I absolutely love surprises. I like being surprised and even better, I like surprising friends. About a month ago, when our dear friend Cindy popped off an email to me and casually invited us to the island to share her birthday with her, I politely declined. Secretly, the wheels were in motion to make a family trip to Ambergris Caye and turn up unannounced to help celebrate her special day! As you can imagine, keeping a secret on an island as small as Ambergris within a close group of ex-pats is no small feat. I coordinated our travel plans through friends Laurie and Paul (Tacogirl) and made no mention to anyone else, even to friends in Playa as word travels fast down the Costa Maya. Our mission was well accomplished and we spent a few fun filled days with Cindy and Paul, the Tacos and all the usual suspects.

No trip to San Pedro would be complete without a visit to Estel's. Charlie was in good form as usual, serving up the best breakfast on the beach anywhere! Our diets were already a bust for the week after too many Belikins at Wet Willy's the previous evening.

As my children now refer to it, this is our "good morning picture".

Nothing sooths a hangover like fried eggs, crispy bacon and grits smothered in butter. Hmmmmmm.... grits.

The view is not too bad either.

Leaving Rob and the kids to their own defenses, (island residents beware) I made a prearranged visit to the Holy Cross Anglican School with Laurie and Mary. We dropped off some donations and toured the San Mateo neighborhood and the school facilities, watching as teachers, administrators and volunteers readied themselves and the classrooms for the first day of classes.

I am not going to elaborate at this time on the particular needs of this community and the Holy Cross School. Suffice it to say, I was overwhelmed by the scope of the problems they face and the monumental task set before them. I have a blog entry in the works dedicated specifically to this neighborhood and the school that I will be posting soon in anticipation of Blog Action Day.

What is perhaps most amazing, is the remarkable dichotamy between the inside of the school and its rather bleak surroundings. Just inside the doors is a cheerful, clean and secure place filled with tools for learning and enthusiastic teachers and volunteers all ready and willing to give 110% to the children of this distressed area.

Miss Linda signing up a new student in the colorful school offices.

The school has a clean, well-stocked dental clinic onsite for the care of the students, their families and members of the San Mateo community.

The brand new computer lab with 40 brand new Dell desktops generously donated by by numerous angels and the members of the Parish of St. Matthew’s in Pacific Palisades, California.

Clean, well organized classrooms with plenty of books and lessons to live by for us all.

With one of the only feeding programs on the island, Holy Cross School provides a healthy breakfast and lunch to each of its 500 students. These are likely the only meals they receive. There is so much need, so many living with so little. This school is a bright light, the one beacon of hope for the children of San Mateo.

After our morning across "the cut", I rejoined my family for lunch and a trip to the used bookstore, Barefoot Books. Word travels fast on this tiny island and almost immediately, British ex-pat and fellow blogger, Colette, recognized me and the children from previous entries on Tacogirl. Naturally, she knew of our plans to surprise Cindy and was eager to hear the details. Good thing we had kept our trip a secret!!

The Kinnon girls: A self-portrait.

A healthy lunch at The Hungry Monkey Sub Shop.


Dinner was a delicious affair at the Tacos' amazing new pad. Cindy and her Paul joined in the fun and we all enjoyed Laurie's mouth-watering quesadillas, juicy slices of watermelon and too many Belikins (again). We all tucked in early, excited for the next day: a catamaran cruise for the birthday girl, Miss Cindy, and all of her lunatic friends!! Stay tuned.......