Week 3: Welcome to Punta Gorda

Greetings from the crew in Punta Gorda!

On Thursday we taught our last lessons in Belize City. Friday was Teacher’s Day, so all schools were closed. We taught our final classes at a newer school, tiny by comparison, called Unity Presbyterian Primary. The school had classes starting  at Infant 1 (grade 1) through only to Standard 5. As we drove back with our favourite cab driver (Tyrone- whom we jokingly call our personal driver, as he speeds around the city driving Teaching here and Peer Ed there), the culture and vibrancy of the city was overwhelming. Students all walking, biking home from school (another half day for the schools, in anticipation of Teacher’s Day), at the peak noon hour; everyone takes the time off for lunch. It was one of the few times I had been outside long enough to notice this urban Caribbean jungle,  gritty but bright, had such a personality. The people, generous, laid-back, friendly, had seemed a bit out of place in this fast-paced city. The hard lines of barbed wire fences and cast-iron gates, and the broken buildings of the main streets reflected a much different lifestyle than what we experienced in Cayo. It is just that though, that contributes to the city’s character, soften (surprisingly) by the brightly painted and rivers stretching in from the Caribbean Sea. A beautiful day to celebrate the successes, and completion of week two.

We have split 2 and 2 for the week; two Teachers, two Peer Eds in Dangriga, Stann Creek and two Teachers, two Peer Eds in Punta Gorda, Toledo. We arrived yesterday to find that there was a bit of a miscommunication with the man who ran the Inn in PG that we were supposed to stay at. The price he had given us apparently was only if 2 people were staying in the room. The newly quoted price was significantly over budget, so we went on a hunt for somewhere to stay. Trusty Lonely Planet Guide in hand, we walked and called around. We are staying in a nice place (within budget as well, woo!) but there is a slight catch. There are only two beds in this room; a double and a single, and there 4 of us… It will be quite the week of group bonding!

Punta Gorda (called PG mostly by locals) is often referred to as “the end of the line”. Within Toldeo, the southern-most district, PG is quite far down. It is the largest city within miles, and although buses travel to the smaller, mostly Mayan villages that fan out inland from PG- PG really is the last major stop for the bus line. Toledo is on the coast, like Belize District- but they are dramatically different cities. PG lays along the of Bay of Honduras. The highway runs along the coast line, mostly rock but lined with occasional coconut trees, sporadic sandy beaches and piers that stretch out to receive boats or to create excellent places to jump into the Ocean. PG also moves exponentially slower than Belize city. This quiet town is quite literally silent on Sunday (apart from gospel church music early in the morning). Almost nothing is open. We have been met with very generous hospitality, the people have been so friendly thus far!  Everyone seems to say Hi to us as we walk through the town. There are very few cars, most people bike or walk around. The shops are small, owned usually by a family, and sell quite the cornucopia of things. “Grocery”, as we learned, can mean anything from food, to office supplies, and even hardware. Food though, has been delicious- the small restaurants are far more numerous than we had originally thought!

Tomorrow we begin week 3! Rachael and Chantel head about 2 hours out to a Mayan Village primary school (and catch the 6am bus from PG..), and Ryan and Alex begin the preparations for the Open House with the BFLA on Wednesday, and meet the Counsellor and their students at TTC, a high school a couple blocks up from our Guest House! Exciting day for all, we cannot wait to get Week 3 underway!

All our best, from Punta Gorda!

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