Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Stragglers are Booked!

Our persistent, flexible chaperones, Mr Coolidge and Mrs Lawson, as well as our intrepid 8th grader have made it through customs and are booked on the 9:55 flight out of Atlanta, and will arrive at midnight in BWI. All of our St. John's Eagles will be home tonight!

Made the flight

After a VERY VERY dramatic near miss, MOST of the group has made the plane to BWI. Mr. Coolidge, Ms. Lawson and one student (whose parents have already been called) have been delayed and will catch the next flight out of Atlanta. There are two more tonight.

Landed Safely in Atlanta

The group has landed safely in Atlanta and will now begin the Customs Shuffle. They have about an hour to make their flight. Hustle hustle one two! Fingers crossed.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Beautiful View For Our Last Stop

As We Entered the Islands Water, We Were Amazed At What We Saw

 Boat Ride To The Island

 Relaxing While Playing Chess At The Beach Feat. RyMar

Our Preparation Class For Snorkeling

Day 6 Entry: Yasmine, Christian, Yohannes, and Christine

Note from Mr. Coolidge:  Sorry for the delay in getting our Sunday blog entry published.  The wifi was spotty last night.  Here it is, better late than never...

As we exited the bus after a short journey from the Mayan Center, we were delighted to see the sandy beach and light blue waters. We took some time in the water and on the beach as we waited for the boat to come. When the boat arrived everyone was very excited to get to the island, so we jumped into the boats and started our journey to the Tobacco Caye paradise. As the boat left the dock, we were constantly being sprayed by the water. 

About 45 minutes of getting soaked with ocean water, we were able to get a clear vision of the amazing island. The island has cute little houses that were colored with bright, vibrant paints. Palm trees cover the whole island with beautiful clear blue water. Conch shells wash on the shore with their beautiful peach color.  People walk around bare footed and are always wearing bathing suits.  Also the island consists of 20 residents that live here year round. After we had all settled on the island, we went to a snorkeling introduction class. In the class we learned good safety tips and which creatures NOT to come in contact with. When the presentation was over, we were given our gear and were all ready to go snorkeling. Our first snorkeling journey was when we were practicing the skills of the activity. 

Later at night when we were done with dinner, we were sent to get our gear so we could begin our night time snorkeling. We had to go over a couple of new rules for this new type of snorkeling so we could be safe while having fun.  We saw lots of new creatures and had an experience we will never forget. 

Happy Belated Birthday to Chris Nash, my great father!!  -Christian Nash

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Community Service Final Day (and Tubing)

Day 5 Entry -- Katie, Naome, and Eddie

On our third and last day of working at the school, we accomplished everything we were planning to do. Such as painting the cafeteria, putting up the fence in front of the school, and fixing the swing set for the kids. It is safe to say that the next schools that come in this summer will finish the fence and painting the cafeteria. Since today is a Saturday, the kids did not come to school, so we were lonely during breaks. Fortunately, one little girl, Vanessa, stopped by the school to say hi.  Also, during one of our breaks, our leader, Javier, let us stop by the Mayan chocolate factory to pick up chocolate for our group to have as a snack. Overall, at the school, we believe that we did everything that we could to help make the kids' lives' at school a better place.

While the first group was at the school working, the second group took a car ride and a hike to go tubing in a local Belize river, called South Stann Creek. We learned that in this river, Belize families go to wash their clothes and bodies in this river.  Eventually, the water pours into the Caribbean Sea. In this river, it is very shallow, so there is no chance of anyone drowning. (Don't worry, parents!) Both of our groups had a great time, and we felt very good to be in the water, especially because we haven't been swimming in a long time.

At the end of the day, four great leaders came to our dining room and talked with us in groups about their life. One lady started a taxi service to keep kids from walking eight miles everyday. She charged less than most taxi people, so she made lots of money to support not only herself, but her community too. Another leader shared her story. She explained how she worked very hard to accomplish her goal. She shared with us something that will stick in our minds forever:  "If you set a goal, no matter what you do, you will achieve your goal." Tonight, our last night at the Maya Center, was a life changing experience for us all.

