We caught the bus late Saturday morning (after a quick stop at the bakery: La Popular, of course) for Corazal, excited to once again (and for the late time) experience a new facet of Belize. The (comparatively) short bus ride brought us North, and back to the coast. The terrain is much different in the Northen Districts than in Cayo and Belize. The highway winds through very mountainous Cayo, but straightens out as it heads North from Belize City. Throughout Orange Walk and Corazal the terrain appears to be mostly farm land and sparse jungle, and as it passes through Orange Walk and heads North-East, it curves along the waterfront.
Corazal Town in Corazal, the northern-most district, as a wonderful Spanish colonial charm– colourful and diverse with both what we would consider “Belizeian” traditions as well as a strong Spanish influence from both the inquisition and it’s close neighbour, Mexico. A short 9 miles from the boarder of Mexico, Corazal Town is a compact, fairly quiet town with a vibe very different than any other we had been to. We were pleasantly surprised to discover it was far off the beaten path of tourism- thriving as a commercial and farming center for Northern Belize. Much like PG, tourists who stay in Corazal Town are few and far between. Everyone was, just like everywhere else in the country, incredibly welcoming and hospitable. The novetly of being so close (we could see it from the porch of our hostel) to the aqua blue water of Corazal Bay certainly never wore off. Absolutely stunning.
We started off the week in the usual way- a Monday morning meeting with the HFLE coordinator for the district. Maria was very kind and introduced us to (literally) everyone in Ministry of Education Center that morning. This was only about 6 people, mind you- but funny none-the-less. We received our list of 13 schools for the week and came up with our theme: divide and conquer. The schools were smaller, much like in PG and Orange Walk and some other ones we had encountered along the way, with combined classes or just one of every standard.
Fun twist for the week: Tashu and Paige swap! Tashu joined the teaching project and Paige, the Peer Ed.
Tashu taught her first class with us on Tuesday morning at Santa Clara SDA (seventh day adventist) Primary- a short drive, maybe 5 minutes? in Belize time. Which meant more like a 25 minute drive out of town. They had combined classes, so the first lesson Tashu taught was Puberty (our favourite) to a Std 3,4,5,6 group of students with Rachael. After break, they taught Sexual Responsability to the Std 5/6 class. The teachers sat in on the lessons, took notes and asked questions about the material which was really encouraging. Andrei and Chantel taught just down the road at Santa Clara RC Primary, and then joined Tashu and Rachael for lunch (the Principle at Santa Clara SDA was kind enough to get us lunch- Rice and Beans and Chicken obviously). The rest of the week was similar, Puberty and Sexual Responsability (HIV/AIDS, STIs, being ready for sex, etc), were very popular topics to be covered in classes. On the very last day, Maria threw us a bit of a curve ball, and Rachael and Tashu spent the afternoon with 53 Std. 2’s at Mary Hill RC teaching Nutrition. Lots of comments; the little ones love to contribute and offer their experiences to your lessons, regardless of whether or not they are relevant or constructive. It was a bit crazy to have all 53 students in one room, but still an experience.
We write to you, now in Belize, in our final week of project. As much as we loved Corazal, the food, the sea– returning to the Smokin’ Balam (and Anna!) felt like coming home. The loud noises: cars passing, truck horns and blaring music until midnight on Sunday evenings, were perhaps a less welcome familiarity.
The structure of this week is a bit different, we are teaching (all 8 of us) at the YWCA with a group of students who attend the Vocational school there. They come from different backgrounds, many disadvantaged from broken homes, abusive families and a few physically disabled. A number of the girls are deaf and mute, which has definitely made us think about our lessons and how interactive they are. We are also working with a group called BIONIC (Believe it or not I care) out of St. John’s College in Belize City. They are a peer support group who offer peer counselling to other Associate Degree candidates. They have been teaching with us at the YWCA, which has been really fun and helpful, especially in translating the Creole that gets thrown around!
Great week thus far, more updates to come!