CHill-i-pedia 5. Less Sauce, more Relish!

More about the floods.

Here are a couple of transcripts of the local TV news which came out last week. The second is an extract from the parliament.

Recovery from the big flood of 08 continues in Cayo, the Belize River Valley, and parts of the Orange Walk District. And new figures released from the National Emergency Management Organization show that the recovery will be lengthy and costly. More than sixteen thousand persons from one-hundred and thirteen villages were affected. 9,200 of them have received two weeks of food supplies while two- hundred and sixteen remain in shelters. Eight thousand, two-hundred persons have received medical attention for flood related illnesses. That has so far cost $1 million.

And while that’s the human toll, the flood wiped out one thousand head of cattle, pigs, sheep, and poultry amounting to a million dollars. Forty-six miles of road were damaged and it’s going to cost 10 million dollars to fix them. Eight thousand six hundred acres of crop valued at twelve point nine million dollars were also wiped out.

We note that the entire village of Douglas in the Orange Walk District is still quarantined while the Crooked Tree Causeway is still underwater.

“They have no home to go back to. We are talking about 1,110 homes went under water. Some of these homes are still under water. Whatever is in those homes will never be of any value to them people and I need to reiterate here Mr. Speaker that we need to grasp the enormity of it because no hurricane has ever in our living memory, because I was around for Hattie also, has impacted on the lives and the homes of so many people. We’re telling you, we’re informing this nation and this Honourable House that 1,110 homes went under water, suffered serious water damages. And what we are doing right now Mr. Speaker, before I continue with the rest of the information, what we have done and are doing, we have a team that has gone to every single village in the Cayo District, went to every household under water, we have photographed every single household, we have spoken to the members, we have gotten their names, we have itemized every single item that has been lost in their homes, we have identified whatever physical structure damage has been done to their homes, and each and every one of them as I will say categorically here will be assisted, those who got hurt in the disaster.”


The other day Conor and I were walking past the car park beside the Courthouse when we heard someone hailing us. Our ‘first-day-Belikin’ man was striding towards us, carrying his car washing buckets in one hand and reaching into his pocket with the other.

“Here” he said, “I owe you this”. He handed Conor a couple of dollars.

You may recall that a few weeks ago he asked us straight one day if we could spare him a bit as it had been a bad day. It was in the middle of the heavy rains, when there were zilch tourists about for him to earn his wages as street performer cum tour guide, and the rains remove the terrible dust so few cars needed washing.

He must have seen the expression on our faces because he added “I always pay back my debts. There is a shopkeeper I ask when I need to, and he always says I don’t have to repay him, but I do. Then I can always ask again.”

We had no choice but to graciously receive. It was a special moment.

It was also an example of what I will call personal power. So many of us fall into a victim mentality, of being somehow less than others, and that often comes with a ‘you owe me’ attitude. There has never been any sense of diminishment with this man, from the first day we met him. He ‘earns’ his handouts – and once he openly begged.  Not cap in hand, but a genuine expression of need, a favour from one human to another, not a handout from a ‘have’ to a ‘have not’. That sense of inner worth is everyone’s birthright, and whether or not you have it shows, whether king or pauper. Some kings wear power as a mantle – and empty vessels make most noise. Some nobles live on the streets.

Mental health and homelessness.

I discovered the other day that because of an incident a few years ago when someone in a psychotic episode attacked someone in one of the homes for the homeless, it is rare for anyone with mental health issues to be given a bed. There are sound reasons for this – lack of in-house medical care, need for medication, protection of other residents, etc. It is also relatively rare for someone in psychosis to be that violent, but invariably makes the headlines, whatever the country. Such episodes merely serve to enforce the sane’s fear of extreme and altered state. The policy explains why such a huge proportion of the people on the streets appear to have mental health issues here.

One man – at least 50 years old – who looks ahead as if blind, sits on a patch of grass beside the river and swing bridge, knees up in the air, feet on the ground, pulling constantly at the grass on either side of him with his hands. He seems to do this for hours at a time, which makes me wonder if he is on the autistic spectrum, too. Let’s hope that the debate with the school children a few weeks ago will bring on a generation who are less in awe of such processes; and that the revenue from the newly discovered oil in Belize (once the Mexicans have taken their toll for transporting it through Mexico, and the oil giants their penny-worth for processing it) will finance a new era for Belizeans.