Monday, March 28, 2011

Three Cups of Tea

Gonzaga University
Presidential Speaker Series
Greg Mortensen
Promoting Peace: One School at a Time

Due to the early cessation of my Monday night class, I was able to attend the inaugural session of the Presidential Speaker Series at Gonzaga University. The speaker was Greg Mortensen, author of best-selling book Three Cups of Tea.

Gonzaga President Thayne McCullough began the evening with a glowing recognition of the speaker, Greg Mortensen, as well as the expected acknowledgment of sponsors and organizers of the event. The audience welcomed Mr. Mortensen to the stage with a standing ovation, which led to cheering when he held up a Go Zags sign.
Mr. Mortensen began with a joke about being in the wrong building (women's basketball game against Stanford was taking place at the same time), and then continued with the expected Thank You's and acknowledgments of student organizers and Gonzaga faculty and staff who helped put together the event.
After his acknowledgments, Mr. Mortensen began talking about community service. “A revolution is taking place” in community service. 50% of college graduates have a desire to make a difference in their communities, and as you go down into high schools and middle schools, that percentage increases.
Concluding his introductory remarks, Mr. Mortensen showed a DVD, Stones into Schools, about the situation in Afghanistan, and the progress that is being made with efforts to develop schools there, in spite of the ongoing conflict.
At the conclusion of the DVD, Mr. Mortensen talked about the connection between youth and elders. In America, only a small percentage of children speak to their grandparents about their history and important events that happened. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, most children speak regularly to their elders and access that repository of wisdom.
Following his remarks about connections between children and elders and the importance of schools and education, Mr. Mortensen spoke about the problems that children face around the world. In particular, he discussed the problems with child slave labor, still rampant in many parts of the world. He introduced the story of a child slave he met whose great desire was to get an education, and used that as his segue to explain “Three Cups of Tea,” his mission to promote peace through the establishment of schools. More information about “Three Cups of Tea” can be found at his web-site,
Mr. Mortensen gave a short overview of how the book was promoted, its success, and some of the accomplishments it has made. He concluded this with a summary of the priorities that US military commanders received from the elders in Afghanistan: to build schools and to fund higher education. This wrapped up with a typical military spending vs. education spending example.
After this, Mr. Mortensen introduced a local military hero and lauded the efforts he had made to help a remote village, and then finally began to tell the story of “Three Cups of Tea” and his personal journey.
In addition to speaking about “Three Cups of Tea,” Mr. Mortensen spoke about some of the other foundations and programs that came out of his efforts, such as the Pennies for Peace educational program. (

This is the first time I have heard Mr. Mortensen in person, but I have heard some of his other addresses, podcasted from various institutions, as well as some of his radio interviews. In comparison to the previous experience I have had with his addresses and interviews, I was initially disappointed with Mr. Mortensen's address at the Gonzaga University Presidential Speaker Series. Typically Mr. Mortensen has spoken about the efforts made to improve education in poor countries, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the personal journey that inspired his school-building efforts, and the ways that people can contribute.
In this case, Mr. Mortensen's address seemed very self-congratulatory. He gave a great deal of attention to the accomplishments he and his foundation have made, and then finally turned to what should have been the meat of his address, seemingly as an after-thought. In his defense, Mr. Mortensen continually sprinkled his address with praise for community service, calls for action, focused in the local community, and encouragement to all members of the audience that they really can make a difference and should never give up.
In conclusion, while I was at first disappointed with Mr. Mortensen's performance, I think it was a suitable beginning for the Gonzaga University Presidential Speaker Series. I hope that his calls for action and words of encouragement find a place in the hearts of the audience and more seeds of change social dynamism can be sowed by his efforts.

Back In Spokane

After spending a few days in Iowa with my parents, I took the bus across to Salt Lake City. In Salt Lake, I stayed at my brother's new apartment, and helped his family move. Then on Saturday night was the third annual cheese party, which was a great success, with lots of delicious cheeses to try.
Then on Sunday I took to the road again, this time in my car, which has been sitting these last couple months at my brother's. I took it to the shop on Friday to get the suspension worked on, but the struts need completely replaced, and would have taken more time than I had available. So I made the drive without, which results in sore-butt syndrome.
The drive was uneventful, and I arrived safely in Spokane on Sunday evening. Unpacking will take a little longer, but I have a little space of my own again, and started classes today. I am ready and excited to be in school again.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wending Home

The trip from Dangriga to Chetumal was uneventful, and a little bit faster than expected. When I went through Customs, I did not have enough for the exit fee, but I was able to borrow the extra from somebody else leaving Belize and repay her when we reached Chetumal.

