going to miss the freshly squeezed orange juice and buying fresh fruit from the vendors on the street throughout the day.  There's no comparison to the fruit here.

7. I'm going to miss the overwhelming kindness and friendliness of the people here.  From making friends to being brought gifts from my kids and their parents to show their appreciation, I can say that I have been blessed to have met so many wonderful people.

6.  Time goes by way too fast.  As one of the things I found very difficult to adjust to in the beginning, I've learned to appreciate the most, the slow paced way of life.   In America we are always constantly doing something, whether it is with work, school, or friends.  The people here take it day by day and make it a point to enjoy the simple things, such as a hot afternoon at the river with family and friends.  Even though many Americans would consider Belizians to have a lower standard of living compared to the U.S., I feel that they have a higher standard of life.  You always see people out smiling and enjoying the day, from the wee ones to the adults. 

5. Studying abroad has opened my eyes to appreciate other peoples' beliefs and way of life, but has also strengthened my own beliefs.

4. Teaching is the most rewarding job on Earth. Period.  People think you're crazy for doing it and try to talk you out of it.  Lord knows you don't do it for the money or benefits.  You do it for the kids.  As a person without kids, my students are the closest thing that I have.  Nothing makes me smile bigger than when kids run up to me with huge smiles on their faces and hug me like they haven't seen me in forever.  It's a blessing to known that what I am teaching them will help them be successful in their lives. 

3. My confidence in teaching has grown tremendously.  If I could succeed being completely out of my element, with a chalkboard, plain paper, and no copy machine, I am excited to see what I can do with the resources available back home. I've learned new teaching strategies and acquired skills for differentiation.  One of the areas that I felt I struggled in was in differentiation especially with language barriers.  Having the opportunity to work with ESL students has definitely increased my confidence.

2. As a result of this experience I have become more independent, assertive, and confident.  I now feel more prepared to graduate and find the job I've always wanted.

1. Although this experience was mainly for educational purposes, I will never forget about the fun times.  From swimming in the river, relaxing on the beach, climbing to the top of every Mayan ruin structure, going to barbeques, and just hanging with friends, this was an experience of a lifetime and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do it.

Thanks for reading my blog! I hope you all have enjoyed it!

Monday, May 6, 2013

I realized I submitted my last post before revising, my apologies.

* in a very high position with the government
Sunday- Sunday proved to be a day full of surprises.  Diane invited me to tag along to Melchor Guatemala to order a specialty cake for her anniversary party later in May.  Exited to travel to another country, get my passport stamped, and help out a friend, I jumped at the opportunity.  We left San Ignacio around 6 that morning and made our way to the border.  At the border I paid my processing fee and leisurely moved through the line.  When the lady reviewed my passport she said that I was late.  A bit confused, I asked her to explain what that meant.  She said that essentially it meant that I was living in Belize illegally.  When visitors come to Belize they get a passport stamp that allows them to be in the country for a month.  Carly and I have been here for a month and four days.  She said that since I was illegal, that she could have me arrested and taken to jail.  Completely freaking out, I looked to Diane with panic evident on my face.  She immediately called her husband, who is a major public figure here in Belize and works very high position in the government.  The not so nice lady told me to stay put and said that ultimately it would be up to her supervisor to decide what to do with me.  Eventually I was transferred to the supervisor's office.  He was very polite and made small conversation with me.  He explained that I was illegal because I had stayed past the time given to visitors without an employment license even though I have a provisional license.  He told me that I could by an extension, which would give me another month to stay in Belize.  I gladly agreed as relief washed over me at the realization that I wasn't going to jail.  He complimented my southern drawl and mentioned that he had previously lived in the United States and particularly favored Americans.  He told us to have a great rest of the day and to enjoy Guatemala.  Once in Guatemala, I was shocked by the difference from Belize.  Guatemala, of course, is primarily Spanish speaking and I only knew the essential words like bano, adios, buenos dias, si, perdon, etc.  Luckily, I had Diane with me who can speak both Spanish and English fluently and can switch back and forth like it is nothing.  We traveled to a couple of cake places and finally found a cake that she fell in love with and cost $300.  Afterwards, we tried some authentic desayuno or breakfast at a local restaurant.  We then went to the market where she bought several items for her girls and I just looked around soaking in the scenery.  We traveled back to Belize in the afternoon.  After all the excitement of the day, Carly and I headed to the river for a relaxing afternoon and then grabbed some pasta at Greedy's.

