Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The night before

The anticipation is all encompassing. There is no way my mind can be on anything else but Belize. Up until this time, I was able to pay attention to everyone else and meet the needs of everyone in my life. It gets to the less than 12 hours until I get on a plane to begin the journey back to Belize and there is no way I can talk about anything but going to Belize. I am so excited. I have said those four words so many times today. I told Courtney (our love for Belize has bonded us) that I would have no words if I did not have "I am so excited." What other words are there to describe this feeling?

I recently attended a conference and one of the speakers said that we should put ourselves in the place in which we we can reach our greatest potential. I think I am the best person I can be in Belize. I am able to give. My skills and talents are needed. I am validated as a worthwhile person. I have thought about why do I feel this so strong in Belize and why can't I accomplish this at home? I have some answers - I think - I would rather talk about them than write them in a blog - so find me and we can have a conversation.

That's another thing - there seems to be time for regular conversations in Belize - not just facebook, email, text and telephone - real face-to-face meaningful, caring conversations about whatever. I need this.

One of my students has never been on a plane or seen the ocean - anywhere. I have to be with her when she sees the ocean for the first time. I am more excited for her than I am for myself! There was a commercial on tv a moment ago that talked about - you are about to have a life changing experience - how cool is it that I can enable the students on this trip to have life changing experiences?! Well, that is my goal....we will see if it is accomplished - I really just set the wheels in motion - the people of San Pedro will do the rest!

Monday, December 28, 2009

I'm Back!

Thought I would start blogging again even though I am not back in Belize yet. I am so excited though because I will be there in two days! This is the hardest time (the waiting) but a time of great anticipation. Every time I go to Belize it is a totally different experience. This time I am taking 7 students with me. They are awesome people and great students so the possibilities of what they will accomplish is endless. Five students are social work majors, one political science and one public policy. They are taking a class in Education, Health and Child Welfare in Belize. This is a service learning class. I also will have four others helping - three social workers and a business person. We are still working in San Mateo and at Holy Cross to help families and try to improve the situations for the children in this community.

My mind is just filled with "what is it going to be like this time?" I wonder what fun memories we will have when it is time to come home. I can't wait to be where there is Kareoke any night of the week! I get to renew old friendships and just feel that sea breeze and sun! After a very wet dreary few months in Mississippi that is very needed for my mental health. I love to see a person's face - who has never been to San Pedro - and when you travel down Front street and get to the city park and they can see the ocean view for the first time - the face lights up and there is a look of awe like no other - a gasp usually accompanies - "it is so beautiful!" - I then know I have arrived and I get to share the experience with someone who is going to have the time of his/her life! I have such a sense of calm and "everything's gonna be alright."

I really feel like I have arrived when I see the landscape of Belize coming into the international airport. I love this country so much that it seems as I first see the land of Belize - I am able to breath again. It is like I wasn't sure that everything would align itself in the world for me to be there again and then I let myself believe it is really true - I am going to really be in Belize. It is like I held my breath until I saw it for real.

So I better finish packing up the bathing suits and sunscreen. Wish you were going with me! and if you are....I am so excited for you!!!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The connection.

I just had a long lunch with Courtney. I met Courtney in Belize and have continued to email and recently we talked on the phone. We managed to meet halfway and have lunch today. Why is this a blog topic? I just want to write about how Belize connected us. This is another really wonderful phenomenon that occurs among people who love Belize. Like Courtney and I, really great friends are brought together through the common love for Belize. We talked like we have been friends for years. I am so grateful to be able to talk with her and not have to explain my feelings - a common response was "I know". I feel almost like I was sharing stories while sitting at a San Pedro beach bar - just calm and cool and most of all understood. The friendships continue after we get home and are lasting relationships. This just seems pretty special to me.

Life is good. The beginning of the fall football season is today! Go REBELS!!!!! I am so pumped. I am very proud of our football players. I have several of these young men in my classes. I am very proud of them and their ability to keep up their grades whie working so hard on the field. I know that is true for other teams but hey - I love Ole Miss!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The most important part...

I was trying to think about what to write. I have had a lot of activities in my life - including cleaning out closets and basically the house, giving it all away in a yard sale, helping a friend with dental surgery after care, moving Anna and Christian in for the semester ( getting my house baby proff for an 18 month old after no babies for 19 years!), Ben coming home for the weekend, a baby shower, an all-day faculty retreat, talking with Amanda, David, Ben, Jeremy, Ernesto, Mom & Dad, sisters and brothers and special friends....and keeping up with my younger friends and students in all their travels, fun, relationships and issues, singing kareoke....but what lingers in my mind to write about?

I got a phone call from one of my Belizean kid's moms...one of the 8 year old boys...she called just so that he could talk to me. He told me that he loved me so much and missed me. I was so happy and excited to talk to him. I asked him if I could send him anything...I should have known - shoes! He loves converse tennis shoes. I asked him if he wanted anythign else - nope. I do not know why he and I connected but we just did and I miss him.

My friend Sherry is having problems with her plateletts not being high enoguh to take her chemo. I hope all of my friends reading this will send up a prayer for her. it is so hard right now - we know she needs the chemo but she feels so much better without it. Without it though and the cancer will grow....

I have to go to the doctor on Wednesday to hear about my biopsy - one of those cervical issues. I am not worried, I just know it will require something to be done. I also have all those wonderful tests/exams due. argh. It is hard to get old but it is a good thing!

I guess I am constantly reminded of how precious life is and I am always thinking about how to make the most of my life. I am always questioning where I am suppose to be and what I am suppose to be doing...I am in that place where I know something is about to happen that will change things - not sure what though. Maybe I just live in this mode since my life always changes and I even though I have tried to achieve contentment - about the time I become content - something happens to lead me down another road....tring to figure out my way. I guess the road less traveled and challenge is where I am most content.

Classes begin tomorrow so better get ready....love y'all!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I am going to try this at home...

Blogging from Belize seemed like such a natural thing to do. Blogging from Oxford, Mississippi does not seem as natural to me. I have been home for two months and it seems like forever. My mind does wander back to San Pedro though - maybe more often than it should. I just miss being there. It is not that my life here is not good - I have a good life. I have a great family. My kids are awesome. I am relatively problem free - nothing I can't handle anyway. I have a great job. So what is it? i thought before that it was because I was on vacation or did not have the responsibilities that I have at home when I am in San Pedro - but no - I lived there for five months and worked a regular work week. I worked probably harder and in a more stressful situation than my work at home. I had problems beyond my capability of solving. There is a difference in me - when I look in the mirror - I do not see the same person as I remember seeing in Belize. I do not feel the same. I can look at pictures of myself in Belize and know there is a difference. I just can't seem to get myself to the same place in my mind. I have tried and continue to try. I think that is why I am not blogging - it makes me frustrated and somewhat sad to think about how much I want to be in Belize but then I get angry at myself for not being content here because I have been very blessed and have what I need...I think - so what is missing?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Last Night

Wow, it was hard to even write that title - I am numb right now. I have choked back so many tears in the last few days that I can't even cry now. The children all made cards for me and came up to me on Friday telling me good-bye and asking me why i had to leave. One of my little boys that I have worked with asked me - "but, Miss Kim, why do you have to leave us?" I told him that I needed to work to make money so I could come back. He said, "but this is your work" and I said I do not make money when I am here and I have to have ajob where I make money. He said, "tell them to pay you here." boom done, simple as that. One of my boys - the one I want to take home and said it would be ok with his mom...he was acting terrible all week. So disruptive that they asked his mom to come to school to help keep him under control. I asked her and her son to come and talk to me on Friday. She told me that she knew he was acting up because I was leaving and that she ven told him that if he was good that she would take him to the states to se ehis older brother that he missed. He was standing by us as we talked. I asked her where his brother lived and she said - Mississippi! I was shocked and told them that is where I live. I could see him if they came. He brightened up and smiled...then his mom asked me if it was ok for them to call me in the states. I said of course - she told him that he could call me every week if he was good in class and did his work. This is the same mom that was not very happy with me in January when I began talking to her about not lashing and beating the child so much - we have worked on finding other ways....She told me that she was thankful and that she thinks he loves me like a mom and I told her that she is his mom and he loves her - I am just his friend. She just hugged me. Child after child after child after child - I think I got over 500 hugs friday. I read "oh the places you will go" to the young people about to graduate. One of the children's cards said - I love you Miss Kim and therapy was really fun." My toughest kids that were angry with me at times were the ones that wouldn't even go home at the end of the day.

The one I couldn't quit crying over though....was my little 3 year old from the community - remember the house blessing? His mom brought him to school in the morning and said his 5 year old brother had told him that I was going away to the states and he had only talked about that for two days wanting his mom to let him see, Miss Kim before she went home. He came running into the office and crawled up on my lap just clinging to my neck and holding on for dear life. I just rocked him and his mom said, he can't stand that you are leaving and we are all sad. then she told me that they were going to get him baptised and asked him who he wanted to be his godmother - explaining about baptism and godmothers - he said "Ms. Kim" so she asked me if I would come back when he could be baptised with me here. I asked him - "do you wnt me to be your Godmother?" He just shook his head yes and hugged me tighter. His mom started crying and we just hugged and cried. The connections I feel with the people here are hard to explain. He would not leave me to go home.

