Thursday, July 2, 2009

The red, white, and blue!

Allow me to take a moment to express my patriotic feelings. I assure the project is going well, and my summer is productive, but the intent of this post is just to honor the U.S. of A.

The Fourth of July is honestly one of my favorite days of the year. I cannot explain to you the feelings of patriotism and thankfulness that I feel when I see the flag of the United States of America flying, and I hear the Star Spangled Banner being played. The fireworks celebrations, the good fellowship with family and friends, and the simply American touches like apple pie and homemade ice cream are just too much to handle sometimes. I ALWAYS get teary-eyes on the fourth of July.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C. at the nation's capitol. The celebration was TRULY amazing, and I specifically remember thinking that I would never have a better fourth. We enjoyed the spectacular music and breath-taking fireworks on the lawn of the Capitol and I was truly in love with the United States of America.

Last year, I topped even that day off. Last year I spent the fouth with my closest family, celebrating the life of my father, who passed away two days before. Actually, my father passed away a year ago today, and I have spent today remembering the great legacy that he left behind for us. What a wonderful role-model he was.

So, last year, my mom and brothers, nephew and husband loaded up and went to the lake to celebrate the Fourth of July. We packed a picnic lunch, took the boat and tube, and set out to take our mind off of our loss. It started raining as soon as we got there, and everyone fled the lake thinking that a good old East TExas storm was about to ensure. However, we stuck it out. At this point in our lives, it didn't seem like a little rain was a big deal. So, numb to the petty factors of weather, we were just about the only people left at the previously crowded lake, and as soon as the rain had come, the rain went away and the sun started to peak out. We finished our lunch and headed out on the boat to enjoy playing in the lake by ourselves. We tubed, and rode around and had a lot of fun just being together. Last year's Fourth of July definately topped 2007.

I am expecting great things from this Fourth of July this year as well. Brad and I plan to have all of our family and friends over to our house on Saturday for a cook-out. On the menu, hamburgers, chips, cheese dip, potato salad, homemade ice cream, apple pie, soda, lemonade, and popsicles! How much more American can you get? We're going to have a slip-n-slide for the kids, and when it gets dark we're going to head over to the fair grounds and watch Texarkana's annual fireworks display. I'm really excited about spending the time with family and friends.

Hope all of my classmates who won't be at "home" this Fourth of July can enjoy their own freedom in some special way. Thinking of you all!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Back to work

This week marks the beginning of work on my project from Texarkana, and I'm excited to get started. Lest you think that I would actually work on the project while I'm supposed to be writing grants, I will assure you that all work on IPSP will take place after 5pm. Therefore, before 5 I have time to reflect on life since Belize ( you may note at this point that this is not grant-writing-related either, but sometimes a girl needs a moment!)

Today I would have been returning from Belize if I had stuck to my original travel plans. This would have made my trip seem unbearable long, as I think I might have grown at least four inches since I got back to the states. You might think I've just been eating better (which I have) but in all reality my appetite has been a bit come-and-go lately. I think the expansion of my middle-region has actually just been Porter growing... imagine that!

On Friday I found Porter a crib, which I think I might have mentioned in my last post, and we bought a matress on Saturday. The bed still isn't put together, but maybe we can tackle that sometime this week, along with picking out a paint color and getting to work on that part of the room. My mom and I tackled a weekend-project to make a canvas to hang above the crib in the nursery, and ended up producing the CUTEST picture ever of a little boy pulling a wagon with a turtle in it. I'm so excited to hang it on the wall, but I have to say that without my mother's help it would have turned out VERY sad. She is such an angel... you have no idea.

We made it back to FBCQC this weekend, for the first time in a long time. Still feel as if we don't have any really good fellowship with people our age there, but it was good to be home. I did hear good news from about five little old ladies at the church, who reported that being pregnant during the summer is miserable. Well, THANKS! I had no idea. ;)

That's it for now. Back to work today, and back to project producing this evening, from the comfort of my own couch... in an AIR CONDITIONED house... with convenient American food only a phone call away. Much love to my Belize amigos... I'll be thinking of you.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Was it a dream?

