Saturday, March 24, 2007

A little 'Aidan photoshoot'







Isn't he a beauty? And he's a proper little Buddah too. Always happy & oh so easy-going. We're very lucky to have two such wonderful children...



Progress gone mad


I always feel relieved in more ways than one when, after long travels, I once again visit a public toilet in Belize. Now, I know that that is a strange thing to say, but I just hate all these 'top of the range' public toilets that are now all over Western society. I mean, what's wrong with flushing a toilet? I hate these toilets that are meant to flush by themselves. They either start flushing before you're finished or they refuse to flush at all and you end up moving backwards and forwards in the cubicle in the hope of of your movements being detected somehow.


I understand that people don't like touching anything in public toilets, but come on! This is just progress gone mad as far as I'm concerned. You can just flush the damn thing and wash your hands when you're done. Oh, and then there's those stupid taps too that are meant to start running as soon as you put your hands under them. They never seem to work the way they are supposed to either.


Now, I'm sorry to say, but it made me laugh to hear that during a power cut in New York no one could use public toilets, because none of them would flush and the taps gave no water either. Something like that would never happen in a developing country like Belize...because here we are still able to manually flush away our own crap.


Giving machines this much power is just ridiculous.


So there you go, progress is not always about going faster & it's not about sanitizing the hell out of life either.


So flush and be happy!


Monday, March 19, 2007

How long will it be before he starts bringing home dinner?

Dr. Tim was kind enough to go fishing with Lucas several times whilst the Intervol group was here. I get the feeling he is improving, even though he still does have a hard time following instructions.


Anyway, next week on San Pedro he'll be able to practice every day with Andy : )




Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

There he goes!


Aidan's walking!

Oh, it is just the cutest! He is wobbling all over the place. Lucky enough, Cindy from Intervol (yes, my lovely doctor friends are back in Belize) brought me my new camera, so I can actually document his early walking moments, before he loses that adorable wobble.

The only problem so far is that he refuses to walk when the camera points at him. But once he's had his nap I will try again & I will post it later.

Oh, and I'm not feeling 'blah!' anymore. That only lasted a day or so. Thanks for the lovely reactions to that post though. I guess the experience is quite universal.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Messages about Darfur, Sudan

My dear friend Suzanne Doyle has worked with some of the greatest music stars in the world. At one point she was Bono's personal assistant & I guess that 'like attracts like' in this case, because like Bono, Suzanne is a person who can not watch by in silence when she sees an injustice, in this case the genocide in Sudan. Please have a look at the emails she's been sending me. I hope they'll inspire you to take some action...

Suzanne:

So last night, in our PJ's, with full tummies, warm bed clothes and no pain or fear, I sat with my 8 year old and my 2 year old watching the amazing Eclipse of the Moon or 'La Luna' (as my 2-year-old calls it) from the comfort of our sheltered and safe bedroom. I couldn't help thinking of the innocent men, women and children all over the world who would probably wish upon that Eclipse for NO FEAR, PROPER ACCOMMODATION, PROPER FOOD AND MEDICINE, THEIR MURDERED SONS & DAUGHTERS, FATHERS AND MOTHERS TO BE ALIVE AGAIN and most importantly for HOPE TO BE RESTORED....

It really is SO wrong that so many people are suffering at the hands of other humans - and for what? For those of you who don't know, the situation in DARFUR, SUDAN is being compared to the GENOCIDE in RWANDA. The rape, killing and pillage has killed an estimated 200,000 people (some reports say it's actually far more than this) and it has driven 2.5 million from their homes in four years...

This week there has been talk of the The Sudanese interior minister threatening to BEHEAD ANY PERSON attempting to arrest the individuals indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and I ask myself if that is the sort of government in Sudan, IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE in DARFUR? I have been trying to read as much as I can, speak to as many people as I can, to get my head around DARFUR and I just cannot make sense of it...

I know about the oil. I know about China. I know about the U.N. But I don't understand, and will never understand how the International Community and smart business people can turn a blind eye at the MASS DESTRUCTION, KILLING AND TORTURE of fellow human beings.

I was told that the media does not give it the coverage it deserves because 'It is AFRICA'... I've been told that people in general are 'de-sensitised' to the troubles and strives - especially in Africa. Well, shame on us.How easy it is to turn the other way...

