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.