2011: stealth deliverer of good things

Before I write anything, I would like to share that “ninja spanker” was my top search this week. Where do people come up with these things? And also, how did my space become relevant to ninja spankers? (As I type this, I recall mentioning Spanker Banker after Krewe du Vieux sometime in 2008, and also dressing up as a ninja for Halloween that year and fighting pirates on Jackson Square. The internet don’t forget, y’all).

That said, it’s been two years since I did a year in review, two years since I wrote some resolutions, and consequently, two years since I resolved some resolutions. In the two year gap, I got engaged, got married, moved to a new city, bought a house, started 3 new jobs, graduated, became licensed, acquired a couple more nieces- you know: Almost all of the most important things that can happen to a person besides being born. Now that I sit down to review last year, it seems like nothing happened.  But alas. It did.

January  Co-piloted a tiny plane from Belize City to PG. Swam in a blue creek. Climbed into a cave. Met some fun UWisc Physical Therapy peeps. Watched the Rose Bowl on a rigged up TV, under a thatch roof outside, sitting on benches removed from a mini-van. Spent nights in tiny cabins above water. Ate seafood caught on a kayak with a spear. Took a 6 hour bus to Cayo. Shed tears over this discussion with my former supervisor: “Your work is being used here, Brooke. Every day.” Discovered God doesn’t need a person to use a person. Understood that sometimes we don’t even know we’ve been used. Said goodbye to the BZ. Again.

More pics: here

February  Worked a 16-hour shift during Snowpocolypse 2011 and felt like a Lamb in a Bow Tie. Discovered, via Jeff, that cross-country skiing on the Monon during an ice storm is possible, and acceptable. Went to New Orleans and spent time with my good ole friends and co-workers. Got my Haydels King Cake. Got my Abita. Got my Steins, my Surreys, my house party with a nice brownie spread, my 2 days of 65/sunny, got my washboard band, got my Kim, got my Mandy. Could not have been happier until Tator Tachos appeared. Realized (besides the availability of junk food & supportive social worker friends) why the NOLA feels like home: it’s where I fell in love! J and my’s entire do-I-like-you-do-I-love-you-I-totally-love-you-let’s-get-a-daiquiri-let’s-get-married happened here. Sigh :)

March Went to Cuba Belize Mexico Belize Cuba Belize. Cuba with some good friends. (If you’re an immigration officer, I would like to state for the record I oppose the embargo.)  Had many rooftop mojitos. I neither confirm nor deny the Cuban cigar or the night dancing in Old Havana. Listened to old men argue about baseball in the center of the park. Watched a Cuban baseball game. Became entranced by and forever drawn to Cuba and its music. Thanks friends!

More pics: here

April  Unveiled Brooke 3.0 to the public. Not so bad, 30. Received breakfast in bed from a dude I thank God for by the minute, and a tent. Promptly camped in the backyard. Celebrated Lil’s 3rd birthday (where does time go?) Took down the Christmas tree… and put it in the Monon. Can you find it? Spent Easter with the Hartmans in WI, and got the Easter flu, which everyone mistook for morning sickness. If that had been the case, I’d be 9 months pregnant today. Told you guys.

May Started a new job! Waved goodbye to the hospital (although I still pick up ER shifts here and there when they need help) and joined a private practice in Carmel. Hosted the Kaminski Fam for Memorial Day and ran around Lucas Oil. Celebrated J’s birthday. He continues to be in his 30s. That’s all he would want you to know, I think.

June Celebrated our first anniversary with a romantic evening alone the Hartmans, Kaminiskis, Sellers, Sharon, Pat and 2500 others for the 18th annual Indy Nite Ride. Jeff and I enjoyed a burger at Bub’s after everyone left. The event has facilitated use of the following statement all year to justify anything we’ve wanted ever since: Well, this can be our anniversary meal/gift/trip since we didn’t really have one? Celebrated Maycie’s 2nd Birthday. Love her.

