Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Carnivals and Birthdays

Have had an absolute blast this last week. To keep this blog manageable, I’m going to have to leave out some of what I’ve been up to and pretend I did it during a quiet week, if/when that happens!

After carnival, I went down south for two days with work, to the towns of Dangriga and Punta Gorda. The geography is different down there, jungle-covered limestone hills gradually rise up all the way to PG, where you can see the mountains of Guatemala and Honduras in the distance, across the waters of the Caribbean.

LEFT: Mark, (our IT expert), Mrs Musa (my boss) and Christa, (fund-raiser for BCVI) explore Belize’s limestone caves on a short break from our work trip.

RIGHT: A ‘slight delay’ to our journey as a pipe is laid under the main road from Belize City to Punta Gorda…

I’ve made a good start on the project in the last week or so. I’ve now met most of BCVI’s 28 staff and I have a much better grasp of what BCVI do and how they do it. I’m most surprised by the large variety of activities BCVI undertake, from walk-in clinics (where ‘foreign object’ problems (!) are most common) and diagnosis, through to surgery and also rehabilitation. The rehabilitation programme is particularly interesting. There are programmes to help children better integrate with their peers, and schemes to make it easier for visually impaired young adults to get back to work. My work may be more on the primary care and surgery side though, as BCVI can charge patients a small amount for these services, and this helps with financial sustainability.

So I am working hard, honest! But there’s been more partying (state-sponsored) in the last week too. I experienced clubbing Belizian-style with the girls last Saturday. A lot of hip-grinding in a large, dark, humid and slightly dingy shell. It reminded me of when I used to go clubbing at the art school.

Monday and Tuesday were quiet – just a build up to the big celebrations on the 21st. On Wednesday, we had a half day to make the most of the celebrations. I dragged myself away from my computer for an evening of drinking and dancing. Aside from the usual Belizian festivities, the highlight on Wednesday evening was the Figueros Pirotechnico (hope no-one is checking my Spanish) or fireworks display. The fireworks were set off from a boat, sitting a few hundred yards out from the harbour. They were pretty impressive and went on for a good 30 minutes. Next month I’ll be trying to sort out the finances of the Belize Defence Force (BDF), which have mysteriously plunged into deficit.

For some reason I slept in on Thursday morning and missed the parades that officially marked the 25th Anniversary of Belizian Independence. I am told that this was quite a formal affair with a number of speeches by Prime Minister Musa, opposition figures and visiting dignitaries, including the Panamanian leader who – it was agreed by all – has a very attractive wife.

Feliz Cumpleanos Evan! Aqui con Mari (Maricruz)

Anyway, the big celebration for me was Evan’s birthday, which each year coincides with the country's anniversary. My present was a myth-busting four-pack of Red Bull and four bottles of Guinness. I was quite sure I had called his bluff. However, he gamely proceeded to make up a couple of these cocktails and appeared to enjoy them. Actually, I have to confess it was pretty tasty.

In the afternoon we took a trip up to Orange Walk near the Mexican border. This is the second largest town in Belize and maybe about the size of Largs (almost certainly the only possible similarity between the two). We had a fantastic day out watching the carnival. It was made all the better by Evan and Mari’s families who made me so welcome. Got some great photos, of which a few are below. Wish I could attach the videos, which give much more of a flavour of the amazing atmosphere.

Waiting on the parade. From L-R, Evan, Ulises (from El Salvador), Emiliano (neighbour), Norvea (Mari’s sister), Mari and Wilbur (brother in law).

Las Senoritas. Czarina with Gabi, Paula, Kar (all nieces) and Shajira (Evan and Mari's daughter).

Carnival float and overhead cables… not a good mix.

This is a celebration of the hurricane. Or the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the flushing toilet in Belize, I’m not sure which.

As a young lad, I was always a big fan of Wonderwoman.

Man in Sombrero on albino horse (are these captions really necessary?)

The last float disappears into the sunset, to the hip-grinding sound of Punta-rock.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Address To A Hammock

Fair fa’ a hammock’s flippin’ ace,
A canny slacker’s favourite restin’ place,
A’boon them a’ ah climb an’ tak ma place,
Well oot o’ reach o’ clatty dugs an’ mingin’ roaches,
Then lose the suntan lotion fir ma face,
An’ wake in ‘oors tae find ma coupon toast is.

On Caulker Caye, go slow’s da Creole way,
An’ hammock sittin’ lasts a’ flippin’ day,
Jah man! In gettin’ here ah think ah may,
Have used up a’ ma luck,
So nae mair dodgy verse, instead ah’ll say
Gie us a hammock!

With sincere apologies to the original…

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place
Painch, tripe, or thairm
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care
And dish them out their bill o fare
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer
Gie her a Haggis!