Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Arrival flight

Hello family and friends of Awty International School! The group has left Belize and are estimated to arrive into Houston airport 10 minutes early. They had a fantastic trip! Thank you for your continued support of the program. 

Wednesday, July 3rd US 1406 BZE – IAH  3:55PM – 7:32PM

Erin Lasky 

Director of Operations. 

Day 10 Ms Winegarden

Hello everyone,

We are wrapping up our final day here in Belize and I wanted to say a few thank yous before we go.

First, I want to thank all of the parents.  I want to thank you for helping Ms. Bastedo and I plan and organize this trip, for the hours you put in baking, volunteering, packing, and attending meetings.  And finally I want to thank you for trusting us with your wonderful children and allowing them to come on this amazing trip!

 I want to thank Ernesto, Arora, Julio, Liberato, and all of the wonderful families at Maya Center who welcomed us into their homes.  The students really loved the community and it was great to see all of the relationships that were formed and/or strengthened from last year. 

 I want to thank Mynor, our driver, and the rest of the staff at the Tropical Education Center.  The night tour of the zoo was a highlight as always.

I want to thank Jen and Sean from the Tobacco Caye Marine Center for putting up with us on the island, as we all tend to let loose a bit when we arrive :)  They showed us some amazing creatures in the sea and it was a special treat that they could join us on our trip to Xunatunich and to the zoo!

I want to thank Peter, our WLS instructor from Belize, who has so much knowledge about the living things around us here.  He took students birding, gave us a tour of Xunatinich, and even removed a few unwanted house guests from our rooms.  Peter was a dedicated instrucor who always had our safety in mind.

I want to thank Katherine, our other WLS intstructor for her kindness and her warm spirit.  She really made the students feel welcome and did a great job getting them to journal and perform the WLS activities.

I want to thank Ms. Bastedo, for being an amazing teacher and leader on this trip and during all of the preparation leading up to it.  I really appreciate having someone next to me who I can completely trust to get things done and I have heard from more than one person on this trip that we balance each other out well :)

Finally, I want to appreciate the students, who really did an amazing job this year.  Together we have worked hard, laughed, danced, built relationships, ate termites, and even cried, and I had such a great time doing it all.  I have really loved my time with all of you and will miss you dearly, and the tree was the greatest gift I could have hoped for, thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

We all are excited to get back and see everyone tonight, although it is a little bittersweet to leave such a beautiful place and such a great group!

-Ms Winegarden

Day 9 Eva and Alex W

By Eva and Alex

We left Tobacco Caye around 7, and everyone was sad to leave the tropical paradise. In addition to that, it was raining, and the seats of the boats got wet, which did little to lighten the mood. But, the weather did get better for the bus ride to Xunantunich and everyone was very excited to see the temple there (if a little tired).
Once we got there, Peter gave us a fantastic and in-depth tour of the site, and the view from the top of the tallest temple was fantastic; we could even see Guatemala!
After the tour, we went to a small souvenir market in the neighboring town and bought a few things, then we were on our way. Shortly before we arrived at our cabins, we went to a place called the Art Box, which had lots of beautiful art in it (surprise surprise). We got a couple of things there, and then arrived at our cabins, had dinner, and we went off to the Belize zoo for our night tour.

(this is Eva speaking) After we left for the zoo, it was a short 5 minute trip to get there. The Tour guides gave us a breif history about the zoo, split us into 2 groups (boys and girls) and we were off.
the first thing our group did was see the snakes.

We got to hold one (it wasnt as cold as i thought it would be...) Then we went to see the Tapirs. It was about the size of a minurature horse, and the guide said that it still wasnt done growing!
 After that, we went to see a couple of other animals. Soon after seeing the toucans, we came to the ocelots. It was so freaking cute!!! I wanted it as a pet after seeing it eat (omnomnom :3). Soon we came to an animal that all the returners were talking about: the Howler monkeys. OH. MY. GOSH. Those things sounded like demon spawn (it scared me so bad, epecially because we couldn't see them T^T). We then proceeded to look at different animals. Harpy Eagles, White tailed deer, and Magays. Those were all cool, but the most amazing one was the jaguar. The cutest animal besides the ocelot. He was so tame that the guide let us touch his paws while he was eating! (so soft :3).