I wonder if the same thing was going on in France or Spain or even Ireland,would the world be OUTRAGED, CONCERNED AND ACTIVE...? Africa just doesn't count in the same way.... How any of us can sleep at night is beyond me....I wonder when the next Eclipse happens, will AFRICAN HUMAN LIFE BE SO CHEAP?

For more information and to get the current information and what's in the news about Darfur you can read and/or take action by looking at the following sites...

www.LifeNets.netwww.amnesty.org/sudan
www.myspace.com/savedarfurcoalition
http://www.msf.orgwww.goal.ie/

Thanks,
Suzanne Doyle


This is what Suzanne wrote in an earlier email:

As some of you will know, I have been researching DARFUR for a couple of weeks now and have set up two pages to try and spread awareness:
www.myspace.com/suzannedoyleconsultancy and http://www.irishfordarfur.bebo.com/

Since doing this, one positive thing I have heard about is a money lending initiative called Microfinance/Microcredits which I think is worth checking into (although the term 'money lending' tends to send shudders down my back!). It allows you to connect and lend money to small businesses (a lot of the time directly to a woman, usually a mother) in the developing world and help them achieve economic independence...

The loan can be as little as $25 and may last 6-12 months. You can get your money back once the loan is paid or maybe choose to give it to someone else to give them the 'leg up' we all have needed at one time or another.

If you have time to spare, you can watch a programme on the net about it: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1640009667534997960

Two such groups that were recommended to me are KIVA and UNITUS. Maybe have a read at what they are doing to see if it sits right with you:
http://kiva.org/app.php
http://www.unitus.com/

Thank you!

Suzanne Doyle

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Feeling restless

Now, I don't quite know what's up with me the last few days, but I've been feeling rather uninspired and restless. I feel in need of some excitement, I just have no idea what kind of excitement that should be.

I would like to feel really passionate about something, but I just don't know about what. It's a rather frustrating feeling. I mean, of course I feel passionate about my family...my husband, my kids, we also have a very successful and enjoyable business that I am very proud of, we get to travel a fair deal, and in another month or so our new house should be ready. These are all wonderful things, I know they are. And I am grateful for all of them. But even so, there is nothing that makes me jump out of bed in the mornings (I get up because my children pound on me before the sun is even up)

Maybe it's just that I don't feel like I'm growing enough as a person, that I'm learning anything new or that I'm stretching myself in any way these days.

I assume that most mothers of young children feel this way from time to time? We all want to learn and grow and challenge ourselves, but it's so hard to take on any other challenges apart from the raising of our children. I really admire those women who feel 100% fulfilled just by being a mother, even though I can't feel that way personally. It's all a bit of a catch-22 for me...I want my children to be my main priority, but at the same time I don't want them to be my 'be all and end all'. Please tell me I'm not the only mom feeling like this....

Anyway, it does prove that even whilst living in paradise can you can feel 'blah' from time to time ; )

Friday, March 02, 2007

San Pedro pictures




Andy has been wondering for a while now if Lucas was old enough to go fishing with him. He decided to give it a go this time on San Pedro and Lucas was 'hooked' immediately. He now even has his own rod. Lucas does drive Andy crazy though as he refuses to follow instructions. 4-year-olds seem to believe that they know everything!





Thursday, March 01, 2007

Problems of the Belize education system

Please have a read of this Channel 7 news story. This is alarming to say the least. How to solve this problem? I don't know. It would be a huge task. Personally, I just try and get as many Belizean children sponsored (through the Jaden Foundation) to go to the private schools. It's a shame that it has to be this way, though.

From the Channel 7 story:

Standards 6 Teachers Can't Pass The PSE Either

As we've reported, failure rates in the PSE continued last year and with examinations coming up in May, most educators concede that it won't get much better. And today, new information released by the Ministry of Education tells us why that may be the case. Late last year, teachers took the test and the results were alarming. Those were released to mixed reaction at a Ministry of Education press conference this morning. We were there.

Jules Vasquez Reporting,There are 355 standard six teachers in Belize - from varying backgrounds and with different levels of training In October to November, they were invited to take the PSE. Some didn't show up, but on test day, those that did were very much like the students they teach.

