Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bus trip to Guatemala City

Dana! Thank you so much for the Spanish encouragement. I have just broken through another wall and reached a new phase. As long as I keep progressing and pushing through the fear I am happy. I am excited about my new primary calling - I am the nursery teacher. The perfect spot to start me! I only have to give a 5 minute lesson in Spanish so that shouldn't be too hard. Problem is Gabby loves the primary secretary that's been substitute teaching and doesn't want me to be her teacher. I am so sad. I am feeling pretty comfortable talking to little kids in Spanish and am starting to overcome the fear of not speaking perfect sentences and trying to communicate with adults. When we were at the temple on Saturday a group of MTC elders were practicing giving discussions to the members waiting outside the temple. My Spanish is quite a bit better than theirs so I had to kick myself. If they can get out and speak then so can I. One Elder told Nathan (in spanish) that he is going to be in the MTC for 6 years!! Ahhh! The joys of learning a new language.

Last weekend we stayed at the Del Monte Colony Friday and Saturday night. A guy at church can get us a room for free in their hotel like apartments. We left at 3 am Saturday morning to go to Guatemala City to the temple. We were packed into a fifteen passenger van. The trip to the City went good because the kids and Nathan all slept and there was no traffic on the road so the driver was able to cruise at a quick pace.

I forgot to bring my camera. I am so sorry! I think we are going back this weekend though so I promise to take pics and post them.

I forgot to bring sweaters for everyone and we froze. It is so weird to me how we can be so cold when it is 75 degrees outside. The body is a funny thing how it is able to adjust and change with circumstance. I always wandered how in the world the women in Colonial Virginia didn't die wearing all those layers in the heat of summer with no AC. Now I understand. Your body just adjusts.

Some sisters in the branch watched the kids in a little waiting area across from the temple. It is a big room kind of like an airport waiting area and has a big grassy fenced in area behind it for the kids to run around and not distract from the spirit of the temple grounds. The distribution center and cafeteria are also in this building.

It was great to be able to attend the temple. I haven't got to go much since Gabby was born and enjoyed it so much. I freaked out a little when Nathan and I had to separate and go get clothes and change. It went ok but I was a little lost and confused at the system different from what I am used to. Luckily some little old sisters found me wandering around and directed me to where I needed to be.

The trip home was a little more difficult because we picked up 3 more people in the city. It was still fun, because we got to bond with some of the members in the branch. Brigham of course charmed them all and made friends with the driver.

The picture above of Gabby on the stairs in a tie is a funny story. If I could upload video to this computer I would post a video of it but I will have to just try to expain what she does. At least once a day she puts on the boys tie and church shoes and says she is Nathan going to work. She goes outside and pretends the stairs are the boat. She pantomimes him perfectly. She starts out by pretending to start the boat by pulling the string over and over again. Then she sits down and puts her little hand behind her back and pretends to be steering it. The she pulls out a pretend phone from her pocket, dials a number and talks while steering the boat. She finishes by hanging up and putting the phone in her pocket and then getting out of the boat and tying it up. I wish you could see it! It is soo funny and she acts it out perfectly. Yesterday she gave Brigham, Ammon, Xela, Kevin and Angie a ride into town on her boat. I should have took a picture of that! It was so cute.

The other pictures are of Gabby in her new pants Grandma sent in the last goody truck. She is holding her white pants and puzzle. Thank you Grandma. She was so happy. Especially when she discovered they have belt loops for her belts and pockets for her cell phone and quetzalis. She won't wear any pants without pockets and belt loops.

I will get pics of the other kids with their goodies when they come home. Mr. Castillo fixed the pool for us this weekend so they are out swimming their hearts out with his kids. Ammon is on a 30 mile bike ride with the youth from church. Hopefully he will be able to walk when he gets home. Thanks again so much for the fun surprises!

We got
4 PB's
4 frostings
4 brownies
1 big bag of candy
1 licorice
1 bag of books
1 how to draw horses
2 puzzles
1 bag of birthday cereal
1 shout (yeah!)
1 pool float (went immediately into use)
1 pack of nerf bullets
2 pairs of pants

The theif must not have been on this boat!

Gabby keeps asking me about blues clues underwear??? Do you know what she is talking about?

Thanks again so much!