Sadly, that was the end of the tour, and we went back to the Education center for the last thing of the day. (ok, i'm done typing, c'ya)

(Back to Alex)

The last thing of the day was the candlelight ceremony. We turned out the lights and passed around a candle. Whoever had the candle had to say something that stood out to them about the trip and a little bit about their growth over the course of the 10 days. Many tears were shed, mainly because we were saying goodbye to Ms. Winegarden. At the end of the ceremony we presented her with a certificate saying that we had planted a tree in her name at Awty. We did a little spider sniffing before bed, and then settled down to sleep before our last few hours in Belize.

Pictures for this blog will be coming soon, when we get a faster internet connection :)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Day 8 Armando and Alex Pleczko

 Hello blog viewers!

Sorry that this post is a day late, we had some issues with the Internet in tobacco Caye. 

We had a great time snorkeling and we were able to a large variety of sea life in many different ocean environments.

We snorkeled in the beautiful coral reefs, both during the day and at night, and around the roots of the red mangrove trees.

A spotted eagle ray!


 A resting carribean reef octupus

A beautiful lionfish

A Moray eel with his friend a crab

Nick and Tyler enjoying their boat ride to the lovely Tobacco caye
Bernd getting off the boat and stepping onto tobacco caye for the first time

Thank you for your patience :)

Alex and Armando

Alex- shoutout to my family and my super amazing girlfriend!! Love you guys :3 

Armando- shoutout to my family miss you all and I'll see you all soon! :)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 7: Francesca and Matthew

Hi everyone! Francesca here, writing to you from Tobacco Caye. We all started our day by saying a sad (and sometimes tearful) goodbye to our homestay families. They were all wonderfully welcoming and we will dearly miss them. I especially want to thank the children in each for bridging the cultural gap for many of us, and allowing us to become a  part of the family.
After our last delicious breakfast at Ernesto's, we stopped by the Women's Center to buy gifts for our families and friends, and then we were on our way. The boat ride to Tobacco Caye was wonderful, the water calm and crystal-clear. For the first time in nearly six days, we didn't feel hot. We arrived at the island and Sean and Jen warned us about falling coconuts. The tour of the island barely took ten minutes, and then we were off to our first snorkeling lesson! Jen told us about the multiple dangers present in Tobacco Caye' s waters, thus frightening some of us before even entering said waters.
The lessons went well, so we are now all expert snorkelers (not really). I will now hand over the blogging to Matthew, who will entertain you with stories of our first snorkeling adventure. Bye everyone!

Matthew here, now how to describe our first expedition into the calm and crystal clear water of the Belizean Reef. The words that comes to mind are marvelous, majestic,awe inspiring and a few others but you get my point. The reef and the wildlife were amazing and Sean and Jen's still in spotting all the amazing sea life became a life saver for some of the less talented snorkelers as they showed us some of the sea life, such as tarpon, lionfish, spotted eagle rays,and much much more. After a jaw dropping first reef snorkeling experience (for some of us) we reluctantly exited the cool water and came back to our cozy beach house were we washed, played games, and in some cases bashed coconuts against trees (strange I know but true) all while awaiting the sound for the dinner bell were we would learn who would be on the night snorkel that night. That ladies and gentlemen brings us up to the present and I have no more to tell, stay tune for tomorrows blog as it will be a action pack one, but for now goodbye and thanks for reading. :)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 6 - Tyler and Lexi

Today our last day at the school. The previous night, we went to bed early s
o that we would be prepared for another hard day at work. I looked out my window to see a sea of greenery and wildlife. Birds cried and bugs buzzed across the vast horizon of tree and bushes. I was greeted graciouly by a traditional Belizian breakfast of beans and plantains, as well as a cup of coffee for the morning as well as the lively banter of my homestays. Everyone at my family posed for a goodbye picture since tomorrow we're leaving for Tobacco Caye. After a delightful conversation with my homestay family, I excused myself from the table to get ready for work. I left the table with tears in my eyes, knowing that this was the last full day I would share with my family.

