I apologize for the length of this post. On my word document where I’ve been writing this up, it was about 5 and 1/2 pages long. I wanted to post every day separately, but didn’t get wifi till my last night, and even then I didn’t have my computer to transfer everything to my blog.
I am currently on San Pedro, where the Esquivel’s have their new home. I’m excited to get to spend another 6 days with them, before I return home on the 17. While I was going to add pictures to this post, I will wait for another day when I have more time and it won’t be adding to this one.
Many blessings and thanks to all who have helped me in getting to Belize. Enjoy this lots,
(P.S. I didn’t actually go through and fix possible spelling mistakes, grammar, or any sentences that may have come to a complete stop or are missing words to them. It’s too long. Sorry for the rough draft of this!)
Day One: August 5th
The trip to Belize was like most of the other few times I’ve traveled down south. I left early in the morning, being dropped off by my dad, I hoped that I would make it through security (always did) and found my gate. I arrived at Atlanta, Georgia before flying out to the sweet southern shores of the island Ambergris Caye.
I guess the only things different about this trip were: I wasn’t staying longer than 3 months. And I wasn’t traveling to the sandy shores of that island right away.
Normally, after praying that Customs lets me into Belize, I head right over to the Tropic Air flight, which takes me on a puddle hopper plane (8 passenger plane) and I arrive 20 minutes to blue green, clear water, salty air, amazing food and happy people. This time, I took an immediate right, instead of continuing on through to Tropic Air, and found the family I’m nannying for!
Alyssa and Israel have three children. Faith is 4, Josiah is nearly 3 and Benaiah is almost 10 months. Josiah was there with Alyssa, waiting for me at the gate. He got all shy when he saw me and hid his face behind his mom. We walked to the car and I looked through the windshield and saw Faith giggling on the inside. She was all smiles. I climbed into the big, gray/tan SUV that filled me with fun past memories.
Let me explain something. I think it’s hard for people of one culture to go into another and not want to change that culture. (I, Heidi Southwick, American female stepping into the third world country Belize, find it hard) Doing things that are different from what I’m use to are sometimes hard. Like buckling two children under 5 into a seat that may not hold them if the van took a turn for the worst and ended up tipping onto it’s side. But I’m also fairly flexible, so after learning their parents did want them to be buckled, I tucked those two cute kiddos in, buckled myself in, and we started off.
I’ve heard stories from my brothers who went to Haiti about the crazy drivers who would drive fast and be swerving all over to miss potholes. Our driver was that way. Israel likes to drive fast. Down here, there’s a speed limit of 45–55 mph, but no one seems to drive that. And there may be two yellow lines down the middle of the road, but it doesn’t stop people from passing others. They call it a highway and the dirt mixed with rocks and concrete reminded of our old back country roads in America.
That drive was suppose to take 5-6 hours and instead was 3-4. And I somehow didn’t end up with gray hair in the process.
If one looks at a map, we started in Belize City and traveled down south to Punta Gorda where the parents are taking an intensive training course to certify them to counsel people. The training is taking place at a Christian camp, where there are some other training’s going on. The camp name is Machaca and is out in the bush. The jungle. Literally off the highway, followed by a looooooong dirt path, and park the car, walk about a quarter mile and finally you find my cabin. Or house on stilts.
And that brings me to what I wanted to most write about. My new living quarters.
I arrived here in Belize hot, sweaty and gross. It was about 10 before I finally found where I was sleeping and able to gather my thoughts as to how I wanted to tackle this first night. I decided that I was going to take a shower and quickly gathered my things together. I headed out of my bedroom and walked outside, down the stairs where underneath the door to the bathrooms resides. I went inside and found 5-6 toilets that were hidden behind shower curtains (that weirded me out at first), all just waiting to be used. One had a toad sitting near it, another had a fairly large spider nearby and another had dead bugs floating inside. I found one that looked somewhat clean, closed the curtain that hung on a PVC pipe and prayed a rat or snake wouldn’t slide up. And afterwords it barely flushed. I decided to never use that one again.
After that I tip-toed my way over to the showers that were also under our bedroom, but farther down from the bathroom. Like the bathroom area, there were 6 showers with curtains hanging on PVC pipe, and the shower themselves being pipe. I glanced around and after seeing a toad in one, spider in another, dead centipede in another, I chose the one with the dead bug. It had a light right above it and bench outside the shower, but nearby so I could put my stuff on without it getting dirty or wet.
That shower was so nice. It felt smooth coming out, it wasn’t too cold, but it wasn’t warm either. It was refreshing. It reminded me of a waterfall, so soothing and relaxing.
