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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #550715
06/09/21 11:08 AM
06/09/21 11:08 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,937
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
Journal Entry 20

This week I received the vitamins and the two statistics books Mom sent. The books will be very useful. I’ve been collecting data from the fishermen’s co-ops, but I really couldn’t do much with it without the methods and equations in the books. I’ve been able to obtain information including weight of catch, area fished, method used, time spent. Howard knew this information existed but was unable for 9 months to get it. He was really surprised when I came back from San Pedro with this data for Caribeña Co-op. I have since gotten the same type of data from Northern Co-op here in the city.

Tomorrow I’m flying down to Placencia for a couple of days to try to get this data from Placencia co-op. I’ll be going with Norris Wade. Norris is the quality control expert attached to the Unit. It is his job to make sure the co-ops maintain proper sanitary conditions at their plants. Norris had been out of the country (in U.S. and Great Britain) to learn new techniques. He had been gone since June, and just returned this month. I’ll be sure to take my camera. Maybe I’ll be able to get some aerial photos of the coast and of Belize City and Stann Creek. Whenever I am away from the city for over 6 hours (either out to sea or visiting a co-op) I am given a traveling allowance. I usually get about BZ$3.50 for going out to sea. I should be able to pocket a little cash from the Placencia trip.

I still haven’t been able to find any native arts to send home for Christmas. There are some handicrafts here, but I don’t feel I can yet judge their quality. So, I sent some handicrafts of my own-making home. David showed me how to make ink prints of fish. He has done some excellent ones. Mine are not that good, but I thought I would send them anyway. The prints I sent (Friday by air mail) are of a juvenile spadefish caught with a cast net off the pier behind Fisheries.

Last Thursday I got up early (5:30) and went down to the market to get a pumpkin so I could make a jack-o-lantern for the two little girls at home. Halloween is known here, but there are no trick-or-treating, costumes, or jack-o-lanterns. The two girls were quite pleased to find a jack-o-lantern in their house. It was a big hit. They had read about and seen pictures of them but had never actually seen one.

This afternoon at 1:30 I’m going with the Audubon Society to Big Falls to observe waterfowl. These Audubon trips are nice because they get me out of the city for a short time. Last Sunday I helped clear paths for a park, Guanacaste, the government has set aside at the Society’s request. I became quite proficient in the use of a machete, the only tool we had. The machete is quite efficient in clearing away jungle. Still, I developed a good set of blisters on both hands. I also picked up a few ticks which attached themselves between my toes. It took the six of us about three hours. Guanacaste Park is located near Roaring Creek, about 3 miles east of Belmopan. I rode back in the bed of a pick-up (usual mode of transport for these trips) and watched the sun set, the stars come out, and the fireflies streaking by the road. It was a beautiful way to end the day.

[Photo: Romie, David and Denton (L-R) catching sprat off the bridge behind Fisheries Unit Laboratory, 1976.]

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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #550908
06/17/21 05:10 AM
06/17/21 05:10 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,937
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Marty Offline OP

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Journal Entry 21

Monday afternoon at 1:00 Norris Wade and I flew down to the fishing village of Placencia. We took a Maya Airlines flight which also stopped at Stann Creek and Punta Gorda. The flight took about 40 minutes to Independence, the nearest airstrip to Placencia. The weather was rough, and the small light plane bounced about quite a bit. Very few landing strips in Belize are paved, and landing is always fun. On the flight south I took 3 or 4 photographs from the plane of the Stann Creek Valley (mixed citrus groves with jungle) but don’t know if they’ll come out. The light was not good.

From Independence, a skiff took us the 4 miles along a mangrove lined waterway and across the lagoon to Placencia. After a brief inspection of the co-op and an exchange of greetings with co-op officials, Norris and I found our way to a small boarding house and checked in. The rest of the day we had to ourselves, and Norris took me around the village to introduce me to the many fishermen. Most of them could be found at either of two drinking establishments. The fisherman usually goes out for about 5 days. After selling his catch, he may wind up with a hundred dollars. He typically does not go out again until he has spent that one hundred dollars. So, if a fisherman is not out at sea, he is probably at “The Cool Spot” or “The Blue Angel.”

Next day we went to the co-op to ask if they had the data I wanted. They did not, but they agreed it was important information and will, from now on, keep track of it for me. So, my work was finished at 9:00 a.m. Tues., and we did not have to leave until 3:00 p.m. Wednesday Actually, this trip was not necessary, but Norris thought I would enjoy Placencia.

I had previously marveled at how idyllic San Pedro is. Well, Placencia is even nicer. It is not just its physical beauty; there is a special charm to the people as well. Life is slow, and the people are open and friendly. The village has a population of about 300. There are only about 12 different surnames, and it is almost possible to be able to place a face with one of the surnames.