The bus dropped us in Chetumal at a gas station, which was not where we departed from on my way down, so I had no idea where we were. No problem, I just took a taxi to my hostel, for a couple bucks. It was just getting on dark when I arrived at my hostel. The hostel in Chetumal was more like a hotel. I actually prefer hostels with shared dorm-style rooms and public areas to private rooms, because you get more of a chance to meet the other travelers. The restaurant across from the hostel was closed, but there was Domino's takeout just up the street, so I had a medium veggi pizza for dinner. No lunch, so I ate the whole thing.

The next morning, it was very easy to find the ADO bus terminal, because you go out the front door of the hostel, and the terminal is right there, across the street. There is a little park you have to walk through, but no big deal.

I arrived in Cancun in mid-afternoon, and walked to the hostel. It wasn't far, but the directions were not entirely clear, so I was actually grateful for the people who want to help you from the bus terminal for a few bucks. I found the hostel and checked in, and then went out to see some of Cancun.

Because I was only there the one evening and next morning, and because I'm pretty well past the whole partying scene, I stayed downtown and returned to the hostel pretty early, rather than heading down to the beach and engaging with the Spring Break crowd. I found some delicious veggie burritos for dinner and lunch the next day. The hostel served a very light continental breakfast of juice and toast.

I took the shuttle from the bus terminal to the airport rather than paying a lot of money for taxi the next morning. I got off at the wrong terminal, but the airport had its own free shuttle to take people between terminals. I checked in and got to the gate just a few minutes before they started boarding. The plane was in the air a few minutes late, but made up the time and landed at Dallas-Fort Worth International on time.

From there, its disembark, go through customs, reembark, and fly on to the Moline, Illinois airport where my parents were to pick me up. Customs was extremely slow. I got through customs at 7:25, and my flight started boarding at 7:20. I handed over my checked bag to the airline agents again, passed through security, caught the sky-tram to the proper terminal, and made it to my gate just before final boarding call. I think only one person got on the plane after me.

We flew to Moline, and I texted my folks to let them know I was on the ground as soon as we were allowed to turn our phones back on. It was just Dad to pick me up, so he greeted me when I left the secured area, and then we waited for my baggage claim. And waited. And waited. Then they announced that all the baggage had come through already. Okay . . . no luggage.

We waited for them to come open up the airline claims counter, and did the necessary paperwork, then made the drive to Cedar Rapids. Thus concludes the international portion of my trip. I still have the duration of my stay in Cedar Rapids and then my next visit in Utah before my return to Spokane, but I expect to be in Spokane March 27, in time for classes March 28.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dangriga Again

I am in Dangriga again today. Dangriga is a town in Southern Belize, about halfway between Punta Gorda, where I was staying before, and Belize City, which is the capital, and also the approximate mid-point.
Like Punta Gorda, Dangriga is coastal, but the ocean is more approachable. There are stretches of sand that approximate beaches. (The real beach in the south is in Placencia. That's where everybody goes. I am staying in a small hostel, which has a veranda that looks out over the ocean. Well, kind of. It looks out over a park which abuts the ocean, but there are no structures between the veranda and the ocean. I went out earlier today and went swimming with a group of people who are here on a study abroad trip from Wisconsin.
I am in Dangriga for two nights. I arrived yesterday, and will be leaving tomorrow. Last night there were only three of us staying in the hostel, but it looks like it may be more tonight. The other two last night were two girls, originally from France. One now lives in London, and works as a flight attendant for British Airways, and the other lives in Chiapas, I think, learning about perma-culture.
I walked around a lot more of Dangriga yesterday than I was able to see last time I was here, and went out for dinner with the two French girls. I am continually surprised by the quantity of food you get at these little Chinese restaurants. You order a small plate, and it's a heaping plate that I would consider normal-sized, not small. I don't know how much a large is, I can usually just finish a small.
Tomorrow I will be continuing onward to Chetumal. I hope that I will have another chance to write from the hostel in Chetumal, but no guarantees.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Homeward Bound

Today is my last full day in Punta Gorda. My bags are mostly packed, and I am ready to move on. Tomorrow (Saturday) morning, I will turn in my keys and strike north for Dangriga. I will be staying two nights in Dangriga, and then on Monday continuing north. I will cross the border into Mexico again, and stay the night in Chetumal.

Instead of continuing on buses for days, the way I came down, I will spent only six or seven hours on a bus, continuing up the Caribbean coast to Cancun. I am spending one night in Cancun, and the next afternoon I am catching a flight from there to Moline, IL. There is a layover, but I don't remember where. Dallas, maybe. Presumably, Moline is somewhere in the vicinity of Cedar Rapids, IA, because it was given to me as one of the three airports my parents can pick me up from.

