Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 9 - Tobacco Caye

Hello All,

This is our last blog entry before departing Tobacco Caye for the states. The students are sad to leave but at the same time happy to return home to their loved ones!

Today was another full day of learning and fun! After breakfast, the students gathered up different bits of coral from around Tobacco Caye to later test at the marine station. While at the marine station, students heard from Sean about the effects of global warming has on coral. Did you know that if the sea rises a degree, it could bleach (or wipe out) the entire coral population? So the students put their pieces of coral into three different containers. One had sea water, another had half vinegar and half sea water, and the final one had strait vinegar. What the students saw amazed them. While the first container did nothing to the coral, the second began to dissolve the coral very slowly. The last container with strait vinegar, completely destroyed the coral, dissolving it completely. After their science experiment, we went back to the lodge for lunch.

After lunch, we all headed out on our last snorkel. Our first stop was in a shallow lagoon to see if we could spot any manatees. Well, we didn't. :( So our next stop was to a very special island called Man of War Caye. What makes Man of War Caye very special are the birds that live there. This bird is called a Frigit. They and the Brown Booby are the only birds that live on this island! We were able to get close enough to see the red breast of the males, which singled it was mating season! We also saw a baby in its nest. A frighting fact we learned is that the island is actually sinking. A few years ago, the lagoon that separated this Caye from another with a very nice resort was dredged for the sand. After the dredging, the currents changed and began to remove sand from the island. So no one knows if this island will survive or not. Then we were off to secluded mangrove caye to finish up our snorkeling. Since we getting so close to the mangroves, we did not need our flippers for this snorkel. Students saw how the mangroves play a crucial roll as spawning grounds for the fish. We saw many tiny, baby fish. We also a very large Barracuda and a baby American Alligator!

Once we returned back to the lodge, we returned all our snorkel gear and began to repack. Since we have to leave the island so early tomorrow, the kids are off to bed early tonight, so no new student blogs tonight.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Day 8 - Tobacco Caye

Today was our first full day on the Caye. Everyone quickly realized that it's very difficult to sleep once the sun rises. It was nice to watch the sun rise over the Caribbean...a little bit different than the sunrises at home. After breakfast the group had about an hour to get ready for our all day snorkel. We loaded up on two boats and headed out to the reef. The first stop we made was a little choppy but the snorkeling was amazing. Each group had their Reef Bingo boards and they were off to find different fish and behaviors that were on their board. We moved on from that spot to a more calm spot inside of the reef where everyone was again off to look for different things on their Bingo boards. We took a break from snorkeling to visit Carrie Bow Caye where the Smithsonian Institute has a marine station set up. They currently have scientists there from Italy and Austria. We had a quick tour of the marine station and one of the scientists invited us into the wet lab to show us what he had been working on. From there we headed to South Water Caye to have lunch. After lunch we stopped at Twins Caye where the ranger station is located. Half of the group climbed the rangers watch tower and had amazing views of the water and islands surrounding them. The other half of the group went with Sean to explore the Mangroves and see just what the Mangroves do for islands. We made one more snorkeling stop closer to Tobacco Caye before we headed back for the afternoon. Everyone enjoyed a relaxing afternoon around our hotel before dinner.

Tonight was our night snorkel. One group is in the water as I type this and the second group is waiting for their turn. I'm sure they will have lots to say (and blog) about the night snorkel when they get back.

Morgan - Friday, we left Maya Center for Tobacco Caye. On the way, we stopped at a grocery store. I think everyone bought as much junk food as they could carry! At Dangriga, some of us were waiting in line for the bathrooms. While I was waiting, a little girl came up, hugged me, and then ran away. The boat ride to Tobacco Caye was uncomfortable, but it was a new experience. At Tobacco Key, my room is right on the sea! Today, we spent the entire day out snorkeling. I braved my fears and went snorkeling for the first of the three stops. After that, some of us girls got sick and laid in the boat. At lunch, I realized that I was sunburned. I didn't realize how bad the burn was until we got to shore. After lunch, we went to the Ranger Station. At the top of the look-out tower, I saw a stingray. Then, we went to one last snorkeling spot before we headed back. Back at the shore, I saw my sun burn, and let's just say I look like a lobster!

Andi- On Friday we said goodbye to Maya Center and and headed for Tobacco Caye. Once on Tobacco Caye we got our rooms. My room is Morgan, Channing, and me, and we have a bathroom and shower!! Then we had a snorkeling lesson and went in the water for a short snorkel. The water was cold and I was freezing! After we went to bed and everyone was so tired. Today we woke up, had breakfast, and then got on the boat and began our adventures. We first went snorkeling and saw a lot of cool fish, and then we went to the second snorkel spot. After we went to the Smithsonian and then had lunch. Then we went to the ranger tower and we saw a nurse shark, which was very cool. We then went out for our final snorkel stop, and saw a stingray, lobster, and a lot of big fish. We then came back to the island. From spending the entire day out in the sun I managed not to get sunburnt at all!! We then had dinner and some people went on the night snorkel. I did not go on the night snorkel because the water was cold, and I was too tired. Tomorrow is our final day and then we return home! This trip was an amazing experience and a lot of fun!

