Thursday, December 11, 2014

Caye Culker Schools - Ocean Academy

Before I visit a place I like to do a little research to find out about the locals, since it was the holidays I wanted to see if there was something Ben and I could do to volunteer our time or give back to the community. I came across a blog that mentioned how kids in Belize are in need of schools supplies, especially on the island since most things are hard to come by. When I looked more specifically at Caye Caulker I found the Ocean Academy. Before 2009 there was no secondary school on the island, students had to travel to the San Pedro to finish their schooling but that was only if the families could afford the daily commute on the water taxi or if they had relatives the kids could stay with. In 2008 two women got together Heidi Curry (An American with Belizean residency) and Joni Miller (Canadian with Belizean residency) along with some locals to get the land, building and organize the school all within seven months. Caye Caulker Ocean Academy is a non-profit community high school who's "goal is not simply academics, but an overall commitment to appreciating, respecting and preserving our island's heritage so that future generations may know the beauty of Caye Caulker that exists today". This school teaches students the skills they need to maintain future careers on the island, anything from marine biology to salesperson along with the everyday life lessons a young adult would learn in any school. I met a student named Kyra who was in the culinary program and made very delicious blondies. Once I researched the school I sent an email which is how I met Joni, she told me about the Christmas extravaganza fundraiser they were having and invited us to come. She also mentioned a few items we could bring if we were interested to donate to the school and fundraiser. Since we were limited on space I knew I couldn't do much but wanted to bring a something for the kids. We picked up some face paint, a few school supplies, Christmas crafts and other odds and ends to be give as prizes for the games. When Joni mentioned "Dollar store type items" I was all about it. Aside from the school both Joni and Heidi were very helpful in assisting us with finding new places to stay. In fact Heidi and her family own a hotel called Sea Dreams which is beautiful, of course they were mostly booked and despite her tireless efforts it didn't work out for us to stay there but in the future I would love to be her guest at the hotel. We plan to visit the school again before we leave and maybe learn a little more from the students and staff but in the meantime if you want to learn more about what the Ocean Academy does please check out their website and if you are in a giving mood for this holiday season see the various ways you can donate to the school.

Monday, December 8, 2014

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem.... Day Five

While traveling in a tropical place you forget how laid back the dress code is. I have a tendency to over pack mainly because I try to prepare for all weather scenarios and I really like my "island" wear which I don't get to bust out as much these days even though I live in California. It never fails, you get here and pretty much wear the same thing over and over either because of comport or that it's durable enough to maintain the sweat, rain, sand and in my case food that gets tossed on me since there are not many restaurants with high chairs. I was proud of myself with the shoes, two pairs of flip flops and my Sketchers Go Walk slip on tennis shoes, which were a great choice by the way. Still most people walk around the island barefoot since it is all sand. Seriously it's all sand, there are no sidewalks which is why the woman who's house we originally rented basically laughed at me (via email) when I asked about bringing a stroller. At this point with our clothes a little dirt never hurt, neither does a little sweat. Pack light and go slow....

Sunday, December 7, 2014

First World Problems - Day Four

Eric and I consider ourselves pretty avid travelers, we have backpacked across Central America for four weeks and Southeast Asia for five along with our many other adventures. But what you tend to overlook when you have a child is that the "oh we'll just figure it out" attitude can only get you so far. We rented our house on VRBO and yes we knew some of the issues we were going to encounter and yes when the price is that good you should still ask yourself what is wrong with this place? You know the saying "if it's sounds too good to be true, it probably is" well I am starting to live my life by that. We are going through a mini debacle back at home with our current landlord and this vacation is what was keeping me sane before our crazy move. In the past moving from one place to another wouldn't be an issue but when you have a kid you have to be a little choosier with the place and the location, time is a factor and the amount of crap you have to bring doubles and packing and repacking is never fun. At the end of the day the plus side of staying on a small island is that most people just want to help you, we met some very nice people so far from all over the world, some that live her full time and everyone wants to see visitors enjoy their time here. I will get into where and how I met a couple of our new friends on another post but thanks to them Nick and Slone (our traveling companions) have a place that will get them through the next few days and we have a gorgeous place that may cost s little more than we planned to spend, but who could really put a price on being able to enjoy this beautiful island without the added stress and gold cart rides through the jungle and swamp and millions of mosquito bites, oh and a crocodile in your backyard. I have normally been the one that thinks the worst will happen but in the last couple months I truly believe people are good and things will work out and that the universe owes me big time.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Island of Caye Caulker - Day Three