I will be staying in Cedar Rapids with my parents for a few days, and then on Monday, March 21, catching Greyhound again to Utah. Then I will spend the rest of the week in Utah, and drive back on Sunday, just in time for my classes to start on Monday morning.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Amazon Kindle

I love my Kindle! I have to admit that this trip would have been a lot different without my Kindle. It is quite probably the best purchase I have ever made. As I have noted previously, I have done a lot of reading on this trip. That has been helped considerably by my Kindle. I don't think I could possible have carried as many books down here as I have read during my stay. There is a public library here in Punta Gorda, which I have visited many times (especially since realizing it has free wi-fi), but I do most of my reading on my Kindle.

I love a good book. I love the feel, the heft, the smell, the dust that makes me sneeze, the riffling feeling as I let the pages slip through my fingers, but when it comes down to it, what I love the most about books is what they contain. I love the story, or the information, the ideas of the author, writ large in fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose. What I love the most about books is all there in the Kindle version, every time, and . . . when it comes right down to it, I find books intimidating.

I have a decent library of a thousand volumes or so, many of which I have read, but most of which I have not. They were acquired in various ways, yard sales, thrift stores, book shops, library sales, many of them originally purchased with the intention of reselling online. Many I have never had an interest in reading, but most I have told myself that someday I would read them. At some point, in the distant future. Right. . .

When I would look over those shelves for something to read, I would stare dolefully for a few minutes, completely overwhelmed, and finally settle for something comfortable. Something familiar, something I have read before, some slim volume, or maybe even something required for a class; less intimidating, because essential. Rarely would I opt for the classics I've been putting off forever, because that fat volume of Homer or Dickens or Proust or Dostoevsky or even Twain is . . . just . . . so . . . formal looking!

On my Kindle I can sort everything into collections: Business, sci-fi, (quaintly labeled Syfy on my Kindle, because hey, it's MY Kindle, I can call my collections whatever I want), Classic Lit, Modern Lit, Folklore, Politics, Philosophy, Economics, Religious, Chess, anything! Then I can fill a collection with everything I might read, and pick just one to work on. When I'm bored with something, I can decide if there is something specific I want to read, or grab the collection I have read the least recently, and tackle whatever I'm correctly reading in that category. The Kindle conveniently allows me to sort by most recently read, so it is very easy to see what collection it has been the longest since I have read.

Instead of staring at my full library of Kindle books, and dolefully thinking about which book is currently the most interesting or the least intimidating, I can pick a collection, or pick a title, or tackle the least recent collection, and make a little progress in one book. Then a page or two or twenty or a hundred at a time, I make progress in all the great books I might have actually read . . . some day. And instead of staring dolefully at my bookshelves for a while and then giving up and turning to my computer or television, I actually read. Throughout my stay in Belize, I have finished, on average, one book every day or two. Now, many have been short little books on various subjects, but not all. I have finished several Sherlock Holmes novels, some Mark Twain, some Marcel Proust, some Jules Verne, and many others.

In summary, without equivocation, I love my Kindle! I love the door it opens for me, to actual reading, instead of just collecting books and dreaming about someday reading. I still love books, and will always keep a library, but it may just be physical copies of books that I'm actually reading, or have read, on my Kindle.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Six Weeks in Belize

I have been in Belize for six weeks now, give or take a few days. It has been a great visit, although, I have kept the typical “tourist” adventures to a minimum. Now and again, like tonight in the park in the main square, I meet people and have a conversation. For some reason, people just do not comprehend my visit.

“How long have you been here?” About six weeks.

“What did you come down for?” To take a break from school; clear my hand.

“So you're here with others?” No, by myself.

“Where do you live? Do you stay in a hotel?” No, I have an apartment, right there.

“Six weeks?!!? By yourself? What do you do?” Well, I read, mostly. I do a little writing. I go for walks. I do a little yoga and meditation. I use the internet some. I used to watch movies on cable most every day, while I was cooking dinner, but I gave that up a week or two ago and unplugged my TV.

People can't seem to wrap their heads around it. Why would somebody travel thousands of miles to rent an apartment, and then just sit around and read all day? Well, frankly, that is exactly what I did. I picked Belize for three reasons.

  1. It's in Latin America, where the dollar stretches further, so I can keep my costs down.

  2. I understand the language.

  3. It cost very little to travel down here and did not require expensive Visa applications.

I came to clear my head, because I was burned out on school, to decide if I wanted to stay in accounting, switch to business, drop out and try something else, or simply disappear. It took a little time, but I got what I came for. I know I want to stay in school, and actually increase my course-load the next couple of semesters, to graduate next year. I know I want to switch to business and focus in finance, instead of continuing in Finance. I succeeded in clearing my head.

