Apr 29, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Well, it's been nearly a month since I last posted, proving that I'm going to be as inconsistent with blogging as I am with keeping a journal--kind of unfortunate for a memoir writer. Good thing I have a decent memory. It's not quite as good as Maya, who can remember virtually every gift, compliment, or slight she's received for the past 8 years, but pretty good with details nonetheless.

It's been more than a month since I returned from Belize, and a couple of weeks since we all got back from the family trip there. One thing I realized--on both trips--was that I cannot in good conscience take checks from Random House to write a book set in Belize without giving something back to the place that gave me the story to begin with. If you saw the standard of living down there, especially compared to ours in the U.S., you'd know exactly how I feel. So while there I started looking into how to support or donate to the rainforest communities, especially in the area in and around San Ignacio, without being an obnoxious American who drops in and gives random handouts. The areas in which I've decided to try to do some good are libraries, school tuition, and afterschool programs. Here's the situation in Belize: everyone, even those who send their kids to public school at the primary level, have to pay some amount of tuition for education to cover uniforms and books. It can be as little as US$200 per year but even that is hard for some families to cover. Education is mandatory--and in English--until age 14, but after that high school costs quite a bit more, as much as $200 per month for tuition and even more for those who have to take public transportation to the nearest high school. In addition, some kids have nowhere to go between the time school lets out and their parents get home from work, so low- or no-cost afterschool and summer programs are important for them. School supplies are expensive and hard to get in Belize, so I figured that was a good starting point. Last week I sent six boxes of notebooks, pens, markers, glue sticks, etc. down to San Ignacio for the library's summer program and for Dr. Rosita's afterschool homework and conservation program for kids ages 8-12. The library also needs books for preschoolers and young adult novels, so if any of you have extra books in good condition sitting around and would like to donate them to Belizean kids, let me know and I'll make arrangements to pick them up.

It's not huge, but it's a start, and I feel it's very important to do this next book with the right intent.

Otherwise, life in Topanga speeds along at its quick and chaotic pace. I've started taking an adult bellydancing class on Tuesday mornings, which starts in about 15 minutes. The teacher, Melanie, also has a troupe for girls that Maya and Eden have been dancing in and performing with for several years. (I'll post a photo here.) I told Eden this morning on the way to her bus stop that I was taking Melanie's class for women who are beginners. "What about women who are enders?" she wanted to know. Both girls are having great fun knowing there's a skill at which they are much, much better than their mom. They're teaching me how to do belly rolls, which is a lot easier to do when you're 10 than when you're 43 and have birthed two large babies. The women's class is about 8 or 10 women of varying ages and bodies and natural abilities, but it's not really about having the perfect shape or perfecting the moves. It's more about coming together to dance what was traditionally a woman's dance for other women (in the harems, apparently), celebrating our femininity, and learning how to tell stories with our bodies. Which is really a physical form of memoir, when you think about it.

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