Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Final Thoughts by Larissa

By Larissa:

Leaving this lovely country will be bittersweet.  On one hand, it is rewarding to know that we helped Bullet Tree Falls, but on the other, it is sad to be leaving this village full of love.  By teaching the children about God and Catholicism, I conveyed the message of how to live a holy life.  However, through teaching the kids about God's message, I was able to live in this light of God and live out His will.  I learned how to let petty conflicts go and how to see God in everyone I encounter.  The love and gratitude of the Bullet Tree Falls community allowed me to understand God's purpose and reason for sending me on this trip.  As one girl mentioned in one of our group reflections, we don't need to be guilty about the lives we live and the things we have.  Instead, we should embrace the life that God had given us and appreciate what we have.  A quote my mother recently gave me states, "The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday."  This applies to us because we should all try to be the best person we can be.  This experience provided me with a good base of missionary work so I can continue to help others in Dallas.  Our last night was heartbreaking.  It was so sad to say goodbye to our friends, especially because of how much they appreciated us.  Overall, I'm so glad we made these bonds because of what I taught others and what I learned about myself.

Farewell to Bullet Tree - 6/23

After the ruins and our pool party, we went back to Bullet Tree for a farewell Mass and celebration.  The community planned a beautiful Mass and chose songs especially for us.  One of the most moving parts of the Mass was after communion when we all sang, "Bind us together Lord, Bind us together with cords that cannot be broken.  Bind us together Lord, Bind us together Lord, Bind us together in Love."  Roberta impressed the community as she read the second reading in perfect Spanish!  Kelly and Caroline also took the gifts up at the offertory.  After Mass, Mr. Pott presented a plaque to Ms Redford and Ursuline on behalf of the community.  He then asked if some of our girls would share what their experience has meant to them to the entire community.  Several of our girls shared and all did a wonderful job!  We were also fortunate to present two scholarships for 4 years of high school to two girls graduating this year.  The scholarships were named the St. Angela Scholarship and St. Ursula Scholarship.  One of them is being funded by Steve Smith and his family and the other by the Ursuline community, specifically the girls and the families of the girls on the trip.

After the presentations, we all went over to the school for a delicious meal of rice and beans and stew chicken prepared by the community and some dancing!  I think we all agreed that we could have stayed and danced all night, but everyone had to get up early the next day.  It was sad to say goodbye at the end of the night, but the community did a wonderful job planning a celebration to end a week that we will never forget!

Roberta reading at Mass

Kelly and Caroline taking up the gifts

Mr. Pott presenting a plaque to Ursuline

Mr. Smith presenting his scholarship to Brittney

Ms. Miller presenting a scholarship to Vivica

Shannon expressing what the trip has meant to her

Enjoying our farewell dinner

Having a dance party with the community

Kate and Faith

Mr. Koehler twirling one of the students

Mayan Ruins and a Pool Party - 6/23

By Caroline Brau.:

Today we went to the Mayan ruins at Cahal Pech.  It was very interesting because last year I studied "la ruta Maya" in Spanish class.  The ruins are still being excavated 3 months year year (June, July, and August) by university students.  Our tour guide, Marco, showed us around each of the plazas and taught us a lot about the Mayans like how the doors were shaped to fit the King's headdresses.  We sat on the King's throne and on one of his beds.  After the ruins, we had a pool party at one of the nearby resorts.  We got to relax and eat lunch.  Overall, it was a great way to end a great trip.

Climbing up the steps to the temple

Climbing to one of the highest peaks

Sitting on the king's throne

Faith trying out one of the king's beds

Shannon, Megan, and Annie enjoying the ruins

Megan, Faith, Rebecca, and Larissa

Enjoying the pool!

A Visit to the Belize Zoo - 6/22

By Megan:

On Saturday, after our week of teaching at Bullet Tree was done, we decided to go to the zoo.  After we walked though the entrance, we were greeted by a man holding a boa constrictor.  The man offered to let us hold the snake and Blair took the opportunity to be the brave one and held the snake first.  While some of us were intrigued, others were a little scared and nervous when the snake started moving in their arms.  At the front of the zoo were the tapirs, the national animal of Belize.  While they did have an interesting odor, I found the tapirs to be very cute.  My favorite animal at the zoo was the otter.  When people came up to his cage, he put on a show for us, swimming and running along the front of his cage.  We all found the otter to be adorable, but it was difficult to take a picture of him when he was moving a mile and minute!  We were also lucky to be able to see a leopard get fed just feet in front of us through a thin wire cage.  Our experience at the Belize Zoo was very different from an experience at a zoo in Dallas.  Since the cages were thin, we could view the animals close up, right before our eyes.  We also walked around with wildlife sure as a large rodent called a gibnut and different iguanas.  All of the animals at the Belize Zoo were either rescued from the wild or born in the zoo and the zoo does a lot of work with conservation and education.  Overall, I would say our trip to the zoo was a success and a fun addition to our trip!

