Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our first week in Belize

Hola amigos desde San Ignacio, Belize! We first-wave volunteers have made it through our first week and want to tell you all about it. Most of us arrived last Wednesday afternoon. Here are some of the highlights from our week:

Day One:

On the first day, Ray and Calvin picked us up at the airport and showed us around Belize City, where we stayed for a couple of days with a missionary couple from our church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was great getting to know them. They were SO good to us while we were here! For dinner we had our first belizean meal: rice and beans, with some chicken and fried plantain. Belizeans love their rice and beans. Most of them have it every day. It was fun meeting each other and spending the day together. That night we also went to go meet some students from Kettering College who we worked with for a few days at some of the health fairs that they had here in Belize. It was great meeting all of them.

Here we are at the Dunfords home right after they picked us up from the airport (from left to right: Dominique from Stenungsund, Sweden; Cydnee from Logan, Utah; Calvin from Purcellville, Virginia; Jacob from Rexburg, Idaho; Raymon from Charleston, Utah; and Melissa from Houston, Texas):

This is the Dunfords' home where we stayed our first night.

Day Two:

On our first full day in Belize we met up with our Kettering College friends at their health fair. Meet Collet Montejo, the public relations manager of Belize Healthcare Partners Limited who helped run the show. He’s the man! He’s helped us so much since we’ve been here, not only with setting us up with amazing opportunities to work in his hospital, but also with showing us around Belize City.

Our first day here in Belize City we met up with twenty-five students from Kettering College to assist them with their second health fair. It was great jumping right into a project on our first day. Here's a picture of Ray at the check-in table:

The health fair offered lots of different services to the people of Belize free of cost. The people were able to come and get their blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked, eye exams and prescription glasses, and ultrasounds. After making their way through these services, the people were educated on different health topics, including CPR and choking, dental hygiene, HIV, hand washing, and menopause. This picture was taken at the dental hygiene booth:

Melissa became an expert at taking blood pressure:

As you can see, we work hard, but we play hard! Here we took a break to dance to the electric slide. When we all couldn't remember how it went, a cute Belizean woman at the fair (with super high blood pressure ha!) jumped in to show us how it's done:

After the fair, Belize Healthcare Partners Limited treated us to dinner at Sumathi Indian Restaurant. It was delicious!

After dinner, Collet took all of us on a tour of the city. We drove by the south side of town to look at the poorest part of the city. It was really sad to drive through the neighborhoods and see how rundown some of the homes are here. It feels so good to be in a place where there is so much need. Collet also drove us to see St. John's Cathedral, the oldest Anglican church in Central America. It was built in 1812.

During our tour of the city, our van overheated. It was crazy being stranded in the middle of Belize City after dark. It’s a good thing we were in a large group. Here's a picture of Andy cooling it down for us.

Day Three:

First thing Friday morning we left the Dunfords’ for Cayo, the district of Belize where we'll be living this summer. Ray and Calvin had already bought our coral home before we got here. It’s not pink. And it’s not salmon. And it’s not orange. It’s coral. haha! We live on the bottom floor of this amazing house with wallpaper for carpet and cochroaches and lizards and possessed dogs that bark all night as pets. We are truly living the Belizean dream. (Second and third wavers: please still come. We promise you’ll love it!)

We spent most of the Friday walking around town buying supplies to get our house set up. We needed fans, foam mattresses, cleaning supplies, and water. Later that day Calvin and Ray introduced us to our Cook, Ms. Kay, and our neighbor, Mr. Kibb. This picture was taken on the way over to Mr. Kibb's:

Here we are taking the mattresses home from the Foam Depot. Ray had to ride with them in the back of Mr. Kibb's truck.

At the end of the day we decided to take a tour of our new hometown: San Ignacio.

The coolest part about this city is the huge river that runs right through the middle. The river is always filled with locals who are swimming or washing their clothes in it. It's awesome!

Here's a picture of all of us relaxing after a long hot day. We only lasted about a minute on the bank before we had to jump in.

The current was pretty strong. Calvin called it a natural swimming treadmill. Too funny!

After cooling off at the river, we went to go buy some fans! Here we are assembling these bad boys:

And here we are unassembling these bad boys. (Cause we did it wrong the first time. And the second.)

Here's a picture of the girls. We already love each other.

That night we met up with some members of our church here. They had a mother's day activity and invited us. It was super fun. We ended up having a dance party afterward with all of them. Here's a picture of us in the back of Mr. Kibb's car on our way home. One of our favorite things about the Belizean culture is that we get to ride in the back of everyone's trucks.

Friday was a great day!

Day Four:

Saturday morning, we woke up at 4:30AM to get ready to catch our bus to Orange Walk for another health fair with our Kettering College friends. This picture was taken on our walk to the bus stop:

After a five hour bus ride (where most of our time was spent learning Spanish from Jake and Calvin) we made it to the Orange Walk health fair. It was packed. There was plenty for us to do when we arrived, so we went straight to work.