Monday- Today was our last full day at St. Andrews.  Carly and I were recognized at the assembly this morning and were given gifts from the school.  I got a St. Andrews t-shirt, a Belizian wallet, earrings, and a key chain with the Belizian flag on it.  It was so heart-warming to be recognized by the school, the staff, and the students.  I was also by myself with my students today, which was nice.  I taught scripture, went into more depth with telling time, worked on contractions and words that end in -ss, and taught about fire safety.  At the end of the day, I presented my students with the gifts that I brought for them, which were pennies and stickers. (I had to pack light.)  The students loved them!  They had stickers all over their faces and clothes, which I'm sure their parents appreciated.  After school, some of Carly's students taught us how to do the punta which is a popular dance here in Belize.  It was interesting and challenging to say the least.  After we left school, I went downtown and did a little bit of last minute souvenir shopping.  I have no idea how I'm going to bring this stuff home.  Every time I go out, I find something that I think someone would like. It is a bit of a problem.  Tomorrow I am going to have lunch one last time with my kiddos before we leave and then Carly and I are going to finish up some last minute errands and pack.  Tomorrow I will post my top ten realizations/moments from this experience as my final post.  I can't wait to share!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Last Few Days of School

Wednesday- We spent the entire day at the river with our basketball friend Raul and his friends.  We went down rapids, soaked up the sun, and just relaxed.  It was a fantastic holiday!  Raul took us to his mom's restaurant, the only restaurant in the village, to eat lunch.  I had some nice rice and beans.  When something tastes really good here, people say, "That tastes nice!" where we say, "That is really good!" I think I'm finally catching on to this Belizian slang.  Perfect timing since we leave in less than a week.  That night we bought some ganaches and palentas and had a picnic.  You can check out the pictures on Facebook.  Raul also gave me a tutorial on how to properly cut a coconut.  I even used a huge machete! However, once I came within an inch of slicing my thumb off, he took the lead and finished it for me.  Fresh coconut is the best! We stayed in Ontarrio until late evening and then headed home on the bus.  

Thursday- On Thursday, I taught my students the scripture story, "The Burning Bush."  This term is a big assessment term, so I also worked on grades and assessments while my teacher was instructing.  During the Language Arts block, I worked with my small group on extending their knowledge of contractions and worked on more sight word practice.  I've noticed that their ability to recognize common sight words has definitely grown.  This has come with repetition and practice as we have been working very hard.  My students also participated in their presentations on the rights of a child and their traffic sign models.  Thursday afternoon, there was an assembly/pep rally to get the students excited for the student election the next day.  Thursday night Carly and I had dinner with our friends Mason and Alex at Rositas and then did a little grocery shopping.

Friday- Friday was a half day for my students and we spent the morning testing on scripture, multiplication, and telling time.  In the afternoon I had the honor of being the presiding officer for the student election.   The students had the opportunity to vote for another student to be the principal for a day.  The students formed their own parties and their own campaign tactics.  All month long the representatives for each party went around and campaigned in each of the classrooms.  Some of the representatives even made t-shirts and cards.  The representatives promised longer lunch and recess breaks, no homework, sports days, and more if they were voted the principal for a day.  As the presiding officer, I signed each ballot in order to make it valid and made sure each student dipped their finger in stain to show that they had voted.  I then got to help count the votes.  The teacher volunteers here get quite the treatment at St. Andrews. Friday night I went and had dinner with some friends and then got my nails done with Diane and played with her kiddos.

Saturday- Today I slept in and then went to get brunch with Diane at La Aguada.  In the afternoon I went to the annual Agriculture Expo/Fair at the capital, Belmopan. This expo was huge!  There were all kinds of vendors selling their goods and products. There were tons of rides for kids as well as different farm animal.  It is the biggest fair in Belize.  I'm pretty sure that every single person in Belize was at this fair.  It was so crowded.  I was able to get a couple of gifts and souvenirs for family back home as well as a couple of things for myself.  I ate the best hot dog I've ever had and just enjoyed walking around taking everything in.  I ended up meeting my friend Alex there and he introduced me to some of his friends.  Later, I went to go catch the bus, but had a tiny mishap.  I stepped on a fire ant hill and before I knew it what felt like a hundred ants were attacking my feet and biting me.  Needless to say, I made a fool of myself by running around, screaming and smacking the ants off of me. After the ant mishap, I finally boarded the bus and headed home.  It was a great Saturday, but I'm exhausted. Trying to get everything in before we leave is more challenging than I thought.   

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lots of updates!

Friday- After school, Carly and I went to the waterpark and hung out with some of our kiddos.  Later that evening we embarked on a three hour bus ride to Belize City to watch our friend Raul play college basketball.  The basketball arena was very different from our arenas in the U.S.  It was covered by a metal roof, but was open on all sides with the sea breeze coming in.  A big tournament was held over the weekend and the games were so intense.  I can say that I witnessed several dunks and some injuries as well.  After the game, we realized that we were stranded in the city as the buses had already stopped running and our arranged ride with the basketball team fell through.  The team had decided to stay the night and we weren't prepared to do that.  Carly and I had to end up  paying $250 for a cab to take us back to San Ignacio two and a half hours away. Now we will know to pay special attention to the bus schedule.  