I walked to the work site, excited to see my fellow comrades. As a group, we played a tropical variation of the game commonly known as "Duck, Duck, Goose". The game was called "Toucan, Toucan, Macaw" (see the resemblence) and practiced our Mayan words. After that, Katherine designated time to prepare for the Cultural Demonstration/ Talent Show. After much discussion, we agreed on preforming PSY's song "Gangnam Style". Although this song is not American in origin, the song has played a big part in recent pop culture. After practicing for 15 minutes, we broke off into groups to start work. Today we mixed cement for the columns, moved books for the library, and leveled the ground wherever necessary. Everyone worked very hard and we felt a strong bond form between us from the hard work we did. The cement mixing was physically strenuous however everyone it the group was eager to shovel cement. When it was time to move the library, the group worked together to strategically keep the books in order as well as move them efficiently. After a hard day of work, we were rewarded by some delicious locally baked coconut crusts, sweet empanadas with a shredded coconut filling. 

After this, we all took a well-deserved break and bounced to the Mayan museum. Here we saw several Mayan artifacts and better understood their way of life. Our tour guide, Julio, described the Mayan way of life as 'basic' with few creature comforts, but with efficient tools like thick pots for roasting tough meat and a sugar cane crusher. We also made tortillas the traditional Mayan way and witnessed a traditional Mayan dance; some enthusiastic students even joined in! After the Mayan dance, Julio led us to the far end of the museum. Behind a wall reviewed a traditional Mayan kitchen. In the kitchen, the students chefed up a storm. Francesca worked on coffee grinding while Armando worked on grinding the corn for the tortillas. After that, we shaped corn tortillas and ate them too. The museum was really interesting and informative however the group seem excited to return for showers and get ready for the  Cultural exchange and community celebration at Ernesto's.  After everyone got ready for the celebration, we met at Ernesto's to practice our dance.  Nash preformed a break dance routine for the community. Alex White and Bernd sung "No Diggity". The night was full of fun and festivities however we were all tired from a long day at work so we also looked forward to our good nights sleep. Tomorrow we depart for Tobacco Caye. Look forward for exciting pictures and blogs to come. Goodnight devoted followers! 

-Tyler and Lexi

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 5 -- Nancy and Nash

Today was the last day playing with the kids at the school. We played basketball, played on the seesaws, and had a water balloon toss, and fight. The little kiddos threw water balloons at us Awty students, drenching us, head to toe. We finished the wiring on the steel, and mixed cement for hours on end, while the kids relentlessly begged us to play with them. We played ninja, and the children climbed on our backs as we threw balls at each other. The kids laughed and chuckled as we played a version of rock paper scissors. We all later gathered in a classroom for a ceremony, presented by the principal, Liberado. He and other teachers organized a gift exchange, in which, the students, and home stay families gave us homemade and hand crafted gifts, such as authentic bracelets and necklaces. Many families gave additional presents, such as Nancy and Margaret's. Their home stay daughters gave them vibrant necklaces, and beautifully-made head bands. We

The most exciting part of the day was our very special luncheons with an assorted group of village leaders and other influential members. I (Nash) had the chance to eat lunch with Alaliya, a village elder who had been in the village since it was first founded in 1976. She gave us an extensive history of village and its relatively fast progression into the modern world. In addition to this, she told us about the influence that religion and politics have had on the villages well-being in recent years. Other classmates had the chance to have lunch with school teachers, chocolate makers, and herbal healers. All of them enjoyed their chance to talk and have elaborate discussions with people that make decisions that directly effect everyone around them.

