Sunday, August 7, 2011

Settling in to Life in Belize

Well, if anything, living here in Belize has taught us that we used to eat and drink too much!

Cathy - minus 16 pounds since arrival
Steve - minus 31 pounds since arrival

We're not going hungry. We're not on a weight-loss diet. There's just no nightly wine or junk food. We walk or bike everywhere, and water is our preferred drink.On the other hand, I'm sure that I've lost some muscle mass because I'm not exercising as much as I used to. As for Steve, we are working on getting more calories into him.

Other benefits: Steve has gone from taking two blood pressure pills a day to one-half pill every other day. Sometimes his allergies disappear completely! (not always)

Not a benefit: My blood pressure was already low, and now it's through the floor. Diastolic is often below 50. Which is why I drink so much water - trying to keep up volume. I feel fine, but frequently experience a few seconds of dizziness.

The New Digs
We love the new apartment. It's quiet, has lots of light, good circulation, SCREENS on all the windows, a fantastic kitchen, two verandas. Three bedrooms and two baths - what will we do with all the space? We need company!

Here's a mini-tour.

Steve is sitting in the dining/entertainment area at the "Mennonite table." It's one of only two pieces of furniture that we bought. We also bought 4 plastic chairs (I don't count them as furniture.) YES, that is a built-in bar you see in the background, and a screen door to the front veranda.

Here you see our spacious sunken living room, currently decorated with our bicycles. On the far left you can see our wireless router (very high on our priority list) which even as I write is providing us with lightning speed 512K download speeds :--). On the far right you can see the hallway that leads to our three bedrooms and two baths.

You should also note that resting on Steve's hip is one of our bicycle helmets. Peace Corps Volunteers are very easy to spot in Belize, because we are the only few of the population who wear them. Our Safety and Security Officer in Belmopan tells us that when people "thief" PC bikes, they always leave the helmet behind.

The kitchen has beautiful custom cabinets. Currently the majority of them sit empty. Of note here, you can see our 5-gallon bottle of "purified" water. The deposit on the bottle is $30, and the water is 5.50 BZ (or 3.50 if you buy it from the factory, but that's too far for us since we have to carry it ourselves). We have a gas stove and I'm learning how to cook on it - VERY different from the electric contraption I've used all my life. (And, yes, I know that the best cooks use gas stoves.)

Here's our bedroom and some more incredible cabinetry. The wall unit full of shelves and drawers, and a "Hollywood-style" mirror is built-in. In the foreground you can see the second of our two furniture purchases - the bed. It's positioned in front of three tall jalousie (or louver) windows that let in a wonderful breeze all day and night.

The Chickens
The neighbors behind us keep chickens, maybe 25 grown hens and roosters, and half that again of chicks. I love their clucking and crowing. The three roosters have very distinct crows, too. One of them trails off at the end with a kind of mournful sound like a distant wolf howl. The neighbors keep the chickens to eat, not to lay, so I'll try not to get attached to any of them.

Next Time Wear Gloves
Last night I fixed the most delicious black beans recipe - . Steve and I talked about it all day, and I gathered fresh ingredients from the market to make it, including five small habañero peppers.

When the time came to prepare the dish, I was so excited I lost my common sense, cleaning and and chopping the habañeros. Within a half-hour, my fingers started to throb with pain. As time went on, the pain became quite unbearable and I could only relieve it by putting my hands in cold water or by holding something cold (like a beer bottle - we are not completely abstaining). When I tried to stir the steaming beans, the heat made me hurt even more.

Internet to the rescue. Found a reference to burning hands from habañero peppers. I tried--

  • Soap and water (big mistake, it only spread the oil)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Milk
  • Vinegar
  • WD40
  • Tomato juice
  • Clorox
  • Hand lotion
  • Benadryl
  • Advil

None of them worked. I finally made a bag with ice, and alternated keeping my fingers of one hand on the ice and eating with the other. The beans (and brown rice and spinach) were delicious. We pronounced them a huge success. I gladly washed the dishes (we don't have hot water, so my hands were immersed in the cold soapy water).

Started getting sleepy from the Benadryl, but still couldn't bear more than 30 seconds away from the ice pack. Finally I put a thick towel on my stomach, the ice pack on top of the towel, and my hands on the ice. Woke up at 3:00 a.m., soaking wet, but my hands didn't hurt anymore.

Make Your Child Count
Well, we have been working, too. The POWA women worked to get children registered in Belize, through a UNICEF project. So many children are never registered, don't have birth certificates and therefore, can't get social security cards. They canvassed the neighborhoods in Dangriga and several villages to find specific children they knew about and others they didn't know about. They had forms to be filled out, to "forgive" the fact that they hadn't been registered at birth. 

People (usually mothers) here change their names frequently, sometimes because they are in love with their boyfriends or they're mad at their boyfriends, or a myriad of reasons. If a father is not available at the time of birth, the baby takes the mother's last name. At any point in the future, the father may register the child in his name. Some babies were born in villages and it was too far to travel to register the baby, or the midwife said she would do it, but then learned it wasn't legal in some situations. Shall I go on?

It's a baby country, only been independent since 1981. Lots to learn, I guess, but there are so many priorities.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just LOVE reading your posts, Cathy Lee!!! Brightens my day, even when I'm feeling bad for you because you were a ding-a-ling and forgot to put gloves on before cutting the peppers -- been there, done that...and WON'T make that mistake again, I can assure you. As I know you won't either. Hard-earned lesson - ha! Home looks fabulous. :-) Watch that blood pressure, makes me nervous reading you get dizzy. Careful girl! Love you, Toni