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The age I learned to fly and took a step outside
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5th-Jul-2007 09:24 pm(no subject)
Wanderlust: Call of the wild
Greetings from San Salvador!

Where to begin?! Since my last entry I have become a certified open water diver, discovered that Hondurans take forever to do anything, camped in a cloud forest and had a momentary disaster when my bag with all my money and passport and EVERYTHING fell down a cliff and I couldn´t get it back [I did!] and I have bathed in Hot Springs.

I promised to talk about Graduation and my last week at Duck Run 2, so I guess I will begin there. My final week at the school was all a hectic buildup to their Graduation Ceremony - since it was me that knew how to make all the certificates print properly, I spent quite some time on Tuesday doing that -- one certificate for each of the twelve graduates and then all the academic related awards. On the monday of that week I took Standard One and Two for more exams and general classes, and then went with Standard 3 and 4, which was really nice because I walked in think "Help what am I going to do?!" and they´d already arranged themselves into two neat little groups - one tidying the library and one playing Hangman!

Wednesday 20th June - Graduation Day began with lots of blue and white balloons - blowing them up and attaching them to the wire so they would make an archway over the door. Flowers were obtained from one of the houses and had to be arranged into pots to go in front of the altar and there were lots of banners and crepe paper things all over the church. By the end, although very simple, the decoration looked fantastic - especially since most of it had been made by the graduating class. Went back to the house and changed into some nice clothes and returned to the church for the ceremony. The twelve graduates all looks really fantastic in their blue caps and gowns - graduation is a big deal for them and most had spent all day preparing for it. They marched in to Pomp and Circumstance and then there was a church service led by a vicar whose entire speech centered around the fact that if they weren´t going to high school then there was no point in celebrating because they must have bad parents. Idiot. Especially since only 3 of the 12 were going to high school because it costs 800 dollars in just tuition fees!
Then there was all the graduation presentations and myself and Hannah were given some plaques as a Thank You gift.
After the Graduation we went back to the house of our family´s cousin, Leydy, who was one of the graduates for a celebratory gathering, at which we discovered that there were two canadians living in Duck Run 2! Then came Thursday and leaving day.

To celebrate the end of the teaching phase we went to a place called Barton Creek - a sort of Jungle Lodge with a bar and a river to swim in and a whole lot of free drinks. Bearing in mind that I hardly really drunk at all during teaching phase, this was a lot of drinks. What I remember of the party was excellent fun. Drinking games and bar dancing and what not. I did have to wash regurgitated pizza out of my hair the next morning. Oops...

We left for Caye Caulker on Sunday 24th June, an hour away by water taxi. It is a funky little island with sandy streets and golf buggies instead of cars. Our diving course consisted of all day monday spent in a classroom pretending to pay attention to hours and hours of DVD. Then on Tuesday it was time to learn about all the kit and get all confused about which bit connects to which, and it is all rather important for being able to breathe underwater. Then we had our first practice dive in very shallow water learning how to take our masks off and our air supply our and whatnot. ´
Wednesday was an exciting day - our first open water dive on the reef! 40 feet down - though it took me a while to get there because you have to equalise your ears and I have weird ears or something so it just really hurt at first. Lots of brown coral and blue or yellow fish! What I hadn´t realised is that water absorbs colour so it wasn´t all crazy bright colours. It was, actually, rather mysterious and intriguing! Then we did a second dive with more underwater skills. Finished by lunchtime and quite exhausted Lou and I booked a ferry to Honduras for Saturday morning, leaving from Dangriga. Then we went back to our hotel and watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Cable TV...! And did our PADI Exams.
Thursday morning was not, as every other day had been, bright and sunny. It was actually pouring with rain and lightning and thunder and really quite inhostpitable. So no diving on Thursday ànd a momentary panic because we had to make it to Dangriga on friday to catch our ferry Saturday morning. No worries according to the dive centre - we would finish early enough so we could catch the water taxi in time to make the last bus from Belize City. Since Lou and myself had already gone out in this lovely weather and were soaked through, we decided to detour to the bakery to buy something for lunch and then to the art gallery for a hot chocolate. Very nice stuff! Although the woman serving us did seem to relish in the fact that there was a 70 percent chance of the island being struck by lightning. As though we really wanted to know that...!
Friday morning, bright and early we set off for our final two open water dives. This time down to 60 feët, which took me even longer to get down to but was so utterly worth it. We were swimming with Nurse Sharks and fish that were about 2 feet long and eels in this strange otherworldly environment. Fantastic!
Now certified divers we grabbed our stuff, went for a milkshake and hopped on the water Taxi to Belize City to begin our own travelling.

More to follow about adventures and misadventures in Honduras. Tomorrow I´m off to surf!

Love lots,
Meg xx
24th-Jun-2007 06:54 am - And so the end...
Wanderlust: Call of the wild
The end of teaching, that is.

Thursday at 12:15 I waved goodbye to the students of Duck Run 2, hopped in a landrover and left.

