Friday!!

Well it’s been a couple of days. I didn’t have much to say yesterday after school other than I’ve made it my personal vendetta to kill all of the fire ants in Belize. Yesterday, (Thursday) Doña Gloria made us burritos for lunch. That was pretty much the most exciting thing that happened until yesterday evening. We went to D Wing Stop which is the place to be on Thursday nights because of the wings, beer, and music. It’s like bdubs but it’s outdoors (like picnic tables under tents) and there’s a dj. This was a lot of fun. We went with Brandi and Meghan and their host mom and Valerie and her friend. We had lots of laughs at the old music from grade school and high school and the modern stuff as well. We realized karaoke needed to be in our future. On Friday, my day was quite humdrum. We did nothing this morning until about 9 (30 minutes after the students had gotten there). Then we took a math quiz whizz probably took the students longer than it should have. Then Mr. Garcia went over the quiz which was really just him talking to himself. Then we practiced one of these questions and it was time for language arts. I had not seen language arts instruction yet so I was excited to see how this worked. The students were matching 15 words with their definition using a dictionary and that was an hour and 15 minutes of instruction time…

We were dismissed a little early since we didn’t get our morning break and went home for lunch. Doña Gloria made salbutes and holy moley these were awesome. It’s a fried dough with cabbage and tomatoes and picketed jalapeños on top, like a slaw. We added some belizian hot sauce and they tasted so so good. With our extra time, Charlotte and I returned to our bunk beds and slept and by some small scale miracle woke up in time to return to school. We were exhausted. After lunch we took a science test. This test was 20 questions and took the students from lunch time (1:00) until break (2:20). Some students finished before the hour and a half but were given nothing to do. It was surprising to me that a simple front and back page test was allowed to go on for an hour and a half. And students were talking and giving answers to each other the whole time with no or little correction. This annoyed me to be honest. After a short conference with Dr. August about my experiences so far, I learned that in standard IV when they take the standardized country test, they never receive more than 50%. I’m pretty sure this means half the students pass and half don’t. That’s pretty shocking. There’s too much down time during the day and it’s very laid back. But that’s what they’re used to I presume.

Just some other differences I noticed and jotted down when the students and I were doing nothing:

They need a lot of grades in the grade book for the end of the term so that’s why all the quizzes and tests are happening…doesn’t really make sense since exams are in 2 weeks.

There’s no classroom management or time management. The country of Belize recently outlawed corporal punishment. The teachers used to be allowed to hit the children and so some still do. The students act as if they know they can no longer get in trouble and no repercussions occur for misconduct. Yikes. Our school, United Evergreen, isn’t too bad with misbehavior but the school where the other girls are at has some problem children. There are many fights and teachers don’t do much about it.

The schools remind me of Girl Scout camp. The rooms are kept open windows doors and all to keep it cool. It’s outdoorsy and the different grade levels are in different buildings with lots of grass (or currently mud) around. The bathrooms remind me of the latrines at camp also. The bathrooms are open and students take their toilet paper with them because I guess none is kept in the bathroom itself. They often smell too. For those of you that know me well and my dislike for public restrooms, no, I’ve never been in there.

Do I sound negative? I’m not at all. I’m humbled by this experience and have seen some things to incorporate in my own classroom. I have also seen why some things we have are put into practice and emphasized. I’ve learned to appreciate the diversity of these classrooms and the classrooms in the United States. This is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and not at all what I expected. I’m not sure what I expected but this is much more.

While I want to cry every day it rains and makes the mud deeper and the walk to school more miserable, I’m glad to be here and I’m excited to see what the weekend has in store! Our plans are to go to Xunantunich and Cahol Pech (Mayan temples) and possibly Clarissa Falls. Some of these excursions might not be possible though because the river will be high. (Stupid rain). But we will make the best of it and go to downtown San Ignacio and the zoo if it’s too rainy. On Sunday our plan is to go zip lining. (Mom and Dad, I love you….just in case it ends badly 🙂 ) our plan also includes cave tubing but odds are the water levels will be too high and they won’t allow us in the cave. The rain is putting a real damper on things here.

Some random photos:

A student bought me these fried chip things during lunch. It’s like a puff chip with ketchup on it…in a bag. Not my fave. Just as the onion soup was not my fave.

The next picture is of the salbutes we had for lunch today. The next two photos are of the wing place and the new beer we tried while there. Apparently not many beers are allowed to be imported or made here because Belikin wants to be the sole provider of beer here.

