Friday, October 28, 2011

down the rabbit hole

This is how our yard looks most evenings.  Daniel likes our rabbits to be loose.  It's fun to walk out into the yard, and have a bunny hop up to say hi.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

let there be LIGHT

Yesterday we got electricity!

In celebration, I stayed up till 10pm.  Because I could still SEE.
I also was able to see my legs while shaving for the first time in 3 months.

We have not stocked up on food for our fridge, though, because... we might get hit by a hurricane today? And lose electricity?  Oh,  IRONY.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

book review: Little Princes by Conor Grennan

This book is about the experiences of Conor Grennan, a guy who mostly stumbled into his role of orphan- rescuer and family-reuniter.  Young, unmarried and relatively successful, he planned to take a year off and travel around the world.  Feeling slightly guilty about the selfishness of this,  he decides on a whim to volunteer for a month at an orphanage in Nepal.   No matter that he knows nothing about Nepal, or for that matter, children.  How hard can it be to play with kids for a month?

After his month living with the orphans, Conor finds that these children worked their way into his heart.  They have changed him.  Although he continues along with his trip, he returns after a year. While he is staying in Nepal for the second time, the story of the orphans begins to evolve.  The orphanage founders had been told the children were victims of the war, but it turns out they were victims of a child trafficker.  They are not orphans.  Years ago, their parents paid huge sums to this trafficker, who promised them he would take their children to safety and provide education.  The parents never heard from their children again.  Conor undertakes the incredible task of hiking deep into Nepal, where roads do not reach, to find these parents and tell them he has found their children.

This is such a wonderful book.   The stories of the children are a delight, and their ability to deal with their situations is incredible. Conor writes with self-effacing humor, and even though the book is about a serious situation, there were moments when I laughed out loud.  One of my favorite quotes:

"I asked, 'where is the toilet?' on my first day in Southern Humla, and was told: 'No.' I don't think I had ever gotten that response before. It shouldn't really be a yes or no question, after all."

The end of this book finds Conor not only changing the lives of his young friends, but changing the ways of a whole country.  An inspiring, wonderful book; highly recommended.

Monday, October 17, 2011

how I knew it would be an interesting weekend...

contents of my trunk, Friday afternoon:
1 red bicycle
2 car batteries
1 book: the Scandal of the Incarnation, by Irenaeus
1 mouse trap (my car has mice, my house has bats. craziness)
2 plastic trash bags filled with clean clothes
1 umbrella
1 live rooster in a box.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Did you know there are a lot of traditional Mennonites living in Belize?  The first time you drive by a horse and buggy filled with bonneted blond children is a bit surreal.  In the 1950’s, the Belize government offered land and the opportunity to live without government interference to Mennonites, and many communities took them up on the offer.  Some communities, such as Spanish Lookout, are modern Mennonites who drive pickups and tractors and use electricity.  They provide much of the dairy products and poultry for the whole country.  Other communities such as Barton Creek and Shipyard are traditional Mennonites.  These are the communities that don’t use cars or electricity, and dress distinctively with men in suspenders and hats and women in long dresses and bonnets. 

Most Mennonites are in agriculture, so we are familiar with many families who sell cows and cheese or come to the farm to buy our horses.  It really is fascinating to visit a traditional Mennonite home.  As I well know, living without electricity-- and especially refrigeration-- is no easy thing in the tropics.  One family we know makes cheese.  They keep the milk cool in a homemade indoor pond (complete with Tilapia fish swimming around), and the cheese is pressed by a horse- powered machine.  The family keeps a few pigs and goats, but the sale of cheese is the majority of their income, and it supports them well.

flying Jabiru
A few weeks ago we took a trip to Shipyard to look at some goats.  Shipyard is full of windmills and Jabiru storks.   Jabiru storks are one of my favorite animals to visit at the zoo- they are almost 5 feet tall!  There were hundreds standing in fields and whirling around in the sky.  I had never seen a stork in the wild before, and I made our hosts stop the car so I could take a ton of pictures.  They thought it was amusing.  Sadly I didn’t have my fancy camera with zoom, so you don’t really get an idea of the size of these birds.  Think about it- would you like to come face to face with a 5-foot-tall bird who happens to have a foot-long pointed beak?

a field of storks
I’ve heard that Mennonites do not allow their photos to be taken, so I don’t have any pictures of the adorable little ones.  I’m not sure if that is true, or if they just spread that around so tourists aren’t always taking pictures.  One of the government ministers is Mennonite (although modern) and he and his family always appear on Christmas cards.   I can’t say I blame them for discouraging pictures.  Yesterday a group of tourists who are visiting the farm stopped to take pictures of my house.  I can’t decide if I am amused by this, or if it means my house will now be shown to picture-viewers as  a typical poor Belizean home.  I considered walking out and introducing myself as an American, but couldn’t quite be bothered.  Perhaps I will put up a box, and charge $1 for pictures….

Buggy garage!

Friday, October 7, 2011


A few days ago I felt the first trace of briskness in the air.  For a few minutes I was able to pretend that fall was coming, and that I can go apple picking and wear cardigans and long jeans.  Maybe this weekend I will get my jeans out of storage-- I haven't worn long jeans since last February, I think.  We probably have another month of heat before we get into delicious 70-degree-and-perfect days, though.

custard and funfetti cake: 5 eggs used

I have this wonderful Gourmet Cookbook from the 1960's where I get all my egg-heavy recipes (sponge cake requiring 9 eggs,  check).  I love it so much because 95% of the recipes call for alcohol of some sort.  I was testing this theory the other day and tried the vegetable section.  Cooked carrots with vodka, anyone? Other most frequently used ingredients: eggs, butter, and cream.  And aspic. (no carrots? How about beef tongue in aspic?)

