Friday, April 27, 2012

Final BLOG!

As I sit and watch my laundry spin at the local laundry mat, due to my broken dryer upon our return home. I'm comforted by my calm emotion concerning a broken major appliance. I'm just so thankful I have a major appliance...even if it's broken. Our last weeks in Belize sealed out appreciation of life back home. Belize is a beautiful country with many reasons to go back soon, I already miss the sounds of the symphony of birds every morning, the call of the pelicans when the fisherman have arrived to the dock, the distant sound of our favorite vendor with his "Hot Corn Dokono's.....Da Best!" hollering his arrival. From the Caves (our last blog) our trip was a whirlwind of adventure. I set out at the beginning of this journey ultimately wanting to show my Children a different way of life with the intention of not just talking about the love of a family and the security we find within, but I wanted uncomfortable situations for us. I wanted to show them with their own eyes that although we are uncomfortable...great things arise.. we bond....we have faith in God to teach us and keep us safe and that we are OK..... I got my wish. Our trip from San Ignacio found us on the side of the road with a van that refused to run. Normally, if this happened a person would just call a friend, get it towed and carry on....but in Belize it doesn't work like that. First of all, just a mile behind us, we passed a half naked man waving a machete at us and yelling UN definable noises because we didn't pick him up... .....reallly?? !! We sat idle on the side of the road for only moments wondering what to do. It was Sunday and we were broken down in a Small village along the southern highway in Belize. We had just a hint of fright, wondering if our machete man was going to pop out and chop us up....
He never did..... I knocked on a nearby home where a super nice belizan was having his birthday BBQ out back. It just happened to be, that this young man was the son of a well respected mechanic of the district. He gathered a few of his buddies and began work on our borrowed van. It took a couple hours in the hot sun, roadside, to find out that the fuel pump was broken and the nearest part was back in the states. We unloaded our bags and hitched a ride to the next village with our birthday boys cousin. Dangriga is a small town on the southern coast of Belize. The village is known for the drumming talents of the Garfunia people. The Garfunia people are a blend of the Mayans, the Caribbean pirates and African American. They are beautiful people with an outward attitude of Rasta shining through. So on a Sunday at the bus station in Dangriga, we received a full education. Our Bus was due at 4 and at 4:30 we learned it wasn't coming.....praying the last bus at 6 wasn't canceled, we were only needing to go 40 more miles to Placencia where our beach front cabana waited...empty....Our 6pm bus arrived with just a few seats left. 80% or more of the Belizian population (which is 400,000) do not own cars. Bus transportation is the main source of movement in Belize. Consequently our bus was PACKED, even the isles were uncomfortably full. Our bus ride took 2.5 hours along a bumpy road stopping every 2 minutes to let people off ...and un beliavably more people ON!. Having my feet up under me due to the coackroach infestation...our ride was one of deep prayer and mediation to not absolutly freak out....We made it to Placencia 13 hours after setting out. We were tired, hungry, dirty and quiet. No words could discribe our thoughts so we ate in silence, brushed our teeth and hoped for a better tommarow. And that it was...the sun was hot for the next few days which allowed us to frolick on the beaches of Placencia with smiles. The next week passed by quickly and we found ourselves back on our Favorite Island of Caye Caulker. It was fun to show Troy our favorite places. Our much anticipated Rental of the Indigo Pearl unfortunatly turned out nothing like the pictures...we were thankful for the use of a kitchen but having no electricity due to disfunctional solar panels, we decided to cancel the rest of our stay and move back to our favorite place Colinda's. Colinda's Cabanas turned out to be our home away from home the owners are now our friends and the Cabanas are now ...our Honeymoon spot. Troy and I declared our forever love to each other and we were Married under the Palapa at the end of their dock on April 12th. Our Ceromny was simple and Magical. Big puffy clouds floated above us as our friends sang "Be thou my vision", 1 corinthians 13 4-7 was adopted as our life song and my children nodded their approval with smiles. We ended our last days in Belize as a family but not without one last adventure to San Pedro. In San Pedro we took a hour long boat ride in a tiny boat getting soaked with Seawater to the" Turtle mans House". The Turtlemans house is a hut over the water built of driftwood and palm. There is no electricity or running water. To get to the Hut you must wade out into the sea and climb a plank to enter. The toliet was a compostable toliet with sea grass and the shower was heated by the sun. As we shook in the wind careful not to fall through the walls, we frequently dangeled our feet over the carribean sea from our hut and stared out to the reef just a few hundred feet away. We decided what a great way to end this journey... livinging like swiss family robinson. We have been home for a little over a week now and we are back to our routines of school and work. But we are changed. Belize stengthed us as a family, I was once again given the opportunity to be a fulltime mother to my children, which I know in my heart, is what God created me to be. Belize taught us that life, when lived simply, gives us the joy of relationship... when all is said and done at the end of the day, ultimatly, the relationship with the people in our lives, is all that matters....Belize taught us that we don't need 'thing" to be happy....just each other.... and while the world will continue to whiz by, we must disipline our thoughts and remain focused on what is important to us as individuals. Eli and Ava came back with a adopted sense of security as individuals, knowing that friends are extemley important but being a friend to your family is key. We know we can do anything , go anywhere and be what we dream.... "things" may try to stop us....but God knows our hearts and we know he is the path to true joy....through LOVE