Hannah- On Friday we all said goodbye to Maya Center and then drove to Dangriga. After we got there we got on a boat and headed to Tobacco Caye. When we got there we got our room mates. My room mates are Julia and Isabella. We then went snorkeling and we had conch for dinner. That is a chewy mollusk. Then today we went snorkeling like an all day trip thing. I saw a ton of cool fish. I miss you guys and I hope you are still having a wonderful week without me. I love you guys and hope to see you guys on Tuesday.


Your daughter Hannah

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Day 7 - Goodbye Maya Center, Hello Tobacco Caye!

This morning, we said goodbye to Maya Center and made the short journey to Dangriga. On the way, we stopped by the women's co-op at Maya Center to buy some gifts. Once in Dangriga, we met one of our guides, Sean, hoped on the water ferry, and headed on out to Tobacco Caye. The boat ride was about half an hour. When we arrived, our other guide, Jen, met us on the dock. We grabbed our gear and headed to our hotel. Once we got settled in, we had lunch and were off for our short tour of the island. After the tour, we headed up to the Tobacco Caye Marine Station for a short presentation by Sean and Jen on how to snorkel properly. Once all the students got their gear, we headed down to the main dock and went out into the water. Once we got to a spot that did not have Turtle Grass, the students were able to stand up. As we learned from Sean and Jen, we do not want to touch anything while we are here. We can very easily destroy the fragile eco-system. Once all the students were able to handle snorkeling, we headed around the island to just off the reef. The students saw many different kids of fish and rays while on our little adventure.

After dinner, we meet back up with Sean and Jen and they lectured on the various species of fish we will see while on our snorkel trip tomorrow. To help identify what the students are seeing, they have devised a game called Fish Bingo. While the students are snorkeling, they will be using underwater writing boards and pencils. We will see how it all goes tomorrow.

Brooke - It has been 3 days since I blogged last. So much has happened. On the fifth day, we worked on the work site again. That was the day where we handed the gifts out to the kids. The smiles on their faces were priceless. All of the kids that got Stray Dog shirts lined up by Bella and they took a picture. It was cute. After getting done with the worksite we went to the Jaguar Preserve to go tubing. There were a lot of rocks. It hurt if you hit one. The next day was the last day in Maya Center. It was really sad. I am going to miss the kids so much. I paid one of them $3 just so I could take his picture. It was worth it. In the afternoon some of us went back to the work site to play with the kids one last time. I gave every one of them two hugs, some of them three and said goodbye. Today we came to Tobacco Caye. The first part of the day we spent traveling here and the second part we went snorkeling. I didn't really like it. Salt water kept getting in my snorkel. Then I went to dive down, and accidentally inhaled. I almost puked. It was gross. I can't believe we only have three days left. I will miss it.

Mary - So the last time I blogged was when we went to the cocoa farm. The day after that we gave the gifts to the kids. They we sooooo happy when they got them. I gave my soccer shoes to Carlos for his soccer team. We worked on laying the concrete on the basketball court but we didn't get very far because we had to make the concrete which we didn't have the supplies for at first. Then after working we had a long drive to go tubing. Tubing was awesome!! I ate a termite and it was interesting. It was a little bit minty. It took a while to get down the river and along the way we did an exercise on saving people who had broken backs. Which were Mr. Phillip and Mr. Hunter. My group won and we saved Mr. Phillip. And the other group tried to sabotage us. After that we went back to Maya Center and had a pretty relaxing evening. The next day we laid more concrete and only got half way through. We said goodbye to the kids. I wanted to go to mass Thursday and Friday. I miss going to mass together as a family. And I am going to miss having Easter with you guys. This is very different for me not being with you guys. After laying the rest of the concrete we had a laid back afternoon. After lunch we listened to Ernesto and Aurora talk about the beginning of Maya Center and how they met. The rest of the evening we didn't do anything. Today we woke up ate breakfast and packed to leave for Tobacco Caye. The boat ride was cold and fun. When we got here it was amazing. There are so many palm trees, which I love. I am rooming with Brooke. We got settled in and ate lunch. We had rice, conch, and potatoes. Then we toured the island and got ready to snorkel. Snorkeling was so cool. I say many sting rays, one that swam a foot under me (it was five feet long, SO SCARY!!!) I saw a lion fish which was awesome. When we got out of the ocean I was very cold. We came back to our rooms and played volleyball. That is all that has happened up to this point. I miss you guys a lot and I really want to see you. This is the longest time I have been away from home and its hard. I love you guys!!!! Can't wait to see you!! <3

Genna - So far the trip has been awesome. Today we got to the Caye and got fitted up with our snorking gear, tested it out and went snorking. While we were snorking we saw a huge sting ray it was bigger than me! I wish I got pictures. Thats all that really that happened so love you mom!

