Monday, October 17, 2011

Feels Like Autumn

Girl from a magazine

We're about midway through October, and it definitely has cooled down. Temps range from 75 at night to 88 during the day, and it feels milder. I'm writing this at about 8:15 a.m. The sun is shining brightly, thermometer says it's 82 degrees, but it's quite pleasant with the cool breeze. A couple of times on my morning walks with Miss Patsy I have had to wear a light jacket! I fear we may have to close windows at night soon if it gets much cooler.

However, I don't believe we'll see leaves changing color and dropping off the trees. I'm told that there is one tree, called the Flamboyant tree (and it IS, believe me. Sorry, we don't have a picture.), that loses its leaves for a couple of months in January. I'll try to post a picture next April when they bloom. Other vines, shrubs and trees are still blooming, and the view is lush green. 

A young Steve Burnham
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, it is STILL rainy season. We joke that it's like Camelot here. It mainly rains at night - hard blustery rains - with an occasional daytime shower. It's not unusual for Dangriga to get 25 inches of rain in October, maybe 150 inches for the year!

Only a couple of things happening with my work. The POWA women will begin having workshops for girls - Adolescent Empowerment Workshops. This weekend they'll hold the first one. Nine women were divided up into three groups: one group will teach 10-14-year-olds, another the 15-16s and another the 17-18s. This first series of six sessions will focus on self-esteem, with each group adding another element of life skills into the mix - goal-setting, relationship skills, communication skills. I have been working with each of the three groups as they set up and create their lesson plans. Not only are they putting together the activities, they are also recruiting the girls! Each age group will ideally have 15 girls. This is truly trial by fire for the POWA women, but they are working hard to make it successful.

All of this work is on weekends, and then I don't do much at all during the week. We both went to a meeting of VOICE, a Senior Advocacy group, on Wednesday. Steve is now on the regional NAC - National AIDS Council. Not sure what they do, but they meet once a month, and there about 11 people representing various groups. It's a good way for Steve to make contacts around town.

I've been taking drawing lessons from another PCV, trying to find some new things to occupy my time. I'm just at the beginning stages - you know, drawing a coffee mug, drilling on certain techniques. However, I've had several friends ask me to post a few things, so here goes.

Another pretty girl from a magazine.
Can't get the eyes right!

And from Stevie. He had fun writing about the

Local Geography

Belize has a wide variety of geographic areas. We live in the southern part where the valley meets the sea. The Hummingbird Highway runs west northwest from here through the valley to somewhat of a gap in the Mayan Mountains and on to Belmopan. When people tell where they live along the highway they say they are from “the valley” at mile whatever. The valley and the flat land south of here between the mountains and the sea has citrus groves and banana plantations. I think the valley must get more rain than we do, since we see dark clouds and rain there at times that we are not getting rain. The weather seems to move east to west, and our breeze is usually from the sea.

We have friends who live in the rain forests of the Mayan Mountains, and they have to think about the rivers and flooding whenever they try to make travel plans. Our town seems to soak up the rainwater quickly so that flooding here does not really hinder transportation. The dirt roads have puddles for a day or so. We have to ride slowly on our bicycles when the roads are wet since bicycles here do not have fenders, and we get little dots of muddy water up the back of our clothes.

Our house is in a great neighborhood. We are between Stann Creek (“the river”) to the north and Havana Creek to the south. Havana Creek is much like a storm drain and usually has an isthmus of sand where it would meet the sea. During the heaviest rains they dug up a trench to drain the creek into the sea. We are also between the sea and “the main”. (The busiest street changes name several times, and people often do not know what the name of the street is).

Havana Creek. You can just barely see people walking
across the isthmus in the distance.
The highest point in town that I have been to is the third level of the town hall. From there one has a nice view of Princess Royal Park, the fire station, the market, and Y-not Island with the great thatch. 

Princess Royal Park

Fire Station

Market and Why Not Island recreation area

Monday, October 10, 2011

How We Spend Our Money in Dangriga

When I asked for suggestions of blog topics a couple of blogs back, our friend Ed came back at us with more than a dozen ideas. So Steve has been busy writing about some of those subjects. Here's his first installment on "Shopping."