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Our trip is fastly approaching our departure and among the many things I am grateful for, is the time we have been able to explore this beautiful country.The places we've been, the people we have met and the adopted humbleness that has fell upon us while here. We are forever changed. Our minds and eyes have reached new levels of openess and our hearts have most definatly softened. You would think that zip lining over the jungle canopy, snorkeling in the carribbean, spending nights in treehouses, touring an iguana sanctuary and hatchery, working at orphanages, floating the river and rope swinging into it, washing dogs at a animal rescue, spearfishing at the barrier reef, jumping into the blue hole, eating termites, touching turantulas, feeding Jaguars, sleeping at the zoo, learning to make tortillas with the locals would ALL be enoungh BUT we wanted to know more about the Mayan culture and not just from the ruins of xuantinitch. We heard there were caves in the Mayan Mountains where the Mayans gave offerings to their Gods and performed Human sacrafice. So we continued our Quest to learn of their culture by visiting what is known as one of the top 10 cave experiences in the World. Actun Tunichil Muknal otherwise known as ATM. National Geographic, discovery channel, man Vs. Wild, Ghoast Hunters International among others have all done varied segments on this extrodianary cave. Our tour guide Oscar picked us up from San Ignacio at 8am. It was a hour long drive along the northern highway and across some of the most uncomfortable terraine we had yet experienced. We had to stop once to move some passengers around for the ride was so turbulant over pot holes, sickness was threatening. Our guide Oscar was silent on the ride and I began to get cross in my thoughts at the lack of information, but soon came to realize that he was so passionate about this cave and the history it beholds, that he was saving his words for our time in the caves. We assembled in a parking lot randomly placed along the jungle floor, we were fitted with helmets, headlamps and a box lunch with a water bottle, we were gruffly told to drink up for whats ahead will drain us of liquids. Tennis shoes and sockes required, we found ourselves squishing behind our guide along a well worn path through the jungle, Crossing through the river 3 times sometimes waist high. At the mouth of the cave, our energy turned into overdrive as the intensity of our guides voice reached a booming level with the much needed and invited information about the caves... AND the obvious ONLY path inside the cave, was to swim through the d
eep pool at the mouth of the cave. The water was brisk but fresh. Shoes socks and clothes on, we jumped in and swam. The current wasnt so bad, but Ava's shoe was lost so we had to spend some time locating and diving for it. The ATM caves were re- discovered in the 80's and opened to the public in 1986. The artifacts there are 90% remaining. The cave goes up and deep about 3 miles..we were only to go 1.5 km to the upper chamber. Along the journey in, we saw 2 of the 3 upper entrances. We could litterally smell our fear as we treked in using our 4 points (sometimes 5) of contact. Climbing over giant boulders which collasped 1000's of years ago, we entered the cave. It took our breath away. Enormous stilagmites and stilagtites glisting from the cathedral ceiling and floor. This cave is obviously huge and our minds raced into ideas of what lives here now and what happened years ago. Our hearts beating faster we ventured further into the cave bewildered about the climb up and stopping often to view the incrediable natural beauty that water over thousands of years has created. Also noting some deliberate ajustments in areas where the mayans bulit alters and broke the jagged edges of the stilagmite formations to cast shadows of jaguars and old woman from the flames of a cooking fire. It is believed the Mayns would come to the cave for specific reasons, to offer to their gods through food offerings and often times through human sacrafice. The upper chamber of the cave is where majority of the artifacts remain. Wet, scraped, chilled an bit tired we boulder climbed to a high ledge where we were instructed to take our shoes off but to leave on our socks as the oils from our bodies would expedite the wear on the limestone. As we climbed through the upper chambers, our visual education began. Ceramic artifacts including many pots placed deliberatly in formatioms of a completed offerings dotted the cave floor. The pots remained in their found placements, one up, one upside down and the final on its side with a "kill hole" suggesting the offering had been completed. When we reached the highest point of our climb we were surprised with yet another climb up a 15 foot latter to take us to even a higher pocket in the cave. Zig zagging through hundreds of artifacts left from the mayans, careful not to lose our balance and crush one, we finally came upon the Crystal Maiden. A girl to believed have been approx. 18 yrs old, historians believe she was one of possibly 14 human sacrafices. Just a few feet from her was the skeleton of a child who it looks like had been tied from behind. Although scientists, archeologists and historians worked for years to suspect the happenings before opening the cave to the public, what went down in those caves 1000's of years ago and the reasons why can only be a fraction of the reality. To stand over crystalized bones of human sacrafice a feeling undecriable in words washed over me and a new sense of curiosity prevailed. I wondered how their Gods would expect such ritual and thanked Jesus for only wanting my heart. What a confusing culture that would have been to live among. My thoughts ran to the vastness of the Globe, of the triillions of people who have walked it and the kajillion things that have gone down throughout history. The world grew even larger for me that day in the cave, as I was just one person in in a tiny pocket of a vast cave, in this forever mind boggeling exquisite world. The trip down the cave was swift but not to swift to squeeze our way through different chambers of rocks and in some places submerging in water and turning our heads to just barely squezze through the opening. In this said opening a wolf spider the size of Troys hand extended lurked for our enjoyment and was just inches from our faces. That night and the days to follow the visions of the caves, the imaginations of the offerings and sacrifices flooded our brains to distraction. A day and a place to remember forever. Definatly a monumental day of discovery and am so blessed to have actually witnessed the physical change of my childrens eyes widened. Two days later we journied on to Placencia, Only to be stopped in the tiny village of Poloma with a busted fuel pump...a broken down van...the hours to follow will require another blog....of another "flava"..stay tuned.. MUCH Love to all back home:-) Caroline

