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Update from Christina

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Update from Christina

Post  BikeBeth on Thu Jul 31, 2008 1:51 pm

Hi Everyone!

I'm sorry it's taken me a while to send out an update, it's just been
really busy here and my internet access is pretty limited. I can
usually check my email once or twice a week, but don't have too much
time to write. I had written a long email to send you on my laptop and
was going to send it the next time I got on the internet, but my
computer crashed. I think that's the end of it, but I might try to
bring it somewhere to be fixed, although the closest place to bring it
is a 4 hour bus ride.

I'm really loving it here in Benque. Of all the places I've been in
Belize this is my favorite place by far. It's a really great town;
very small, and (relatively) safe. It's about a half mile from the
Guatemalan border, so it is a primarily Mestizo town, which also means
primarily Spanish speaking. There is also a small Chinese population
as well as Menonite and African. I love hearing the Creole, which most
of the African people and some Mestizos speak. It reminds me of the
game mad gab. If you listen closely enough you can figure out what
they're saying, it's really amusing. I'm going to try and learn some
from a friend who speaks it, but learning Spanish is definitely a
priority right now.

I haven't started working in the clinic yet, but will begin there
tomorrow. I'm so excited to start; Fridays are prenatal day at the
clinic, and that's what I love most! It will be a really long day I'm
sure since the clinic hasn't been open for the whole month of July.
I've been working at a nursing home in the meantime, which was good,
but I'm happy to be finished there. I think that Nicole and I were
able to make some good long term changes to improve the quality of
life of the patients while we were there, but there wasn't much else
we could do. I think we'll be able to help many more people at the
clinic and have many more resources to do so.

Besides working at the nursing home we spend a lot of our time helping
out at the mission. Some of it is really hard work, especially with
the heat, but it's rewarding to do physical labor occasionally. A few
days ago we spent the entire day scraping sheet rock off of tiles that
are being used in one of the volunteer houses, and that was probably
the least pleasant of the jobs we've been given so far. We had to soak
the tiles in water to loosen the sheet rock from them, but even still
it was almost impossible to get it off, and we both ended up
completely cutting up our hands. But now it's done and the volunteers
will actually have a working shower when they get here.

The people that I'm working with at the mission are all incredible and
have been so welcoming. There are only about eight of us right now,
but in a few weeks there will be around thirty. I'm enjoying the quite
for now, but it will be nice to have more people around.

There are two Belizian guys around our age who work and live at the
mission whom we have become good friends with. It's been great to have
them around to hang out with and to have someone looking out for us.
Benque is one of the safest towns in Belize, but it still has it's
fair share of crime, especially since it is so close to the Guatemalan
border. Nicole and I also stick out quite a bit around here, so it's
good to be extra cautious.

I also love all of the people I've gotten to know in the town. The
kids are great, and since they aren't in school now, they are always
hanging around the mission. As awesome as it's been getting to know
them it's also incredibly sad. Many of them are abandoned by their
parents and are being raised by the oldest sibling. THere isn't much
work in Benque, so many parents have left to go to Belmopan or Belize
City to find work. We end up giving our left over food to them, but
it's hard since there are so many that need to be fed. Once the rest
of the volunteers come I don't think there will ever be any leftovers
to give them since there will be so many of us.

The food is not quite as healthy as it is incredibly tasty; we eat
mostly rice, beans, chicken, tortillas, and bananas. I never knew rice
and beans could be so delicious, but I guess when you add loads of
coconut milk, oil, and salt anything tastes good. We always have the
greatest desserts, mostly made from plantains. I'm going to have to
get a lot of the recipes to bring home with me.

Nicole and I have tried baking, but they don't have many of the same
foods that we use at home. We finally found chocolate chips in Cayo,
the closest city, but I ended up paying about ten times as much as I
would in the US for them. We'll have to learn how to make some
Belizian desserts if we want to keep baking, or else we'll be broke by
December just from our grocery bills!

Last weekend Nicole and I went to San Pedro, one of the Cayes off the
coast, for a couple of days. It was great, we found a beachfront hotel
for $17 US a night, with airconditiong and hot water! Haha, we didn't
use the airconditioning or the hot water though because we've gotten
so used to living without them. We have a couple of awesome fans in
our house that cool it off enough at night to sleep.

