Birthday. Bangs.

The bad thing about not having a job is that you have time to do things like cut your own bangs. If you look at my bangs, they’re equally proportionate to my life since returning from Belize: sort of aimless and random, but well-intentioned with a touch of frantic. They scream: Something good can be done with this space if I could just get it together!

There was lots of cutting and fixing and cutting and fixing, because, well, you know how cutting and fixing goes. I tried to do it exactly how Hannah does it—I twisted them all together and snipped. Then I tried to even them up, but they were short on the left. So I tried to even them up, but they were short on the right. So I tried to even them up and they were short on the left, again. So I tried to even them up, but they were short in the middle. I gave up. Then I tried again the next day, because I still didn’t have a job yet and I had already seen all the E! True Hollywood stories.

My bangs are about 2 inches long now. Gosh.

Also, my birthday was Saturday.

We had a little birthday bash on Thursday night at Cheesecake Factory in Indy with friends and family, which was the best ending to an entire week of baby Lily, my adorable week-old niece.

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Weekly Lily pics

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On the actual day of my birth, I made a Belizean Cuisizean dinner in Fort Wayne for a few friends, and then—I’m just going to skip to the punchline here—Elaine from Germany showed up on my doorstep with Doug, home on leave. They spent the night. It was the best birthday surprise ever.

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Pay no attention to Scary Sprinky on the bottom.

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Sidenote:
Isn’t it weird that I’m 27? There was a time when I thought 27 year-olds knew everything about life. Turns out, they’re more like 19 year-olds with 4 grey eyebrows and really short bangs.

(The things I wish I’d known.)

On the upside, I have found that most car dealerships have free popcorn, Diet Coke, coffee, internet and cable. It’s my new thing. Car dealerships.

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Week Eleven: Home

I’ve been asking myself all week why we put ourselves through the pain and agony of good relationships. I mean, there are always goodbyes. I knew that going into this. I just didn’t remember it being this hard. Or depressing.

I’m home.
Ahem. I mean, I’m home!

Timeline:
School dismissed on Thursday for a two-week Easter Break.
Antonia left on Friday to present her Thesis in Canada.
Frances and Inez left on Saturday to spend Easter in Gualtemala.
The Cabbs leave next week for Houston.

After a long delay in Miami and an unexpected (but provisional) overnight in Chicago, I arrived in Indianapolis on Friday safe, sound & exhausted.

The first thing I did when I got home: put on my skinny jeans.
They fit!
(One more amoeba, and I think I could enter the world of singe-digit sizes. Note for next time. Two amoebas- good. THREE amoebas, size 8.)

My arrival was two weeks earlier than planned, so I surprised my family at my sister-in-law’s baby shower on Saturday. Here is documentation of the magical moment.

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This is my grandma. After the picture was taken, she cried and stroked my face through the entire prayer, and then she had to sit down. Sprinky not only laughed at her, but laughed at her DURING the prayer. Then I laughed at Sprinky laughing at her, and, well, you know how laughing and praying goes…

Lisa & McKenzie were at the airport to pick me up, along with my dad and his fiancé—wiggedy-what? Rewind. Fiancé. Yes, my dad is getting MARRIED. He met someone while I was in Belize, and she happens to be just perfect for him.

Upon further investigation, I am happy to report: I approve (and not just because she reads my blog or drove me to Martinsville today to pick up my car). She maintained a perfectly respectable distance while I bawled my eyes out and made a fool of myself in the middle of the airport, then offered a sympathetic hug for the entire situation: the crying, the never-having-met, the jet lag, the Chicago ordeal and arrivals in general, because, as it happens, she is a nurse and makes several medical mission trips a year for weeks and months at a time. She understood.

Besides, she loves my dad. He loves her. I’m cool with it. The only question is which dress I should wear in the wedding. He told me I could pick anything, which was thrilling for me. I am stuck between these two dresses. Your vote would help.

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Moving on.

I was able to attend the CFI board meeting on Friday night and surprised half the board members, which was fun. I fully intended to speak words of wisdom about the trip, but every time it was my turn, I just started crying. I guess that’s just how “goodbyes” followed by “hellos” are— our absolute lowest and highest moments all in the same breath.

Considering the debriefing period of the next few weeks and my transition back to Fort Wayne, I feel sort of stuck in Week Eleven and truly believe I could be happy living Week Eleven in the comfy bed at my dad’s house for the rest of my life.

After all, I have Trix & internet.

But, alas. I don’t know how to thank all of you for supporting this adventure, which turned out to be the most fun, challenging and meaningful time of my life, and for walking alongside me in the last 6 months. Your contributions, comments, cards, packages, emails and phone calls have been essential to this season of my life, and the lives of countless kids and families in Belize.

From the deepest part of my heart, thank you.

Many people have asked what’s next. I’ve been wondering that too.
I’ll be in Indianapolis for the next few weeks, and back to Fort Wayne in April for the summer. I just accepted the scholarship to Tulane ($9000!) and am working on finding housing for August.

Many people have asked how I’m doing. I’ve been wondering that too.
Let me put it this way. I burst into tears today at a traffic cop who told me to stop. I’m not sure what that means.