Then there’s some pictures of the lemon merengue pie Valerie made for us! The garnaches we had for dinner tonight and the pupusas which is a salvadorian dish. 🙂

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Day four

I will try to keep today’s post short because I don’t feel I have a lot to say. Today we had muffins for breakfast then walked to school. Today was cultural presentation day for our students. A few of the students in my class were participating and we had a few students from another Standard II class came to our room. This made for a hectic day. This morning Mr. Garcia had to help set up in the room where the presentation would be. This left me alone with the students. It wouldn’t have been so bad if they were working in something but the students were told to sit and read. The students didn’t do exactly as they were instructed…Mr. Garcia Mae back and checked on them a few times and finally game them a math assignment that I could help with but this lasted the entire morning. Then it was our turn to go around to the cultural presentations. When at the last station, a downpour started. We were at the Garifuna station and Charlotte and I were offered some typical Garifuna dishes. We tasted tapou and bundiga. These are typically eaten with fish but this was not and was green bananas cooked in coconut milk and spices and peppers and other good stuff. It was different but good. Charlotte and I decided to go out for lunch today and try to find our way around. We went to a food court named Tippz and had some nachos. Something small and cheap. Then we walked past the coffee shop on our way back and they were open so we stopped for choli’s frozen coffees. This is frozen coffee with ice cream and cinnamon. Oh. My. Goodness, it was so good! I could just drink the coffee for lunch every day. Though we are located in Central America where coffee is grown, not many belizians drink coffee. Our family doesn’t own a coffee maker so if we want coffee in the morning it’s from the instant granules. While drinking in the coffee shop, another downpour began. We are told this is belize’s wet season but it usually doesn’t rain quite this much. My bag was back at school locked in the classroom so I was without an umbrella. Charlotte and I tried to share one but I got pretty soaked. Then when we returned to school, there were about 6 students and the cultural presentations were still happening so Mr. Garcia was still in and out of the room. Finally we did some science review that took a while but some students were still not there because of the presentations. This day I don’t feel like we did much but I did take some pictures of the classroom. I’m also beginning to realize my classroom is pretty bare compared to the others. I’m not sure if that’s because Mr. Garcia is new to this school or what but here ya go!

Oh! And we’re having escabeche for dinner which is an onion soup with vinegar, jalapeños, pepper, garlic, onions, and chicken. I’ll let you know how it tastes! 🙂

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Third day and a lot of firsts!

Today was our first day walking to school on our own. This morning was cool with a mist falling. Definitely tropical weather because the sun came out shortly after while we were in class. At 10:30 we went over to the infant school where kindergarten through second grade have school. They were doing their cultural presentations on the Garifuna, mestizo, and creole people. This was very informative and the students were precious. Here are some pictures of their exhibits:

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So after this presentation we went to lunch. We walked home for lunch and ate beans and rice, the national dish of Belize. Very delicious! We soon had to walk back to school. Unfortunately not much teaching is going on because of exams coming up so we reviewed social studies content then took a social studies test. On the walk back to school the sun was out and so so warm! So beautiful! I got to break out my shades!

Charlotte and I left a little bit early to go to the market. The market is on Tuesdays and Fridays and is full of fruits, vegetables, and fresh fish early in the morning. Because if all the rain and also going late in the day, we did not see fish or many vendors, but we did see lot of new fruits and some familiar ones like grapes and apples from the USA. Some new fruits we had were tiny bananas and mangosteen.

Here is a picture of the mangosteen. You break it open and eat the white part! It’s very sweet and has the consistency of a kiwi fruit….or what I image a slug would be like.

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After our trip to the market, Valerie showed us a coffee shop with espresso drinks and ice cream. I got a frozen cappuccino which was delicious! Valerie also showed us some food places that are close to our school! Awesome because walking to home from school takes about 20 minutes.

The coffee shop:

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And now we are having seafood! Red snapper for dinner!

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And photos from the market!

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And my school sign:

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Tonight I believe the other girls are coming over to plan our weekend out. I believe we may do a couple day trips around Belmopan. We might go zip lining (yes, I’m terrified) and go to the blue hole (not the super deep one out in the reef…that’s for later. But this one is in a park near the caves here). We might just stay close so we can save our hotel fees for the cayes! Caye Caulker and San Jose! Look them up, people!