Safely back in Texarkana, sitting in my office, reading my classmates blog I realize that my IPSP travelling has come to an end. I know this might seem obvious, since I rode the plane, arrived in Little Rock, and have been home for two days now. But honestly, it just hit me. It could be because I just fell back into the normal routine of working, getting ready for baby, and taking care of the house. It also could be because I am still sort of shocked over some of the things that I saw while in Belize. No matter the reason, I feel as if though my entire Belize experience was a vivid, yet distant dream. I am having a hard time describing my trip, and therefore, I'm thankful that most of my classmates won't be returning for two more months or so. That way, by the time they get back I will have had a chance to collect my thoughts and ideally eloquently explain how my IPSP effected me.

In other news, I got home around 10pm on Wednesday, and was welcomed back to Texarkana with a pretty severe thunderstorm. We got home, parked, and Brad ran to the back porch to unlock the door. I was just noticing the brand new motion lights that my in-laws expertly and magnificently installed when a huge clap of thunder rang out and the electricity on the entire block was out. BAM! And just like that, we were in the dark for a night... (interestingly enough, just as I was typing this blog now in my office at work, on a completely clear and sunny June day, when I got to the words "dark for a night" the lights went out in my office! Now, I'm used to the electricity going off in our building because we are doing construction and often power lines have to be taken down temporarily, but the strange part at this moment is that the lights in my office, and department are out, but my computer is still working... along with my co-workers computers. Strange, and IRONIC).

Anyways, so my first night back in what would have been my comfortable, cool, and relaxing house and very own luxurious bed was actually spend hunting for candles and fumbling in the dark to unpack what I needed out of my suitcases. AWESOME.

Other than that, I came back to work yesterday and it wasn't as bad as I had imagined. There were only about a hundred emails to answer, and it seemed that I hadn't left everyone with a million questions for the month I was gone, so my return was somewhat pleasant and normal. The even greater news is that I still have a job, for which I am so thankful! I was beginning to worry if they might have replaced me while I was gone.

Also, I bought a baby bed for Porter today! I'm very excited about the find, and my mom and I are going to pick it up today after work. YaY!

I'll leave the rest of my nominal thoughts off for now. I'm going to try to get some work done and maybe start my weekend a little early. (Lights just came back on in the office! WhooHooo!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mid-week goodbyes!

My time in Belize is coming to an end (a few days early) and I really cannot believe it's already time to go home. More than that, if my trip to Belize is over, that means that having a baby is closer! and well... that's just exciting!!! I didn't think I would feel that way. I actually thought I would be nervous, and scared, and completely unprepared, and while I am all of those things, excitement is definately the overwhelming feeling.

The plan was actually to leave on Monday, but my project seemed to wrap-up nicely this week, and I decided to head on back to Arkansas. My plane leave around 11 a.m. today, and all my things are packed (not so neatly) and I'm ready to go. It has truly been a great trip. I've gotten all the things a girl could ask for from time spent abroad: perspective, cultural experience, new friendships, time away from the norm, and relaxation. Belize is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind country, and the people of this great nation have been such warm, friendly, and welcoming hosts that my stay was very enjoyable.

None-the-less, it's time to get home! It's time to return to a routine, and spending time with family and friends. I want to dedicate the rest of the summer to several things: 1) Being a better employee. 2) Catching up with friends 3) Getting ready for Porter's arrival. I think these three things will keep me occupied, but should I have time left over, I can't wait to enjoy normal summer activities: pool, food, and fun!

My project with Belize Family Life Association will continue on for the next six weeks, from Texarkana. I will be researching, analyzing, and reporting throughout the summer, and I really hope that the end project is useful, enlightening, and thorough. BFLA has taught me a lot of things during my short stay in Belize, and I am continually impressed at the work they do with the resources they have. I can't wait to get home and start digging up relevant information to send their way!

