#55429 - 07/30/02 01:34 PM
Life in San Pedro
Joined: May 2002
This is in reply to Toad's topic "I am not an animal"
One of the issues that's being missed is the fact that this is NOT the United States, and it never will be.
Native San Pedranos are used to a certain way of life and I don't hear many of them complaining. There is truth in the saying "That you don't miss what you never had".
Most local people here don't miss a car, because they don't need one here. They certainly don't miss the car payment either.
Most local people here don't miss that 1500 sq. ft. home, because it isn't the norm here. This is one of the first things I noticed when I moved here, the lack of square footage. Stifling for you and me, but perfectly normal for them. Oh yea, they don't miss the mortgage payment either!
It's true that things are expensive on this island, no doubt, ridiculously so! I don't think there is much you can do about that and people here have learned to live here in spite of it.
The Belizean diet is not the American diet. If you try to eat like an American here you will surely go broke. However, rice and beans are cheap and very healthy. Stewed chicken is a pretty cheap meal.
Sugar, flour, shortening (for tortillas) and eggs are cheap. Fish is FREE for the catching. Coconuts are free for the taking, and children love to climb up and get them, crack them open, drink the water and eat the sweet meat for an afternoon snack. Oranges, bananas, papayas are all affordable and are certainly more nutritious than Little Debbie cakes. If kids want a treat here, they go to the local neighborhood store and get chips or an ideal (frozen pop) for a shilling (that's $.25 bz). I have seen very few "Starving" children here.
I can't agree more about the cost of school here, it's a burden on the families. Makes you wonder sometimes why these families continue to have so many children knowing how difficult it will be to support them. The cost of school here includes monthly tuition, uniforms and books. Books alone can run around $200 bz. I'm not sure what the current cost of tuition is now. I think it's around $45 bz a year but I may be wrong. I'm not sure who O Jackie talked to that told her they had to order uniforms from a catalog. You can buy uniforms locally or in Belize City, school uniforms are not a new item in Belize so stores stock them. In Belize City, a girls uniform is about $20 for the blouse and jumper. Better yet, take a day trip into Chetumal and get them even cheaper.
I'm not saying there aren't any cost involved in getting uniforms, only that I think that tidbit of info was exaggerated to O Jackie.
It is common practice here for children to sell different things in the afternoon to supplement the family income. It is their contribution to the family. They sell jewelry, panadas, sweet breads and fudge to name a few. I bought panadas from a small boy at the water taxi terminal one day and I asked him how many he sold in a day. He said, "Seventy dollars". I thought to myself, damn maybe I should start doing that! Seventy dollars a day times 5 days a week is $350 a week, not bad by Belizean standards.
I see nothing wrong with kids selling things. It teaches them responsibility and the value of a dollar. Maybe American kids could learn a few things from these kids.
Health care in San Pedro is minimal. There are a couple of clinics here that treat common illnesses, dispense medicines and vaccinations and do prenatal care. If you have need of surgery your options are to go to the public hospital in Belize City, Karl Huesner (which I would not recommend) or to Guatemala or to Mexico, both of which have excellent and in expensive health care. I assure you it is far cheaper than anything you can get in the states!! A damn office visit in the states will average $80 to $125 U.S. I had someone tell me that one of their family members needed gall bladder surgery and they went to Merida in Mexico. The entire surgery and hospital stay cost them $6000 bz. Try getting a gall bladder surgery in the states for three grand U.S. Hahahaha!
It's true that there are a lot of faults with the system here. In the eyes of the American tourist, I'm sure things look pretty bleak. You can donate all you like and I'm sure they are very thankful and appreciative, but you will never change an entire culture or fix all the problems on a grand scale.
The first time I came here, I was approached by a small 8 yr. old girl selling bracelets. I didn't want a bracelet, but I wanted to talk to her and she was more than willing to sit and wile the hours away with me. I ended up giving her my hair brush and a lip gloss. She was ecstatic. I got her address and when I returned to the states I bought her some nail polish and hair things, just odd and end stuff and sent it to her. She wrote me a letter back (which I still have today) thanking me for the things I'd sent. Then proceeded to give me a list of all the other stuff she wanted! LOL I thought, oh geeez, I've adopted a daughter! When I moved here I tried to find her. Her mom owns a souvenir shop on Front Street.
Her mom told me that she was doing fine but was in Belize City with a relative and going to school there. She has grown into a beautiful young woman now, very intelligent.
Now that I've been living here a while, I realize she didn't really need those things, she just wanted them and there's nothing wrong with that. I was happy to do it for her. My whole point is that sometimes we see things differently as a tourist than as a resident. When you live here and you know the people and learn and live their way of life, it cast a whole different light on the issue.
Ambergris Caye has become a huge tourist attraction over the last 10 years. As it has slowly grown, the residents here, particularly the children, have learned to conduct themselves in a manner with tourist that sometimes benefits them. In plain terms, they have learned how to work the tourists to get treats and special things. Trust me, they KNOW how to make you, the wealthy American, feel very sorry for their "perceived" poverty. I don't mean this to sound cruel at all. These kids are very bright and full of personality. It's called being resourceful! My hats off to them.
