Sunday, July 29, 2012

moments of beauty

It goes without saying that living in a third world country is not easy.  To the stresses of everyday life, we add government corruption, poor infrastructure, and ever-present heart-wrenching poverty.  Lately I've found myself absorbing any moment of beauty that I encounter, just stopping and letting the beauty wash over me.  It restores some peace in my heart.

Last weekend we took an impromptu visit to Sarteneja, which is an isolated fishing village in the north of Belize.  After two and a half hours on the worst dirt (MUD) road I have encountered yet in Belize and two river crossings on hand-cranked ferries, we picnicked on a beach with the most pristine water imaginable.

Yesterday in the market there was an exceptional band playing songs in the Garifuna language.  The Garifuna people live in Southern Belize, and are descended from a small group of African slaves who were abandoned to die on the coast of Belize.  The Garifuna descendants still keep their unique culture and language, although is is getting rarer to hear Garifuna spoken.  The language is fascinating; men and women speak different variations of the language.  An elderly Garifuna lady explained to me that all children speak the woman's language until puberty, when boys start to speak the men's language.  

Garifuna is a musical language, and sounds beautiful when sung.  The drums are a lot of fun too.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Slices of life

Benque fiesta* roaming chickens supervised by fat cat* birthday present making for soon to be 10 year old niece* naughty baby goats* road to home

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

hiking on my birthday

This year for my birthday I decided we would go hiking in an area of Belize called Mountain Pine Ridge.  It's a higher elevation then where we live, and looks totally different.  The soil is red clay, and instead of palms and jungle there are pines and low shrubs.

But hidden throughout the ridge are deep pockets of jungle.  We drove almost 2 hours on awful dirt roads to reach a very posh resort which opens it's hiking trails to the public.  Armed with a "not to scale" map and a walkie-talkie, we set out.

As we hiked down hill, the vegetation quickly became thick jungle.

And then the undergrowth cleared and we saw Butterfly falls.  Absolutely breathtaking.

It has to be one of the most beautiful places I have been in Belize.  (Also, I'm a bit proud of this picture, cause I figured out how to use the remote on my camera :)

We followed another trail basically straight up, and after 15 minutes of wanting to die, this was our view.  Miles and miles of rolling mountains.

I really enjoyed the trails. They were't super easy, but there are bridges and stick ladders to help with the tricky parts. We hiked for 3 hours in total that day, and only encountered one other couple.  The resort is on thousands of acres, and there are trails everywhere.

We decided to keep going, and after 45 minutes of hiking came to the end of the trails-- because the trail ended in a clear, calm pool set deep in the jungle.

 What I didn't get a picture of (because I was afraid of dropping the camera) was the other side of this pool--  a hundred foot waterfall continuing down.  We stood on the rocks on the top and looked down for about 60 seconds until Daniel couldn't handle the height any more :)

The water was clear, and the light just golden. The pool was about 30 feet by 30, and was only knee high at the edges.  To get to the waterfall we had to swim, though, because it was a bit deeper at that end.  I conquered my fear of things-that-live-in-deep-water and got up close to the falls.

At this point I thought I was mostly in the falls... Daniel was just laughing at me. The noise and the spray and the chilly water made it feel much closer though, and I thought I was standing in the falls...  plus, those rocks were slippery. 

And this picture was about 30 seconds before I wiped out on the slippery rocks.

It was a gorgeous, gorgeous day.   What a way to spend my thirtieth birthday-- my own private waterfall,  deep in the jungle.

Monday, July 16, 2012

book review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

I’d heard a lot of positive things about this book, but for some reason it was stuck in my head that this book is about in vitro fertilization… which it is not.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks follows the life and early death of a woman named Henrietta Lacks, her unknowing contribution of some amazingly unique cells, and then the absolute explosion of scientific progress that stems from the use of these cells.  But the book is not just a rundown on scientific progress over the last 50 years.  The author immerses herself in the lives of Henrietta and her family, and does a wonderful job of revealing the many issues surrounding medical technologies, and the responsibilities or lack of towards the humans who are a source of the starting tissues.   She does not press the issues, rather she presents them and invites the reader’s thoughts.   Skloot's fair description helps the reader appreciate both sides of the debates;  her portrayal of the many struggles faced by Henrietta and her family clearly shows her empathy for their situations, and passes those feelings to the reader. At the same time, the author's excitement and wonder over discoveries such as the polio vaccine, cancer treatments, and the mapping of the human genome (all of which were made possible with Henrietta’s cells) helps the reader understand the truly pivotal role Henrietta’s cells have in modern science.   Skloot weaves the huge amount of medical breakthroughs linked to Henrietta’s cells throughout the text; which makes the enormous amount of research that went into this book quite readable.  This book is a fascinating look at the evolution of science in the last 50 years, and the parallel evolution of medical ethics.  It is also a reminder of the human facet of medical progress, and the fact that science cannot ignore people for the sake of advancement.  But at it's heart, it is a story about a woman and her family that finally is being told.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday market and changes.

Things are changing in Cayo.  This is the new "visitor's center," which is located where the bus station used to be in the center of town.  I'm pretty sure that it will include public bathrooms.  This is momentous, people. 

Burns Avenue is the main thoroughfare downtown, and it has been nicely paved with bricks.  Right now they have it blocked off to vehicles, and in the evenings the restaurants bring their tables out onto the street.  It's really nice, I hope they keep it pedestrian only.

Yes, it is now possible to get a can of root beer in Belize.  What next???

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Its the rainy season here and things are Green. And we have finally hit on a combination of good fencing + hanging planters that has (knock on wood) foiled the goats.  I'm enjoying my roses for the first time, and they were planted a year ago. Also thriving are my herbs; parsley, oregano, basil and thyme.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


The snake was vanquished. Lessons have been learned: lesson one, trap the snake under something before you flee, or face a two hour search for the missing snake. Daniel found the snake when he flopped onto the bed in defeat, and glanced up to see the snake twined into the rafters directly above the bed. Lesson two, snakes can climb up walls.
Moving on from that terrifying thought, as I have spent the last 3 days deep cleaning the house (only partially in reaction to the snake) and also because currently I only have internet on my phone, here are some lovely overly processed cell phone pictures of my clean house. I've never put up pictures of the upstairs before... so here it is.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

guineas in the yard, snake in the closet.

I like this picture because you can't tell when it was taken.  1960's?  Maybe.  This morning? Also possible. Laundry, fences, and roaming birds tend to stay the same on the farm.

I have some pictures from my birthday last week, but right now I am dealing with a crisis of epic proportions which is a SNAKE in my BEDROOM, last seen heading towards my SHOES.  I am dealing with this in what I think is a very sensible manner; I ran out of the room, barricaded the door, called my husband to get home RIGHT NOW, and am currently sitting on the couch down stairs blogging to keep my mind off the snake until Daniel gets home.  My feet are also on the couch with me.... just in case there happens to be another snake lurking under the couch.  I am feeling rather mature and blase for not running screaming out of the house but A. it's raining and B. I recognized the snake as a common garden type and I don't feel like being laughed at by extended family.  My mother in law has been known to hack up snakes with a machete, and my sister in law once killed a snake as thick as her arm using a fence post.  Apparently I do have some pride.

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