There is a phenomenon at Placencia we should be so lucky to have back home in Carlsbad. The beach is building up about one yard per year. The beach is clean white sand. The shade of the coconut palms helps keep away the hot sun. The sea provides the people of Placencia with plenty of food. They need only buy canned milk and vegetables at the one small store.

I hope I can arrange it so I must get to Placencia 5 or 6 times a year.

Wednesday night I became sick with vomiting and diarrhea. I was up every hour that night to throw up and move my bowels (simultaneously). The next day I ran a temperature of 101°. It was 3 days before I felt like eating again. I am fine now. I think I may have eaten a bad lobster in Placencia.

Last night at home was hectic. The older girl celebrated her 5th birthday with the help of about 10 other children.

[Photo: Placencia, photo taken in 1976.]

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In 1978 a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer and I left from the Ag Show in Belmopan and headed to Tikal. I hope you enjoy this adventure….

Both Keith and I had to work the annual Agricultural and Trade Show on Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23, 1978, in Belmopan. The Ag Show is like a small county fair with dozens of thatched booths displaying the various goods and products of government and private industry. The British military usually had some of their weapons on display, too. The two-day fair also included food stalls, horse racing, soccer, a rodeo and a small livestock barn.

Keith would be manning a booth promoting honey from the Southern Beekeepers Cooperative, and I would be working the Fisheries Unit display. We had already planned to take a few days off after the Ag Show and go to the ancient Mayan site of Tikal just across the border in Guatemala. Neither Keith nor I had been to Tikal before, and this might be our last good opportunity to go before our tours of duty ended.

We left the Ag Show late Sunday afternoon and walked the quarter mile or so to the Western Highway. Each of us carried a small backpack and shoulder bag. We stood at the edge of the road and hoped to hitch a ride to San Ignacio or beyond. Within just a few minutes an old, weather-beaten minivan stopped for us. The driver and his four passengers were Americans and told us they were heading to their farm near Benque Viejo del Carmen. It was getting late in the day, and they said that we were welcome to spend the night with them. Elated at our good fortune, Keith and I hopped into the van without hesitation. The driver told us that he ran a Christian camp and would be pleased to talk to us about accepting Christ into our lives. Keith and I stalled and deflected, not wanting to offend our much-needed hosts for the night.

It was just after sunset when we reached the rustic church camp, and Keith and I were showed to the bunkhouse which we would have to ourselves that night. We explained that we were tired and dirty and simply wanted to go bathe in the Mopan River and then turn in for the night. They could talk to us about Jesus at breakfast.

Keith and I walked down to the river in the dark, undressed and bathed. While sitting on the bank and drying off for a few minutes, we decided that we could avoid our overzealous hosts in the morning by sneaking away before sunrise. Satisfied with our plan, we dressed, walked into town and found a small restaurant. We lingered over our plates of tamales, killing as much time as we could. We returned to our bunkhouse and went to bed.

The next morning at daybreak, we quietly slipped out of the bunkhouse and walked into town for breakfast. After breakfast, we walked the mile and a half to the Guatemala border. We crossed the border and walked across the bridge over the Mopan River. We learned that the bus to the Tikal cutoff was not scheduled to depart until 1:30 that afternoon. We found a shady place under some oak trees down by the river and passed the time by reading and napping. It was a little unsettling to see Guatemalan soldiers armed with M1 carbines watching over the area. In Belize there was no military presence on the streets, but here in Melchor soldiers seemed to greatly outnumber the police.

At about 1:00 we walked over to the small plaza to catch the bus that would take us the 40 miles to El Cruce, the cutoff for the road to Tikal. Eventually the bus driver showed up, sat behind the steering wheel and started the engine with an almost deafening roar. Dark smoke billowed out from under the bus. The engine backfired loudly a few times and then settled to an idle. We boarded, told the driver that we were going to Tikal, and we took our seats near the back of the bus where we could keep an eye on the people seated in front of us. We were the only gringos on the bus. The bus pulled out of the plaza, backfired a couple more times and made two or three stops to pick up more passengers before leaving the city.

The road was paved but badly potholed. The driver stopped the bus every 5 miles or so to drop off or pick up passengers. This, obviously, was not the “autobús directo.” It was late afternoon by the time we reached El Cruce and exited the bus. On our way out the door the driver explained that the next bus to Tikal was not until the next morning.

El Cruce was not a town or community; it was literally “el cruce” – just a crossroads. We had heard that if we missed the bus to Tikal there was a place to spend the night not far from El Cruce. It was called El Gringo Perdido and was on the shore of Lake Petén Itzá about three miles from El Cruce.