Next weekend we already have plans to drive south on Friday with Dr. August. He is going to Punta Gorda and stopping at small villages and schools on the way to hand out information about Galen University. We will go along and see how the different people live because some of them have thatched roofs. We will also just be able to explore. We are thinking about having him take us to Placencia down south which is a peninsula that is supposed to be very nice. Cannot wait to begin planning with the girls!!

Day two and off to school

Day two was a quick one. To begin, I didn’t sleep well. Something about sleeping somewhere that’s not my bed is weird and frankly a little icky for me. I finally fell asleep and woke up at 2am wide awake! After playing with my iPad some, I finally got back to sleep. We woke up at 7 or so to get ready to meet important individuals at Galen University. I wore a maxi skirt, short sleeved top, and flats. It was very muddy but thankfully Dr. August drove us most of today to teach us how to get to school and back. When we got to Galen University, we got most of our questions answered and learned a lot about the county of Belize. We met the provost and spoke more with Dr. August. After this, we were dropped off at our schools. Charlotte and I are at a United Evergreen Primary School. I am in the equivalent of a third grade classroom with Mr. Garcia. These students learn everything in this small room of 17 students. The day begins with roll and devotion, math, a break, language arts, lunch (11:30-1:00), reading, science, social studies, Spanish, pe, music, art, penmanship. Students have a full schedule each week. Unfortunately I’m not sure how much teaching I will see take place. This week there are many cultural presentations from each grade level. Next week will be a holiday and a review week and the following week will be an exam week. This makes seeing teaching new material tough but we will get to see tests administered. Mr. Garcia and I spoke and I am already realizing so many differences in the teaching systems other than the physical. On the physical front, students have nothing. They are in small school houses, ride bikes home for lunch, have no books, little supplies, and small desks in the classrooms. The other aspects are in Belize, they must have certain things hung up with in the classroom such as national symbols. The teachers are not given much of a guide as to what to teach and when to teach it. (A curriculum map). Teachers are given a very broad guide for the entire year. Teachers do not collaborate together and dread weekends as they are spent planning. There is not technology within the classroom so many lessons are taught lecture style. There is so much more I learned on my first day but I must move on.

The children are so welcoming and kind. They say “good morning” and “good afternoon” even if they don’t know you. They are always smiling even though it rained a good portion of today. During their breaks at the beginning and end of the days they buy candy bubble gum or flavored frozen ice from the snack lady. They ask about where I come from and give me suggestions about what to do while in Belize. One child even taught me a bit of creole today (though I’m not sure what he taught me to say…something like dis me heuh…I don’t remember). We went on a field trip today as well to in front of the builders hardware store. There was a garifuna drum and dance presentation by garifuna people. One man who is a famous garifuna drummer in the area who was 90 some years old. Here it is a law (or a strict custom, I’m unsure) that people do not put up Christmas lights, trees, or play Christmas music on the radio until after garifuna settlement day on November 19.

Some things about Belize. The roads are terrible. Potholes galore. They don’t really have traffic laws or abide by ones set in place. (No stop signs). The van we were picked up in had no seatbelts so we went flying whenever we hit a bump.
At our house we have fruit trees surrounding the house. There are raspberries, mulberries, star fruit, lemon, lime, banana, some kind of plum, guava, dragon fruit, something that looks like a grape growing on a tree trunk but is sour. Fruit galore. Not much of it is ripe yet but hopefully we will be going to a type of farmers market tomorrow to get some fruits and veggies! Yum! I believe Valerie is also taking us to a cafe tomorrow to get coffee!! 🙂

That’s about it for tonight. Stay tuned for some more photo uploads and pictures of the school!

Tonight’s photo is of the dinner from tonight. Homemade tortillas (we learned to make them from Valerie) eggs, and beans with special belize hot sauce! Delicious!

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Day one and getting acclimated

Hello from Belize!! We arrived today! Belize is…hot, humid, and very green. Upon stepping off the plane, I knew not bringing my hair straightener was a good decision. The hair is going to get huge and curly. Hair isn’t important right now though. After walking onto the Tarmac, we went into the quaint airport to go through immigration and then customs. Charlotte and I chose the longest line known to man but what did we have to complain about? We were in Belize! We quickly found our luggage and went through customs with ease. There waiting for us were representatives of Galen University in Belize. These people were so friendly and welcoming. We have new friends in Joshua and Christy and have already made some weekend plans with them! On the way to meet Dr. August, we stopped and got a drink at a roadside stop. This place was neat because there were signed tee shirts along the ceiling rafters. The shirts were from all over the world and were signed by many people. The closest thing to home was a University of Louisville school of dentistry shirt. That was pretty amazing.