Shout outs: 
Happy Birthday Mom!  I hope you had a wonderful birthday.  
I missed cutting the cake with you.  Love and miss you so much!  See you soon!  
Love, Sophia

Meeting with community leaders

Meeting with community leaders

Meeting with community leaders

Meeting with community leaders

Meeting community leaders

The finished cafeteria

Friday, March 27, 2015

Community Service Day 2

Where our chocolate begins....

We made this!!!  And then we ate it.

Rachael had a run-in with a BIG ant hill
Naome playing patty cake with Eustace and Emmanuel

Taylor, Yasmine, and Naome on the new hammock!

Will tutoring
Day 4 entry:  By Taylor, Josh Thomas, and Will

Have you ever imagined making your own chocolate? Well, we have made that dream come true! A very nice farmer let us visit his cocoa farm. He cracked open a cocoa fruit and let us taste the sweet substance that surrounded the bean. He then showed us they dry the bean for six whole days. To make chocolate, they then crush up the dried beans in a metate (a grinding stone) and mix in the desired amount of cocoa oil and sugar. Then, it was put in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. It was delicious!

After our chocolate experience, we worked to build the fence and paint the cafeteria of the local school. The kids helped very much, and were very affectionate. In fact, Yasmine had three kids on her at once! It was sometimes hard to understand what the kids were saying, for some only speak spanish. We then delivered ice cream to the kids, who were very excited since they rarely get ice cream. Once the kids got out of school, we all played a game of soccer on their field. It was very fun! We came back to a great dinner of pizza and watermelon, which was great because we have been eating food from Belize all week (We love the food here though!)

In all, today was both a great learning experience and a fun time. We are very  excited as some of the leaders from this community are coming to have dinner with us tomorrow night. We hope to learn more from them about their village. Well, its starting to thunder and lightning, so we should probably get to our rooms. we are having a great time here, you better BELIZE it!
Shout outs: 
  1. Missing all of my family and especially my sister, having a great time.  -Christian Nash
  2. Miss you Mom and Dad. I love you and I hope you are doing well. - Jasmine Jones

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Community Project Day 1

Our "hotel" -- The Nu'uk Chil Cottages

On our way to work in the morning
Josh, Rachael, and Sophia
Behind them is the building we will paint

Mixing cement (Note from Mr. Coolidge: The use of cement dates back to the Roman Empire )

Sand and rocks used for filling in the cinder blocks

Our painters

Many hands make small work

Yasmine tutoring in a classroom 

Making tortillas in the Mayan home
Playing cards as we wait for lunch

Inside the Mayan Museum

Sugar cane

Mrs. Lawson's new pat -- A (nonpoisonous) tarantula!

Day 3 Entry - Dylan, Ryan, and Sehyun

Have you ever tried to build a fence, paint a cafeteria, and try and give piggyback rides to a whole class of little kids running around at the same time? That is what our group was lucky to do today. We separated into three groups: one mixing cement, one using brushes to colorize the lunchroom, and the last group grading papers and playing with the little children. To build the fence, sediments and a cement mixture had to be combined with water to create the grey substance we know as cement. We also had to fill the cinder block holes with sand and rocks so that less cement would be used in the process of making the fence. It was a lot of work, but we are positive that it will pay off in the end. Painting the lunchroom was also fun. Most of us were covered in paint by the end of the project, but it was okay and very exciting. Most of us had the opportunity to connect with the children, and even to help them with their upcoming exams.

After a long day of work and a boatload of bug bites, we were fortunate enough to be welcomed into the Maya Center Maya Museum, where we were able to see what a Mayan home looked like back in the ancient civilization. The house was made entirely out of wood with a thatched roof, and all of the tools were made by something natural, such as a fruit shell or clay, just like Mr. Coolidge taught us in sixth grade. :D As you can see in the pictures above, you will see the beautiful Yohannes performing a traditional Mayan dance. Within the house, there was a traditional sugar cane juicer, and we all got to try the delicious juice that sugarcane has to offer.

After the museum, we went to the soccer field to play with the excited children. The children's soccer skills were fantastic and made us feel like we were playing against professional soccer players. We couldn't tell if we were playing against the national team of Belize or young children! When we got back to the cottages, we learned a little bit more about each other by playing a name game. We are having a wonderful time in Belize and we wish that we could stay a while longer!

Yohannes practicing for next year's International Festival already!