There has been a profusion of babies locally, and I have sneakily integrated my unending craving for cupcakes into the celebrations.  Hey, want some christening cupcakes? Oh, I'll make some coming-home-from-the -hospital cupcakes.  Wow, it's amazing that I have all these cupcakes left over, guess I need to eat them...  This has also been helped along by the fact that I found a recipe for frosting that DOES NOT MELT in Belize weather.  This has revolutionized my cupcakes.

Continuing on my challenges challenge, I took a trip across the border to Melchor, Guatemala.  For various reasons (mostly that I am cheap and used to have to pay to cross before) I haven't spent any time there, even though it is about 7 minutes from my house.  Anyways, there is a thrift store.  What does it say about me that a Guatemalan thrift store makes me so excited?  I got a lot of funny looks, but there are lamps! And clothes for 50 cents! And hundreds of belts!  All items that are mysteriously absent or ridiculously expensive in Belize.

Not a thrift store purchase, I made this. 1/3 of the way through I discovered I hate embroidery.

We have a three day weekend.  Like the last three day weekend, I will spend it trying to bat-proof my house.  Google says that bats can get in spaces the size of matchbook, so I'm thinking of just shrink-wrapping my whole house.  We have some bat problems here.  Locals (including Daniel) suggest garlic for bat-repulsion, but I think this is coming from a misunderstanding of vampire bats/ actual vampires.  Any tips?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book review: if you liked the hunger games, then you might like…

Ok, confession:  I did not like the hunger games .  I read the first one when everyone was mooning over it, didn’t like it, and never finished the trilogy (a lesson learned after suffering through all three of the Stieg Larsson books, waiting for it to get as good as people were saying it was).  I thought the plot was nothing too original, I didn’t really like the main character, and I really hated the scene near the end where mutant wolves eat some poor guy.  While he is alive. 
That said, it seems if you want to read something classified as “young adult fiction” these days, your plot choices are 1.  I’m falling in love with a highly inappropriate vampire/ fairy/ werewolf**/ substitute your myth here  or 2. My utopian society is not so utopian (and may be trying to kill me!).   I’ve recently read two much-loved-on Amazon books that fall squarely into category 2. While they are by no means classics, they are fun reads in the “Hunger Games” category. Without mutant wolves.
 **totally had to spell check that.  Not a word you type every day.

Divergent, by Victoria Roth:  In this utopian society, people are divided into groups based on their most highly favored quality (courage, selflessness, intellect, honesty or friendliness).  Each faction has a role in society; for example those in the selfless group are the law makers, those in the courageous group defend the society.  People grow up in one faction of society, but at the age of 16 they can choose which group they want to spend the rest of their lives in.  Enter Beatrice, who doesn’t quite fit into any of the categories… and therefore maybe her utopian society is trying to kill her! This is an enjoyable fast read, but at the end I was left with a lot of questions, because many aspects of the character’s world are quickly described but never elaborated.  I’m not sure if there is a sequel, perhaps if there is more answers will emerge.

The Giver, by Loius Lowry:  This book has been out for years, but I had to include it because I think it was one of the first in this genre, and also because it is really good. Society has been “perfected” by making everyone equal.  Emotions and attachments are not allowed.  The leaders of society observe each person, and select jobs, a spouse, and even children for the couple based on aptitudes and compatibilities.  In the giver, 12 year old Jonas is selected to train for a unique position in his society; that of memory keeper.  He is to receive all the memories of what the world was like before the current way of life came into being.  His world is peaceful and fair, with no pain, lies, or discontent… at least on the surface.  As Jonas receives more memories, he begins to question aspects of his life that had been accepted without thought before.  One of the best features of this book is that the reader discovers how the world has been changed right along with Jonas, as he learns more about the past through memories.   Definitely a must read book.

Matched, by Allie Condie:  

"Lying in my bed, my body and soul bruised and tired, I realized the Officials are right.  Once you want something, everything changes. Now I want everything. More and more and more. I want to pick my work position. Marry who I choose. Eat pie for breakfast and run down a real street....Go fast when I want and slow when I want. Decide which poems I want to read and which words I want to write. There is so much that I want. I feel it so much that I am water, a river of want, pooled in the shape of a girl named Cassia."

This book reminded me a lot of The Giver in the first few chapters.  Basically the society is much like that in The Giver, where the past has been erased and every person’s action (and even dreams) are monitored. Life is simple because everything is predicted and provided according to a person’s unique needs.  Meals are brought every day, specially tailored to the nutrition needs of the person, jobs are selected for a person based on their aptitudes, and a “match” is selected for people if they wish to marry.  However, underlying this perfect existence is a fear of going against the norm, because punishment can be extreme demotions in quality of life or even banishment to far off places.  Cassia is the 17 year old protagonist, and we meet her as she is about to learn the identity of her match.  Up until that point, her way of life has been unquestioned, but a mistake is made and she is shown two men who could be her match.  Though officials quickly assure her of the correct match, doubts have been sewn.  What if the other man really is her better match?  From this initial doubt, Cassia quickly begins to question many aspects of her society.  She has to choose if she will continue to live as she is told to, or if she will rebel, and face the consequences. This book is really well written, the style flows and the integration of poetry beautifully contributes to the character’s development (it turns out the author is an English teacher).  Another trait I liked is that the character’s world is well developed, with little details that make it much more a realistic, even possible, future.   Cassia’s character is interesting and dimensional.  I’m glad this book is the first of a trilogy, I will definitely be reading the rest.  
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