In having no schedule and no need for one, I discovered the value of developing a schedule. In having no forced routine, I naturally fell into one, and learned my personal need for routine, in spite of how I've constantly chafed at routine. It was not routine that was a problem, but the pointlessness of it. I need good routines, that support me in clear goals that I am fully aware of.

In having no lessons forced on my, and no direction given my, I discovered lessons and direction within, in lessons I have previously learned, and in my personal patterns learned from reading, rereading, and typing up the one Journal volume I brought down with me, which spans the last three years.

In short, it sounds like my days are lazy, but they are very busy in a non-apparent way. It seems like they are pointless, but they have been more valuable to me, less pointless, than any other contiguous six week period of my whole life, with the possible exception of the time I spent in the CTM in Sao Paulo, Brazil eight years ago. I am extremely grateful for the decision I made to make this “pointless” trip to Belize.

That said, I'm also ready to see my family and friends again, and return to normal hectic life.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Random Search

I was out for an evening walk when I was stopped by the police and searched. They were looking for drugs and weapons. Of course I had neither. They asked me where I was staying, where I was from, if I had a passport, and then what my Kindle was. I didn't have my passport with me because I have never been stopped before, and usually leave it in my apartment when I go out, unless I am doing something for which I know I will need it. It was a short event, and didn't bother me in the slightest, but it is in the nature of such events to leave one's heart pounding and breath a little short after.

I finished my walk and then sat in the park in front of my apartment to do some reading for a while. While I was sitting there, the truck drove down Main Street, but they did not bother me this time. I suppose one search in an evening is enough, right? I do not know if such random searches are the norm here, but I know Belize has been stepping up its efforts to deal with drugs in the last couple of years.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Midnight Shootings

I was awakened last night, in the middle of the night, by gunshots. There were several that sounded like they came from Front Street, behind my apartment, and then a minute later from Main Street, in front of my apartment. It freaked me out, and I got up and hid in my bathroom, where I thought I would be least likely to get hit by a stray bullet. I did not look out the window to see what was going on, because I did not have my contacts in, and I did not know whether it would make me a target. Then as I was cowering in my bathroom, I realized that the edge of the balcony and then my front wall were both very solid, and there was no risk of a stray bullet passing through and hitting me while I lay in bed, so I went back to bed.

I found out today that there was a shoot-out between some people and the police, which ended in front of the ScotiaBank, which is next door to my apartment, to the south. One person was taken to the hospital in Dangriga, and at least one person was arrested. I did not learn whether the person in the hospital was in custody or whether he was a police officer.

And here is an article I found about it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


It's funny how being on the road with only loose itinerary and hundreds of possibilities makes it so much easier to write, and write again, ad infinitum, while being at home with limited options makes writing a chore. I am decided that internet access makes a difference, and resolve to spend less time plugged into the Internet.
Traveling has a lure because it disconnects you from your ruts and expected mode of how things are, making anything possible, but the reality of anything possible is always true, limited by your normal thinking, expectations – “it's like this, variation isn't part of the story.”
I would like to keep my story open, expect the unusual to happen, enjoy the experience, be the experience, even once I arrive home.

I went to Dangriga earlier this week, which is a bit of a trip. It is almost three hours by bus. I planned on a day trip, though I think I should have planned for an overnight trip. I would like to visit there again before I return home.
Dangriga is bigger than Punta Gorda, although I had no realization of that when I stopped there on my trip down. (Yes, Dangriga is where I wrote my first entry about the bus rides, although I couldn't post it until later.) There are rivers at the edge of town, with bridges that heavy trucks and buses are not allowed to cross, so the bus terminal is at the edge of town. That was why I thought it was small and did not realize its size when I stopped there before. If I had, I might have gone toward Dangriga when I left the Hummingbird Farm, instead of toward Punta Gorda.
Dangriga lies right on the coast, as does Punta Gorda, but it actually has beaches, with sand, that you can walk out onto. Punta Gorda has a rockier coast, with docks that go out over the water, and some bus stations with little step down into the ocean behind, but no real beach.
I missed the early afternoon bus back by twenty minutes, because I stopped for lunch. My mental image of how much vegetable soup $7 BZD will get you was a little off, and lunch took a lot longer to finish than I expected.
The next bus was two hours later, so I waited in the bus terminal, and finally got home to Punta Gorda after dark. I didn't mind waiting, though, or any of the delays. What do I do with my days? Mostly read, and go for little walks, enjoying the sunshine and the sea breezes and the calls of the birds. So waiting for the bus, I could read, and I had already walked through Dangriga, enjoying the sunshine and the ocean and the sea breezes, and the calls of the birds.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Adventures in Cooking

I have a had a fun time of it, learning to cook with the available foods. My stove is a little temperamental, and only one of the burners works, so this stands as a further limitation. There is a farmer's market where produce is available most mornings, and little supermarkets and grocers where I can get more processed food items.

