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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #552275
08/25/21 11:07 AM
08/25/21 11:07 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 75,685
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
Journal Entry 34

February 2, 1977 / Belize City, Belize:

I was able to see quite a lot of Belize the past week or so. Last Tuesday Mr. Miller and I flew south to Punta Gorda in Toledo District. Last Sunday I went on an Audubon field trip into the Pine Ridge, and yesterday Mr. Miller and I visited San Pedro and Caye Caulker.

Mr. Miller and I left Belize City at 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, and flew Maya Airways to Punta Gorda. The plane stopped at Melinda (Stann Creek) and Big Creek (Placencia) on the way down. Maya Airways always offers a thrill or two when it touches down on the unpaved airstrips.

We stayed in a government rest house in P.G. It offered private rooms with poor beds. Fortunately, we just stayed the one night. The fishing co-op there had asked Mr. Miller to deny export licenses to private fishermen in the area and thus protect the co-op. We found, however, that the co-op was virtually non-functional and that to deny independent fishermen the right to export on their own would be to deny them of a livelihood.

We spent the night playing dominos and drinking rum under a house with some men that Mr. Miller knew. This was my first experience with dominos, and it was a lot of fun, much different from the game that we played as kids. There was a lot of ďtalking rassĒ and slapping down the domino tiles.

P.G. is a small community (only one paved street) made up mostly of Garifuna, Mayans and East Indians. There seems to be little wealth and certainly not much development in P.G. The quiet life is not going to last there, however. The British have just completed a new Army camp just outside of town and several oil companies have been prospecting for oil in that area. The rumor is that Belize will offer Great Britain permanent military bases in Belize (for protection from Guatemala) in exchange for independence. Many people, including leading officials in government, believe that Belize will get independence this year.

After our business in P.G. was completed Wednesday morning, Mr. Miller borrowed a Land Rover from the District Officer, and we drove out into the countryside. It was like taking a trip back in time as we saw people living and working as they have for hundreds of years. I could not detect many 20th Century devices in their possession.

Mr. Miller and I flew back to Belize City at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, and I got several aerial photos of the countryside.

Sunday morning I walked over to the Bliss Institute where the Audubon Society was meeting for their field trip. Four of us, along with a Dr. Layton Jackson from Missouri, rode in the back of Ford Youngís Land Rover pickup. The road to Belmopan is paved, but the next 2 or 3 hours was on dirt roads.

The Pine Ridge landscape reminded me of the hills and pine forests of Southern California. We saw the 1000-Foot Fall and went to the Rio Frio Cave. This was my first time in a real cave, and I wished I had had my flash for my camera. The Pine Ridge would be a nice place to go camping, but one needs to have his own vehicle to reach it; too bad.

We got back home around 8:00 that evening just in time to eat some barracuda brought in fresh from the caye that day. It seems like weíve been eating a lot of seafood lately, even fish for breakfast. Once last week we had gibnut for dinner. Gibnut is a large rodent, and it was quite delicious, oven-baked with a barbecue sauce. I was told when we were eating it that gibnut was something like a wild pig. The next day I learned the truth.

Yesterday, Mr. Miller, Romi, and I took the skiff to San Pedro to talk to the manager of the co-op there. It was my second trip to San Pedro and now, more than my first trip, I can see how it is quite tourist oriented. Itís still pretty, though, and Iíd never pass up a chance to go there. On our way back we stopped at Caye Caulker which is much more typical of Belize and much more tranquil and pleasant.

[Photos: Stann Creek Valley, 26 January 1977, and 1000-Foot Fall, 30 January 1977, Belize.]

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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #552415
09/01/21 11:58 AM
09/01/21 11:58 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 75,685
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
Journal Entry 35

February 2, 1977 / Belize City, Belize:

Yesterday I took a ďbusmanís holidayĒ and spent the day on Goffís Caye on the barrier reef. A group of students from Belize Technical College wanted to charter a boat for a trip to the caye but needed a few more paying customers to keep the price per person down to BZ$5.00. They approached their former teacher to see if she would go and if she knew of anyone else who might like to come along. So, the whole family along with six Peace Corps Volunteers went on the trip.

The boat was a large power yacht that must have been magnificent in the 1920s. It was still in good shape, but somewhat under-powered. It rained on us on the way out and we got some nice rainbows to look at out over the Caribbean. The day cleared up beautifully, and even became quite warm. Goffís Caye is a favorite day trip for locals and tourists alike. It has white sand, palm trees, a thatched shelter and a good bridge for docking. It is also right on the reef, so the marine life is abundant.

