Its been awhile

Trip Start Jun 14, 2004
Trip End Jul 30, 2006

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Flag of Belize  ,
Saturday, February 4, 2006

Hey y'all. Its been awhile since I last wrote. Sorry about that. right now I am in Belize city at the peace corps office, enjoying the volunteer lounge. I have internet, TV and AC. what could be better then this?
Lately I have been working hard on the toucan times, the peace corps publication that my friend, aaron and I edit and publish every three months or so.
I wrote an article about christmas at home and new years in Belize. Thought i would share it with you as well as some pictures:

Sooo, my family is kind of crazy. And there are a lot of us. Grandma and her boyfriend Dougie. Aunt Kathy & Uncle John, Aunt Patty & Uncle Frank, Aunt Kim & Uncle Frankie, Uncle Jimmy & Aunt Mindy, plus my mom and dad. Then the cousins: Kerry, Don, Ellie, Colleen, Corey, Erin, Meghan, Eileen, Joey, Michelle, Frankie, Andrew, Peter, Johnny, Thomas, Kelli, Danny, Tay, Samantha, Patrick, Julia, Aidan and ME. 34 of us in total. Since a time before I can remember, every year, on Christmas eve, we gather for "Cousin's Christmas" to celebrate, eat and open presents. These family events are usually loud, joyous, and marked with games, talent shows, eating contests, karaoke sing alongs and/or gossip fests about other family members.
This year was no exception . . .
The Eating Frenzy
When the food is brought out, the talking stops. Seriously. It's actually very similar to the way peace corps react to the food at swearing-in or thanksgiving.
If any of you were to stop by a "Cousin's Christmas" please heed the following tips:
Aunt Kim's Spinach Dip: No one leaves the spinach dip until it is gone. Once a member of my family is within a twenty foot radius of the dip, we are pulled to it like gravity. I think the longest a double batch of spinach dip has ever lasted is fifteen minutes.
Grandma's Shrimp Cocktail: Our motto is "Load Up and Stuff them in your Face" because once you leave the shrimp, if you come back, there will be none.
Uncle Jimmy's Chicken Wings: They're spicy. "oooh that's hot!" grab another. "God, my mouth is on fire." Grab another. "I can't feel my tongue." Grab another. "it hurts, but it feels so good. WOAH. That's my wing." Grab another from the fingers of my 55 year old uncle.
Aunt Kathy's Swedish Meatballs: convenient because it takes the same amount of time to chew and swallow one as it does to reach into the crock pot with a toothpick for another.

The Fashion Show
Two nights before the party, my aunt patty came to my house with the most amazing surprise for my mom. She had bought three identical $5.00 on-sale shirts in the mall and excitedly told my mom that they as well as my aunt Kathy were going to wear them to "Cousin's Christmas." So they do, and its ha ha because the three sisters have the same shirt on. But it gets better. My aunt patty insists that they run-way the shirts for all the cousins and then we have to vote on who looks the best in the shirt. So one after the other, my mother and two aunts sa-shay into the room of judges. Then my aunt patty peed her pants which resulted in my mother and aunt Kathy peeing their pants.

Red Team GO!
My mother not only came with a bag full of presents, but a bag full of fun. She calls me over, throws a red yarn over my head, declares me the "red captain," pushes five pieces of red ribbon in my hand and tells me to get people on my team. Of course im at a disadvantage because the green team captain and the yellow team captain were let loose before me and all the "good" members of the family were taken. Good thing I was cast out before the white team and the blue team. During this time my mom has been walking around with this huge roll of raffle tickets (I have no idea where she got it), selling them to family members for a 50/50. 50 percent goes to the winner of the raffle and 50 percent goes to the winning team. Turns out my mom had printed "holiday trivia" off the internet and now we were all competing for the big prize. My team didn't end up winning because half of them were too interested in the cheesecake and not the questions.