It took us a little more than an hour to walk to El Gringo Perdido. What we found was a new, upscale campground with a restaurant. The proprietor, a young man who spoke perfect English, met us and said that we could spend the night under a palapa out on a deck built over the lake and use the bathroom behind the restaurant. That sounded perfect to us. He then took us on a short tour of his facility and told us a little about himself.

His name was David Kuhn, and he was from Florida. In 1974 after several visits to Guatemala, he decided to move here and build a small cabin on the lake. Local people called him Don David, el gringo perdido – the lost gringo. David liked the lake, jungle, animals and friendly people, and he soon decided that this was the place to build bungalows and a camping area for tourists. On Dec 29, 1975, he opened El Gringo Perdido, the first jungle accommodations on Lake Petén Itzá. He explained how he was hoping to attract backpackers and budget travelers looking for an eco-friendly yet clean and comfortable place to stay. He showed us his “zoo” of several caged indigenous animals including a margay. Keith and I both thought that keeping wild animals in cages was not exactly “eco-friendly.”

We set up our two hammocks under the palapa, watched the sunset and then walked over to the semi-open-air, thatched restaurant. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and we devoured our meal of thickened turkey soup and corn tortillas. We topped it off with a couple of Gallo beers. David came by our table to see how we were doing. He told us that the bus to Tikal would be at El Remate at 8:00 in the morning and that he would drop us off at the bus stop.

After dinner we retired to our palapa. We were soon treated to a spectacular display of lightning out over the lake. Bolt after bolt of lightning lit up the night sky for almost an hour. It was the perfect way to end a long but perfect day.

We woke up the next morning well rested and eager to continue our trip. So far, we had only traveled about 75 miles in 36 hours. We needed to pick up the pace. We had breakfast at the restaurant, settled our bill and found David. He told us to meet him at his pickup truck in ten minutes and he would run us out to the bus stop at El Remate. Ten minutes turned into 30 minutes, and we became concerned about missing our bus. We could have walked to El Remate in 30 minutes. Finally, David came dashing out of his office and told us to jump in the truck, and off we raced down the dirt road. We reached the bus stop just as the bus to Tikal pulled in.

We boarded the bus and took our seats, again near the back. The bus was about half full, more women than men. Some of the women had infants or toddlers with them. The bus was smaller than the one that we rode the day before. The road was unpaved and deeply rutted and the padding in the seats was very thin. The bus was only able to go about 15-20 miles per hour. Within just a few minutes many of the passengers were asleep or at least appeared to be sleeping. The women with children fussed and fidgeted and tried to keep their babies occupied with bits of food. Keith and I settled in for what we thought would be about an hourlong ride.

After about 30 minutes we came to a slight rise in the road and the bus’s tires lost traction in the mud. The driver ordered everyone out of the bus. We could see that we were only a few feet away from the top of the rise. Instinctively, without being asked, the male passengers gathered behind the bus and were ready to push. The driver put the bus in gear and slowly spun the rear wheels while we pushed. The bus gradually made it out of the mud and to the crest of the hill. We all got back in the bus and continued our way down the dirt road to Tikal.

After just another mile or two, we came to a small snack shop and bar. The driver pulled the bus to the side of the road and announced, “Quince minutos” – fifteen minutes. Keith and I wandered into the wooden and concrete establishment and looked around. The bus driver headed straight to the bar that was off to one side of the room. He sat on one of the four barstools and said something to the bartender. The bartender reached behind him and took a small glass flask from the shelf and handed it to the bus driver. The bottle had a picture of an indigenous woman on it. I was close enough that I could read the label on the bottle: “Quetzalteca Aguardiente 36° Alc./vol. 250 ml.” – 72-proof cane alcohol. The bus driver took a long swig and then slipped the half-empty flask into his back pocket. He got up off the barstool and shouted, “Todos abordo. Vamos.”

We boarded the bus, returned to our same seats, and wondered what would happen next. The bus driver, presumably now somewhat sedated, started up the engine, shifted the bus into gear, popped an eight-track cartridge into the tape player, and we were off. The rest of the way to Tikal was without incident.

The cheapest accommodation at Tikal was a campground where you could rent a hammock and have the use a communal toilet and shower. Keith and I were both ready for something a little more exclusive. We found the Tikal Inn that had an available thatched hut with two beds. That sounded fine. The toilet and shower were just a short distance away in an adjacent burned-out, roofless building that had, until recently, been the Inn.

The Tikal Inn looked as though it had once been a well-appointed hotel. The main building was set about 100 yards north of the airstrip. Behind the main building were four thatched huts lined up on one side of a large rectangular swimming pool. The pool was empty except for a few inches of rainwater, some moss and other debris. It obviously had not been used for quite some time. The other three huts were not occupied. In fact, we never saw any other guests at the Tikal Inn.

