Greetings friends on the interweb!
This is Kayla, Joanne, Rachael, Trevor and Annie, your Primary Peer Educators reporting to you from Punta Gorda, Toledo District Belize! We can’t believe that a week has already gone by on project, time is flying but we have already been getting up to a lot of amazing things!
We landed in Belize City last Saturday afternoon and as soon as we stepped on the tarmack we were welcomed by the intocixating Belizian heat we will be living in for the next six weeks. Once we all got our packs and went through security we were greeted by Anna’s husband, the owner of the Smokin’ Balam guest house in Belize City where both the primary and secondary project stayed on our first night in Belize,
Our first night crompised of some delicious stewed and BBQ chicken from Carmita’s, a great restaurant across the river from Smokin’ Balam, Bananagrams (the official game of the PEs on project), and adjusting to Belize time. We were up bright and early Sunday morning and made the trek to the Belize City bus station. With this came one of the first big challenges of the trip; getting on the bus. In Belize their bus system is comprised of yellow school buses that have been driven down from the United States. There are often three people to a seat on the bus, and you will find an assortment of passengers from bicycles, to flying chickens and adorable puppies. The buses will also stop along the road to pick up people as it goes along. In order to make sure you and your belongings get on the bus there is a certain technique we highly reccommend. First, when the bus pulls up to your stop have a couple people book it for the back of the bus. Second, have the peope at the front of the bus hop in and save seats for the group. Third, if seats are scarce prepare to get comfy on extra tires stored at the back of the bus or to get cozy with some lovely Belizians. This is where the secondary and primary project parted ways, with secondary heading to Cayo, and us primary PEs heading for Punta Gorda, Toledo district.
The five of us rolled into PG around 5:00pm, after a seven hour bus ride. While the ride was smooth, once we got to PG we realized that Kayla’s backpack and Rachael’s pack had gone missing in the flurry. We’ve become super resourceful and are getting through it just fine!
Sunday night in PG was quiet, as most businesses are closed on Sundays. We had a lovely dinner at Grace’s Restaurant and called it a night. Monday morning we went to the Ministry of Education office in PG and met with Joan Pallama, a lovely woman who has been our correspondent all year before arriving in Belize. Joan has been amazing and organized where we would be teaching for the first and second week while we are in Toledo, as well as helped us find accomodations. After meeting with her and discussing our lessons and itinerary with her for the next two weeks we grabbed our things and hopped on the next bus to our first teaching location, Barranco!
Along the way to Barranco Trevor and Annie hopped out in the small Mayan community of Midway where we taught for the past week at Midway Government School. As we walked up to the school we were greeted by many waving hands and smiling faces from the students and had an inkling that it was going to be a fun week. Once we met with the principle to discuss a schedule of lessons for the week we went around and chatted with all of the teachers and introduced ourselves to the students. Before catching the bus to Barranco we played our first game of football with the boys. Each of us were team captains and Annie’s team won! This was probably because of the excellent cheering she led the team in, not to mention their mad skills.
Kayla, Joanne and Rachael arrived in Barranco and went straight to St. Joseph’s RC School and met with the principle there to discuss the plan for the week. Kayla and Joanne went into teacher mode right away teaching a lesson on hygiene to a standard 2,3,4 class, which would be the equivalent of grades 3-5 in the Canadian system.
Come the end of the school day we all met up at our home for the week, the Waba Guest House and set out to find water and food. Barranco is a small community with a population of about 100 people. There is a strong Garifuna influence in Barranco, with a Garifuna temple serving as the middle point of the town. While there is a small convenience store that sells canned goods, there is no grocery store that sells parishable items or running water. Thankfully we were pointed in the direction to Betty’s house. Betty was the most welcoming of five hungry Canaians and made us a delicious meal of fresh fish, beans and rice and coleslaw. We had some amazing meals, and were always happy to play with Betty’s children Michale and Beverly and her neice Nayeli.
On Tuesday it was Labour Day so we didn’t have school. This gave us the opportunity to explore Barranco and met people in the community. One of our top priorities was to find a place to bathe. We were sent down to a beautiful salt water creek that ran right into the ocean. It was absolutely beautiful and we got to see some wicked jumps as the children of the commuity played in the water. The day before we had agreed to help paint a new sign on the local church that was just renovated. It was great being able to flex our artistic skills and give back to the community! That night, as we did almost every night, we had a dance party on our front porch with a bunch of the kids strutting their stuff!
Trevor and Annie were up bright and early on Wednesday morning and caught the 6am bus to Midway. It was a busy day of teaching, starting with the infant 1,2 class which is made up of 5-7 year olds. The kids loved learning about the parts of the body and showed off their knowledge with a beautiful rendition of head, shoulders, knees and toes! We were fortunate enought to teach all of classes several times during the week and covered topics from substance abuse, to puberty, self-esteem, and sexual responsibility. While some of the topics were challenging, the students were keen to learn and asked wonderful questions about these important topics.
Since Trevor and Annie did not teach until later in the day on Thursday and Friday they decided to make the four mile trek by foot to Midway from Barranco each morning. This took around an hour and 45 minutes each day, and while it may have been a challenging walk it was worth it. The Midway Government school was so welcoming and made us feel at home whether we were in the classroom or out on the football pitch!
Kayla and Joanne also had a busy week at St. Joseph RC School in Barranco, teaching 3-4 classes a day in the tiny school. The students were split into 3 classes: an infant 1,2, a standard 2,3,4, and a standard 5,6. Some of the students in the standard 5,6 class were busy studying for their secondary school entrance exams next week, but they still had time to fit in a lesson on puberty, sexual responsiblity, mental health, and substance abuse! The students were very knowledgable and eager to learn, so we left feeling very happy with how the lessons went. Throughout the week we also taught hygeine, puberty and bullying to the enthusiastic standard 2,3,4 class, and abuse and nutrition to the little infant 1, 2 class. The school was very welcoming and friendly and we really enjoyed teaching in the same community we were staying in!
So 55 litres of water, 2 missing packs, 5 delicious meals at Betty’s, and countless games of Bananagrams later, we’re at the end of our first week!
Until San Miguel,
Primary Project 🙂