Friday, April 23, 2010

Soak It All In

Well, it's almost over. This time tomorrow, I will be in Miami, probably sleeping in some hotel or stressing out about all the insane things I have to get done in the two weeks before I graduate. Did I say that right? Two weeks before I graduate? Five and a half weeks in Belize already over? Keri and Katy actually convinced me to go out tonight and hang out? I really can't believe it, but it's true, and time really does fly when you're having fun.

I have to say that I think I've soaked in this adventure. That was my main goal coming here. To learn about the culture in any way possible, to observe and teach in the schools here, and to get a better understanding of the people of Belize. I feel like I've done that, and I have to say that I'm pretty proud of myself, and of the team that I've had the lovely honor of working with down here. I've done things that I would have never dreamed possible of me before.

I mean, this morning I was simply walking down the beach on my way to San Pedro High, and I was thinking, "Goodness, it's possible I might never see any of this again." I certainly want to come back, but you know how life goes. You move on, you find other things to do, your schedule becomes full again with new jobs, relationships, trips, and other plans, and things get pushed to the back burner. If I return to Belize in the future, it could easily be years from now, and of course, the beach will be very different by that time.

And so I commit to soaking it all in. To taking a lot of pictures, to embracing every memory, to enjoying all the annoying times, the frustrations, the mishaps, as well as the camaraderie, inside jokes, and chilling out that has been done here. And yes, I know that I am losing major English major credit by all these incomplete sentences and vague grammar usages. But it's a blog, right? Who cares about that stuff? I bet most of the people who see this on Facebook won't even read it.

And hey, that's okay with me. I mostly did this for my own benefit, anyway. It's going to be fun, years from now, to look back over this and see all the cool stuff I did, and read all my rambling posts, which I'm sure my inner grammar Nazi will hate. Hopefully, I'll look back on this and go, "Wow, I really did soak it all in, didn't I? What a blast." And really, it was a blast, and I'm going to be grateful for this experience for years to come. Thanks, everyone, and remember to soak it all in.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More Comparisons

The last of Dr. Catapano's prompts has to do with comparing my student teaching in Wilmington and my student teaching experience in San Pedro. This is going to be very interesting, at least to me, because I haven't had much time to really reflect on any student teaching experience yet. That's going to come later, when I spend the next week frantically completing my portfolio, attending certification meetings, and doing all those other fun graduation activities.

Student teaching in Wilmington was a pretty intense experience. I absolutely loved the the community of teachers at Hoggard High, but I also have to admit that the standards were very high. And hey, that's absolutely fine with me. It's what I would have expected and how could I ask for anything less? I was pushed to perfect my lesson plans, my methods of giving instruction, my classroom management skills, and pretty much everything else that was related to my teaching.

I learned a lot, but a lot of my success was due to the fact that I was constantly being watched. Whether it was by my partnership teacher or a supervisor from college, I performed well because, at my core, I desperately wanted to graduate, and student teaching was one final hurdle to cross before I got that cap and gown. It's not that I didn't care about my students or my performance. I certainly did. But knowing that I was being watched added an extra layer.

In San Pedro High, things are different. I'm still being watched, of course, but my partnership teacher isn't in charge of my future as an educator in the United States. The pressure has been on me to continue to motivate myself to be a good teacher, for the sake of being a good teacher. As I've said before, it's difficult to be what is commonly thought of as a "good teacher" while using such a limited amount of resources.

The fact of the matter is, I've already done what I needed to do to be a teacher and get my certification. Sure, I have a few meetings to attend and a portfolio to finish, but the hard work is done. In San Pedro, my student teaching experience is really defined by me. I can suck if I wanted to, but instead, I have to choose to represent my profession and my integrity by going the extra mile. And thankfully, I've had great opportunities to do that.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Education In Belize

One of Dr. Catapano's prompts for the Belize field experience was to write about how children are viewed in Belize culture. How children are viewed, she wrote, influences many things related to education and public policy, not to mention social aspects to how children, teenagers, and students are viewed in education. It's quite a difficult thing to write about, and I waited awhile before mentioning it.