Exhausted from the day’s travel, we did not venture into the grounds to see the ruins that afternoon. Instead, we showered and napped for an hour or so. Just before sundown we ventured out to look for a place to eat. We walked along the edge of the partially paved airstrip, turned left onto the main road and found a cluster of small kitchens – comedores – serving basic meals.

We entered one and asked, “Hay comida?” A Mayan woman answered, “Si, hay. Siéntate en la mesa.” We sat at a wooden table covered with a thin plastic tablecloth. There were only three tables in the small screened-in dining room. The kitchen occupied one corner of the room. Apparently, there was no menu, just “comida.” The meal of fried chicken, French fries and corn tortillas was filling if not delicious. Our bellies full, we walked back to our hut and went to sleep.

The next morning, at the sound of roosters crowing, we rose from bed, walked over to the burned-out shell of a hotel and washed up. We then walked along the airstrip to the cluster of kitchens, entered the same one from the previous evening, sat down and ordered breakfast. Again, there was no menu, just “desayuno.” We felt encouraged by the sight of a woman patting corn masa by hand into thin cakes and then placing each onto the comal. Fresh, handmade tortillas!

We were served a fried egg, refried black beans and a stack of hot, corn tortillas. We asked for juice and were told that the only juice was orange juice, but it was freshly squeezed just minutes ago. That would do nicely. The coffee, alas, was instant Nescafe, but we were more than satisfied with our breakfast.

We spent the rest of the morning exploring the grounds of Tikal. We encountered groups of coati and a couple of flocks of wild turkeys. Trails led through the dense jungle to clearings containing the various limestone ruins. We climbed to the tops of all the major temples. From the top of the 212-foot-tall Temple IV, we could see three other temples poking out from the jungle below.

We took a break from scrambling up and over various ruins and found a somewhat shaded place at the top of the Central Acropolis. While sitting there, we became aware of an increasingly foul odor. Then we heard rustling in the trees above us. Looking up we saw a troop of about 10 black howler monkeys. They were moving slowly but deliberately from tree to tree. One of them had a baby clinging to her abdomen. As they moved farther away, the odor dissipated.

After a couple of hours more, we were ready to return to our hut. In front of the Tikal Inn was an old twin propeller Aviateca airliner. It had the name “Itza” painted on the side of the fuselage just behind the nose. Keith, who knew more about aircraft than I, recognized the plane as a 1950s vintage 44-passenger Convair CV-340. We both wondered how the plane was able to safely land on such a poorly surfaced runway.

It rained on our second full day at Tikal, but that did not stop us from further exploring the grounds. In fact, it felt good to be cooled by the rain. Also, we had the entire park to ourselves. We did not see anyone else out amongst the ruins. It just felt good to race from site to site, in the rain, in the jungle, all by ourselves. It was so different from being in Belize City. There was no traffic, no street hawkers, no putrid canals. It was exhilarating. We ended the day just like we ended the day before, sitting down at our favorite comedor to a simple meal and an ice-cold bottle of Gallo beer.

After three nights and two full days of exploring Tikal, it was time to pack up and head back to Belize. We took the morning bus out of Tikal and easily made the connection to Melchor. After crossing the border, we caught the next bus headed to Belize City. We could not believe our luck as we made every connection, and each bus was running on time. We would be in Belize City in time to attend the reception that the Peace Corps Director was giving for the newly sworn in Volunteers. Because I had helped with the training for this new class of Volunteers, and because the class included two Volunteers that would be assigned to the Fisheries Unit, I wanted to be at the reception to support them.

The bus pulled into Belize City and stopped at the Pound Yard Bridge which was the end of the line. It was just a quarter mile walk from there to home. A quick shower, a change of clothes and we were ready for the reception. What a memorable time the last few days were!

[Photos: Keith killing time at the border, waiting for the bus at Melchor, Thatched huts and empty pool behind the Tikal Inn, and Aviateca airliner on the airstrip in Tikal, 1978.]

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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #550921
06/17/21 12:04 PM
06/17/21 12:04 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,937
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Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
Journal Entry 22

November 14, 1976 / Belize City, Belize:

Everything is coming along fine here. However, the weather has warmed up again and it’s hard to believe we’re in the middle of November. Right now, I’m lying in bed waiting to be called down for breakfast. We eat Sunday breakfast late, about 9:00 a.m. Usually have pancakes, sausage, and juice. Unlike most Belizean families, we eat our main meal in the evening rather than at noon. I take a sack lunch to work. Breakfasts on weekdays is usually 2 eggs, bread, sometimes sausage or bacon or fried lunchmeat, and juice. Our evening meals are quite “American” although we usually do have rice and beans instead of potatoes. I have gotten to like rice and beans as long as there is a gravy or onion/pepper sauce to put on it. We eat a lot of starches: dinner may be fried chicken, potato salad, rice and beans, bread, and juice. If we are lacking anything in our diet, it is green vegetables. We only get green vegetables about once or twice a week. I am taking the vitamins Mom sent (the analysis of them is much better than the vitamins I can get from the Peace Corps) to supplement my diet. I am lucky that in staying with a Belizean family I am exposed to more of the culture (meals, parties, music, etc.) than the PCVs who room with each other and maintain their own American practices. I believe Roger and I are the only PCVs in Belize (about 40 PCVs) who are staying with a Belizean family.

