Who are you and where are you coming from?
My name is S. Renee Wentz. I grew up in a very small town in Northwest Illinois, Mendota. I lived in DeKalb for about 10 years and then moved to Madison, WI for about 6 years before moving to Belize in Jan. 2002.
What is your activity right now?
For money: I taught English from Jan. 2004- July 2009 at Muffles Junior College (a great school with terrific faculty & staff) in Orange Walk Town. Since August of 2009, I've been the student advisor (counselor) at Corozal Junior College where I also teach psychology classes.
For love: I instruct women and girls in self-defense and personal safety with my S.H.E. Thing Self-Defense and Personal Safety for Women and Girls program. I have been doing so since Nov. 2002 and to date have taught over 500 women and girls in Belize. I am expanding my programming to include men for street safety and defense against weapons (gun, knife, machete). The first mixed-gender presentation will be given at Belize Electricity Limited in Nov. 2009. I am also hoping to begin working with the LGBT community and people with disabilities as well as develop a program for primary school children. I have taught classes for Youth Enhancement Services, Wesley Junior College, Muffles Junior College, Corozal Junior College (in both colleges where I was employed I have had a self-defense club), the Women's Department in Corozal, Orange Walk Town, Belize City, and Cayo, and private groups. For the past two summers I have also taught at Sisterhood Camp sponsored by the Women's Department, where in addition, I served as camp counselor and physical activities - morning exercise instructor. I have written articles about domestic violence, preventing assault/attacks, and rape for national newspapers. I have also appeared on Channel 5 news, Open Your Eyes morning program, and will be appearing on LoveFM Morning Show in Nov. 2009. Recently, I wrote the scripts for some Safety Tips in a Flash which were recorded by the Women's Department and will be heard on national radio. Future: I write poetry and essays, which I hope to publish one day.
Tell us why you choose to move to Belize?
I was tired of the materialistic rat race of the USA. I also moved shortly into George W.'s first term. I saw that as a sign of bad things to come and decided the time was right to make a move. The main reasons for choosing Belize were: no quarantine on bringing pets in, only a permit and medical records - this was a big concern as I moved 4 large dogs and 3 cats with me from the USA. One is able to drive to Belize (ease of moving). English is the official language. It's in the Caribbean. After I made several trips, the first being in 1998, I learned that Belize is very diverse in people, language, cultures and also geography. For an outdoors person and lover of history, Belize has much to offer. In general people are much friendlier and open than in the USA. One also has more freedom. And there are NO chains of any type! No fast food! No Wal-mart! None of the things I grew to dislike in the USA.
How long have you been in Belize?
I moved to Belize in Jan. 2002 and have lived here full time ever since.
What do you miss the most, if anything?
Really I only miss friends and family still in the USA. Stuff-wise, I guess varieties of cheese, good ice cream, and sushi. That is really all, honestly.
Did Belize brings you any surprises? Which ones?
I have learned a bit of what it is like to live as a minority where another culture is dominant. I think this has been a wonderful, even if sometimes painful, learning experience. I had visited Belize enough to not really be surprised but I do still notice differences. It was interesting to realize that not only are language/word use different, but even gestures and facial expressions differ. A few ways that Belize has changed me for the better: I am much more comfortable with my body and with dressing in clothing that fits me. I was one of those people who always wore dark clothing a few sizes too big and not very revealing. I believe I have banished those clothes from my wardrobe. I got used to the word "thick" being a compliment. I also hug and kiss my friends and tell them I love them. I never did this in the USA. And I call people sweet names like: baby, darling, love, babes...especially my students.
Any advices to give to the readers?
Belize is not for everyone. Sites that are trying to sell land or vacation packages will only show you the positives many times. Come to Belize with an open mind and open eyes. Garbage disposal is a huge problem here. Machismo reigns. Women are called on the street and sometimes told disgusting things. It takes some adjustment. If you plan on moving to Belize, take some time to visit for long periods of time first. I would recommend at least 3-6 months of "trial" before you sell everything and move down. Live in a town or village, rent a house, pay bills, buy food, do laundry, like a normal person. Don't come for a vacation and think your life will be like that always in Belize. And if you really want to live in Florida or California but can't afford the lifestyle you want and think Belize is a great alternative, don't come. Don't come to Belize and try to make it another USA. Don't come here and be the "ugly" American/Canadian/European by complaining about how Belize needs to be more like the USA or Canada or Europe!
Something else to share with us?
If you are on Facebook, you can find a page on my self-defense program by following this link.
Want also to share your Belizean experience?