Then I was given a farewell lunchoen. We had a dish that I have never had called "black dish" and homemade corn tortillas. Everyone was like this is the best food we have ever had and Ms. Rosallea just smiled and said I saved the best for Ms. Kim. I found out that it is a special local food that is used for special occassions. the teachers and Ms. Grace and Ms. Laura were to gracious and said such nice things. One person said that they had never met anyone not from Belize that would hold these kids and love them no matter what - that I truly love them all and that they know I love the teachers too. I do love them and it is so hard to leave so the love I feel in return. Mr. Vernon gave me a piece of jewelry that he made that is a musical G-cleff with a heart so I could remember my drummers.

My drummers....remember that they were the discipline problems to begin with - I had a professional drummer - the one who made the drums...come to hear them on Wednesday at my condo - we played on the beach side and had pizza. He was so impressed that he is going to continue the drumming school. We had other drummers - adults - come by and stop and they were very impressed. The children were so worried that they wouldn't get to keep drumming but God answers prayers as I could stand to dissappoint them.

It was a very trying week. I can't g0 into how hard it was but if you want to see it go to the Ambergris Caye website and check out the San Pedro Daily Sun for Thursday of last week. The headlines inlcude - Police vs. Holy Cross or something like that. I will fill you all in when I get there. I felt like I ws back in Prentiss county Mississippi in 1985. some of you understand a good ole boy system. enough said.

Monday - I was in Belize City doing a workshop for all the Anglican School Vice principals. It was really good to make that connections and meet them. It was fun and I have become fond of the water taxi - the ride across the ocean is relaxing. The ocean is just a healing force for me - physically, spiritually, emotionally...what will I do without my ocean - I do not even need my blood pressure pills here...

I had a very hard time telling Amrie good-bye tonight. She is the PhD student who has been working with me from Germany. She has a cousing here also - Christoff - who has become a good friend. He is working with Dr. Danny while working on his medical degree. they are both awesome people and I will miss them so much. We have become very close and I can't stand to think i will be in MS and she is Austria.

Biggs gave me a bear hug and told me to suck it up that I would be back. Leave it to Biggs to st me straight. He actually allowed me to cry though.

Well, I am packed and ready for bed. Mr. Victor, my taxi driver/counselor will not allow me to go to the airport with the folks from Paradise Villas so he is picking me up at 8:30 am. I have said my good-byes and given my "I will be back!"

I will be home tomorrow night - so see some of you very soon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I know you mom would let me go with you......

What can I say? It has been hard for me to blog lately as the feelings are too strong. One of my little boys said, "Miss Kim, when are you leaving?" I told him in a couple of weeks. He said, "I want to go with you, I know my mom would let me go with you." The really hard part of this is that I know his mom would let me take him to Mississippi with me. I let another little boy call tonya today. He was all grins but when he told her "I miss you" I thought I would lose it. You have to picture this. He is abused, neglected and all alone in the world. He connected with Tonya and Amrei, probably the only two people who have noticed him. He was on the phone and shaking his head to tonya's questions and did not realize that you have to talk. I wondered if he had ever had a phone call. One of my girls who has been the hardest to get close to - she gets angry and won't even look at me at times...she spent all day yesterday coming to find me. She wanted a picture of me and then would not leave me today to go back to class - just saying over and over - please don't leave me. Another little boy just keeps coming out of class every time I walk by and just grabs me and won't let go...every time he asks me how many days until I go home. I had one of the stronger ones just burst into tears today. It goes on and on...I blink back tears. I swallow hard to get rid of the lump in my throat and breathe. When I arrive home everyone asks me how my day was a t school. It reminds me of when I was a child welfare worker and I had a bad abuse case and when I got home I was asked - How was your day? I would just say - "fine". Social work is a profession in which you are always around people and you connect deeply with people but it also the one of the lonliest jobs as it is so hard to explain your days... so we just say it was a good day and go on - holding all of the pain and the memories. If we try to talk about it even in a general way to anyone who does not do this work we are rarely understood. I am thankful for my colleagues though - especially everyone who has come to help me here as I know we can talk about what goes on here and there will be those who understand.

When I was walking home today, I was so hot and I had sweated enough to drench my clothes several times. I smell horrible and look worse. I was thinking about how much I sweat here and don't even care. Other people don't care either. I walk for miles. It doesn't seem to be that far when I walk on the beach. I hear music from everywhere. Everyone says hi or buenas dias. One man told me "I hope you have a good day for all that is left of it." It is different as he really looked at me and meant it. So I come home and take a shower - have I mentioned that it is very hot here? I went to my local grocery and everyone knows me and tell me they are going to miss me. I got my hamburger from my street vendor - she only speaks spanish so she has helped me by speaking only spanish to me. When Greg was here he went to get hamburgers and forgot what I said and told her - it was for Kim and she knew what to leave off. I get teased a lot as i can't go anywhere without someone yeliing (mostly children) "Miss Kim". I fussed at a man at a bar the other day and 45 minutes later someone came to tell me about hearing about it. I sing Kareoke and I can't sing but the DJ knows what songs I want to sing and my friends at Kareoke sing with me even though I probably mess them up. I know all the bartenders and restaurant owners and waiters in my favorite places and I get hugs when I walk in. Sometimes I get the best piece of fish. The band members know me and know what songs I like. Coconut Leo came down out of his tree to talk to me today and he brings me coconuts and watches over me and my friends when we walk home at night - I give him comfort! I can see the ocean and millions of stars. I watch the greatest full moons and feel the coolest breeze at night. I can get fresh pineapple, bananas and papaya and all the shrimp and fish I can eat. Rice and beans and tortillas are always within reach. Everything is fresh - no preservatives. I had a coconut mojito with fresh coconut. I took a plane to the municipal airport - where else can I land one foot from the ocean? (I think these guys train on aircraft carriers.) I am sitting in my room and I can hear ladies' night at Wet Willies. I meet friends from all over the world. We talk about real stuff of life. What do I love about Belize? I guess I have gone on long enough. I am going to go sit on my veranda - maybe lay in my hammock and just listen, watch, feel the breeze, taste a Belikin and smell the air. Life is good.

love and miss you all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

It is a strange mother's day when I have none of my children in my presence. This is my fault this year as I am in Belize and my children are not. I guess this is something I will get used to as my youngest is 19 years old and all my children have their own lives, but all those memories of their childhood come back on this day especially. It seems like a flash - a video on fast forward and when it ends it just leaves this weird feeling - like I miss the times mixed with what did I do wrong and what did I do right? It is what it is and I find myself redefining my roles as a mother and even who I am. so long I have been - amanda's mom, david's mom and ben's mom...so I guess that means that was my main role - I guess it is just another change and transition time...

So I am facing another transition...going home to Oxford, Mississippi. I will be on a plane two weeks from today. Greg and Wednesday left today and I could not even leave the condo. I had in my mind when they went home I was to be readying myself for my return to the states. I had a great time with them while they were here and it seems so empty here with them gone.

My students at Ole Miss are making it easier for me to come home. I have been getting emails about being missed. Some are graduating and I missed this important day - which I am sorry about. One of m students wrote to me about the important things that I taught her. Another told me how important I am in her life. Another student wrote that she and another student walked past my office door and both looked at each other and teared up. This is all overwhelming to me and gets the lump to grow in my throat. I love teaching at Ole Miss and I do miss it. It is weird that the things they tell me have really little do do with the curriculum. I was sent a message from another friend that said the following:

We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind deeds. Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath...


I received this via email after leaving school Friday. I have had a lot of moments that have taken my breath during this sabbatical. I am a lucky person to have had this experience. I hope I have scattered good and kindness. I am so grateful to the children and families who have taught me so much. I have been allowed into the Belizean culture. It has been hard at times and I struggled often. I have, however, been reminded of what I love about social work. The people, of course, and when people allow you into their lives and if you connect and can help it is the best work - it does not even feel like work. I am sure this experience will allow me to be a better professor.

I am about to go to my last Kareoke night at Wet Willies. This has been my fun time each week. Man, I am going to miss this too.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mom's out there!

love and miss you all.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tonya has left the island

Tonya has left as of this morning. I came to school and so many of the children asked me - "but where is Ms. Tonya?" She connected to several of the children. I think her family better check her suitcases as if she thought there was a way to get them through customs, I am sure she would have them in her suitcase. The children all want to know if she is coming back...so family and friends - just be ready for her to return. Tonya also left me a "list" of many things to do for follow-up. Gotta love those "list" people! For those of you who see Tonya - ask her to see the video of our drummers in the central park yesterday. When she sends me the pics, I will post them. then ask her to see the pic with her new best friend and hero. I can't tell the story until she returns home as I do not want to spoil her story-telling....and she has a few stories to tell! Gonna miss her and Pam...life was not dull at all while they were here! And they were so supportive and so much help.

We (Tonya, Amrie and I) took nine 8-year old boys and three older girls to the central park yesterday to perform drumming and garifuna dancing. We had a blast. When we were done I let them get something from the snack place across the street....ice cream, nachos, popcorn...we got a lot attention from the drumming and dancing and several comments on how good they wee doing from other musicians on the island.

Our little boy who was malnourished and had parasitesand was being lashed and just cried and cried is now blowing bubbles and laughing. I just went by his class and he was participating and smiling. The doctor prescribed TLC...guess the medicine is working.

