clare-hill.com The story of Clare Hill's voluntary work adventure in Belize

14/09/2008

CHill-i-pedia!

Filed under: Adventures in Belize,CHill-i-pedia — Clare Hill @ 04:18 pm

Welcome to CHill-i-pedia! There are all sorts of anecdotal things that I observe that don’t fit into any particular story, but which interest me. I thought of calling it ‘Odds and Sods’, ‘Anecdotes’, ‘Bits and pieces’ – but none of these felt right. It occurred to me that it is like Wikipedia – disjointed pieces of information that do not have to hang together! I will do a CHill-i-pedia every now and again.

Creole
Where I know it, I have added the Creole pronunciation, and the stress is almost always on the last syllable, with a rising intonation.
Most words have an ‘a’ as in an English RP ‘bad’ or ‘mad’ as the predominant vowel and mouth shape. Thus ‘dollar’ becomes ‘dahLAH’.
The voiced (as in ‘the’) and voiceless (as in ‘thief’) forms of ‘th’ are pronounced differently. The voiced ‘th’ is spoken as it might be in London, as a ‘v’ sound. So ‘the’ is written as ‘veh’ and sounds like the first bit of ‘ve -g’ with a breathy ending… ‘veH’. The voiceless form is spoken as in parts of Ireland, as ‘t’ – so, ‘tief’ or ‘tanks’.

Scorpions (SeecorpiYAN)
I have been reading up a bit after our introduction in Crooked Tree. They are arachnids, like spiders, with eight legs.

Our Trinidadian friend  Charleen, who we have been giving stories to about eating mangoes just to make her homesick in wet old Bristol, advised us that if stung, you need to dilute the poison as fast as possible, using juice, pee, spit – whatever may be handy.

The guide books assure us that although painful, scorpions in Belize are not fatal. The fatter the tail and thinner the claws means the more deadly.

Scorpions hold their prey with their claws, and puncture the prey with the sting on the end of the tail, spraying the poison into the wound at the same time. Ingenious.

A work colleague told us that August and September tend to be the mating season here, so scorpions are more active. She said that if there is one, there are probably two! And that she never puts on a pair of trousers without shaking them first, or checking her shoes. It is second nature, she just does it automatically. I was surprised, as I get the feeling that there are not many within the city – maybe I am being naive!

Hammocks (HamMAK)
I tried sleeping in the hammock we slung up for our friends to sleep in for our last night in Crooked Tree. It was surprisingly comfortable. I discovered that just as having the houses on stilts allows air to circulate all around them, and keeps them cooler; equally being in a hammock allows the air all around your body. I was lying with the front and back doors shut only with an insect screen, so there was a through draft. I had placed a sheet into the hammock to lie on and protect me from the strings a little, and wrapped it around me like a shroud. It was almost cold!

I started in a more upright position, bum and legs in the base, but when I awoke I realised I had found the optimum position in my sleep! My head and back were level in the base of the hammock, with my legs slightly higher (very good for both the circulation and the back).

So this ancient method of sleeping in the Tropics takes up little space, keeps you out of reach of creepy-crawlies, keeps one cool, looks after the back, and keeps the heart pumping well. Clever!

Air Con and the outside
A man remarked today, as he moved out of his air conditioned office for 5 minutes and returned with sweat dripping down his face, that you go outside to defrost!

Hair
I have lost hair and gained heather. It is so springy grouse could nest in it and not be spotted! Provided they kept quiet of course…The crisping and baking of the relentless sun – despite sun hats; the coarseness of the sea; the constant sweat: all has conspired to create a thatch thick enough and coarse enough to re-roof Aunty Lynda’s thatched cottage! My hair was cropped before I left Edinburgh by my much loved hairdresser, and she reassured me it could probably last the full 6 months. I wish! I have gone 3 ½ months, but it is now dire! Not because of the shape, but because it is nearly standing on end, having been fried and burnt to a crisp. I am hunting for a hair dresser! Or maybe hand my scissors to Conor!!!!

Lloyds Bank
Shortly after I arrived, I was asking someone where something could be found, and she said “Lloyds Bank”. “Oh”, says I, “Do you have a Lloyds Bank here? I didn’t realise.” She looked at me very strangely.