Saturday- We got up early, packed, and got great breakfast at Pop's.  Our friend Diane came to pick us up around noon to leave for Placencia.  Placencia is about three hours away from San Ignacio.  Needless to say, we did a lot of traveling over the weekend.  Is it bad that I enjoyed the long car ride for the simple fact that we got to sit in air conditioning?  Unlike in the states, there are no laws regarding child restraints here.  Therefore, Carly and I had a five year old, Chelsie and a two year old, Eva in the backseat with us the whole time.  It was a verry entertaining car ride.  We arrived at Placencia and checked into our beach front cabana at the Tradewinds.  Our cabana was complete with a hammock on the porch, a king size bed, a full size bed, and a kitchenette. We started off the evening by taking a nap in the hammock.  We played with the girls in the sand enjoyed the beautiful weather.  It was like a picture out of a postcard.  We walked right out of our cabana and we were at the beach.  Diane brought tons of snacks, so we just relaxed outside on the beach.  That night, Diane treated us to a night out on the town. We ended up going to this place called Robert's Grove, which is a super fancy resort.  We were treated to dinner on the beach front, complete with a live band, and a buffet.  Everything from fresh fruit, salad, seafood, and steak was on the buffet.  I finally got my shrimp fix, so I was a happy camper.  We found out later that dinner for the three of us was $250 and was graciously paid for by Diane.  She brings a whole new meaning to the word hospitable.  Later that night we walked around on the boardwalk and checked out the different restaurants, cabanas, and small town activities that were going on.  Around 12:30 a.m. we called it tonight.  I don't remember dreaming or even falling asleep and then next thing I knew the sun was shining in through the windows and a little girl was calling my name.  The cabana had large, open windows on all sides.  Chelsie had climbed up in a chair, peeked her head through the window and was whispering, "Miss. Rogers! Miss. Rogers! Can you please get up now? You promised me you would go to the beach and play and you've been sleeping for forever." As much as I wanted to go back to sleep, I just couldn't ignore her.  So, I got up and went out on the porch, only to find out it was just Eva, Chelsie, and the babysitter Chantel.  Their parents were still asleep.  Chantel took the girls to the beach and I went back to bed, with the promise that we would join them later.  You have to know that this was at like 6:00 a.m.  Next we were woken up by Diane who brought us breakfast in bed.  I feel like breakfast in bed is something you experience on your honeymoon, not on a study abroad trip by a good friend.  I wasn't going to complain though.  She brought us cinnamon toast and ham and eggs.  I couldn't have imagined a more perfect morning, waking up in paradise and good food.  Diana asked us to let Chelsie tag along with us while she went to go see her family.  We played in the ocean and on the beach, then we took her out for ice cream at this place called Tuti Fruti.  It was the best ice cream I have ever had and to make it even more perfect, they had my favorite flavor, mint chocolate chip.  Placencia was such a great trip and I am so glad that we got the opportunity to go with our good friend and her family.  We got back to San Ignacio around 8:00 and had a pretty simple night in order to recuperate from all the fun we had over the weekend.

Monday- I really miss my kids over the weekends and its and indescribable feeling when they first see you and run up  to giving you a hug like they haven't seen you in a year.  My teacher is back this week and so it is a little weird adjusting from teaching everything to co-teaching.  I am very impressed with how my teacher scaffolds the students when introducing new concepts.  I am still working with my Spanish as a first language learners during the Language Arts block.  We've worked on words with the -ll ending and used it as a bridge to introduce contractions with will.  Each week the teachers have to do evaluations on their teaching practice and how students responded to the material.  Since I was in charge last week, I completed all of the evaluations.  I think this is a great way to reflect on how the lessons went, what steps need to be taken next, and what could be done differently,etc.  Monday afternoon, Dr. Harrison arranged for Carly and I to go to another school to observe.  We went to a Nazarene school here in San Ignacio.  I was in a Standard II class, which would be our equivalent to 4th grade.  Everything was so different, from the way they kept books, to the teaching styles, to discipline for the children.  It was great to get to experience another school, even if it was just for an afternoon.

Tuesday- I continued my work with my group of students and participated in co-teaching exercises with Ms. Chavaria.  After school, we went to the river to cool off and grabbed a late dinner with friends.

Wednesday-Today is a holiday, Labor Day, so there is no school.  We are celebrating by going to the village of Ontarrio with some friends to swim and hang out for the day. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I apologize for the lack of posts this week.  It's just so hard to make myself sit down and document everything when there is so much going on.  This week has basically been the equivalent to a solo week in the U.S. with student teaching.  My teacher has been covering for another class all week and I have had the kiddos to myself.  It has definitely been a challenge, but has been so rewarding.  It is going to be so hard to leave my kids, I've become so attached in just a short time.  One of my students asked if she could take a picture with me so that I would never forget her and remember her for forever.  Classroom management has been a struggle, but the students are so eager to learn and want to share everything.  I've taught everything from scripture, telling time, adjectives, reading comprehension, rights and responsibilities, simple machines, volleyball, and art.  I think I'm becoming a very well-rounded person.  I feel so much more comfortable and prepared.  I sat down with the other infant II teachers and planned out next week's lessons, which gave me more insight on how they plan, such as their format, standards, resources, etc. I feel like I am becoming part of the staff as I am interacting with other faculty and sharing ideas with them. Tomorrow, I get the honor to be a judge in the school spelling bee.  I am so excited!  Four of my students will be in the contest and I am anxious to see how they do.  After the spelling bee tomorrow, my class is going on a field trip to a book launch. 