Julia - The last time I blogged was on day 4. In the morning during day 5, it rained a LOT. Which is unusual, since its the dry season. Since it was raining, we couldn't work. So, we passed out the gifts to the children. Bella had brought a bunch of Stray Dog shirts, so everyone (including the teens and adults) were happy with what they got. All the books and other donations I brought were taken. After the rain ended, we finished handing out gifts and then poured the concrete into the outline for the half-basketball court. After we were finished at the school, we went tubing. Its not what people usually think of tubing. Its not being pulled behind a boat, but sitting in an inner tube and floating freely down a river. There is a 15 minute hike to get there, which is through the jungle at Jaguar Preserve. There was a termites nest on the way, and almost everyone ate one. I didn't though, because that's WAY out of my stretch zone! The other people said that it tasted like mint. Then when we were tubing, we had to 'rescue' Mr. Phillip and Mr. Hunter as a leadership-type game. We've all adjusted to the heat and the trip just keeps getting better. On day 6, it was our last day at Maya Center. :( I'm so sad because I've really developed a bond with a little girl named Zinaida. She's an adorable seven year old, and is super sweet. Since I won't be able to come back, I'm super sad that I won't be able to see her, Marroquin, and many others. We finished what we could at the school. Then Ernesto and Aurora (Marroquin's parents) told us about their lives coming to Maya Center. Today, (day 7) we went on the bus to Dangriga and got on a speed boat about 45 minutes out to Tobbacco Caye. Its still beautiful here, with the same HUGE piles of conch shells. I also tried conch for the first time! It tasted pretty good. We have two new guides: Jen and Sean; who are from England. They are the marine biologists at the island. They're both super funny, and we went snorkeling with them. We didn't see much, but that'll be for tomorrow. Bye!

Hannah Feder - It feels like it's been such a long time since I last blogged. Just saying for the leadership groups, team Spaghetti has won twice in a row. Our team consisted of Genna, Andi, Nathan, and I. The first challenge was to build a structure out of dry spaghetti, tape, and a string. The structure had to hold a marshmallow, whoever's marshmallow was the highest won. The second challenge was an egg drop. We had 20 straws and tape. Many people lost, but ours survived, we actually had no hope in our structure at all. On day 4, we went to make chocolate, it was dark chocolate, so it tasted pretty bad. On day 5, we started building the basketball court, for our project. After that we gave out free t-shirts and toothbrushes to the kids, we went tubing. THERE WERE SO MANY ROCKS!!! On day 7, which is today, we took a boat to Tobacco Key. We learned how to properly snorkel and we met Jen and Sean, who work with the TCMS. When we went snorkeling, we saw sting rays, they were pretty cool. The only problem was that I kept swallowing the salt water. The Caye is actually pretty small, it's about the size of the school. The Caye is about 5 acres, but Sean says that slowly more sand is emerging and the Caye is getting larger. I want to see the sunset, so talk to you later

Cassidy - The last day I blogged was day 4 when we were on the cocoa farm. On day 5 we woke up and went to the basketball court and built the frame. We also gave the gifts that we brought to all of the little kids. Seeing their face was amazing. After that, we went tubing in the cold water. ( after a hot day like that it felt really good ) On day 6 we went back to the basketball court and we poured the concrete into the frame. We didn't finish pouring the concrete but we did finish about half and we will hope the community finishes it. After that we heard the whole story about how Maya Center was created. The rest of the day we kind of just hung out all day playing with each other. Today we woke up, had breakfast, and then got on the bus and drove to Dangriga. At Dangriga we then took a boat on about a half an hour boat ride and arrived at Tobacco Caye. Then we went snorkeling and got a bunch of salt water in my mouth. We saw about three 5 feet sting rays that swam right below me.( I kind of got a little freaked out ) then we ate dinner and talked about what we are going to see tomorrow when we go snorkeling. EASTER'S tomorrow!!!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Day 6 - Maya Center

Today is our last day in Maya Center. This morning after breakfast we headed to the school to begin working on the basketball court. All of the materials were waiting for us so we could get right to work when we got there. The first task was to get the back board attached to the pole that was already in the ground. Many of the kids asked us why we didn't attach the back board before the pole went into the ground and we really didn't have a good answer other than "This is just how they do it in Belize." After the back board was attached we began mixing and pouring cement. Everyone took a turn hauling cement from the mixer to the court. Carlos, our foreman, and Peter were leveling out the cement once it was poured. Mr. Hunter and Miss Keim tried their hand at leveling the cement yesterday and decided today that Carlos and Peter were much better at it. While the kids weren't helping pour cement they were busy playing with the children from the community. It's always sad to say good-bye to them on our last day here. Our students have really enjoyed getting to know the children from the community and they will without a doubt miss them while we are on the island.

