Saturday, February 22, 2014

"For all things sing You..."

" times we just hear them more clearly." - Rainer Maria Rilke

We started off our Environmental Literature course with a little extra "environment" immersion to go along with our literature immersion.  Big Rock Falls (in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve) is always a favorite place for the semester, and a place that "sings" God more clearly for us to hear.

Given all the rain we've had in the recent past, the waterfall was mighty and roaring.  We swam in the pool at the base of the falls, sat up on the rocks, and marveled at its magnificence.

The rest of the week professor Fred Bahnson helped us marvel at some of the great authors that American literature has to offer: Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, Edward Abbey, Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and more.  We discussed their works, questioned them, did our best to comprehend them, disagreed with them, opened our minds a bit more, and allowed them to inform our world views.  They have seen a lot of different versions of America than we have, and there is much to be learned in their writing about both our past and our future, and what sorts of things we should be asking and doing in the present.

During night class, we spent time around the campfire, reading shorts stories and poems from Jane Kenyon, Billy Collins, William Stafford, Scott Cairns, Hafiz, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Wendell Berry.  It was an atmosphere advantageous to getting our minds into a different frame for a few hours.  Although poetry can seem cryptic and daunting for some of us, Fred did a great job guiding us through some very thought-provoking and enjoyable works.

Thanks for a wonderful and formative week, Fred!

Big Rock from afar

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Reading Week: A little work, a little play

It has been a full week here at CCSP Belize.  The students have been doing a lot of reading for upcoming classes, but we have also found many ways to break up some of the work.

We had our first celebration of the semester for Rachel's 20th birthday.  Going with the theme of Rachel's love for (and vast knowledge of) superhero movies, we hosted a Superhero Trivia Night.  Regular citizen contestants came dressed as their secret super identities, and, like The Avengers, worked in teams to gain the most number of points through their knowledge of superhero cinema (fueled by an abundance of cookies to snack on).

The birthday girl trying to keep a straight face as Batman

It was a close battle, but Batman's team ultimately won the tie-breaker!

(Back): Flower Power, Batman, Thor, Catwoman, The Flash, Aquaman, The Hulk,
Jamie Oliver, The Jolly Green Giant, Young Adult Mutant Ninja Turtle (Front):
Wonder Woman, Trunks, Wolverine, Steve Irwin/Indiana Jones

Also this week we did a little gardening for our friends at a local high school, Sacred Heart College.  They keep a garden to help with their feeding program, which helps out kids who can't bring a lunch to school every day.  We spent a few hours clearing out some beds and turning soil to prepare them for new seeds.

A fearsome team of weed warriors

Eric "big farmer" Grootenboer living up to his name by wielding a pitchfork

Continuing the theme of staying active and getting to know our Belizean neighbors better, we also found time for some good old-fashioned football in the village of Succotz.  The soccer field is like the center of town there, so kids old and young joined our game at their leisure.  Not all of us are soccer players, but we all had a great time regardless.

Derek casually plays soccer in Central America.  No big deal.

Little Omar challenges Gellie, as Taylor and Johnny wait for a pass

Before the dry season is completely upon us and most of the local ponds dry up, we wanted to go on a nighttime hunt for some tree frogs.  They are nocturnal, noisy, and can be hard to spot; but once you do they are easy to catch and fun to hold.  This particular evening we found 4 different species of tree frogs!

The yellow tree frog, also known as the small-headed tree frog

We are looking forward to more adventures during next week's class: Environmental Literature, where we will get to discuss all the reading we've been packing into our heads!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Developing Lenses for Development

What a great week we had with professor Robert Pelant (Pacific Rim Institute) for our Sustainable Community Development course!  This was the first part of SCD, and Robert wasted no time in stretching the students' minds.  He challenged them to think about what development really means, how to critically analyze development projects, what the natural world can teach us about crafting sustainable systems, and more.  Teaching from his many cross-cultural development experiences, Robert not only had a wealth of knowledge, but an abundance of great stories as well!

We traveled to a few places around Belize to learn some of their stories of development, get us out of the classroom, and give us a chance to test out our new analytical lenses.  One place we visited was the Mollejon hydroelectric dam, where there are many costs and benefits to think about in solving Belize's increasing need for energy.

For a completely different type of development, we also visited the San Antonio Women's Co-op.  This women's group is in the mountain village of San Antonio and was started by our friend Timotea.  They raise chickens and pigs, grow vegetables, and practice traditional Mayan embroidery, pottery, and cooking.  A few of the women showed us how to grind corn the old fashioned way, make our own tortillas, and try our hand at some pottery.

Miss Josepha approves of Ren's corn grinding form

Mara & Eric race to shape their tortillas in record time

Taylor, Jeremy and Derek learn about molds from Timotea

At the end of the week we even found time to check out another local Maya archaeological site, Cahal Pech, just for fun:

Ren, Rachel, Marissa and Taylor in (and on) some of the royal residences

Thanks again to Robert for a great first class!!

Cahal Pech group photo by Robert Pelant