Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It's been a while!

For the last couple of months things have been going along as usual:  giving workshops to teachers at many different schools in the Stann Creek District, working with parents and preschoolers in the Family Literacy program at Bella Vista, and enjoying the relatively cool air of a Belizean winter. (That means around 70-80 degrees F).  

But two exciting, photo-worthy events happened in December:  My son Michael came to Belize for a visit, and I took a short trip over the border into Mexico with my Peace Corps Volunteer friend, Barbara Levy.

After Michael arrived we went directly out to Caye Caulker, where we enjoyed snorkeling in Belize's beautiful Caribbean coral reef.
Michael in Caye Caulker
 Choosing our fish or lobster to grill for dinner
Michael snorkeling with the fish and nurse sharks
Sea turtle
Moray eel
Michael kayaking around Caye Caulker
Night falls on Caye Caulker

After a couple of days in paradise, we made our way down to my town of Dangriga, using Michael's least favorite form of transportation, Belize's public buses.
It's about a 3-hour ride from Belize City to Dangriga, on Belize's ancient converted US school buses.  Poor Michael could barely fit his legs in the seat.  We frequently had to ride standing up.

We spent a few days in my home in Dangriga using it as a base to explore other areas of Belize.  We rode bicycles around town and relaxed both at home and at the Pelican.  
Riding around Dangriga
Michael marvels at Belize's bananas
Michael hangs out with the "piknee" (kids) at the Pelican

One of our side-trips was cave-tubing at Caves Branch.  
We saw Maya pottery and other artifacts in the cave.

Michael and I joined other Peace Corps Volunteers and about 30 other people at a holiday party at the US Ambassador's residence.  Michael enjoyed spending time with Ambassador Thummalapally, his wife and two children.

Michael and I did some ziplining at a wonderful spot called Bocawina Adventures.  We had a great time flying over the rainforest of Belize!

My favorite trip was a long hike we did at Cockscomb Basin and Jaguar Preserve.  I truly enjoyed my son's company as we strolled through the forest, climbed challenging hills, and swam under the waterfall.

The most memorable activity for me was simply sitting on my couch with my son and chatting about life.  I cried for a couple of days after he left.  I miss him terribly, but will forever cherish the memories of our time together in the Belizean jungle.  Thankfully, I had previously planned a trip with my friend Barbara Levy to the beautiful Mexican state of Chiapas a couple of days after Michael left, and our wonderful trip gave me plenty to help assuage my blues.  

Barbara and I took a bus across the northern border of Belize into the town of Chetumal.  It's amazing crossing the border and realizing that Mexico is such a developed country compared with Belize.  It's almost like being in the US.  We spent some time at the mall in Chetumal, where we could actually go to a movie theater and see "The Life of Pi" in 3-D.  

From Chetumal we took an overnight bus to Palenque.  The Mexican buses are deluxe and very comfortable.  We slept most of the way and woke up when we arrived in the morning.  Here are some photos of our visit to the Maya ruins of Palenque.

We also traveled to the waterfalls of Misol Ha 

And Agua Azul

Then we traveled to the colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas

We spent plenty of time in this beautiful town, rambling through its cobblestone streets, visiting its churches, restaurants and markets
Barbara and I loved shopping in the colorful markets!
El mercado de los dulces (sweets)

Our last stop in the state of Chiapas was Tuxtla Gutierrez, where we stayed with my friend Brenda at her home.  She showed us around the city and took us to visit the Canon del Sendero, a huge, beautiful canyon.  We enjoyed our visit with Brenda and her family.
At Brenda's house
Heading into the canyon on a motorboat
Crocodile along the bank of the river

Spider monkeys along the river bank

Our vacation through the gorgeous state of Chiapas was memorable for many reasons, not the least of which was the intestinal bacteria that I contracted and brought back with me to Belize, knocking me off my feet for three days.  Oh, well, Moctezuma is still trying to take out his revenge on us.  

I promise that my next post will not be so long in coming, and that I will have reports and photos to show how things are going in the schools and with the family literacy program.  Please continue to write to me and let me know how things are going for you.  We Peace Corps Volunteers relish contact from our friends and family back home.  It keeps us going....