This week has been great! After work Carly and I have just enjoyed the small town life.  We pick a new restaurant to try each night and we often meet up with different friends to just socialize and hang out.  It's like being on summer break here. We are actually going over to our friend Diane's house to have dinner tonight.  We have also done a little souvenir shopping and I am almost done. I don't want to give anything away, so I will leave it at that.  On a wild note, I held and took a picture with a parrot named Flayva today.  I'm getting so bold and adventurous. 

Fun festivities are in store for this weekend and I probably won't post until Monday.  Carly and I are spending the afternoon at the waterpark tomorrow with some friends.  Tomorrow evening we are going to watch our friend Raul play college basketball in Belize City for Galen University.  Then on Saturday we are leaving for our paradise getaway, Placencia.  We will be spending the night and returning on Sunday evening. We plan to do some snorkeling and relaxing on the beach. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What a great weekend! Friday Carly and I got to leave school at lunch to go on a trip to Dangriga with the students of Galen University.  Joshua, the international provost arranged the trip.  He offers a drumming class at the university and invited us to tag along. We began the bumpy two and a half hour drive south.  Some other international students came along and we met two girls from Canada, Amber and Kristina, and two guys from the United States, Sean from Michigan and Trevor from Nebraska.  It was really nice to meet some other international students and we've planned to hang out with them more these last couple of weeks.  Hanging out with the Galen students was a blast!  We stayed at a hotel on the beach called Pal's Guest House and it had air conditioning.  It was such a luxury and I slept like a baby!  We all hung out on the beach and listened to Belizian music.  We went to an authentic restaurant restaurant for dinner and I had rice and beans.  Then we went to a seaside area with a huge thatched hut where our drumming activities took place.  That night we were treated to a live band called, Sweet Pain, Baby! The band consisted of women and men in traditional dress that performed music from the culture in Dangriga, using a variety of drums.  It is tradition that the women come out and pull out members in the audience to dance.  Before we knew it, we were all out there dancing, paying no attention to how ridiculous we looked. The music here is so difficult to dance to.  It is extremely fast.  I mean I love to dance and all, but it was definitely a challenge.  I learned that as long as you are moving your feet and hips, you are good.  After the drumming activity, a dance party at Di Spot was planned for us as another live band was playing.  It was so much fun!  We danced the night away until about 2:00 a.m.  We ended the night by hanging out on the beach with our new friends.

Saturday, we woke up and went back to the thatched hut on the beach for our next drumming activity.  Together as students, we labored all day and made our very own drum.  I can now say that I know exactly how a drum is made.  It is such tedious, but beautiful work.  About seven to eight drums can be made out of a single log, depending on the size.  To prepare the drums, the logs are cut with a chainsaw, measured and sketched out with a makeshift compass, then the bark is peeled off.  Next, the drum is cut out using the sketch from the compass markings and then hollowed out using a chainsaw.  Then the wood is sanded until it is as soft as a baby's bottom.  While this is occurring, either goat, sheep, or deer skin is used to create the top part of the drum.  A knife is used to shave off the hair or fur.  Vines from the jungle are used to secure the animal skin over the top of the drum and rope is then used to stretch and tighten the skin to create the drum.  We worked all day long and finally completed our drum.  I now understand why these drums are so expensive.  The small drums are around $200 U.S.  It was so nice to work outside on the beach and enjoy the sea breeze.  Even though the temperature was in the upper 90s, we didn't even notice because the breeze was so nice.  For lunch we got to buy fresh fruit and juice from for the local market.  I am really going to miss being able to take a five minute walk to go buy some watermelon and pineapple when I come back to the U.S. We left Dangriga in the late afternoon and got back to San Ignacio in the evening.  We were exhausted from the trip and were excited for a relaxing night with friends at a barbecue.  At the barbecue, I tried chicken feet.  Let's just say that I won't be eating it again.  It was probably the craziest thing I have ever tried, but hey, at least I can say I tried it.  Our friends want us to try iguana before we leave, but I don't know if I am bold enough for that. 

