First Night – Things I’ve Learned So Far
- Coming from the Atlanta International Terminal to Belize City is a huge culture-shock
- Some things close early on Saturdays, and it might leave you with no cell phone access
- I miss hearth & home more than I thought I would
- Given the right mind-set, the capacity for strangers to bond is boundless
- Belize has a LOT of dogs… everywhere
- I’m going to spend the next 2 weeks enveloped in a sheen of sweat & sunblock
- Bug spray & ceiling fans are lifesavers
- I should have gotten speakers for my iPod
- Cold water can taste SO amazing
- Most Americans are spoiled rotten
- 9:00 PM is a perfectly viable bed time
PM – Plugged in my phone & a txt message came through. Didn’t realize they would. Couldn’t resist – had to txt G, no matter what it ends up costing me. Got a txt back & that momentary connection brought me to tears again. I miss home… But I know I’m where I need to be.
Landed at BZE and it was obvious it was another world. Lush & green, it was reminiscent of the FL Everglades or the LA Bayou, but with a Caribbean flair. No terminal gates, a staircase was rolled out to the plane & we disembarked. Getting all squared away and on the road was simple – no big hassles & everyone was friendly. And if things were a bit less organized & efficient than the States, so what? We’re on “Island Time” (it’s a mentality more than geography).
The place for me to get the SIM card for my phone was closed, so I’m out of pocket until Monday. I was kindly lent an iPad so I could at least email that I’d made it and was safe.
My ride to the orphanage was… educational. I mean, I “knew”, but I didn’t KNOW. There’s nothing that will prepare you for seeing this place in person. The buildings are nothing like what we’re used to in the States, and there are dogs everywhere… and laundry hanging from lines at every house. It’s a whole other flavor – including chickens wandering around front lawns.
And then I arrived. This place is humble, of course, but there is a simple beauty about a little oasis tucked back here among the trees. There were kids everywhere and from the first moment it was overwhelming. I got pseudo-settled into my dorm room, and ventured back outside. Within minutes, one little girl had come up to me, taken my hand, and led me to the swings to push her. Children are amazing – so trusting, so strong, so resilient… so humbling. A little later, another decided I was a fun jungle-gym & proceeded to jump into my arms & fling herself backwards, knowing I wouldn’t let her fall.
It was laid-back Saturday playtime until the dinner hour. And that was “organized” chaos. A room full of chattering kids… I hadn’t been around anything like it since a school cafeteria. Fried bologna, a dense biscuit (found out later it was a Journey Cake or ‘Johnnycake’), and a milk-based drink for the kids that I’m not sure what it is… that was dinner. I stood on the edges during the event, helping where I could & trying not to get in the way. A lovely lady (fellow volunteer) who I’d started to get to know leaned in to me & said “The group of college kids who just left? Several of them told me that the first night they were seriously considering packing it up & going home. But they didn’t & every one of them said they didn’t regret a thing!” … It was exactly what I needed to hear – at exactly the right moment.
Later on, after we’d eaten (same thing as the kids), the volunteers went up to the ‘apartment’ over the office building and shared a fresh Papaya with lime squeezed over it. It was amazing & a perfect end to this long day.