I’m not sure what this next week is going to bring me. I’ve lost a lot of sleep, have no idea what my schedule looks like, and have wondered several times what I got myself into. But I’m excited about this journey, what I’ll learn, what I’ll do, how God will use me to build his kingdom, even if I don’t see it right away. This is something new, and I’m excited to see where it goes.
Day Two: August 6th
Well, today was exciting. Tiring. And look at that, it’s 7:16 PM and I’m still not done with my day yet.
I heard last night that breakfast was at 7:30. The past couple weeks I’ve been waking up around 6:30, so I figured that I would have plenty of time to get ready before breakfast. I forgot about the time difference though. Belize is an hour behind NY. And with USA doing their Daylights Savings, Belize is now 2 hours behind NY. (My 7:19 PM is your 9:19 PM. If you aren’t in Eastern Daylight Time, I have no idea what the time difference is)
Back to what I was saying, I wanted to give myself time to get ready in the morning without being rushed. Maybe even have time for a quick devotional. I woke up a couple times and checked my clock to see if I had to get up, as I was still really tired. Finally, around 5:30 this morning, I woke up and decided that it was a good time to get up as it was getting light out, and I was having trouble trying to get back to sleep. (It was later in the day that I realized it was my body’s natural time to start getting up)
I got out of bed, got my things together, and headed out for the mess hall. As the light began to reveal things I hadn’t been able to notice before, I saw that it was quite a pretty area that we are located. Like I said, it’s jungle and the bush, but the palm fronds are beautiful, coconut trees are planted along walkways and the sidewalk had pretty colored rocks, forming shapes and words. I also learned that the walk to the mess hall is a lot longer then I realized. Plus where the family is staying is even farther down the path then I realized. (Earlier I said it was a quarter mile walk…that may be a huge exaggeration. But it does feel far when one has to grab something quick from their room before their ‘break’ is over)
I arrived at the mess hall and found a man and woman in the back making breakfast. I asked if they had water, due to having drunk all mine the night before. They pointed to a filter tucked away behind the door. After getting my water, I took a quiet table (maybe they were all quiet that early in the morning…) and made myself at home. I read my bible (after about 5 months of slowly chugging through 1st and 2nd Chronicles, I’m super excited to begin Ezra) I went through my prayer list and even had time to journal. A few other people had come in and out during that time, but no one bothered me.
After finishing writing, I had still more time, so I was skimming social media, when someone came around, cleaning the tables. I thought it was weird that he was cleaning them 5 minutes before everyone arrived. A bus full of other students showed up and I waited for the family to show up.
Instead of explain every little detail about my morning like I’ve been doing, let me skip to the good parts. I had breakfast, talked to Alyssa quick about how the morning looked, walked quickly to my cabin to change out my bible and journal for a book, and met the parents and kids at the playground.
Basically, I have the kids from 8:30 AM, until 12:00 PM, when we have lunch together. Then I’m with them from 12:45 until 5, then dinner, then again from 5:45 to 9pm.
I have about another hour and half and I’m already yawning.
I completely wore those kids out today. The camp here has a full playground, much to my surprise. They shipped it in from the USA and is great material, size and is loads of fun. There are swing sets, though sadly there are no baby ones. But the kids and I had so much fun pretending we were a troll about to eat each other, or climbing all over the playground, playing with friends who were there, or just looking for colored rocks, sifting through the ones that the playground sits on. (Josiah is great at finding clear white ones.)
It was hard to figure out what to do with Benaiah that he would enjoy. He at that hard age where he puts every little thing in his mouth. I couldn’t put him down because all the rocks were so small and as soon as he got a fist full, it was headed for his mouth. And I couldn’t let him crawl a lot on the playground, as it was hot from the sun. He couldn’t swing. He couldn’t climb. He couldn’t slide. So I held him a lot today. I did let him crawl or walk on the rocks while holding his hands. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the week plays out with him.
Josiah loves to try things his sister can do. She’s swinging, he’s there. She’s climbing up ladders, he’s right behind her. She’s trying to climb up the hardest entrance part (a drop about 5 feet off the ground without anything there, except a rope ladder on the side that they climb up and boost themselves onto the open landing) and he’s right there, watching her do it so he’s familiar with how to go about it when it’s his turn.
What I love about Josiah trying new stuff, is that Faith encourages him to do it. She shows him how to do it better, (or how he’s doing it wrong) She pulls him along and lets him come with her. She constantly yells at him to come with her, to follow her. Faith loves to be a winner. There is a set of slides, paired up right next to each other. The two kids will sit at the time and when I say go, they race to see who can get to the bottom first. Most always, Faith is the first down and she proudly announces, “I’m the winner!”
