Greetings from the blue house! We can hardly believe that we have been in Belize for 5 weeks; the time has just flown by! After our 4 AM wake up call for the Belize Cancer Walk last Saturday, we took the afternoon bus to Sarteneja where we quickly made 3 new furry friends. Nathale of Backpackers Paradise and her 3 guard dogs-cum-tour guides gave us a warm welcome to the beautiful fishing village of Sarteneja.
Our first weekend in town was also our first real encounter with the Belizean wet season. But torrential downpours and our first long-sleeved days on project couldn’t bring our spirits down – we got ourselves acquainted with our peaceful new home, visiting the seaside and spending Monday’s holiday exploring the nearby Shipstern Nature Reserve amid storm clouds and thunder.
Tuesday marked our first day of teaching in the very Spanish-influenced Corozal District. David and Sarah began their week at Chunox St. Viator Vocational High School, an agricultural school about 30 minutes outside of town. Their first day of school was also the first day for three adorable new puppies that are calling St. Viator their new home! The staff and students asked after Camila, Lauren and last year’s QHO team right off the bat, and were excited to welcome two new teachers to their school.
The team was quick to carry on last year’s torch: an afternoon leadership class was once again set up for a select group of students, while mornings were spent going class to class. The pair was able to teach every student at the school, covering relevant topics requested by Principal Patty Cho, such as peer pressure, bullying and values. One day after school, we were also invited to a cultural fair at the nearby Chunox primary school, where we learned about the diverse cultures and history of the region. The next day, the two were also lucky enough to meet the resident chickens, cows and pigs (and baby piglets!), and get a feel for how this unique institution prepares students for both academics and the fields.
David and Sarah couldn’t be more excited for next week! As exams are settling in, the students will be hard at work in the day, but our team will have the opportunity to engage the whole student body with an educational tournament for two hours each afternoon. Classes will be split into houses à la Harry Potter and awarded points for successfully completing our activities and questions. There will be a strong emphasis on stress (it’s exam season after all) mental health, sexual health and HIV/AIDS, which is particularly prevalent in Sarteneja. Anticipation is high for the fun in store!
Meanwhile, Taylor and Braden have had their hands full at all three of Sarteneja’s schools. Mornings have been spent bouncing between the town’s two primary schools Sarteneja Nazarene and La Maculata RC. The pair teach 2 hours at each school, and an hour and a half leadership group at Sarteneja Baptist High School! Yesterday, all four peer educators taught a morning lesson on HIV and AIDS to all of the students at Sarteneja Baptist! Teaching primary for the first time this trip has been a blast!
Thursday night we celebrated Sarah’s 22 by eating dinner in reverse! Ice cream was followed by a local pineapple cake, our main course, appetizer… And more ice cream! This weekend was also particularly eventful. As classes were off yesterday afternoon and this morning had no commitments, the team organized a games day double header! We brought our soccer,volleyball and rugby balls, frisbee, skipping ropes and sacs full of water balloons for two straight days of high-energy fun. Word quickly spread around town that the field was the place to be, and our turnout was great. Despite some searing sun (and, as has become custom, some burnt shoulders), we ran the little ones around as long as our legs would carry us.
It is sad to think that we have only one week left, as each day seems to get better and better. We can tell already that Sarteneja will keep a special place in our hearts.
Thanks for keeping up to date with us, and be sure to check in later for our next (and likely final) blog post.
Love from Secondary