After lunch we had a little down time before we all gathered back in the dining hall to meet with Ernesto and Aurora. Ernesto and Aurora are the owners of the hotel where we stay while at Maya center and they have an incredible story of how the village came to be in Maya Center. We heard about how Ernesto's family took this land from absolutely nothing in 1976 into a fully functioning Mayan village complete with a water system, telephone lines, and electricity. We also heard the story of how Aurora and Ernesto met and actually ran away together to get married. Aurora also talked to the group for a little while about her story as a famous artist in Belize as well as a healer in her community. When we were done talking with Ernesto and Aurora the group had about an hour and a half of well deserved free time.

Tomorrow morning we will say good-bye to Maya Center and head out to Tobacco Caye. It's been a great few days with the members of this community.

Bella - In the past two day we have been working on making the basketball court. Yesterday, we started to put cement in the court, it was really hot outside plus it rained so that added up to humidity and bugs! This made the job a bit of a challenge. Also we all brought gifts for the children here in Maya Center, I brought a huge duffle bag full of Stray Dog shirts with many different sizes and colors for the children to choose from. All of them loved it! So, a shout out to my dad. Dad if you are reading this, your dream came true, the whole village turned Stray Dog and we have the pictures to prove it! Today was productive also. We got the backboard up and half the court filled with cement and I played volleyball with a bunch of kids, I'm sunburnt now but it was still fun. Unfortunately, it is our last day in Maya Center and although we didn't finish it was a fun experience to meet all the children and help make something for the community that I know will be used very much. Tomorrow we leave for Tobacco Key and I hope it will be as fun as the rest of the trip has been.

Andi - These past few days have been great and full of new and interesting experiences. Yesterday we poured cement and played with the kids of Maya Center. We also gave the families their gifts. The smallest things made the kids and parents so happy. A single toothbrush or t-shirt, and things I take for granted made them so happy, and made their day. In the afternoon we went tubing. On the walk to the river we ate termites. Termites are disgusting and taste awful. We then went tubing down the river. The water was cold, but overall the experience was fun and funny. Today we poured more cement on the basketball court and played with the kids. We finished half of the basketball court and said our goodbyes to the kids of Maya Center. The memories created were great and unforgettable. Tomorrow we leave Maya Center and head to Tobacco Key. So far the trip has been very fun and full of great memories.

Hannah Fisher - On Wednesday while we where walking to the river to go tubing I ate a termite and it tasted soooo weird. I can now say that I have eaten a termite I am soooo proud of myself. Today I poured cement in the wheel barrel and carried buckets of water for the cement. I miss you guys and i hope that your holy weeks are still wonderful without me. I know this is hard for you mom but if it makes you feel better I miss you and am thinking of you. Today was hard because I had to say good bye to the kids (I did not see any of the same kids that I saw last year which surprised me). The kids also called me pescado (fish in spanish). I miss you guys and I hope you are having an exceptional week.

Morgan - Yesterday was soooo cold compared to the other days that we have been here. It also rained as we were trying to hand out gifts to the kids. The feeling it gave me from seeing not only the children's smiles, but also the parent's smiles, was indescribable. During the afternoon, we went tubing. Halfway down the river, we stopped and we had do an exercise were we saved Mr. Hunter and Mr. Phillip from rocks. In a race to get to the teachers first, I faced my fears and ran through the water where I was up to my neck in leaves... and probably fish. (Fish are my biggest fear) I can't believe I did that! Today, I spent my work time filling buckets with sand for the cement. It was sad saying goodbye to the kids. The trip is almost over, but I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go to Belize. The memories that I have made will last a life-time!

Channing - HIIIIIIIIIIII! So on Wednesday we worked and played with the kids again. I was holding a kid when he peed on me so I was not smelling the best for the rest of the day:( Anyway we also made chocolate and it was pretty good. Yesterday we worked and played some more. We also handed out our gifts that we brought. That was a lot of fun!! But then later I got SICK:( So while everybody else went tubing I stayed with Ms. Keim and we found Baerett's shoe that he had lost. Even though I was sick it was fun just relaxing. Today was the last day we worked on the basketball court:( But Bella and I played volley ball which was really fun! I was kinda sad that we had to leave the kids but they were happy when we played with them. Well I'm going to go eat din! BYE!!!!!!:):):):):):):)

Madison - hello, Madison again. I'm going to give a brief update on the past three days since i last blogged. So on Wednesday we went to a chocolate farmplace and then ate a bunch of it and made some of our own. Just saying the stuff we made was kinda bitter but it was good enough to go through me. Then on Thursday we went and worked on the backetball court. We made a frame and put cement into the hole we dug and made a frame around to make the shape of the court. Also on Thursday we went tubing and that was an unexpected trip of bruises. The part where you are supposed to put your "butt up", I didn't really here Peter yell that alot and towards the end I was facing backwards so a sharp rock hit my back straight on the bone and it really hurts. Kinda matches the other one on my leg from walking into the wheelbarrow. Lastly we handed a bunch of gifts out to the kids. That was the best part of that day. Today we almost finished the court. I had to say good bye to the kids because today was our last day at maya center. Tomorrow we will be going to Tabbaco Caye. PS the freaky cat in maya center reminds me of lucky my old cat that is pure evil. Goin to go eat dinner now, ohhh theres cake ok gtg. BYE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 5 - Maya Center

Hello All,

Today we were greeted by a special guest! The rain. Yes, the rain. While it is supposed to be the dry season, we have had rain three days while we have been here. It rained from 7:30 til 8:15ish. It was a nice distraction for the students. They enjoyed the coolness of the weather that the rain brought.