After we finish writing this blog post, we are heading off to play soccer with local children and we both expect it to be boat-loads of fun entertainment.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 4 -- Bernd and Nick

Greetings parentals!
The day is still rather young, and our group is about to split in two to go cruising down the river on some tubes and make some traditional Mayan chocolate. Yesterday, I (Bernd, that is) had the wonderful opportunity to make some Mayan chocolate using a grindstone. The chocolate maker was a real charismatic bloke, and is actually quite the entrepenuer. With his cocoa beans, he's experimented a bunch: he's made some fancy frozen drinks from a juice that's inside the cocoa beans, and for all you tea drinkers out there, a cocoa powder tea! And it's only $1.50 USD for a pack of 6! We were also blessed with 5 minutes of air conditioning inside the room where all the chocolate packing magic happens, and we were only lured out with the prospect of fresh chocolate, made by our very own hands. My co-leader of the day is aching to tell you about his tubing experience, so here he goes:

Hey guys, Nick here! As Bernd said, some of us including me went tubing yesterday. First of all we took a very hot but fun van ride to the jaguar reserve. Then, we ventured to get some tubes from the base camp to use on our journey. Also, before any of us could forget, trusty Ms. Winegarden and Ms. Bastedo reminded us to apply sunscreen and bug spray. We then hiked down to the tubing entrance which took about 10 minutes through the thick brush of the temperate rainforest. As we reached the entrance of the river, we were all extremely excited to TUBE! But first, we had to recieve the safety talk from our World Leadership School coordinator Peter. And then we were off! We tubed down the river fast, slow, and safely. Everyone was going at their own pace, especially Ms. Bastedo who was being the kaboos cruising comfortably at approximately 1/2 miles per hour. We spent about 45 minutes venturing down the river and finally reached the end point. We were very sad it had ended but happy that we got to experience it. We climbed up the rope and hiked up back to the base camp. Then we hopped on the bus and headed back to Ernesto's.

After the activities yesterday, we made our way to homestays for the first night! We took a stroll through the village, dropping off students at the gate where the homestay families were excitedly (and also nervously, much like the students) awaiting. Personally, I had a great first night with my homestay family. I was lucky enough to have a returning Belize Trip member with me, and he already knew the family, so that helped break the ice a little. After getting settled in, we had a lovely dinner of chicken and rice, with a tomato and habanero pepper sauce. For those of you who don't know, habanero peppers are arguably much hotter than jalapenos, so of course I had a few spoonfuls of the sauce. And. It. Was. DELISH. Mind you, I burped fire for the rest of the night, but it wasn't an unpleasant experience. What followed was a night filled with quite heavy rain, which sounded like a warzone on a tin roof.

This morning, we all shared our homestay stories (and it seemed as though there was a general consesus that it was good) before getting ready for some hard manual labour at the worksite! Our progress is going quite swell, for all who are wondering.

So, that has been the day so far, and we're off. We're all still alive (mostly).

Bernd and Nick

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 3 -- Hank and Margaret

Greetings, lovely parents!
It is I, Hank (and his lovely assistant Margaret of course) and it is time to summarize today's eventful occurences!
Hank awoke this morning to Alex Plezcko's lovely infrared headlamp, and boy that thing is effective.
Falling asleep was quite a challenge the previous night, but everything calmed down when the power went out and Alex White serenaded the vicinity with his unique and lovely voice. His soothing lullabies regarding "brotein" shakes and "gainz" were entrancing and quite the
The group headed out to the worksite (that's one word now, yes) after a huge breakfast, and it was immediately greeted by the truly warm weather and excellent humidity.
The bugs were pleased to meet us as well, and we were delighted. Alex White, Tyler, Nick, and Hank all headed out to a remote location behind the school where they lifted concrete blocks for a grueling and gruesome hour. Tyler taught his posse by grabbing two bricks at once, and told us it was the only way to truly get "swole."
In case your slow minds can't keep up with this current generation, "swole" refers to being or becoming incredibly muscular (think Tyler Goulding muscular).
At recess, Alex W. was assaulted by a horde of ecstatic children as Hank sicked them on the poor soul. In case you are wondering, the children view Alex as a "horsey," and tried to "tame" (with quotation marks) him with their willpower and forces.
Hank is running out of time to write this post as Ms. Bastedo yells angrily in the background, so it's time to speed things up, folks!
We came in for lunch and had a delicious and brotein-full meal loaded with carbs and PROTEIN.
Hank has to go grab his wet clothes, so it's time for Margaret to take over!

