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Monthly Archives: January 2012

PG Day


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Today is PG Day in Punta Gorda. From what I can see, it is a community gathering in the local town park and people come from all over, including the outlying villages, to participate. The day started off rainy which may have prevented some people from coming to the festivities. But others came out to support the community. Funds are being raised by some individuals in the various booths to support different charities, such as cancer treatments, Remar Belize (a Christian outreach organization to support those addicted to drugs, alcoholics, abandoned children and others), and the hospital children’s ward.
The music is caribbean in flavour and is playing loud enough to rival a rock concert – it just beats through your body. Personally, I love that sensation, but I think I am in a minority.
I enjoyed the quaint atmosphere, the attempt to keep things authentic with the bamboo and palm leaf booths. Even though the picture doesn’t show it, I love that the rain puddle didn’t stop the little boy from playing on the swings – just dragged his feet through the water.
And you will even notice that there are many similarities to community events in your own hometown. People walking and talking on cellphones, beer wagons, food booths. Some things are the same in many places.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Fresh in Belize

 

Went for a walk….


Today is the first day I have really gone for a good walk since I have been here.  And I haven’t been for a good walk since the middle of December or thereabouts so you can imagine how good it felt to just get out today.  As I was walking, I went by one of the restaurants down by Gomier’s Restaurant where the proprietor invited me to enjoy my stay in P.G.  I informed him that I was moving here and he welcomed me to his town.  People I walked by smiled and said hello, it didn’t matter who they were or if they were alone.  People driving by were waving to me, people in the backs of pickup trucks were saying hello as they passed by because they recognized me from an earlier conversation we had.    A couple of days ago, I stumbled over a partically buried stone and twisted my ankle, scraped my leg (I’m okay mom) and I was kinda hobbling around town doing my errands.  The young man today stopped to ask me how me how my “feet” was.

Time and time again, I have experienced this kind of reaction from the local Belizeans.  When I first hurt my foot, I was hobbling over to the laundromat and I had an individual offer to give me a free massage on my foot (I declined).  On the way back carrying my laundry this same gentleman offered to carry my laundry for me.  I didn’t have far to go so I refused his offer again.

This town is welcoming me and I am surprised at this.  The friendliness, the openness of the people is definitely a refreshing change.  I am not saying that it is perfect here – I think local pride regarding community cleanliness could do with a boost or several, but when it comes to friendliness, the people I have met so far certainly do make me feel welcome.

I am glad my ankle was just twisted and not broken because my mother-in-law’s prediction that I would be going home soon just might have come to fruition sooner than I wanted it to.  Sorry to disappoint mom-in-law.  I like it here, I like the heat, I like the atmosphere.  And I didn’t feel strange going for a good energizing walk.

I am including a map of the town here so you can get an idea of what the layout of the land is.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Fresh in Belize

 

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Cacao Production – TCGA


Cacao Production – TCGA

A couple of mornings ago I had an opportunity to meet with a representative from the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA) location in downtown Punta Gorda. The TCGA is a co-operative with the purpose of sustainability and growth for the local cacao industry and the farmers who work the product.

Cacao production in the Toledo district is a fundamental component of the economy. Presently there are over 1000 members in the TCGA, with approximately 750 of them managing their cacao farms.  At this time only 300 farmers are producing and selling with the remainder being new farms (2004 – 2006 plantings) and have only started to see the “fruit of the crop” this year.  This represents a population of approximately 4% of the total population who are cacao producers. The production over the past several years has risen from 40,000 pounds of cacao beans to over 106,000 pounds annually, with the Toledo District being the largest producer of cacao in the country.

                       
Cacao Tree

During my brief visit with Armando, the TCGA representative, I learned quite a few things. I consider myself to be a chocoholic but just because I love eating it doesn’t mean I know diddly about it. I know milk chocolate, I know dark chocolate and I know white chocolate and that about sums up my knowledge of this incredible product. After yesterday’s discussion I came away wanting to learn more about cacao and I came away feeling like my knowledge had increased quite a bit.   I learned that there are different varieties of chocolate that are used depending upon the end result.  For example the chocolate that goes into chocolate bars would be different from the chocolate that would go into biscuits.

On further research, I learned that there are three kinds of cacao beans that are used in the production of chocolate.   They are Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario.  Criollo, according to Toledo Cacao Growers Association, is the most expensive bean of these three and it is native to South and Central America, unlike the Trinitario , which is indigenous to Trinidad. Because of its low efficiency, the Criollo is the rarest of the cocoa beans and makes up only 10% of the world’s production.   The Forastero is disease resistant and makes up the most quantity of the beans produced.  This bean is native to Africa and South America.  The Trinitario is a mixture of the other two and is the most common variety found in chocolate.

The Toledo Cacao Growers Association has sustainable farming as a prime objective, along with education, research and development, and  a base element of the association is involvement.  This association is more than a governing body; it is a co-operative, encouraging the farmers to get involved in their own futures.

One of the more exciting developments of the TCGA during the year of the Mayan, 2012, is the construction and operation of a chocolate museum.  The Toledo Cacao Growers Association has been the recipient of a grant which is to be used to establish a working Cacao Museum.  The initiative will rehabilitate approximately 200 acres of cacao lands which are currently owned by 100 small farmers.  Business education will be provided for 50 individuals, 20 women, 20 men and 10 youth from the Toledo district.  Twenty-five young adults will be trained in the practice of growing cacao and 50 women will be trained in the making of cacao products.  Further value added improvements will come in the increased production of cacao and the expanding earning opportunities to be enjoyed in the rural communities of Toledo.