After breakfast, we walked in the rain to the job site to frame the court and pour concrete. While, we waited for the rain to go away, the students brought goodies to pass out to the village people who were around. The students were overwhelmed with the amount of people who came out. After the rain broke up, we were able to frame the court and got some of the court poured. Unfortunately, we did not have enough supplies for us today to finish the court. Hopefully, the supplies will be there tomorrow for us. As we told the students, its not about finishing the job, but helping the community.

The second part of the day consisted of tubing down the river in Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve. When we got the Jaguar Preserve, we ran into a little snag. A group had went down the river about 45 minutes before us, so we had to wait while the group came back with the extra tubes we needed. So to pass the time, the students played games. Once we got the extra tubes we needed, we headed on our walk to the river. Along the way, Peter showed the students a Leaf Cutter Ant trail, and also a colony. Along the way, Peter also found a termite colony. Some of the students got to experience eating termites. They taste like mint. After a while, the students were tasked with rescuing Mr. Phillip and Mr. Hunter from a pile of rocks. The students were supposed to save them because they both had broken backs. Well, needless to say, Mr. Hunters back would have been broken even more after he was dropped on a rock, and Mr. Phillip is lucky his arm isn't broken! The students learned some very valuable lessons about safety! All in all, it was a successful day.

Nathan - Hello, Well today we started laying concrete on the basket ball court. I found out that me and Mr. Hunter are like the only ones that can wheel a wheel barrow properly without spilling rocks or cement.... Well Mr. Phillip probably can but I haven't seen him touch the wheel barrow yet...... (HAHAHA) soooo after we worked on the basketball court we went to the river and that was totally AWESOME and a bunch of fun!!!!!!!!!!! Okay that was today (March 28th) so i'm going to do a brief overview of the last three days since my last blog... So our first day working on the basketball quart we had to build a 3x3x3 hole.... Its interesting because in this group I look pretty good with a shovel. Because I know how to use it!!! Well so that was digging the first day and the second day we had to put the basket ball pole and hoop in the ground (VERY SKETCHY) anyway we then filled the hole with concrete and that was about it that day and that led to this day. Oh ya I also ate termites and they were pretty good!!!!! We played a game in the river where we had to save Mr. Hunter and Mr. Phillip like they were stranded! and HAHAHA i dropped
Mr. Hunter on a rock "HAHAHA CLASIC" (Alan, Hangover I) so then me and Mr. Hunter wrestled in the river and he put me in a cradle and i was going to get out of it because i was prying his finger but "It was time to go" (Mr. Hunter LOSING) well ya....... Sooo ya I have to go because I'm tired and little bored!!!! soo ya....

Will - Great day. Today we started to lay cement on the b ball court. We also went tubing, and chilled. Overall a great day. Im sippin Fanta so I gtg. Good luck on all your brackets!

Baerett - When we got to Maya Center, we were greeted by nice people, nice food, and great rooms. We hung our mosquito nets and then went to dinner, but after dinner, Mr. Hunter came into our room and told us we had to move, so instead of staying in a nice room with it's own bathroom, we switched over to rooms that were just plain really hot. Although they were hot, they cooled down, so later on it was fine. We started a tradition after that for Me, Blaine, Andrew, Will and Nathan came into the dining hall each night and play some cards. In the mornings at Maya Center, we work on the basketball court for the school and play with the kids. We're making pretty good progress, but we're a little behind. In the afternoon (after the great lunch of course), we do really fun activities such as making chocolate, jungle river tubing, and going to the maya museum.
In a few days, we're going to Tobacco Caye, and I'm exited to go snorkeling and use my new waterproof camera! Catch you on the flip-side, homies!

Blaine - Well first of all the food is amazing. I was a little bit worried about the food and that I would not like it but it is the best food I have ever had. After breakfast I changed into my work clothes and we went over with all of the clothes and toys and other things for the children. While we were walking over it started pouring rain. We walked over and one kid came we all gave him some things. And then two kids came then four kids then after ten minutes their was twenty to thirty kids. I emptied the bag. Everything was gone. Except the SINGED T-shirt that you gave me. After the rain stopped we started making cement and make some great progress. We came back and I bought a hammock and two hot sauces. A lot of people bought hammocks and we put them up where the other hammocks were. It was a lot of fun. We then went on a jungle river tubing with the whole group other than ms.keim and Channing because she wasn't feeling well.
We then took a bus up to the jaguar preserve and got tubes. We stacked some tubes on Barrett and Nathan ran into him. It was so funny Barrett went flying. We took a walk then for about twenty minutes. Halfway through Peter (our guide) showed us a termite nest. All the boys ate some. They didn't taste disgusting surprisingly they tasted like mint. We then went all the way into the river and started the tube. Halfway through the ride Peter stopped us for a game. Mr. Philip and Mr.Hunter laid on rocks pretending to be somebody that we needed to save them. We broke up into teams. My team was Me, Nathan, Isabella, Andi, Madison, Julia, Andrew. We all took off in the water. When we went to grab Mr. Hunter we accidentally dropped him on a stone. We both did some damage on the teachers. Peter told us that we both did bad because we were such a competitive group. This place is amazing. It reminds me of one of those big greenhouses in Florida where there is beautiful plants and animals. I am very happy to be here.

