Friday, April 12, 2013

The Beginning in San Ignacio

The morning we left Belize City, Lauren and I met the Galen University students/staff workers down in the lobby of the lobby of the hotel. It was nice to finally meet them. They checked us out of the hotel and we all hopped into the university van that was air conditioned and began our travel to San Ignacio. Somewhere along the way we stopped at a little restaurant named Cheers. That is where Lauren and I had our first taste of the popular local dish, rice and beans; don't confuse this now, we did not have rice and beans but beans and rice. We were also introduced to the Mayan Temple by our university friend Joshua. After lunch we finished driving to our destination. Some observations that Lauren and I made were that the San Ignacio houses were spaced out more and looked nicer compared to the home in Belize City. The first stop we made in San Ignacio was Galen University.

The university in Belize is much different from the ones back at home. The university are only a couple of old classrooms, very little air conditioning and all the classes fit in one small building. Joshua gave Lauren and I a tour and then we finally met Dr. Harrison, the lady we are staying with. We were also lucky enough to see the university's basketball team and meet its president. After filling out some papers, it was time to head to the house we were staying in. Dr. Harrison left work early and came to her house with us. We rode the university bus, driven by the talented Mr. Owen, and found more surprises awaiting us. The house we are staying in is divided into an upstairs and a downstairs. We are staying downstairs, which consists of two rooms, a small kitchen and a bathroom. There is no air conditioning and no sink in the kitchen; even though there is a faucet and bowls we use. After setting our things down, Dr. Harrison took us to the school we would finish our student teaching at, St. Andrews Anglican School.

There we met the principal and she gave us a tour. The school is smaller, has no air condition, but ceiling fans and windows and no technology within the classroom. There is one room that does have computers though for typing lessons. The bathrooms were just recently updated and there is a parent volunteer who sits outside the bathrooms to monitor them. The small library is also run by a parent volunteer, but it was not open the day we toured the school. The school has vendors outside for the children to buy snacks and a snack stand in order for them to by lunch. Each classroom has a jug of water in which the students can drink and very old weathered desks. St. Andrews is the third highest ranking school in the country of Belize though. Ms. Niel the principal gave Lauren and I each a year old year book. The significance of that year book is that it was the first one the school has ever published. She gave us a brief history of the school and explained the grading system in her office. The school starts at infant 1 which is first grade and ends at Standard 6, or 8th grade. I am placed in Standard 4, which is 6th grade and met my teacher and class briefly. After our introductions were finished, we walked to the town.

Heading downtown, we were pleasantly surprised what San Ignacio had to offer. Local shops, vendors and lots of different places and ethnic foods to eat. She explained how San Ignacio was just paved and a lot nicer compared to 8 months earlier. She explained how the main street, which is blocked off in places for just pedestrians to walk was located on top of a Mayan burial ground. While giving us the history, we stopped for a drink at a restaurants, after relaxing we then headed to her brothers pizza shop to order a slice of pizza. The pizza was good, the strange thing about it though was that you could order a slice of pizza how you wanted it and they would cook that one slice for you. After enjoying the night we went to buy groceries and headed back to our new home. We got used to the different shower and headed to bed, for the next morning, our student teaching began.

Lauren and I woke up at 6 a.m. by the sound of dogs in the backyard and the sunlight. We ate our breakfast and headed to school, which starts at  8 am on Tuesdays for teachers because we had morning prayer. At the prayer session, we met all the teachers and they hugged and welcomed us at the end. Then the long day of school began. I met my 33 students and were introduced to them. I told them a little bit about me and where I came from. The students are very nice and responsible, but the schools are a lot different here than in Kentucky. The students are able to call out in class, they call the teachers miss, they sweep and mop the room at the end of the day and talk during class. The day started out with scripture and then they went to a computer class. The students get a break at 10:30 and then head home or stay at school for an hour lunch at 11:45. Everyday for lunch Lauren and I take the two minute walk back home and go to the upper level of the house, where Dr. Harrison's mom cooks us a delicious meal. The first day we had fresh burritos. The burritos were fresh and different from the American ones. The tortilla was recently handmade and the beans and peppers were different. After filling ourselves up we had to head back to class in the hot sun. Classes start back at 12:45 pm, then another break at 1: 30 and then home for Standard 4 at 3:10. The different grade levels get out at different times depending on their age. After 3:10 and meeting and talking with my extremely nice teacher we headed back to the house with Dr. Harrison's nephew Andre. We played with Andre. Outside we ran into Dr. Harrison and she noticed the sunburn on my back; she recommended to use honey and the next day she bought me some, even though I did not try it. We then got ready to head to the town and do some exploring on our own. That night when we came back to the house, I sat on my bed. As soon as I sat down, a board fell out from under my bed, then another later during that night then another the next morning. I did not sleep well and could feel my lower back sinking.