Tonya and Amrie had me work in the sandbox yesterday for my own therapy. I was ambushed. So I did it. Pretty much showed I have a blank slate for what my future holds, I have old dead stuff in my unconscious that doesn't matter anymore, I have good, serene feelings surrounding maternal side and females and I have all my children here in the midst of sharks where I can get to some of them and not others and I am not having very good feelings about males....well, guess that works! Amazing.

For those who would like a laugh...imagine that almost every man who has had interest in me or me them in the past or currently on this island showed up at kareoke Sunday night. (That is not many...just a few characters.) Of course my life is an open book so everyone knows my stories...bartenders, random others...so I got a lot of teasing and I was just laughing...decided my song of the night would be "Crazy" by Patsy Cline...I sang it very well thank you....with feeling. then I sang "You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille" and "Pop a top Again"...I don't even know... I put your picture away, Any man of mine....I was sung to also..."If drinking don't kill me - your memory will"...."he stopped loving her today"...."step right up, come on in, if you want to take the grand tour"....oh yeah...it was one of those unforgettable nights. My friends at Paradise Villas were like...what are you doing to these men? Nothing. All in all it was a crazy fun night. Everyone kept laughing. Of course, Tonya has her story. Tonya was so happy to find punta music - she hates old country. By the way, in case she does not tell it - Tonya can PUNTA DANCE.

I have to tease Johnson. he is driving a red golf cart. I asked him if it was in case he and "the other red golf cart" crash - they won't leave a different color paint on each other's cart. He didn't think that was very funny.


Miss and love y'all.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to leave?

I have had many responses to the reality blog. I have about determined that living in Belize for 5 months and working very closely with the families and children from San Mateo and other communities has given me a dose of the reality in which persons on this island live. I am not in the same place as those who come for a week or two or the Americans and those from other countries who come here to live but re-create as much of the comforts of home as possible - not all but many.
I know the culture here is just different from the culture at home. I think that is what makes it not feel real. Each has their own reality.

My reality here is that I have become very connected to the children and the families. The children show me so much love. I love them. It makes me happy to have a life that is more full of love than negativity and complaining. I like the slow pace and the time taken to just sit and talk. I like that I can have leisurely meals in the evening and then just have fun with my friends and if I can't find my friends I can just go anywhere and meet someone new and talk. I like that very few hours go by without someone coming by to say hello and to see how I am. I love deciding what I want to eat and going to the store or the vegetable stand and getting just what I need for that meal. I love the "Bush doctor" remedies for most illnesses. I love not having to use air conditioning and keeping my windows open. And of course I love the ocean and the breeze.

So, I find myself thinking about how I will transition to Oxford, Mississippi. When should be my last day at the school? How much time do I need to prepare myself mentally for the return? How do I say good-bye to the children I have worked with and my friends? One would think that this would not be hard for someone who has moved so much throughout life, but this one is very hard. I know I will come back. I am worried about some of the children and then all of the children. I know this is out of my realm of control but mostly I worry that they will think I have left them to deal with everything themselves. Let go of what I cannot control....of course, but that is not without distress.

Tonya has been here and I can't even write about what she has stirred up...I can tell you that several people will remember her visit. She has really helped with one little boy. The 6 year old was being lashed constantly and the caregiver was with-holding food for punishment. He was unkept and had a terrible body odor. His stomach was distended but he was very skinny. He just sobbed and sobbed when I first talked with him. He does not talk very much. We get a lot of head nods. When he worked in our sandbox he put everything in order - even my type, size, color! Tonya is very attached to him...of course she wants to take all of the children home. I told her this one would fit with her very well...they are both OCD.

Tonya has made a discovery that I did not even know about. The mosquitos love her. Even if there is one in my home - it will bite her 10 times. She is so fair skinned that they show up. The Belizeans are always counting her mosquito bites. Tonya asked the kids what to do about the mosquitos - they told her to get this one type of coil that burns (they call it fish). We now have about 15 of these things burning at any one time - smells like an incense store.

Tonya has also taken on the makeover of young girls - she is washing and trimming and curling hair. This has started a beauty shop in our home about every day. She has pictures. I made her go snorkeling yesterday with Reuban. She has pictures. I told her this was a growth experience to go alone. She did it and had a blast - she also did the punta dance last night!

Pam made us nuts. she left Saturday at 1 pm and was suppose to let us know when she arrived. She called Monday morning after she got home and slept 27 hours straight. I guess I work people a little too hard?

love and miss everyone!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pam is here! and What is Reality?

My fkrend, Pam, from California is here. she had a crazy trip here. Her palne was delayed in Houston for 3 hours. this meant she was coming in to Belize City at 5:30 pm. She did not understand why the airlines proclaimed this to be a problem for getting to San Pedro. (the planes do not fly from Belize City to san Pedro after dark.) they kept saying it would depend ont he weather - meaning clud cover and sunset. She made it though. She did not knwo where she was staying except for "with Kim". This proved problematic at customs as youhave to put on the immigration form - where you are staying. They let her go and she made the last flight. then she called me and sid I am sitting out on a dirt road by Tropic air and do not know what to do. I was waiting for her at Lime and checking on the flight, so I was right there. she said the taxi drivers kept asking her where she was going and she had to say - I do ot know. she said they just looked at her like she was crazy. I found her and all is well.

We got her settled in and went to eat at the Reef. Of course, she fell inlove with the food. We walked around town a little and since she had been up since 1:30 a.m. we went to sleep. Yesterday she met with Reuban about diving, Biggs about other trips, and then we got a golf cart and toured the island. I was planning on making stewed cicken for her but Johnson took over - I guess no one trusts my cooking or I am too slow or doing to many other things...Butch came over as did Johnson's sister who was in town. the food was great and Pam has gotten inducted into the island. She went cave tubing and to the zoo today. She had to be on the dock at 6:30 a.m. to leave. I woke up at 5:15 a.m. and heard her making coffee and I think she already had showered. I asked "why so early?" she said she was too excited to sleep and just got up. I walked her to the dock and went back to bed.

My email is not working due to some problem with the olemiss server...I am sorry if you have written me anything since Friday as I have not managed to get on it...I will call the tech people tomorrow to find out the problem.

Pam said something last night that I have been thinking about. She said I know why you have a hard time leaving this place - you have a hard time going back to reality. I said, "This is real." and she disagreed. so what is reality? I need feedback on this one...I have been thinking about this all day and can't seem to wrap my mind around what I truly think - my mind just goes into a blur of thoughts - you know the rapid firing kind that you can't sort out? There were many people around yesterday that wanted to meet her. They were all so anxious and excited to tell her about the island and to learn about her. They were creole, spanish, garifuna, east indian, English, American and who knows what else. We had dinner with people I just met. Johnson's sister, Virginia, came in on a sailboat with her husband from Sartinea (8 hours of sailing) to sell a huge boatload of fruits and vegetables. Virginia is a wonderful woman. She sold her produce from the moment she got here - slept on the boat so no one would take her stuff, then walked all over town selling her produce (and we are talking about great amounts) in the heat, and then would not sit still and wanted to do the dishes! It was so much fun talking to her. I am always amazed (and not sure why) at how all women have the same issues - no matter where we are from. She is out selling again today.

Ok - back to the question - what makes this feel so unreal compared to our lives in America? Is it just island life? Is it the friendliness of people you have just met? Is it that you feel cared about? People have the same problems that we have in America and are faced with survival on a very real basis. Their work extremely hard and they work long hours. Is it just the beauty of everything around - the ocean, the palm trees, the flowers? Is it the laid back attitude? When I add it all up it does have a surreal feel but then it is so very real. I have a friend in Memphis who has written about trying to find the same happiness in Memphis that she has on the island. when people look at pictures of me when I am here, they always say - "you look so happy." do I not look happy at home? If I don't, then which place is more real to me?

I have had my lonely moments or days here. I have had frustrations and gotten angry with a few people. The forgiveness here and the ability to get past what has caused disagreements is phenomenal. i am getting lessons in this. So I guess my experiences feel real. so I invite any comments on this.

love and miss you all.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lazy days in the sun

I am officially on Easter break. I have sadly left my faculty report for now so it is cutting into my days in the sun. I guess it is keeping me from becoming totally ruined for work though. It is amazing how quickly I can become so lazy that I do not even want to walk to get food. I love food - especially Belizean food. I was thinking last night if I missed any food in the States. sometimes I get hungry for a reuban sandwich and I might think about the prime rib at Boures - good martini's (is that a food?) and American tacos(which are very different form Belizean tacos) but i can for sure tell you that i am not missing the fast food at all. Of course I do have a food court in the park and with the street vendors but it is fresh food. I have learned to cook Belizean style and wonder if I can cook anything American except grilled cheese and oatmeal.

I have two friends coming to stay with me. Pam is from University of California at Chico and Tonya is from Mississippi. Both are social workers. Pam is a professor and Tonya works for MDHS in child welfare. It will be so good to have them here. I always love seeing a first time visitor in Belize see the ocean here for the first time. It is also fun to watch new folks experience all the cool and different things here. It seems like new visitors can always find something that I didn't know about too. Pam will be diving and I am not sure what Tonya likes but they will both help me at the school.