I then spent all day trying not to cry. I can't believe that it's been seven weeks. It has been, without a doubt, the most incredible few weeks ever.

The week before Tulum was one of those strange itsy-bitsy ones where you do a lot but not much happens. Did reading and some art and I spent a long time on the computer doing certificates and the programme for graduation.

Mexico itself was absolutely amazing. I left Duck Run 2 at lunchtime on Wednesday and walked down to the ferry at Duck Run 1 where I was meeting Lou and Maddy. Off we went on the bus, to Belize City and then to Chetumal, just accross the Mexican border, where we turned up at "Hotel Ucum" (Yes, really!) at 10.30pm and ordered Dominoes Pizza!
The difference between the two countries becomes apparant the instant you cross the border - Mexico has things like Dominoes and REAL ROADS and NORMAL CARS THAT ARE NOT BATTERED PICKUPS. As I will tell more about later, Chetumal also has a huge shopping mall that feels just like shopping malls in England (Just, in Spanish).
Thursday morning we all got on a nice first class bus to Tulum, where we arrived at about midday and, having checked into our hostel and aquired a random Belizean that Ste brought from his village but who couldn't afford the luxury hotel Ste was staying in, we went off to the beach.
Having tested the waters on the beach next to Hotel Zamas, where the others were staying, we went decided to go for a walk to find more beach. 5 mosquito ridden Kilometers down a very pretty road we stopped outside a place called La Zebra that advertised free salsa lessons, we asked an American couple who were like "Oh it's just there" and, having wandered through we came upon miles and miles of sandy beach. The sort of Sandy beach that you see in postcards and never in real life.
Then we had to walk all the way back...! When we returned to our hostel we cooked ourselves burgers and ate Ice Cream.
Friday (Frankies birthday) was Beach Day at La Zebra. All day spent sitting around in the sand and building sandcastles and swimming. And getting quite burned. Then in the evening, following our free salsa class (Awesome fun!) we went back to our hostel to change and get ready for going out to eat and then for drinks etc...
The restaurant we ate at was nice, and by this time I was feeling awesome because I had a nice new pair of Havaianas (4th pair of flipflops) and had heard that the restaurant sold SANGRIA. Actually the Sangria tried to poison both me and Lou... but we survived :D Then we went to a beach hotel that had a Beach Party with performers and real music and had an awesome time!
We returned to Chetumal on Saturday and spent the evening in Liverpool, the huge shopping centre and department store. We also ate at McDonalds - mostly just because we could! It was very peculiar to be in a shopping centre that felt so much like England - just because it's something I haven't seen properly for so long!

I'm going to stop writing now: To follow is details about graduation, my final week and final party.
In an hour I will be leaving to go off to Caye Caulker to do some diving! All very exciting!

Lots of love,
Meg xx
17th-Jun-2007 05:53 pm - Bienvenidos a paradise
Wanderlust: Call of the wild
Tulum is the most stunning beach in the world. Ever. And I've just been there.

Yes, I did just go to Mexico for a long weekend... as you do :)

Now I have to go back to my village but I just thought I'd share the Tulum-is-amazing vibe.

10th-Jun-2007 07:40 am - Hello, time? Where are you going?
Wanderlust: Call of the wild
End of week 5 in Duck Run 2!

Last weekend, following a picnic in the park (cold baked beans and PLANTAIN CHIPS) we hitched back to our village in significantly less time than the last time we tried it... Mostly because we caught a ride with a guy who drove us all the way to our village! I am sure that in England you wouldn't go out of your way along one of the worst roads ever just to drop two random strangers off!

On Monday we turned up to school to find a dead snake on one of the teacher's desks (apparantly some of the girls found it in the road) and a distinct absence of our principal. So we begin our week standing in front of Standard One and Two, on a boiling hot day with no idea what to teach and a lot of students who don't want to learn anything!
Of course, we survived. I took the lower set for some basic math, trying to get them to write out addition sums one above the other to make it easier to add. At the time I was having some serious doubts about whether they were learning anything, but then later on we did a quiz with them and they all started adding like I had taught them! Yay!

Then taught some creative writing - this time trying to do a picture story, which they obviously totally understood because they told me the story as I drew it on the board. So then, feeling confident I gave them all a plain piece of paper and set them about doing their own. Some of them told me sort-of stories about people called 'Santiago' or 'Ramon' - some of them drew me pictures copied out of library books which were all very pretty and they all worked so hard that I didn't really want to point out that wasn't quite what I meant :D Totally wish I could speak Spanish so that I could actually explain to them what I meant.

In the afternoon I showed them how to make tinfoil men, which went down rather well! They all stared and went "ohh, pretty" when I held up the example! Quite glad however that we finished at 3 on Monday and not 3:30, I'm not sure the tinfoil making would have lasted too much longer!