The Book
As we were all getting ready to go, hugging everyone and saying goodbye, my aunt patty burst onto the scene with a forgotten surprise. A book. A secret book that she's going to give away to the winner. We all start to oooh and ahhh and yay!, because let's admit it, we love games. So here we are, my aunt patty in the center while we stand in a circle guessing numbers. 1 to 20. "3." "18." "7." "8." "3." "I just said that dummy!" "Shut up poop face." (that was me calling my 22 year old cousin Frankie a poop face) "FINE. I get another number. Uuuuuhhh. 11! Shit. I totally thought that was it." "4." "13." This seems to go on for ten minutes, impossibly. Then something happens and we have to start again. Finally after another ten minutes, my cousin Kerry triumphantly holds up the prize. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
What will next year hold? Nothing more and nothing less. Food, drink, laughter, family and lots of love.
PS. My family is all white because I was adopted.

New Years in Sittee River
Really when you think about it, it always comes down to food, doesn't it? We were hungry and Nick meant to do something about it.
I guess this whole story can get traced back to a moment in San Jose, Toledo when Nick bought three "triangles." "triangles" being huge freaking firecrackers that do not crack. They boom. The first one he lit up the night before new years at my house. I was unprepared and actually screamed.
The second one was lit on the road from Sittee River to Jaguar Reef, a resort south of Hopkins. Its about a mile walk from Jon's house to the resort so we were walking along in the dark, when all of a sudden, "guys, where's nick?" We hear a quiet chuckle from behind us, the click of a lighter and BOOM. Number two is gone.
We arrive at jaguar reef happy and a bit tipsy after a bottle of one barrel and a bottle of absolute raspberry. The party is in full motion when we arrive with all the resort guests watching garifuna dancers perform. After ordering drinks we stand and watch the women, when someone on the other side of the room catches my attention. Its Nick. He's trying to tell us something . . . making motions with his hands . . . what? . . . a triangle. He makes the shape of a triangle with his hands and then mouths "boom." What a wonderful idea to let the third one blow while they are performing.
But he waits because I believe he knew that the fire cracker gods had a bigger and better plan for that last triangle.
The women are done performing and the crowd dissipates. Now its only us and the staff and we observe that they are setting up tables, dishes and those silver trays that keep food hot. Ooooooh. Maybe it's time for coffee and dessert? Nick gets up to investigate.
We can't actually hear what he is saying and then katy gets up to provide some moral support for him. La la la, time goes by, they are still talking while Bree, Ben, Jon and I entertain ourselves. Suddenly they come back sans triangle. Nick had traded the triangle for food. Although I did not hear it, I feel like the conversation went something like this:
Nick: "hey. You think we could get some food?"
Guy: "no. I don't think so. The kitchen is closed."
Nick: "Really? Because we are really hungry and in need of food."
Guy: "Really. I can't help you. There is no food here."
Nick: "well . . . what about for this?"
And according to Nick, the guys eyes opened wide, and before nick could negotiate the terms of the agreement, the triangle was out of sight and the man was back in the kitchen putting something together. We were hoping for a feast, expecting some crackers.
And a feast it was! A basket of rolls, heaps of steamed veggies, chicken in a mushroom gravy and pork in a spicy tomato sauce. Really my mouth is watering just thinking about it right now.
Bartering firecrackers for food . . . I remember looking over at Nick while chewing on my chicken and thinking "you are a GOD."
The next day Nick, Bree, Jon and Katy returned to jaguar reef for some pool time. Nick sought out the man he had bartered with the night before.
Nick: "so, did you like the firecracker?"
Guy: "awww man! Didn't get to use it. The cops pulled me over on the way home. Took my rock, my weed and my firecrackers."

The other pictures posted are from a going away party we threw for our Peace Corps country director Bill Barbieri. It was very sad to see him leave and we will miss him very much.
A lee story about Bill: Maybe three weeks ago, Bill came to cayo for a site visit. To see all of us volunteers, bring us out to lunch and say goodbye. I had been having troubles here in belize and was not feeling productive or happy. I voiced all this to Bill and in his calming voice told me that everything was going to be okay. That peace corps shouldn't be about feeling bad and that i can't expect to have work everyday. That last part is kind of humourous to think that your boss is telling you that you won't be working everyday. But its that support and understanding that i think i will miss the most. Understanding that when a volunteer feels bad, we don't need to hear "well, try harder." we just need someone to listen to us and to know that we are trying our best.
Well, that's it for me.
Hope you enjoy the pictures and the stories.
much love
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