Blair with the boa constrictor



Mr. Koehler

The tapirs enjoying their lunch!

Rebecca and Jessica with the Scarlet Macaw 

The Jaguar enjoying his snack

After the zoo, we went to a Mayan market

Saturday afternoon, we had time to play in the river in San Ignacio

U.S. vs. Belize Soccer Game

By Kate:

After a long day of teaching and playing with the kids, we headed over to the big soccer field where we played against Belize.  Before the game, we were all big talk of winning, but since none of us are really soccer players, Belize pretty much dominated.  Belize scored 3 goals in the first half and probably would have scored more then second half if they had not put in the younger kids.  We managed to score 2 goals, but fell short with the end score being 4-2 Belize.  For us, the score did not matter, for we know the kids had a lot of fun.  Scoring 2 goals and making the kids happy was a win for us!  This was a perfect way to end our week in Bullet Tree!

Watching the students perform traditional dances during our farewell assembly

We got to try dancing too!

The Standard 3 class changed the words to Lord We Lift Your Name on High into a song to thank us

Ms. Redford being presented with paintings of Bullet Tree as a thank you gift

Mr. Pott, Ms. Redford, Ariceli, and her children Kinley and Elaine with the paintings done my Mr. Pott's son

Preparing for the soccer game

Team Belize in Ursuline Jerseys

U.S. vs. Belize Soccer Game

Friday, June 21, 2013

Our Last Day at Bullet Tree - 6/21

Today is our last day at Immaculate Conception School.  We finished up our projects and the girls taught their final lessons in the morning and then we all enjoyed a delicious barbecue lunch.  This afternoon there was a farewell ceremony followed by a U.S. vs. Belize soccer game!  The faculty greeted us this morning in Ursuline t-shirts we gave them yesterday, and all of the students received drawstring Ursuline backpacks that were donated by one of the school supply companies Ursuline works with.  So there is a lot of red and white running around Bullet Tree today!

A special note to any teachers following along: After teaching all week, the girls all agree that they appreciate their own teachers in a whole new way!  One of them even said last night, "Miss Miller, I don't know how you do this every day!"

I think we can all agree that it has been an absolutely amazing week.  We have met so many incredible people and have all had a lot of fun!

This may be the last time we are able to post before returning home.  The girls will be enjoying a few excursions this weekend before returning on Monday.  If there is an opportunity to post the final reflections over the weekend, I will be sure to do that.  Otherwise, I will make the final post back home in Dallas.  To all of our family and friends in Dallas, we cannot wait to see you all on Monday night and share our Belize adventures with you in person!

Roberta, Rebecca, and one of the Carolines share their reflections on yesterday.

Roberta on teaching:
Today we taught about the sacraments and how all of them strengthen us and bring us closer to God.  Every day the kids impress me more and more!  They are so eager and ready to many of them are very smart and I can see so much potential in them.  I received a lot of notes from some of the students I teach and it really made me happy that by just being there and speaking about the sacraments or any other lesson, I was making a difference and actually getting through to them.  I have gotten so close to a lot of them and it is going to be very sad to say goodbye to them.  Teaching and seeing how the kids understand what I am saying really makes my day!
Hola Mama y Papa a los extrano!  Ya los quiero ver!
Love, Roby                                                                         

Rebecca on the presentation by the “Chalk Guy" last night:

Jason, the Chalk Guy, is amazing.  I can't find the words to explain how powerful his lesson last night was, but I can say that I gained a deeper understanding of Christ's death.  We cannot go to the Father except through Him, and he told us this in John 14:6.  Jason’s beautiful drawing was Christ's view of the city from His tomb.  The masterpiece symbolized not just Jesus' rising, but is victory over death.  With His death, we were free to go to the Father.  This is a lesson I will remember forever.

Hi Mom!  I miss you all and wish y'all were here.  Thank you for the letters Mami and Papi.  You have prepared be well, and don't worry, I'm asking Dona Lourdes and Dona Veronica how to make the good food down here.  Sarah and Sophia, I hope you are being good and you should clean my room, pretty please!  Abuelito, ojala que le gueste las fotos que estamos subiendo!  Es muy bonito aqui!  Le llamare cuando este en Dallas!  I love you all so much, and thank you for supporting me.  I'm always thinking about you all.  God Bless!
- La Nana

P.S. I'd be super happy if my request for enchilades and sopa de semilla de melon was granted. :)

Caroline Bask. on our dinner party at Miss Erva's:

After a long day at Bullet Tree, we headed to Erva's Place to have our dinner party.  Every meal here in Belize has been one full of hospitality and great food, and this was no different.  Graciously, Erva welcomed us into her kitchen in the restaurant and taught each of us how to make homemade tortillas.  We learned that this is no easy task and takes a lot of work and skill.  After everyone made a tortilla, we all helped make our burritos, beef, chicken, or veggie.  The food was delicious!  Additionally, our waiter, Nolan, showed us all these tricks, including one with two forks balancing on toothpicks on a bottle.  As we left our dinner party, we left with full stomachs and another experience of traditional Belizean hospitality and tasty food!