Monday, April 2, 2012

A long overdue blog by Eli and Ava Our last week has been a busy one and we are finally able to post a Blog! Hello to everyone! Besides some interesting bug bites, we have all remained happy and healthy. For the last week we have been back at basecamp in Belmopan. We have been  working  at an orphanage called "Marla's House of Hope" Marla's House of Hope is an organization that takes kids up to 18yrs out of abbusive situations. We have have befriended all of the kids. A few of the younger kids  were born there and their young mothers are with them. The kids all seem very comfortable and happy.  After we would help with homework, we would go out and play. Most of the kids we played with were under 4 yrs. Old.  We had a chance to play basketball with a couple older kids and learned of their stories. 16 yr old Rosa Garcia and her little sister Briellen are soon moving to a foster home. Rosa tells us that she doesn't want to leave. Marla's House of Hope is different from most orphanages they are there not to be adopted but  to be given a secure home, a christian education and eventually placed in foster care. Many don't want to leave as it is the only home they've known. Miss Shellie,the director of the orphanage, tells us that one of the kids went to a family and calls her everyday to tell her how she is doing. It was sad for us to leave the kids but it was time for us to Venture on and pick up Troy. The night before Troy arrived we decided to spend the night at the Belize Zoo. Adjacent to the zoo is an educational center with guest houses. Our stay included delicious meals and a nocturnal tour through the zoo with flashlights.  Since we had time, we decided to check the Zoo out in the daylight. In the day we saw king vultures, boa constrictors, deer( not that exciting for us north-west-ians)  One of our favorites was a large black animal with long legs and a nose that looks like an anteaters. It's called a Tapir. Nicknamed: "Mountain Cow." Tapirs are Belize's national animal. They are very friendly and we got to feed them carrots on the nocturnal tour. We saw spider monkeys, Scarlet macaws and crockadiles but our tour really turned into a adventure at the howler Monkey exhibit. As we were searching the trees for the monkey's just five feet from the railing/ fence that kept them in, a branch plops down, A mother monkey and her brand new born baby on her back was staring at us...She was SOOO close to the fence, we were all wondering if she was gonna jump out. And sure enough, she did!! She jumped right in front of us!!  She walked along the railing so close we could have reached out and touched her. There happened to be a puma exhibit right behind us, the puma  growling loudly pounced on the cage and scared US and the monkey back in to her habitat, for a few moments it was mayham! We finished our time at this amazing little zoo with a visit to the Cautimundi and a  Jaguar pacing by my side 2 feet away, the only thing separating us was chain link fence!    The nocturnal Tour was plump full of information  It was quite a experience except for my mom stepped in a red ant hill at the tapir exhibit and her feet got severly stung! After that we went to our awesome guest house right outside of the zoo, It was a super fun stay despite one of our  coldest nights here and the mouse Visitor in our room:-)  What an adventure we are On!    Troy arrived safley on the 28th and we have spent some time in the jungle where most of these animals were rescued. Our next blog will be about our trip into the ATM caves, a exquisite adventure of climbing cliffs, swimming through tight channels and viewing the artifacts from back in the times where the Mayans would hold human sacfafice andvritual offerings to their gods