I need to work on this activity report. argh.

love and miss you all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

physician heal thyself

I have been sick since Sunday. some kind of upper respiratory crud. I went to the doctor and was given some antibiotics. I have been in the bed for 3 days and I am ready to be better. In all of this though I have had a lot of time to think. I know most of you are saying "uh oh". I mostly cleared my mind and rested but it came to me that I have not been following my own rules for staying healthy in a traumatic line of work. It may not have seemed to me like my life was full of traumatic events and my mind was not on how it was affecting me. I know I allowed myself to get to wore out and I was not balancing my life with other good things. Sometimes, I think, there are so many wonderful things that happen with the children that i do not see how the trauma that they are going through has an effect on me. I am on break for Easter now and I am going to refuel. It is amazing to me how I have studied and researched the effects of indirect trauma, written a book on it, do workshops all over the country...and still it sneeks up on me. Just the nature of the beast, I suppose, I think I can handle anything - and I probably could if I was managing it all properly. I will do better. Miss you all and love ya.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

my children and story telling

I love my children. I know you think I am talking about my children at the school. I do love them. I am talking, however, about the children I gave birth to and my nieces and nephews. My sisters and I often wonder how we could have been so blessed to have such great kids - when their parents are a little on the side of less than sane! We know we were not the most perfect parents - far from it - but our children have been surrounded by love. What I love the most about them is that they each have so much love to give and they do not hold back - they do not choose to love the lovable but often they love the people who think they are unloveable. David, my son, just wrote a blog about picking up a hitchiker when he was 20 years old (this is the first I heard of this...we will talk later! just kidding). How can I say anything about what my children do when I do the same thing. None of us take the safe and easy path. David's story - He learned a valuable lesson from a man hitchhiking and remembers the story 8 years later. David never meets a stranger - well if the person was a stranger, they won't be for long. He accepts people as they are and can find the good parts of every person. He never does anything to hurt anyone on purpose and his heart hurts if he does hurt someone else. This does not mean he does not have standards - to e David's friend you also have to find the good in you. He has the best sense of humor and can find it in every situation. He has married the most wonderful woman. She is a perfect match as David can go down some really wayward paths...Natasha has the sense to see when something is too wayward. Adventurous - they both are and have committed to go through this world together. It is cool to watch David - with his laid back self and Natasha and her motivated drive actually work it all out. They help each other. David would take blame and punishment for what someone else did during his school years when he knew the other child would be beat or could not handle what would happen. Sacrifice and thinking of others...how often do you find that?

Did I mention that all of our children are super intelligent? Yet, they each have the most fun personalities.

Amanda, my daughter, how to explain...well, I walk down any street in San Pedro and after she has only been here twice - not a day go by without several people asking me about Amanda - some people I do not even know. A story about Amanda - When she was young she said that she would never be a social worker like her mother...I think the job took too much time from her...and she knew it was hard on me. When she first moved to Memphis, I went to see her. The first morning I woke up in her apartment to noise just outside the window. I woke her up as I was conerned. She said, "oh mom, it is just the homeless guys - I leave them canned goods on the garbage can." Later that day as we went around midtown in Memphis, I found that she knew and spoke with all the homeless people in the area. Glad she didn't go into social work...right. She has befriended the hardest people to be friends with and even though she has been hurt over and over - she forgives and just loves. I think she has the most tenacity for continuing love without being loved back of anyone I know. Children love her - of course she still knows how to play and has the heart of a child. She is resilient too. did I mention she has a huge voice with a personality that cannot go unnoticed? You will know if Amanda is anywhere near. She can also tell the best stories with all the theatrics - she is our drama queen.

Ben, the youngest son, he is my wise one. He seems to have just been born with knowing right from wrong. He sees and sizes up people in less time than it takes to say hello. He knows good hearts from those meant to harm. When he was 6 years old I starting trying to date after being a year divorced. He told me he didn't like the guy because he had curly hair. He was respectful and polite but never did warm up to him. Of course, he was right. When the man started unraveling and showing his true self, Ben was there to witness - not dangerous or anything - just nuts. My dating adventures make for very funny stories - another blog another time - Ben and I see the world and people the same - we know now to trust each other and can communicate without words - just looks. It is hard for us to go shopping or out in public as we notice the same things and we can also find humor in the most everyday situations. Ben is quiet until he has something to say but he can also tell the best stories in the funniest ways. Ben used to go to class on the first day of the year and come home and say - "yep, got another teacher with issues" proved true - and the worst issue that Ben could not tolerate was when the poor kids or alienated kids were picked on by a teacher. He has been in trouble more than once for his not standing by and allowing this to happen. I was not concerned with this kind of trouble.

I think my kids have the best stories because they get out there and live life - take chances and they take the time to hear people's stories that other's by-pass. I am so proud of them.

I am also proud of my nieces and nephews. Holly, my niece, is the top of her class at Mississippi State and quite the comedian. I love the way Hollie just has always done her own thing without much fuss - she doesn't need or want recogniton - she watches and takes in and then when the time is right - she has the greatest interpetive story. She is a stand-up comedian and takes in all the craziness around her but still stays the most sane. We share the love of books.

Jess, Hollie's sister, knows what she wants in life. She wants to love, be loved, and have a family of her own. When Jess tells you she loves you - there is no fluff - she is always true to what she thinks and who she is and gives to others in a very kind and simple way - when I look at her I just see pureness and giving. She is pregnant with her first child. I can't wait have a new baby in the family. Jess is also a story teller. Another point about Jess - you never have to wonder what she is thinking - she lets you know - she is one of those people who will tell you for your own good what you need to hear even if it is hard to hear. She does not choose the easy path either and she can be a bit stubborn but I love it - gives her attitude!

Kully, my niece who shares my love for travel and taking on the most difficult situations. She is going to med school in the fall. she has spent months in Bolivia on a medical mission trip. This is her second time. She wants to help the poorest of the poor children. She has a heart a big as Texas. She feels the pain. She has had so many tragedies and losses in her life and still gravitates to working with the tragic. Calm, cool and collected as she methodically works through what ever comes her way, she is a woman of action. She has stories to tell and manages through laughter and balance in her life.

Josh, my only nephew, is probabably the funniest of all with the dryest and quickest humor. He is going to the Air Force Academy in Colorado. He want to serve his country. I am going to miss him as we can't have regular contact during these first months at school. Josh is an athlete, a scholar and a leader. He is a spirtual person and all people love Josh. He is most respectful of others and treats all with dignity and respect - here we go again - even those who other's might shun or make fun of - Josh is their champion. He also loves to read but don't tell anyone - messes with that macho image.

So can you see why I love them all? I guess I am having a hard time as I miss them all so much. The Easter break has begun. I saw the children of Holy Cross playing in the ocean and playing the games our children do not even know anymore - tag, hide and seek, hop skotch, and of course soccer. I love to watch them play. I saw a little girl last night with her dad. I knew the dad and he asked the little girl if she knew me - I had not worked with her at all - but she said, "that's miss kim at my holy cross school." I have several of you who have written to tell me the children's stories are touching your hearts. It is not just the ones with problems...there are many children with wonderful loving parents and they give so much love that just grabs me...I think that is why I was thinking about my own family and how we have given love that will be multiplied out with our children. It is not because we did much right except try and love a lot. The children who are loved will give love - that is the answer - I am sure it is that simple. The only way to work with the parents who can't love is to love them too,

love and miss you all.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Choose the good path

I was riding with Mr. Victor in his cab today. This is always a special time for me. I tell him all the time that he is my counselor. He just laughs - but really he is...He has a bible and a devotional book next to him on the console. I picked up the devotional book and it talked about choosing the good path...listening to what god wants you to do. Mr. Victor and I talked about this. I told him that I want to come back and continue to work with the children at Holy Cross, but the way is not being made for me to do this. I just have to know that God will make the way for me to be where I am suppose to be. If he keeps me in Mississippi - there is a reason.

I know many of you have been praying for me. I know because after I wrote my last blog I went to bed. I woke up and had a peace about me. I got up and had the strength to go back to school and felt happy. I could keep the smile going all day. the little boy came to me and said he wanted to introduce me to his best friend. She is the most angelic little girl you will ever see or know. It made me happy to know she was there for him. I do not know why but seeing the two of them together reminded me of the Forrest Gump movie and Forrest's little girl friend. He then came up to me and said I am ready to talk to you. My heart went into my throat. I asked him if he wanted to talk to Ms. Grace also - he said yes. When we got to her office - he was calm and just told us that he was good. He acknowledged that we cared and that we loved him and just want to help but he still would not tell and even said no one was hurting him. I can't help but feel like he just wants to protect us. I can't explain why I think this but Ms. Grace feels it also.

I witnessed something that will be hard to explain. I will try. Our boys (10-12 year olds) in "anger management group" have a problem sitting still. We have passed a nerf ball around...Amrie decided to bring a little tub of smooth polished stones to the group for them to hold while they talked. When she put the tub on the table they grabbed for them - each trying to get the most. they hid them - put them in their pockets - tried to grab other stones from each other...caused quite a ruckus...I just watched for awhile. then I said, "STOP. put all the stones you have on the table in front of you and do not touch them. They could not do it. It took forever for them to be able to put the stones on the table and put their hands in their laps and still they were so guarded and worried about someone taking their stones. I told them to think about what they were doing. The stones were about 25 in number and the whole bag cost about $1 US. No stone was prettier than another or worth more. It was amazing. They had to talk about why they think what someone else has is better and how they did not trust anyone to not take something away from them - even when it was worthless. They fought over worthless stones.

Amrie had another culture lesson. This followed the lesson - you have to ask the right question or information will not be forthcoming.