A week or two later, I realised that she was referring to a place, not a bank: Lord’s Bank!  Pronounced ‘Lards’……

11/09/2008

The 10 Commandments

Filed under: Adventures in Belize,Carnival — Clare Hill @ 04:17 pm

Having insisted that they would have the road surface completed by the September celebrations, the new government did a hasty repair job last weekend. They put a layer of liquid tar down on Albert St, and hand covered it with quarry dust. The result on Monday and Tuesday was dreadful – literally a dust cloud over the length of the street, and our apartment looked as if it was covered in a layer of volcanic dust. On Monday morning I was working at the computer when I realised I felt quite headache-y and ill. I paid more attention to myself, and noticed that the air con unit right above my head was drawing in the tar fumes from the street outside. We turned off the unit, turned on fans and opened the doors. Later in the day, Conor’s rhinitis set in, which has been very much better over here than in the UK. Don’t know how anyone with asthma would have been faring.

(Fortunately it rained heavily for an hour or so in the night, so Wednesday’s Independence Day parade was visible after all! But I am jumping ahead of myself.)

About 5.30pm on Tuesday Conor and I made our usual stroll over to the sea wall, sitting and chatting, enjoying the evening breeze coming in off the sea, the colours of the sky and the lowering of the temperature. As the light was going, we saw a familiar figure approaching us complete with sketching surface in hand – an empty pizza box this time. We haven’t seen Ernesto for some weeks, apart from a glimpse in the bus terminal a few weeks ago, and then passing him on the canal by the market one day. He always greets us with a wave on those occasions on the street, and it was nice to see him approach with his familiar, slow pace and twinkly eyes. The sea wall has a very quiet street in front of it and some large old colonial properties on the other side. Various occupants have come to recognise us, and the dog walker greets us cheerily, and we have struck up a conversation with a man of Scottish origin who attended a prep school just outside of Edinburgh but was evacuated back to Belize, his home, when war broke out in 1939. Anyway, it is a quiet street, and apart from the odd car making its way homewards and a few passers-by, we had the area to ourselves.

Ernesto is always interesting to chat to, as he is such an intriguing combination of education, insight and street-wise wit. He has never tried to draw us again since our first portraits; he just knows us and knows we like him. He makes us laugh, but when we question his philosophy on occasions, he is not too happy. Definitely a king in his own kingdom!

We got round to talking about the shootings and grenade at the carnival on Saturday, and he told us how he saw the violence before the violence. (We refrained from saying we did too!) He told us that he thought that there were about 18 gangs in Belize, which was far fewer than Mexico, but then Belize was much smaller than Mexico. When we asked him if he had ever been caught up in any violence, and he said he often witnesses it, sleeping in the little park but he keeps out of the way. He asked us if we knew the 10 commandments for living on the streets. Each was delivered with a little homily, explaining why it is so important, and that great gift for a raconteur, timing!

1. If you cannot trust yourself, place no trust in anyone else.
2. Never bite the hand that feeds you.
3. See no evil
4. Hear no evil
5. Speak no evil
6. We can’t remember!
7. We can’t remember!
8. If someone has a gun, don’t stick your head out to see what’s going on, get down as fast as you can and stay down. (He did a lovely parody of someone peering out to locate the gun!)
9. After a great pause, he said “And number 9 is never tell them what number 10 is because then you always remain the teacher”!

All of this is accompanied by his twinkly gaze and broad smile, making sure that you have appreciated his point. He was just chatting, and never gave any indication that he was after anything, but we gave him a few dollars, and nipped back to the flat to fill up a plastic bag with bread and cheese, some salad stuff and fruit while he waited on the sea wall. Funny old world.

09/09/2008

Don’t stop de Carnival!

Filed under: Adventures in Belize,Carnival — Clare Hill @ 09:48 am

…..Well, the 4am walkabout didn’t pass our door – whew! One of the CWW volunteers accompanied some of her colleagues, despite having been warned that you are covered from head to toe in Paint! We met up with her about noon when we wandered round to the house where she and two other volunteers live, having just emerged from a few hours’ sleep and a shower. I was glad I stayed in my bed!

The volunteers stay in a large Spanish speaking household, run by a capable woman who keeps a motherly eye on all her charges. She is involved in the Lions Club, a version of the Rotary as far as I can gather, raising funds for various good causes. I mentioned her very early on in our stay – she cooks for about 15 people, including the volunteers and 3 generations of her family, every day. Mrs. L. had asked the group of volunteers involved with either CWW or the Women’s Department if we would like to partake of the Lions Club Barbecue. The clubhouse is right on the Princess Margaret Boulevard and the Carnival Parade due to pass by. So we were all congregating before walking the ten minutes up to just beyond the hospital. We could tell when we were close because of the aromas and smoke coming from 4 or 5 barbecues. There were all under a red awning up against the back wall of the parking area in front of the clubhouse– needed for either sun or rain, though this was a blisteringly hot day – and smelled good! There is a standard style of barbecue that you see everywhere here, on street corners, in gardens, on verandahs, or by the market. They are a metal cylinder about 3 ½ feet long, cut in two, hinged, so that the top opens up and closes down as you wish. They stand on 4 legs at waist height, and people use a mix of paraffin and coals. I felt sorry for the men doing the cooking though!

