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 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 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 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 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 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 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.