And the bad news is that they didn't do much better than the children.

In problem solving, 10 of the 300 teachers got between two and ten points out of a possible 50 points - that's a score of between 0 and 20%!

In the Toledo District, one teacher got 2 points out of that possible 50 - that's a score of 4%.

What's more, 98 of the 308 teachers - a third, outright failed the problem solving portion of the exam by earning a score of less than 60%.

But most teachers - 111 of them scored between 31 to 40 points, that's a score of between 60 and 80% - considered adequate score - but certainly not impressive.

In fact of the 308 teachers that did the math problem solving, only 12, earned a perfect score.

The district averages show teachers in Corozal and Cayo averaging the best with 36 and 37 correct out of 50 - average scores of about 75%.

And while math was worrying - the English test divided into letter writing and composition, wasn't as bad, but still gives reason to worry. 287 teachers sat this test and, again, most only did adequately.

Yvonne Davis,"The majority of our papers were at the adequate level. 141 of our teachers were writing at the adequate level, scoring about ten to fourteen points on the letter writing paper."
And on the composition again the greatest number, 115 of them were at the adequate level. 41 teachers failed this section of the test as well.

Overall, the scores are abysmal and the results profoundly worrying.

Chief Education Officer Maud Hyde underscored the concern: "When you face it, quite in this way and looking at the system across the board, it is certainly takes away your breath a bit and you know that you have to do something."

And that something was follow up courses to improve on their weaknesses. But the follow up sessions on Saturdays were poorly attended.

Yvonne Davis,"The response to the follow up was very poor I would say. For January 20th and 27th, the first two sessions in English by district overall only about 47% of the teachers came out and it fell on January 27th when 39.7% of them came out. February 46.7% came out and 52% last Saturday which was the last day of the follow up."

So who is responsible for these failures, first in the test and then in efforts to follow up?. Union President Anthony Fuentes was on the defensive, "The teachers will take this issue here today and see it as probably a deliberate attempt, maybe it might not be, but as an attempt to attack the teaching profession."

Maud Hyde,"The intent is not to necessarily be overly critical of what teachers and our teachers ability but as a nation to look at where we stand, to look at some of the things that keep us from seeing the performance from our children we would like to see and be able to address them."

Anthony Fuentes,"It is not only teachers who want but all stakeholders from Ministry, management, union, parents, children - all of us are involved in the delivery of the quality of education so all of us have to take blame."

And all those stakeholders, with the exception of children and parents were at the head table - and all could point to a contributory cause. Management, represented by the Chair of the Association of School Managers Carol Babb said it was the quality of teachers.

Carol Babb,"I was watching some of your expressions, your facial expressions when you learnt about the results of the PSE that the teachers themselves took. As a manager I am telling you that everyday we are faced with filling vacancies and being unable to find qualified teachers to fill those vacancies. Right now I look at one of my larger Anglican schools and at that school there are only three trained teachers and the principal and I, she came to me and she asked me what are we going to do?"

Indeed what to do, less than half the teachers are trained, one of them with only a standard six diploma.

Carol Babb,"We have to admit too that in very remote villages, teachers don't qualify, teachers don't want to go there and sometimes you have to take what you get. And I am talking from experience. I would have problems right now to find somebody to go to Punta Negra. Nobody wants to go to those places and I am sure in the case of that teacher that has a primary school certificate, that might be the only person who is willing to go there."

Problems wide and far reaching, and a test that now is failing both students and teachers. But Hyde says, nothing is wrong with the test,"If the system is not measuring up to what the expectations are, then the system needs to be addressed."
Jules Vasquez,"How can you say that the system has to measure up, no in the system punishes. You get 100% of your salary, these teachers will get 100% of their salary, these kids get half a life?"

Maud Hyde,"I think that is putting it a bit strongly. Half a life…we wouldn't want to say that our children can't succeed if they don't do well on PSE. Examinations are a necessary evil some people would say but education is not all about examination."

With no stated targets for improvement - and a clear indication that many teacher just cannot teach what they don't know - Hyde says things are under control - this is not a crisis.

Maud Hyde,"Whether we're in a crisis, I wouldn't say so. A crisis to me is something where everything is falling down. I don't think everything is falling down."