Today it was raining on and off, so we didn’t spend all our time at the park, though a majority of it was there. We came into the family’s house and got snack, colored, changed diapers, had lots and lots of water (Josiah is like a parched desert. I’ve never seen anyone that little drink so much during the day) I allowed the kids some time on their tablet, to unwind and be quiet while I got their brother to sleep. We played I SPY while we waited for Ben to settle down and fall asleep. I showed them the creek by my cabin (It’s literally only a non-flowing ditch.) Faith was hoping that a snake would try and chase us while we were there. Thankfully nothing like that happened.
All in all, my time so far is nothing like I had dreamed up or am use to. And while my hours got a lot longer, it hasn’t been bad. The kids are great. Faith is super helpful and listens well. Josiah loves to explore (that can be a good or bad thing) but keeps up as best as he can. And Benaiah is so happy and joyful. I don’t have much I could complain about when it comes to the kids. Things like dirty bathrooms, gross showers, the hot sticky weather that makes me drown in stinky sweat, those are the things that I can complain about. But I won’t, because I don’t know that I have had this much fun loving kids since I last saw them over 6 month ago. There’s a lot that I’m thankful for and I don’t want to ruin the good with bad.
Off to tomorrow!
Day three and four: August 7th & 8th
Both yesterday and today it rained at night. Hard. And loud thunder. I woke up to find the rain coming in through the screened window. I couldn’t close it, because that’s all it is, a window with screen in front. Most, if not all, of the windows around here are like that. It keeps everything cooled, but also keeps the mosquitoes (mostly) out. When it’s raining though, all bugs try and find their way into the cabin.
Yesterday was actually kind of relaxing. Benaiah slept until nearly 11 and it didn’t rain at all in the morning, which gave me and the kids the chance to play for about two hours at the playground. We like to play Troll (some of us stomp around on the top of the bridge on the playground and then the ‘troll’ gets mad and tries to chase us away. We play hide-and-seek. Or have races on the slides. Or sell foods and desserts using the rocks that cover the ground of the play area.
After Benaiah woke up, we played outside a little longer, until it was nearly lunch time. I got the kids over to the mess hall and we had lunch.
Speaking of food…
Meals here are similar to the ones I had at YWAM DP (Youth With A Mission Destination Paradise) There is a lot of eggs, chicken, rice, and beans in the meals. Except yesterday we had pancakes and banana’s for breakfast! I love pancakes and banana’s.
Back to yesterday…
After we ate lunch, I ran to my cabin to put some stuff back and grab my raincoat, as it was thundering in the distance and getting cloudier. I made it to the playground where the kids were and found three cranky babies. I guess Josiah wasn’t really cranky. But the other two were tired. I took them back to our cabin and had Faith and Josiah lay down on their bed and gave Benaiah a bottle and laid him down.
Within thirty minutes all three were asleep! And they stayed asleep for another two hours! With the extra time, I relaxed with a book and tried to get onto some social media to see what people up North are doing. It was quite relaxing though, having that time to read and think through life.
After they woke up, I took the older kids outside to look at the nature that surrounded the pathway to their house. We found a big fat, green caterpillar and the kids tried to make a house out of leaves and sticks for him. Josiah would try and put him on a leaf to carry him, and Faith kept telling him he was going to hurt the little guy. Eventually they put on the ground and he disappeared. Faith told me he crawled into a cave and was going to turn into a butterfly.
It was nearly dinner time, so I went with the kids to play the playground until Alyssa came and we went to get dinner. We had soup (with rice and chicken) and afterwords we went to town to the ice cream with a few other friends of Alyssa’s. I wasn’t too impressed with the ice cream, but it was a nice treat.
As I said earlier, it down poured again last night. I woke up at one point and one of the ladies from across the way was going out when it was pouring rain. It was so loud, thunder and lighting and this brave soul scurried down to the bottom of the cabin, probably to use the restroom. I rolled over and went back to sleep.
The kids were very active this morning, full of lots of energy. We ran around on the playground with a friend who lives here at Machaca. Suddenly, large drops started to fall. I had the kids get their shoes on, we grabbed the snack and water bottle we brought and scurried next door to the mess hall, where we eat our meals. We made it just in time, for it soon started to downpour. And for over an hour it didn’t let up.
Finally around 10:45 I told the kids we had to head back to the house. Benaiah was still napping and I didn’t want him to wake up and find us all gone. But I didn’t want to, as it was still pouring rain. I took a deep breath and called the kids over. We got our shoes on, gather our belongings and I grabbed Josiah’s hand. We walked out, still protected by the tin roof of the mess hall. I was debating whether to pick Josiah up or put him on my back, when Faith ran out into the rain and looked at me smiling! I just laughed with her and pulled Josiah out with me into the rain. “Come on, let’s run!” I said to him and we scurried through the dirt and mud and headed down towards the house.
