Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Harvest time

Yesterday, I celebrated my 23rd Birthday here in Belize. I had no idea what to expect, has I had yet to experience any birthday in Belize. Would I expect that my new friends, of a mere 3 weeks, would throw me a birthday bash?! I decided to fill my day with errands so as to not have time in my schedule to feel homesick. Success indeed. In the morning, I hopped the bus into Dangriga with my Counterpart. We did the usual walking around and bitching about how hot it is to walk with the damn sun dripping all over our every breath. My Counterpart, Vero, knows everyone everywhere we go. Which is pretty common I have discovered as I continue to befriend more and more Belizeans. The country really is small and everyone knows everyone’s business… all 299,999 of them!!! While stopping to chat to the Garifuna women sitting in the shade behind a large cooler selling some sort of delicious street food, one women begins pulling out clothes from a small plastic bag. She maybe had about 7 items of clothing in said bag that she was selling. Vero told her I was interested in buying a Garifuna outfit to wear to Garifuna Settlement day in Dangriga on Nov 18th-19th. The tranquil seaside town transforms into a massive street party for the days leading up to November 19th. Everyone dawns their traditional garb, drink and eat up, dance the punta, and bash to the beats of drumming for three days straight. At 5 am on Nov 19th, there is a reenactment of the arrival of the Garifuna settlers from Africa to the shores of Belize, in Dangriga. Well, this lady pulled out a garifuna outfit, exactly my size, and exactly what I wanted. Funny how that happens. I forked over my 30 bucks and continued to shuffle in the noon time heat along the bustling market streets.

Vero and I hopped the bus back to Mile 25 at 1ish. I got off the bus a mile before home because I wanted to stop by the Middlesex school to support their BBQ sale day for Harvest Celebrations. I bought a plate of BBQ, hung with the kids and Cosi. Cosi is my counterpart’s daughter who is about a year older than me and is a teacher at the school. I spend a lot of time with Cosi, whether it is every night at the Internet cafĂ©, which she single handedly runs, or running errands on the weekend together. I then hopped a passing James line bus ( the route from PG, via Dangriga, to Belmopan and onto Belize City) towards Belmopan. I decided to head on in that direction to go to the bank as I had no money and was planning to buy some more paint so I can paint my house this weekend. While in line at the bank in Belmopan, I received a phone call from my counterpart’s son, Suki, saying that a fellow PCV was at his house looking for me! My friend Zan, who lives in a town about 20 miles down the road from me had come to see me on my birthday! I told her to sit tight and that I would retun in about an hour on the bus. I grabbed my money and legged it to the bus station. Just as I turned the corner to enter the station, my bus pulled out. So I waved and Hailed the bus on its way out. It was so nice of Zan to come visit, not knowing if I would be there or not and never having ever been to Mile 25 before! We bought a round of Cokes and sat at Guerra Family Store chatting for a few hours. It was nice to share how one another was doing in our respective sites and with our projects. After she caught the last bus towards her village of Armenia, I walked to Vero’s house. She wanted to make Tamales for my birthday. Tamales are usually only made for Birthdays or at Christmas time because they are a lot of work to make! All afternoon she had worked to make Tamales with her daughter in law for me. I must say, that I really have not like tamales since arriving in Belize. I find that are filled with too much corn and only a little sauce and meat. They are often cold by the time you buy them from a street vendor or the girl carrying a bucket of tamales around town. But these tamales, fresh off the fire, were amazing!!!! Muy Rico!!!!!! My day ended and I went home at about 9 pm. I reflected on my first Belizean birthday and was pleasantly surprised by an enjoyable day. I realized that the only difference that made me a bit homesick was that no one sang happy birthday to me. Clearly, it just isn’t something that is done here… why do we do it then? It is a stupid song anyways. Since when did a simple happy birthday from a friend or loved one not suffice and we had to create a jingle to look forward to each year. It is awkward and weird when it happens anyways…right? So why was I longing for someone to sing me this silly song while I sit there awkwardly and enjoy such poor singing by friends and family…. I think I will do away with this silly tradition in my life unless someone can make a strong argument for the Happy Birthday Song. Hmmm.

Parties are really strange here in Mile 25. I have attended two parties since arriving in the village. One was a baby shower for a woman in the women’s group on the second day I arrived in the village and the other was a birthday party for one of Vero’s Grandsons. Both times… people came together, played games, chatted, helped prepare food and then just when the party is getting going, people are loosening up, and the food is being served… Everyone wraps their plate of food in tinfoil provided by the party hosts, thanks them for the great time, and takes their food, cake and juice home. The party immediately ends. It is so strange… Right when I think we are about to sit around, eat, drink and be merry…..I experience the Belizean culture whip and my entire existence of parties has forever been turned upside down. To me, the entire essence of a party is good food and good drinks, accompanied by good company and great conversation around the dinner table. Why even go through all the effort of making a great meal to share with friends, if they just pack it up and enjoy it at home alone? It blows my mind… I have fully committed to further research on the topic of Belizean gatherings in Mile 25. Is it unique to small communities? What drives such behavior? Are people embarrassed to eat in front of friends? Do they go home to share the food with their hungry families? Me no know ( I don’t know in Kriol- one of my favorite Kriol phrases here!). ME NO KNOW!!!!

Next up- I plan to paint my house tomorrow or Friday... November marks heavy rain and thus my painting schedule has stalled. But we will see what tomorrow brings.

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