So far we have had a very relaxing Sunday, which has been extremely nice.  We got to sleep in for the first time in awhile and then we grabbed breakfast at a local restaurant called Pop's.  The restaurant is owned by one of my student's mom.  She invited Carly and I for a free breakfast, and we took full advantage.  Later today we are going to go to a ranch with a couple of friends, do some horseback riding, have another barbecue, and swim in the river.  You've got to love Sundays!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lots to share!  Last night one of my student's mom wanted to take Carly and I out to dinner.  She took us to La Guera, her favorite restaurant, and we ate under a cabana.  I had chicken wings and french fries and let me just tell you, it hit the spot.  I have definitely missed American food. We stayed there and talked and laughed for hours.  It's amazing how easy it is to make friends here.  I barely knew this young mom and she just up and talked to me and then invited us out to dinner. 

Ms. Chavaria told me that she would not be at school today or tomorrow.  The principal asked if I minded being by myself or if I would rather have a substitute with me.  I felt up for a challenge, so I told her not to worry about getting a sub.  So I went from teaching two subjects a day to teaching all of them.  Today was definitely a challenge, but I absolutely loved it.  I taught scripture this morning with a story about Peter, James, John and Jesus.  My second graders are learning multiplication and they have just about mastered it with their ones, twos, threes, fives, and tens.  It has been so rewarding to see them grow from seeing multiplication as repeated addition and using manipulatives such as the beans and egg cartons to being able to do it without manipulatives and more mentally.  I discussed adjectives more in depth and the students got to take turns describing me and each other.  I also taught a lesson in Social Studies on citizens' rights.  I utilized cooperative learning and assigned each group a right.  Their task was to depict their assigned right and present it too the class.  As I mentioned before, the schools here do not have related arts teachers, instead the main teacher fills all of the positions. Today, I also got to be the art teacher and the students drew a picture of a place in the world that they would like to visit someday.  Kids drew everything from China, to the U.S. to Disney World.   Planning and implementing activities are somewhat difficult here without the resources that I am use to having, such as a school computer, printer, a vast array of books, workbooks, manipulatives, art supplies, etc.  Therefore, I have to get a little creative when planning activities and lessons for the students.

Tonight, Carly and I are going out with some friends to get pizza and karaoke!  This will probably be my last post for the next couple of days.  Carly and I are leaving half a day tomorrow to go with students from Galen University to Dangriga for an overnight trip to learn how to make drums.  I'm pretty excited for this trip, but a little intimidated because the students we are going with are drummers and have been taking classes.  Carly and I are just going to wing it.  I've also heard that there is a beach there! I'm ready to get my beach fix.  I think a fun weekend at the fair in one of the villages and afternoons at the river are in store for the next couple of days.  Until then, adios!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Since this is my second week at St. Andrews I have started to pick up and teach a couple of lessons a day.  This week I started with Social Studies and taught a lesson on rules and their purpose.  I was also in charge of the homework block.  I am also in charge of a small group that I pull out during Language Arts time.  This group is challenging in that these students are primarily Spanish speaking and are having trouble with the foundations of the English language.  The teacher is allowing me to design my own instruction for these students.  On Monday I began by review letters and sounds and had the students brainstorm words that began with those letters.  Today I introduced a variety of blends.  I read a book to the students and had them identify various blends within the text.  I'm enjoying interacting with the students and am grateful for the opportunity to teach.

Monday, April 15, 2013

What a weekend!  It has been non-stop fun since Friday evening after school.  Carly and I scheduled a three in one tour for Rio Frio Cave, Caracol, and Rio On River.  Our tour was an all day activity for Saturday. We left at seven and began our adventure in a Range Rover.  We began the two hour drive to Carocol on the bumpiest road you could ever imagine.  Only the main roads here in Belize are paved,the others are dirt, or worse. I was riding in the backseat and at one point we hit a pothole big enough to cause my sunglasses to fly off my head and me hit the roof of the car, and this was with the seat belt on.  Three hours of this fun in all.  It was just the two of us with our friendly tour guide Randy. He was great!  Our first stop was the Rio Frio cave which stands for cold river. This cave was more like a tunnel because you could see right through to the other side.  It had the most beautiful scenery and was massive!  There are pictures in my album. Then we hopped back in the rover and headed another hour up to Pine Ridge and Caracol.  The roller coaster ride continued. Belize is unique in that it has two main types of vegetation with abrupt changes in the various regions. For example, one minute we were driving through areas with hundreds of pine trees and the next minute we were driving through the rainforest. We finally reached Carocal, which is the largest Mayan ruin site.  Words can not explain how awesome this experience was.  You will just have to check out the pictures. Randy gave us a short history talk and explained each one of the structures, what time it was built and used, its purpose, etc.  Then we climbed to the top of EVERY single one of the structures.  I'm talking hundreds of stairs. It was so neat to check out their living quarters, the structures for the elite class, the tombs, and other artifacts.  I probably took way to many pictures.  Our tour included lunch and we got to eat under a cabana.  Our day of fun continued when we got to the Rio On River pools.  This was the perfect way to end our day and cool off.  The place on the river that we went had waterfalls and pools of refreshing cool water.  Carly and I explored a bit and climbed up the waterfalls and rocks.  Randy then dropped us off at the town market, which is a big hit on Saturdays and we got a chance to see all of the fruits and products that the locals sell.  Every fruit under the sun is available here, which makes me a very happy camper.  Pineapple has become a part of my everyday diet.  You just can't beat it for 50 cents.  We made it back to our home, showered and change and then grabbed some nachos on the town square. What a day!