Hi Y'all it's Margaret! I had a much less eventful evening (no singing) but my room did play "Hey Jude" in order to fall asleep. It appears that everyone had adjusted to the heat well since there was a lot less complaining. When we woke up, we were treated to a wonderful breakfast (as usual) before we headed to the work site. I am proud to say that we were extremely productive today despite the grueling heat. After we worked we got the pleasure of experiencing an authentic Mayan chocolate presentation. We got to make our own chocolate and even eat it! Then most of us bought loads of milk chocolate that was equally fantastic! Today we are going to meet our homestay families! Most of us are excited about this.

OK Margaret is gone so it's just me now huehuehue.
TL;DR The trip is awesome so far, the river tubing was epic, I'm sure the chocolate was great.

Shoutout to H-MONEY'S PARENTS for keeping him swole, Marge's family, and Lexi requested a shoutout to her dad.

As always, we miss you all, dear family :(

Hank & Margaret

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 2 -- Stephanie and Armish

Hello everyone!

Day 2 of our trip has been eventful so far! Everyone was really excited in the morning to finally start our service project(and to eat the delicious food!).

We started off the morning with a yummy breakfast followed by some bonding activities outside!
After slathering ourselves with sunscreen and bug lotion, we headed off to the school where we were going to work together with the community to build a new classroom.

This is what the worksite looked like when we first started! Hopefully it will be done when we leave!

We were separated into two groups. Half of us worked on the site, mixing cement or measuring and preparing wood for the classroom. The other half joined the children in the classrooms and helped the teachers with them. Our group was in the classroom first with four year olds, and lemmie tell ya, it was crazy! As soon as one of us pulled our cameras out, the kids went nuts and wrestled each other to take cute pictures of each other. We also read short stories to them and colored with them. They were not at all shy with the crayons! (Meaning they were chucking them at each other, so cute!)

Some cuties!
At around 10am the kids had recess and we spent about half an hour playing with all the kids in the field outside the school. Some children were very shy but others had no problem chasing after us and taking our cameras to take selfies! Some of us played tag with them, and believe us when we say... these are pretty fast runners! They sure did make us sweat... more than we already were! But these are really adorable kids.

Climbing in the trees!!

Already taking selfies and modeling for each other!

After a very fun-filled break, the groups rotated "jobs". Now it was our turn to work on the site. I (Armish) was working with Lisa(still sounds awkward not calling her Ms. Bastedo) and some other girls on making weird wood things that are apparently columns for the classroom. Basically we were measuring and nailing. I (Stephanie) volunteered for making the cement for the walls of the classroom - much more difficult than I thought! The upside is that now I know how to make cement, and am sure I'll have stronger arms by the end of the trip (because all I feel now is soreness!).

At around midday we all went for lunch - another delicious meal. Then we freshened up after all the hard work and being all sweaty and sticky... We then regrouped and played some more bonding games. After those, we did a scavenger hunt focused on learning about global issues that affect the community (such as electricity, water, community needs, etc). We walked around the village to learn how the community works and what issues they face. Some also asked for suggestions on what they need to make a potential project for next year. It was an interesting experience and opened up doors as to how we can help them improve what is needed.

Now it is about 4:30pm and we are going to gather up, have some activities, followed by the long-awaited dinner!

Don't worry... we're still alive and hopefully we can survive this humidity (by the way, if you think that Houston's humidity is bad, think again.)!

Thanks and we love you!
Stephanie and Armish