Spring in Belize
A princess arrives
A joke and Belize country living
"Now I'm going to tell you a joke." This is what the Garifuna say and the "jokes" are always something like this.
Earlier in the week, when Jana went across the way to buy cokes, they also had a few plastic bags of oranges -- each containing maybe a dozen and a half oranges, enough to make 3 or 4 glasses of juice. When she asked if she could buy a bag, they gave it to her. So Saturday morning, when one of the youngsters came around and asked if we wanted to buy oranges she felt obligated. When I asked how much they were asking, she said $5.00 (remember that's $2.50 US). "Oh, Jana, $5.00 is too much for a little bag of oranges," I chided, "if we pay too much for this, every kid in the neighborhood will be selling us overpriced stuff." But it was done, so okay.
THEN the father brought the oranges and it was a whole "crocus bag" -- 50 lbs of oranges right there in the living room!
For the Garifuna, that would be the end of the joke, but I like the follow-up. It turned out to be only an okay deal anyway because a third of the oranges were rotten and she worked the juicer so hard it died and she had to buy a new one. Ha!
As I've mentioned before, Belize is an agricultural country, reliant on citrus, bananas, farmed shrimp and a few other crops, with tourism coming up fast as a major factor in the economy. Still very little of the population is involved in tourism and a majority of the resorts and hotels appear to be owned by foreigners, mostly from the US, Canada, France and Germany. So the government is constantly working on expanding agricultural opportunities so that the small farmers have a chance at coming up with a cash crop of some kind, not just enough food for their own families. By the way, I don't think this is going to work, because I have not noticed any national pride in entrepreneurial undertakings. On the contrary, most of the "real" Belizeans I have met are proudest of a lifestyle that is close to self-sufficient, with a bit of trading with neighbors. On the other hand, I have been told that nearly half of Belizeans live outside the country, so who knows?
Anyway one of the government's latest schemes is ranching fallow deer. They have imported several herds from Mexico and are trying to get farmers signed up to take over the operation after testing is finished. They say the deer are easily domesticated, survive on ordinary pastureland, will not interbreed with local species and they know there is a market for the hides and meat. Part of the rationale is to reducing hunting pressure on the wild deer. I think it may be that there will be a fair amount of midnight appropriation because people are not used to paying for deer hides and meat. It's interesting to see the herds in the fields while they last, though.
On the way from Belmopan to Dangriga on Saturday, Victor wanted to stop at a friend's at Mile 29-1/2 on the Hummingbird Highway. This is actually an address, although you can't get mail at this kind of address. The friends are Eddie, known as "Huh, huh, huh" for the way he laughs and "Lady Dee", whose real name is Diana. Most Garifuna have a real name and a nickname. You have to find out their nicknames from someone else, because they always tell you their real names.
Anyway Eddie and Diana live on 30 acres or so which is pretty much cultivated and Eddie has a small nursery where he sells plant starts -- mostly coconut, mango, lime, breadfruit, etc but some ornamentals too. They have a little wooden house which contains the cooking and socializing area and two cab-over camper shells covered with thatched roofs which are probably bedrooms, and then an outhouse, of course. No electricity, no running water, no store-bought furniture. But there's a waterfall nearby and they have a cistern with a rain collector system and plenty of stumps for sitting on. They appear to be happy and asked me proudly how I liked their "Belizean Country Living."
We stopped for coconuts, limes and some little trees since Saturday was a "planting day." (Apparently I was wrong about not planting in the dry season.) There was a hot, smoking fire going even though it was about 90 degrees with a nice breeze. When I asked Victor later what the fire was for, he said to keep away gnats and mosquitoes and that he always had a fire going when he worked on the farm, too. "But it was windy," I objected, "no bugs around." Then he said, well, the Garifuna just like to have a fire all the time, it's traditional. So maybe left over from when you had to snatch up a burning branch and fend off a jaguar, I don't know.
After a spirited and technical debate about grafting and the best rootstock for certain kinds of limes, Victor and Eddie went off to get coconuts. When you don't have a ladder or a small boy or a monkey to help get coconuts, you just throw one at the clump and the ripe ones fall down. Keep throwing it until you have enough or there aren't any more ripe ones.
But husking the coconuts is the scariest. Hold the coconut in one hand out at arm's length; Whack! it just right with your machete, don't cut the coconut itself, then wiggle the machete around to loosen the husk at that cut; rotate the coconut about 45 degrees and do it again. All the way around and eventually you can pry the husk off. Diana says the husks make the best fuel for baking bread. And Laura says she bakes wonderful bread that is much in demand -- Creole bread. So that's why there's nothing but balloon bread in the stores, hardly anyone but tourists and ex-pats actually buy it. Everyone else has a source for good bread and tortillas or makes their own.
Well, this is pretty long and it's time to work on my laundry
some more, or maybe take a nap. We didn't do much in Placencia
but it's kind of an interesting little town, so a bit about that