We have fallen into some shopping habits that do not have much rhyme or reason here in Dangriga. Most of the grocery shops in Belize are run by ethnic Chinese. The stores have the generic name of “a Chinee.” One of our favorite places is the Garden Store, about three blocks away. The shop is small, but it is sort of like the convenience store for neighborhoods in the states. The biggest drawing card is Ms. Lilly and Mr. Lew who own the store. Their English is much better than our Mandarin, but Cathy is trying to learn a few phrases when she shops there. They are very nice and always pleasant. When I go there, she always asks about Cathy. We allow ourselves a soft drink most days at lunch, and Ms. Lilly knows that Cathy likes Coke Lite (diet soda) and keeps them in stock. When Ms. Lilly is there by herself, she locks the burglar bar doors, and people shop through the bars for things that she brings them. We can count on them being open even on Sundays and holidays.

The Garden Store, just a block and a half from our house.

There is a store out on the highway coming into town that is like a Belizean-style Walmart - Gregalezean Shopping Serter. (That would be the Chinese bad-spelling sign maker's version of Grigalezean Shopping Center.) The store is convenient because they have a lot of merchandise, but the people are not very friendly. The selection is much larger than the Garden Store, and it is on my way home from the clinic, so we get some things there. They also have household things there and a limited selection of hardware stuff. 

A lot of merchandise doesn't mean that it's GOOD merchandise. I once got a light bulb there, and they were nice enough to test it before I paid. It did not work, so they put it back on the shelf. The same thing happened with the second one, so I changed my mind about needing a bulb. Cathy told me that one time she was checking out with a plastic tub to use for washing the dishes. As they put it in the bag, it cracked, so she said she wanted to get another one. One of the guys walked back to where they were (I guess to make sure she didn't pick up a more expensive one). Of course he put the cracked one back on the shelf, and she picked out another. But then she noticed that it was cracked, too. So she walked back up to the front and said that she didn't want ANY tub, that she wanted her money back. The guy at the cash register didn't want to give her a refund, even though she hadn't even walked out of the store yet! After a little bit of "discussion," the matriarch came up, grabbed the $5 out of the cash register, and shoved it into Cathy's hand. 

The Gregalezean Serter

Our other store, The Price is Right, is downtown next to the river at the most dangerous intersection in town. They are intermediate in their friendliness, and have a pretty good selection. We probably shop there the most.  

The Price is Right (also about a block and a half from our house)

Right across the river is the town market where we get most of our vegetables and produce. The shopkeepers mostly speak Spanish as their first language. They are helpful with selecting the best stuff. There are also booths that sell clothing. The prices there are great. Most of it is second-hand, but pretty good. Shirts are about BZ $3, and pants are BZ $10. I think shoes are more expensive.

Dangriga Market (meat, fish and vegetables

Also next to the river on the other side of "the Main" is the chicken place that advertises, “Dis dah fi wi chikin” (This is our chicken or this is the chicken for us). 

Another block north is the bakery that we adore. They don't do the baking there; it just the store. The bakery is one block behind our house, but you can't buy from there. It's called the Grigalicious Bakery, and they are kind enough to share their delicious aromas with us throughout the day. One of the sales people at the store is very nice and gives us the Belize price rather than the gringo price. She even gave Cathy some of their reject cookies that had gone a little stale (still good enough for me). They have sliced whole wheat bread, and slightly sweetened bread in a loaf (called bun). It makes great toast, and is almost like eating dessert for breakfast. They sell out before noon, so we try to go early in the day.

Mayaz Bakery
Sometimes we are fortunate to get bun when we ride the local bus to and from Belmopan on the Hummingbird Highway. Near mile 15 to 20, a young woman gets on with a tray on her head. She rides for several miles and sells bun, and then gets off to replenish and ride the next bus back to her first stop. Vendors along the highway also sometimes have boiled corn. It is delicious and very reasonably priced. 

Here's Cathy again with just a few comments. We go to some store or the market every day. Our refrigerator is small, and we like fresh vegetables. Some things that we can buy in quantity in the states are not available that way here (unless you count a package of toilet paper or a pack of gum). Beer or sodas are sold as singles, eggs (most stores provide the styrofoam cartons, but not all).  Dog food is sold by opening the bags and sold by the pound. And in some cases, especially with soap products, it's obvious that each bottle of a certain product (for example, Joy dish detergent) is a couple of ounces low or have been watered down. 

As far as "how we spend our money," most goes to rent, food and household, then Internet, and utilities - kind of in that order. We don't have any left over for travel. A lot of other PCVs really skimp on the housing and other accommodations to save up for travel.

--- Steve and I are in a state of flux with our work right now , and we have LOTS of time on our hands. Today is yet another holiday (Columbus Day), so another short "work" week. We'll have more news in our next entry. In the meantime, please continue saving us your dimes so you can come see us!

Just so you don't think that we only take pictures of buildings, here's a snapshot of our pretty downstairs neighbor, Rafi.