I mentioned earlier that the schools here do not have all the resources that the schools in the United States have. However, from all I've seen, the teachers have just as much heart, if not more. True, many of them are not what Americans would consider "good teachers." They don't have the flashy computers, super creative activities, or all the other resources that are drilled into our brains in college as the necessary tools for "good teaching."

But they teach. Children seem to be viewed similarly to how they are viewed in the United States. At least, that's what I can tell from all that I can see. They're kids. They can be infuriating, stupid, brilliant, smart, sarcastic, stressful, and live-giving all at the same time. And I think the teachers here realize that. There do seem to be a lot more personal relationships between the teachers and the students. And I don't mean inappropriate ones.

Actually, the level of friendship between the students and teachers reminds me of what it's like being back home. I'm from a very small town in North Carolina. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone knew everyone at the high school, too. I don't think the relationships that the students have with the teachers here are necessarily a Belize thing. I think it's a small town thing. If you know the student's parents, and the ins and outs of his or her home life, you can be a better teacher.

Of course, in Wilmington, which isn't even considered a large city by any means, things are different. The teacher has to go the extra mile in order to build relationships with the students. However, that really is the key to this whole thing. I can't believe that this experience will be done in a few days. If you want to look at where I've been teaching, take a look at the picture in this post. That's San Pedro High School.

Monday, April 19, 2010


One of Dr. Catapano's blog prompts, which we have to finish before we leave the country, has to do with comparing the inland culture and the island culture of San Pedro. My last post had to do with all the cool things that we did, but even though they were awesome, they were definitely "tourist" events. This post has more to do with the culture of the two villages -- San Pedro and San Ignacio -- and how I found the individuals there.

It's so amazing how small, and yet how diverse, Belize is. San Pedro, as I said in the last post, is literally only a few hours from San Ignacio, and yet one is a small coral island, and the other is nestled between the mountains. San Ignacio also seemed a little more busy and popular, probably because it is a nexus of several tourist destinations, and also an area where buses congregate on their way between several towns and villages.

The people of San Pedro and San Ignacio are both very friendly, but you certainly see more western influences in San Pedro. That's mostly because there are more resorts in San Pedro, and more tourists from countries like the United States and Canada. San Ignacio surely had its share of tourists, but most of them seemed to be there for outdoor adventure stuff, like I talked about in the last post. Thus, there was only one resort in San Ignacio, and most of the homes and restaurants seemed a little more downscale.

Which isn't to say things weren't as western. There were certainly just as many western amenities and comforts around for the tourists. However, you could tell that the locals just lived a little bit differently than they do in San Pedro. Things were more laid back, there wasn't really a night life to speak of, and there was more farmland, and more people of Mayan descent -- or so I was told.

All in all, I am a sucker for creature comforts, so I would probably want to be a teacher in San Pedro, if I had to choose. However, both areas of the country were beautiful in their own right, and I am thankful that this trip gave me an opportunity to see them both. I'm a beach bum at heart, so of course San Pedro was always going to win out.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Adventures West

Well, it's been awhile since I've blogged on here! That is a shame, because this is actually for a grade, and I have a few more posts to do before I meet the passing quota. Odd for me. Can you imagine me not having much to say? Well, to put it simply, I've been incredibly busy for the last two weeks. I have a lot to catch people up on, but mainly I want to talk about my week inland. It was really one of the most incredible weeks of my life.

We started out by taking several water taxis and crowded buses west, towards the town of San Ignacio. It's in the mountains of Belize, which are incredibly close to the coast. Seriously, I think it's cool that you can get to the mountains in seven hours from Wilmington. In Belize, it really only took us two hours before we saw large, tropical hills. It was surreal. By the time we got to San Ignacio, we were exhausted, but we had landed a deal at a really nice hotel.

And then, a whirlwind of a week began. I really have no idea where to begin with this post. How do you talk about a week where you saw Mayan ruins, climbed up waterfalls, explored caves, and hung out in the jungle? I mean, I did all those things, and I still have to pinch myself. Can you imagine me rock climbing, up a waterfall, in a cave? Can you imagine me swimming in a freezing natural spring? I'm absolutely amazed that I actually did those things.