The clubhouse was like any other concrete building the world over! Entrance area, stairs up, doors through into the function room with large kitchen hatch off, loo and office. Some tables were lined up in the middle, with neat rows of polystyrene lidded trays with some baked beans and cole slaw in each of the smaller pouches. Large bags of plastic forks and paper napkins lay nearby. Mrs. L greeted us, and we sat at a couple of tables as close to the air con as we could get! The barbecued chicken was added to each tray, and we all tucked in, washed down by water or some Belikin beer – the local brew – available from a stall under another awning right on the edge of the parking area, next to the pavement. It was one of those days when everyone had rivulets of sweat running down their faces and damp patches appearing over all your clothes the moment you made any contact with a chair, table or part of yourself. Mrs. L. reminded us that there was another stall with pastries beside the beer, so we wandered outside. By now people were beginning to gather along the roadside. We knew the parade started at 1.30pm, but we were not sure what time they would get to us. It was not unlike the misinformation for the folk waiting for their $5 on Fridays – in half an hour, in an hour and a half, about 4pm. It turned out to be the last, so we had a long wait. The woman in charge of the Lions Club kindly said we could take some of their white plastic chairs to the curb side, so we sat there with our sunhats on and our umbrella up, roasting! Fortunately one of our party nipped back to Mrs. L.’s house to pick up his brolly (they are used as parasols here as well as for the rain) and came back with some sun protection. Good man – my feet were really beginning to burn, protruding as they were from underneath the chair. He told us that he saw the parade on the telly, and that it looked good fun!

The time went by remarkably quickly, watching with fascination the crowd growing, the groups of families here, friends there. One gaggle of gorgeous teenage girls were posing in the back of a pickup truck – the far side of the boulevard was lined with parked cars and trucks – with a group of younger lads gazing hopelessly at them from a few feet down the road! The beer stall between us and the Lions Club was doing a roaring trade, only surpassed by the roar coming from the speakers beside the DJ entertaining the crowd as we waited. Slowly the pavements filled up, as the people from BC and beyond came to enjoy their carnival. Every now and then, one of the stalls on wheels you see everywhere in Belize would trundle past, each bearing different goodies. The stalls are sometimes hand pushed, and sometimes on the front of a bicycle, but basically a metal cage with shelves at different heights for holding various things. Large insulated blue and white boxes, 2 ½ feet by 1 ½ feet by 1 ½ feet, are used all the time, too. Sometimes they are full of ice and fresh fish for sale, sometimes freshly cooked tamales keeping warm. At the carnival, many were full of slush ice which was put into a cup with a squirt of green, red or yellow flavoured juice on top. Others had icy water full of fresh coconuts. When you bought one, the vendor sliced off the head with his machete and stuck a straw in – coconut juice on the rocks! There was a typical ice cream van doing a non-stop trade, which had exactly the same dreadful tune that the van had in CT one Sunday a few weeks ago. The writing on the sides looked similar too.

There was a man wandering around with a large television camera on his shoulder, and after a bit he was joined by another with a sound system, and a third with a large red and white padded microphone. They were approaching various people, and then somewhat to my horror they came up to me! Explaining that they were from Mexican TV, the man with the mike – obviously Belizean – assumed I was a tourist and asked me whether I was enjoying Belize and looking forward to the carnival. They moved on, to the 2 pretty young Canadian volunteers behind me! Later, I saw the camera man having a long chat with one of them ….

And then, at last, we could see things making their way up the boulevard. The now dense crowd breathed in to give more room for the floats and marchers to pass. By now, the parade had been going for nearly 3 hours, and the first to pass us were a very weary group of 5-8 year old girls who had lost most of the twirl in their batons and spring in their steps. One could only feel sorry for them – I had been sitting all the time they were walking, and the sun was HOT! What they lost in vigour, they made up for in their costumes. In fact, all the costumes were quite stunning. Loads of plumes and feathers, masks and head-dresses, sequins and beads. I was particularly struck by the unusual and very striking colour combinations. Conor’s comment was that the Belizeans were even more colourful than their birds! Edinburgh College of Art would have been hard pushed to have chosen the best in their costume design section, or their theatrical wear. I look forward to reading who won the prize in the local paper (There are 3 which come out on the same day twice a week, with a similar format, story lines and probably the same printer too).

