Friday, July 15, 2011

Out and About - Picture Day

Well, I'm bored, but I don't feel like writing. That means you get PICTURES!  Sorry if the page loads slowly, and sorry that there aren't people you know in the pictures. I just rode around on my merry bike and snapped away so you could maybe have a flavor of Dangriga. You can click on the picture to get a bigger version.

Havana Creek. Our view from the bridge looking down the creek toward the sea. There's a little jetty at the end there where people are walking.

Bridge Repair. Actually it will be bridge tear down and build back. It's been cracked and dangerous for a couple of years. It's the same bridge from which the previous picture was snapped.

Replacement Bridge. This is the temporary bridge we are supposed to use until the other one is fixed. Obviously it's not meant for cars and trucks.

Drums of our Fathers. This is the roundabout you go around (about) as you enter town on the Hummingbird Highway. The "old-timers" call it the Y because the road splits off to the right and left. The drums represent the Garifuna culture. Sometimes food vendors set up in the circle.

The Bus Station. Very important part of Belizean life. Transportation on the bus boils down to about $1BZ for 10 miles. Which is very cheap. Schedules are relatively reliable. Of course, you never know if you'll have a seat. When I rode to Bella Vista for the health fair two weeks ago, I had a seat. BUT the driver stopped a lot to let more and more people on. Just when I thought no more could possibly fit, he's let on 10 more. At any given time, I had one or two kids on my lap (it seemed they might suffocate standing down there between everybody's legs). And for awhile, I had a chicken in my lap (in a box - a pullet, I guess, on its way to live in somebody's yard a few more weeks until they decide it will be good for dinner).

The Home Depot across the street from the Women's Department where I work.

My Office Building. The Women's Department is downstairs. The porch is home to two dogs, a woman with dementia, and, at lunchtime, at least three men - sometimes more - who eat and take a siesta for an hour and a half. Word has it that we are moving - but then who would feed the dogs?

My Desk. The clunker PCs you see on the left are boat anchors. I have an ethernet cable, a good fan, and indoor plumbing (and usually toilet paper, although I have taken to bringing my own every day).

Z-Best Concrete Block Company. This factory starts up at 5:00am every morning. We're far enough away that we don't hear the roar of the machine making the blocks. Except for the machine, everything else is manual. The completed block is carried out to dry and harden by two guys. All day long. Then moved from the drying area to another place where they are stacked. Nice homes are "cement" houses. The really poor people live in board houses (like where we lived in Camalote).

The Market. Up front you can see the vendors with clothes (never anything new, all used), plastic goods (like colanders, bowls and tubs, baskets, chairs and tables), sometimes tools and kitchen utensils. Mondays and Wednesdays are the days they get in the new old stuff. Toward the back are all the food vendors - a special seafood/fish area, and the rest fruits and vegetables. Tuesdays and Fridays are the best days for food.  By the way, there are plenty of grocery stores. Too many, really. Sometimes they are directly across the street from each other. Most are run by the Chinese. The ones run by Kriol Belizeans are often the old-fashioned kind, that is, not self-service. The buyer goes up to the counter, and asks for the goods and groceries needed.

The Post Office. Not much to say. Pretty much the same as the US, but not as busy. It's real convenient for us, just a block away. We have letter delivery, but not package. We get a notice about the package and there's a 75-cent fee to process the package.

St. Vincent's Street. Taken from in front of the Police Station, where four officers in a truck warned that I was going the wrong way on a one-way street. Three other people passed me going the wrong way (we were all on bikes) but they ignored them. The street is the main retail area of town.

Local Night Club. I think it's called Waruguma (wa ROO goo ma). Honduran drummers, punta dancing!

Our New House. Saved the best for last! This is where we'll be moving. It's upstairs cement. Just down the street from Miss Patsy's house, so we'll be able to see her often, probably every day. More about it later.


Okay, here are a couple days' notes from Steve. Later . . . .

I spent much of the weekend working on language skills. I downloaded a little piece of software called iFlash (for flash cards -- not for running naked through the neighborhood). There were no stacks of cards in their online library for learning Garifuna, so now I have uploaded my stack as the only one in the library. One of the other volunteers here in town has offered to help me with this project over the next two years. I have attached sound files, but my pronunciation is the pits. I am glad it is easy to upgrade the flashcard stack.

At the clinic we have designed and printed a new brochure for high blood pressure and a brochure on services offered by the clinic. (Cathy's note: Steve did the designing. He's using the "royal WE.")  We also have a first edition of a clinic newsletter about things the employees have been doing. Tomorrow I go to one of the satellite clinics to meet with the diabetes support group. Each time we try to get phone numbers of the people so that we can let them know about future programs. The last group wants to learn about cholesterol in foods and about various cooking oils in regard to health.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Life goes on here in Dangriga – almost ALL of it interesting, fulfilling, funny and fun. Steve and I are both juggling multiple tasks and projects. None of them are very big – yet.

