Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Belize's social conscience?

I've been pondering several situations here that are disturbing and have had me questioning people's motives.  To live in a country other than where you've grown up you have to agree to accept that things aren't going to look or feel the same as what you've known.  We agreed when we moved down full-time that this isn't the US, nor would we really want it to be.  Some of the lovely simpler ways appealed so much to our beaten up psyche's.  We were looking for and found a quieter, simpler way to live.  

I appreciate so many of the villagers, their warm smiles and "hello miss," greetings.  Actually I'm also called "mommy" which is a sign of respect to an older woman.  Gosh it's hard to be that old, but reality and the mirror let me know it's the truth.  I feel safe here and do feel that many keep a watch out for us, knowing that we're alone on our hill.  Stepping back tho', now that I have more time for contemplation, I find I have to turn my back on so many things in order to continue surviving in our insulated environment. 

We have friends who live in the village and are under huge stress because of the insensitivity of others.  Our friend, David, is extremely ill and several neighbors know, but are uncaring about his illness.  They play extremely loud music all day and into the night.  To most Belizeans, music must be played at the loudest volume that their speaker will stand.  When asked to keep it a little lower,  one neighbor responded with "but it's my music and I like it loud."  This is actually a recurring response everywhere here.  Loud music seems to be the norm and even tho' there are supposedly laws to at least force them to shut down at night, they are regularly ignored.  You can often hear the boom, boom of the base all thru the night.  

A huge frustration, here in Bullet Tree, is the relentless noise of the stream of Guatemalan trucks traveling from the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout through the village and up Calla Creek road to Guatemala carrying the precious commodities that should be here for the betterment of Belizeans.  This route lets them bypass the customs checks at the Benque border.  There is a checkpoint here in the village that supposedly checks cattle for disease or ??, but we see envelopes changing hands and have heard that this is with Minister's approval.  Of course that means greasing palms and it's OK.  These trucks are noisy, with most not realizing or caring that they can and should turn off their Jake brakes on the flat in the village, so their speed and noise can keep having face to face conversations come to a halt until they pass.  The dust created by their speed, coats everything.  Up here on our hill the sound is faint as they are passing on the other side of the river, but I still resent how this is destroying the comfort of so many in order to line the pockets of a few.

Besides the noise, the road through the village is constantly eroding, making a trip of even 10 mph seem horribly uncomfortable.  The Mennonites don't feel at all responsible and the village is lucky if the government agrees to grade the dirt road more that once every couple of years.  

The examples of the uncaring attitude of the "haves" for the "havenots" is so extreme here and goes on and on.  From the hollow promises of government workers and officials who will promise to make things better in exchange for a vote, to the supposed pastors who exhort the poor folks to give to support the church and to find that all the money collected here and from outside the country to help the poor, just goes to let the pastor drive a new vehicle or have a nice house, but the struggles of the parishioners go unheeded.  

These and many more examples have made me try to fathom what is so different here.  As an outsider I feel that there is a huge difference here regarding our feeling of personal space and responsibility.  As Americans from the US, we're overly apologetic of what we have and our responsibility of trying to make the world a better place.  It's hard to "butt out."  Here I find that it's more every man for himself, even when it comes to family and friends.  There's a general selfishness that precludes everything, allowing family members to turn their backs on others if it means giving up their time or worse yet, their money, to assist. 

 It's hard to disagree with the young who want to move to the US for a "better life" but even when given education support to study abroad, almost none return to help their homeland survive.  

Belize is so proud of being independent now for 33 years, but I don't think that they see that they are slowly sinking into a hole from which I don't think they can recover.  They're abandoning their goal of being a "green" haven to siphoning off all the funds into the hands of a few politicians and rather than improving the infrastructure to allow for responsible growth, they go for the fastest under the table situation.  It's so sad as Belize is a beautiful country that could be a shining light throughout Central America and the Caribbean, but probably won't survive the greed and insensitivity of the culture. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dreamer farm retreat

As I sit on the veranda this morning I'm struck by the absolute silence. ( Not having neighbors in close proximity can be such a quiet blessing).  The air can be totally still and the birds get quiet.  The only sound I hear is the gentle ticking of the new clock telling me I should get busy.  Hush up!  Then I hear the quiet chirping of the small warblers and sparrows and so many others I have yet to be able to identify.  We'd have so many more birds near the house, but having  two Irish Setter pups, one of whom is obsessed with chasing the birds, has nearly cleared their one acre yard of some of our previous friends.