July Breckenridge! This was our anniversary trip, since we didn’t really have one. Also, it was truly the anniversary and location of our honeymoon! Hiked some hikes. Snapped some pics. Ate some good food. Drank with friends. Hot-tubbed with family. Surfed on snowfields. Biked down Vail pass. Garden of the Gods. Pike’s Peak. Celebrated a Hartman (the original Hartman- well, not the original original, but the Ron & Kathy Hartman ) Anniversary. This one gets 2 rows of pics, because I’m the boss of this space, and it’s what I want to do.

  More pics: here

August Hosted the Sellers/Wilsons for Labor Day. Shucked some corn. Grilled some food. Played with some noopy nieces. Dad’s family reunion in Brown County. Spent some time in Nashville and a good night at a Brewery. Hosted Elaine & Doug, also Sprinky. Cut into a sex cake. Found out E&D are having a boy! Can’t wait to meet brand new Baby Luke.

    More pics: here

September visited some good (fun!) friends in NYC. This was our anniversary trip, since we didn’t really have one. These friends appreciate my knowledge of pop culture, which is sometimes a foreign language to J (although he is the one who first informed me of the Kim/Chris split and insisted I see Bridesmaids. He heard both on sports radio). Observed 9/11. Held the Statue of Liberty in our palms. Went to the Catskills. Ate some good food. Played with an adorable baby. Participated in the first bonfire of Fall. Played in a kickball tournament, concussed myself on the pavement. Celebrated Callie’s first birthday. Love her. Joined a small group at church. Made some friends.

   More pics: here

October Destin! I know I’ve said this before, but this was our anniversary trip, since we didn’t really have one. Plus it was the location of our other honeymoon, between the ceremony and actual honeymoon in Breck. Spent some time with the Grampies. Spent some time at the Blossfolly (ceremony beachouse) beach, for nostalgia’s sake. Ate dinner at Henderson Park Inn, where God gave us the most amazing anniversary sunset ever imagined.

More pics: here and here

November Hosted the fam(s) for Thanksgiving: Hartmans, Sellers, the Grampies, Wilsons, Kaminskis, Sharon, & Grams. Got rear ended. Saw THREE rainbows in one day. Spent a noopy weekend with Callie.

December Watched the Badgers win the Big Ten Championships. For reasons unexplained, my nieces started calling me Uncle Brooklyn. Dressed up in snowflake placemats & battery operated lights for a party. Celebrated our engageaversary in Chicago on the 96th floor. Celebrated Christmas in Iowa, Wisconsin, Indy, and Sprinky (not a place, but a BFF). Celebrated the last moments of 2011 with good old friends and good new friends.

          More pics: here

The End! Cheers to all for such a great year, and thanks for the friends who hosted us.

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Hillside, PG and Snake Caye

So. After a 7-and-a-half hour ride on the non-express bus from Cayo, across the Western Highway, down the Hummingbird Highway, through the Maya Mountains and down the Southern Highway, through Belmopan and Dangriga and a bunch of little villages like Roaring Creek and Teakettle and Independence, I spent a surprise weekend with Jeff at the Hillside clinic in Punta Gorda.

Thanks to careful and sneaky coordination with the Brinkmans and Dan (one of the nurse practitioners) I got a pick-up from the bus terminal, homemade chocolate-chip cookies, an afternoon with Dan’s family, an introduction to the Jesuit volunteers, dinner with the doctors and a tour of Abby’s house.

Jeff and I got to stay in the Treehouse, and we lucked out on a little excursion with TIDE (Toledo Institute for Development and Environment). The TIDE trip was supposed to be a community event, but no one else showed up, so we had our own personal boat tour of the Rio Grande river, the mangrove Cayes, the TIDE lookout tower, and a burrito-pineapple-chips lunch with snorkeling at Snake Caye. It was beautiful and fun, and totally unexpected.

I may have spent more time on the bus than actually in PG—I haven’t added it all up—but it was a fun and sweet weekend. Thanks for all who helped!

Here are some pics of the weekend, and pics of Independence Day, because I forgot to post a link.

All kinds of things

Essentials: On the plane next to me was a girl from the UK spending a month in Belize and then a month in Fiji doing some kind of medical internship. On the other side was a lady from Belize City who told the med student and me everything we need to know about Belize City. She had been visiting her daughter in Florida and thought it was hilarious that we came from the UK and the US to study in Belize, and her daughter left Belize to study in the States. She wrote out her address and phone number on an index card and gave one to each of us. She told us to call if we need anything, like lunch in Belize City. We’ll go out, she said. Unless it’s hot, then we’ll order in.

