Monday July 2, 2018
What a great first day!
We are all safe and sound here at our home base in Belize! It’s a beautiful cool night and the stars are out. We had a long day waiting at the airport, but eventually made it back with a full crew to enjoy a Belizean dinner of stewed chicken and rice, topped off with birthday cake— Happy Birthday, Katie!!
We can’t wait for orientation to kick off tomorrow so we can get to know our new home!
Tuesday July 3, 2018
Hi everyone!! It’s Micky and Allyse, the leaders for day one. Today kicked off with orientation and some group bonding. We learned about safety, the code of conduct, the trip expectations. The group then divided into mentor groups. The main purpose of mentor groups is to create a smaller environment in which people can learn more about each other.
Our afternoon was quite relaxing. We took a trip down to the swimming hole near our home base. The walk there was through stunning orchards. After we enjoyed a fresh swim together everyone dispersed to shower and collect themselves. Some girls gathered in the yoga fort to talk and play cards before dinner. Later that night we met with Dr.Minerva. She talked to us about our lesson plans for interacting with the children. Overall it was a great first day and we’re excited for more!!!!
Wednesday July 4, 2018
Today, we awoke to a beautiful morning. Some of us were even lucky enough to see some real toucans hiding in the treetops! After a scrumptious breakfast, we made way to our first day of service with the children of Dangriga. Us, the teens, were split into groups of three and were each put in charge of around 15 children. We were briefed on a packet and then given the responsibility to teach it how we please. This packet taught the importance of oil in Belize as it is a growing industry and, through its contents, helped teach reading and writing. Of course, we played some games with them along they way!
After we were done, we made way to the beach to play with the kids some more! We all appreciated the cool air and the good times we had! After this, we said goodbye and went to Marie Sharps Hot Sauce factory where we had the privilege to take a tour and meet Marie Sharp herself. We learned the process of making hot sauce and even got to try some! After this, we returned to our humble abode to enjoy some well needed cold showers and some great bonding experiences. We talked and talked and talked for hours. Overall, today was a 10/10 would recommend, 100%, A+.
Dana and Beth
Thursday July 5, 2018
So today was our second day of service. Like yesterday, the kids were super sweet and we had lots of fun. We play so many games and kids seem to enjoy learning about oil. For lunch today, we all tried a new food called Stuffed Jacks which was a fried bread filled with a bean paste that had vegetables and chicken. It was really good!
Then we broke up into our mentor groups to reflect about our service thus far. For most of the afternoon it thunder-stormed so we enjoyed our free time inside. Soon enough, it was time for our cooking class with our dining staff. We learned how to make the corn tortillas that would eventually hold our tacos together. Not only was it informative, it was also a great bonding experience for the group to get closer as a whole.
For the rest of the afternoon we indulged ourselves in board and card games while it was raining (Big Boggle is my favorite). Dinner consisted of more tacos and a salad. Finally to wrap up this fantastic day, we had Ms. Emily Martinez, a local educator in Belize, come to TREES to speak with us. She taught us all about the history, culture, and education system in Belize.
I realized how diverse Belize truly is. She not only informed us about Belize, her presentation was so inspiring as it reminded each one of us that we have the tools and the smarts to well, be the change! Tomorrow we all leave for the island and we know all the girls are just as excited as we are to participate in water activities (the WiFi and air conditioning are also some nice bonuses too ;)). So far this trip has blown my expectations away and I’m so excited for service again next week!
Leaders of the Day,
Sierra and Sophia
Friday July 6, 2018
The rain didn’t stop us today! We woke up to a foggy morning and headed up top to a breakfast of toast and eggs. Shortly after we left for service. At service, the kids finished up our packets and oil, read some books, and colored. After lots of learning we headed outside to play games on the beach. Then we swung by to grab some lunch and it’s off to Caye Caulker.
After our 2 hour bus ride and the 55 minute boat ride we finally arrived on Caye Caulker. We all settled in in the hotel and connected to the WiFi so we could reconnected with our families. We headed to the shore for a quick swim before dinner. After dinner we stoped for some fresh homemade ice cream. At the end of the night we bonded in an appreciation circle and grew to be close like a real family.