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day #34 by Eli and Caroline

It is our last day on the beautiful Island of Caye Caulker. We have learned much about the ways and life of the Belizians here. Many similarities of mainland life but because this island thrives on tourism ALONE, there are also many differences . We have developed many friends here on Caye Caulker, some have already headed back home to their lives. (We miss you already Eric and Linda!:-) and others,  we have frequented their resturants, purchased their trades( fruit, cakes, tamales, jewelry etc) many are friends we passed everyday on our bikes, Or like Colin and Linda, we have stayed on their property. We have learned that being called "mama" is a form of respect and my children have been aknowledged accordingly as "son" or "girl" noting that we are connected and respected as a family. It's very apparent after a person spends more time and engaging in conversation and service, there is a level we move beyond and we are no longer just "tourists" we have become trusted and our  conversations have moved beyond the surface. We have truley gotton to know the hearts of many who live here.  We have only been on this island for 16 days but I have witnessed Eli and Ava develop a breakdown of their American ways.  In all three of us, Humility has softened the sheild of self..... and I am in awe of the beauty humility holds. What follows is some observations by Eli; Belize and its simplicity; Work in Belize is primarily for food. Us americans are driven by the accumulation of "things" and our "status". If people can't find a job here in Belize, they create one. Many catch fish or make meat pies , they BBQ chicken or make cakes out of their kitchens and sell them in little carts or they simply set up a table outside their homes. Some pick the flowers of their neighbors and sell them to coffee shops, restarants or for the many weddings that happen on the beach. They make money off stuff they find and turn them into Necklaces of shells, bottlecaps or beads. They scrounge coconuts and bag the meat or bottle the coconut water. The average belizian gets paid between $6- $10 bz ($3-$5US) an hour. If they work in construction or are a maid at a hotel, the average rent here on the island is $200bz a month ($100us).   Work in the states requires many more licenses, certificates, permits, and limitations. So many hoops to jump through in order to work, not to mention the overwhelming need of Americans to claim their almighty status as if their job ultimatly defines who they are.
The living conditions are extremly different. People in the states have property with a nice homes with tv and wifi, they have multiple cars, boats, atvs, sheds full of toys and tools, closets, garages, and storage units full of stuff!! Belizian people live very simply. A small cabana of 600 sq feet is suffeciant for a family. They eat mostly what they grow or catch from the sea, very rarely do they watch or even have a tv or wifi. On the island, nobody has a car or needs a cell phone.   Another facinating idea is that squating exsists here in Belize and has worked for many. If you see a abondoned home, settlement, or cabana thats completely empty with no sign of ownership, you can move in and if the owner does not claim it for 7 years, it is yours. Entertainment is very different than at home. Sure, kids down here have phones with music on them, but  not many and they don't have iPods or kindles or iPads or anything fancy. For entertainment, they play tag, or soccer, or have squirt gun fights in the ocean. They fish or help with the family business, even as young as 3! We had a tiny little girl run down the street to gather more OJ for our breakfast order. Kids here spend no time watching tv or playing videos, they create their entertainment. At the beginning of this trip my sister and I played allot of fruit ninja and plants vs zombies when we were bored, but now we are fishing and swimming or riding our bikes. Yesterday we made neclklaces and harvested and chopped coconuts with a machete. I haven't had the desire to play a game on my device for weeks. ( Beside words with friends:-) Eli Today we will spend our last day doing our favorite things here on the island. We will probably snorkel at the split, we will spend some time saying goodbye to Kenny and his animals at the Animal Rescue, we will probably have a piece of cake from the cake lady and track down the tamale cart. We will most definatly end our day here at "Colindas Cabanas"on the beach talking and laughing with our host Linda who we have come to love. We will chat with the guests who congregate at the beach of this tiny resort and breath in the air of fresh joy as people arrive for small bits of their lives to enjoy this tiny piece of paradise. We will return here in a couple of weeks bringing Troy! We are giddy with anticipation to be able to re-live our experiences and share our new friends with somebody we love:-) Tommarow we start our work with "Marlas House of Hope". A orphanage in Belmopan. We will be working with the kids helping them with their homework. We are excited about this new leg of our education and can't begin to imagine how much greater God will work. Our time here in Belize has been incrediably fruitfull in knowledge, Our eyes have truley been opened and we have seen things that we have only read about or heard stories of. I am gratefully finding with this new level of awarness is where the education of travel, and relationship outside our comfort zones begins. I am so blessed to be able to spend this time with my children leading them by the hand as if I know where I am going, learning just as much as they are... as we venture about...... and journey on. Sending much love back home... We are happy, and healthy and without fear:-) -Caroline

