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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, STEVE & CATHY!!! HARD TO BELIEVE IT HAS ALREADY BEEN 9YRS, ISN'T IT?!! We love you and hope you are both doing well -- celebrate in style today!!
Toni, Bryan, Sylvia, Ana, assorted chickens, guinea pigs, etc....