Source – http://tcgabelize.com/ and a representative from Toledo Cacao Growers Association

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Toledo District at Work

 

Perils in Paradise


Part 3

I heard the strangest thing today. A shopowner was telling me that his daughter was sick and get this – he blamed it on the weather. As of 7:00 p.m. central time, the temperature was still 26 degrees celsius and he was blaming the weather. Seems that blaming the weather is a universal excuse for when somebody gets sick. I chuckled when he said this because it was the probably the last thing I expected as an explanation for a bug.

But when you think about it – the environment I am in right now is probably more conducive to the transmission of viruses than the Canadian climate during the winter. I have moved into a more permanent location and all three other people in this household have colds. I guess the virus loves the atmosphere as I have heard that a lot of people right now are ill.

Another peril that I have come across is acclimatization – believe it or not, as I write this blog, I am cold. Chilled, goosebumps, want a sweater cold. I didn’t bring a sweater with me and right now I really could use it. Long pants too. It would appear that I have gotten used to this climate faster than I expected. I guess this is a good thing because right now is the “dry” season, when temperatures are at their lowest. When the rainy season arrives and the daytime temperatures rise I need to be able to handle them.

Belize it or not!

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Fresh in Belize

 

Perils in Paradise


Part 2

Another downside to paradise can be the pests. Yesterday was a day when the pests seemed to have more control over me than I would have liked. We, Bob and I were out with an expat Canadian, John doing some sight-seeing and getting to know the lay of the land, and I felt something touch my foot. I had open-toed shoes on and when I felt this contact, I gave a bit of a yelp and jumped a bit as well. You know guys, of course they laughed, especially when they saw that the critter which had caused my inadvertent behaviour was a little frog or toad. It wasn’t very big but I really wasn’t expecting to see it either.

Later in the day when Bob and I went out for dinner to John’s place, called Mandarin Inn, I was eaten alive (almost) by sand fleas. These things are tiny and they get through the smallest holes in the screens. And the screens here take a beating because of the sea air so they aren’t exactly in pristine condition. In days gone by, Bob would be the one attacked by the critters and they mostly left me alone. Now, I am the target and I am starting to have a bit of empathy for what Bob put up with over the past years.

I have this red mark on my leg, not itchy or anything, but it did hurt while the little pest was biting me. I think the pest is a doctor fly as the mark is much larger than what a sand flea leaves and I have seen a couple of doctor flies around my leg. It doesn’t hurt or anything and I guess I am lucky because on some people the bite can cause and itchy, swollen area. It is only the female that bites and I don’t know if it is to feed the young or not, like mosquitoes.

Doctor Fly

Having complained about these minor nuisances now, I can tell you that their presence does not deter from the adventure. Rubbing alcohol spread across the skin takes the itch out and settles down any irritants. As long as there are easy remedies, the pests will not be a problem.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Fresh in Belize

 

Perils in Paradise


Part 1
As I will be needing to have a vehicle to assist me getting around the district, I decided to look into car insurance today. I was surprised. The cost of insurance for a 4 or 6 cylinder vehicle is approximately between $475 and $560 BZD (divide by 2 for USD) per year. This includes a 0 deductible, $500 BZD for towing, $1000 BZD for windshield repairs, as well as liability for injuries to 3rd parties. This insurance can only be placed on vehicles that are 8 years or newer. Vehicles that are older only carry the liability insurance.

Now, you may ask, where does the peril come in?

Hold on to your hats – a lot of windshields here are damaged. And it is quite possible that the damage has come as a result of coconuts, or palm berries, falling from the trees. Whoever would have thought that a coconut could cause an individual to have to submit an insurance claim? So, in my mind, it is important to get the insurance that covers windshields. There are coconut trees all over the place. No matter where you are, it is quite possible that your windshield will be damaged by a coconut. Not something that somebody from the northern climes would think about, for sure.

Palm Trees

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Fresh in Belize

 

Miscellaneous Banter


Another beautiful day, now, in PG. The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are making noise and things are comfortable. Well, that is what it was like when I started writing this morning. Next thing I knew, it was pouring. And it has rained on and off all day. All in all though, the day has been pretty comfortable temperature-wise. I went and bought an umbrella since I don’t really want to be stuck inside when it is raining.

I had an interesting conversation with a woman about dogs and stoop and scoop. Around here there are lots and lots of dogs, most of them running free through the streets. And with that you would expect to see little piles of animal droppings all over. According to this woman, because it rains most evenings, it all gets washed away. There must be something to what she says because you don’t see the droppings.

When we went out for our morning coffee today we met an individual named Scott at the restaurant. He is here from Santa Barbara, California and is in the process of building his home and planning on living off the grid as much as possible. We talked about all sorts of things – such as real estate, his property, picking locals up on the side of the road and giving them rides. The interesting thing about this interaction is that we hadn’t met him before and when we went into the restaurant, he was sitting at a table by himself and he asked us to join him. Out of the blue – so we did and talked for about 30 minutes. Another contact made.

Yesterday, Hubby and I were out walking and we met a woman in the town square selling coconut choco bananas. We bought one each and started talking with her. Next thing, she invited us back to her home to meet her husband. We went and ended up visiting for about 2 hours, learning all sorts of things about the two of them. They are from somewhere in Florida and they decided to just get rid of most of their worldly possessions and move to Punta Gorda. They have been here for about 15 months and have created a life for themselves.

Town Square

We were out in one of the supermarkets yesterday and ended up talking with another woman from nearby Hopeville. We enjoyed friendly conversation for about 10 minutes or so.

Over and over we have had experiences like this – people willing to sit and share the time of day with you. Is it because we are all strangers to this colourful location? Or is it because people are so much more relaxed that we have time for each other? I don’t have the immediate answer to this but I do know that this kind of environment is good for my psyche and I am sure it is good for many others as well.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Fresh in Belize

 
 
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