On Tuesday morning, marginally traumatised from being chased by a large bird whilst out running, I went into school to find that Mr Mejia had to go to pick up the Standard 6 exam results and so left us with his class - who were, thankfully, a little calmer than they had been the previous day. We gave them a reading book and had them all read it and then answer questions on it. Very simple questions about the story, but we had to help them a lot with that. I really enjoyed helping Jose, who really struggles with English but is obviously quite bright and I am sure would do so well if he was taught in Spanish. I taught him how to match words in the book with keywords in the question to figure out at least where the answer was. I think he learned something. Even if it was look at the pictures first to try to find the answer. As they finished we sent them all to the library to read (I have found that if you give them permission to look at any book they like they're so excited because it means they can look at the pictures in National Geographic). Going to check on them, we found that Jose and Jaime were sitting tidying all the books! Very pleased because then we didn't have to do it!

Mr Mejia returned at lunchtime with the exam results - 7 of the 12 students had passed, mostly with "adequate" which is the lowest pass. The highest mark was 79%. I would be curious to know how much of their scores was influenced by the fact that they speak Spanish. Having talked to people in different schools I think ours must be one of the most predominantly Spanish - just because all the teachers speak it as a first language and will use it with the students whenever they are not in class - because it is more natural, I think.

Did some computer lessons after lunch and then had some free time so I read a book about Shakleton which was very interesting!

On Wednesday morning, since it was the first of the month, the whole school went to the church next door to practice songs for mass, which should have been that morning although the priest didn't turn up so we all went back to class. I was very proud of myself for understanding the words of one of the Spanish Hymns!
Wednesday was spent mostly with Standard 5 and 6 - whilst Hannah did some Math with them I was typing up their exams for next week and trying to figure out their teacher's bad grammar on their grammar exam...
The afternoon brought more computer classes and then a visit from Will at fieldbase who filmed me talking about teaching and then teaching Standard 3 and 4 for art -- more tinfoil men, which went down just as well with this class! Although the idea of animating them with photos didn't really work because they all find my camera much too fascinating. Now I have a lot of photos of me and Standard 3 and 4!

On Thursday, after reading with standard 1 and 2, I did some creative writing with standard 5. A slight moment of "Eek, what to do!" (because they'd already done lots about story structure and I had no idea what their ability level was) followed by my grabbing a book of Shell fuel adverts and picking one with a sea monster in it and then getting them to write a story based on that. Aside from their grammar... they had some really interesting stories. Hopefully I am going to have time to copy some of them out so that I can put them here. According to my diary for Thursday: Afternoon brought more reading and typing of exams and an evening of silliness and giggles with Suleyma.

Friday we spent all day typing exams for standard five and six, and teaching some of the Std 5 and 6 girls how to make macrame bracelets (according to them: "Calidad!"). Got home to find that Ammy had come to leave me a present: A little journal that says "I love you" on the front. Please may I take her home with me?

Yesterday we went to Mountain Pine Ridge, which was an awesome tour. Went to see the site of Rio Frio project, Rio on Pools, Rio Frio Caves, Big Rock Falls (where we all jumped in off this really high rock that scared the hell out of me and I had to get Lou to come up and practically force me off. But I did it!) and Five Sister Falls. Awesome day :)

I am going to go now, other people want the computer and I have screen-eyes.

Lots of love,
Meg xx
3rd-Jun-2007 08:29 am - How to make a paper plane...
Wanderlust: Call of the wild
"No quieres leer este?" is an important phrase. On Friday lunchtime in the library I used it without thinking about it and without hesitating! How awesome is that?!

It's now the end of Week 4 of the seven! Already! Time is being mischevious, I think and running away from me!

Monday morning we continued our reading with Standard 1 and 2 - Alicia and I read "We're going on a bear hunt" which was amusing - I kept trying to say things that didn't really make much sense - Spanish is a much more 'simple' language in some respects - It's hard not to try to overcomplicate sentences. More often than not things just don't translate. (Like the verb "To Pester" in Spanish actually translates as "To Molest" so my students often complain that so-and-so is "Molesting")

I also taught Standard 3 for Creative Writing, which was interesting. I decided to do something straightforward just to try to work out what sort of abilities they had. I had them pick their favourite characters from books or films and then worked with them on how the characters fit into the story - the language barrier is something of an issue, but it's given me a good plan for next week - I'm going to do cartoon-strips with them. It's so obvious that their enjoyment of stories is really hindered by the fact that they are forced to work in English all the time. I am hoping that working with stories in pictures will help that a lot, because having read some of the work that they did they have so much imagination!

Monday afternoon also brought an art class with standard 1 and 2. Lacking in any ideas whatsoever we decided to make and decorate paper planes, and then have a competition to see whose flew the furthest. Thus chaos ensued, and possibly one on the most enjoyable lessons I have had so far! Kenner managed to throw his paper plane into the middle of the softball game on the other side of the field, and there are several pieces of folded paper stuck in the rafters of the classroom... I love teaching ;)

Tuesday we did more reading with Standard 3 and 4 and then Creative Writing with Standard 2. Eight year old's who don't speak much English! This was actually really good fun - and it was very clear that certain students had a lot to say and did not have the ability to say it, which was, in a sense, quite frustrating. I am developining the opinion that they ought to be allowed to be taught in Spanish, but be taught "English" as a subject - I think it would totally make a difference to the quality of their education. Jose, for example, in Standard 2 speaks a little English, but can't read or write it, and yet he was writing things about his house in our lesson on Tuesday and was obviously wanting to say so much about his motorcycles but just couldn't.