Sunday was just as eventful.  We met some locals, Mason and Alex, on Saturday night and invited them to go to Xunantunich, which is another Mayan ruin site.  We met up at 9 o'clock sharp and caught the bus, an experience in itself.  The bus only cost $1.50 in Belizian money which is like 75 cents with our currency.  Then we had to catch a ferry across the river and the nice driver let me crank the ferry across.  It was so cool.  We met some American girls from Kentucky and California that work with Teach for America.  They were visiting because one of their friends was getting married here at a resort.  So, we hung out with them and our local friends.  We climbed to the very top of the tallest structure at Xunantunich and we could see the Guatemalan border.  I'm not going to lie, it was pretty intense being up that high and we posed for a picture with our feet dangling.  By this time we were sweating as we had climbed so so many stairs and we had walked over 2 miles to and from the site.  Our friends invited us to go to the river and cool off.  So we got some lunch to go and headed for the river.  We enjoyed our lunch on the bank and swam at Sandy Bay, also known as the Mical River.  After cooling off in the river, the boys dared us to jump off the 30 foot cliff.  Since I can't turn down a dare, I was game.  The boys decided that we would make our own path to the cliff.  Let's just say that Carly and I got a big dose of nature on Sunday.  We climbed under logs, up trees, up and over rocks, all while on the side of a cliff. When we finally made it to the jump, Mason went first.  I was next.  Alex had to help me get to the jump spot because at one point you had to swing out over the river in a tree to get to the other side of the rock to jump where it was safe.  I have never been so scared.  Once I was up there, I was convinced that it was way more than 30ft, but I put on my big girl pants, held my breath and jumped.  It was probably one of the coolest things that I've ever done.  Apparently the cliff has different spots where you can jump, with 30ft being the shortest and l20ft the highest point.  I have to do the 120ft jump before I leave, but I've got three weeks to prepare myself.  After our fun at the river, the boys invited us to go watch them play community basketball and hang out at the park. It was a perfect way to end a Sunday.  Sundays are family days here.  All of the shops and businesses in town close on Sundays and the Belizians really respect Sunday as the day of rest.  Hundreds of people were out enjoying the river and just spending time with their families.  I hope every weekend is this fun!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Don't forget to check out the cute pictures of my kiddos that I just posted!
I feel like I am finally adjusting to the routine and schedule of the school as well as the workday.  Today is Friday and I wrapped up my first week at St. Andrews.  I learn something new every day and am growing to love my students and their parents more each day.  I actually feel like a part of the school here.  My teacher, Ms. Chavari and I get along so well and we have a lot in common.  The schedule here for the school is different. Mondays through Thursdays Infant classes I and II attend school from 8:30 to 2:20and on Fridays these classes dismiss at lunch time.  However, the teachers have to stay until 3:40 everyday.  This week Carly and I have been staying until 5:00 or later.

In the U.S. typically teachers have a planning period at some point throughout each day.  This is normally during the students' specials time.  Here at St. Andrews there are no related arts classes, these elements are incorporated in the classroom with the teacher.  As a result, the teachers do not get a daily planning period.  The Infant II teachers utilize the time that they have on Thursdays from 2:20 to 3:40 and Fridays from 12:45 to 3:40 to do the planning for the next week.  Each week the teachers are required to turn in a weekly summary lesson plan that outlines what they will do for each subject each day. These lessons must be aligned with the national standards, contain the content addressed, strategy utilized, and the method for assessment.  This is similar to what is required in the U.S. at many schools. 

One thing that is very different from schools in the U.S. is the lack of technology.  None of the classrooms at the school have any form of technology.  No computers, iPads, iPods, CD players, radios, etc.  There are also no whiteboards, just chalk boards.  Sometimes the students have to draw their own lines on their paper for writing.  St. Andrews is considered one of the more prestigious schools, so I would love to visit another school that represents the other end of the spectrum. I found out that my teacher just learned how to use a computer this year. She took a course at the University of Belize, as she is currently taking courses to become a licensed teacher.  She is working under a provisional license as of now and has 26 years of experience.  She is extremely interested in how certification and education works in the U.S. and I am happy to answer her questions.  She actually just completed her internship, which would be equivalent to our student teaching and graduates in June.  We have bonded over this commonality since I will graduate in May.

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned how religion is incorporated into the curriculum.  Every Thursday all of the classes attend a church service at the local Anglican church down the road from the school.  The students sing songs, participate in giving offering, pray, and hear a sermon from the pastor. This was a very neat experience. 