Melissa and Dominique manned the intake table for most of the day. Five hundred and sixty people came through while we were there. It was great to be able to serve so many people in one day.

Here is a picture of all of us with Collet. (Ray stayed home because he was feeling too sick to join us. We sure did miss him!)

At the end of the fair, Kettering College thanked us with some t-shirts and hats from their school. It was great working with them. We all became such good friends.

Here is a picture of Andy giving eye exams to his patients:

Once the fair was over, a lot of us played football outside with the kids. Here's another picture of Andy with all of them:

After the fair, Collet drove us to the home of one of the doctors that helped out at the fair. Her house is part of an alcoholic rehabilitation center that's on a jungle resort. This resort was amazing. It had a ton of cool stuff: RVs, gyms, monkeys, horses, a carpentry shop, kinup (a fruit that Calvin refers to as nature’s jolly ranchers) trees, water buffalo, and a cool river. Check out these pictures of the river: We get to live here!

Here's a picture of Mandy the wild monkey.

It was such a great day!

Day Five:

Sunday morning we woke up to go to church. Our church has two different branches in the area—a Spanish branch and an English branch. Ray and Cydnee went to represent our group at the English branch, while Jacob, Calvin, Dominique, and Melissa attended the Spanish branch. After church we dropped by Mr. Kibb’s house to e-mail our families and call home to wish our moms a happy Mother’s Day.

Jacob and Melissa spent some quality time playing some intense freeze tag with the neighborhood kids. Little did we know that this innocent game of fun would lead to the injury of both of the girls in this picture. First, Jacob came around the corner and saw poor little purple-shirt girl lying on the ground. He picked her up and kept running around with her and playing the game. When he came around the corner the second time, still holding cute little purple-shirt girl, he found poor little Melissa lying on the ground with all of the neighborhood kids standing around her trying to get her up. She had jumped up to tag someone on the balcony, landed on the steps weird, and sprained her ankle. We learned later that in Creole, “Bliggity blam boom, boff” is a much more expressive way to say “She slipped and fell.” Here's a picture before "she jrop."

Jacob and Ray were nice enough to help her walk home:

And nice enough to take care of her once they got there:

Day Six:

Monday was spent going to meet with several different non-profit organizations (NGOs) in the area. Ray and Cydnee traveled to Belmopan to meet with Galen University to discuss our Soilet project. Calvin, Jacob, Dominque, and Melissa met with Cornerstone Foundation and CARE Belize in the morning and then met up with Ray and Cydnee to visit ProBelize, the Red Cross, and Sacred Heart College. It was great meeting all of the non-profit leaders in the area to talk about opportunities to help eliminate poverty here in San Ignacio. We look forward to working with these organizations this summer. We already have opportunities to help this week.

We spent some time in the afternoon shopping for our microwave, fridge, and washing machine that we plan to buy later this week. We also stopped by a few fun gift shops. Here’s Jacob rockin’ his sweet dread hat. The owner of the shop turned to correct us when he said, “That’s a dreadlock rasta, maan” Who do you think looks more legit? Jacob in his dreadlock rasta or this sweet Belizean that’s been rockin’ dreads since Belize won her independence in 1981?

Here’s another Creole phrase for ya. Can you guess what it means?

Here's a picture of us doing what we do best:

Here’s a picture that was taken as we were walking to meet with the Red Cross.

Here we’re talking to Jorge Aldana at the Sacred Heart College. He had lots of great ideas for projects that we can do while we’re here. We’re most excited about the river cleanup project they have next month and their willingness to work with us on our Soilet project. We’re also going to help him come up with solutions to the problems they have on their campus.

Jacob had an accident checking the water line to check if we could hook up our washing machine to it. Ray was lucky enough to witness the incident:

We were really happy that we were able to accomplish so much on Monday.

Day Seven:

HELP International allows volunteers to spend their Saturdays traveling the country to sightsee. Since we worked in Orange Walk last Saturday, we decided to take Tuesday as our holiday. A friend from church, Efrain Medina, took us to Hopkins Bay where he had to work for the day. Enjoy these beautiful pictures of our first visit to the beach:

We finished the night off right with some Chinese food. This city is full of tons of awesome Chinese places to eat. It’s been a great first week. We’re excited for the weeks and months we have ahead of us to do as much good as we can for the people here in Belize.

Until next week!


  1. Reading this makes me want to come NOW. Thanks for posting this, Melissa!

  2. I cannot wait another month to come!! I wait to come now!!

  3. and the second wait was supposed to be a want. See I can't even concentrate on typing my desire to be there is so great. :)

  4. I have been worried about you as no one had heard for a while but you Mom saw that you had been on face book today and that was good. I am here in Iowa for Meggie. Graduating tomorrow and missing my Miss. What a beautiful place you are serving in. It will give you an idea what a mission could be like. Consider, my dear girl. Love you. Grammie