Saturday, June 13, 2009

June in Belize

Well, amidst all the warnings of the treachery of summers here in Belize, we have so far had great weather and the tourist season, though waning, has far from dried up.

The hammocks always have a nice breeze

On the days temperatures rise, one only has to walk to the back(roadside) part of our building to feel the full force of the sun. Beach side however, continues to enjoy a nearly constant breeze and a comfortable respite from the heat. Hell, its just a great place to hang out. Perfect beach, 3 hammocks in the shade under the palapa where wireless still remains available so one can get a bit of work done and sip cool beverage of choice.

The first of June usually marks the beginning of the rainy season, but it has been held at bay now and is not predicted to start until the end of the month. We need some rain, but we are in the middle of replacing the roofs on our two beachfront cabanas(each has 2 rooms). The result form the first cabana re-roof is that our rooms are about 20 degrees cooler on a hot sunny day. the old roofs were of asphalt with the plywood underneath actually being the ceilings in the rooms, so on a sunny day, the roof acted like a heat sink and it was often early evening before the rooms would begin to cool off for the night. Now we have built a ceiling out of cement board, created a 1 foot airspace with high tech reflecto(this is not a registered trade mark in case anyone was wondering) insulation and a zinc roof on top of that. then we finished with some new soffets and fascia boards. We have one unit done and will be starting the 2 week project on the second beginning of next week. This is phase 4 of a six stage, 4 year renovation that will ultimately include the remodeling of our upstairs living quarters, to which we hope to add a third story small deck with view of the Caribbean Sean and the Maya Mountains. The other phase will be a dock extension to include a small amount of seating and room to dock our boat.

The important thing to remember about the renovations is that they stick to our plan of Zero Growth. We been there done that in Alaska already and have no intentions of borrowing to get bigger and to lose the small resort ambiance that is ultimately our success and our sanity. There is just enough here to do and make decent money while pursuing my passions for cooking, gardening and water activities and the ultimate payoff comes of course in the resale of prime Caribbean Beachfront property. In the meantime, we'll be enjoying every minute of our time here.

\ The ultimate plan of course will be to spend 3 months in the off season in Alaska at our place on the Chena River while being here during the peak seasons. There are times right now we miss the crackling of our Tuscan Oven in our log home in Alaska, friends gathered round and raucous conversation. We miss our friends, but have made many new ones who have opened our eyes to a simpler, less complicated life. We have several friends from Alaska who have visited and purchased property here to spend half a year here during their retirement years. Alaska, after all, is as rural and diversified culturally as Belize and I can draw many parallels. The little town of Galena , Alaska, where I have gone to work for the last 3 years is very much like Hopkins. Athabaskans still fish the Yukon and hunt for subsistence, while taking paying jobs is secondary to many there, though this is changing rapidly, just as in Hopkins. Persons per square mile of country is also very alike and populations are concentrated with one very big city and several smaller ones and many very small villages. the list goes on, but I would be waxing senselessly, as is my nature.

Dangriga market and my Garifuna language lessons

Dangriga, to most first time visitors, seems gritty and intimidating, and indeed remains that way in the minds of many expats with years of living in an evolving 3rd world country. Well it is a little gritty, but scratch that grit and you will reveal a place steeped in culture. Gritty culture I guess, but full of the same life and emotions and cultural intermingling as any town of that size.

A few people will ask for a dollar, usually with a story of a sick baby, but they are not aggressive.

The guys near the river by the Chinese grocery, The Price is Right, offer to wash your car with the saltwater from the river for $5, and if you look the part, you may be offered a bag of weed, but that is nothing different than any Central American town that size, or any tourist driven location for that matter.

The Dangriga area, and the entire Stann Creek District, was settled by the Garifuna, and many of the descendants of those settlers, are still everywhere. Most remember life without electricity and when they made their living from the sea. Most still speak , or at least understand the language, which is African based. My staff has been teaching me some and I have been trying to learn a new phrase or two every week. I have known how to say good morning, good afternoon and good night for some time now, but the presence at the open air market in Dangriga of some nicely traditionally dressed older women who are perusing the various booths for their daily supply of cassava, plantains and sweet potatoes. The traditional Garifuna women are usually of a larger frame, walk with pride and dignity, usually wear a dress with a matching sun hat, and banter with each other robustly. These were my targets for my new greeting,k "Good morning beautiful ladies." I had practiced it for 2 weeks and actually chickened out last week. In Hopkins I am known by all. Many know I am trying to learn the language a little and forgive small mispronunciations and indeed, help to teach by correcting me or leading me into areas of language that they know I am familiar. But this, this is Dangriga, I am recognized, but not known.

I seized my opportunity when two ladies were arguing with a Spanish gentleman about his price for sweet potatoes. They would ask him how much, then in Garifuna, converse with each other into what I took to mean, from the words I recognized, that his price was less yesterday.

Having mastered a phrase that would fit wonderfully into their conversation, and aware of the shock effect of a white guy speaking Garifuna, or trying, I interrupted politely: " Aye, Abba cate ugaine, Amu cate haruga." Yes, one thing today and another thing tomorrow."

True to form, a quick moment of complete silence and an exchange of quick glances brought forth robust laughter and conversation in Garifuna with each other that of course was totally incomprehensible to me.

Calmly I smiled, "Aye," (yes) usually a yes in agreement works, but I knew I was seriously out f my league, but here it went anyway as I slowly walked away..................................

Buiti Banaafi he-eru beut.... Good morning beautiful ladies.

Exit stage right to the gleeful sounds of laughter and a beautiful language.....You'd Better Belize it.

One of The Beautiful ladies in Dangriga

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very nice article.......

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