We ate at a bunch of really great restaurants in San Pedro, which were
also all on the beach. It was such a nice break, but I'm happy to be
back in Benque. SOLT also has a mission on that island, but I much
perfer being inland.

So, there was more that I wrote, but of course the computer crashed
and didn't save the whole draft, but I'm out of time. I love you and
miss you all! I wish I could call but it's way too expensive, so email
will have to do for now.

Hope to hear from you soon!
Christina

BikeBeth

Posts : 289
Join date : 2007-12-31
Age : 53
Location : Emmaus

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Sept. 22 update from Christina

Post  BikeBeth on Sun Sep 28, 2008 9:45 am

Hello Everyone!
I'm sorry it's been such a ridiculously long time since I've written,
but it's been really busy around here lately. Today we have the day
off for Independence Day, so I finally have time to write a long
email.

Everything is going really well for the most part and I can't believe
I've already been here for almost 3 months. That means only 3 months
till I come home for Christmas! I'll be excited to come home, but it's
definitely going to be tough to leave.

I don't even know where to start, there has been so much going on
lately. The biggest thing right now is that we're moving this coming
weekend (from our incredibly beautiful wonderful house) to a house
much closer to the mission. It will definitely be convenient, but it
will be a little sad to leave the one we're in now.

I'm really starting to love working at the clinic now that I've
finally figured out how things are done and am for the most part
working independently. I see my own patients, but can consult with the
nurse in charge if I have any questions. But, recently she has missed
a bunch of days of work, which means that Nicole and I are the ones
running the place. If there is something we aren't comfortable
diagnosing or treating than we just have to refer them to the
hospital.

Fridays are so much fun at the clinic because it's prenatal day and we
are getting to know the patients really well. Most of them are around
our age and it's so great to be able to follow their pregnancy and
then provide care for their babies once they're born. One of our
patients offered to take us to Tikal sometime soon for a weekend,
which is definitely one of the places I want to visit while I'm here,
so this is an awesome opportunity.

This past Friday at the clinic was quite eventful because we found a
poisonous snake in the hallway, which Nicole ended up killing with a
metal trashcan. It wasn't a very big snake, but they are apparently
deadly if they bite you. I really wish I had had my camera to take a
picture of it (it had an awesome bright pattern on it's back) but I
didn't have it with me.

Nicole and I finally got to Guatemala last weekend and we even crossed
the border for free! We've been dying to go ever since we got here,
considering it's only half a mile from Benque, but it's $40 Belize to
cross the border. We've been hearing all about the town on the other
side of the border, Melchor, which apparently has great shopping, but
we couldn't cave in and pay to cross the border just to go shopping.
But, the other day everyone from the mission was going for the
dedication of a new church there, and Fr. Mark was able to get us all
across for free. The only thing was that it was outside of the town,
so we weren't even able to go into the town to look around. It was
still awesome being in Guatemala; it is so different from Benque even
though it's only a mile away. A lot of the women wear indigenous
clothing which is really beautiful and no one there speaks English. It
was awesome being there, but I definitely want to go back sometime
soon to see more of the city (okay, I really just want to go shopping,
but it would be cool to see more of Melchor!) I'm just sick and tired
of the clothes I have and am dying to buy some new stuff, but I don't
really see that happening.

We were supposed to go to the Cayes again this weekend, but only a few
of the volunteers ended up going. Nicole and I had been caring for an
old man and we didn't want to leave him alone for three days to go to
the beach, so we stayed behind. He was living by himself and had been
lying in bed for 3 months, giving him bed sores down to the bone.
There was a caretaker that came to feed him everyday, but other than
that he was on his own. He ended up passing away on Friday morning, so
it was good that we stuck around and were able to go to the funeral on
Saturday.

We're in the middle of a tropical storm at the moment, which has
finally cooled things off. It had been unbearably hot for the past few
weeks and I really didn't know how I was going to survive if it got
any worse. It was over 100 degrees with 85% or higher humidity for a
few weeks, but now that we're getting tons of rain it's a bit better.
It still gets up near 100 degrees, but when it rains it cools off for
a bit.

