We have now been in Belize just shy of 4 days, and have finished our first day of teaching. The weather was a welcome surprise as we stepped out of the plane onto the tarmack, the blast of warmth and humididty was certainly a change from the currently unpredictable weather back home in Kingston. We carry around gallons (literally) of water with us almost everywhere we go to try to stay hydrated and cool.
We stayed the night in Belize City (Belize District) in a hostel on the river. The woman who runs the guest house has been housing QHO for many years and welcomed us warmly. There were old kits that other projects had left and a Canadian flag hanging in the hallway, so we felt right at home.
We made the trek to the bus stop Sunday morning. The public buses in Belize are school buses, donated by Texas, or so we hear. The ride to our first district (Cayo) took about 3 hours, after a chaotic process of loading our bags on the the back of the bus and scramblign to find seats. There were about 3 people to a seat and people standing in the asiles as well on and off throughout the trip. The annual Agricultural Fair was going on in the capital Belmopan, Cayo- so everyone wanted to get on these buses. Needless to say, it was a pretty hot and squishy ride but we arrived in San Ignacio safe and sound.
San Ignacio is absolutely beautiful. The landscape is much more rainforest-like than in Belize City. Cayo is inland, but the Mopan River runs through a lot of the district. Great place to go for a swim and cool off! There is a lot of Mayan influence in Cayo, San Ingnacio in particular as well. The buildings are all very colourful, mostly cement based, and elevated off the ground to get a better breeze.
Unfortunately, yesterday was Labour Day and there was no school. We spent the day practice teaching instead, and ventured up the hill to an Archeological Site where a Mayan Temple was rediscovered in 1950. Ryan and her seemingly idedic memory acted as a bit of a tour guide as we wandered around and she recited some very interesting facts about the Mayan Culture.
This morning we met with the Ministry of Education in Cayo bright and early to get a list of schools they wanted us to teach in. The teaching project taught in a nearby community called Benque Viejo in Mont Carmel Primary School. We were able to make it there in time to teach the period before lunch. There were 3 Standard 6 classes (grade 8 age equivalent in Canada), so Paige and Rachael, and Andrei and Chantel taught 2 of the 3 classes the Puberty kit before the lunch break. The students were really eager to participate and learn! It was a really great to have multiple hands raised when we asked them questions. The students really enjoyed the Puberty jeopardy game we play at the end of the lesson: boys vs girls, and while most students in Standard 6 had a working knowledge of the material, they seemed to learn a lot and it was good preparation for their exit final in June. After the lunch break, we all taught a class by our selves for the remaining 2 periods. We were able to get through both the Puberty and Sexual Responsability (safe sex and sexually transmitted diseases) with all the Standard 6’s and one lesson (either Puberty or Sexual Responsability) with each of the 4 Standard 5 classes. We noticed that the Stanard 5’s had much less knowlegde of the material, but again were very receptive and ready to learn.
We were all quite nervous to start teaching, mostly because we were unsure what to expect. Would the schools want us there? Would the students listen to us? particpate? The principal, and a lot of the teachers at Mont Carmel were really intersested in our material and us- why we were here, for how long- and some want us to email them our lesson plans. We cannot imagine how today could have gone any better. The anonymous questions/comments we received at the end of each lesson were great tools to teach the next class from, clairfy muddy/unclear points and improve our teaching. Some messages were a bit cheeky, (how old are you? and do you date?) but very cute nonetheless.
Teaching project is back at Mont Carmel tomorrow morning to teach the Standard 4’s and 3’s, and off to a new school in the afternoon! Peer Education and BFLA updates to come!