Archive for April, 2010

Posted by: Tori Wong | 27th Apr, 2010

Do you know Jose Mario Esquivel?

On Friday when we were swimming at branch mouth, I jumped off the bridge and was swimming to the shore when I sliced my foot open on something in the mud, I cursed then looked to see what the culprit was, searching for a rock or a broken bottle. What i found was a Belize Social Security ID card for a guy named JOSE MARIO ESQUIVEL! He was born July 20th 1985, and the card (that has been safely tucked away in my backpack since Friday) doesn’t expire until 2019! I have made it my goal, much like capturing a dinosaur, to find this Jose Esquivel and return his card to him before I leave in 5 days. I’ve been asking everyone I know if they know him/his family. I know this country is small enough that SOMEONE will recognize him, I just know it!

Everyone I’ve asked has had a different opinion on the lost ID; I’ve heard everything from “He’s probably an escaped convict who was being chased by the cops and threw his card over the bridge so they wouldn’t be able to identify him!” to “It must be fate for you to find this guy, fall in love, and get married!” Overactive imaginations…but I AM excited for this last adventure in Belize! So much for finals…I’m going to go find Jose Mario Esquivel!

Posted by: Tori Wong | 26th Apr, 2010

Oh Hey There, Dry Season

So…Belize has officially entered the “dry season,” and everyone warned me that the transition from April to May is the hottest time of the year, but I didn’t believe them. Until this week. Yesterday had a heat index of 113˚, today I sweat in places I didn’t even know had pores (the backs of my ears and tops of my feet?) and I just got a text from Rhondine warning that tomorrow’s heat index is going to reach 126˚! 126 DEGREES?! You could cook food in 126 DEGREES!

All this heat makes studying for my finals…or moving in general…seem like an impossible task. I can’t even bring myself to eat anything more than mangos (the dry season brought mango season with it!!!!) and several nalgenes of water each day because I would rather dance around in a small dark room filled with sharp objects than even think of cooking in this heat.

Who would have ever thought that Virginia’s humid summers could be refreshing?

Posted by: Tori Wong | 25th Apr, 2010

One last week in Belize…

Say what?!

I’ve been putting off writing this post for quite a while because I just don’t even know what to say to express the mix of feelings I’m experiencing right now. I leave the Belize City Airport 2:00pm on Sunday, May 2nd and get into DC early (like 1am…) Monday morning (I have a MAD layover in Miami.) I’m definitely ready to be back and to see everyone I miss so much, but I’m not by any means ready to leave this place that four months ago seemed like the exact opposite of home. I have been touched, amazed, and incredibly grateful for the kindness of everyone I have met here, and can’t imagine getting on a plane in exactly one week to leave this new home and new life I have built in Belize.

That being said, I am going to live this last week to the fullest (or as full as it can get with a jam-packed final exam schedule) and “go out with a bang,” so to speak.

Friday I had 2 major presentations: The first for my Applications of Sustainable Development course to present on my semester teaching environmental education at St. Barnabas. The second was for Horizon 2030, a consultation program that has kind of bombarded the country in the past few weeks (as in everyone is talking about it) and aims to create a framework for where the country should be in 20 years by sending representatives around the country to “listen” to what the people think. I was required to present my “vision” on solid waste management for my environmental economics course, but I honestly felt a bit uncomfortable because I felt that since I’m only going to be here a total of 4 months, it’s not my place to tell the government what they should be doing for this country. I haven’t lived through the history, and while I have every intention of returning to Belize, I don’t know how much of the future I will be involved in. After sitting through some of the other 2030 presentations, I think the other international students and many of the Belizeans in the audience agree. Anyway, both the presentations went smoothly, and it’s nice to know that the only school work I have left are 3 cumulative finals on Monday and Wednesday of next week.

The greatest project partners I ever could have asked for; Tommy, Tony, Hannah. I’m going to miss them more than they will ever know.

After my presentations, I went to Branch Mouth, the swing bridge over the Macal River with Lauren, Kate, Ashton and Eddie. Hopefully that won’t be my last trip to the bridge, but it very well might be…I’m going to miss being able to just walk to such a cool place whenever I want.

Branch Mouth!

On Saturday, we went to our very last Saturday market (!!!) I remember our first trip to the market like it was yesterday, and here I am, 4 months later, eating my last pupusa and saying goodbye to Christopher (aka. the Peanut butter man) and his 10-year-old brainiac of a daughter, Jasmine, who I have become so close with in what I previously would have considered a short period of time.

Our favorite pupusa stand at the Saturday Cayo Market.

PUPUSAS-thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and beans!

I’m going to stay busy this week with finals, goodbyes and last minute adventures around Cayo, but I’ll try to keep you posted and I will be back to the states in ONE WEEK.

Posted by: Tori Wong | 18th Apr, 2010

Unbelizeable family vacation!

My family came to visit over Spring break (1st week of April)! We spent 3 days in Cayo together and I had SO much fun showing them all around San Ignacio, and what I’ve called “home” for the past 4 months. It was great! They met everybody, ate at all my favorite restaurants (Hannah’s, Martha’s, Erva’s and the nameless fast food stand next to Hannah’s), walked across the rope bridge at Branch Mouth (where we go swimming all the time), went swimming at Bullet Tree (just another part of the same river), toured Galen and met Rhondine!

