A. I take the 8 o’clock bus every day, and my agency doesn’t open until 9 or 10 or whenever the first person arrives. Lucky for me, an internet cafe is right down the hill, which is why I keep bothering everyone with blog posts. I can only sit on a stoop in the sun for so long before I go pay $2.50 for my hour in the shade with a computer. The same thing happens at lunch, and so I have made friends at the Ministry of Human Development, because they have fans. They are also at the bottom of the hill. The long, hot, steep hill. “You will reduce!” they say of me walking up and down that hill all day long.
B. I forgot to tell you this last time. I have been over the bus routine several times with the family I am staying with and others in the village. I know what time the buses come. I know where to stand. I know where to get off. I am all set. So Monday I felt fairly confident in my bus-catching skills. I woke up an hour early and took my time cooking oats, packing my lunch, picking out my first day outfit, loading my bag for the day, etc. and had everything ready to go by 8 o’clock for the last bus into town. I stood by the door looking far into the distance for that bus. I had seen the 7 o’clock bus pass and the 7:30 bus and both 7:45 buses. Mine would be next. Richard walked out sleepy-eyed and said: Brooke. What are you doing? It is only 7 o’clock. I looked at my watch and realized I was looking at the CST setting. I was an hour early.
(The funny thing is that when the 8 o’clock bus actually came, I was talking to Antonia and almost missed it. She saw it pass behind me a couple of minutes early, ran outside and yelled “Boyeee!” and the bus came to a halt down the road. I had to run after it.)
Also, when I take the 4 or 5 o’clock bus home, many of the high school students take the same bus, so I wasn’t surprised to hear “Brooooooky!” from down the street while I sat on a stoop by the bus lot. Shawn, who likes to think he is one of those extra-cool versions of 16, shook his head and laughed at me from way up the hill. He sat down next to me, which was nice because I had spent all day waiting for people that never came. I was tired, hot and out of water. He said, “Do you want to go on the bus, Brooke? You look like a beggar.”
And here’s the worst part. When I got on the bus, Bryon said: Brooke! A strange thing happen last night. I neva see wah tornado in all of Belize, but last night a tornado came, right here da Cayo! I froze, and vaguely remembered a sleep-talking-walking incident from the night before wherein, during a huge storm, I shook Inez awake and tried to make her get under the bed because in my sleep a tornado was coming. She laughed all morning and told everyone at school. When I got off the bus, they yelled out the window: Brooke, be careful because an earthquake will come tonight at 6 o’clock, and hail will fall from the sky!
We’ve been laughing about that for three days.
I met my supervisor this week, and she was grrrreat. She works for the Ministry of Education and is the only School Counselor in all of Cayo! She seemed worn out just talking about all the need in the district for only her to attend to. I am looking forward to learning from her and traveling to different schools and homes. One boy, she said, was selectively mute. She said no one knew how to make him talk, so people hit him over the head and yelled in his face. They wanted to put him in the special needs program. But she went to his home a few times to play simple games with him like tic-tac-toe, and then progressed to snakes and ladders with the family, and the boy was talking within weeks. She is still assessing what caused him to stop speaking in the first place, but her work seems interesting and never-ending, and she has been very welcoming.
As for the shelter, I spent 4 hours yesterday talking with 3 ladies who’d been through the shelter and are now volunteers. Their stories are hard to hear, and the more I hear, the more depressed I feel about gender roles. Even among well-respected, high-functioning families. Three times today I heard mothers telling their daughter, “No one is allowed to hit you. You have a right…” because the norm in some houses is that they don’t have a right—so much so that many girls have to be taught NOT to tolerate abuse.
In other news, I have not instituted jump rope hour at the Flowers like I promised. It’s just too hot. I really can’t waste clothes on things like exercise :)