Friday, June 19, 2009

Pook's Hill and our Hotel in San Ignacio, Belize

We planned to head back toward the border on the 18th and hopefully do some cave tubing on the way - google this on line it looks sooo fun! Unfortunately it had rained 6 inches the night before so the river activities were closed. This is probably why tourism is down in Belize during the rainy season. I didn't see the sun the whole trip! The country is beautiful though so it radiates a little of it's own sunshine for the soul.

On the way out of Belize City we had 3 great finds! 1. Someone was cooking Belizian Rice and Beans with Chicken and coleslaw on the side of the road! We should have bought more than one portion because it was delicious! Especially with my cold coconut Nathan bought me. 2. A health food store! I was so happy because my colloidial silver had been loaned out and never returned when little Eddy had chicken pox in his eye! Poor thing. I needed to replace that and purchase some other things I had run out of. 3. In our search for Cave Tubing about half way to San Ignacio we found the coolest place out in the jungle! It is a cabanna resort named Pook's hill. They wanted $168 for the night which was out of our budget but the cabanna's do look 5 star on the inside and it has it's own onsite ruins. You can see them with Ammon inside the steam bath. I think they said these are the only ruins found with a steam bath. The owner Ray has a magical place out in the jungle. His son was raised there and over the years collected quite a bug collection! I have never seen anything like that display of bugs! The manager Katy was adorable. She is American but was born and raised in Antigua and Belize then moved to the states for HS and college but returned to Belize because she loves it so much. I definately recommend this place if you enjoy nature. They have some great walking trails through the jungle.

The rest of the pictures are of the resort we stayed at in San Ignacio. I forgot to take a picture of our room. It was really cute. Decorated typica with two bedrooms an living room and a kitchen. The food here is delicious and was actually reasonably priced. We swam for a little while but froze to death and didn't last long. I need sunshine to swim in cool water! Too bad the hot tub was broke.

While we were eating dinner Ray from Pook's hill showed up and ate near us with a bunch of his archealolgy buddies. The stories we heard were hillarious! You wouldn't beleive what these poor people go through to preserve history for us!!

We are not home yet! We are in a small town somewhere in Guatemala having the same car problems as before. We are staying in one of our cheap little Guatemalan hotels with three beds. Yeah! Nathan is out getting us pizza and snacks but will be home soon to put his comments on our trip.

Don't worry we will get home fine with the car. We just didn't make it before dark and didn't want to drive with probs in the dark....


June 17 - Caye Caulker and Snorkeling with stingray and over the reef

We awoke on June 17th to a rainy cloudy day. It was a little chilly so we were worried our snorkeling and beach day would be ruined. We decided to go anyway and pray it cleared up by the time we got out to the Caye. We made the right decision except that the boat ride out to the Caye about did me in! It was so bumpy I thought I was going to die. The water was so rough I was afraid the boat would flip. I'm not exagerating! Just look at my face in the picture!

When we got to the Caye it was starting to clear up a little. The rain was gone but the clouds were hanging out. We took a little golf cart taxi (they drive golf carts and bikes on the island. We did see one car.) to the a snorkeling shop. I have to say that if you go to Belize it is much more economical if you book your own passage out to the Caye and then book the snorkeling yourself instead of going through a hotel or tour agency. The price we paid was so much less than they offered.

We booked a 3 hour private boat trip out to 3 snorkeling sites. The first was a site with stingrays. It was shallow. Probably 3-4 feet and the stingrays were huge. It was a little freaky at first but the water was beautiful and crystal clear and the kids loved it! Nathan and I took turns staying in the boat with Gabby. I ended up getting really sick between this site and the next (could have been motion sickness from the boats or from all the salt water I inhaled trying to remember how to work a snorkel) luckily I had my first aid kit (yes! I knew you would be proud!) with some anti nausea medicine Grandma Beenie gave me before we left.

Our guide became buddies with Brigham - of course- and took care of him at the second spot. It was snorkeling over a shallow reef. They had to swim quit a ways from the boat and I was feeling pretty sick so just stayed behind on the boat with Gabby.

The third spot was a deep reef spot. Our guide and Xela stayed behind with me because they had to swim quite far. I thought it was because he was worn out from pulling Brigham around at the last spot, but I soon learned that it was because he needed to smoke a joint. Lovely!