Team Leaders of the day,
Grace and Rose
Saturday July 7, 2018
Today was our first full day on Caye Caulker. We walked to a café for breakfast to start our morning. After breakfast, we walked one building over to Carlos’s Tour Shop. We all got fitted for our snorkeling gear. We then made our way to the boat where Carlos and his crew gave us an introduction and took us to our first snorkeling spot. After breaking up into smaller groups, we put on our gear and got into the water. With a guide, each group explored the first area of barrier reefs where we saw things like Lion Fish, Green Eels, and Sea Urchins.
After about an hour of snorkeling, we sunbathed on the boat until we reached our next spot. This snorkeling spot is known for the nursing sharks. Carlos and his team fed the sharks as we jumped into the water. Many of us were nervous, but the majority of the group got into the water with the sharks and most of us even got the chance to touch them. Here we also saw a turtle and two sting rays. We go back onto the boat for lunch, which consisted of chicken or salad, beans and rice, and pasta salad. We headed to the last snorkeling spot where we traveled as a bigger group.
Afterwards, we had time to just relax on the boat and enjoy the view. We had bananas, watermelon, pineapple, and papaya for a snack. Carlos let us play music and we spent the rest of our day relaxing. Some of our group began to feel seasick, but luckily, with some ginger and dramamine, everyone was able to take a much needed break from our prior week of service.
We got back to our hotel and hit the showers. We shopped a little before we made it to our restaurant. After dinner we got ice cream again and stopped at a local market for some snacks and aloe! Back at the hotel, we broke apart into mentor groups and ended the day with meaningful conversations about why we chose to go on this trip. Finally, we gathered all together to say goodnight and plan a meeting time for the sunrise early the next morning!
Team Leaders of the day,
Linda Nina and Shirley
Sunday July 8, 2018
Today was our last day on Caye Caulker. Most of us woke up at 5am to go watch the sunrise and then went back to bed. Let me tell you, waking up a second time was rough for all of us but once we got to Amor y cafe (our Island breakfast spot) and got the best iced coffee around we all felt a lot better! After breakfast we went shopping around the island and I’ll let it slip that some of us got some pretty cute gifts for our parents! 😉
After taking a water taxi to the main land we had an hour bus ride to the Belize Zoo. On the way we stopped to take some super cute pictures on a rainbow “Belize” statue! At the zoo we had some surprisingly good quesadillas and did a little more souvenir shopping! Outside the souvenir shop we each got the chance to hold a snake, Queen Green the boa, which was fun and exciting.
After the exciting expierence with the boa constrictor we seperated into out mentor groups, the leaders being Laura and Danielle. Each group was assigned an amazing tour guide— either Lawrence or Harrison. Laura’s group was led by Lawrence and started by feeding the Belizean Tapirs, which are is the national animal of Belize. Danielle’s group began their tour by learning and watching the colorful and vibrant Scarlet Macaws. Then both groups continued to view Junior the Jaguar, Carlos the Puma, Roger and Dodger the Toucans, Brutus the Crocodile, Howler Monkeys, Grey Foxes, and many more. With each animal we got learn so much about their species, along with some of their personal histories. Luckily, we were also able to see the national Belizian flower, The Black Orchid! The tour lasted about an hour, and everyone had an amazing time. Special thanks to the Belizan Zoo!
After we stopped by the gift shop, again, we boarded the bus and started our journey back home to TREES. When we got back we had an hour of free time before dinner. After the delicious dinner, which was pasta for anyone wondering, the group participated in a leadership activity. The activity allowed everyone to write down anonymous compliments on a piece of paper. There were some happy tears by the end. Then we started our service prep for the next few days, which are packed with educational and fun activities for the kids! Hopefully tomorrow will be as exciting and jam-packed with fun activities like today!
-by Sophia T and Kaili
Monday July 9, 2018
After our great vacation inside a vacation at Caye Caulker and a little scorpion incident, we headed to service today. Everyone was a little tired and some felt sick so it was a slow start to our morning. In the beginning, we sang the national anthem for the kids per Mrs. Bev(Head librarian)’s request-usually, the kids would sing their national anthem, so we think that it was fascinating for them to hear the national anthem of another country.
