Monday, February 02, 2009

Belize Mission Trip: Saturday & Sunday

I didn't sleep very well on the plane. This was partially due to the fact that I was uncomfortable and restless, and partially due to the fact that I had a good book to read, and preferred reading it to sleeping. I dozed a little bit, on the flights and at the airport, but not nearly enough to resemble a good night's sleep. Consequently, after the van ride to Dangriga and checking in to the hotel, I decided to skip dinner and sleep straight through the night. The next morning, I woke refreshed after a 12-hour sleep. Elizabeth told me about dinner the night before, and what the day's options were. We decided to go to a church service in Pomona, which is a town about 11 miles from Dangriga where the construction team from the group was going to pour a foundation for a new church building. The group that we went with is organized by the Episcopal diocese here in Seattle, so the churches (and the schools that they were associated and co-located with) were all Anglican. Belize, interestingly, is the only Central American country where English is the official language. As a former British colony, they have a lot of British influence. They even use imperial units (e.g., miles, feet, and inches), though they also use metric units to a greater degree than we do here in the US. I don't think I've been to an Episcopal/Anglican church service before (I know my grandparents go to a liturgical church, but I'm not sure if it's Anglican). In any case, I enjoyed the service very much. The liturgical format is somewhat scripted and ceremonial, but otherwise not drastically different from some of what I'm used to, and (more importantly) those who were there were there to worship the Lord, to hear from His word, remember His life and death, and to sing His praises. After the service there was a meal served consisting of sandwiches and punch, and then we climbed in the van and headed back to Dangriga. We were given a tour by the trip organizer of the Souther Regional Hospital of Belize. The organizer is Fr. Peter, whose wife Kathy, a nurse who works with Elizabeth, was in charge of the medical operations. At this point, I wasn't sure exactly what I would be doing. I had been flagged as a "computer person" before the trip, and so I was put in charge of some laptops to deliver to one school, and a bunch of hard drives to deliver to another. I was also told I would be doing some tech support on some computers that didn't work. Being a "computer guy" is interesting. You see, most people don't really have the slightest clue what it is that I actually do for a living, and usually assume that I 'fix computers,' like the geek squad or the cable guy. In actual fact, software engineering has almost nothing to do with these skills, but it turns out that in the process of working (and playing) with computers, (not to mention people referring their configuration and hardware issues to you for remedy) you sort of pick up the skills and know-how along the way. This of course only serves to re-enforce the cultural misunderstanding. It's a bit like thinking that architects install carpet. It's rather quaint and amusing at times.
Dangriga shoreline. Note the brown water: this was not what I was expecting from the Caribbean, but there are rivers that flow into the sea here. If you look closely you can see a strip of blue on the horizon. The Chaleanor hotel where many of our group was staying, and where we had our group meetings and dinners on the roof. Fr. Peter giving the tour One thing I did on Sunday: help sort drugs and medications, and then man the pharmacy for a little bit. One of the rivers flowing into the sea.

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