There is not much to this island, there is a sign where you arrive that says "Go slow, we have 2 cemeteries and no hospital". It is actually nice to go somewhere and you don't have to so anything, there's not much site seeing unless we take a day trip off the island and you can walk basically from one end (of the civilization filled part) to the other in about 20 minutes. The route consists of restaurants, bars, shops, guest houses/ hotels and dive shops. The split is on one end which is what they call the beach, it's not actually a beach just a designated area to swim. Ben and I went for a dip yesterday and while the water is super clear and warm the area wasn't what i would consider kid friendly. He loves the water so with two of us there next time it should go better. The island is in general very kid friendly it is just hard to let go of our American expectations especially when it comes to safety but then again the kids here seem to function on their own just fine. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Island Time - Day Two

When you enter any island destination you quickly learn about island time, I'm not talking about the zone or actually time just how quickly or in most cases slowly things are done. On island time it's whenever it gets done or whenever we get there. This is very tough for someone with OCD to make the switch to, especially when that person now has a toddler to attend to who pretty much lives his life on island time but it's Ben's island time. Our house is tucked away at the very far end of the island, "off the grid" is the term I believe is the term used to descried it. I specifically asked about walking into town and we were told it was doable but like most things island "doable" is a term loosely used to describe anything. Aside from the jungle alone we have to trek through not to mention the mosquitos, there was a major rain storm and all the paths (sand) are flooded. Last night it was pouring and our golf cart driver could barely make it through. There is also the time factor today Ben and I were suppose to be picked up between 10-10:30 and he got here at 11:45 with another couple who were going clearly out of there way to pick us up. While having a laid back mentality is good and is the point of vacation there still needs to be some kind of guide to follow, especially when we are forced to pay for a service we were totally mislead about. To be continued.....

Thursday, December 4, 2014

No Sleep til' Caye Caulker - Day One

Our evening started out like any other evening on Tuesday night at least that is what Ben thought. At about 9:30 pm I woke him up to put him in a car seat in the taxi, I thought maybe he would fall back asleep in the cab but I was wrong. This was a very exciting experience for him, the cab ride, the airport, the plane he was wide awake for all of it. He fall asleep briefly during the 4 1/2 hour first leg of our flight to Miami but of course I did not. He was awake the entire layover but was not happy, he didn't want to eat which is very unusual for him but he wasn't crying so I was fine with that. Luckily the flight from Miami to Belize City was only like 2 hours and we had an entire row this flight. He had a blast looking out the window and was very good on the flight. We arrived at the airport in Belize City, Belize at about 11:35am (Central time zone) considering we already went through Eastern time zone he was very mixed up on time so it really didn't matter. He fell asleep in the taxi on the way to the ferry dock which was great but we had to wake him up for the boat. Needless to say that did not make for a great ride but when we got to Caye Caulker he loved riding on the golf cart to get to out very secluded jungle home. It's not technically a jungle more swampy but a little more off the beaten path than we expected. It's about a 12 minute golf cart tax ride into town, yes there are no cars here only golf carts. We could probably hike it but with all the rain and no hiking shoes (oh and a toddler) it could be tricky, luckily they gave us a personal taxi driver (that charges $5 per person except for Ben). After we got situated and heard back to town for some food and supplies, Ben was his normal happy self. The people here are very friendly and love kids so Ben jumped right into making himself known. He was dancing with the waitresses at dinner and gave a hug to a man sitting in front of his restaurant where we will probably go for dinner tonight. Speaking of dinner, Rosie's was where we went, we visited this place when we were here 5 years ago and I remember the table of fresh caught seafood you got to choose. We got grouper filet and stone crab claws with rice, baked potato and garlic bread along with 2 Belikin beers each for a grand total of $60 American (including tip). Not a bad way to end a travel day.