Andrew -
The basketball court that we are building is coming along and we have the pole up and started to pour concrete on the court surface. We took a tour of the cocoa fields and the chocolate place. We also went tubing on a river. I also learned that termites taste like mints.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Day 4 - Maya Center

Today was our second day working on our service project at The St. Jude's School in Maya Center. After breakfast we headed to the school and began working right away on mixing cement. We had a cement mixer on site but unfortunately we didn't have gas for it yet. So, we started mixing cement by hand! Everyone took turns mixing and keeping the cement wet so it wouldn't harden. Meanwhile a group of students worked on placing the basketball pole into the 3 foot hole that we dug yesterday. Throughout the morning we all took turns mixing cement, hauling it to the hole, and filling the hole with cement. Eventually we got gas for the mixer and we were relieved of our duties of hand mixing. In between hauling loads of cement the students had a great time playing with children from the community. They love being surrounded by the children from the community and they will definitely be sad to leave them in a few days.

This afternoon we headed out to the fields where the chocolate making process begins. We walked with the farmer to his land and had the chance to see what a cacao pod looks like. Our guide talked a little bit about the farm land and the process of growing the trees on the farm. The students had some great questions for him about farming the cacao pods. He took two and hit them together to crack them open so the group could try the cacao. The inside looks completely different than you would think and it tastes nothing like chocolate. After we left the farm we headed back to the Mayan Museum to hear Julio talk about how the cacao pods eventually become chocolate. Everyone participated in roasting the seeds and crushing them down until they eventually became chocolate. The students were very excited to try the chocolate but they quickly discovered this is not the chocolate that they are used to eating at home. It was much more bitter than they are used to.

We had a wonderful break in the weather late this afternoon when it started raining!! It is the dry season in Belize right now so any rain is very welcomed. Our students had a great time playing in the rain like they were 4 years old again. They have all been doing a great job! Everyone is getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and we haven't had anyone get burnt or sick!

Brooke - So far, the experience in Belize has been incredible. On the first day, we rode on an airplane. It was my first time. It was amazing. Usually I am afraid of heights, but riding in an airplane was different. It was so cool to see things up that high. When we got to Belize, we went to the zoo. I got to pet a jaguar! There were so many different animals that I have never seen before. There was an ocelot that made a weird sound when it ate. It was pretty funny. The first night we stayed at The Tropical Education Center. We stayed in cabanas. It was very hot, but as the night went on it got cooler. The next day, we went to the Mayan ruins. We climbed one of them. It was really fun and I learned a lot. Then we took a 3 hour bus ride to Maya Center. We will be staying here for the next 5 days. The next day, we woke up and went to the work site. The work site has been my favorite part. We work, but since there are 17 kids, we get to play with the children. I have so much fun with them. There is Robot, Kev Kev, Izzy, JJ, and Macaroni. I can't say some of their names, so my friends and I made nick names for them. Those are the ones who I have the best relationships with. They are very good at soccer. I have played soccer every day except the first one. On the third day, we went to the work site again, and then went to the Mayan Museum. We learned about their kitchen utensils, and about their dancing. Robot danced. He was pretty good. Then we made corn tortillas. They tasted really good. The food here is really good. Especially the hot sauce. That's pretty good. The juice, not so much. We have to drink a lot of water to prevent heat stroke. I feel like I am drinking water constantly. Today, we went to the work site again. It feels like we aren't getting very far in the project, but I don't think that we realize how much it means to the Belizian people about how much we have done so far. After that, we made chocolate. It was very bitter and kind of gross. Then we bought some chocolate and it was delicious. Belize has been a wonderful experience and it will just get better from here.