In the afternoon we took some of the Infants until it was time for them to go home. Teaching them was really fantastic. I began by showing them how to make paper hats, and they were all totally eager to copy what I was doing and then to decorate them. I also had my camera with me, so I took photos of them with their hats on. Then I told them the story with the hat about the ship... in Spanish [!] which they all adored.
Then a moment of "Eek that only took twenty minutes, what now?!"
So we taught them "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and toes" which they all found really quite entertaining, even if they couldn't quite get all the words right! And then they taught us some of the songs that they knew, in both English and Spanish, which was really good fun!
And then it was time for them to go and we were alive! I love teaching infants!

Wednesday was spent mostly with standard 5 and 6 - we began with reading. Standard 6 had a book that even I struggled to understand properly - and the story I was reading with Kelly was full of African names that she kept asking me how to pronounce and I was like "I have no idea!"
We also took Standard 5 for Math - how to add fractions with different numbers at the bottom. I had no idea 12-14 year old girls could giggle so much!!! But it was good fun :) Then at lunch, quite exhausted, I was accosted by 4 of the infants: Ammy, Vanessa, Kenia and Seleny who all wanted piggy back rides!
School finished at 2:30 on Wednesday. The weather had turned cold (I am sure in England it would have been considered a hot day, still...) and there was a large rainstorm on the horizon. The instant Hannah and I walked through our door it began to rain so hard that we had to shout to hear one another! The afternoon was then spent playing cards in our bedroom trying to ignore the fact the one of our windows was leaking!

Thursday became an impromptu day off because it was Mr Mejia's birthday! Belize is a country where national party-food is Rice and Beans, so we ate that! Much sport was played and we had a lot of fun watching the younger children bundle each other in an attempt to get sweets!

Friday was spent doing "Library Time" with Standards 1 - 4 and computer classes with Standard 6 - Some of them can use a computer, others can't even work the mouse - but they all managed to draw a picture in Paint or play music! All useful skills, of course ;)

This weekend I am in San Igncio for a mellow weeked. Discovered a bookshop in town and got very excited. We all went in and started picking books and looking at books. I found a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit that I wanted to buy, and, just when I had decided that I had enough books, and got all excited about THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, the woman who obviously owned the bookstore went obviously mad.

EVIL SHOP LADY: (Snatching books out of my hand) "I'm getting ready to close now, leave."
ME: "Oh, OK, May I buy these books please?"
EVIL SHOP LADY: "No, you will leave the shop."
ME: What the hell? "I only want to buy these books, is that OK?"
ME: "Um, I'm sorry, why can't I buy these books?"
EVIL SHOP LADY: "Get the f*** out of my shop!"
ME: Flees

So I didn't get to buy The Velveteen Rabbit. I went to the DVD shop and bought Pirates of the Caribbean 3 to make myself feel better. It did make me feel better, especially since I ate Pizza and drank half a bottle of Sangria at the same time as watching it!

Hasta Luego,

M xx
27th-May-2007 07:14 am - On Volleyball and paint...
Wanderlust: Call of the wild
After I had written that entry last week it took us 4 hours to get home with a combination of bus, hitching, walking, ice-cream and more walking. However we made it back in one piece which is always a plus ;)

Tuesday we spent the morning doing individual reading with Standard One and Two during the morning, which was really good fun. The abilities of the students varied from being mostly unable to read a word to being quite good. I do wonder what they would choose to read were they reading in Spanish, as opposed to English, since they were all reading books chosen because they had easy words in them. It was fantastic though when one of them learned a new word - I was reading a book called "Peanut Butter is the Best" with Kenner, which has the word "peanut" about 30 times in the whole book. He finally went from "Peee-ah-noot" to "Peanut" after about three quarters of the book and after that said it with total genuine glee just because he obviously recognised the word!
The last person I read with was Alicia, who barely speaks a word of English, and after the first few pages of struggled reading I let her explain to me the story of Goldilocks in Spanish, which led to both of us giggling a lot until lunchtime. Not sure how constructive it was to her English, but then I think that there's more to be said for actually associating books with enjoyment. I'm hoping to spend more time with her to work on her English, just so that she has a chance to move up a year (at 12 she ought to be in Standard 4 or 5, not Standard 2).

In the afternoon on Tuesday we demonstrated various things on the computer to some of the Standard 5 an 6 girls - we started off with Word, but then moved on quickly to showing them more interesting things, like how to view photos (mostly because they all wanted to see photos of the football tournament from the previous Thursday). We're going to be teaching them one-to-one, mostly because they tend to get embarrassed quite easily in a group and I think for the IT classes it'd be better to teach them on a level.

We also found out that the girls team won the football!!! And that the boys team came Third.