When I woke up that Wednesday morning, I informed Dr. Harrison on what happened. Her dad was nice enough to look at my bed during the day and readjust the boards; I sleep a lot better now. Right before school started, we gave Dr. Harrison our laundry because her mom kindly said she would do it for us since we did not have time. During school, I stood as close to the fan as I could get. My teacher, Mrs. Caco included me in the class and gave me more information on the lessons of Belize that were taught. It was finally lunch time. Lauren and I headed back home to find out our laundry was hanging in the front and porch of the the house, undergarments and all, we could not stop laughing but no one noticed because that is just part of their culture. Lunch consisted of fish, rice and beans, fresh tropical punch (made out of real fruit) and fruit. Like always, we overstuffed ourselves. We then sleepily headed back to school where it was very hot. Luckily  I was able to interact with the students though and read them a book before the real classes began. At 4 o'clock Lauren and I were ready to go home. We played with Andre in the park and like usual, headed to the town for the night. We visited different shops, tourist places and got ice cream. When we were heading back home, we ran into a backpacker, Jason, who was making his way up to Mexico City for Cinco de Mayo. He asked if we would want to get a bite to eat with him so we did. He told us a lot of interesting stories and attracted the 'creepy' people of Belize. He then rented a room at a hostel and we headed to get a drink at a different place. There we met an rich American boy who just moved to Belize from Arkansas. He was telling us stories about Belize; then him and Jason continued with the story of the water heads shock you when taking a shower; we all died laughing. After a few drinks we headed back home and got ready for school the next morning.

Lauren and I again woke up at an early time, ate breakfast and headed to the square to buy some fruit before class started. That Thursday was the hottest day we have so far experienced in Belize. It was a long dreadful day at school. Even though the sun was out, we were able to experience a church service during the morning school hours. The teacher and students walked three blocks to church and there we sang and listened to the preacher. I was able to talk to the preacher before his sermon started, he asked where I was from and it turned out he was from Jefferson County. We talked a little about basketball and then headed into the church. During the sermon, he called me out and asked for my name again in front of everyone. He some how incorporated me and WKU's Sweet 16 basketball game into the sermon; it was very interesting. After the sermon we headed back to school for a normal day. Thursdays, students get out at 2:10 because that was the day for teachers to plan with the same standard teacher. After almost two hours of the teachers planning and not agreeing with each other we were able to leave. Before we left though, my teacher invited Lauren and I to her son's First Communcion meal with her family on April 28th. She wants me to try all the local and cultural food; I am looking forward to that day. We were happy to come home to our fans, but we could still feel the heat. To make matters even better the toilet would not flush and we did not know what to do since Dr.  Harrison was still at work. When she came home, we informed here of the situation and solved the low pressure problem by having a bowl by the toilet in which we pour water in to add pressure to it; it actually works. The night was not much cooler but we headed back downtown again to try a different restaurant and buy a few things. We met a couple people who were selling jewelry and items on the sidewalk and explained to them how we were temporarily living here. After that we headed home.

Today we woke up to the sound of the dogs barking. We got ready and headed to school. This morning was the same old same old. For lunch we had spaghetti, two different kinds of bread and ate a cultural corn dish that was cooked in the actual corn leaves; it was delicious! We also ate and drank a lot of pineapple. When we headed back to school it was time to give out report cards. Here the parents come in and the teachers conference with them. The students are in charge of themselves. Since I was there, I was in charge of the students. We read a couple books, played Charades that reviewed previously taught information and then watched a movie, which the teacher had already planned. The students made their own popcorn and lemonade and set up a different room in order to watch it. Some students went to the computer lab, others played ball and they were in charge of themselves. When the day was over, the students took the initiative to clean and mop the room they had used.

Besides school, those were the main points of our day so far. We are exited to see what tonight and the rest of our stay has to bring.

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