Alex, Tyer and me on the rope bridge at Branch Mouth. It was (amazingly) kind of cold to go swimming, but we normally jump off the bridge into the water less than 10 feet below.

Dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in town, Ko-ok Han-nah (we all just call it Hannah’s).

I would almost like to leave this picture caption-less to let everyone use their imagination to decide what exactly is going on here, but the explanation is just as funny. There was a big open field surrounded by palm trees behind my family’s cabin (where they were staying at Wind Hill). One day, I walked out to find Tyler and Alex collecting coconuts in the field, then the three of us spent a good 45 minutes smashing dead coconuts on this rock…

I guess the theme of the week was “fun with coconuts.” Dad and a coconut boat at Bullet Tree.

Sunset drive on the Western Highway!

Then on Thursday, we all went to San Pedro (a town on Ambergris Caye, an island off the northern coast of Belize) together for Easter! San Pedro was much more touristy than I had expected, but it was really nice to have an actual family vacation in a beautiful place away from everything that I had gotten so used to. When we arrived on Thursday, we checked into “the Phoenix”, and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring and working on our tans by the “infinity pool” (so COOL!).

There were hardly any “real” cars on the island, only golf carts.

Sailboats right outside our hotel.

The roof of the Phoenix!

On Friday, Tyler, Alex, and I (along with Ninfa and Alison, 2 of my friends from Cayo) went snorkeling at “Hol Chan Marine Reserve” and “Shark Ray Alley.” I’m a bit bummed that I didn’t think to get an underwater camera, because this trip was AMAZING; it was equally as cool as my oceanography trip to Southwater. Our guide, Alfonse was GREAT; he was totally passionate about the ocean and about sharing all the marine life with us! Some of the highlights of the snorkeling trip: swimming 2 feet over sea turtles, and next to parrotfish, moray eels, colorful coral, a 30 foot drop off (that made me feel like I was in finding nemo…), holding a stingray “like a pizza,” and “carrying” a nurse shark (carrying in quotes, because it actually carried me! Alfonse helped me wrap my arm around the pectoral fins, then he said, “just let her swim where she wants to go!”). It was an amazing afternoon, to say the least.

Saturday, Dad and Tyler went deep-sea fishing, and TYLER caught a BARRACUDA! end. Then we had a wong-family cooking party and invited a bunch of my friends over to feast and watch the NCAA championships!

eeeeek barracuda.

Posted by: Tori Wong | 17th Apr, 2010

Mole Enchiladas with Ms. Rhondine!

Ms. Rhondine taught us how to make mole enchiladas! This is the first semester that I’ve had to really cook for myself for every meal; it’s been a lot of stir fry (and cheesy toast…), so this meal was a nice change! I’ve found that there is almost always a pot of cooked beans in local households ready to be used in an infinite variety of quick Belizean dishes. This one uses mashed and refried beans with a ready-made mole sauce, a combination of red chilis and chocolate.


1 small bottle Donna Maria Mole Sauce

1 lg. 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 lb. 15 oz. can tomato sauce

1 quart low sodium chicken or vegetable stock

1 medium sized onion finely chopped

4 cloves garlic crushed

1 small green bell pepper finely chopped

1 tsp. ground black pepper

2 tsp. ground oregano

2 tsp. salt

2 tblsp. Olive oil

1 lb. Manchego cheese or other good melting cheese such as mild cheddar grated

1.5 lbs corn tortillas

1.5 lbs. shredded chicken for stuffing the enchiladas (enchiladas can be stuffed with beans and cheese or other meats)

8 oz.  sour cream

1 bunch cilantro chopped (optional garnish)

On medium high heat in heavy saucepan; sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add bell peppers and continue to sauté until soft. Add mole sauce, black pepper, salt and oregano and continue to fry. Stir mixture and add ¼ of the stock; let simmer until the mixture is almost dry before adding another ¼ of the stock. Continue frying sauce one more time before adding the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Also, add the left over stock to the sauce. Stir the sauce to ensure it is not sticking to the pot, turn down heat to low and let simmer for about 15 mins.

Use a 15 X 9 pyrex dish or two smaller pyrex dishes for the enchilades. Heat oven to 350 degree F before you assemble the enchiladas.  To soften hard corn tortillas, dip the tortillas in sauce, stuff with chicken, beans, cheese or your favorite meat and roll. Spread some sauce on the bottom of the pyrex dish before you start assembling the enchilades. Continue to stuff and roll corn tortillas laying them tightly next to each other until the pyrex dish is filled. Once dish is filled with enchiladas, cover with extra sauce and add cheese. Put the dish filled with enchiladas in the oven and let bake until cheese is melted.

Remove from oven and serve with sour cream and chopped cilantro and or salsa sauce.

Tip: left over sauce can be used to cover serving plate before dishing out enchiladas onto plate. Left overs can be refrigerated and reheated in a microwave before serving.

The finished product 🙂

My roommate, Amanda enjoying our masterpiece.