Wednesday we went to the school at Duck Run 3 for a volleyball tournament. This was a fantastic day -- I spent it all either out in the sun taking photos of the matches or playing with Amy, who came to watch with her mum. We were sucking on Ideals (like Ice-Pops) and playing 'catch' or 'hide the book'. The finals for both the girls and boys teams were closely fought and went to 3 games. The girls won and the boys came second. On the way back, squashed into the back of a pick-up, the girls were all singing and shouting "Who's the best? Duck Run!" to everybody we passed on the way home. It was a total delight to see - these girls who get so embarrassed about participating in class, grinning like cheshire cats and shouting so loudly. I think the boys were laughing at them.

That night Amy came over to play, so we played Hide-and-seek and Tag with her and Suleyma and then, as it got dark Snakes and Ladders. After she left we walked to our neighbours' house (the ones with the monkeys) to show the photos to Wilson and Leidy who hadn't been at the Volleyball. I ended up going through all the photos about 6 times that night so that everyone could see them! We also played cards with Josue, Wilson, Mira, Mirabel and Suleyma - I taught Suleyma Go Fish and Slapsies last week and she adores both. Slapsies, in particular, always seems to go down well (it's like a version of snap with lots of people). They were quite delighted when I didn't win at Slapsies - I've spent too long practicing it at college!

Thursday we did more individual reading with Standard 3 and 4 - which was good fun. Some of them were really into reading and several told me that they didn't want to stop!

In the afternoon, exhausted because I had spent 40 minutes playing football with some of the boys at lunch, I went to begin individual computer classes with Standard 5 and 6 and found that the computer would not work. It would not even try to work. So we spent a while cleaning up in the Library, and then went through our timetable for the next 3 1/2 weeks (Is that really all I have left?!). We're teaching CREATIVE WRITING!!! I'm planning to base it all on a play I bought out here - called "Dog and Iguana" from a book of Belizean Plays that I spent far too much money on but couldn't resist buying. I'm hoping to theme all our art/writing lessons on this to give the students a sense of purpose with what they're doing, and hopefully display the work at Graduation, which is the day before we leave.

Thursday after school we went into Spanish lookout to choose some paint for the Standard One/Two classroom because friday - a day off for the students - we painted! A really fresh colour called Surf Blue - it's amazing how much of a difference it can make just putting fresh paint on the walls. It took us all day, and we still have all the window frames to paint, as well as the alphabet on the wall, but already it looks so good!
I had a bit of a mishap painting the blackboard -- I found some blackboard paint in the school and thought it would be a good idea - so I used the only thing I had - a spare roller head and my hands. The blackboard looked great, and there's now a spot on the floor good for chalking on, but when I went to wash my hands it would not come off! So I had very black hands, and ended up using gasoline to get it off! Oops!

This weekend I am staying at The Trek Stop, a sort of eco-lodge place. There are 12 of us here right now - and yesterday we all went Tubing down the river - which was fantastic and so much fun! We also played frisbee golf - although we quit on hole six! Then last night, after some spaghetti and a hot fudge sundae watched the end of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and a behind the scenes for film 3 (Which I WANT TO SEE!) and then a film called "Stick it" on cable, followed by "Step up" - Quite a mellow evening really! We're staying in little wooden cabins and here in true eco-friendly style they call their long-drops "composting toilets"!

I was reading National Geographic magazines here yesterday and found an article about a guy who cycled all the way around Australia in 9 months. How wrong is it that I am here and I am still jealous?!

Lots of Love,

M xx

PS - Did you know that all the ants in the world weigh the same as all the humans?!
21st-May-2007 08:53 am - In which Meg goes to the seaside...
Wanderlust: Call of the wild
And thus I have reached the end of Week 2 of teaching in Duck Run 2.

Last week was "Education Week" in Belize - During which time it would seem that academic education is avoided at all costs! As I think I said last week, May is something of a 'Holiday month' for the students.

We went to school on Monday not really knowing what we were to be doing, but knowing that this week was 'education week' so not really too worried we'd suddenly have to plan a lesson or anything. During morning assembly, the principal got each class to stand up and sing something to the rest of the school. The infants sang the song 10 Little Indians, which, from what I've heard, they sing every morning in class! I think the older years were a little embarrassed by the whole idea of singing in front of the school!

Monday morning they had "Clean-up Campaign" - a litter pick around the village. I went with Standard One and Two, down the road towards my house, to the house of one of the kids, Wilson (and my next-door neighbour) - to see his pet monkeys!
I spent the entire time being clung to by Rosita and Marlyn who kept racing back to hold my hand!

Hannah went with Standard 3 & 4 who visited a chicken farm along the way! She was handed an entire tray of eggs which we took home to Liliana who was somewhat confused by this!

After the litter-picking, I stayed with the Standard 1 & 2 class, and watched them practice their poem for the school's mother's day celebration. A poem in Spanish, which I actually understood!

Monday afternoon they spent two hours doing a team quiz in Standard 1 & 2, with spelling and math questions, which Hannah and I took a little of. I had forgotten quite how competitive eight year olds can get!