My counterpart, Michele Irving is the director of the Women’s Department, part of the Ministry of Human Development (like social services). She has many job duties, groups, and activities that she oversees, all of them helping women in some way. One of them is POWA.

Agriculture Training Building at Mile 9
Another is a co-op of women who are learning to make vinegar, with the hopes of creating a moneymaking business. There are about 25 of them, about 5 from Dangriga (coincidentally all are POWA members), and 4 or 5 from each of four villages within a 20-mile distance. They convene on Wednesdays to learn about and make vinegar. The Agriculture Department provides training and supplies for the classes, and the ladies do all the work. People are working, but it's a lot of fun. Last Wednesday I took my iPod speakers and we were rocking out to Latin music.
"Cooking" the vinegar before infusing herbs
Haute couture

Some of you may already know this. To make vinegar, you make wine first!
We made all kinds of wine – pineapple AND pineapple skins, grapefruit, star fruit (they call it carambola), lime, cassava, and rice. It’s just a lot (the bucket holds 5 gallons) of purified water added to the fruit, and about 8 pounds of sugar. The wine “ages” in the plastic bucket for 4 weeks. We tasted the 3-week-old wines last Wednesday. They were definitely fermented and tasted like wine.
Ready to make wine

Wine tasting in Vinegarville
Michele (in green) and Emily (another PCV)
The man is the Ag agent who's teaching us.
We used cheesecloth to strain the fruit out of the wine, but we’ll let it ferment till next week. Then we’ll add yeast and let it ferment a couple more weeks. We’re also making herb-infused vinegar, and we tried that out last Wednesday, using plain white vinegar as the base.

So the idea is to try out every type of vinegar with or without every kind of herb, dried or fresh, and come up with a couple of products that will sell. Next week we will have a marketing session, trying to brainstorm a brand name, labels, ways to sell, and maybe come up with a loose organizational structure. We plan to have a “sample day” on the last Friday in July (payday). More people will be in town, and we’ll set up at a few places around town (like across from the bank) and let people try a little vinaigrette on a carrot or celery stick. Ask them which they like best, what they think of the price, etc., etc.

Now this may sound a little familiar to those of you who regularly read our blog. You may recall that we did the same thing with POWA Punch a couple weeks back. There has been nothing done with POWA punch since the sampling day.

The issue here is follow-through. Michele is wonderful at helping people get started with something or providing opportunities. But she is SO capable that people just assume that she will continue to lead the efforts, and no one steps up to continue the projects. So maybe one thing I can try to do over the next two years is to find a way to get that “hand-over” piece of the project going a little more. There are a lot of folks who are able to do it; they’re just used to being worker bees and not the queen.

I kept hearing Michele talk about going up to Mile 9, the Agric Ctr, to make vinegar. I asked her one day what time she would get to Vinegarville, and the name just stuck. Now everybody calls it that J

Other happenings

Steve at the health fair - blood pressure king
Steve and I both worked at a health fair in a village called Bella Vista last Sunday. He went with the Polyclinic people, and I was part of the POWA representation. They had a big turnout. And I think our table was best because we were doing HIV/AIDS awareness outreach, so we had cool stuff like condoms and dildoes!

POWA women giving HIV information

Last Friday, there was a demonstration against gay rights and abortion, led by the Catholic Church. It was a pretty large gathering, very vocal. Gay people must be very careful here to stay safe. The people are divided on the topic. My ultra-liberal group of friends in POWA get upset with the demonstrations. They say, “Why aren’t they marching when children are going hungry? Why aren’t they marching when a woman is raped or beaten?” and so on.

The subject of sex is so open and so not open here. There are teachers who refuse to teach any kind of sex education (a group of them marched out of a training session when the instructor brought out a dildo to demonstrate how to put on a condom). They also said that they would never say the words “vagina” or “penis” or “sex” in their classrooms. However, men and women commonly have children together, move on the next person to have more children. Marriage is often common law, and the courts routinely enforce support for children from a common law father ($25 per week per child). Somewhere in here, there is often a disregard for personal safety by not using protection, and STIs are rampant.

Last week the government nationalized BEL, Belize Electric Limited, because they could not pay their bills. It was the only electric company in the country. Last years they took over the telephone company. Lots of hubbub over these things. And next month is a national election. Maybe I’ll let politics be the subject in our next blog entry. We’re not allowed to express opinions about the political situation, but I think it’s OK to give an overview of things.

We’re happy with our bikes. It’s so great to get everywhere quickly. Now to be honest, riding with a skirt is no picnic. And riding with a poncho to keep off the rain is real tough. I have a lot more practicing to do.

Hope you all had a happy Fourth of July!