The most readily available and cheapest to cook food items are rice and beans. Of course, both take considerable amounts of time to cook, but in a position such as mine, time is readily available. My first adventure with cooking beans here could best be described as an abject failure, but I learned from it. I did not soak the beans in advance, and so tried the fast-soak method, where you bring the beans to a full boil and then soak for 90 minutes before cooking. It did not work with these black beans. I cooked them for hours, and they were not as soft as I wanted, and it was late at night, so I turned off the heat, leaving them to soak overnight, and went to bed. Even with that, they took a long time to soak the next day, and when they finally finished were very bland.

I next bought some lighter-colored beans, soaked them overnight, and began experimenting with hot sauce, cinnamon, and ketchup in the beans. They came out delicious, and that is now how I typically cook them. The black beans I used again, and they do alright as long as they soak overnight, but still don't have quite as much flavor as the lighter-colored beans. (They're probably either pinto beans or red beans, but I don't actually know.)

Rice I have had an easier time of. The first time I cooked brown rice, I didn't put enough water in, and so had a difficult time of it, but I have since got the proportions and level of heat just about right. Because I only have one working burner, I can't time the rice and beans to finish simultaneously, so I usually cook the beans first, set them aside, cook the rice, and then put the beans back on for just a couple of minutes to heat them up again.

These make for tasty meals, although I do like to have a little something on the side. Eggs sometimes, or fried okra and bell pepper. Today I chopped up bell pepper and cooked it right into the brown rice, stirring it in when the brown rice was about half done, and it came out deliciously. Then to drink I usually have orange juice or grapefruit juice (100% juice, no sugar added). My meals aren't quite as delicious as those cooked by the woman at the Hummingbird Farm, but they do closely resemble a vegetarian version of tasty Belizean cuisine.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Laundry Service

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable things about Belize is the laundry service. In the US, I would take my laundry to the laundromat once a week, and have to supervise it through the washing and drying process. Frequently the drying would take much longer than expected, and cost many more quarters than planned. The whole trip would take up at least an hour and a half, and sometimes two hours of my time. For the decent washing machines that don't leave powder residue on the clothes, it would cost at least three dollars, and to dry all the clothes to satisfaction in a reasonable time would cost as much again. Then I would have to take the time to fold everything and finally return home.

Here, I take the bag of my dirty clothes in the morning to the laundry service. The lady charges $1.50 BZD per pound of laundry to wash, dry, and fold. I return in the afternoon to pick everything up, clean, pressed, folded, and smelling wonderful. Then I have only to return home and put everything in its proper place in my dresser. For a week's worth of clothes, it typically costs eight to ten dollars, merely four or five US dollars. The entire arrangement is most satisfactory!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dump Truck Dirt Delivery

I mentioned previously that my apartment is next to a vacant lot, which has become a construction site. I was sitting out on my balcony this morning, having an early lunch, when a dump truck arrived to deliver a load of dirt to the site. It carefully maneuvered to where it could back in to the site, and proceeded to do so.

Almost immediately after getting all three axles of the truck onto the soil of the construction site, the back wheels began to sink into the soil. Before the driver noticed and was able to stop the truck, the back two sets of wheels were half-buried in the muddy soil. The truck delivered its load of dirt, and the workers immediately began shoveling dirt around the back wheels to shore it up enough for the truck to gain traction. The truck was rear-wheel drive, and very stuck.

After the workers had shoveled quite a bit of dirt around the back wheels, the driver climbed into the cab, and tried to move the truck. The passenger-side wheels did nothing but spin, the driver-side wheels didn't appear to move at all. (I don't know how this is possible, but it is what it looked like. The truck was definitely stuck. The driver climbed out of the cab and made a phone call from his cell phone.

Within a couple of minutes, the driver to another dump-truck, which had been parked in front of my building the whole time, arrived. The second dump-truck pulled forward and then backed up to the first. They hooked up chains, and the second truck was able to pull the first truck out of the mud. The truck dropped off the rest of its dirt, and pulled away, leaving a trail of mud for a couple of blocks.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sounds of Belize

I do not live in a quiet area. It starts each morning just before dawn, when the birds greet the coming day. There are hundreds of them right around my building, and they squawk and call to each other for a couple of hours. They are very dark, and look black, but if you look closely in the proper light, you can see they have streaks of a dark rich blue. I think they are some kind of parrots, but I really don't know.

After the parrots finish their morning concert, things quiet down some. There is a street market in the mornings a block away, but it is pretty quiet. Later in the day the club across the street starts piping music, but usually not first thing in the morning. Then as night starts to fall, the birds do their thing again, and then the clubs really pick up. The one across the street isn't bad, but apparently there is one in the building behind me that opens up about 10 pm each night, and they really blast their music.