Mary - Belize has been amazing so far!!! We waited in line to go to security for a very long time. We got through eventually, and waited to board. The plane ride was fun I played cards and listened to music. I sat next to Brooke on the way to Dallas. We had a long layover in Dallas and we finally got on the plane to Belize. It was cool because we got to fly over the ocean and the boats in it looked really tiny and also it looked like they were not moving. When we got off the plane it was sooooooo hot!! I was wearing a jacket and sweatpants (not a good idea.) We traveled alot and finally got to The Tropical Education Center. We stayed in bungalos and they were nice, I roomed with Channing. Dinner was good we had chicken, white cake, and other food I can't remember. The zoo was really cool. There were many interesting animals like, an ocelot, howler monkey, and so many more. The second day we ate breakfast, it was good. We traveled a little bit on the second day. We went to the Mayan ruins and they were so awesome!! The top of the building was so high. We drove and ate lunch, I had a hamburger. Then we drove to the Mayan village and I am rooming with Bella and Andi. I got cold the first night. When we woke up we ate breakfast and then went to work. It was good we dug a hole and played with the kids. They are so cute and have interesting names like Zenida, Josefina, Lilliana, and Edica. They like to play soccer and play on the sew saws. Then we went to the Mayan Museum. It was cool there is a cool xylophone, a hammock, and things in a Mayan home. We grounded coffee and corn. The next part of the day we had free time and built a spaghetti structure to hold up and egg. My group failed horribly. I got cold again at night. Today we woke up, ate breakfast, and went to the work site. Today we mixed cement and put the basketball stand in the hole. We played with the kids which was fun. We then came back to our rooms and went to the chocolate farm. It was a fun place to go. The cocoa beans are not very good to taste. But the farm was cool. Then we came back to the village and made chocolate. It wasn't very good. Then we bought some chocolate from the gift shop and it was quite tasty. Then we came back to the village and changed and played cards and ate dinner. Now we are playing mafia, which is quite funny to watch. I can't wait to go to Tobacco Caye. I don't have a ton of bug bites. I miss you guys sooooo much and can't wait to see you!!! Love you!!!

Cassidy - So far Belize has been the best experience I have ever had. The first day we were on the plane traveling almost the entire day. Once we finally got to Belize we got on a bus and drove to the zoo. At the zoo there were little huts that we slept in that night. That day we also met Peter our amazing tour guide for the trip. The second day we got up and went to the mayan ruins and there was a ruin which was 130 feet tall, since I was afraid of hights I only climbed about 90 feet and then stopped.(I entered my stretch zone for that) After we left the ruins we got back on the bus and drove all the way to Maya center which was about 2 and a half hours away. At the maya center we met Arora, Ernesto, and Marroquin. On the third day we started our project to build the basketball court. We also got to meet all of the kids that are here and learn about them and their life style. We also went on a tour at maya center museum and made tortillas. Today we put in the basket ball hoop on the court and got to see the kids again. Then we went back to the cocoa field and took a tour of the field with the beans. Then we went back to the maya center and made dark chocolate out of cocoa beans. So far the best part of the trip has been seeing the children and knowing that they always look forward to seeing us again.

Morgan - When I first got to Belize, the only thing I thought about was how HOT it was! The bus ride to the zoo was so much fun. It was the first time that I had seen how poor some people live. During the night hike at the zoo, there was this really cute animal that said "Om-Nom-Nom" when it ate. The second day, we went to the Mayan ruins. Almost all of us climbed to the top of the tallest ruin.. I can't believe I climbed that high! The bus ride to the Maya Center was so long, and I think I slept the entire time. On the third day, we began digging the whole for our service project. Meeting the kids and seeing how happy they were to see us made my day. In the afternoon, we did a leadership activity. The group I was in didn't exactly run smoothly! Today, we worked on putting the basketball hoop up. I got the nickname "MBM" (Morgan Beast McBride) for mixing the concrete without complaining. In the afternoon, we took a tour of the chocolate field, and I had dark chocolate for the first time. After the chocolate tour, we had another leadership activity and it went so much better than yesterday! So far, I am loving Belize and I will be so sad when the trip is over!! (Ms. Keim, Mr. Hunter, and Mr. Phillip are awesome!)

Genna - When we got to Belize it was blazing hot and the plane ride was very long, so I was happy to finally get to the zoo. At the zoo the cabins that we stayed at were very nice. At night when we were at the zoo we got to go see all of the animals at night which was really cool because we could see the nocturnal ones. The next day we left for the Maya Center and we got settled in. A couple days later after we were building and playing with the kids we finally found a tarantula in our room. Then Peter had to come and get it out and he showed it to Mr.Hunter which freaked out and.... yeah. Thats all that has happened in the amount of time we were here.

Hannah Feder - Hello reader/family! When I first got here I thought that everything would be scary, everyone was talking about spiders, working (which is not what I normally do), and bugs. It turns out, everything is not so bad, I've only seen like 2 spiders, we don't overwork, and well actually the bugs are pretty bad (so far I have about 56 bites, 48 are on my legs). When we first arrived, the air was dense and it was hard to breathe, but I was used to the weather because it is normally that hot in China. When we got on the bus to leave the airport, no one wanted to leave because of the air conditioning. That day we spent the night at the zoo, we saw ocelots and howler monkeys and so much more! We are now staying at Nuuk Che'il (I don't know if I spelled it right). Guess what, who can say they've ever made ALL NATURAL CHOCOLATE in their lives? No Jasmine Feder, you may not answer yes. To be honest I really miss my family and sometimes I don't know if everyone here likes me, but Mr.Hunter told everyone that we are all out of our comfort zones, so I suppose this is all natural. I'll give you some advice reader, if you ever feel sad, sing a song. I sing my mom's Chinese songs and it makes me feel better. Also just saying I won at mafia with about 16 people.
See you Later,
Hannah Feder

