Cut off from the internet and our cell phones, we stayed at a former monastery, currently a retreat center in Santa Elena, Belize. There was no air conditioning, as is the norm in Belize, and as a result of the ceaseless heat and humidity, we learned to accept being constantly sweaty. There were many bugs/geckos, and the shower water was usually cold--a relief from the heat. It sounds quite different from American standards, but we were comfortable and happy. Everything was bearable and worth it when we took into consideration the countless blessings we witnessed each day.
The video below highlights some of the memorable moments I captured on tape:
Our typical schedule looked something like this:
6:30- Wake up
7:00- Morning Prayer (Lauds--Liturgy of the Hours)
8:30- Arrive at Bullet Tree Falls, the community in which Immaculate Conception school is located (about a fifteen minute drive from the monastery)
After that, we just went with the flow and I rarely looked at my watch.
|Picking oranges in the tropical depression rain|
Work projects- building bike racks, cleaning and repainting exterior of buildings, building shelves, installing windows (more like shudders) and pouring cement to fill gap beneath them. I learned quite a few things about operating power tools, and felt quite accomplished when my group completed two wonderful bike racks.
Lunch in the community- The people of Bullet Tree did not have much; they lived in mainly cinder block homes with tin roofs. But they were willing to share, nonetheless. Rice & beans and chicken were the norm, and I ate more than my fill. Each family welcomed us with open arms and truly made us feel at home. I even got to pick oranges from our first host's orange tree.
Teaching- My travel companions and I prepared five lesson plans for our students, one for each day of the school week: The Body of Christ, God is Love/The Trinity, 2 Pillars of the Catholic Church, the Sacraments, and Our Call to Holiness. Developing these themes gave us a whole new appreciation for our teachers' hard work...
We each had a teaching partner with whom we taught two 30 minute classes: a young class and an older class. My partner and I taught Standard 2 and Standard 4, about the equivalent age of our 3rd and 6th grade here in America.
|Battling for the Camera...|
Play time- We often found ourselves playing with students during their breaks (2 before lunch and 2 after). They would tirelessly chase us around, tickle us, ask to be spun around, throw a ball with us, put us in "jail" (Kelly....), or attempt to teach us soccer. That wasn't too effective, as we faced an intense loss to the students in our USA vs Belize soccer match on Friday...We had fun, regardless. The children especially enjoyed playing with our cameras, and we all ended up with quite a collection of their unique photographs on our cameras when they got back to us.
3:30- Return to monastery/ free time possible before dinner
Dinner- Again, we often saw chicken and rice & beans. A lot of fresh fruit juice.
Evening Prayer/Group Reflection- Vespers. Small group and large group reflections.
10:30- lights out
I'm probably missing a lot in the description above, but hopefully that gives you a general idea.
Other miscellaneous adventures included a trip to the Belize Zoo, visiting Mayan Ruins, seeing Jason Anthony (a popular American chalk artist and Christian inspirational speaker who was visiting with another missionary group), swimming in the Mopan River, and writing raps with my best friend Vivica, a "8th grader" at the school.
|Jaguar at the Belize Zoo|
Stay tuned for upcoming posts in which I'll reflect on the life-changing realizations and experiences I encountered on this trip.
For day-to-day details of our amazing trip, visit: http://ursulinedallasmissionbelize.blogspot.com/.