There were less kids there than last week, but we still enjoyed our time with them. After 3 hours of service, we headed back to home base for lunch. We had hard corn tortillas with beans and cole slaw. Then we listened to Mrs Annelita Garcia who talked about the Mayan culture. We also got to learn how to make our own baskets by weaving, which was really cool. It was hard for some people to learn because Mrs. Garcia forgot to bring needles so we only had one, but it was still quite pleasant.
Next we moved into free time where people showered, napped, hung out in their cabins or talked in the yoga fort. For dinner we had a positively delightful meal of stewed beef, white rice, and beans and for dessert there was a sweet potato pudding. Everyone devoured it— the white rice is vey good. Next we talked about our plans for the youth exchange we were doing the next day.
Youth exchange is when 20ish Belizean teens come to the library where we do our service and we get to talk to them about the culture and lifestyle in Belize. There was a lot of conflicting ideas so things got a little heated, but we finished the night with a great plan for tomorrow! We were all really tired so curfew was 9:30 instead of 10. xoxo
-by Niko & Sarah
Tuesday July 10, 2018
This morning we had a delicious breakfast of fry jacks, which tastes like fried dough, eggs, sausage and a fruit salad with bananas, pineapple and papayas. We then took the bus to Dangriga where we and the kids sang our national anthems. The older kids (10-12 year olds) left and went with the local volunteers to spend the morning making drums at a separate location.
This made service much easier since there were less children running around. Many groups spent the first part of the morning making masks of their favorite animals and reading to each other. We were also able to spend some time playing outside playing ‘Tarzan the Jungle Man’ or volleyball. Overall, the day was super stress-free since all of the older kids were occupied and the younger kids were engaged in what we were doing.
After service, we ate our sack lunches of sandwiches, chips & salsa on the bus and complained about the heat and humidity. Today was one of the warmest days and the humidity was brutal. We then took a quick trip to a grocery store to buy some snacks and then head back to the library for our afternoon activity, a local youth exchange.
We went back to the library to set up for the 20 students we were preparing to meet and learn about. The students ended up being pretty late so we had some time to bond as a group in the library without the kids running around. When the students arrived, there were only nine but we were able to run our program anyway. We set up tables with different topics written on pieces of paper like education in Belize, daily lives, and gender roles.
Many groups ended up talking about being teenagers and everyday things like what music we like, relationships and hobbies. Other groups, however, had deep and meaningful conversations about the statutes of both Belize and America. After we rotated throughout the tables, the locals walked us throughout the neighborhood, pointing out some of their homes as well as other important sights on our way to check out the nearby beach.
On the way back we stopped for a quick stop to get snacks and other necessities which was fun. After that we went back to Trees and had about 45 minutes to relax and hang out we had to meet up at 6:00. This is when we played psychiatrist before dinner as our leader of the day game. For dinner we had mashed potatoes, pork, coleslaw salad, brownies, and of course lime juice which was what many of us were excited for.
After dinner we had shout outs for people who we saw doing good things today. We continued to have a conversation about what ways we can help the kids we worked with after we leave and some of the ethical reasons why we can’t give them some things and extra support in some areas. The last event of the night was mentor groups were we were able to debrief the day and just talk for a while.
-by Katie & Kaila
Wednesday July 11, 2018
Three words: Service, Sweat, S’mores.
After starting off our day with juice and toast for breakfast, we headed onto the bus and journeyed on to Dangriga for service at the library! There our day was filled with singing national anthems, drawing dozens of pictures in our small groups, and many exhilarating games of Simon Says. Between songs and games, each group worked on literacy skills and phonetics by reading all different kinds of children’s books together. Overall, another fun day at the library!
We belted Beyond by Leon Bridges the whole ride back to T.R.E.E.S. where we then ate lunch and worked on cards and gifts to give to our kids and Miss Bev, the librarian, on our last day of service. Many pieces of cardstock and dried out markers later, we went onto our next activity for the day: Dance Lessions!