 It's approaching mid-morning, so the chachalaca's have gotten quiet as have the howler monkeys, whom we never see, but seem all around us.  Periodically a light breeze passes by keeping it from getting too hot.  I'm so happy that we made the choice to have our roof extend over the entire veranda, which protects the house and gives us cool spots during the day.

We had some lovely folks look at our place a couple of weeks ago.  We had no idea of their agenda as they came with a realtor.  I wish we had known they were looking for a retreat as we had designed so much of the land with that in mind, even knowing that it would always be beyond our resources.  We planted a circle in the middle of the open area to allow for a drive-around for three potential cabana sites.  Setting them with a back to the trees would block out sounds from the village.  We also had Rene punch a path thru the bush towards the east to access our coconut trees.  There would be a couple of great spots for additional cabanas which would be set in the trees.  The area to the west, behind the house has been cleared and Rene has planted some of the medicinal plants as well as various small palms.  There's a meandering path thru and with the placement of a couple of seats, it would be a lovely spot for contemplation. 

It's been and will continue to be a beautiful retreat for two old, very tired people, but we do feel that we need to get back to family while it's still an option.  As we've told ourselves so many times tho' if we have to be stuck someplace, there can't be a more wonderful place than Dreamer Farm.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Quit whining, it's been raining

I should have whined earlier and maybe we'd have seen more rain.  We still aren't getting the big rains that we usually see, but at least it has been raining a bit.  Good for the ground, the cistern and my disposition.  We were all starting to feel that there was a bubble over our area, making the clouds go around us, but maybe the bubble has broken.  Anyway, I'm trying to get my gumption going and start doing things.   Thank you our lovely rain. 

Cohune nuts & healthy eating

We've both become extremely lethargic since our projects have ceased and the weather has become extremely hot and humid.  I've never been much of a cook and now, with the heat, I have made only a minimum effort thinking about meals.  We've both come to the same conclusion that we need to lose some weight.  Or better yet, a lot of weight.  I've decided to make a positive step by eliminating processed foods from our diet.  Here it's probably easier to get clean organic foods as the farmers are less sophisticated, thank goodness, but our choices are definitely limited.  

One really easy change is to start using cohune or coconut oil.  Both can be found in the farmer's market and we now are enjoying a small bottle of cohune oil from Rene and Bonita.  We are so lucky to have a large group of healthy cohune palms on the west side of our property.  These fantastic trees are becoming more scarce with each burning season.  Many farmers consider the cohune a nuisance and intentionally burn them.  Others use burning as a method of clearing or cleaning and the cohunes, which burn easily, are lost in the process.  

The nuts are formed in huge bunches that hang down and take a year to mature.  When they're ripe they fall and can then be gathered.  It takes a lot of determination to break the hard outer shell to get to the nut.  A sledge or back of an axe are necessary if processing by hand.  The nut tastes a lot like a coconut.  Rene collects and bags the ripe nuts and takes them home for Bonita and family to process.  The lay them in a secure area to dry, then break them by hand.  One 100 lb bag of nuts will produce about 2 quarts of nuts.  The shells are set aside and when fully died they'll use them as fire starters.  I've also been told that they infuse a wonderful coconut smell to the fire.  

Bonita uses a huge, very old cabbage bark log which had the center burned out to a depth of about 1 1/2 feet.  The nut meat is put in this hole and she takes an iron bar and crushes the nuts.  These are then placed in a large pot with water and they're boiled an entire day.  At night they put out the fire and in the morning the oil has risen to the top and they scoop it off.  She boils the nuts the second day and repeats the process.  The second day produces most of the oil.  They later throw the nuts into the fire for heat and the lovely smell.  They boil the oil slowly to get rid of the remaining water and get the pure oil. 

I wish we had the money to buy a press that would crack the nuts to encourage the locals to bring their cohune nuts to be more easily broken to try to preserve this precious product.  With jobs so scarce it would also be a small way for some to earn a little extra.  Too bad we're not the "rich gringos".

To me the overriding value tho' is their beauty.  To sit on the veranda and watch them gracefully sway in the breeze and realize their worth to this tiny country makes me realize that, to me, they are Belize.