I also mentioned before that the school dismisses for an hour for lunch every day.  During this time, many parents come in to pick up their children, take them to lunch, and then bring them back.  Other students eat at the Cafe, which reminds me of a summer camp canteen or concession stand.  They can try all kinds of goodies.  I tried what is called an "idele." It is a type of slushie/water popsicle, but about a million times better.  Nothing is better than an idele in this 103 degree heat. 

I am very impressed with the amount of parent involvement here at St. Andrews.  I see almost all of the parents on a daily basis. One of my student's parents brought me a huge piece of chocolate cake, one day just because.  Another student brings me a fresh banana each morning.  I talked with my teacher about this today because I thought it was so sweet and she said that it is simply the culture here.  She said that she gets something from at least one student each day.  It is the way that the parents and the students show how much the love and appreciate their teacher.  The students must love Ms. Chavari because we got cake, donuts, bananas, and croissants this week.  I think that I could really get used to this.  So much for trying to watch my weight while I am here.

I had the opportunity to participate in parent teacher conferences and the issuing of report cards today.  This was so neat as I was able to talk one on one with each parent about his or her child.  I it amazing what one can pick up on in just a week.  I can already identify many of the students strengths and some of their weaknesses as well as their interests and quirks.  One of the conferences was completely conducted in Spanish.  Many of the children and parents here can speak three languages, English, Creole, and Spanish and my teacher can communicate with all of them.  I would love to be multilingual or even bilingual for that matter. 

One of my student's mom really likes to talk and stays after to talk with me just about every day.  We exchanged contact information and she has offered to plan some fun weekend adventure for Carly and I.  Her and her husband own a couple of businesses in town and he is also the futbol supervisor for Belize.  Another one of my student's mom owns a restaurant and has invited Carly and I to come for a free breakfast one day. Did I mention that I love the people here?  Everyone is so welcoming and willing to help!

Carly and I have booked our first adventure for the weekend.  We will be going to Pine Ridge where we will see the 1,000 foot waterfall, explore a cave, and hike through the jungle.  We will also be visiting Caracol, which is a well known Maya ruin site.

We plan to go downtown tonight, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy the cool night weather.  We have made it a point to try a new restaurant every night.  

At first I was very out of my element in regards to the school, their discipline system, and curriculum, but now I am learning to appreciate what it has to offer and how it is effective in its own way. 

I am so glad that it is Friday night and I can't wait for the adventures that await us tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I'll try to keep my posts shorter, but it is just so hard when I want to share everything!  Today was my first day at St. Andrews.  The typical school day at St. Andrews could not be more different from a school day in the U.S.  We started out with a faculty meeting where the teachers prayed and sang church hymns together as well as a devotion with scripture.  St. Andrews is an Anglican school. All of the schools here are formed based on religious denominations.  There are Catholic, Anglican, Nazarene, and Baptist schools here.  There is no air conditioning in the classrooms, or anywhere in the school for that matter.  With it getting up to 100 degrees today, you can imagine how hot it was.  I am currently still adjusting.  The students started out with a twenty minute time block in which the teacher taught a bible lesson.  Then we spent an hour on math skills.  My students are currently learning the relationship between repeated addition and multiplication.  The students used beans and egg cartons as manipulatives to help them visualize the problems.  Recess was from 10:00 to 10:15.  Then we had an hour of language arts instruction where new vocabulary was introduced and the students practiced their writing.  St. Andrews has very high expectations for students' work and requires a high degree of neatness.  Unlike the United States, the schools have very limited access to worksheets, if any.  The students complete most of their work on notebook paper in small books.  After language arts, we dismissed for lunch.  Carly and I came home and Ms. Harrison made delicious chicken burritos and mango juice.  We assembled back at school and began social studies, where the students learned about transportation by air, water, and land.  Then we moved on to Spanish instruction and then finally homework time.  St. Andrews strives to give its students the opportunity to be bilingual.  Each day the afternoon schedule changes and students receive instruction in various areas.  Each time the students meet or dismiss they pray.  Religion is a key component of the curriculum here, which is very different from public schools in the U.S. 

Tonight Carly and I went downtown to grab a bite to eat and did some souvenir shopping.  Today was a very long, but great day.  I'm looking forward to relaxing and calling it a night. Pictures will be coming soon!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Check out my full profile to see pictures from Belize. (The link is on the right hand column)
Well, the internet connection at the Princess Hotel wasn't working, so I wasn't able to post or communicate with anyone Saturday or Sunday. Today has definitely made up for it though!

Today, the lovely Galen University representatives picked Carly and I up from the hotel and transported us to San Ignacio, Belize, which is about two hours away from Belize City.  They took us out to a traditional Belizian restaurant where I tried the well known plate, rice and beans.  They also have beans and rice, and no they are not the same thing, in fact they are very different.  I also tried some of their freshly squeezed orange juice, which was to die for.  I think I am going to make it a goal to try a new type of juice every day.  So far, I have tried orange, lime, and mango.  Watermelon is next on the list.  Joshua, Kristy, and Mr. Owen took us to Galen University where we met Dr. Aline Harrison, which is the nice lady that we are staying with.  They gave us a tour of the university.  It was so different from our universities and colleges in the U.S.  Their university only had four classrooms and was contained within one building. The neat part was that everyone knew everyone and the atmosphere was very relaxed.