From traditional Garifuna to Kriol styles of dance, we sweated our hearts out in the Yoga Fort under the fine teaching of Miss Dixie. By the end of the afternoon, we were all freestyling our way through any kind of Belizan beat she had coming for us.
After dinner, we went on a blind folded Trust Walk through the grounds. Though it was scary at first for some trust someone literally and figuratively guiding them into the dark unknown, it took only a few minutes for all of us to feel comfortable and relaxed as we were being lead to places unknown.
After the activity, we spent time under the stars. From constellations to fireflies, the clear night sky provided the perfect backdrop for all of the emotionally charged, meaningful experiences we were to share with the group and each other.
From there, we moved over a couple of feet and made a bonfire. Shoutout Windell and Rose for putting their expert skills to the test! We made s’mores amidst large colonies of fire ants and lived to tell the tale. Another shoutout to Benadryl Anti-Itch Cream!
In short, we had a rock solid day. 🙂
-by Anna & Leah
Thursday July 12, 2018
After breakfast at 7:30, we took off for our pervious to last day of service. We spent the first half of the morning working with the kids and sitting with them during a presentation on natural disasters.
We came back to TREES for lunch after service. In the afternoon, we took off for a swim in the Blue Hole and stopped for ice cream after.
We made cards for our kids at service to give them on the last day and then ate dinner. We celebrated Sophia’s 17th birthday with a chocolate cake and a fantastic rendition of Happy Birthday! To finish the night Emma led us in a discussion about ethical photography.
-by Michelle & Lila
Today we woke up, ready, yet prepared, for an emotional last of service. We had french toast for breakfast which was a lovely surprise then we hopped upon our sick (but annoying) new whip which we all wish was the same old bus that broke down due to mechanical issues. While on our way to Dangriga, we learned the Belizean national anthem so we could join in with the kids in singing it. When we arrived, we were sad that we would have to inevitably say goodbye to the best kids we’ve ever met. We played games with them the entire day and took many pictures with the ones we loved. To end our service, we gave Miss Bev a cake to show our gratitude and said our goodbyes. We came back to our home and had a delicious lunch which consisted of burritos with chickpeas. We then went on a tour to learn more about T.R.E.E.S., the place we’ve called our home these past two weeks. We gained a lot of respect and perspective for our homebase. After this, we ate a scrumptious dinner of noodles and bread, but not just any bread, garlic bread. The best garlic bread anywhere south of Texas has ever seen. But to top it all off, Windell, our bus driver, but not just any bus driver, the best bus driver anywhere south of Texas has ever seen (also our BFF), distributed some delicious ice cream and almond brittle. We then ended the evening with a movie night. We watch The Hunger Games which was a relaxing way to end our hectic final day of service. All in all, today was amazing and we loved the experiences that we were able to cultivate from our service.
Beth and Siena
Saturday July 14, 2018
Hi everyone! It’s day 13. This morning we gathered for breakfast and got ready for the last day. After we loaded up on food we headed out! Windell, our lovely bus driver, made impeccable time and we arrived to the iguana project an hour early, which was our first stop of the day. While waiting girls did each others hairs, ate snacks, and used wifi to share contact information! Everyone was eager to hold the iguana. They were surprisingly friendly! The brave ones of the bunch balanced the “Kim Kardashian” iguana on their head.
Our next stop was Ajaw Chocolate Belize. Here we experienced the original chocolate making process practiced by the mayans. We tried chocolate in many different forms which included a drink with the addition of cinnamon, honey and other spices. The experience was interesting and different than any chocolate we had tasted before. Overall it was great except for when many of us later found melted chocolate in our bags.
After enjoying a quick lunch at a local restaurant named Benny’s, we headed up to the Mayan ruins, Xunantunich. We took a boat across the river then went up to the base of the ruins. Carlos lead us on a great tour around the old Mayan ruins and up the high temple. On our way back to the bus, we took a nice walk down the path to the river.
Our last dinner was amazing as usual but sad to have our second to last meal all together. After dinner we broke into our mentor groups for one last time. It was a great two weeks and a perfect way to end it.
-Micky & Allyse 🙂