Spring in Belize
A princess arrives
'Griga Challenge 2001
Last Monday was a holiday here -- the celebration of Commonwealth Day, which is really May 24. In Dangriga, the Peace Corps volunteers had organized a "fun run" billed as the 'Griga Challenge. Kids could sign up at school and pay $2.00 or you could also sign up the day of the race. In Tony and Therese's neighborhood there were half a dozen little boys that Therese had offered to pay the $2 for as well as her three children (Daniel,11, Luke, 9 and Rebecca, 7) and her cousin's little girl (Brielle, 4). She told the neighbor boys to be at the house between 7:15 and 7:30, the race was scheduled to begin at 8:00.
When we got up at 6:15 they were already hanging around in the yard, so we ran a pancakes and sausage assembly line for a while and then organized water and sunscreen and checked socks for holes and so on. *Everybody* had to wear sunscreen, even the darkest child. If they're not your child, you don't know if they already have some on or not, (if they got out without breakfast, they probably got out without sunscreen). If they *are* your child, they might be fooling you, so put them in the mix anyway. Here's what you do. Line them all up and go down the line smelling their arms and the backs of their necks. If it doesn't smell like sunscreen, lather them up and don't forget the tops of their ears.
Then we piled everybody into the van and went to the park that was to be the starting point. There were already about 200 people there, some of them had signed up already, some of them hadn't, but everyone had to get their ticket for the drawing of prizes and the names and numbers had to be recorded. I think this was a better turnout than the Peace Corps expected because it was a lot more work than the six of them and 2 nuns could manage. I ended up recording names and numbers for the village of Independence, a group of about 30 nearly identical Mayan boys and girls. They were bussed in for this fine race, as were kids from several other villages in the district.
When the race finally got underway, lots of the parents decided to run too so there were well over 300 people running and walking the 3-1/2 miles or so through town. There were 4 water stops -- one half-way through where they handed out 12 oz. plastic bags of purified water and three places where the fire truck sprayed water and everyone got to run through it. This is good because it was very hot, one of the hottest days of the year and unfortunately one of those days without a nice trade wind. There weren't very many spectators that we saw, but since Therese and I were in the van bringing up the rear, just behind the ambulance, maybe there were more earlier. We were bringing up the rear and walking four-year-olds. I'd get out and walk with them for about 100 yards and then they'd get tired and climb in the van and drink water and pant for a while and then we'd get out and walk some more. Tony was riding up and down on his bicycle encouraging people.
At the end of the race, all participants got more bags of water and a banana. These water packets are great. They're pillow-shaped, fit in a pocket pretty well and are pretty sturdy. To drink the water, you just bite a little hole in one corner and suck it out. Of course, you also can use them to have water fights, which about 200 of the 300 people did. Great fun and very cooling, even for those of us who had spent a lot of time in an air-conditioned car and weren't very hot. The other entertainment after the run was music blasted over huge speakers with a DJ doing his DJ thing and encouraging the water fights; and some parachute games. The parachute games were a little hard to follow but went something like this. A lot of people grab the edges of the parachute, open it all the way out and lift it up to shoulder level or so. Someone else throws a bunch of balls of various kinds on top -- football, beach ball, soccer ball, nerf ball, a dozen or so. Other (shorter) people run under the parachute and try to knock the balls off. The people holding the parachute try to keep the balls on. Every once in a while, the people holding the parachute pull the edge up over their head, and down to their butts and then sit on it with everyone inside. Don't ask me why, I haven't a clue.
As it turned out, only the people who had signed up at school got t-shirts (but they also were the only ones who had to pay). The t-shirts were pretty funny -- white with Griga Challenge 2001 on the back and a cartoon of runners panting toward a finish line on the front. The runners were all middle-aged and pink. And if there was another middle-aged pink runner in this race except me, trailing along with the four-year-olds I didn't see them. Every color of tan, brown, beige and mahogany, but no pink. The Peace Corps kids must have been mortified when they opened their shipment of t-shirts. But they carried it off like troupers, the show must go on, never gave any indication how ridiculous it was. The kids knew, though, most of them turned their shirts inside out before they put them on.
Well, that was enough excitement for one day, so in the afternoon
I went over to Laura's and drank wine with her and Victor's mother
and learned some things.