We have had six early terminations of PCVs here in Belize in the past 1½ months. This is too great of a rate and Peace Corps Director Reggie is quite concerned. The Texas couple left in early October. The British American couple quit last Sunday. Two others, not with our training group, have also recently quit. Belize is considered by Washington to be a hardship post. I’m sure I’ll be able to stick it out for the two years. We got two new fisheries officers at work: two women, Janet and Jen. That will take some of the workload from Howard and me. Both women are Belize nationals.

I got my driver’s license last Monday. Driving is really wild here. Streets are narrow, there are a minimum of traffic regulations and a maximum of cars. Tijuana is a model city to drive in compared to Belize. Actually, it’s really a lot of fun.

Later this month I will be going up to a small fishing village, Sarteneja, about 15 miles across the bay from Corozal. It can only be reached by boat. Norris and I are going on a business/pleasure trip to inspect the co-op there. We plan to go into Mexico (Chetumal) to look around and shop. Mexico is giving 25 pesos to the U.S. dollar now (used to be 12.50) so I hope to find some bargains, although Chetumal is reputed to be expensive.

Last week I saw a new Jamaican film at the Eden Theater, “Smile Orange.” It is full of Caribbean humor, etc., and most of the dialogue is in Creole. I plan to go to the football games today at the MCC Grounds. Hope to get some pictures.

[Photo: Belize City riverside, just west of Swing Bridge, looking south, 1978. Poster for the 1976 Jamaican movie “Smile Orange.”]

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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #550940
06/18/21 08:05 AM
06/18/21 08:05 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,937
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Marty Offline OP

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Journal Entry 23

November 21, 1976 / Belize City, Belize:

This week I received a letter from home, National Geographic, three books (“Nightwork,” “Rich Man, Poor Man,” “Railway Bazaar”) and the L.A. Times. The books look interesting, especially “Railway Bazaar.” I had just bought Larry Woiwode’s latest book “Beyond the Bedroom Walls” and borrowed a couple of other paperbacks from the Peace Corps library, so I’m pretty well supplied with reading material now. I hope I can finish all this before the next books come. By the way, I never received the Halloween treats intended for the girls. I’ve heard that sometimes, if an envelope looks as though it may contain a greeting card, it is stolen somewhere along the way since greeting cards often contain money.

It is now 4:00 p.m. and it has just stopped raining. I was really looking forward to today because there was so much scheduled to happen. The luncheon with the governor has been set back a couple of weeks. But there was to be an Audubon trip to Guanacaste Park to erect some benches. To go to the park, I was going to have to miss the fights on Bird’s Isle and the football match at the MCC Grounds. Well, the rain has forced the cancellation of the Audubon trip, the fights, and the football match. I haven’t even left the house today. I hope tonight to go to the movie theater.

I earned my keep last Friday night. I agreed to babysit and had the girls in bed and was just getting to bed myself when I heard one of them crying. Then the other started crying. They were frightened because their parents had left them while they were sleeping. I tried reading to them, explaining the situation to them, giving them food, etc. As it turned out, the only way to get them comfortable was for me to lie down in the girls’ room with them and promise I would wake them when the parents got back. I won’t be so quick to offer to baby sit next time.

This week I got two shots, diphtheria-tetanus and rabies, and polio drops. Dr. Lizama expressed some concern about my ears still being infected. Also, my feet were rather badly infected but the medication he gave me for that worked quite well. I surely wish my ears would clear up soon. It’s a hassle to have to keep cleaning the pus out of them

[Photo: “Welcome to Guanacaste Park. This park is named for the enormous Guanacaste tree with its magnificent gardens of air plants that is growing at the western edge of the property. Maintained by the Belize Audubon Society.” 1976]

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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #551165
06/29/21 11:16 AM
06/29/21 11:16 AM
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Posts: 74,937
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Journal Entry 24

November 28, 1976 / Belize City, Belize:

Well, Thanksgiving has already come and gone, and I never once realized that last Thursday was Thanksgiving Day. We have our own schedule of holidays here. Two weeks ago we celebrated Prince Charles’ birthday. His birthday, November 14, fell on a Sunday this year, so we all got the following Monday off. This year Christmas falls on a Saturday, so Boxing Day (an English tradition) falls on a Sunday, so we’ll get Monday off, too. So, I’ll work half-day Christmas Eve (Fri.), Christmas Day off (Sat.), Boxing Day off (Sun.), and Monday off, too, because Boxing Day comes on a Sunday. Next year we’ll have another national holiday. Because there was so much interest in this year’s Carib Settlement Day (Nov. 19) the government has decided to make it an official holiday. Other holidays are Queen’s Birthday, Commonwealth Day, New Years, Easter, and 10th of September.