There is a bank next door, and a vacant lot on the other side, with the town square/park almost directly across the street, so I thought it would be relatively quiet, but apparently I was mistaken. Also, the vacant lot next door is now a construction site. And this morning deviated from the normal relative quiet of the morning with somebody, I think in the park, blasting gospel music. I don't mind a little worship now and then, but some of these songs make country sound musically complex!

Now that I'm done ranting about music and noise, I actually really like it here. Sure, it's a little more difficult to get to sleep some nights, but that just makes it easier to sleep through the birds the next morning, right?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Feeling Better

I haven't written for my blog in a couple of days, so the gap between writing and posting has dropped to two posts. I have one other post already written, and now this one. I have been feeling much better today, though, and think I am finally past that dastardly cold.

I watched the Super Bowl. Okay, technically I watched the commercials, I read Jules Verne during the football portions. And I kept up commentary on my Facebook, and in texting with Dallen and sometimes Kayla. It was a fun social thing. I miss my family and friends, but I'll be going back to the States soon enough.

Since I was finally felt well enough, I woke up with the birds at dawn and went down to the pier to take pictures of the sunrise. I got a bunch of good pictures, but my phone died before the sun came up. I put it on the charger when I came home. There are dark-colored parrots that live in the trees around my apartment, and they chat to each other from dusk until about an hour after full dark, and then again from the first rays of dawn, for a few hours. They were quite annoying when I was feeling horrible and sleep was a welcome respite, but now they don't bother me so much, and serve as a nice alarm clock in the morning.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Apartment

My apartment is a small studio apartment right on main street. The walls are a ridiculous green, and the floor is colorful tile. Big tiles, though, probably eight inches to the side. I have a full size bed, a TV on a little stand, a dresser, a desk, and a chair. The little kitchen has a mini-fridge, a propane stove (no oven) and of course counter space and a sink. It also came with an assortment of dishes and cooking pans.

Not seeing any flatware other than a big serving spoon, I bought a can opener, a spatula, and a fork, knife, and spoon. When I opened the only drawer in the kitchen, to put them away, I found more silverware, including a couple of can openers. So I spent some money I shouldn't have, but now I have multiple can openers!

The stove is a little cranky, being a propane stove. Only one of the burners is connected to the gas, and the output is not as even as it should be. There is one place in the circle where more gas escapes. At that point, the flames rise much higher, and orange instead of blue. I'm not sure how good that is for the various pots and pans, but it's not as if I have a choice. Plus, the pots and pans technically belong to the same person as the cranky stove, so... no worries.

I was assured by the landlady that the water is safe to drink, but as many days as I've been feeling horrible, I'm doubting it severely. Now I'm only going to drink water that's been boiled. You can get the big five gallon water bottles of Crystal Spring water, but you're supposed to have a bottle to exchange. If you don't it's $25 more. I need to ask my landlady if she has a bottle I can use, and also about where to put my garbage.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fever Again

I got up this morning and went for a walk along the road that is next to the ocean, and then picked up a few groceries on my way home. My apartment is only a block away from the waterfront. I can see the ocean out my back window. So far, I have not seen anybody swimming in the ocean, but I asked somebody, and I was told that people swim off the dock on the weekend. They don't during the week because people are in work or school.

On my way back, I stopped to talk to somebody who makes the wooden rings. He showed me the whole process for how they are made, and I was very interesting. I might go back and buy a couple before I leave. I am still trying to keep my expenses somewhat limited, though I think I'm spending less money than I would be if I was in Spokane freezing my butt off and taking classes instead.

I was feeling much better last night, other than some general muscle soreness, but a little after returning from my walk, my fever returned with a vengeance. I feel so lazy, not really doing anything, but my energy level is so low, I don't really have much of a choice. I bought some orange juice and grapefruit juice to increase my vitamin C intake, which I hope helps. I have not been to use the internet today, because I usually go in the afternoon, and now I am feeling so crappy that I might wait and go tomorrow.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Back in Punta Gorda

When I started working yesterday morning, I was exhausted almost as soon as I started, working sluggishly. I decided that the time had come to leave Hummingbird Farm and move to Punta Gorda town. I packed up all my stuff and took the bus into Punta Gorda. I initially got a hotel room for $46 BZD, a little on the pricy end, I think, but it had a bed and hot showers, which I was grateful for. Then when I was going to the bank to get the money, I spotted some apartments right on Main Street, Sharjay Apartments. I talked to the proprietor, and made arrangements to move in today. I am renting for six weeks, and then I will be returning to the USA.