Before you feel too sorry for them though just remember: the kids here can wander around town anywhere they like without fear of being snatched, molested or murdered. They can play in the ocean anytime they like. They go home for lunch from school everyday for a whole hour. They go fishing with their fathers on a regular basis. They don't sit in front of a television all day or have a stroke when they don't get the latest video game. And so far (knock on beach sand) they don't have the fear of being attacked by psychotic terrorists.
All in all it's not a bad life. It's just different from what you are used to.
I know this topic was intended originally about the dogs, and it went haywire from there.
All I can say is that animal control is an issue that could possibly be managed by a little cash, some education and a shelter would really be really nice. If you want to help, great! The SAGA society can always use more resources. In time I think things will change because I've already seen the changes that have come from the kind donation of people who travel here and the efforts of the local people and veterinarians. So it IS working.
Just don't be fooled into thinking that you can cure ALL the ills of society here OR change it. I don't think most natives here want to change their world. They are pretty happy with it just the way it is!
Well, I've said my peace and danced on my soap box long enough. LOL
[This message has been edited by Enigma (edited 07-30-2002).]
#55434 - 07/30/02 07:12 PM
Re: Life in San Pedro
Joined: May 2002
That's Ok Jackie. After the novel I wrote today I don't think I need to discuss it further. LOL
These are of course just my opinions on how things are here. I may see it different than the next person. Anyone else is free to add or dispute it otherwise. I'd like to hear views from other residents on how they see life here.
Variety is the spice of life!
[This message has been edited by Enigma (edited 07-30-2002).]
#55437 - 07/31/02 10:29 AM
Re: Life in San Pedro
Joined: Feb 2002
i read this upon it's original posting, and it has stayed in my mind. see what you think. j.
Cap'n posted 05-05-2002 10:31 AM
This is an article that appeared in the Belize Times of this week written by
Valention Shal. I share his views.
Poverty I think is relative and difficult to define. The definitions you get
depend on the criteria being used and by the person administering it. Is
there such a thing as standard measurement of poverty?
Poverty it seems is measured by Belizeans to mean the lack of material
possessions and wealth. The lack of cash income can also be used as an
indicator of poverty. Many persons who believe otherwise however dispute
Going along with the conventional measurements of poverty, Toledo is the
poorest district of Belize. Using the same measurements, the Mayas are the
poorest group of people in Belize. While thinking this poverty thing
through, I came up with some ideas that makes me feel a little uneasy and in
disagreement with those assertions.
I have never seen poverty the way I saw it in Belize City when I attended
school there about two years ago. I saw people eking out a life off the
drains of the street. I saw people living in shacks made of pieces of metal
and cardboard boxes. I saw people living on the edge of canals and would now
and again retrieve things from it for their use. I saw people who are
walking the street homeless and most of the time their minds blown away by
drugs. I saw desperation in the existence of many people. I saw things I
never saw back home; back home in my so-called poor district. I also saw
affluence that was not visible back home.
Back with my poor people, forest materials are utilized for what I consider
decent and comfortable homes. People procured their food in more decent
ways, the traditional way, by hunting in the forest for game. Back home
there are no homeless people. There is no one walking the streets having
lost his or her mind, only sometimes temporarily by alcohol consumption.
Back home people live near beautiful clean rivers, not polluted canals. Back
home people are poor but dignified and our elders die in dignity. Yes the
most affluent of our communities don't come anywhere near King's Park but
our hard work is what sustains us. Yet, with all the wonderful things about
how and where we live, we are still considered poor.
We have been told over and over that we are poor. To me it is like a
self-fulfilling prophecy. This thing about us living in abject poverty has
been hammered into our minds by almost every outsider that it has become
both an adjective and a synonym for us. In calculating the GDP, economists
don't (can't?) calculate subsistence agriculture because there is no cash
income involved. Therefore, our per capita income is very small. The
deficiency of our popular method of livelihood is not in what it brings to
the family but it cannot easily be translated into the mainstream cash
economy. Whether or not the farmer earns an income, he has a secure source
of food. Compare that to the manual labourer in Belize City. Unless he earns
an income, he won't eat. Even with the income earned, minimum wage being so
minimum, sometimes a job doesn't guarantee as much as food, when so many
other expenses need to be figured in.
Am I poor simply because I don't have possessions that are seen as status
symbols? I don't have a phone at home. I don't have refrigerator. I don't
even have a bicycle. I don't have a television, which means I don't have
cable. I don't have these things that some people would do anything to have.
Just because I lack these things would you say that I am poor? I am sure
some will argue that it is not because I can't have them but maybe I just
don't want them. But what if that were not true. Would you still consider me
I think that our approach to poverty alleviation needs to be revisited. If
we want people to have more cash income so that it looks good on the GDP per
capita income then we will be dramatically be changing the lifestyle of an
entire society. This is not possible all at one time if it is possible at
all. We can also through our poverty alleviation mission improve what
already exists. This we can do by strengthening what people already have
without drastic changes. This is more pragmatic.
After telling us that we are poor over and over for all these years we are
really being affected in a negative way psychologically. You cause us not to
accept ourselves, the good we have and our capacities. We are pressured to
reinvent ourselves so that the indicators indicate that we are no longer
As for Belize City, the commercial capital of Belize, I look at you and the
heinous crimes committed against you and your families. I look at you locked
up in your homes like prisoners. I look at you losing your children in the
streets and say, poor people.
I am happy, I am at peace and I am free in Toledo. This unfortunately does
not show up in the statistics. Poor me.
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