Sunday, November 30, 2008

Trip in Review: Part 3- Central America and Home

We left Thailand and enjoyed a short stop in San Francisco, catching up with friends and taking in all those American comforts we'd grown to miss. Then it was off to Belize, for the last chapter (if chapters are organized by continents) of our trip.

We headed to Dangriga, Belize because Kris knew some people who had volunteered there. Our taxi driver took us to the one guest house we'd heard of, the Jungle Huts. The Jungle Huts is run by Phil, who is an all around great guy. He and his wife have four daughters, who are among the world's cutest children.

Here I am with Samara, Alexei and Nyera.

Nyera and Mariah:

And Samara again, because this is just too cute not to post:

While we were in Dangriga, we volunteered at the Holy Ghost school. It was a flexible volunteer stint, to say the least. We filled in for absent teachers, gave extra help to kids who need it, and had a bunch of rain days because of the tropical storms and flood warnings. Thankfully, the floods weren't as bad in Dangriga as predicted and everyone was fine, aside from a lot of cases of cabin fever. Here's a group of the students from Holy Ghost, lining up after lunch:

These two girls continued to work on math problems during recess.

Right now all the classrooms are in trailers. The building behind the kids playing is scheduled to be demolished and then work on a new school will begin.

Recess fun.

It's easy to meet people in Dangriga. There's not much to do in a traditional touristy sense, so Kris and I spent a lot of time walking around and chatting with locals. We became fast friends with G, who then had us over for a traditional Garifuna meal. He and his friend Cliff cooked up a delicious feast. Here's Kris pitching in to "organize the mash", AKA smush up the plaintains.

While on one of our aforementioned walks, we spotted this pathetic little guy.

When we first got to Dangriga, the river was crystal clear and bright blue, but the heavy rains made the water muddy.

Along with G, our wandering through town led us to Fabrizio, who became another fast friend. The four of us, on the surface, seem completely different, but we had a great time spending an insane amount of time together. Here's Kris with Fabrizio and G on our last day in Dangriga.

After our time in Dangriga, we spent a week taking in the fun and the sun of Caye Caulker and San Pedro. Simply delightful.

From there we headed to Costa Rica, and more specifically Purasuerte. There was a recent post with the details of our time there, so I'll keep it brief. Here's Kris planting some stuff:

And here's a Heliconia that was on the property:

My friend Anne (of JVC roommate in Montana days) met up with us in Quepos, Costa Rica. It was so great to see her. The three of us girltalked nonstop for about 5 days.

We three of us also checked out the jungles and beaches of Manuel Antonio. We heard the howls of howler monkeys and saw squirrel monkeys and some other type of monkey that's name I'm forgetting. We saw a sloth from afar and some raccoons up close. And this cute iguana:

Before Anne had to head back to San Diego, we, along with John our Purasuerte pal, squeezed in a trip to a coffee plantation outside of Alejuela. Carlos, our tour guide, was fantastic. Here he is demonstrating coffee picking.

Then Anne flew off to San Diego, and a few days later Kris and I took off to New Orleans. We originally planned to volunteer in New Orleans for about a week, but some of the people we know there were headed to Fort Benning, Georgia for the annual vigil to close the School of the Americas. Joining them seemed like a great way to wrap up our trip. Before we went, Jocelyn, founder and Director of Contemplatives in Action, (an all around great gal!) gave us a tour of the city and we stopped in at some the places we'd worked on the last time we were there. The trip produced lots of mixed emotions. There's clearly so much more that needs to be done.

But, there's also so much that has been done since we were last there. The daycare we worked on is finished and many of the streets that were full of debris and rotted out houses are now full of new homes. Here's a street in Habitat for Humanity's Musician's Village.

Kris and I joined Jocelyn and Matt (a current Jesuit Volunteer in New Orleans) for the road trip to Fort Benning, GA. For those who aren't familiar with the School of the Americas and the push to have it closed, there's plenty more info here. This was the first time Kris and I had been to the SOA vigil. Having both gone to St. Joe's and done JVC, and generally mucking about Jesuit circles, we'd heard a lot about it. The Ignatians are a social justice enforcing kind of crowd. So, it was interesting to learn more, especially having just been in Central America. It was also great to run into old friends from college and JVC, because both places were a huge influence on why we got into all this volunteer stuff in the first place.

From the SOA Vigil (a solemn procession in which the names of those who were killed by graduates of the SOA are sung out):

A highlight of Fort Benning was meeting up with our friend Andrew. It's always a laugh riot when that guy is around. Adding to the hilarity was the addition of Andrew's instant new best friend, Christo. These two are a buddy movie waiting to happen.

Andrew, Kris and I drove up to Atlanta, where we met up with my fantastic cousins. Here I am with my cousins Loretta and Michael.

It was great to wrap up a long trip in which we met so many new people, by reconnecting with friends and family.

I feel particularly thankful this year. I'm so thankful for having the opportunity to take a trip like this. I'm thankful to all my friends and family (and some strangers!) for generously supporting us in all kinds of ways. I'm thankful to the many people who literally helped us find our way. I'm thankful for all the great people we met while volunteering- the people that run the organizations, the other volunteers, the Habitat homeowners, the kids at the orphanage, the people taking our English classes, and everyone in between. I'm thankful for friendly strangers chatting with us at bus stations and park benches. I'm thankful for interesting architecture, and ancient ruins and tropical wildlife. I'm thankful for delicious food and fresh fruit. I'm thankful for oceans and mountains and everything in between. I'm thankful to live in a place that I love yet still be able to see the world. I'm thankful for all the new friends I've met and all the old friends I return home to. I'm thankful for hope and change and all that stuff that sounds so trite and corny but is truly the stuff that changes the world. I'm thankful that, just from this experience, which in the grand scheme of things is a drop in the bucket when it comes to really understanding the world, it seems that we're all way more similar than we are different and that if we'd just stop and listen, peace might not be THAT hard.

And I'm thankful for Kris. Not only would I probably be too chicken to take a trip like this alone, but I wouldn't have laughed nearly as much, or overanalyzed every aspect of life or had so many incredible experiences. Here we are on our last night of the trip.

I'm looking forward to settling into a routine for a while, but I'm pretty sure this is not the last time we'll travel together.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Wow... I am jealous that you got to see so much of the world... and yet still was able to help out so much around! :D