Mom, Dad, and Lauren, I miss you so much!  Thank you for allowing me to have this opportunity of a lifetime!  I can't wait to see you soon!
Love, Caroline

Kate, Megan, and Caroline Brau. will be sharing their reflections on this afternoon and our weekend adventures, but they wanted to say hi to their families now just in case this is our last opportunity for internet!

Hi Mom and Dad, it's Kate!  Belize is amazing.  I have brought my forgetfulness to Belize and have already lost my water bottle three times!  But no worries, it has reappeared each time!  I love and miss you!
Love, Kate

Hi Mom, Dad, Hannah, and Lindsay!  I am having a ton of fun.  I miss you all.  Thanks for letting me come to Belize!
Love, Caroline

Hi Mom, Dad, and Braeden, I miss you guys so much!  I'm having an amazing time in Belize and can't wait to see you on Monday!
Love, Megan

Roberta, Annie, Rebecca, Larissa, and Caroline finish up painting one of the classroom buildings

Mr. Koehler, Shannon, Blair, and Jessica show off their new windows

Still painting!

Caroline and Faith take a picture with their class

Two 8th graders show off their new backpacks

Ursuline Academy in Bullet Tree!

Shannon and Rebecca enjoy their lunch

Fr. Leslie, the Vicor General of Belize, came out to visit us in Bullet Tree today

Faith, Mr. Smith, Marguerite, Fluffy, Caroline, and Megan pose with their new bike racks

Thursday, June 20, 2013

High School in Belize - 6/20

Today is our 4th day out at Immaculate Conception School.  The painting is coming along, the bike racks are getting finished, and the windows are getting their final touch of paint!  While we enjoyed a little glimpse of the sunshine yesterday, we experienced a Belizean downpour today!  Some of the teachers were even worried the water was going to come into their classrooms.  Thankfully, nothing flooded and we could continue our work...we just got a little wet!  The good part abut all of the rain is that no one is sunburned!  After school today we are going to go to Miss Erva's restaurant for a cooking lesson and dinner party!  After that we are going to go see the Chalk Guy from Florida speak at Sacred Heart Parish.  Another missionary group from Wisconsin has brought him along with their group, and we all enjoyed his presentation on Sunday so much, that we are going back on tonight to hear him again!  We will give you the details of our exciting evening tomorrow.

Today Kelly and Marguerite share a reflection from listening to Dr. Aird speak about high school in Belize yesterday:

Yesterday we visited Sacred Heart College in San Ignacio.  The school is a high school and junior college for the surrounding community.  We were privileged to meet Dr. Aird, the president of the school.  She provided a glimpse into the reality of education in Belize.

One aspect of Belize education that became apparent is the lack of financial resources and teaching materials.  Many of the teachers do a lot of their own fundraising for classroom materials and they have to get creative with their lessons.  They are currently building an auditorium, which took six years and a half million dollars.  This is possible thanks to the fundraising efforts of the teachers!  There are also a lot of issues in the distribution of government funding to the schools.  Unlike the U.S., the government in Belize provides funding for all schools, including religious based schools.  Most of the schools in Belize are actually religiously affiliated.  Unfortunately, because of issues with government funding, some of the high schools may have to close in the future, leaving even more students without the opportunity to attend high school.

Going to high school in Belize is seen as a privilege, one that we take for granted in the United States.  Dr. Aird said that the school distributes around 300 acceptance letters, but only 245 are able to enroll at the school.  Registration is done on a first come first served basis.  So after the 245 spots are full, everyone else is put on a waiting list.  Unfortunately this leaves about 1700 students in the Cayo region of Belize who wish to attend high school without the opportunity.

The opportunities for students who don't get a high school education are limited and it is hard for them to provide for a family on the salary they would receive.  One of the other realities of life in Belize is that it is hard for may families to pay the tuition for a secondary education.  Sacred Heart charges each family about $500 US dollars a year.

Seeing the education in Belize makes us so much more grateful for the education and opportunities we have in the U.S.

Hi Mom and Dad!  I am having a phenomenal experience with all the girls and the chaperones.  I have become very close with all of the students at Bullet Tree Falls.  Thank you so much for sending me on this trip!  You're the best,
Love, Marguerite

Hi Mommy and Daddy,
Thanks for the letters (I cried).  I've been having a great time here and having so much fun with the kids.  Thanks for sending me on this trip!  I've been having so much fun with everyone!
Love, Kelly

Meeting with Dr. Aird

Working in the rain...

Playing in the rain!

Larissa and Kate trying to get the high spots

Jenna, Rebecca, Roberta, and Charlotte painting

Enjoying lunch together 

Kelly and Caroline teaching their class