Tuesday was a half-day, spent setting up for the mother's day celebration that evening at school. Hannah and I made a large banner saying "Happy Mother's Day" to be put up - much to the amusement of many of the students who came to watch. There was a large blue tarpaulin tied to one of the football goals, on which was our banner and some flowers drawn by the students and some laminated pictures of flowers.

Then, tied in a large rectangle from this, to the volleyball posts, were "blinkers" - flashing outdoor fairy lights and crepe paper. All in all, it looked quite awesome. We were told to come back for 5pm for the celebration and went home to eat lunch.

Tuesday afternoon we hitched into Spanish Lookout to go to Western Dairies, where we met up with Naomi and Amelia from Duck Run 3, and I discovered that they had something quite momentous: Black Cherry Yoghurt. Awesome.

On our return we wandered down to the school, arriving just before five pm. There was nobody there. However, all the tablecloths were absent, as was our large banner, which Hannah was convinced must have blown away (actually it had been put in the classroom to stop it blowing away!)
Students and parents began drifting in slowly, and the teachers arrived at 5:30 with the biggest HiFi ever, which was then set up.
The five pm start time became 6:30, and in the darkness, lit up only by the fairy lights, the students performed their various items. They even had "Mother's Games" including musical chairs! It was rather amusing to see one parent in particular taking it much too seriously!
All in all a rather sweet little celebration, with a fantastic mellow atmosphere.

On Wednesday the kids had a sort of 'Sports Day' - I joined in with the football in the morning, which was amazingly hot and totally exhausting, but so much fun! Playing until midday, lunch was very welcome! My team came second out of the three teams :)
Then, being too tired to even consider playing volleyball, went into the library and began working on fixing the books that have been torn or have worn out a little. Some of their books were in need of a considerable amount of sellotape! This was a mellow, therapeutic afternoon and school finished early again. Afternoon naps are way underrated ;)

On Thursday we went to another village with some of the Students to play in a football tournament organised by the other school. Packed into a single pick-up and land rover we drove to the school for about 9am and waited for all the schools to arrive (there were eight in total). Both our teams first matches [Boys and Girls] were against the school in Duck Run 1, and both matches went to penalties. Both our teams won, which was awesome! Our school looked slightly scruffy in comparison with Duck Run 1, who all at least had matching football tops. Our boys team was obviously a lot younger, and one of them was playing without shoes on! Obviously it didn't affect their playing though, and all were delighted to get through the first round. The second round match took place much later in the afternoon, and Hannah and I had to leave before it started to reach San Ignacio in the evening. Hopefully they played well - we will find out on Tuesday when we are back at School.

This weekend we had a long weekend in Hopkins Bay because we had friday off school for "Teacher's Day" - Hopkins is an awesome place, very chilled out and mellow and with a BEACH! On Friday night at Windschief, the cocktail bar on the beach, I met a man who had been to Davis Falls in the time since we left it. He commented on how awesome our bridge was! It's strange because since leaving I haven't been anywhere near Davis Falls or that part of Belize, so when we drove past it to go to Hopkins I was really surprised by how much I was taken by how stunning that area of Belize is. It's really beautiful! I also didn't realise quite how much I thought of Davis Falls as home until then.

On Saturday night we went to the Drumming Centre in Hopkins to watch a demonstration, which was absolutely amazing - they played so well and it sounded so good! Much fun!

Don't yet know what next week will bring. Something fun, I hope!

M xx
13th-May-2007 07:54 am - Week One of Teaching
Wanderlust: Call of the wild
So, Sunday night we returned to Duck Run 2 not really sure what to expect for the morning. Never mind, we had been told all the teachers would be there, so probably just observing or helping with reading, perhaps?

Monday morning arrived and we turned up at the school to be told that actually, the Principal was away today and would we mind taking his class? - so, being kind and helpful people we turned up in front of this class of (supposedly) 7-8 year olds, all of whom are fluent in mostly-spanish-spanglish but none of whom speak good English and can't understand our accents anyway. But we thought, OK, what's on the timetable? Religion. Help. Found a book and picked a random page and started teaching: 20 very confused children sat and stared at us. Ok, maybe Religion wasn't such a good idea - OK, what's next? Maths! Good! We can teach Maths... so Hannah checks the book to see what they have been doing before - shapes. So I decide to teach them something about Tessalation. I draw examples on the board and try to explain them in slow simple English. All the students dutifully copy out my examples and then we get them drawing and colouring new examples. So they all dutifully copy out and colour the example on the board!

Break time, and the two of us panic a little about what to teach next for English - with no idea what they've been doing and the fact that they don't speak good English, even though we have to teach in English (the other teachers translate into Spanish all the time but all the kids should be taught in English). So we decided to teach letter writing. I wrote an example on the board and went through it and they all said they understood. Then asked them to write their own, at which point they all stared at me most confused. So maybe they didn't understand... so we went though it again in a different way and then it was time for lunch. At least they got reading practice!