This week I received the book “Marathon Man,” and the L.A. Times Sports Section. The “Marathon Man” looks interesting. It’s hard to believe Mom only paid US$1.69 for the hardcover. I just bought a paperback Larry Woiwode’s (“Beyond the Bedroom Wall”) for BZ$4.50. I read the sports sections and was happy to catch up on some of that news.

Yesterday was Roger’s birthday. We had some of his friends (Debbie, Einar, Judy, Jackie, Tom) over, and I barbecued steaks and chicken. I borrowed the barbecue grill from Mr. Miller. We also had baked beans, squash, coleslaw, and cake. I think Roger enjoyed the party. Later that evening there was a potluck dinner at Bev, Judy, and Jackie’s to celebrate three November birthdays (Roger, Judy and Mussolini.)

Belize City, particularly the Mesopotamian section where I live, has been plagued by power outages. One of the city’s electrical generators is broken and won’t be repaired for one year. So, with the extra drain of electricity brought on by the holiday season, the remaining power plant cannot supply enough electricity. Since we have an electric water pump at this house, we must carry our water up in buckets when the power goes off. The power to the downtown area is rarely shut off, so I’ve been going to the movies more lately. Nothing else to do.

The Audubon trip rescheduled for today has been cancelled because the roads are impassable. It was to have included lunch with the Governor, who is also a member. So, now I’m free to go to the Boxing Matches today at 11:00 a.m., rescheduled from last week. Don’t know who’s fighting.

This week sometime, I’m to fly to Corozal with Norris Wade. We’ll spend the night there and the next day take a dory to the fishing village of Sarteneja about 15 miles east on the bay. We will check out the Sarteneja Fishermen’s Co-op and go back to Corozal the same day. Spend that night in Corozal and fly home the next day. While in Corozal, we hope to cross the border into Mexico to look around Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo. The Mexican peso is now worth 4¢ U.S., down from 8¢, so I may be able to get a few bargains.

The weather fluctuates now between hot and cool spells. Yesterday it was 87° and the humidity was 90%. The mosquitoes were bad last night. I couldn’t find a mosquito coil to burn, and it was too hot to put a sheet over me. Fortunately, nights like that are not common.

Dr. Lizama has again referred me to Dr. Flores, an Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat specialist to clear up my ear infection. He cleaned out my ears, gave me antibiotic tablets (Ledermycin, 2 x 300 mg daily) and two kinds of ear drops, one anti-bacterial, the other antifungal. I’m to see him again tomorrow. I think the cure is working this time.

[Photo: Boxing at Bird’s Isle, 1976.]

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Journal Entry 25

December 5, 1976 / Belize City, Belize:

A cold front has come down from the north and settled over Belize for the past 5 or 6 days. The mornings have been cool, about 65°, and the afternoons have been quite comfortable. A lot of rain and wind has come with the cold front. So, with the “cold” weather I got a craving for some hot homemade soup, like I might get at home.

I asked if they had in Belize the ingredients for split pea soup and was told that they did. I was sent to the market to get the ingredients: split peas, onions, celery, etc., and pigtails. Ham bones are too hard to come by (too expensive) here so they use pigtails instead. I’d never seen a pigtail sitting on the kitchen counter before, but they look just like pigtails, long and curly and about 3/4” in diameter. At the base where the tail joins the pig, there is a little extra meat. I’m sure that most Americans would consider eating pigtails rather “gross.”

The soup was excellent. She makes it with dumplings on top. It is served with a large bowl of rice on the table, and everyone adds a lot of rice to their soup, so it has the consistency of a mush. The pigtails were cut into about 3” lengths. It seemed funny to watch everyone eating their soup with a spoon and then occasionally dip into the soup with their fingers and bring out a pigtail and chew on that (like eating a sparerib.) I was surprised at the taste of pigtails; they sure don’t taste like ham. Anyway, the soup was delicious, and I hope we have it again sometime.

In the mail this week I received the L.A. Times sports section and the Xmas cards for me, the girls and family. I enjoy the sports very much and then pass it along to Mr. Miller who is quite a sports fan.

This week I finished writing and sending 25 Christmas cards. I thought the cards, Belizean made and with local scenes, were quite nice. I wrote a note inside of each of the 25 cards, so now most everyone has my address, and I should be flooded with mail. Ha! I also mailed a piece of ziricote wood to Paul White. Ziricote is favored by Belize woodcarvers. I thought he might like it.