I am sure that I will say this a million more times, but I can't thank the Clinton School enough for such a glorious opportunity. What a truly enriching, and fufilling experience they incorporated into the curriculumn, and I'm so blessed to have a chance to learn as a student of the UACSPS. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

Well, time to start getting ready. The house mates (Real World Belize 09) are going to breakfast downtown before everyone is off to work and I head to the airport. Say a prayer for safe travel for me today. Happy mid-week!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A little bit of perspective...

Hey blog readers! Greetings from a very HOT Belize on Monday!

Lots has happened since the last time I posted, and I really don't have an excuse for not keeping you updated, other than a visit from my husband that kept me occupied over the weekend.

On Friday, not Thursday as originally planned, my host organization facilitated a visit to the Rose Garden in Ladyville, a small town outside of Belize City, towards the airport on the North Highway. I found it ironic that the name of the establishment was Rose Garden, because that also happens to be the name of a stuffy, old-lady restaurant in my hometown. In Belize, however, the Rose Garden is a business that employs commercial sex workers.

I'm not sure how to accurately describe what I encountered on Friday, but will say that it was a life-changing experience. I went on the visit wondering why people choose this type of profession, and left with such a proufound sense of blessing and thankfulness that I do not find myself in this position. The girls I met at the Rose Garden were just like I was a few years ago. They were not more than sixteen or seventeen years old, and interested in getting their nails done, and straightening their hair. They giggled about sexual health, and had innocent and real questions abotu the risks that were involved with their job. These girls were not far from me as a teenager, just silly and full of energy. The only difference was that these girls have not been priviledged enough to grow up in a comfortable lifestyle, and whether by choice or by force, they now find themselves in a scary, dangerous, and less-than-desirable situation. I feel for these girls... and will never be the same after having met them.

Also on Friday Brad arrived by bus from Cancun, Mexico. I was worried about his safety, but mostly excited to see that he was able to step out and have an adventure all his own. There's really something to be said for striking out alone, in a foreign country, and travelling to a destination you've never visited before. I was really proud and excited for him, and he seemed to really enjoy himself.

I tried to show him the best of Belize, but it was pretty difficult to do in the short amount of time that we had together, especially on a weekend. We went to Caye Caulker on Saturday, actually avoided a sun burn for him, and I think he really enjoyed the sights and surroundings. On Sunday we faced the ghost town known as Belize City, because the place completely shuts down. We went to eat a wonderful brunch, walked around for a little while, and hung out at the house, then had a delightful dinner at a beautiful restaurant on the ocean. The weekend could not have been better.

He left out this morning by bus once again, will stay in Cancun tonight (at a better hotel than before) and get back to Texarkana tomorrow. I'm praying for his safe travel, and hope you will too.

My project is at a stand-still for the moment, and I'm hoping to hear back from BFLA soon to find out how I can be the most productive for the remainder of my project. I'll make sure to keep you all updated, and hope everyone has a great week!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Comfort Food: Fuel for the Soul

I was scheduled to complete the CSW interviews today, but they have been postponed again. I have several thoughts about this swimming in my head, but for the most part, I understand how difficult it is to work with this population. First of all, what they are doing is not at all commonplace, or acceptable, and getting them to sit down for an interview cannot be the easiest task, so I can see why my host organization is a bit at a loss as for how to schedule time to talk with them. We're shooting for tomorrow afternoon, which is when Brad is scheduled to arrive, so perhaps it will all work out for the best after all.

Last night Olivia, Johnathan, Kohl and I went to Bird's Isle, which is a wonderful restaurant on the ocean about three or four blocks from our house. The whole sitting area is a patio, which actually extends out over the water, and at sunset yesterday it was REALLY a nice dinner. I ordered a hamburger and fries, because I've seriously been dwelling on American food lately. It wasn't the BEST hamburger I've had, but it didn't leave me hungry, so I guess the goal of dinner was accomplished overall. I had strawberry ice cream for dessert, and it wasn't bad either. Let's just say that I'm counting the days back to Arkansas for many reasons, mostly because I've been making a list of places that I want to eat when I get back. I know it sounds silly, but being pregnant and hungry is NOT fun. I haven't starved by any means, and I'm not the "cravings" type, but when I want a McDonald's burger, darn it, nothing else will do. Just for your information, here's the line-up:

Chocolate oatmeal cookies, cut-up strawberries and ice cream, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob from Polly Porterfield.

