Thursdays are for Arts & Crafts

nefry's retreatI am lucky to have the best, and possibly most unique, work-life-balance on my co-op in Belize. Because I self-designed my co-op I definitely don’t have a traditional office environment. In fact, I actually live with my two bosses and their family, and we all work from home. Nancy and Jaime, the husband-and-wife team who founded Barzakh Falah and supervise me on my co-op, have a beautiful home and a loving family.

Every morning we all have breakfast together at 7:30, Jaime takes the kids to school, and afterwards we all pull out our laptops and start our work day at the kitchen table. Around noon, someone will leave to take food to the kids for lunch (parents are invited to picnic with the kids at the schools here). On the way back, they’ll bring Leo home, since he attends a half-day school. All is quiet for a few more hours until the girls get picked up from school at 3:30 and come home. Once they’re home, all productivity is lost for a few hours while we referee after-school activities and prepare dinner. Sometimes I stay on my computer typing away, but work for me typically resumes after dinner.

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Yahzzarra, Jasmine, & Victoria

On Thursdays, Jasmine’s best friend in the whole wide world, Victoria, comes over for arts and crafts. Her mom Ms. Deb, comes along too. The adults drink coffee (for Nancy and I, it’s probably our 3rd cup of the day) and snack on ginger cookies, while the kids tackle the project of the week. Victoria’s family is actually from California, but relocated to Belize a few years ago to give the kids a cultural exchange experience while being homeschooled. Last week the kids made stenciled t-shirts with fabric pens and showed off their button bowls from the week before.

Having lived this lifestyle for 2 months, I now completely understand why Barzakh Falah had very little online presence before I arrived. With all of the meals, pick-ups, drop-offs, and play dates, Jaime and Nancy can really only manage the most essential functions of day-to-day operations for the non-profit and other small projects they run. To give you a better grasp of what the family is like, here’s a little more information on all the characters:

The Adults:

Nancy (or Mom) wears many hats. She is a “retired” activist, a humanitarian, an entrepreneur, a chef, a fantastic mother who parents with spunk, and most recently, a cook-book author (click here to check out her first book!). Nancy’s ability to keep the whole family glued together while managing several small businesses is truly inspiring.

Jaime (or Dad) is the architect behind Barzakh Falah. He has degrees in architecture and eco-sustainable building. He manages and supervises the hard labor when we have volunteers. Also makes excellent lime juice slushies and iced “hot chocolate”.

There is another co-worker, Louis, who also lives at the house. Louis helps out with everything from shuttling kids around to booking volunteers for Barzakh, while running his own construction contracting business. He is a master coffee-maker and makes sure to keep everyone heavily dependent on a caffeine drip.

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Louis, Jaime, & Nancy

Grandma and Grandpa (Nancy’s parents) don’t actually live with us, but they might as well. They are right next door and frequently call one of us over for various things. Common requests are: “can we borrow your toaster” and “Leo can you feed our dog.” But having a good relationship with Grandma and Grandpa has advantages- they have the best snacks. They currently split their time between living here in San Ignacio, and a house in Chetumal, Mexico.

The Kids:

Xena is the oldest- the 17-year-old Instagram star, who is sure to become internationally famous at any second. She’s just starting the college search, so we talk quite a bit about what my life at university is like, and what she might want to major in. Her biggest dreams at the moment are to turn 18 and to move out of Belize.

DSC_0020Then there’s Leo, a 14-year-old genius already attending an accelerated high school. Until recently, he was pretty sure he wanted to be an astrophysicist, but since it’s not statistically realistic for him to become an astronaut… he’s decided to lower his expectations and pursue Biomedical Engineering so he can build prosthetic limbs. Not to mention, he’s quickly becoming an excellent photographer.


Jasmine
(Jazz) is 11, and “aaallmost 12” as she would tell you. At the moment, Jazz is tackling the biggest challenges of 5th grade- spelling and memorizing Bible verses (the two youngest kids attend a Mennonite school- more on this later). She always wants to know how your day was, and if you’re ever looking to split an orange, she will always be willing to take on the other half.

Finally, there is Yahzzarrah (or Yaz). 6 years old. Adorable. She has absolutely everyone wrapped around her finger. Currently going through a phase where she pretty much refuses to eat anything except for Nutella, fried plantains, and grapefruit. But hey- at least she likes grapefruit right?

Are you exhausted just reading this? Now try a work-from-home lifestyle while being surrounded by this crew 24/7. Don’t get me wrong though, I really do enjoy living here. I’m so glad that I’m getting to experience what it’s like to grow up in a big family that is so different from my own.

I can’t leave a blog post without doing a little bit of “work” for my co-op so please give us some love on social media! LIKE/ SHARE/ FOLLOW Barzakh Falah because the best thing you can do for a tiny non-profit, with almost no effort, is to make it visible to others:

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