Yesterday we had our big Peace Corps Christmas-Thanksgiving dinner party. It really was nice, well organized and well attended. We ate at about 5:00 p.m. We had turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, bread, peas, carrots and pumpkin pie. The party was held at the Furey’s who have a large house in Hone Park. Most of the Volunteers were there, about 45 of us. Many of them I had never met before. Roger made 30 pounds of mashed potatoes, and I had to bring about 5 pounds of carrot sticks, cucumber slices, tomatoes, etc. I used the Land Rover from work to get us and the food to the party, and we put our bikes in the back. I dropped off Roger, the food, and his bike, then drove to the Fisheries Unit (nearby) and left the Rover and then rode my bike back to the Furey’s.

It isn’t raining today, so Roger and I will probably go to the football games. Almost no gringos attend the football games, so it’s really a Belizean experience. Roger and I seem to be the only PCVs in the city that try to mix with the Belizeans. Most PCVs have never attended a football game, etc. They are content to socialize amongst themselves. Just by living with a Belizean family, we are at an advantage that way. Also, Roger is getting rather good at speaking Creole. That helps. I’m having a hard time picking it up well enough to speak it.

[Photo: Football at MCC Grounds, 1976.]

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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #551374
07/08/21 09:57 AM
07/08/21 09:57 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,937
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP
Journal Entry 26

December 12, 1976 / Belize City, Belize:

We’ve been having a very wet late November and early December. The locals say it is quite unusual to have so much rain at this time of the year. The rain has been coming down with the “northers” (cold air masses from North America.) With the rain, the northers have brought cooler air temperatures. The days are quite pleasant (maybe I’m just getting used to it) and the nights can be cool. Sometimes I even sleep under a light blanket. Something I could use, to lounge around in in the evenings, is some sweats.

It is customary in Belize for every government agency to hold a large staff Christmas Party. Last week, David, Denton and I went out to sea to catch enough fish for grilled fillets for our Christmas party. We went south about 20 miles to some patch reefs and speared 85 pounds of grouper. Fish averaged about 6 pounds each. Anything over 10 pounds is a little hard to handle when it’s thrashing around on the end of the spear. After scaling, gutting and leaving some of the smaller fish whole to take home, we had 25 pounds of fillet for the party. Norris brought up 10 pounds of shrimp from Placencia. Everything was ready. In fact, the last week at work was devoted to preparing for the party. But it rained the day the party was to be held (Fri., 10 Dec.) and since the roof at the Fisheries Laboratory leaks badly, the party was cancelled. No one could get word out to Belmopan to cancel the order of hors d’oeuvres, so Mr. Miller gave Denton, David and me the order to wait around after work Friday evening to receive the party foods from Belmopan, and, if they were perishable, to see to it that they perished. So, we had our own small party.

I received a lot of mail this week. I got one package of clothes mailed in September. It contained a sweatshirt, 2 new cotton shirts, some towels, two books, etc. It came by way of N.Y., which is typical for surface mail, and was the 18th shipment to arrive in Belize this year. Also, I got a lot of paperback books: Eiseley’s “Unexpected Universe”; Clavell’s “Shogun,” “King Rat,” “Tai-Pan”; Caldwell’s “Captain and Kings”; Higgins’ “Eagle Has Landed”; Michener’s “Miscellany”; Tolkien’s “Hobbit,” “Fellowship of the Ring”, “Two Towers,” “Return of the King”; Castaneda’s “Don Juan”, “Separate Reality,” “Journey to Ixtlan,” “Tales of Power”; Brady’s “Shark Fighter” and Ali’s “Greatest.” I also got two old Time Magazines (9/27 and 10/4.) My second L.A. Times arrived. So, it looks like the mail is starting to come in now. The books look interesting. I’ve only read one of them before, “King Rat.” The only ones I will not read are Tolkien’s books.

Roger left yesterday to fly back to Michigan. He will then ride down with his father and brothers who are driving down to be in Belize for Christmas.

[Photo: Heading out to the patch reefs in the Fisheries skiff, December 1976.]

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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #551506
07/14/21 10:47 AM
07/14/21 10:47 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,937
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP
Journal Entry 27

December 15, 1976 / Belize City, Belize:

Surface mail is coming in now. Been receiving packages the past few days. Received: Crock-Pot cookbooks; two denim jackets and stocking gifts for the girls; one box of fudge; color and activity books mailed 10/14 (the girls love them, just in time for vacation); four books for girls (Oceanography, Animals of the Sea, Seashells, Reptiles & Amphibians; twelve activity & coloring books mailed 10/20.

