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Days 4 & 5 did not disappoint!  These days were focused on continuing with our home visits, preparing for our school health education visits, and working with kids and teachers at a local school.  We also visited the San Antonio Women's Coop and learned about their efforts to preserve traditional Mayan arts and crafts.   

Ayleen Cameron '20 offered a reflection on her homestay:

"The trip so far has been eventful and eye-opening in ways I never would have anticipated. Being in a homestay has given me the opportunity to connect on a personal level with the residents of the San Antonio community.  Lunchtime conversations with my host mother, Juanita, have been revelatory toward the current political situation between Belize and Guatemala. The upcoming referendum has practically divided the country in two: a fact I wouldn't have realized otherwise. Understanding and exploring such issues in a homestay setting affords a unique experience that could not be replicated in a hotel. I was initially nervous about being in a homestay, but ultimately am glad that I was given the opportunity."

A banner advocating for a 'Yes' vote for the upcoming referendum

Here are some of our other students' reflections from the past couple of days:

"Home visits bring many unexpected people and things. In Clarrisa Falls, we met a man and his family who made giant, wooden, handcrafted marimbas. He loved talking about how he made the instruments. He also told all of us about the different natural remedies people in the area use when they are under the weather. It’s very interesting to hear how proud people are about their way of life." - Noah Babala-Money ’20 (Reflecting on his experience with home visits from Day 4, March 12, 2019)


"Yesterday, we went to our second home visits. We also spent the evening playing games. I think most of the people on this blog talk about how wonderful these past few days have been. And although everything on this trip has been eye-opening and wonderful, there are some rough patches that we faced. The first day here, we learned about the stages of culture shock that we might experience during the trip. The first two have been our "honeymoon days." My peers and I enjoyed the food, the games, the activity, and even the heat.  But yesterday was different.  Most of us, including me, were very tired and drained. The night after our first home visit, I learned a bit of the Spanish language to help me start conversations with the patients we meet. During our second home visit, I realized how difficult the language barrier really is, and how much it affected the things I do, and how I do them. I couldn't really communicate with the patients as great as my peers, and that really frustrated me. Turns out, I wasn't the only one who felt this way.  In addition to this, the heat was getting to all of us.  Others felt very nervous about having to teach the kids the next day, and staying energized when talking to them. Overall, our group reached the "low point" that our team leaders told us to expect. Today, however, things are starting to go uphill again. The heat was better, the Women's Coop was amazing, and playing tag with the kids helped uplift our spirits. Although the low points seem very upsetting, none of us would trade not coming here in exchange. Ultimately, this trip has been an experience that I never want to forget.
-Micah Purba '20 (Reflecting on her experiences between day 4 & 5, March 12 & 13, 2019)




Emma Chaffee ‘21 shares about our experience today at a local elementary school (Day 5, March 13, 2019):

"Today we all went to a school nearby with kids ranging in age from grade K-7th. We all had different presentations about Oral health, Hand washing, Nutrition, and Lice. We all had a blast teaching kids about these topics and playing with them a little. We all had so much fun with the kids. After teaching them we then gave screenings to all of the teachers so to practice for the upcoming health fair at the San Ignacio market. Tomorrow we head to a different school to teach more kids and give more screenings to teachers." 


"Hand-washing is never an interesting topic, and my somewhat unprepared group were worried about our results and being able to engage these kids. However, as we entered the classroom about 25-30 kids swarmed us four unexpected teenagers, and wrapped their arms around us. It's impossible to capture the joy of these kids with just words. I thought I would be not as great at presenting and having a good time while doing it, but my experience with theater really came through on this one. I was so much better at it then I thought I would be, and they all loved me. I'm nervous for tomorrow considering were are talking about lice to the older kids, and I hope they don't think it is cheesy and lame or are creeped out by it. I really hope that they will show similar enthusiasm as the previous groups of kids, but we will have to see what tomorrow brings! Working with kids is rewarding in itself." -Brian Ricker '20 



"Today we had school visits, where we presented about different topics: mine was about hand washing. Even though, it was something we had to do it was not hard at all. That is all because of the kids. They were so nice, understanding and excited with our presence. When my team and I entered the kindergarten class all the kids stood up and hugged us, not allowing us to move. During their recess, 10 kids came up to me and hugged my legs not allowing me to move, leading for them and me to fall in the ground. What made this day so memorable is the connections I made with the little kids. They were so open from moment we stepped in their classroom to the moment we left the school gates. Even though we are supposed to greatly impact their lives with these presentations, I believe that they caused a great impact on my life."  - Rafaela Oliveira' 20


In addition to their service experiences, students have been enjoying the opportunity to build new friendships, as Thalia Schodel‘21 shared:

"Today after the school visits, my roommate (Clara Wang ’21) and I planned to take a visit to a nearby homestay. Instead, we enjoyed a delicious lunch and then talked about the complexities of life and various other things. The wonderful afternoon ended with Clara reading me a book. For the rest of the afternoon we visited the Women’s Coop and participated in activities that they partake in." 

Olivia Hadyn Phillips '21 writes about our experience at the San Antonio Women's Coop:

"The group gathered under the welcoming shade (from the blistering sun) at the Women's Coop after some lunch and rest. Although some groggy spirits arrived, by the end, all were energetically laughing and playing hand games (while others sported their new bracelets from the gift shop). During our visit at the Women's Coop, we were able to learn to make handmade corn tortillas and pottery. The tortillas were an all around favorite, as not only were we able to watch and have a hands-on experience for grinding the corn, but also being able to cook and enjoy our oblong shaped 'tortillas.' With an addition of coconut oil and salt, it seemed that everyones stomach had emptied and we were all ravishing for more. Alas, there was a time constraint -- therefore the group changed topics to pottery making. All sat and watched as a woman who worked at the Coop calmly crafted a bowl from a mound of clay. We were all entranced and in a mystical haze when watching -- she lifted and centered the clay and discovered the bowl within the clay round. Some lucky students (including myself) were able to then make our own bowl. Personally, it felt like second nature as my pottery background seemed to seep through my fingers as I carefully crafted my small, more tea-cup like, bowl from the wheel. However, some other students had some difficulty, either underestimating or overestimating their strength. Nonetheless, out of roughly seven students, we had three student bowl made. The hours sped quickly as we cheered on our peers and laughed with the most wide and genuine smiles on our faces. I think we speak for everyone when I say "we don't want to leave Belize!""

Haydn trying her hand at grinding corn in preparation for corn tortillas!

We are half way through the program at this point, but there is still much to experience together!  Look forward to our next post in a few days!

3 comments:

  1. Sounds like you are all having great experiences.

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  2. Really enjoyed reading the reflections. They are beautifully written, and the writers' maturity and sincerity shine through.

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  3. I can't wait to hear more from you all! It sounds like despite some fatigue, the trip has been a huge success!

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