Next on the agenda was to tour the school that we will be teaching at, St. Andrews. I met my host teacher, Ms. Avasiera. I'm sure I couldn't be more off with the spelling of her name.  She teaches Infant 2, which is the equivalent of second grade in the U.S.  I am so unbelievably excited to work with the students tomorrow.  The layout of the school is very different. First off, there is no air conditioning.  Did I mention that April and May are the hottest months of the year in Belize? Therefore, the weather is going to take some getting use to. The great thing is that the school is very open with lots of windows.  The students have their own cafe.  There is also a basketball court that the kids can play on during recess.  We get an hour lunch break in which we go home to eat our midday meal.  I'm excited for burritos tomorrow! Dr. Harrison's mother, Alicia will be cooking our midday meals. All this week I will be observing and getting to know the students, the teacher, and the school routine.

After the tour of the school, Dr. Harrison took us downtown, which is only a five minute walk from our house.  We explored some of the local shops and restaurants.  We ate dinner at her brother's pizza shop, Yoli's Pizza, at the park.  Then we went to the local supermarket and got some breakfast items.  It was so fascinating to see the different items that they had.  There was a lot of rice and beans and then more beans and rice and you can't forget tortillas.  I found some M&Ms, so I was able to get my chocolate fix. 

Today was an adventure! I met a lot of new people and I can't wait for tomorrow's adventures.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Days 1 and 2

Wow! So much to share.  Yesterday Carly and I arrived in Belize around 2:30 p.m.  The first thing I noticed was the wonderful weather, sunny and 85 degrees.  That's right, be jealous fellow Kentuckians.  Flip flops and tank tops are what my future holds.  We caught a cab with a friendly couple and checked in to the Princess Hotel and Casino.  The ride to the hotel was crazy!  There are no stop signs and drivers literally drive all over the road.  Our hotel was definitely not what we had expected.  It turns out there are no beaches in Belize City, which is kind of a bummer, but we have found lots of other activities to entertain us.  The culture is so evident in the decorations in the hotel and even with the staff.  A nice gentleman that works for the hotel took Carly and I to the supermarket where all of the locals go.  We went to buy some bottled water and snacks.  We were a little shocked when a box of cereal, Cheerios to be exact, was priced at  $10. It turns out that the currency ratio from U.S. money to Belize dollars is 2 to 1.  So, to us it was really $5.  Getting use to the ratio has definitely been a challenge.  However, Belizian money is absolutely beautiful!  (I'll post a picture soon!) We treated ourselves to a nice dinner and called it a night.

Our first full day in Belize was complete with an array of new experiences.  Our hotel offers a complimentary breakfast with fresh fruits and traditional Belizian foods.  I tried what was called a "johnny cake."  It would be equivalent to what we would call a biscuit and it was fantastic.  I also tried a fresh omelet cooked to order.  The fruit was wonderful and so fresh.  We tried papaya, watermelon, and bananas.  Probably the weirdest thing that we encountered was the fact that they do not have liquid milk.  They only offer powdered milk.  After a big breakfast, Carly and I headed to the streets to explore the inner city.  We were so excited to be immersed in the hussle and bussle of everday life in Belize. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly.  Virtually everyone we walked by said hello and asked us how we were enjoying our stay in Belize, so refreshing!  The city was mixed with slums and upper class areas.  One minute you could see a brand new structure and then around another corner would be a shack.  I also noticed that all of the schools were private and represented different religious denominations.  We saw lots of children out and about today, which made us wonder if schools were in session on Fridays.  The highlight of my day was when a security guard at the local bank introduced himself to Carly and I and thanked us for our assistance in the school system.  It made us feel extremely appreciated. 

We also went to the Belize museum where we brushed up on our Belize history.  I'm pretty sure we walked over 7 miles today.  Needless to say we were beat.  We came back to the hotel and rested.  We decided to get dressed up for dinner and headed to the local Hour Bar and Grill, which was recommended by our cab driver and our hotel friend.  Ocean front view and a sea breeze made for a perfect evening.  Can't wait for tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Last day here in the good ole United States!  It has been perfect spending the day with my mom, best friends, and sisters.  I still can't believe that I leave tomorrow!  I'm FINALLY all packed and ready to go.  Five weeks seems like a long time and I am going to miss some very special people, but I am sure that it will fly by once I am there.  I thank God that I have been blessed with such a wonderful opportunity.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Beginning to get a little nervous and very excited for the trip! I haven't even started packing yet. I might need to get on that.  Ready for new experiences. 4 Days!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Countdown to BELIZE begins:
6 days
Can't wait to have this experience!!