Well, I could tell you lots more, but that's probably enough for one
email, and I'm about out of time. I'm sorry that I've been so awful at
keeping in touch lately, I'll try to start writing more often. I hope
that you're all doing well and I miss you!
Love,
Christina

BikeBeth

Posts : 289
Join date : 2007-12-31
Age : 53
Location : Emmaus

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October 28 update

Post  BikeBeth on Thu Oct 30, 2008 4:06 pm

Hello Everyone!

How are you all doing at home?? I'm missing everyone so much!
(Especially my little nephew who's turning one in a few days! Sean,
I'm so sorry I'm going to miss it!)

Things here are great, we are finally settled into our new house and
it actually feels like home now. The house is two stories, with a
living room/kitchen, 2 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, and a screened in porch
on the first floor, and then one big room upstairs with a small porch.
We couldn't figure out what to do with the upstairs because we have
absolutely no furniture, but a few days ago we bought a couple of
hammocks and hung them up there. It's the perfect spot to read or take
a nap (minus the overwhelming rat smell!) We have at least three, but
possibly more, rats living in our house and are having an incredibly
difficult time getting rid of them. I am trying to convince the other
girls that we should just get a cat, but I don't think that will ever
happen. Any ideas of how to get rid of them?

The big news here is the weather, which I'm sure you haven't heard
anything about, but it's been awful. It has been raining for about
three weeks now, and last weekend we started to have some major
flooding. Last Saturday (Oct. 18th) the roads out of town were
starting to flood, but still passable, but by Sunday they were under 5
or 6 feet of water at some points. Unfortunately there are only two
ways out of town and both were flooded. The river at one point was a
good 20 ft. higher than usual. The water main that supplies water for
all of Benque was torn to pieces, but luckily we have a reserve supply
that has lasted much longer than they thought it would. They can't
even start to build a new one, though, until the water goes down,
which could be another week. Another storm is supposed to hit tomorrow
or the next day, so the river will just go back up.

There aren't too many houses here that were damaged by the flooding,
but in the surrounding villages of Arenal and Calla Creek many homes
were damaged. It was so sad- they just finished building a new bridge
in Calla Creek 4 days before the floods washed it away again. They had
been working on it since the Spring and now they'll have to start all
over again. It is, of course, the only way to get to and from Calla
Creek, which means it's back to canoeing across until a new bridge is
built.

In Arenal they are running out of food, so I'm hoping that we can buy
some more rice and beans to take out to some of the families. We can
get there by Jeep, but most cars can't make it across. They normally
get food from Guatemala, but the bridge was wiped out last week, so
they're stuck until a new bridge is built. A few people have tried
canoeing across, but three people have drown so far, so I think that's
the end of the canoeing.

All of the rain has brought these awful little gnats that bite and
make you bleed and then itch terribly. I have never had so many bug
bites in my entire life! They swell up and make me look like I have
some strange disease! At first I was convinced that I had caught
scabies from one of my many many patients with it, but it really looks
nothing like scabies, I'm just incredibly paranoid about catching it!

My parents came to visit last week right after the flooding started,
so they got to experience peak rainy season! It really was just about
the worse timing possible, because the day they arrived was the first
day we couldn't get out of Benque because of the flooding. I was
planning on going to meet them at the airport, but wasn't able to get
out of town. On Monday I was determined to find them, so a few friends
and I hiked over the mountain out of Benque into Succotz. From there
they were taking people in canoe to the Western Highway. After
canoeing across I walked another couple of miles and my parents picked
me up at one of the bus stops along side the highway. By Tuesday the
flooding had gone down significantly and we were able to get back into
Benque. The river started coming back up on Thursday so we left for
the Cayes, which was a good thing because the roads were completely
flooded again from Thursday until Saturday and they would have been
stuck in Belize!

The other incredibly exciting thing is that now I have a mountain
bike! (thanks Bill and Beth!) There are awesome places to ride around
here and I've been having so much fun riding again. It's a bit
challenging with all of the mud everywhere, but that just makes it
more fun. There are a couple people here to ride with, which is great
because they're showing me the best places to ride.

Other than that there's not too much new going on here. The clinic has
been very quite the past few days because of the weather, but I'm
guessing that once all of the roads are clear it'll be packed.

I hope all of you are doing well! Let me know how everything is going at home!

Take Care,
Christina

BikeBeth

Posts : 289
Join date : 2007-12-31
Age : 53
Location : Emmaus

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