After lunch we had Social Studies and Vocabulary - Social studies was about as sucessful as Religion had been and then we let them out for PE before afternoon break (Recess!). For the final lesson I taught them for Phonics - teaching them the 'CH' sound. Finally, something that they understood! - and that they were able to join in the lesson with! Progress!

I think I fell asleep at about 8pm on Monday night!

More to follow as soon as I can.


[It is now later in the day and I am returning to add in the rest of the week. I was distracted by the lure of Spiderman 3.]

Tuesday we were to continue teaching the same class. We managed to speak to the principal who said that we could just do some basic adding and subtracting for Maths and "maybe some art or something..."

We decided to skip religion altogether and begin with the adding and subtracting. We gave them a series of questions to answer and then went round and helped them all individually. This seemed to work much better than Monday although we really struggled with the vast difference in abilities of the students. I think this comes a lot from having multi-grade classes and students repeating years, as well as that they have no setting for anything and no help for the slower ones. And then the faster ones get bored and tend to play around and distract the others. But we coped, and I think we actually taught them something useful!

At breaktime on Tuesday I spent time in the Library reading with some of the Infant class - they are all adorable, and one girl in particular, my next door neighbour, Amy (The only infant to speak good English!) comes to hug me every break time. I want to take her home with me!

After recess we had English, for which we went to the library and did reading. This was a mission with such a large class - we divided into two groups, and had the students reading out loud. As with the Math, it was very clear that all the students have very different abilities and I found it worked well to explain the story in Spanish as we were reading, much to the amusement of the kids who had great fun correcting my grammar! From what I can gather Hannah did not even attempt to speak Spanish!! We decided maybe to work with smaller groups for reading, which might make a big difference.

After lunch (Lunch, by the way, is brought to us in School by car so we don't have to walk back in the midday sun. So we get a full meal that's still hot!) we taught some science - I went through the idea of a Lifecycle and the lifecycle of a Frog and of a Butterfly. This seemed to work well and I think they really understood what they were doing. Yay!

To finish off the day we did some portrait drawing with them - lacking mirrors for self portraits we paired them off and had them draw each other. This was all most amusing though they were slightly distracted by the other classes who seemed not to be doing much and came in to see what my class was doing (they have a sort of half-term sports week next week - I think that they have had some holiday spirit! Which is, in a way, nice. I like that they have so much energy!).

At the end of the day one of the Girls, Rosita, asked me if we were teaching again on Wednesday, to which I said "no, your teacher is back tomorrow" - and she was like "but I want you to teach us again."
And she told me I was pretty... So double yay!

Wednesday we were observing the same class whilst Mr Mejia, their normal teacher took them, and helping out where we could. They went for "PE" in the afternoon, which was more of an extended recess. Since it was the teachers call, and as I said - Holiday Spirit - I went out and joined in their games for the afternoon, playing football and catch and jacks. I had a really good afternoon!

We also read with them in groups of three, which worked well. One of my groups was made up of the three "troublemakers" of the class, Jose, Jaime and Freddy. All three are very bright kids, with so much spirit and interest for life that I love all three of them! Though their attention span was not long, I found that they were able to read in a group together and concentrate on the story and actually enjoy helping each other with words they didn't know.

On Wednesday after school we went into Spanish Lookout with Little Amy, her mum and her older sister, Sadie, for ice cream at Western Daries. That was rather nice!

Thursday we were back with teaching the class again! We began with Math and this time divided the class into "upper" and "lower" sets. I worked with the lower set for more basic addition. This involved a lot of lively working out on the board with noise and lots of smiling when they got it right. Especially from Alicia, one of the 12-year-olds in the class who struggles to add to ten - she obviously had a moment of understanding when it came to working out basic sums and was asking to do more! Quite a contrast to Hannah's group who sat quietly working through subtraction questions!

Then, after break, we took them for Spellings, since Mr Mejia had asked us to help with that - they tend to spell phonetically according to how they hear things. We got them spelling very simple words from their spelling list - Ate, Big, Day, Fast and Jump. Had them all reading the words from the board and then copying them down and then asking them how to spell words and writing them back on the board. Some loved this and were asking for more words - others were not so enthused by the idea of learning how to spell. Hopefully we will be able to make some progress with this, because I think it will help their reading and English a lot.

After lunch they did some art - the classroom could do with some bright wall displays so we had them write their names and decorate them with pictures and colour (Me and Hannah had great fun making the examples on Wednesday night!) - they seemed a little perplexed at first and not very convinced, however we persevered and after about ten minutes I was running around the classroom answering cries of "Miss Meg, Miss Meg" being shown all sorts of brightly coloured, all brilliant pieces of work.
I think possibly it is impossible to feel happier than when I watched them all having such a good time being so creative. I think this could just be one of the best things I have ever done.