My lesson - the post office. before I start - I do love and appreciate our postal workers but I have had the craziest time getting 6 boxes that tonya sent me. First - they were addressed to the school but because it had attention to me - I had to go sign for them. I went on tuesday afternoon. I was told that they could not give them to me because it was the last day of the month. Let me say - it is hard for me to leave the school to go to town and with 6 boxes - I have to not be walking. I went back today. The power was off - no electricity - somehow that was a reason I could not get my boxes. Needless to say - you folks that know me - let's just say - I was a little frustrated. The power came on and I got the boxes...I was laughing though...more lessons for me in slowing down.

We have an Easter festival tomorrow. The drummers and dancers will be performing. I wish you could here them and see them. The volunteer dentists were great this week. They saw 85 children!

I think our girls anger management group is going well. (the girls decided they wanted one also.) After group today - we said we would not have group tomorrow as the festival was happening...they said they wanted to come to group anyway...well, at least we know it not just to get out of class.

We need a full time social worker on this island who works for DHS. We need a foster care system on the island. Just thought I would ay it again. If I talk about this girl's situation it would be to easy for some to know who she is...let's just say...she has a social worker - on the mainland...she needs to talk to her...this child has been abandoned over and over - reactive attachment disorder, post trauamtic stress, depression...she needs a permanent home. argh! and all in all - she is holding it together....I told her Martha's story today - she is a friend who is a social worker in the states with child welfare who was a foster child. I told her because when I said "we are going to figure out how we can take everything you have been through and turn it in to good." she looked at me like I was crazy and said "how?"

I hope this blog reaches counselors and social workers who might have some time to come here and work. You are needed. I know the social workers on the mainland have a high caseload but there is the thought that the kids on the island do not have the needs of the kids on the mainland. I cannot fathom how the country can ignore San Mateo and the other communities. these families have stong ties and they are good people but they are stressed with financial concerns and survival needs. they work so hard just to barely make it and there is no time left for family and to nurture the children. they would if they could.

signing off - love and miss you all.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My broken heart

My heart is breaking. I can't stop the tears. I have to keep this child's identity hidden but for those who know me just know this is about he child that has stolen my heart. They all have a piece of my heart but this one is more capable of tearing through my soul than any child I have ever met in all my years of child welfare. He is 7 years old. He carries the biggest burden. He tries to be strong as is as strong as any man that I have ever known - probably stronger than most men I know. He has been being good. Today he had a horrible day. He disrespected the teacher very badly. He couldn't, therefore, go to drumming. I went to get him out of drumming and he looked so hurt. I took him into another room and said, "What is wrong, what has happened that you had such a bad day?" He started crying, trying hard to not cry but his tears started flowing and would not stop. He had a t-shirt under his shirt and her took it out from being tucked in to wipe his tears and nose. My heart broke again. How many times can my heart break for one child? How many pieces can my heart be in and still keep beating?

I asked him if he was still being beat at home and he shook his head no. I told him that what he said to his teacher makes me think that he knows too much about sex - more than a boy his age should know. I asked him if someone was hurting him in a sexual way and he shook his head yes. For my friends in child welfare - you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when a child admits this to you...for those of you who have never had this experience...I hope you never have it. It is the worst. I can't even compare it to someone dying. I believe when someone dies they are in a better place. There is no more suffering as we have on this earth. The joys in heavan can not even compare to the joys on earth. When a child tells me that someone is hurting them - I have to be able to help them - I have to be able to make the suffering stop. It is what I am trained to do. This child is carrying this burden alone. He is too frightened to tell me who. He will not tell. I tried to tell him that I can't help him if I do not know who it is that is hurting him. He just cried and cried.

I was holding it together and he stopped crying so hard and I looked at him and said, "Is it because you are thinking about not being in school for two weeks - having to be home for two weeks with no school?" He began crying so hard and shook his head yes.

My God. Where is my God? What child does not look forward to being home from school on a break? I pray for this child every day. I pray for all the children everyday. I hope everyone reading this prays also. I do not doubt that God is here. I see Him everyday working in the lives of these children. I do not know why these things happen to children. I have to believe He is helping this child cope. This child has so much love to give and he is so intelligent. He is an angel but what is happening to him is because of the evil that is allowed to roam.

When he let me know that he just did not want to be home for 2 weeks. I lost it. I couldn't help it. All the years of training went down the drain. I just cried. I held him and rocked him and just cried with him. How can I tell him that I love him when he knows I won't always be here for him? How can a little 7 year old boy know that a day won't go by that I do not think of him and all the children who have touched my heart?

He calmed and he began to read me a book. when he finished I told him that I needed to go to the bathroom. I really was going to find Ms. Grace, the principal. I found her and she was with his teacher. I tried to talk to her but I started crying again. I told them that I know he can be impossible but please know he is trying to control himself. He just can't. Ms. Grace has the right name. She is so full of grace. she went immediately to him and tried to talk to him. She told me that he would think about it tonight about whether he could tell us what is happening to him. He told me he had to go home because if he was late he would get a lashing.

I let him go. I went back to see the drummers and they were finishing. they asked me if I heard how good they were today. I just smiled and said "yes, I heard you. I was listening. You are doing so good." they just beamed. There smiles can take away some of the pain I feel. At night, when I am alone, the pain returns.

I hear the ocean. I watched it today. The ocean calms me. Somehow, the ocean and the sky in Belize makes me feel so close to God. It is so big. It is so powerful. The colors are like no where else in the world. God is here. No other way to explain the beauty or how people can exist day to day with such hard lives and still be so happy.

When I was leaving the school today a man pulled up in a golf cart in the school yard. He asked me if I was a part of this school. I said yes. He said tell me about this school. How can I put into words what this school means to the children here?

I love you all and miss you.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

101 degrees

whew! It is 101 degrees here today. They say the Easter winds are starting. All I can say is it is hot and humid and I am sweating a lot. Everyone is always commenting on how much I sweat. I respond with either - I am healthy or I am fat or both.

I had a lot of mixed emotions this week at school. It was the best of times and the worst of times, to quote. I have good news as our mom that went to Guatamala made it back with needed documents by report of her son. Also - "N's" mom has returned from the states - she is much better. the group of boys who are anger management are doing a lot of great work together. They have been alking about their home lives and have opened the group to a couple of other boys in their class that they thought needed to come to the group. They made a promise on Wednesday to not say bad things about each other's mothers (this has been a terrible issue) and they have kept from it for two days. They even laughed as one boy got mad on Thursday and went to say "Your ma..." but he stopped at Your...and just grunted as he could not finish it without breaking the promise. They all laughed. then they promised Thursday to not touch each other - no punching, hitting, etc. they kept that promise also. We need stress balls for them to hold during group - we are passing around a nerf ball right now. I am going to ask Tonya to bring some - anyone who has some from all of our conferences - try to get them to her.

I have a new colleague. Amrie is a PhD student from Austria - she is originally from Germany. she is doing her internship with me here. She has been here a week and has been a lot of help. Plus - we can share ideas and she is a good counselor. she is making a sand box for play therapy - cool stuff is being collected. she is also good with autistic kids. She is working with a child that we have not been able to keep in class who is autistic.

The negative side of the week is that overall the children started at the end of the week to become more and more violent with each other and defieant toward their teachers. Ms. Grace predicted the week before Easter break would be rough. It started already and we have next week to go. One child - nto knew to me - stabbed another child around the eye with a pencil. this one is trouble every day but not this bad. We had to call the police and if he messes up one more time, he will go to boot camp on the mainland. I just do not know how to help him. He showed no remorse for his harm of the child. Another 3rd grader (male) punched a 3rd grade girl in the face - big bruise - then took her sandal and tore it apart. Amrie and I talked about it as this was not all of it - We think the kids are anxious and they do not want to be home for two weeks. Home is not good and they probably won't be fed much. It is a definite change in how they are acting. I just got a break from one problem after another and then Noel came looking for me and said Ms. Grace needs you now outside - Lord, Lord..."V" had pulled one her silent defiance acts and when Ms. Grace and a male teacher were premoving her from class - she just sat down in the sand outside and would not move. This child's mother is in the states and was suppose to be back by the middle of march - no word. I just went out there and looked at her and said, sit there as long as you want. " - (In the hot sun) I just talked to someone standing by in the shade for about 5 minutes and then looked at her and said "Are you ready to go to my office?"she shook her head yes and came with me. I had to talk with her sister also the next day - they are beyond upset about their mom. what is she doing?

Cindy delivered a new hammock for my balcony! Are you all turning off your lights tonight? I am wondering if the bars will turn off their lights at 8:30 for an hour. Of course there has been one parade already today - not sure why...then there is suppose to be another parade tonight for this earth day thing or whatever it is. We have a lot of parades.

I have had a few discussions about the "be real" situation. I think at least with those I count as my friends here - they listened.

Ok - it is hot! Miss you and love ya.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

be real

You have to be real. I guess that is the opposite of being fake. I have heard this line more than once since coming to Belize - someone telling another to "be real". I think honesty is one of my redeeming qualities - sometimes to a fault. It has gotten me in trouble on many occasion as I have never been able to "kiss butt" or cover what I am really feeling or thinking. It is always very evident. I have, therefore, decided it is better for me to be real. I am in a culture in which even though people go around saying be real, it does not seem to be the mode of operation. This is the hardest part of being in Belize. One of my friends wrote me an email today that made me start thinking about this and how frustrating it is to be around people who function by not being real to tourists, especially, but even with each other they are not real. (Let me say at this point that I am trying to not stereotype the whole population - give me time to explain).