But I do know that I miss my Belize family (more than words) and I hate the weather here. I love driving, and I love the mall. I love Starbucks and I love bug-free sleeping.

I miss eating fresh oranges and walking from store to store with Inez looking for flour or choco-bananas. I miss the teachers and the pace of life there. I miss having a purpose.

But CFI has done a great job of providing a period of debriefing, lots of opportunities for me to “unload” and relax, and have helped in every possible, thoughtful way with re-entry. What they don’t know is that someone in Fort Wayne will have to debrief me from Lisa and Denise in a few weeks. I feel like a suction cup that just can’t let go, like I’ll die when I’m not somehow connected to CFI or Belize…

I am looking forward to meeting Lily (my niece) any day now and looking forward to time with friends in the Fort.

Other than that, I’m still working things out. Just know that if we run into each other and I burst into tears, its not you.

Here are some other pictures of the shower and the first time I got to feel Lily kick! (Note, in the shower pics, my awesomely awesome skirt from Guatemala)

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The afterparty

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Also, here are some answers from the report I sent back to CFI during my last week of service. They are the same questions many of you have been asking and might be of interest, especially to those who supported:

Regarding the purpose of the mission, what was the most rewarding part of the experience?

The most rewarding part was watching the kids become excited and participate with enthusiasm on a daily basis, their ongoing retention and application of concepts, and, ultimately, the increase in knowledge as reflected during post-test activities. (And I’m talking about little things here, like how they were able to give the definitions of empathy, toxic, abstinence—words they didn’t know before I came; the ability to list 5 different ways to say ‘no’, for example, or 3 ways they can calm down during an argument and then apply it all in role-play situations.)

Regarding the purpose of the mission, what was the most challenging part of the experience?

The most challenging part was adapting the program to fit different age groups and grades within one classroom, or within one session. For example, in any given class, you might have a kid who is 8 and also a kid who is 12. It was hard to figure out how to organize the sessions.

What was the greatest reward personally and overall?

The greatest reward personally and over all has been the relationships built with the students, with the Flowers and Cabb families and the slow inclusion of me into daily village life—that I can walk down the street now and almost everyone runs to the door yells, “Hi Miss Brooke!” instead of “gringa!”

What was the most challenging aspect personally and overall?

The most challenging aspects personally and overall have been bugs, sickness, dealing with water & electric outages, the laundry routine—general aspects of day-to-day life. I had more than a few showdowns with giant spiders, ants, no water when I really want to brush my teeth, etc. The illnesses were challenging, but manageable.

Knowing CFI is educationally focused, what do you see to be the most critical need at Santa Familia School and at San Marcos School?

The most critical need at Santa Familia: ink for the printer, internet at school, art supplies and art lesson ideas for each age group, PE equipment and outdoor PE activity ideas for each age group.
San Marcos: water system, art supplies & activities, David insists he needs an SUV. Exciting sidenote, San Marcos village was in the process of getting electricity the week I left. The poles were up along the main road and all the kids were asking me about TV with glowing eyes.

Was there anything regarding the purpose of the mission that you felt you were not able to achieve? If so, what?

I was not able to complete the second week of programming for 2 classes at Santa Familia school due to illness.

What did you miss most?

Tall nonfat sugar free Caramel Macciato
Oh, and friends and fam, of course.

Would you consider doing this again?

Absolutely. This was one of the best experiences of my life.
I wish I could do it again right now. Hopefully, November…

We are having a celebration on March 30th (and no, I did not throw my own welcome home party- it was thrown for me) but please come if you are in town. I would love to celebrate and share pictures and stories with you who have been so supportive during this time. Besides, it’s a great excuse to get together!

(Email me for directions.)

Goodbyes & The OC

Previously on the Brooke-C (my own real life version of the OC):

  • San Marcos school threw a good-bye party.
  • I received 26 key chains, 2 t-shirts, 4 snow globes and a porcelain dolphin.
  • We ate huge, overflowing plates of coconut rice & beans, chicken, tortillas and coleslaw- the staple Belizean meal.
  • We played volleyball all afternoon, teachers & parents vs. students
  • It was perfect
The dish-washing/kitchen cleaning committee:

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(She ran out of chips, plus she couldn’t play with the 409)

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The serving committee

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The eating committee

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“So, how do you feel about our government’s export of local wheat for ethanol production in the States?”

“Well, personally I think its a misappropriation of our local resources and puts us at a disadvantage.”

The surprise good-bye assembly

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My entire heart was in this school. It was a hard good-bye, though the porcelain dolphin and alligator snow globe made things easier.

In the meantime, after only one episode on a random Thursday last week, I came home to find the entire family addicted to The OC.

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When I went to sleep, Inez was watching. When I woke up, she was watching, when I left for school, she was watching. Then one day, Ricardo started watching, and then Bryon and Richard. I became sort of concerned when I walked into the kitchen one night to find the whole family, plus Mr. & Mrs. Cabb, deeply engrossed in whether or not Ryan and Marissa would end up together. I tried to pull the plug. There was a mild panic when the electricity went out for a few hours and Season 2 disc 6 was stuck in the DVD player…

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I love this family.