Talking to the Galen representatives about their culture and Belize was pretty impressive. They are pretty amazing people and had some profound things to say. I learned that if you don’t want to have fun you don’t come to Belize and that the Garifuna culture is very interesting. They have combined languages that were spoken here over the course of fighting for independence. They speak pieces of Arabic, French, and Spanish. Joshua is a Garifuna drummer and has traveled the world playing the drums for different events.

They took good care of us. Anyway, we dropped Meghan and Brandi off at their home stay and continued to Dr. August’s house for dinner. Dinner was macaroni and cheese, chicken, bread, and more bread. A good start to my trip. The homemade bread was pretty awesome and so far the food isn’t as strange as in Spain. Except I’m pretty sure I had part of the backbone of the chicken. Nothing goes to waste here. People don’t have a lot here but so far they are some of the most welcoming and hospitable people yet. The family I’m staying with has a young son in high school (so far pretty antisocial) and a four year old preschool student and she is adorable!!! She has already made best friends with Charlotte and I. We are taking over her room while we’re here so our room is decorated with Disney princess posters, butterflies, and glow in the dark stars. Perfect if you ask me! And also our house is pink. We live in Barbie’s Belizian bungalow! The accommodations are very nice and we even have room to put all of our clothes away! That will make things easy. These people are so welcoming and willing to help in so many ways to make us feel comfortable. (I say this as I’m watching some good ole TLC garbage on TV.)

Tomorrow we begin our journey with a tour of Galen University and then our host school. I’ll update soon. We will also meet the girl from wku who student taught here and is now working down here. Hopefully I can get some sleep!

Leah

Two days and ill prepared

So there’s two more days before I leave for Belize. I can honestly say that I am not prepared. Things I need to do: pack: find loose fitting clothes to wear because it may be hot, stuff to be outdoorsy in, American money, plug adapters, new makeup so I don’t run out while I’m down there and scare the kids away, gifts for the school kids, gifts for my host family, a bathing suit (duh), more American money.

After studying abroad previously for three months, I think I’m over thinking this four week trip but one can not be too prepared, right?!

I’ve had a busy week student teaching this week. In my last week of first grade, I was observed, finished my class assignments, finished my assignments for my supervisor, was observed by the district, and learned the songs for the Christmas play. Life was a bit stressful but after celebratory chili and peanut butter sandwiches (it’s delicious, try it) I realized maybe I’m more prepared for this trip (and the life of a big kid) than I thought.

I recently bought flats and a maxi skirt to wear but these are just the tangible necessary items. I have grown up a lot from student teaching. I was timid coming in but feel more confident as I leave the experience here in Kentucky and move to an international placement. Though I’m still scared of the real world…terrified actually; I know WKU, student teaching, and this international experience has taught and prepared me well. Bring on the challenge of packing!

First step: learn how to pack for the rainy season and 90 degree temps…

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The beginning is near…sort of!

September 22, 2013

Hello! 

I’ve decided to begin this blog while I have a bit of free time this weekend. Beginning November 9th, I will be student teaching in Belize for a month! With the recent purchase of our tickets, I find it hard not to get overly excited about this trip! It will be such an adventure that I cannot wait to begin. 
 
Before I get on a plane, though, I have to survive this week in the 4th grade then 6 weeks of the 1st grade! Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to begin first grade, and I will be sad to leave my fourth graders this week. I will also be sad to leave the Bates community. The teachers and staff at this school are very laid back and easy to talk with. They are full of wisdom that I have learned from and I find myself looking up to them a great deal. I am excited to see what lies ahead for me as I have no idea where the next few months will take me. 
 
As you may know, I will be graduating in December with elementary education and Spanish degrees. I feel that these two majors set me apart from other teaching candidates. I will not be walking across the stage when graduating, however because I have decided to stay in Belize (Hopkins Beach) for an extra 4 days. I will be on the beach soaking up all that Belize has to offer. Mitchell will be meeting me down there and will be spending 4 days in paradise with me! I think that’s a pretty good excuse not to walk at graduation, don’t you?!
 
Keep up with me on my blog and you can experience Belize along with me!