Apologies for the gap between our posts… the Primary Project has just spent the last week living in a tiny Mayan village called San Miguel and the community was not connected to the interweb world! However we really embraced the simple living and had the most wonderful week staying in the small community and teaching in San Miguel and the neighboring village of Silver Creek.
Due to the unforeseen lack of transport from Punta Gorda to San Miguel on Sunday, we woke up bright and early on Monday morning to catch the 6am bus in the direction of San Miguel and Silver Creek. We were dropped off at a junction in the road about 7am and trekked with our huge backpacks in the direction of the two villages. We reached Silver Creek first, so Kayla and Joanne set up camp in front of the school to wait for the 9am school day start. They were quickly joined by a dozen friendly children who were eager to introduce themselves and play the ever-popular ‘Bananagrams’. The friendly introduction we received continued throughout the week; regardless of age, everyone was so kind and chatty, and always keen to tell us about their village and the Mayan culture. Kayla and Joanne were quickly settled in at Silver Creek RC School and went straight into teaching mode with a lesson on substance abuse with the Standard 5/6 class.
Annie and Trevor taught in San Miguel for the week, so luckily they managed to hitch a ride from a local after dropping Joanne and Kayla off in Silver Creek (Rachael joined Annie and Trev, and similar to last week, alternated schools each day). The distance between the two villages was 3-4 miles, so they were happy for the ride! Seven in the morning might seem early, but it is already so unbelievably hot at this time! After a full day of teaching, Joanne and Kayla caught the bus to San Miguel and we all met up at the TEA (Toledo Ecotourism Association) guesthouse to settle into our new home. Similar to most of the houses in the village, it was a thatched-roof hut, but this time we had great common area and a little porch with a hammock which quickly turned out to be a hotspot for the local kids after school!
For the duration of the week we ate our meals with local families, which was a totally unique experience and a great way to get to know the community! Almost every meal was with a new family, so we got the opportunity to try a huge variety of traditional Mayan dishes. Each family had a clay wood-burning stove in their kitchen, which was used to make fresh corn tortillas (a staple at almost every meal) and usually a chicken and bean dish. This wasn’t all we had – some of our favorites were fried plantains, pumpkin stew, and a spicy tomato and egg dish! Everyone was so kind and seemed very excited to share their lifestyle with us. We even had some language lessons, and by the end of the week we were able to say thank-you and ‘how are you’ in Ketchi! Ma sa la cho’ol. Kayla and Joanne were lucky enough to have lunch with the same family every day in Silver Creek, so by the end we were allowed to help make tortillas! (They probably shouldn’t have, ours looked slightly egg-shaped and we got a few laughs with our poor technique). The entire family was so wonderful and we got into a nice little routine walking home for lunch with their four children who were attending the school.
So for the duration of our stay in San Miguel Trev and Annie taught at San Miguel RC and Joanne and Kayla commuted to Silver Creek. The children in both schools were very keen students and really seemed to enjoy having us there. A huge hit was ‘Puberty Jeopardy’, especially when we pitted the boys against girls! The students were quite fiesty, but they had a great time and proved that they learned the material!
We saw more of this competitive attitude when we were invited to a San Miguel vs. Silver Creek soccer match on Wednesday afternoon. The game was a huge event; school was cancelled for the afternoon and the San Miguel students (along with Annie, Trevor and Rachael) were bussed to the Silver Creek field. It was part of a program called TIDE (Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment) which organizes soccer games between Toledo communities. The games have a heavy focus on sportmanship, and in order to be included in the tournament, the students have to create and sustain an environment project for their community. The Silver Creek students started a recycling program at their school (one of the few we’ve seen in Belize) and the San Miguel students planted palm trees in their community. In the classes leading up to the game the confident Silver Creek girls assured Kayla and Joanne that they would win because ‘they have never lost’, and on game day they managed to keep this streak going, winning 6-0. The Silver Creek boys also dominated, winning 7-1. Obviously, Kayla and Joanne were very proud, but Annie and Trevor and the San Miguel teams managed to keep their spirits up. All in all a great program and all the kids seemed to have a great time!
We had a day off on Thursday so we all made the (very hot) trek to Tiger Cave with our trusty guide Domingo and his faithful dog Sleepy. The cave was HUGE, and quite similar to one you would see on Planet Earth or in a horror movie, but we felt a bit safer with Domingo and a couple of headlamps. Afterwards we had a refreshing dip in the creek that gave us a much-needed cleanse from our sweaty hike.
We had a great two weeks in Toledo, and were very sad to leave the San Miguel community, but we came out of it feeling like we really got to know the students and the community, and we are all much more confident in our teaching ability. We unfortunately had to say bye to our fearless leader Rachael (some of us took it harder than others…Trev) but we think she has taught us well and we are ready for the next four weeks alone. We will miss you Rach!
We are now in San Ignacio and we will be stationed here for the next two weeks. We decided to come a bit earlier and surprise the Secondary project on their last night in town, so they were able to show us around in the afternoon. At night the eight of us had a great dinner catching up on stories from the last two weeks. It was great to catch up with our friends and hear all the wonderful things that their project has been doing, and we look forward to working with the primary schools in this area. Hopefully we will be able to keep the blog updated more frequently this time around!
Until next time,
– The Primary Project: Tray, J, K, and A
PS- Almost had a heart attack when a blackout in the internet cafe threatened the loss of all my hard blogging. Thank god for automatic drafts!