CHill-i-pedia 3 – More Chilli Sauce!

When there is predominantly one climate all year round, with the occasional addition of rain, or a few less degrees of heat, the need to discriminate between a gust of wind, gentle breeze, ‘guy’ windy or blowing a gale diminishes. Equally, if there is either no rain or a blooming deluge, then such terms as a light drizzle, steady downpour or spitting cats and dogs are equally redundant.

Thus, I have been relishing what to my ear are delightful ways of describing things. At present, we are having ‘weather’, i.e. a tropical storm which is a series of thunder storms, complete with Technicolor sound and light show and full-on power shower rain dropping vertically from the sky. (Rain is an inadequate word to describe this.) When we don’t have ‘weather’, but the status quo sun, heat, humidity and trade wind, then any velocity of air is called ‘the breeze’. Hence, “The breeze is stronger today”. Wind it seems is either ‘the breeze’, or ‘weather’ when it combines with rain, and can be anything from a tropical storm to a degree of hurricane force. And such ‘weather’ pays a heavy toll on roads and bridges, whether urban or rural. School and work life goes in a stop-start manner, with temporary flooding and less temporary demolishing of bridges. As we were driving to the prison yesterday, between cloud bursts, Mr Juan pointed out the high water on either side of the road, and said that this bit often flooded. He lamented that such stretches need a pole with feet marked on them at the side of the road so that drivers can get an idea of the depth of the water before venturing through. I suggested he keep a few alongside a sledge hammer in the back of his pick-up, but he didn’t take to the idea. I don’t think he has got used to my sense of humour yet.

Another expression I like is “The air con is turned up too loud”.

Fi wi.
I have been puzzling for a few weeks about a slogan on the side of a van transporting chickens. Chickens are probably the next common staple to rice and beans in Belize, and typically accompany them on a plate. The slogan says: dah deh fi wi chickin. I could not work out what the ‘fi wi’ meant. Conor and I said it aloud to one another because that is usually a quick way of understanding Creole (Kriol).

If a car is not available, returning from one work place means a lift from one of the two taxis who do a shuttle to the bus stop.  The wait for a bus between 11.45 and 12.45 is usually interminable. Unlike any other time of day, when the buses pass about every half an hour, a full bus will sometimes pass after ¾ hour, so you then have to wait for the next one. The bus shelter (essential – from either sun or rain) is in front of a little roadside café, selling the usual selection of foodstuffs to go into one of the polystyrene trays: chicken rice and beans, stew chicken, tamales, etc. A couple of fridges have a plentiful supply of water and other liquids, and various types of crisps which can be recognised the world over. Over the weeks I have come to recognise the different people who saunter over for their lunches, and to watch with curiosity the people who traipse to and from the bus joining me in the bus shelter, and inevitably turning to the shop counter for a ‘dallah waTAH’ or some crisps when boredom or thirst set in.

This waiting time coincides with the delivery of a huge plastic bag full of chicken, and each week I puzzle over the slogan. Last Tuesday I could bear it no longer, and asked the woman sitting on the wooden bench beside me (everything in Belize is either lovely hard wood or concrete) what it meant. She opened her arms in a wide gesture and said with great dramatic emphasis “Fi WI” ..I got it! I had heard people saying “for she” (meaning her or hers) a lot, but it never occurred to me that that would be the way ‘for’ was spelt!

Last night, at a (delicious!) fund-raising dinner put on by the Mental Health Association, an American woman from Miami married to a Belizean man, both speakers of Spanish too, was saying how Kriol is the best language to express your emotions in. Having just had my “Fi WI” experience, I could see what she meant.