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.
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?
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….
|a field of storks|