Saturday, October 9, 2010

living in a small country

the old gas station in Benque.  Any customers I’ve ever seen here come on bikes.

I’ve been in Belize a little over two years this time around and have started to notice that everyone knows who I am.  Not just former students or people from church, but random store employees and taxi drivers.  I do not know who they are, but they tend to know my name and where I live.  I grew up in a small town, but it doesn’t compare to here.  I think in the States people almost consider it impolite to be friendly and find out if you are connected somehow.  Here, I get scolded by Daniel if I walk by someone on the street and forget to say good morning or good afternoon.  When you get in a shared taxi, you say good morning to everyone else.  Often people say good morning when they get on a bus, and everyone choruses back.  The thing is, in this country you are bound to know someone on the bus or be related to them, so you might as well be polite all around.  People tend to strike up conversations with me when I am on my own, and inevitably they are friends with one of my brother-in-laws or a former student of Daniel.  Or a cousin.

Anyways, yesterday was a good example of what I mean.  I was waiting by the side of the road for a taxi, and one of the off-duty buses that parks in a lot across the road stopped to pick me up.  I started talking to the driver, who was from Corazol (about 4 hours north), filling in for a colleague.  We are good friends with one family in Corazol, and it turns out the bus driver lives across the street from them.  Then I went to the phone company to ask about internet for our house.  Before I could give the sales lady any info, she calls her boss and asks if they are offering service yet at Nabitunich (where we live).  I don’t know this lady.  Next I went to the post office, where the worker greeted me by name.  One of our farm workers was hanging out watching football with them.  Finally I headed home in a taxi, and the driver says, “Nabitunich, right?” as I got in. 

I like it. It's easy to be mistaken for a tourist here, which means higher prices and rude comments a lot of the time, so I'm usually glad when I am recognized. I’m still waiting for the vendors to stop overcharging me at the market, though.  That might take a few more years.

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