What did you observe in the home visits?
During our time in Belize I would have to say house visits were some of my favorite experiences. They were the best time we had to get to see the lives of people in these villages and get to know them on a more personal basis. Before starting house visits I had no idea what to expect and I knew only the Spanish Loida, one of our team leaders, had taught us the day before. Thus, my team in general was pretty worried about how the experience would go. During the house visits we got to see the houses of people which were usually made out of wood, cinder blocks, concrete, tree branches, or impermanent materials. Also many of the roads were primarily dirt.
Our first house visit day took place in San Victor on June 5th, on a day when it was somewhat overcast, but still very hot. We were accompanied by our translator Ms. Analia. We would never go knock on the doors because a lot of people had guard dogs who we worried would try to attack. So usually we would yell Buenos Dias several times until someone came to the door and told us it was alright to come up to the house. At the first house we visited the family was cooking something and I could see black smoke rising from their outdoor cooking hut. The woman who looked like she did much of the cooking had what looked like burn marks on her face or discoloration on her skin from cooking over a fire her entire life. At many of the following houses we went to I noticed that many people cooked over fire and there was typically a lot of smoke in the area. Another thing I noticed was that because it was so excruciatingly hot many people didn’t wear shirts, like the kids and men, and the women would wear very thin shirts and do their best to stay under shade as much as possible. Usually when we came to the house they wouldn’t come to us, instead they would beckon us towards an area that would be shady. As we continued walking I noticed how skinny the animals were that we saw. The dogs were always very dirty and skinny and even cows we saw would be completely bony with little to no hair. Many of the dogs would come near us but would keep a distance because they were looking for food, but did not want to get hit for begging.
Our second house visit day occurred in Xaibe on June 7th. This day, unlike the first house visit day, had no clouds in the sky and the heat was about 110 degrees under beating sun. The very first house we visited had a well and the house was thatched with palm leaves. Inside that thatched cottage I could see they had a TV on, and that really surprised me that this family had well water and an impermanent house, yet they still had a television. In fact, this was very common even in San Victor where people would be living basically in shacks, using outdoor pit latrines and yet they would still have a television running. Another thing I noticed during this house visit day was that at certain houses, if the husband was home, he would do all of the talking even if it was his wife who was sick and not him. This showed me how gender roles were typically seen in these rural areas of Belize. Typically, the women would not have a job, meaning their work was in the home while the husband went out and had a job. The women also usually had some education but almost always stopped at standard 6 and did not go on to high school (their equivalent of college).
Though house visit days were some of the hardest days of the trip, I thought it was the best way to see the culture up close and get to know the people of the communities better. All the people we talked to were so friendly and they would be patient with our lack of Spanish ability. Even the people who did not need any medical treatment would ask us how we were doing, and one woman even apologized to us for not being sick. House visit days were immensely humbling and made me see the strength and joyous spirit of everyone, even in the people who were living with the least.