Day 7: Sticks and Stones

Day 7
On the menu: Mayan breakfast—eggs & greens

Our plan for the day was to head to Imanuel’s school in Yahl-bac (pronounced, like, y’all come back now, ya hear?), which was up near the Cayo-Orange Walk border. The school had only 12 students, but it desperately needed to be painted, and the soccer posts needed nets.

We didn’t think we would be able to make it because the roads were so bad—potholes big enough to swallow our entire van.  Serious.  It had been raining the day before, and really, at times, the only way to access this school was by motorcycle. We were feeling discouraged about the possibility of not being able to make the trip, but at breakfast we learned that the parents and families in the village had spent the evening filling in the holes with gravel and sticks so we could pass.

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We loaded the van and set out for Yahl-bac, come potholes or high water.

The road really was bad enough that we had to get out of the van about 8 times and walk while Hugo revved up and powered through the mud. At one point, I stepped on the wrong ridge and got stuck ☺

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Also, there was a bull in the middle of the road.

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When we got to the school, we spent the day painting.

Only one side of the building was shaded, so despite SPF 50 sunscreen, most of us went home burnt.  We were also covered in doctor fly bites despite blasted 40% deet, which is like bleach on my skin.  While we were painting the back and sides of the school, we also had to be careful of scorpions. One of the teachers pointed out all the little scorpion holes so we knew where not to step, although they were really little and not very scary.

We stopped for lunch and made the kids PB&J on tortillas. Only one of the kids had ever eaten peanut butter before. We also had a lesson in Belizean agriculture, kahun nuts, coconuts, and why everyone’s teeth seem to be rotting out: sugarcane. Imanuel and some of the kids climbed up into the trees and brought us fresh coconut, which neither looked nor smelled like any coconut I’d had in the States. It was like drinking water with just a hint of sweetness, and the inside had the texture of cantaloupe or honeydew. It was perfect.

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While we were putting up the soccer nets in the afternoon, Hugo quieted everyone down to listen for howler monkeys. They sound like chainsaws. I didn’t really love the idea of wild monkeys that sounded like chainsaws close enough for us to hear. But we never saw one. *I could not have anticipated that 3 months from then, these sounds would be coming through my window at night

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The kids in the school sang a few songs for us and we sang a few songs for them. We gave Imanuel clothing for the families, and the school gave CFI a wall-hanging map of Belize.

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We returned to San Ignacio for our very last night at Cahal Pech. They made us Belizean hamburgers and FRIES!! Lenny had heard through the grapevine that the teenagers were missing American fast food and he wanted to accommodate. It was heavenly.

Before bed, each room made a thank-you poster for the staff at Cahal Pech, Lenny and Hugo. We also washed our clothes in buckets and crossed our fingers they would be dry by tomorrow morning in time to pack…

I forgot to mention, also, that no one in our room had a watch, so all week we had to use the TV (yes, our hotel room had a TV) to keep track of time, but the only station we could get was some news channel in Boulder, Colorado. Most nights before bed and most mornings before breakfast, our room was briefed on the happenings and weather in Boulder.

That night, our last night in San Ignacio, we watched Boulder’s news and stayed up way too late talking and laughing and telling stories. The image of the four of us, each at least a decade apart in age, sitting around the table talking and listening with such familiarity and ease both warms and breaks my heart. The moment will never be recaptured, but it is a fantastic memory of our last night at Cahal Pech.

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