Spring in Belize
A princess arrives
Agriculture on the Move -->
I've seen some new places and learned a lot of new things in the last few days and I hope to tell you about most of them before it's time to leave Belize. But first, news about the annual Agriculture Fair, this year's motto: "Agriculture on the Move -->"
My friend Mike, who is originally from Oregon and has a farm, Hidden Falls Farm, at mile 25 on the Hummingbird Highway, came to take me to the fair last Saturday. But since we had to go to Spanish Lookout to get car parts first (more about that in the next issue), we didn't get there until the hottest part of the day. And of course like most fair grounds there are only trees around the periphery, so it was *very* hot. But fun.
Mike is a fruit, vegetable and flower farmer and he had people to see and deals to make, so I saw a side of a fair I don't usually pay much attention to -- what's the latest in organic fertilizer, what kind of experience have people had with the new hybrid coconuts, how do you *really* get a loan out of the government to clear some more jungle. There are dozens of agricultural organizations in Belize --government, non-profit, organic, marketing coops, seed-buying coops, exporting coops and they all have booths and displays of products and pamphlets and people to give advice.
The only competitions I could find, though, were for flower arranging and the horse and cattle judging. There didn't seem to be anything in the way of domestic arts, things the *women* are involved in, except the flowers. And I have to tell you, I wasn't very impressed. Mostly the arrangements were sticking combinations of flowers and leaves in a jelly jar. I asked if the prizes were for actually growing the plants, largest, healthiest, whatever, but they said no, it was for arranging. Strange. May be a career opportunity here.
The other strange part of the fair to me was the proliferation of commercial booths. The ones to demonstrate new weed-eaters and different kinds of plows seemed reasonable, as did the booths featuring various Belizean products, even bleach and pasta. It's a good opportunity to show people what's done locally so they can buy local products and support each other. And Mike actually bought a new weed-eater (which is a *much* sturdier product that you're probably thinking of, a jungle whacker, a motor-powered machete-substitute). But there were also lots of booths of clothing, mostly from the US and Malaysia, a few piles of used paper backs, all manner of imported Chinese stuff, like potato peelers and dishtowels, and stacks and stacks of Mexican plastic dishpans and plastic flowers.
The animal exhibits were also a little strange to me. The cattle barn contained about 50 very large, very cranky bulls, most of them Brahmas. No lady cows anywhere in the place. But there likely are two reasons for this. One, with all those tons of bulls around, we don't want to take the chance of stirring them up even more. Two, I don't think there are more than two commercial dairies in the country, maybe only one, so any kind of dairy competition is probably meaningless.
The horse barns were more interesting. My acquaintances from the Janus Foundation were there with several of the colts resulting from their artificial insemination program and their dams. All the horse were incredibly bored and looking for mischief. One very carefully untied its tether while we were talking to its handler, one snatched my hat off my head and another tried to get the hat after I had folded it and tucked it into my belt. Can't imagine what they were up to by Sunday night.
The Small Animal Barn contained four animals -- a pair of goats with curly horns who were equally bored and climbing the fences threatening to strangle themselves with their tethers and two rabbits in cages, one white and one black, which were being raffled off. I bought a ticket, but I didn't win.
When I thought about it, I realized that unlike their US counterparts, these animals are rarely confined. Probably the Janus Foundation horses are stabled at night (but all their friends are there then), but you don't see many barns in the countryside here. It's never really cold and it rains so much it makes no sense to shelter animals from the rain, they wouldn't have enough time to eat. So you would be cranky and bored too if you were never in a barn except once a year and then it was really, really hot and all these strange children were poking at you.
For other fair elements, the food, carnival rides and music were pretty standard, just a slightly different scale. Food was hotdogs, chicken and beef bar-be-cue, tamales, Pringles. They *love* them Pringles here. Beer, coke and fresh orange juice (waaaay better than Orange Julius). The carnival was five essential rides -- ferris wheel, merry-go-round, tilt-a-whirl, whip and something tamer for the little kids. And not a one of them would I be willing to even get close to for fear that any moment some odd part is going to fly off into the crowd. No mid-way, no games of chance or skill. But there were lottery booths all over and raffles of various kinds. I bought a ticket to have a house built in Belize City, but I didn't win that either.
There were two music stages with huge speakers. One was out in the open; the other was a band shell with a thatched roof area in front for the spectators. No chairs. I watched part of a contest among three high school girls, one from Dangriga, one from Orange Walk and one from Belize City, who were competing to be Queen of the Fair I think. They each had to tell a story or joke (preferably in Creole), dance (preferably the Punta) and sing (didn't understand the rule here). I don't know who won, but they were all pretty and animated and graceful.
By then it was getting on to 5:00 and the young men (and some of the older ones) were starting to get pretty rowdy. The beer is pretty a bit weak here (but good, a German brewer I think) and I think you have to drink A LOT to get drunk so I suspect there were some illicit rum bottles here and there. I was just as glad to leave, even thouogh that meant we missed the rodeo. This is as close as I've come to getting sunstroke here and I'll be more sensible in the future.
Well, this report got twice as long as I wanted, but there
was a lot to tell. Next the Mennonite community at Spanish Lookout.