The parade was a mix of walking bands and majorettes, mainly from schools, dancing women with a few men, representing local businesses, floats on lorries, and a couple of good steel bands. They were a relief from the rather boring monotonous regular thud thud thud that all the rest of the entrants had chosen to accompany them. Usually each group of dancers would have one main exhibit, with a woman or man pulling along an effigy or display on wheels. Occasionally folk would swap around as the pulling was hard work! Some men and women walked alongside squirting water over the dancers and players from time to time to help keep them hydrated. I was heartened by the way that the dancing women were all shapes and sizes; no one was too this or not enough that, all seemed to be welcomed to join in the celebrations. It makes me wonder if that is another positive side effect of the glorious melting pot called ‘Belizean’? The Mayans, for example, tend to be very small, slight people, whilst some of the people of African descent have large, strong frames. So with all the intermingling over the years, there is such a rich variety of shapes and sizes. Maybe the racial tolerance one perceives has by default included much more tolerance of a difference in appearance that includes shape and size than exists in the UK.

My most favourite of all turned out to be the tumblers that we had seen practising weeks earlier in our evening stroll to the sea wall. Wearing special gloves to protect their hands from the road surface, two or three at a time would move forward, and make their spectacular series of somersaults, walking on their hands covering some distances, and some achieving complete body rotation as they somersaulted. Then they would move to the back of their group as others came forward. They were just great, and I applauded them loudly. It was striking how with such a flamboyant thing as the carnival, there was relatively little ooohing and aaahing from the crowd – quite a silent audience, over all. A few young men near us had begun to make their presence felt over a period of about 2 hours. Too loud here, too pushy there. We saw one minor altercation between a couple of the protagonists, but the police quietly moved between them and some of their crowd separated them too. It quietened down, but just as the parade was ending and the crowd joining in behind, they picked up again. Conor and I had decided to return home at this point anyway, but he said to me that they were spoiling for a fight. The other younger volunteers were deciding whether or not to join the revellers at the end of the parade as we left.

When I went into the Women’s Department this morning, I learned that they had in fact gone home after us, and that about ten minutes after they left, a gun was fired between the young men. Mrs. L was there helping to clear up and witnessed the event. No doubt we will read the details in the paper. My Belizean colleagues were sad today, saying that carnival is usually such a good natured family event even if folk have had a beer or two. I could feel their distress and concern – Wednesday is a public holiday celebrating Independence Day, with more marches etc., and there was anticipation of more trouble in their voices.

Adding this a day later: as Conor and I were leaving the parade, before the shooting started, the police were cordoning off one side of the boulevard a hundred meters from where we had been standing. Today we have discovered that a military scatter hand grenade had been thrown but did not go off as it was in a black plastic bag. The pin had been pulled out but the tight bag meant that the trigger could not be released. Shocking. And thank goodness – the glass in the hospital and bank nearby would have exacerbated the fatalities and injuries.

If anyone wants to read about it, see Belize Channel 5 News.

06/09/2008

Preparations!

Filed under: Adventures in Belize,BBC,Carnival — Clare Hill @ 03:30 pm

Belize has been preparing for carnival for the last few weeks. It is much as for Christmas at home in Edinburgh – bunting is across Albert Street, and the Belizean flag adorns cars and windows. Small, sorry palm trees have been tied to the (new!) electricity poles much as the lights adorn Princes Street and the Christmas trees take up our parking places on George Street! Throughout most of Thursday night, huge road rollers tried to improve the still unfinished surface prior to the week of parades. It meant that the whole building shook from top to bottom – and the rickety old Women’s Department opposite was still standing this morning! As fold say, these clapboard houses are very strong.