Julia - So far, the trip has been great! First we stayed at a zoo for a night. We saw a margay, jaguar, puma, howler monkey, ocelot, and many more. It was very hot and humid, but we started to adjust the next day. We went on a long bus ride, and it was pretty fun. After the bus ride, we arrived at maya center. Marroquinn is super cute as always, and we hung out a lot. In the morning, we work at the school. Since there are so many of us and very few supplies, we take turns building the basketball court and painting the swing set. The library that we built last year looks GREAT! The best part of the trip so far is hanging out with the kids. All of them are super cute and adorable! There are a lot of them that come to the school to play with us, even though they are on spring break. They love it when I braid their hair and spin them around. Peter is our guide again; and him, Ms Keim, Mr Philip, and Mr Hunter are all super awesome. I'm having a great time and I can't wait to tell you more about it!
Julia :)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day 3 - Maya Center

Hello from Maya Center, Belize. Today has been a fabulous day and the team has done a great job!! Everyone had a great night of sleep and they woke up ready to go. After breakfast this morning we headed to the St. Jude School to begin our work project. Unfortunately in Belize not everyone is on the same time schedule. Many of the people are very laid back and don't really stick to time deadlines. This morning our materials had not arrived at the school yet so we had some time to kill. Lucky for us there were many children from the village that were starting to gather around us. Our kids were more than happy to play soccer and fly kites with them. While we were waiting we met Liberato, the school's principal. He was very appreciative of our help and expressed his gratitude to our entire group. The supplies arrived and we got ready to work. Our job for today was to dig the hole that the basketball post will be in. This may sound like a pretty easy task in America but in Belize it's a completely different story. After about 2 inches the Earth is complete clay and very difficult to dig. Needless to say it took a few hours to dig a 3 foot by 3 foot hole that was 3 feet deep. Tomorrow we will begin mixing cement to hold the post. (The first photo is the finished library that the students framed last year. Now, they are using it for a classroom.)

After lunch we headed down the street to the Mayan Museum. We met Julio who runs the museum and he began showing us artifacts that you would find in a traditional Mayan home. The groups had the chance to press sugar cane and it definitely wasn't as easy as it looked. We watched some traditional Mayan dancing and some of our kids took a turn learning a Mayan dance. Their favorite part was making (and eating) tortillas that were then baked over a traditional Mayan stove. Tomorrow we will meet up with Julio again and learn about making chocolate.

Bella - This morning we went to the St. Jude school to begin our work on the basketball court. We met many children and we played catch and soccer and I really got to know some of the kids there really well. We also began to dig the whole for the basketball hoop. The hole had to be at least three feet deep. I was given the job to fill buckets of water to use for the cement. Over all today was a productive day.

Andi - Today we went to Maya Center and began to build the basketball court. We dug a 3 foot hole for the basketball hoop. I experienced using a hammer for the first time :) We played with a lot of kids that were adorable. We played soccer, tag, relay races, and I taught them how to do a handstand and cartwheel. We also made homemade tortillas. Today we had a very fun, and productive day.

Hannah Fisher - We got to Belize fine. Today we started on the basketball court and we began to dig a hole for the pole of the hoop. We also got to play with the kids and that was really fun to play with the kids. We also made homemade tortillas at the Maya Center Maya Museum and we learned about the culture of Mayans.
I miss you guys and I hope everything is okay back at home and I wish you are having a wonderful Holy Week.
Hannah (Fishy, Fishy)
P.S The shake I got at the airport was awesome hahahah thanks.

Channing - The plane ride to Belize was a little bit long but it was good! When I got off the plane it was REALLY HOT!!!! Yesterday we visited Mayan Ruins. They were really cool! We climbed one of the temples and the view was AMAZING!!! I took some pictures so I can remember the experience. Today we started working on the basketball court. We also played with the some of the kids in the village. That was a lot of fun!! After that we went to a museum and made tortillas. It has been fun so far! Can't wait to see you!!

Madison - Our plane trip got very boring after a while but after a while, we finally reached Belize. Just waiting outside for the gates to be opened you could feel the difference from Indiana and Belize. Once we got to the cabanas things kinda chilled out and we got to go to the zoo. Just saying Howler Monkeys are officially under my freaky animals category. Then the second day we drove for what felt like forever. Today we had a productive day. I got to dig a hole 3x3 and then I played with a bunch of kids for the rest of the time. Lilliana and Josaphina mostly hung out with me. Then we went to the Maya Center Mayan Museum were we made homemade tortillas and saw a bunch of stuff related to the Mayans. Now I'm heading to bed after a game of mafia. NIGHT!!!!!!!!!!