She wrote "it's pretty bad when the discovery guide talks about how belizean men are rarely faithful to one woman,and crave variety-wow-it's in the freakin guide book-not like i expected monogamy from any man there but it's a fact huh."

It is really in the guidebook. wow.

I am always wondering when I am talking to someone if they are being real. I think the longer that I am here, the more I am learning and as I become more welcomed into the community, I think people are becoming more real. I watch interactions between locals and tourists and see a play act going on - it is hard to explain because I think the Belizean people are basically friendly people and they take time to just talk - and about important things - and they can be great, loyal friends...but there is another underlying issue that divides. I think it is the idea that all Americans, Canadians and Europeans that come here are rich and that the locals do what they can to gain material things from them and at the same time there are may of these tourists who think they are better than people from Belize. I am not saying this is blatant or that this is done on purpose or with any kind of thought process behind it. Not usually. It becomes a make believe time in which everyone has fun together in the fantasy but when I pull back the curtain, the actors and actresses are really different from the roles they play with each other. This is true in every place I go - it is just more evident here to me. Maybe it goes back to the guidebook comment. It is more pronounced that the men romance the tourist women and just lie about their wives, children, girlfriends with children, etc. It runs over into other parts of their lives too.

I guess this in on my mind because of what I hear and see at the school. I am working with 5 ten and eleven year old boys - anger management in a group. All but one is being abused physically and emotionally. They come to school and turn on each other. They tell stories about their home lives that are more than I can even listen too and they are also imitating the racism that they hear and see at home. Racial slurs, basing people's worth on the darkness of their skin - literally the shades of darkness. I think poverty and racism go hand in hand with lack of education but the ill effects of racism on all of our societies makes me so sad. Lack of education and poverty is not the only thing that breeds racism. why do we spend so much time trying to divide ourselves through economics, race, nationality, gender? I like to spend my time and energy getting closer to people and learning and understanding. I know it sounds like I am getting jaded - not really - just aware of what is around me. I am struggling with how to get people to be real with me. I do not judge and I have a lot of love. Just be real.

Being "real" would allow us to stop basing how we treat each other on the color of skin. I feel so alone in this thought. I know I am not alone but there are so many actors in the world that I can't tell who is real and who is faking it. Are people treating me nice because I am white and they think I have something to give them in a material way? or are they my friend because of who I am and because I am real? I feel tested a lot - another word around here is "true?" When I say something...response...true? why do we have to keep checking on whether or not somehting is true? one would think because there are a lot of lies. I hate lies. They feel like the ultimate betrayal. I can't believe someone after they have lied to me and it messes up everything.

I am in a weird mode today. My students have left. They were great! they worked so hard at the school and played so hard in the evenings. Of course everyone loves the ole miss students! Everyone around here misses them. My drummers are doing great. We have a free drumming lesson tomorrow from the man who made the drums. He is bringing the big drum tomorrow. I have not heard that the mom who went to guatamala got back yet so keep praying. "N"'s mom has not made it back yet either.

I made fried green tomatoes last night and fried chicken - time to bring mississippi to belize. of course i didn't have milk for my batter so i used cococut milk for my tomatoe batter...pretty good.

love and miss y'all!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

why is i so hard to follow my heart?

I stole this line from my friend Dr. Jim from Durham, North Carolina. He is wishing he could come here to work all the time too. I am having a hard time thinking about leaving these children. D asked me the other day when I had to leave and then when was I coming back? I can't tell him and he looked so distressed. I am about to cry right now thinking about his face. He and N have totally stolen my heart. I have used the money from Wendy's church to buy 8 drums and a set of turtle shells for my standard I boys (which includes D and N). they have to behave all day and do their work to be able to come to after school drumming. We have been practicing and I am telling you - they are already getting good and being good in class. D and N walked me home tonight and N held my hand all the way home. when we got to their turn for their homes I gave them some a couple of dollars as they wanted a fry jack - they were running off to buy their treat and N turn around and said " I need a hug bye." I can't stand it. The tears are flowing as I write. I try not to think about leaving them and now that I have written it my heart hurts so bad. I tr to just savor the smiles and hugs and good times but the other thoughts creep in - especially at night when I am alone.

The twelve Ole Miss students are here along with Angela Gaddis and her family. Angela is a professor at Belhaven and she is shadowing me in order to develop a program like this at Belhaven. Angela has the most adorable 13 year old son, Andrew. He is running and playing with all the island kids. Andrew helped Johnson cook for all the students last night. We ate the rest of the Baracuda and snapper and shrimp with rice and tortillas. The students loved it...but while Johnson was cooking - he allowed Andrew to cook with him - I cam through and saw what all he was letting him do and said...wait a minute - you wouldn't let me in the kitchen when you cooked...why does andrew get to cut vegetables and do everything...andrew turned to me and said "It is just a man thing" Johnson loved it and high fived him...I told them I was about sick of this male bonding crap. They really are bonding...

My students are great as always! They are working one on one with children who need help with reading. They are doing a great job. Cynthia speaks spanish and was helping a little 7 year old girl who is form honduras and speaks spanish...she couldn't read her story yesterday but cynthia wrote out vocabulary words and when she came today she had studied them and could read her whole story. wow. they really are making a difference. Some of them stayed and played soccer with the kids but they decided they may be too good for them. The students are snorkeling with
Biggs tomorrow and then he is taking them fishing thursday afternoon and cooking for them Thrusday night. Most of them have been on a Maya Ruin tour (sunday) and one went cave tubing on saturday. They have gone to their first Kareoke at Wet Willy's and even though none of them had even sang Kareoke - they are now veterans and asking me where is the next one? We did Taco Tuesday tonight...there are 30 West Point Cadets at our same hotel...needless to say they have bonded.

I have a prayer request. I have been working with a mom who just has to get her immigration papers from Guatamala. She has been attaching herself to jerks - men who hit her and threaten to turn her into immigration if she doesn't put up with their crap...just to be able to feed and shelter her kids. We have talked...well, she speaks spanish but we are communicating...she wants to work but she has to have her papers. She has lost 2 babies from the last jerk beating her. She has a twelve year old boy who gets in the middle of the fights to protect his mom and a 6 year old girl. They have Belizean fathers. This lady came form Guatamala when she was 10 years old with a lady she did not know...can onl imagine.....she was pregnant by age 13 years and is now 25 years old. We took a leap of faith and went to immigration Friday morning. I was a ball of nerves trying to have faith that God would anser our prayers....the immigraiton officer is rough but I was about to cry and was begging and the six year old kept smiling at him...he finally said he would not deport her. she has to go to Belmopan and get traveling papers, then to Guatamala to get her birth certificate and passport - then come back to start the proceedings for legal immigrant. She left today (with the help of Wendy's church donation) to go do all of this...left the kids here...she had to....this is unbelievably scarey. What ifs??? I just keep saying God will bring her back with the documents.

The soccer moms won -- 9 to 1!

Why is it so hard to follow my heart...it is all about security and money. I do love teaching at Ole Miss - I mis everyone and miss teaching. It is just I don't know how to leave these children when there is no one else to carry the torch for them - when there is no social worker ont he island that can do counseling....

by he way, I have found a new type of therapy - keep kim from coming to our house to do family therapy - therapy. the couple that was not speaking except to yell and threaten each other - causing great stress to their son? well, the boy told me yesterday that after I told both his parents that I would come to their house - the situationw as serious with their son - the stress level has to be reduced in the home - so you can come to me or I will come to you but we will have a fmaily team meeting....he said they started talking and were even smiling and laughing with each other over the weekend...he even smiled.

I have been working wit a 5 year old who all of a sudden became violent and totally will not do his work after being ok...just after all the shootings. I have talked and talked to this child and can't get anything about what he angry about and he says he is afraid sometimes...well, i talked to mom today...he actually witnessed the shooting of his cousin. Mysery solved. I was floored.
Guess we know now ....what was that about doing a complete psychosocial history...

One of my 12 year olds told me that her mom is in the states and she cooks, clens, shops, etc. for herself and four bothers. Mom left her with a step-dad. Dad monitors all her calls to her mom. He also like to beat on the girl and the boys. What will happen??? future blogs....

getting sleepy...miss you and love you a lot.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cultural Responsiveness

To be responsive to a culture...I have lived through times when we were taught to be culturally sensitive, then culturally competent and now culturally responsive. If cultural responsiveness was walking down the road...what would it look like? I stole and adapted that line from Dr. Desiree Stepteau Watson. So what would it look like? I can learn about the Belizean culture. I can understand the culture. I can be sensitive to the culture. I can even adjust to the culture. It is trying to be me, which includes being an educated woman who loves people of all shapes and sizes and ethnicity and race and education and whatever...anyway, it is hard to be me and truly be accepted into this culture. Of course, tourists are accepted as tourists. Ex-patriots - pretty much stick together. Did I mention that I want to be emersed into the culture to really learn about it? That does not include living here and watching it from the outside or playing the role of a tourist. Suffice it to say that really emersing myself in the culture and among the people requires a lot of trust and the problem I am having is the way women and men treat each other here. I am still trying to understand the relationships and how they work or don't work. I do know that the children are suffering a lot due to the nature of the adult's relationships with each other. Thoughts at the end of the day...I have been into San Mateo three times today - I guess that is why I am thinking. Yesterday I continued to work on the issues from the day before and it became more and more evident that the problems between parents are cuasing so many problems for the children. I am going to immigration with one of the moms from Guatamala who needs to get here papers. She is scared to do but she has two Belizean children - on in our school - she keeps allowing a man to beat her who is threatening her with going to immigration to report her, etc. She needs to be legal. Pray that this works out ok. The Ole Miss students are coming tomorrow and Saturday. I just met another Ole Miss student who took the semester off to help his uncle build a bed and breakfast in Cayo. I convinced him to stay on the island until our students come! didn't take much. I met a couple from Taylor, Mississippi here on vacation.