The rubbish – trash – which has been accumulating for what seems like weeks was cleared on Friday, leaving everything temporarily spic and span. Rubbish is something I have mused over a lot here. It is a complex issue. Like Mexico and most Central American countries, Belizeans eat a lot of food, cooked and uncooked, from little roadside stalls they call canteens. These are small independent businesses, so that a few women may get together to make cakes, people from the country deep fry plantain sliced into chips, pack up bags of peanuts which are salted in their shells, or slice up a few wedges of ‘pine’, papaya, or water melon into plastic bags. Whole fruits and vegs are on some stalls, and one man comes on the street about 3.30pm each day, selling the nicest bread we have tasted here. The hot food tends to be tamales – chicken in a corn-based pastry, wrapped in a palm leaf, covered in tin foil and baked – or the ever-popular chicken, rice and beans. This is still called ‘dallah rice’ but costs about BZ$3.50. All of these things invariably come in a quantity of plastic, but the dallah rice is in a polystyrene tray. Everyone eats from them and they can be seen everywhere – storm drains, road sides, sea fronts, gardens, threaded through wire fencing, half chewed by the huge number of dogs, strewn across parks and open spaces. No one seems to use shopping bags either, and the supermarkets are hugely liberal with the black plastic bags. On top of that, we all go around with plastic bottles of water, Coke, Sprite etc. Those of us with access to the gallon water bottles refill and refrigerate them, or use the water coolers in our workplaces.  And there are no litter bins.

Soon after arriving I was reminded of a Radio 4 programme I heard while still in the UK, in which a man described how somewhere near the North Pole, where all the seas circulating in the North Atlantic come into a swirl together, is the hugest collection of plastic detritus you can imagine, complete with all the wildlife that has been caught up in it and dragged along.  There was another programme in which a man talked about walking the entire coastline of Britain, and what struck him even more than the glory of the views was the never ending trail of plastic. With all of this in mind, I was constantly astonished at how un-orientated to recycling the country seems to be. Even in our cottage in Crooked Tree, there were hardly any plates and bowls, and a huge quantity of disposable ones. And then I got to thinking: everyone has to pay extra for water and electricity here, which would be needed for washing up. The rubbish is already paid for out of taxes. The very poor or very resourceful scour rubbish to collect and return Coke and Sprite bottles for a few cents each. It is an economic decision based on financial resources. It is definitely short – sighted from a global perspective, yet many of these people cannot afford to see beyond the cost of the next meal.

Anyway, back to the preparations! Every Tuesday evening we have both heard and watched as about 20 young people, the boys/men drumming different types of drums, the girls/ women twiddling their batons and doing complex steps, practising their marching. When waiting on Friday evenings for the bus to Crooked Tree, we have seen tinies – 5 -10 year old girls, shaking a hip here, an arm there, turning around and starting again, all to some jolly tunes. Up near the drummers, we applauded as 10 young men took turns to run and turn 1 – 2 – 2 ½ or even 3 summersaults through the air! And the atmosphere is different – a feeling of expectancy, a frisson of anticipation, even excitement. The official parade is tomorrow afternoon, but there is an unofficial parade (reminiscent of Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival!) which starts at 4a.m tomorrow morning, in eight hours’ time. Living on Albert Street, I suspect we are going to hear this whether we want to be involved or not! At least we should have a good view, and it will be cool for the revellers!

So, the next instalment will be all about tomorrow’s festivities. Wish us a good night’s sleep!

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02/09/2008

See ya latah, Halligatah!

Filed under: Adventures in Belize,BBC,Beisle Cottage,Crooked Tree,wildlife — Clare Hill @ 03:14 pm

As I sit at my computer, we have just eaten our supper on a Monday evening, having heard the midnight (your time) Radio 4 news, and listening to the ‘Listen Again’ version of Just a Minute! Julian Clarey and Paul Merton on top form, and a nice touch of Old Blighty…as the fan blasts against the sticky evening, and a little gecko sneaks up the window frame.

Last Friday evening, we got off our bus (the conductor selling top-up phone cards this time; cashew nuts a few weeks ago…) unlocked the door, turned on the light and brought the bags in from the verandah. As I turned round, a movement caught my eye, and I saw two black eyes and a wide Kermit-style grin of the tree-frog. We had found him behind the back door when we locked up the previous Monday morning, and when we tried to put him out he leapt 4 feet across the room and used his suckered webbed toes to cling to the wall. Since we had to get the 6.15am bus, we left him to it – he could go out the way he came in. He is very sweet, and we watched as he hid himself behind the wooden sofa that Conor was sitting on.