Nathan will give a description of all of this because I missed it. I grabbed a water camera from home but it was out of pictures OOOPPPS! We will have to get pics when we come back again in 3 months. Sorry!

We really enjoyed Caye Caulker and Snorkeling!! I would love to go back when it is sunny and warm and spend several days on the beach! It was a very fun place to visit. The roads are sand and everyone runs around barefoot and it is only 3 streets wide and the main street is lined with palm trees that you cruise through on your golf cart.

The boat ride back to Belize City was smooth since the rain had passed. Another homeschooling family with 4 kids from Williamsburg was on the same boat with us. They are in the process of deciding whether or not to move to Belize on a mission trip for their church. They asked if we felt it was the right decision for our family to move to Guatemala and of course I said "Absolutely!" I did tell them that I miss all of you horribly though!

Belize City, Princess Hotel June 16-18

When we got to Belize City it around 7pm and had just got dark. We were so shocked at how unpopulated Belize is. The city was very small and the people had all gone home. It was a little erie driving around looking for a hotel. We went to the Radison and they wanted $160 a room and wanted us to get two rooms. We are a little spoiled by Guatemalan hotels that have 3-4 beds in some of their rooms to accomodate big families and are usually between 20-30 dollars. Of course they are nothing compared to the Radison but we just aren't used to paying that kind of money, so we kept looking. We found the Princess Hotel and Casino (No we didn't hit the Casino:)!
They also have a movie theater (nothing kid appropriate) and an arcade with bowling alley and a pool (it was too cold for us to swim though! We are used to 100 plus and sunny and it was 80 cloudy and breezy! Gabby got in the baby pool for about 5 minutes and froze!)The hotel was nice and reasonably priced but the service in the hotel was horrible and the food was not that good so if you ever plan to stay there you may want to eat out of the hotel. The view was beautiful though.

Driving from Rio Dulce Guatemala to Belize City Belize June 16th

We were originally planning to take a boat from Puerto Barrios to Punta Gorda and then take a bus or a plane up to Placencia, Belize, but we heard that you could drive to Belize City in 7-8 hours.

We started researching it and figured that we could do it because tourists on line mentioned that they had driven from Belize City to Tikal and we have driven from Rio Dulce to Tikal so we decided to give it a try and save the money it would take for transporting all six of us to Placencia.

While we were researching all this we found two interesting things. 1. People asking about RV parks in Guatemala and Belize. This was super funny to us because we had never seen an RV in Guatemala. We did however see 3 on our drive to the border. We think they may have been part of a traveling circus we saw later on. 2. People that drove from Belize City to Tikal kept mentioning how they knew they were in Guatemala when they crossed the border because of the poor conditions. This confused us because Belize was Guatemala 30 years ago. So we couldn't see how it could be but so different. When we got to the turn off to head to the border we realized why they had that perception. The road conditions for the last 90 km were not that good. The road was paved most of the way but in need of repairs. They are infact starting to repave it. The last 15 km though is a dirt road which does give the impression of poverty. We even had a couple of pig crossings while on this road. I just have to say to all who have made this drive to Tikal that all of Guatemala is not this way. The roads in fact are very good.

We were however wrong about Belize and Guatemala being similiar. They are so different and this is apparant as right when you cross the border. The people appear to have similiar if not worse living conditions in my opinion than Guatemalans because they build their small homes out of wood instead of block and the wood does not hold up well in the wet climate of Belize. The houses look like they are going to fall apart. There are some made of block but the majority are of wood.

The people are a hodge podge of races, which was nice for me because we blended in a little better than we do in Guatemala. There were alot of Chinese, mayan, garifuna (sp?), (Nathan please correct that one I can't remember the name)and mennonite and some americans. The main language is English but Spanish is spoken and chinese of course. You see signs in all three languages. I was told by a man at the border that if they don't speak fluent English you know they are not from Belize.

The border crossing went really smoothly and didn't take long. The time it took from home to the other side of the border was 5 hours including the crossing. We were starving when we got across so we stopped at a really yummy mexican restaurant I will add the name when I find the brochure so if you ever cross into Belize you know to stop there. The food was sooo good. The steak was perfectly cooked and the Belizian rice and beans was delicious! The pics above are taken at the restaurant. It is in San Ignacio.

We were even greeted with a beautiful rainbow! You can barely see it in the last picture but it was very bright that day.