French fries and REAL ketchup from McDonald's (along with a FOUNTAIN Coca-cola)

Marketplace- it's a stretch, since I don't live in Conway anymore, but the grilled queso is CALLING my name.

Chicken tortilla soup from On The Border.

Strawberry snow-cone from that nameless place on the corner of Arkansas Blvd. and Jefferson.

Speghetti and meat sauce with mushrooms and cheese bread from Joe's Italian Restaurant on Stateline.

I could go on forever, but I'll stop for now. I know it's silly, but seriously, what would a blog from a pregnant woman be without a post about food? It might take me a week or two to hit up all these places, but I'm hoping that by the time July rolls around I can start thinking about eating healthy again. For now, all I want to do is eat some comfort food. I seriously feel for all my classmates who are pulling the long haul and staying gone for three months. They will all be crazy skinny by the time they get back! Or maybe not... because in Belize the food has been good... just not what I'm used to.

Speaking of Belize, Brad will arrive in Belize City tomorrow sometime, and I intend to take him on a whirling three day tour of everything amazing about this place! There's no way I can show him everything, but hopefully he will get a good idea of why I think it's pretty close to paradise. He wants to see the Mayan Ruins, but I'm not sure how feasible that is, since they're over an hour away. I want to take him to one of the cayes, either Caye Caulker or Goffs Caye, and he has to see the city. We'll see what else comes up... after all, we only have a few days. After that, I can't believe it, but I'll only be in Belize for six more days. WOW!

Lindsey left for Dangriga with Dr. Wheeler and company yesterday, so the house is feeling kind of empty. We're down to four people, but I think at the end of next week we might have some other guests joining us, one of which is a married couple. This means I might get booted out of my room, because I'm the only one with a double bed. Stinks, but I've had it pretty good for three weeks now, so I'm not going to complain too much.

Well, this blog has been long and uninformative enough for one day. Hope all is well with you and yours. =)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Is it Tuesday night already?

Another day come and gone, and I'm still waiting. Today was filled with more of the same, as my host organization has not been able to get the interviews scheduled yet. So, more waiting for me.

The good news is that I am one day closer to seeing Bradley, and that is something to be excited about!

The internet situation wanes on as well, but I did get my revised work plan off to Joe today, and with any luck will keep the assignments coming on time if I attempt to access the internet approzimately eight times for every one email sent.

Julianne made is safely down to Punta Gorda yesterday, and reports that there was acutally rain there today! We still havne't seen any of the wet stuff, but the weather feels like a storm is brewing, constantly. I'm beginning to think it's just a hoax to make me feel like it should be cooler than it acutally is.

Dr. Gary Wheeler, a former Clinton School student and infectious disease doctor from Little Rock, and his nephew Zach made it to town yesterday as well. They'll be here for a few weeks following up on some projects that Dr. Wheeler has in the works, one in particular with BFLA. They stopped by for dinner last night, and I was truly ashamed of my cooking performance. In my defense, our kitchen is not up to par with what I usually have to work with, and I didn't exactly plan to cook for anyone but myself, but none-the-less my mother would have been embarassed of the chicken casserole that I made. She would have ate it, and been supportive, but it was not that great. This just means that when I get back stateside I'll have to redeem my abilities to Dr. Wheeler. I can't leave him thinking that was my best.

Tonight I think I'll have the frozen burrito in the fridge and some of the cheese dip I made last week. I'm telling you, no matter how hard I try, the food options don't seem any healthier or nutritious. I'll supplement with a green apple that I paid 70 U.S. cents for today and hope that Porter gets all his vitamins from the prenatal prescription. I've also decided that my child will be born with an incredible immune system. He's going to come out fighting off the American germs likethey were nothing after everything he's been through already. ;)