After we had eaten, we were both sitting quietly reading our books, when I saw a brown movement by the front screen door. At first I thought it was another cockroach, but as I looked more closely, I saw that it was low against the ground, longer, slimmer, with elegant arching claws and raised tail – a scorpion!!! Large! My feet immediately shot up into the air, at the same time as Kermit decided that this was interesting, putting his concern about us to one side and leaping towards the raised tail. To our amazement, as he approached, the scorpion moved fast towards the screen and (alarmingly) squeezed out between the wooden frame and side of the door….Good old Mr Kermit Frog – he definitely has a permanent place in Beisle Cottage! I checked with Leonardo the next day, and he was as surprised as we were. If the frog had actually approached the scorpion directly, there is no doubt which would have come off worst. Fortunately, although the scorpion’s sting would have been pretty sore, and have swollen, they aren’t fatal in Belize.

We had invited 4 of the young volunteers and interns to join us over the w/e – two staying in Birds Eye View Lodge, one in our spare room, and the fourth in the hammock – slung above the cockroaches and scorpion! They were going up to Lamanai, a large Mayan site reached by a boat trip from Orange Walk, north of us on the Northern Highway, and catching the bus down late on Saturday afternoon. With no buses over the weekend from the highway into Crooked Tree other than the 11a.m. from Belize, everyone coming and going either has independent transport, walks or sticks out a thumb. About 4.30pm, a ring on Conor’s mobile was followed by that tired and weary sound of 4 hot and sweaty folk at the end of a good day! They were in the full glare of the sun – the 3 kilometres are without protection from sun or rain – and hoping for a lift. Half an hour later we rang them, and they were still walking, still flagging, all the vehicles too full as they past – and one stopped for them while Conor was on the phone! Dropped off at the crossroads, in single file 4 people slowly walked the last sweltering five minutes up to the shade and gentle breeze of Beisle Cottage verandah, where a large jug of cold juice awaited them. It was the first time I have cooked for any more than 3 since we arrived, and doing it on two burners and small pans was a challenge! Despite the fisherman not having enough spare fish (again) we found avocados, peppers, tomatoes, cashews and mangoes galore on the island, and managed to have a good evening together, washed down with bottles of Belikin beer and the local berry wine.

At 6.45 the following morning we all congregated outside the Lodge and got into 3 canoes. The previous w/e Conor and I had crossed the lagoon, and paddled down Black Creek, but hadn’t started till 9.30am. By 11.30 am I was feeling faint in the middle of the lagoon, despite sunhat and a covered body. So we started soon after sun rise, and it was an exquisite flat calm, shimmering softly, birds calling, little fishes nibbling, still cool. I had been a little concerned that 4 young people (22 -36) might be bored by the charm of canoeing through a creek with not much else in it, but I needn’t have worried. And we had some fun moments – in the narrows, it takes a bit of practice to use the back paddle as a rudder and slowly nudge your way round the overhanging prickly bits, or the mimosa shoots sticking up out of the water. If you try to paddle out of the predicament you end up head first in the thorns and spiders webs, and poor old Kate had war wounds to prove it. At one point a plaintive “It’s not fair” could be heard from within a bush! We saw the black-collared hawk again down by the big tree, and a large ringed kingfisher kindly sat on a branch for us. The snail kite – the lagoon is full of snails – was swooping past too, with its distinctive very hooked beak, perfect for pulling the snail from its shell.

Two hours later and yet another very hot day, we were glad to stretch our limbs on terra firma, and make our way round for a late breakfast. The water level was still receding fast, and unfortunately the lovely variety of waders and ducks that we normally see in the swampy bits were no where to be seen, no doubt moved on to where they can rely on the water and a source of food. After breakfast we decided to walk the Limpkin Trail, now accessible because of the low water, and fantastically shaded with a beautiful variety of palms and vines. As we had decided to give up the cottage (our month’s rental is finished and September is the month of carnival in Belize City, so we will be spending weekends there) it was our last chance to see a croc before we left. The trail was beautiful, and as we stood watching a large lizard on a tree, we suddenly saw a long, slim, silvery green snake slither over the lizard’s tail and into the water, getting away from us. A parrot snake apparently. Towards the end, back near the lodge, I thought for a moment we had at last seen the top of a croc moving through the water; but as I looked excitedly, the top moved shape, and we laughed as we saw a gaggle of tightly packed baby ducks paddling full steam ahead! There must have been at least a dozen of them!

Lunch over, the four hitched a lift back over the causeway to catch the bus to BC, and we started our final pack up and clean of the little cottage which has given us so much pleasure over the last few weeks. As we left early this morning, with some clouds in the sky, a large beautiful rainbow arched over the cottage in a wave of farewell.

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