September 27th, 6:00am
Breakfast: eggs and tortillas. Every meal, every day was something and tortillas. But the tortillas were homemade, a thousand times better than any tortilla I’ve had at, like, Cebollas. They were more like giant pieces of Naan bread from the Taj.
The first thing we did (my roomies: Ashley, Peggy and Andrea) was open the back door and step onto the balcony to look at the view. We had a feeling it was going to be amazing, and it was! Our balcony, and the open-air conference area we used for meals, overlooked the mountains, San Ignacio, and all the little teeny villages not on the map. We could even see this little white spec out in the hills that ended up being the church in Santa Familia. Every morning was foggy, and we quickly learned that the foggier the morning, the hotter the day.
Each morning Dan passed out the songbooks and happily strummed away on his guitar as we sang our thanks for breakfast and muddled our way through “Renuevame” and lots of other songs, both in Spanish and English. The hotel staff told us later in the week they were blessed by our singing, that the songs lifted up to the guest rooms and out over the hills and cabanas, anointing Cahal Pech each morning.
After breakfast, as would be the case all week, we slathered ourself in sunscreen & deet (gross), loaded the supply bags assigned to the day’s village, and squeezed into the van.
The distance to Santa Familia was only about 7 miles, but it took, like, 40 minutes because the roads are so bad.
We arrived at Santa Familia to a welcome party by the principal (Antonia) and the students at Santa Familia R.C. School.
Each sign and balloon was purchased by an individual family and sent to school with a student to welcome us. Each grade presented a song or a poem, and one of the classes gave each member of our team a Belize flag.
We spent the morning passing out school supplies to the kids and teachers and observing in the classroom. Our plan for lunch every day was PB& J. At lunch, we went across the street to Antonia’s house and made peanut butter and jelly (which is a treat—peanut butter is $16 a jar!) sandwiches. We each scarfed down a few sandwiches two seconds before finding out Antonia and her mom had made us an entire lunch of tortillas, chicken, rice & beans, cole slaw and potatoes and orange Fanta in glass bottles. As would any good guest, we ate every bite of that lunch, too (how could we not?) and waddled back across the street to the school.
Half of us spent the afternoon teaching in the classroom, and the other half painted the outside of the school and traced giant Dr. Suess murals for the team to paint later in the week.
We left at 3 to go back to the hotel to clean up for dinner, then drove back to Santa Familia for a surpise pitch-in dinner hosted by the teachers. Each spot had a small vase with a flower and a nametag to mark our seats, and Antonia conducted a short tutorial on all the Belizean dishes, GARNACHES, and how to put it all together.
After dinner we spent hours and hours and hours playing every game ever invented, during one of which I was blindfolded and made to believe I was carefully being guided between scattered raw eggs. At one point, Becky yelled “spread ‘em sister!” and when they took the blindfold off and turned me around, David (Antonia’s brother and the principal at San Marcos) was lying flat on the floor making me think I’d walked right over him. I was wearing a skirt.
Hugo, our driver, told us that the families in Belize get together on Sundays and play games like this all day and all night. Can that be true?!.