After getting dinner at the hotel restaurant, I turned in early. I think I had some heatstroke, and slept fitfully all night, but my fever broke around 6 am and I'm starting to get a little energy back. I was left with lingering diarrhea, which could be from the water at the hotel, or it could be a symptom of whatever heatstroke or flu I was dealing with.

I checked out of the hotel this morning a little before eleven, and walked down the street to the Sharjay Apartments, where I paid my rent and moved in. It is furnished, and even has a few pots and pans and dishes. I will use this as my base and possibly do some tourist ventures over the next few weeks. I have much better cell reception in town, so texts are welcome. (Please no calls, though, only texts.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Shifting Gears

I was planning to go to Golden Stream yesterday, but there was supposed to be a guy coming to talk about organic gardening, so I stayed at the farm instead. The guy never showed up, though, so it was kind of a wasted day. I did get the area around my tent a little more organized, though.

Today I biked to Big Falls to use the internet, only to find out that during the week they don't open until 5:30. I thought that since last time she said 1 pm, it would be the same, but apparently it opens at 1 pm only on the weekend, and during the week does not open until 5:30. I remembered last time I saw there was a wireless network, after connecting my computer directly with their ethernet cables, so I checked to see if their wireless was up. It was up, and unsecured, so I sat down in front of the building, outside the fence on the grass, and did just a few of the things that were the most important, including updating my blog with the Punta Gorda entry. That worked for this time, but I don't see it being a viable option long-term.

I was thinking about that as I biked home, that with some of the difficulty I have had setting up some of my other projects here, the distance from Internet, etc., this farm might not be the best location for me. There is no mail delivery here, either, which is making my other projects a little more difficult to accomplish.

Then after I got back, Mr. Charles chewed me out for taking the bicycle without asking for permission. The thing is, he is a bit forgetful. I told him at lunch that I was planning to bike to Big Falls again today to use the Internet, and he said it was fine. He also told me that I should be saying thank you to the cook every time at meals, but I have been. It brings me to wonder if there is something particularly non-communicative about the way I communicate, because I have had communication breakdowns of this type before, especially when Bryanna and I were staying at her Mom's a couple of years ago. I have not had any problems since then, though, so I thought the adjustments I made to the way I interact with people after that were effective. Apparently not.

So with the Internet problem, the no mail delivery problem, and now the communication breakdowns with Mr. Charles, I think that my time here at Hummingbird Farm must soon come to an end. Next time I use the internet, I plan to contact some of the other WWOOFing farms in Belize to see if I can make alternate plans. I thought I might see if there are any decent places I could rent in Punta Gorda or Placencia, too.

Friday, February 4, 2011


I borrowed one of the farm’s bicycles and rode to Big Falls to use the internet. It was not as far as I thought it would be. I think it will be reasonable to bike that to use the internet, instead of paying to take the bus. When I got there and found the internet place, the lady told me that it did not open until afternoon- 1 pm. This was Saturday morning, a little after ten. That gave me a few hours to burn.

I didn’t want to bike all the way back to the farm and hang around for a few hours, so I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to visit Lubaantun. The road leading to it breaks off the main road just north of Big Falls, so I had passed it on my way to Big Falls. Big Falls is south of the farm, on the way to Punta Gorda. The sign said 7 miles to Lubaantun. That’s a bit of a trip, so I toodled around a bit thinking about whether or not to go for it, and then decided I would.

I’ve biked that distance many a time, but it’s a little bit more difficult when the road is broken. Only the main highways here are paved; all the other roads are broken- like they were previously paved, but it was never maintained. So it’s not just an unpaved road, but a broken up road, with rocks all over it, pressed into the soil. Not an easy experience to bike over. You have to continuously look for the best section to traverse. Quite a few times on the downhill sections, I was hanging on to the handlebars for dear life.

I made it safely to Lubaantun, though, and it only took about an hour. There is a parking area where I leaned my bike up against a tree, then put on my backpack and walked in. Leading up to the ruins, there is a long grassy alleyway where the local villagers set up their blankets and sell their “maya-craft”. That is a part of the experience, so I stopped and looked at what each family had available. There were many interesting bracelets and necklaces, and I might go back and get something before I leave, but I did not really have the money for that on this trip.

I got up to the ruins and walked around and took some pictures. The majesty of it is amazing; it was all constructed from rock and has lasted a thousand years. The man at the tourist center said that when the found it, a lot of the sections were filled with rubble and dirt, which they carefully excavated away to find the rock structures beneath. It was all very interesting. There is a smaller ruin closer to the farm, Nim Li Punit, which I plan to visit too, but I think Lubaantun is the largest in Belize. Interestingly, it is where the best preserved crystal skuil was supposedly found by Mitchell-Hedges in the 1920’s. (For all you Indiana Jones fans. Not that The Crystal Skull was the best sample of Indiana Jones filmography.)

