I almost don't know what to say anymore about our trip to Belize. It feels like forever ago and yesterday all at once. We stepped off the plane into a hot, muggy foreign land where nothing looked like what we knew. As we drove the 2 hours to the city we were staying in, we passed by beautiful open land and falling down shacks, dogs roaming the streets and happy children playing. Upon arrival in the city of Corozal, we realized the term "city" is pretty relative. And that perhaps the pictures of our hotel were a bit of false advertising.
On our first day, we loaded into our vans with Jesus and his son Alex as our drivers. They also turned out to be our everything-we-needed-them-to-be men and we couldn't have done it without them. I think well all fell a little in love with those two. The drive to the village of Chunox was an hour, but that completely depended upon the two ferries we crossed each day. Each ferry is hand cranked, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The first time we crossed the ferry, we all planned our exit route in case of sinking, but after watching a school bus, semi-truck and a pick-up truck cross at one time, we knew we'd be safe.
Little Anna Ruthie greeted us first outside the Garcia home with the biggest smile for all of us. We explored the Garcia home with wide eyes. I only counted 3 beds for a family of 8. They had an outdoor kitchen, which consisted of a stove and a corn grinder. We watched the mother grind her corn for tortillas each day. We each took a turn and realized we had no idea how such a small woman was able to crank that wheel every few hours.
We divided into 2 different groups for the week. One group worked on building the dome while the other painted local schools. Each project required hard work and lots of sweat but each group received beaming smiles from happy children. Kids are kids wherever you go. There were the high school girls who were a little shy and uncomfortable, especially in front of the camera...the high school boys who joked, stared and laughed, and maybe did a little bit of gawking. The elementary kids who just wanted attention, in any form they could get, even if we had no idea what they were saying. I loved them all.
Work on the dome site was slow but steady. After the bladder was inflated, basalt ropes were tied across and concrete was added layer by layer. Due to a small mishap, the bladder seal was compromised which meant that one night, a very very very amazing couple spent the night next to the dome. Remember pushing the button on LOST? Well, essentially that was their job. They had to flip a switch to pump a small amount of air into the bladder...every 3 minutes and 7 seconds, for the ENTIRE night. Any mistake and the concrete could crack or fall. They were our heroes!
There were cheers when the bladder deflated and the concrete held strong. After starting off with a few hiccups, everyone was thrilled that in the end, the structure would hold and provide a safe and disaster proof shelter for the Garcia family. The structure isn't fancy by any means, but it's strong and safe, which was the idea all along. When a storm comes, they won't have to rush to the hurricane shelter, which didn't look very safe anyway. Instead, they can stay together right in their own home.
What I took away most, is the importance of family and of being happy with what you have. No one in the village lived a life like we live. Even still there were many, like the Garcia family, living in much worse conditions than the rest of the village. But you know what? Everyone we met had a smile on their faces. Especially the Garcias. I recognized all that really is important in my life. My family, the roof over our heads and the food on the table. Everything else is just extra. And extra is nice, don't get me wrong, but it's not necessary. I can be happy with those 3 things. I'm so happy to have had the experience, to have met the people we did and for the opportunity to do something that not only changed the life of the Garcia family, among others, but also changed mine. I couldn't end this post without saying how proud I am of Adam, for working SO incredibly hard to organize, plan and execute this incredible trip!
And now for the pictures...There are so many I want to share that I'm breaking them up into 2 posts. The rest will come later today.