Hope Crock-Pot gets here by Christmas.

[Photo: Young boy paddling his dory along Southern Foreshore, Belize City, 1977.]

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Journal Entry 28

December 19, 1976 / Belize City, Belize:

Belize is preparing for Christmas. Stores are staying open in the evenings. The streets are congested, and the traffic cops are working overtime. Many Belizeans are home from the States. Christmas lights are decorating the windows, roofs and trees in front of some of the homes. Friday evening Santa Claus made an appearance at the Vogue department store and there were hundreds of people milling around there. It took about 10 minutes to walk over the Swing Bridge. Movie theaters are announcing their special holiday shows. “Towering Inferno” is coming to Belize City. Prices will be doubled to see this, “a major film of 1974.” Christmas carols are being played over Radio Belize, redone to a reggae beat. Street vendors are selling cotton candy and dolls brought down from Mexico. A shipment of stuffed animals was being unloaded at the docks and one animal split open revealing it was stuffed with wrist watches. The Reporter newspaper was printed this week in red and green ink.

There are some wonderful baking aromas coming from the kitchen this morning.

Yesterday I bought a few things to send home for Christmas. The items were purchased at Nava’s Ceramics. I bought a serving plate, a tankard, and a bud vase They are Belizean made so I think the folks back home will appreciate them. It’s really hard to buy gifts in Belize.

Friday, I drove the Fisheries’ Land Rover (a piece of junk which Howard assured everyone would never make it) to Belmopan over flooded roads (it’s been a very wet month). There were times the road was completely undetectable. I just drove in a straight line from where the road submerged to the next place it was visible. Denton, Romie and I went. It was a lot of fun to get out on the open road for a change. We had to take a ham and turkey to Belmopan for the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Christmas party. I have a feeling that no work will be done this week at Fisheries. Our Christmas party is the 22nd, so until then we have to prepare, and after that we’ll have to recover.

Roger left for Michigan (about US$300 to fly) last Saturday and will be driving back down with his father and two brothers for Christmas here. His dad is driving down a motorhome. I think they’ll be here for a week. Roger, Jackie, and Nancy, all from my group, went home for Christmas. Wonder if they’ll all make it back. Keith wants to take the bus to Tijuana this summer and then Greyhound to Southern California. He lives in Long Beach. I might go with him.

I shaved off my beard and mustache

[Photo: Rainwater vats behind St Catherine’s, Belize City, 1978.]

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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #551626
07/20/21 09:48 AM
07/20/21 09:48 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 74,937
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP
Journal Entry 29

December 26, 1976 / Belize City, Belize:

Well, Roger’s father and three brothers just left to go back home and, hopefully, now things will get back to normal. We had a nice if somewhat hectic Christmas.

Roger’s family was due to arrive the 22nd. Roger had flown home and was to drive back down with his father and brothers in a motorhome. By the 24th we all decided Roger was not going to make it down for Christmas. About 5:00 p.m. that day we found out that they had broken down (rear axle) in Chetumal, Mexico, near the Belize border. We rented a Land Rover, drove to Chetumal, picked them up and brought them home. That is about a 3-hour drive over some poor roads. Roger’s family got in about 2:00 a.m. Christmas morning. Everyone was too keyed up to go right to bed, and by about 3:00 a.m. the little girls woke up and came downstairs and there was no way to make them wait for a more reasonable hour to open their gifts. The girls were pleased with all their gifts from California.

We ate Christmas dinner about 1:30 p.m. We had ham, turkey, dressing, rice and beans and potato salad. For dessert we had the traditional black cake. One of Roger’s brothers did not eat with us. He was suffering miserably from “Montezuma’s Revenge.” The heat and humidity were bothering Roger’s family, so they did not have much of an appetite. In fact, the heat (he wouldn’t believe me that this has been the coolest month I’ve seen here) had Roger Sr. flat on his back during much of the day. Not thinking of that, I took him for a walking tour of the city while dinner was being readied and he started panting so hard I cut the tour short. Something none of them could handle was the cold showers. We don’t have hot water in the house, at least not in the bathroom that I use. I’ve gotten to enjoy a refreshing cold shower in the afternoon. Roger Sr. could not believe that.

Today, we all went out to the reef to dive. Roger Sr. really enjoyed that even though he was quite thoroughly cut up from the coral. Anyway, Roger’s family will be going back to a Michigan winter with Caribbean sunburns.

Plenty has happened which I don’t have time to mention this time: David, Denton and I nearly got lost at sea; Howard is getting married and may quit the Peace Corps; our Staff Party was a success (barbecued shrimp—delicious). I believe the Crock-Pot is the only package which has not yet arrived.

[Photo: Small caye behind Gallows Point Reef, Belize, 1976. Photo credit, Einar Kvaran.]

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