(Note: I never got the pictured uploaded to my computer in time for this post, so I will have to add the pictures to it later.)

I biked back down to Big Falls (a lot easier than biking to Lubaantun), and used the internet for a couple of hours. I posted my Hummingbird Farm:First Impressions piece, checked my email, and took care of some other things I have been meaning to take care of. Then I biked home to Hummingbird Farm, which rump sore and spirits high.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Saturday breakfast

I’m not writing in my actual journal very often, because I’m daily writing posts to eventually upload to my blog instead, which is an interesting turn of events. There are interesting things that happen when you write regularly about what’s happening. As events play out, I find myself narrating in my head, thinking through what happens and styling prose to properly describe it. I don’t know if that actually improves my writing, but it’s interesting, anyway.

I got up this morning and did yoga before reporting to the kitchen. Today is my first Saturday here, and I do not have an expected time to be working. After doing some yoga and getting dressed, I went to the kitchen. Everybody else was sleeping in too. Only the people that live here are here, and Mr. L:ucas went to Placencia to visit his daughter, which he apparently does most every weekend. The fire was not yet lit, so I set about getting a fire going so I could heat some water for oatmeal.

We’ve been experimenting with banking coals, so I sifted through the ash first to see if any coals had been properly banked, and they had not. I made a little nest of newspaper, kindling, and then bigger pieces of wood and hunted down the lighter. It rained yesterday, and was more humid than is typical, and everything had to dry out before it was ready to burn. It was very frustrating. I have taught countless boy scouts how to construct a fire, and I know exactly how it works, but when it comes down to it, your fuel has to be dry or it will not burn. After many tries, I finally got a little fire going that I was confident would burn, and then set about refilling the tea kettle with hot water. It was at this point that the first person besides myself came out to the kitchen.

Most days I eat oatmeal for breakfast, with a little sugar and cinnamon in it. It’s a low effort, tasty breakfast. Sometimes I have hot cocoa with my breakfast too, but today I did not. I have had eggs with my breakfast too, once. It depends on how hungry I am. I had a big lunch yesterday, and a big dinner, and then oatmeal. That should be enough, but I am still hungry. I cleaned up the dishes after breakfast and then plugged in my laptop to do this writing. Now that it is pretty much writ, I think I will see about finding a fresh orange and maybe cooking some eggs.

(This post, written on Saturday, illustrates the fact that my posts are lagging a few days behind when they were written.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Day of Work

The local men who work for Mr. Lucas work a full day, but WWOOFers only have to work in the morning. I tag along and do whatever work there is to be done, from right after breakfast until lunchtime, and then the afternoons are mine. The first day, they showed me around the gardens and I helped to water all the plants and remove marigold seeds from dead flowers. There are marigolds planted at the ends of all the rows of plants, and sometimes in the middles, because Mr. Lucas believes that marigolds help keep bugs away. The local boys don’t think so, but they keep their own counsel except for when they’re asked.

I also helped carry the plant stalks that are used for the thatch on the pilapias over to where my pilapia was being finished. Once they started actually building it, their wasn’t as much I could actually do, because they can do it easier than explaining it to me. I raked leaves into piles, which would later be moved over to the compost pile by the big garden.

There are two gardens, the kitchen garden, closer to the main house and kitchen, and then the bigger garden, further away. I can’t really tell any difference between them, because the kitchen takes produce from whichever garden has what it needs, and when there are extra produce to sell, they sell them, regardless of which garden they come from. The kitchen garden has chicken coops near it, and there are goats that wander all over the farm. The chickens pretty much have free range too, and the gardens have chicken wires all around them to keep out the chickens and goats both.

It rained the first afternoon, so we didn’t have to water the gardens the second morning, but we checked to make sure nothing had been damaged and then worked on finishing my pilapia all morning. I cleaned up extra leaves, and moved all the leaf piles I made the first day into a wheelbarrow and barrowed them over to the compost pile.

The third morning, (I am writing this on the afternoon of the third day), we tore down the smaller chicken coop, because the thatch is old and rotten and doesn’t keep out the rain anymore. We also cut new leaves for the new thatch, and I learned how to use a machete and prepare the plants to be used for thatching.

All the work doesn’t sound like much, but I finish each day exhausted, and I have muscle soreness in various places. That will pass as my body gets accustomed to the work, and at present is something I’m grateful for, because it tells me I’m actually working. The experience of doing real labor is part of what I came here for.

The third day of work was a Friday, so now I get a couple of days off, and then next week will have a full five mornings of work for me. Sandwiched around that is a couple of days of adventure, followed by a full five afternoons to fill however I want. Life is full of excitement to be had.


blogger templates | Make Money Online