Love an miss you all.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

and another thing...

I forgot to say that i had a great day yesterday. I was at Choloes....on my day off...sitting with Johnson and Eric came up and said do you want a Barracuda? Got it all cleaned and cut up and before we could leave the dock to take it home to cook...we sold the roe...for as much as we paid for the fish. I like this business....we fed many people - Johnson cooked again...a Fish Stew and Curry Rice....and we still have a lot of fish left. We also have the head if anyone is interested....People are actually fighting over the head. I like this kind of fishing and am learning about the fish sales business. Johnson introduced us to his daughter and son-in-law. Butch came by to eat and talk...just a good day.

Feels like Monday

Why are "first days" back after a holiday weekend always crazy? It does not matter where I work or how much rest I get or how I prepare myself...Today is no exception. First thing I worked with a child who is experiencing post traumatic stress from being in a house fire when he was 6 years old. His parents were not home and the children were asleep. The 6 yr. old boy got his younger sister and carried her out and woke his older sister. The older sister has been blamed as a candle caught a curtain on fire. They had no electricity. The parents are fighting, the children are being beat by their father now and the child was so stressed this morning. He is 12 years old now. He is having all the signs of ptsd. The hardest part...who will continue to work with him when I leave?

Then I had a boy with a knife...spent a few hours with the police trying to find his mother....have not found her yet.

Two 10 year olds bullying (this would be girls).

One little girl who is at the top of her class has been missing school. I called the mom to ask where she lives as I am coming out there...she said the child would be at school in 10 minutes...and she was but she was crying. I have no idea...she won't say. Pray for this one!

One little girl whose mom in in the states got stung by the sea grass...I was doctoring her...she said - Ms. Kim are you the new nurse? I said no, I am not a nurse, I have just taken care of a lot a kids and I am a mom. She said you are a good mom. I about cried. She wants her mom to come back so bad and mom keeps saying she will come and then she doesn't.

I did give "D" his converse shoes. He is so very happy!! He took forever to put them on and lace them up. Of course "N" was right there to watch. When he was almost finished he said can I give my boots that are too small to someone? I said well - ask your dad who you should give them to...he said I know another boy who doesn't have any shoes...he will be happy and my dad would not care. He said thanks for my converse shoes....

I am going to give a tour of San Mateo to the group from Duke University. They have worked hard today and have been a great help!

Love an miss you all.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Meet me at the waffle house...

My mind drifts to when I have to leave here and how am I going to adjust. I already have named my next blog for when I return and I am claiming it so that no one else can - It will be "Meet me at the waffle house" and I know I stole this line from Colt Ford - but "I love it!". Greg and Wednesday are here and I am having a great itme with them. they got here Friday at 1 pm and I have introduced them to all the folks at Paradise and my new friends on the island. they brought lots of stuff for the school - thank you to everyone who donated - it is awesome! I know their suitcases are going to be much lighter going home! I now have pepto and hydrocortisome cream and vitamins! I can't wait to give D his new converse tennis shoes. I want Greg and Wednesday to come to the school to give him his shoes. Greg and Ernesto just took off in the golf cart and I have know idea what they will get into before they return...Wednesday went to dive but came back as the water is really rough - she said the waves outside the reef yesterday were 8 feet. Not sure how she made it. We have learned that when they are out of Caribean rum do not get the parrot rum...asthe locals say - it makes your head crazy...I will let Wednesday tell you about that one...we had a politacal celebration last night. Election day was wednesday and the UDP (democrats) won. They had a parade through town - loud does not explain it - at 2 am after the votes were counted. Last night we had another parade and a central park party - $2 BZ beer and music I never saw so many people. It was cool to see people and watch the celebration.

One of my friends left today - tom from Idaho - he has been here 18 days. One cool thing about being the long termer - I get everyone's stuff that they can't take back. Today Tom gave me grey goose vodka (which I have not had for three months), pizza, milk, beer, rolls, mustard, mayo, some kind of local gin that I am not too sure about...aloe...i do not even know what all. sandy is leaving thursday and she is bringing stuff already. I was really glad that she gave me her oatmeal. The isalnd has been out of oatmeal and no shipment coming in for two weeks. Who would have thought?

Johnson cooked fish, shrimp, rice, and tortillas for us last night. We had so much fun. I tried to help him but he kept running me out of the kitchen. We have learned that he is an excelent chef. I told Greg that if we could open a restaurant in which Ernesto, Biggs, Martin and Johnson cooked but then I said well - they would each have to cook a different night as none of them could cook together...and we had butch bartending....man! I know we could rack in the people. anyone out there want to invest?

I am going to the pool to lay out with Wednesday and just hang today. We have a holdiay tomorrow. such is life. I do have the worry about what is happening with my house - another story - so Ben - you could email me and tell me what is up.

Love ya and miss you all.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New perspectives

Traveling has always been my greatest past time. I think that I have passed this down to my children as you can see by Amanda's and David's blogs - they are also travelers. I have never understood why some people do not like it. I think it goes back to moving so much as a child and not having roots anywhere. I have never felt like I belonged anywhere or that I really fit in to any community. This is not a bad thing; it just is. Even so, I learned to connect to people and have great friends and have met wonderful people throughout my moves and travels. It is more important to me to connect to people in a real way - to share the important things in life - our thoughts, our dreams, our struggles, our memories, our losses, our loves, and our passions. It is important to listen and be there when needed. It is important to be loving and not a burden to others and to stay as positive about life as I can.

I am just reflective today. I am thinking about my friends and home and my friends here. I am blessed to have great friends who put up with my craziness. Just thinking about how blessed I am. love and miss all my good friends.

Monday, March 2, 2009

answered prayers and joy

I recently was at a dinner with a group of volunteers who wanted to meet with community leaders in San Pedro. Everyone that was present had their name on a sheet with their emails and addresses. I had decided that I could go at the last minute so my name was not on the sheet. I sat next to the owner of Maya Island Air. He leaned over to me at dinner and said but your name is not on this list. I told him that I like to fly low. Those of you reading this are probably saying...yeah right because I seem to always be out there, but really, I have been thinking about this. Things happen that I know were because of my prayers and the things that are happening are from God answering prayer. It is not because my skills are that great. I pray constantly for guidance in what to do and for god to intervene in the lives of these children. The only thing I do is pray a lot and love them.

One answered prayer concerned "D" and "N" - my little "darling" boys that were getting in trouble everyday and not doing their work. I went to their class the other day because their teacher was in the office dealing with some things. I walked in and everyone was doing their work and being quiet. I said "wow, you all are doing our work quietly like little angels - who did your teacher leave in charge?" D and N both stood up proudly and said "we are - but you need to get onto that boy over there because he is not doing his work good and causing problems." I was shocked and said "You two are in charge? I am so proud of you! You are doing a great job!" they just beamed. I grabbed them up and hugged them. I know it was not my skills but god working to let them have better home lives and allowing me to love them. D gave me a picture that he drew for me. He is very talented. We have the drums ordered and will be getting them in a couple of weeks thanks to Wendy's fundraising efforts.

I have so much joy working with these kids that I just want everyone else to find the same joy. I have new neighbors at my condo and they are both retired enducators. They came to the school today and the woman is going to volunteer to teach D and N's class since their teacher left on maternity leave and we are without a teacher for a couple of weeks until they can find a replacement. I was telling her about D and N - when she met them - she said you know when I come to teach your class, I will need help - I wonder who could help me know what to do when. They both looked at each other and said - we will help you. I told them they will need to help Ms. Sharon with the little girl that just speaks spanish in their class too. they said - "no problem - we speak spanish". This is a far cry from where we were two months ago or even a month ago.

There has been a little girl that comes in every day with a stomach ache and headache. Of course I explore the school anxiety, possible abuse or issues at home, bullying form other kids, etc. Nothing....Now I don't have any idea why I thought of asking her about her diet and shen the headaches and stomach aches exist...I think it is from watching so many episodes of HOUSE. I think we have figured out that she has a wheat allery. cut out the pancakes in the morning and voila - no headaches and stomach aches. I totally do not know where these ideas come from if not divine intervention.

Our soccer moms won their soccer game sunday evening. They are so proud! Another awesome thing happened...I am trying to find a grant or something that would enable the start of a sewing co-op for the women of our neighborhood. They are all about this...I was at the pool Saturday and Jan ( a new friend) and I had been talking about the project...she came out of her room and said that she wanted to show me something. she had made a beach bag out of the plastice sacks that we get everywhere here. They ae all diffeent colors - she cuts them into strips and loops them together and rolls them into a ball - then she crochets them - presto - a waterproof, very colorful beach bag. I need crochet needles...and everyone at the pool said they would pay at least $50 for that bag if it was made in San Pedro...and then eveyone was brainstorming where we could put recycling boxes out for people to put their used bags..free materials - can't beat that and recycle at the same time. I told some of the moms today and they are excited. they could even make these while they are selling food.