When we arrived, wet from the rain, at the house, Benaiah was still fast asleep. I had the kids sit and color for awhile and soon the sweet talking of a baby was heard. I pulled Benaiah out, crib and all, from his room. He was happy to see me. After a diaper change, I gave him a bottle and had the kids (who by this point weren’t sharing the crayons and coloring book well) go to their room and play with the cars magnate board they have.
We played in the house for an hour before we finally got out our boots and rain coats. By this time it had stopped raining, and the even the sun was out, but I wanted the kids dry in case it started to rain again.
The afternoon is a blur. Plus I’m writing this part two days later, so I can’t remember everything that happened. Lunch, playground, cranky kids, nap, playground again, dinner, playground, and possibly me putting them to bed. Though it may have been their parents.
Day five and six: August 9th & 10th
Thursday morning was like any other, apart from sleeping in about 45 minutes longer then usual. The family appeared at breakfast, we ate, we went to the playground, there was a little rain, Benaiah woke up on the earlier side. We played on the playground again, we had lunch, the kids played some more at the park and finally they took a nap. Benaiah woke up first, so after another twenty-thirty minutes, I took him in and he helped me wake them up. Josiah didn’t like that.
We were starting to pack up and head to the park before dinner when Alyssa came down the drive and reminded me that dinner was 4:15. Why they have it so early, I have no idea. We had supper and after talking to Israel, he took the kids to the park while I took Benaiah. It’s hard to run around the playground while carrying a baby and I knew that Israel wanted to have some quality time without having to worry about the baby. After fifteen minutes it started to sprinkle, so I took the baby with me to the house and fed him some baby puffs while we waited for the rest of the kids and their dad to arrive.
They finally appeared, soaked from playing in the rain. I helped get the kids washed off and pj’s out before I got off for the evening. I took some time to journal and got to bed early.
Today is the last day for classes. Alyssa and Israel are so busy with these intense, long courses, I’m not sure how they aren’t worn out yet. I met them for breakfast and after we ate, I took the kids to the house to lay baby Ben down. I left with the older two and we headed to the playground. It has been sunny all day and we enjoyed ourselves a lot.
After about an hour, it was very hot and I wanted to get Faith out of the pants and get water into both kids. We went to the house and Ben was awake, smiling and ready for some fun. We had snack, all three getting cheerios, plus granola for Faith and Josiah. About 45 min before lunch, I took them back to the park and we played until heading to the mess hall to find their parents. We had lunch, and afterwords, Alyssa brought Benaiah back to lay down, while I went to play with the kids on the playground where Israel had them.
We ran around with our friend who came to join us, and while playing one of the guys from the staff stood over a small stream, staring into it. I called to him and asked if there was an animal (part of me was hoping it would be a snake, I’ve been wanting to see a boa or python or something large) He said there were fish. Josiah and I didn’t have our shoes on and there are fire ants all over, but I scooped him up and we ran over to see the fish. They were tiny, no larger then my hand. The guy had given them some tortilla from his lunch and there were cat fish and some other small fish eating at it. Faith wanted to go in and catch it.
We played a little longer at the playground, until I was chasing the kids and hurt my toe on the hot slide I was going down. I had the kids rest a second before we put their shoes on and I brought the two kids to the house. After having some juice, they passed out on the bed and that’s where they are now.
I’m expecting the rest of this evening will go just as the same as always. Benaiah will wake up soon (usually does around 3) and I’ll get Josiah and Faith up around 3:30. I’ll have them eat a little something, then we’ll head to the park before dinner which is at 4:15.
But will that happen? We’ll see!
(P.S. It totally did happen that way!)
After we had dinner the RTF (Restoring The Foundations) training was complete and Alyssa and Israel had their graduation ceremony with all the other students! We tried to have the kids in the room, but after awhile, they got bored, so I took them outside to play with rocks while I held Ben and watched from the open door.
It was so cool to get to see the impact I had. While I’ve been working behind the scenes, just watching these three kids, these two parents have been working hard at this training (9+ hours some days!) And are finally certified to counsel to the hurting of San Pedro Island. And I helped in a small way of using my gifts. It felt like my last night with the family, but in fact, I get to travel with them to the island of Ambergris Caye where they live.
While this post is super long, I’m thankful for those who have stuck through it to the end. Through Christ and your giving and prayers I was able to make it to Belize and do something small that will lead to something bigger and better in the future. When we support and help those around us, God can use it in mighty ways. And for that, I’m very thankful and grateful for the love that many of you have shown to me during the past couple months as I’ve prepared in coming to Belize. Thank you so much from the depths of my heart.
I shall try and write again soon, add a lot of photos and share this week in a more spread out way!