Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's Unbelizable!

Without exaggeration, Belize is my favorite spot thus far in Central America. The ocean there is absolutely breath-taking; looking out from a boat, in every direction you can see the ocean scintillating in various shades of blue -- light blue, dark blue, aqua -- all because the water is so clear that its color reflects the plethora of marine life underneath the surface. The islanders are extremely warm and friendly, and overall, it's just an amazing place to visit.

We only spent three days on the San Pedro Island, but it was three days well spent in paradise! I wish we had more time to linger in the waters, because Belize has various well-established tourism options, such as cave-tubing and snorkeling. In the small amount of time that we spent there, we opted for a half-day trip on the Catamaran to snorkel among the beautiful reefs. Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world, and supposedly the plentiful fish keeps the usual predators well fed, so that they stay a safe distance from human divers and snorkelers. (This includes predatory sharks such as bull sharks and whale sharks.)

While we were snorkeling in the water, we saw a giant sea turtle, many big fish, and a few large sting rays. The guide went down and grabbed one of the sting rays so that we can pat it near the surface of the water. It was majestic and stunning! (Geoff also saw a small shark -- probably a nurse shark, which is extremely docile and common to the area; the tour guide has lots of pictures where the tourists are swimming among and touching the nurse sharks!)

On land, there was a constant breeze that kept the island extremely temperate. They speak English there, because they were a British colony until 1981. But, they're also extremely diverse, and they have a cultural makeup that descends from the Russian Mennonites, Kriol, and Spanish-speaking Mestizos! As a result, it's a very interesting and eclectic place, where you can get a lot of different (good) beers and foods, and people speak all kinds of languages amongst themselves. It's so unique, that the locals even have a proud tagline: "It's Unbelizable!"

Geoff, Andrea, and I loved it. :) In fact, Geoff and I are thinking about spending part of our summer there, renting out a house near the beach... So, if you are thinking about visiting Belize, that might be a really good time to do so!


In other news, I have finally purchased summer tickets to go to China! I haven't seen my parents for well over a year, so I'm very excited to be able to make this trip happen, both financially and logistically. :) But, I remembered belatedly that I'll need to get a visa before going to China this summer, and that's far from easy to do when you live in El Salvador. The closest Chinese consulates are in Cuba (which I'm not technically allowed to visit as an American citizen), Mexico, and Ecuador. There are also some additional difficulties, so it seems, with applying for a Chinese visa from a foreign country, because there are zoning restrictions and the consulates are not very patient with foreign applicants...

But, I'm not going to complain. This is a small snag compared to not being able to afford the trip at all, which is what I had feared. I just hope it will get resolved soon!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rejuvenating Weeks

The last two weeks have been pretty amazing. For one, work has been extremely productive. The Measurement Unit I had envisioned for Geometry has been in full swing, and the kids' progress in understanding length, volume, and (2-D and 3-D) conversions is staggering and extremely rewarding. Not to mention it has been a lot of fun to give the 9th-graders a chance to work on all kinds of hands-on math problems! :)

The other beautiful thing about the last two weeks is that I have started going to a yoga class, held in a very intimate setting -- the home of our great yoga instructor! I had never had much of a motivation to do yoga back in the States (it seemed too much like a fad to me), but now with swing dancing being out of the picture for so long, I find that I really need something else to keep me active and energized. Salsa is totally fun, but I don't always work up a sweat, for some reason. My friend Colleen had told me about this yoga class she had started going to regularly, taught by a teacher I had taken a one-off yoga class from once. Last week, I tagged along with her finally, and it felt so amazing physically that I've decided to make a regular effort to attend the class.

So, between yoga, salsa lessons, and Spanish classes, life has been busy outside of school the last two weeks, and beautifully so. :) I'm also slowly reading my way through a pretty good book, The Geographer's Library. (Ever since I've come back from Christmas vacation, I'm finding time to do recreational reading again. Any suggestions? It can't really be current best-sellers, since I check them out from the school's library, which is delayed in its ordering of the best and the latest.)

Anyway, the next big thing: BELIZE!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

2nd ER visit; Block G

For the past weekend, Geoff and I had originally planned on spending Sunday at a beautiful semi-private beach as per an invitation from my principal, but in the end, the plan was thwarted because I came down with an unexpected stomach pain on Saturday night. The sharp pain was coming in waves and had persisted for several hours when I finally decided to wake Geoff and ask him to drive me to the hospital, to make sure it was not appendicitis. Thank goodness, it was not. The ER people hooked me up to an IV (because at this point I was already dehydrated from all the bathroom runs) and took a blood and -- this is fun -- a poop sample. I stayed there for a couple of hours while they ran the tests on those charming samples, and it turns out that I have a stomach infection. I can't say that I'm surprised, really, considering that I do live in a third-world country. But still, it ain't nice...

I went home feeling really weak, and they gave me prescription for painkillers, antibiotics, and anti-diarrhea drugs. I ended up sleeping through Sunday to combat the onset cold from all of the exhaustion. And, miraculously, I felt good enough to teach on Monday. :)


I'm frustrated with my Block G. Despite the fact that it is a tough class, and there are 7 ADHD kids in there (5 of them severely symptomatic), I keep wondering if there are things that I could do to make them calmer than they are. Regardless of conversations I've already had with them or consequences I have already assigned, it is a struggle for me each day to get through basic discussions of math problems because their energy levels are off the charts (and their focus non-existent, when it comes to conceptual discussions that matter). And it's frustrating not just to me, but also to the few students in the class who actually wish to learn and to hear the lessons, uninterrupted by ADHD kids shouting out random comments. I'm frustrated and I don't know what else I haven't already tried, except to be consistent and assign consequences each time they breach my expectations.

I have hope that they will change. For the better, for their own sake, and soon. But again, I'm not sure if that's optimism or delusion.