After spending an hour in baggage claim and immigration, and another 15 minutes with no power—200 of us clamoring for carts and luggage and air—somehow the three of us landed right back in a row in the customs line and were able to say goodbye as our personal items were spread on a table for all to see.

Onward!

The minute I caught that first campfire and coconut smell and saw my first raccoon on a chain in the back of a truck (what?!) I knew I was home.

Racoon

David picked me up, and when I turned to thank the baggage guy, he was climbing in the front seat**. That’s Belize. Your luggage guy is your neighbor. The postal guy is your grandpa. The checkpoint guard is your cousin. **This guy would turn out to be Antonia’s principal at a new school 2 years from that point, and a good pal of mine.

We took off down the Western Highway at sunset—my exact favorite way to drive the Western Highway—and an interesting topic came up. I learned that the city is having a meeting tomorrow about a dam that was built a few years ago. It was contested by the Belize Zoo lady, along with many different environmental groups, and pushed forward by the electric company, the Belizean government, and those who wanted Belize’s electricity to come from Belize, not Mexico. The only problem was the entire dam. Environmentalists warned that the rock wouldn’t hold, the river would suffer, the quality of the water would decline, energy prices would go up, and the flooding would kill off the Scarlet Macaw (side note: The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw is a must-read. It’s a story about the Belize Zoo lady who fought against the dam, and the rich descriptions of the Belizean government and the people here are unbelievable. It’s full of history about Belize and Cayo District. And the author is funny. His first impression of Belize City had something to do with a pedal-by shooting.) Anyway, I read this book before I came, got really into the dam issue and had meant to ask about it, then right there out of nowhere, David brought it up. He said they were calling a village meeting to discuss the dam. Apparently the water is orange. The orange water is downstream from the dam, right in San Ignacio. This is the water they bathe in, play in, clean with, wash clothes and dishes in… It has something to do with the chemical makeup and silt that have filtered out and around the dam, and worse, in order to remove or fix the dam, they’d have to release the wall, which would flood all of San Ignacio and the surrounding valley villages, like Santa Familia. David said they came around this week to the villages with a blue siren and said: If you hear this sound, you have 2 hours to get out before the flood comes. Omg. I just knew that Zoo Lady was right!

I arrived in Santa Familila to a welcome surprise, and also termite season in my room. Antonia, Ricardo and Inez had spent the day rearranging all the rooms so Inez and I could be roomies and each have a bed in the room that doesn’t rain!

Welcome1

Welcome2

Welcome3

Before I could even unpack or think about how tired I was, they whisked me off to the Miss Bullet Tree pageant.

(I am trying to upload a video of a punta dancer, but it’s taking forever…)

Sunday I went to church, and then to Guatemala in the back of a pickup truck, then squeezed into a cab with 6 people and spent an hour in the Melchor hospital. Richard (the son of the principal I am staying with) had a cough that wouldn’t lift because of the dusty roads and needed to see a doctor today for asthma. But there are no doctors in Cayo on Sundays, and so we had to cross the border. There are apparently also no doctors in Melchor on Sundays, which is how we ended up in the hospital. He got his treatment, and I bought all my little Belize gifts for you all at 1/3 price from the Gulatemalans. Finally a Guatemala stamp in my passport… although I’ve already been to Melchor. Figure that one out. Wink!

Today I am supposed to meet with my supervisor and she will accompany me to Mary Open Doors to begin the internship. But I have not been able to reach anyone. None of us have ever met each other, and the last contact I had with them was 2 weeks ago, by email. I still took (read: chased after) the 8 o’clock bus, and if I have to hang around the French bakery eating Mennonite cookies until I figure something out, so be it.

I have a phone number, and I will soon have a phone- hopefully by the end of the day. I can receive calls for free, but your carrier will charge you for the international call. I can make calls sometimes. And I can text sometimes.

My phone number is: 011-501-621-8102.

If you see this number, answer it! It’s me.