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Da" boat! by Ava

In the beginning, we were worried that the rain squalls that had been pounding us all morning would threaten our sailing, snorkeling, and spear fishing adventure. Between the rain bursts, we made our way over to "The Little Kitchen" where our guide, Roy lived and worked. We were anxious to ask him if we would go out today, By his enthusiastic response of " ya man" in his rastifarian accent with braids whipping around his face we knew we had a adventurous day ahead. We were fitted for flippers and ventured off through the trees on a rickety old bridge to the dingy that would zoom us out to the sailboat. The sailboat was a medium size craft that was painted red, yellow, green, and black. The Jib was made out of a thick piece of bamboo and the sail looked as if a bunch of thick sheets were sewn together to make one big Sail. While we were motoring out to the sea, the sun was peaking out of the clouds and eased our thoughts of rain. When we were far enough out of the bay, Roy flipped the motor off and hoisted the sail. We sailed for about 20 minutes out to an area where we were a pool length distance from the barrier reef. The barrier reef here is the second largest reef. It spans 108 miles long with a few channels for passage. Roy explained sharks can come through those passages, but it is rare. We anchored and before we knew it, Roy jumped in with his spear Eli was instructed to follow along close behind him with the "catch bag". The rule for lunch is "Ya eat what ya catch." While Roy and Eli were spear fishing, the rest of us were snorkeling. Santiago, our other guide was keeping watch on "Da" boat. My mom and I stuck together. We saw a green spotted Puffer fish and many other brightly clored fish in all shapes and sizes. By the time we hopped back onto the boat, Roy had caught 3 Yellow Snapper and 2 Conch. We had a total of 7 people on the boat, So we decided to do a little bottom fishing with lines for more grub. It is custom to just take a long piece of fishing line, attach a hook, stick a sardine body piece onto the hook and swing the line around like a ferris wheel and let it go and sink to the bottom. Our first catch was by Roy and the next by me, my fish was HUGE but luckily with my strong muscles, I was able to pull in the big "pogey" the next fish again was by me and it was a monstrous Snapper. Nobody else caught fish but Roy and I. For our late lunch Roy cooked up some white rice and steamed veggies, with no barbecue on the boat, Roy cooked the fish and conch in a big pan and with tomato juice and some water, like a Gumbo. Our lunch was delicious! Roy finished our lunch with some amazing cookies that were chocolate and lemon. After lunch, we sailed over to another snorkeling spot to finish off the day. When we made it back to the island, Immediatly upon our return to the dock, it started to dump rain on us, We quickly learned it had been all day....We found that funny because just a mile away on the Carribian sea, our day had been perfect! -Ava