I have to say my favorite part of the tour is a tie. I enjoyed the ruins of Tikal amazingly, and no, it's not just because they were used during the filming of "Survivor," although that certainly helps! Just to be around ruins from a civilization that was lost thousands of years ago was an amazing experience, and it was pretty intense to climb some of the stone steps. I mean, let's face it folks. It was Guatemala, and it was hot.

But the most amazing thing was the waterfall cave, simply because I was able to climb a 20 foot cave wall, with a waterfall running down it, and then dive back down into the ten foot pool below. I've never thought myself capable of such things, and it really has been an incredible experience. I'm usually a better writer than this, but sometimes you can't write about things. You simply have to experience them, and I'm very grateful I have.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


For the past few days San Pedro has been experiencing a bit of a water shortage. The offshore dredging which is being done by an American contractor for the purpose of building a luxury resort has created a lot of silt and sediment, which is overloading the water treatment plant. Or at least that's how I understand it. As an English major, it's not really the kind of thing I understand easily. All I know is that our water pressure is ridiculously low right now.

It's been a trying experience. We're so used to amazing showers with hot water, extreme pressure that will perfectly rinse the shampoo out of our hair in a matter of seconds, the ability to do laundry every day or every week if we want, and the ability to consider our tee shirts "dirty" after simply one day's use. We forget that we come from one of the most, if not the most, privileged country on the face of the planet. People simply don't live like this everywhere else in the world.

And yet, people survive. Being down here is one of those interesting experiences that makes you think a lot about the state of life. We're so "plugged in" all the time. However, I realize that I can live without three square meals a day. I can live without ever even touching a computer or knowing what the Internet is. I can live without a hot shower every day, or even a shower at all. Sure, these things make life easier, but once you strip everything down, you still realize that you are a person, and that you don't need all this "stuff" to get you through.

I'm really enjoying the more simple way of life here. San Pedro is arguably one of the most westernized of the towns in Belize, due to the large amount of tourists, but it's still very different in feel from any American city. Just last night, Courtney and I were just getting out a restaurant and we saw several local children playing soccer. Courtney played soccer in high school, and she was like, "Oh wow, can we join?"

The kids simply smiled and said that we could. We introduced ourselves, and then some more random kids joined the game. It's something that you just don't see often in the United States. We are so used to not trusting strangers, that we've stopped knowing how to have fun and meet new people. We're so used to privilege, that we forget how blessed we are simply to have food in our bellies. We forget the simple pleasures in life, like playing soccer with random kids on the beach, and getting to know people who we will likely never see again, but whose experiences will stay with us forever.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gone To The Dogs

So the schools are on Easter break right now, which means that we have two weeks off. This has been the first of those two weeks. In our second week, we are going to travel inland to see Mayan ruins, caves, and jungles. I'm really excited about that even though I'm not sure I'm going to have much time to blog then. Then again, I really do stay online a lot, so I'm sure I'll find a way to keep everyone updated!

Anyway, before we go inland, this week has been taken up with various service projects. We're meant to spend about 20 hours working in the community. The high school teachers were all going to paint the school, but the paint from the ministry of education seems to be running on what we call "Belize time" here. Therefore, I've been going around trying to find more creative ways to get my hours in.

One of those ways has been to walk dogs for the local humane society. It's just an hour a day, but it's been really rewarding. San Pedro has a lot of stray dogs running around, and the humane society has captured a lot of them and, given them shots, and put them up for adoption. There are a lot of dogs, though, and they need people to walk them every day, so a group of us decided to go and ask the workers there if they needed help. Of course, they did.

The dogs are quite rowdy, and mostly female. The first day I took out a huge white dog with a large black spot over her eye, appropriately named Pirate. I've never had to actually walk a dog on a leash before. All my dogs back home were able to run free since we lived so far off the road. It took me awhile to get control of Pirate, but eventually she was pretty cool and we just walked around the block near the inn where we're all staying.

Marina, who is pictured, was way more difficult to handle. She's only a year old, and was extremely hyperactive (not unlike the guy walking her, of course). But eventually I was able to calm her down, too, and we got a nice picture of her. It was definitely a fun day and we're going to do this every day between now and Monday, when we go inland. Right now the island is pretty chill because of the Easter holiday, so I will blog more when more stuff happens!