Thursday was Mother's Day in Belize (and today is Mother's Sunday, as it were... all a little confusing) so we went with out family to Duck Run One to the church there, for the Mother's day service. The church was a newly decorated building all light and airy with sky-blue painted pews. At the front were stacked all the gifts for the mothers from the children. The service (all in Spanish) seemed to be quite interesting - a lot of singing and clapping and a general feeling of this being a welcoming place to be. We also met up with Rachel and Charlotte who are living in Duck Run 1, which was pretty cool, since we don't get to see other people in the week usually. Then, just as we were all thinking "that was nice, let's go home" we got preached at in Spanish for 45 minutes, during which time the preacher probably said some variant of "honour your father and mother" at least twice every minute.
But then we got a huge piece of cake, which made it all alright!

Friday was a slightly different day - it was the official beginning of "sports week" so we only had to teach from 8:30 until 10 - more maths - this time some work on decimals and number placement (tens, ones, tenths etc) and then a little bit of English - a combination of Phonics and Spelling - learning to spell some "Ch" words. By which point we were exhausted and so were the kids. The afternoon playing football was very welcome for me - though I miss nice flat green pitches we have at home - I kept falling into cracks in the ground! Hannah sat in the shade and watched as I played with these kids who are all rather good at football. Lots of fun!

Yesterday (Saturday) we went to Belize Zoo in the morning, which was really amazing. We watched for ages as the Jaguars played with each other and I got all excited about the Kinkajous because I remember loving seeing them in the Zoo as a child. Then we returned to San Ignacio to stay at fieldbase - went out for drinks and then came back to watch "Mean Girls" which didn't work so we watched "The Butterfly Effect" instead, which was pretty good.

And now it is Sunday and I have written so much! Yikes!
Next weekend I am going back to Hopkins, which should be pretty cool. A nice, chilled weekend on the beach I think. I miss being able to swim every day - I got so used to it through the jungle phase and in Guatemala!

M xx
6th-May-2007 07:32 am(no subject)
Wanderlust: Call of the wild
Hey there!

Back in San Ignacio for the weekend after spending Thursday and Friday in the Village of Duck Run 2 near Spanish Lookout in Belize.

We were dropped off at our Schools on Thursday morning all ridiculously nervous about the whole thing. The principal of our school drove us to our house and introduced us to our family. We're living with Liliana, her husband and three of their four daughters. The family is totally lovely, as is our house. They have a DVD Player, a microwave and a computer but no flushing toilet! The long-drop is ... interesting. But then, I've lived with worse so I shouldn't complain, really.
And we get good food!

The School - St Joseph's RC, is bright blue and has 4 classes - 78 students in total. We have spent the first two days observing classes and will begin taking students for reading, computer lessons and art (art with no resources and to 5-year-olds who don't speak English!) - all very exciting!

And now I'm going to be really rude and stop writing so I can go to watch a movie ;)



Came back to edit this :)

We watched Indecent Proposal, which was a pretty cool film. Ate granola for breakfast and managed to wander into town and back. And forget to buy the blu-tack I'd gone in for...!

Yesterday we got a lift into Spanish Lookout, the nearest "town" to Duck Run 2, where we were to get the bus into San Ignacio. Spanish Lookout is comprised mostly of mennonites, a supermarket and a fast food place. Very dull when one arrives at 7:30am and is awaiting a bus at 12:30pm. But we met up with some of the others from the nearby villages so we ate Ice Cream and compared notes on our schools. I think everyone is really happy where they are.

Stayed at fieldbase last night - I slept on the balcony in my new Antigua Hammock, which was really comfy, even if I was all of 1mm off the floor.
We're getting a lift back to our villages later, since there are no buses on Sundays and it is much too far to walk!

I have been gathering ideas on various artsy things to do... I also bought a fantastic book of Belizean Plays - I had no idea that in the past Belizean Theatre was actually so important.

Last night we went out to Hannah's in San Ignacio for a meal. I shared a bottle of Wine with Lou, which was so amazingly nice, and then went back to fieldbase to watch Candyman, which was only scary when other people jumped and screamed...! Hannah's is probably one of the nicest restaurants in San Ignacio, and awesomely cheap. It also has the Best Cheesecake In The World. Like, ever.

Now I really am going...
I need to take my hammock down and find all the stuff I've scattered over fieldbase in the last 24 hours.
It's all very odd, living away from other people and having no form of immediate communication having to make arrangements for next weekend now. We are going to Belize Zoo! It's odd to think that in England we can just text someone to see what they're doing or where they are at any given moment in time.

I sent quite a few postcards from Guatemala, by the way, so I hope they all arrive safely :) And I have much enjoyed reading postcards from various people's holidays!!

Love lots,

Meg xx
2nd-May-2007 01:52 pm - Post-class update
Wanderlust: Call of the wild
Just thought I'd point out that I am still alive.
In fact, I really liked teaching and am quite excited for the next few weeks...

I'm quite looking forward to actually being able to get to know students - I didn't feel as though I could tell them what to do or to be quiet, quite so much because it wasn't my class. But I totally loved trying to get them all involved - some of them were so fascinated and really wanted to learn stuff.

Still terrifying and all but...

I get to teach people and it's going to be awesome!!
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