"A" is a little boy who is very shy and quiet. He has become a new friend. He is about 8 years old - must be a sucker for that age...anyway, he was at my house last night and when he asked me if I had any paper glue as he had a project to do before tomorrow and needed glue. I said no - but the stationary store has glue - we can go get some. We went to the store and bout a little bottle of glue - about a dollar...his mom's boyfriend told me today that he was so proud to have his own glue and said he didn't want to take it to school as the other kids might want it. He cherished the fact tht he had his own bottle of glue. He came by tonight and walked with me to get a phone card at the stationery store...we got an eraser tonight. I just am amazed at how happy these children are with anything yo give them. Can you imagine our kids thanking us and being happy that we got them a bottle of glue or an eraser?

I have learned that when the weather changes, the bugs bite more. I also have not been eating my peppers. the weather was cold this morning - not as cold as Mississippi as I learned that we got snow this weekend...How was that baseball game at Ole Miss?

I moved to my different condo. It isn't setting well with me as I am not seeing my good neighbors as often. It is fine - just a change and I have enough going on that I wish I didn't have to change. I do have a CD player in this condo - think my neighbors are not happy about that. I got a little homesick this weekend. i talked to Ben and am missing you all so much. Then I learned that it snowed and was glad that I was here. don't miss the mississippi weather.

Greg and Wednesday will be here friday!!! I know yo all are thinking - no blogs for awhile...I will try to blog though. I have them bringing "stuff" - They emailed today to say they got it all and then I asked for crochet needles! then the next week I have 12 students coming form Ole Miss to volunteer for a week at the school. I have the work lined up! If any of you are reading this...there are also 30 West Point Cadets coming in for that week to our same condo complex...I really dread ladies night at Wet Willy's. Anyone want to come and help?

Hung out with Butch and Johnson at times this weekend. that was fun. They can always make me laugh.

I pulled one of my old child welfare rantings the other day...this mom sent a 5 year old wlaking to school quite a ways and she had a high fever, coughing, crying when she got there. Her 6 year old brother - it was also learned that morning - had lice...I tokk them both home in the taxi and the mom came sauntering up to me looking irritated that I had the kids...I sort of was a little stern with her about sending her child to school sick and she needed to take her to the doctor..then I said this child has lice..she wanted to argue with me and say that black people do not get lice - well - it you took care of his head and hair he would have less chance but I showed her the lice and said what do you call this? about that time, Mr. Victor, the cab driver and "my counselor" got out of the van and said "maam, please jsut take yor child to the doctor - ms. kim - we need to go" I asked hime when I got in the cab if he was rescuing me or her? He just shook his head and laughed. The child was better today and the other has his head shaved...love this work.

I am going to sleep now. I want to go to work tomorrow! It is a joy to want to get up in the morning to go to work! I like work days better than weekends.

Love and miss you all - keep praying - we have know idea what good things will happen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Highlights from the past 11 days

You probably think that since Pammie and Wendy showed up I forgot how to write...well, we were just super busy and I could not find a block of time to sit and write. i will catch you up now though as they left today. It is so quiet and lonely at my house tonight. I have the geiko and a new frog outside that the cat is driving crazy. Since the cat has not killed it, I am wondering if it is poisonous. I am not going near it.

Pammie and Wendy were awesome social workers and I do say I know they have many new friends and email partners to keep up with now. They helped me more than I can even explain by interviewing children and giving me new eyes to things that happen every day at the school and on the island. I am having hard time processing what happened today as I have had them to talk to every night and morning. It just helps to have someone to talk to about the days here. They worked hard and sweated a lot. I miss them already. Everyone was sad today and asked if they really left.

The highlights of the last days...D and N are actually doing their work! They have not been sent out of class either. I did a sexual abuse prevention talk yesterday to the Standard I students - their classes - 60 7 and 8 year olds...I had questions like I have never had before and I have probably done this talk over 100's of times. One question - So what happens if the person who is trying to sexually abuse you has a knife or a machete and they are going to cut your throat? What if you can't get away? Now you have to imagine that he is showing me the cut across the throat as he is asking the question...another question - "I heard that if they sex you - you can get pregnant, is that right?" and when asked where you might me when sexual abuse happens...on the beach, behind the bushes, in a hotel, in a shop, in your house...who? dad, step-dad, uncles, moms, tourists, anybody! ok enough - it was more than I could take from 7-8 year olds. D and J came up to me afterwards and told me that J had seen someone hold a knife to a kids throat in Belize city but he got away but the guy shot at him. D wanted to talk but then didn't so I am waiting him out and checking with him every day.

On the lighter side...I have given three of the worst behavior girls in Standard II (third grade) post-it-notes that are heart shaped, flower shaped and they just love them. I also took them for ice cream when they acted appropriately for a week. Three other girls fromt he same class walked me home the other day. One of them said do you have any more of those heart notes? I said no, but I am trying to get someone to bring me some from the states because i figure all little girls in Standard II need heart shaped notes...she said well, do you think all little girls need ice cream? I thougth for a sec and said hmmm...i am sure that all little girls need ice cream - so when are we going? they said next week. I am going to walk them home friday and ask their parents if we can get ice cream.

The San Mateo moms...wow...their soccer coach - Cruz - came to me last Friday and said - "Miss Kim, we have a problem. The shirts you got the ladies for their soccer are white and all the other teams have white shirts." I told him that I don't have another color of shirt. He said then you have to dye them. No, not me...unless you want tye died....then he said no we need you to buy the dye and they will dye them - ok - long discussion on color....how to dye....they showed up on Sunday afternoon with beautiful blue-gray shirts that match the school colors - i told them the marble look they created is one you pay big money for...they won their game and played so good together - Lynette played and made a goal! Now we have tow more things happening. We had a meeting and they are in favor of starting a coop - cottage industry. They need income. So after much discussion - we want to teach them to sew - make island table clothes, place mats, napkins, clothing, and the school jumpers. They also want to learn to make pastries to sell. During the discussion though - one mom said - but Miss Kim even if we got the sewing machines donated...we do not have electricity - we need a building with electricity, sewing machines, material and a teacher...to start. Any ideas for grants? One of the volunteers is all aobut helpign with this. Then one of the moms came to me after church sunday and said we have problem...one?

We have about a dozen kids who are not in school way back in San Mateo and there is not room at the school. They can't go anywhere else and they are going to be so far behind their ae group. so Wendy and Pammie and I walked the planks...talked to them about the issue and there are two women who have high school educations who could teach in that little area...we are going to get the lesson plans and books for the different ages and they are going to home school until the fall to try to catch them up. We saw Shirley's garden too - amazing how she can grow anything in the soil...she knows how to make the compost to make the soil that can grow things. We saw how they cook on an open fire of coconut shells. Amazing women.

Ernesto and I took the guests on a tour of the island on Saturday - north and south and went thorugh DFC and San Predito. they had the $15 dollar tour that not many get. We ate at all my favorite restaurants and tried a new pizza place that was really good. Wendy learned that no sooner do I mention a persons name and they show up - really weird. They have experience Kareoke also and Wendy and I sang a lot - our best one is "I love this bar", #2 - mountain music, #3 - delta dawn, #4 - rocky top,#5 - country roads....on and on. I will miss my kareoke partner. Wendy celebrated her birthday last Friday - we had a dinner with friends at Nautica and I had them put a candle in the key lime cheesecake with mango sauce. She even got gifts. they sort f learned to Punta dance...heard about the gringo in belize, had mango mojitos, learned about dirty bananas, learned that eating here takes time...had a few belikins. Ernesto cooked stew chicken, homemade tortillas, cocnut rice and potatoe salad for them. They will be back.

Wendy collected enough money to buy the drums. There will be a trip to the mainland. She also brough money to support the soccer teams. I hope I have some vitamins coming this way by volunteers and visitors as we are out of them.

Pammie uncovered a situation in which two little boys were coming dirty to school - no money coming into a single parent hoem because their dad left. They have not had water for months. I learned a lesson in this situation...Pammie got them two new shirts each so they would not be filthy shirts...one did not have his new shirt on the next day. I asked him why and he said he was saving it. I asked him if they had any food in their house for the weekend - he said yes. When mom cam upon request to talk with me on monday - she said S said you asked him if we had food and he told you yes - i teach my children not to beg or tell what we do not have but we really have no food. Ms. Laura said "kim, when you ask them those questions - they will never tellyou that they do not have food." So what do you do? Just figure they dont and get the food.

some things are nuts you know - I heard a preacher talking about fasting for lent to these children...sorry...just didn't set right with me - they could give up a meal for someone else to eat?? wonder who among use can go from friday noon until monday morning with nothing to eat? just wondering....wendy kept feeling guilty when we were eating at restaurants...

This may be enough for tonight. I am going to try to attach a sermon to my blog that Rev. Ann wrote about the blessing of the house. I can't read it without crying. She has captured the experience much better than I did. I hope it works to attach it. I continue to be amazed at how the people here let me into their lives. I am the one being blessed. Take care, love and miss you all.