We packed a picnic lunch of baked chicken, potato salad, bread, pineapple upside down cake, potato chips and soft drinks. I helped Roger collect small, colorful fish for the salt-water aquarium he has set up. We were fairly successful and got a few beau gregories (brilliant blue and yellow), sergeant majors (yellow, white, and black vertical stripes), 3-spot damsels, and blennies. Rogerís aquarium is set up mostly with stuff I bring back from my trips to the reef, but now has some fish that Roger, himself, has caught. The girls really enjoy the aquarium and can identify the fish in the tank by looking at their pictures in a book.

Next weekend we have been invited by archeologist Claude Belanger to go to Lamanai, a Mayan excavation site near Indian Church in the Orange Walk District. Claude is site manager and is setting up camp for Dr. Pendergast and thought we would enjoy getting a ďbehind the scenesĒ tour of this Mayan site. The entire country seems to be dotted with Mayan mounds. Weíll also have time to stop in to see Peace Corps Volunteer nurse Bev who has been transferred to San Felipe, a remote village in the Orange Walk District.

As of March 1st, all Peace Corps Volunteers in Belize will receive a pay raise from BZ$300 to $330/month. Also, those who are paying over $75 per month for rent will be given up to $30 a month on top of the raise. So, Iíll get my $30 raise plus $25/month (my rent is $100 room and $100 board.) Now Iíll be paying $225/month for room and board, and Iíll still be getting $30/month extra ďspending moneyĒ over my old salary. This Caribbean vacation is working out nicely.

It is now tourist season and there are a lot of Gringos on the streets. The weather is very pleasant, and the humidity should decrease as we enter the dry season.

[Photo: Fish trap located near Gallows Point, Belize, 1977. The trap is a straight length of mesh fence that ends in a circular enclosure.]

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[Photo: Goff's Caye, 1976. Photo credit: Einar Kvaran.]

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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #552533
09/07/21 11:31 AM
09/07/21 11:31 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 75,685
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
Journal Entry 36

February 16, 1977 / Belize City, Belize:

Saturday after work we went to see some Mayan ruins [Lamanai] being excavated at Indian Church in Orange Walk District. Claude Belanger, a family friend who works at the site, invited us up. We drove as far as the New River on the Northern Highway a few miles south of Orange Walk Town. From there Claude took us by boat to Indian Church, about an hourís boat ride. The trip on the river was very scenic as we worked our way through grasslands with tropical birds and then through thick jungle. The only thing missing was the sight of crocodiles sunning themselves along the riverbank. The river has crocs, but I didnít see any.

The camp at the worksite is set up with electricity and bottled gas. The buildings are all made of palmetto and palm thatch. From the outside it looks like a Maya village, but the huts are furnished inside with gas ranges, refrigerators, etc. A Canadian agency is doing the excavating, and this is their 4th year on the site.

It was dark by the time we reached the camp, so sightseeing was left to the next day. We slept under mosquito netting. This was the first time that I heard the nighttime roar of howler monkeys. It sounded like they must have been in the tree right next to us.

In the morning we toured the grounds which are the most extensive Mayan ruins in Belize. Little of it has been excavated, and none of it has yet been restored. It will take about another ten years to complete. We wandered along footpaths through the jungle from point of interest to point of interest. The site contains the largest building in Belize, a Mayan temple, which I climbed for the view of the surrounding area. In the afternoon, Claude took us water skiing.

We had dinner and got back to Belize that evening. We were invited back for April sometime, so I hope that works out. One thing interesting Claude showed us in the jungle was the water vine, a plant that contains a lot of water and can be used for drinking water. A 3-foot length of it of about 3-inch diameter would provide about a pint of water.

I know Iíve occasionally written about some unusual foods Iíve had here, but the other day I had the most unusual yet ó cow foot soup. It is a vegetable soup, but the stock is made from boiling a cowís foot. We donít have it at home, but I had some at a friendís house. Each bowl contained what looked like vegetable soup with a chunk of cowís foot in it. It tasted okay, but it was somewhat sticky. Anyway, now I can add cowsí foot to the list.

Weíve been having nice weather, and Iíve been able to get out to sea more often. I spent Sunday in the jungle and the next day on the reef. Iíve really been fortunate to be able to see so much of Belize, and most of it is job related. The barracuda are plentiful this time of the year, and I usually see some large ones (4-5 foot).

Yesterday I got my absentee ballot, marked it, and mailed it this morning. I also received the three shirts for me and the two shirts for the girls. They were just the style Iíve come to like here, button all the way down the front with square tails so they can be worn loose.

It has become routine to have tamales for lunch on Saturday. We buy them from Mr. Millerís mother-in-law. They are the best tamales Iíve ever had. One tamale is plenty to eat and only costs BZ$0.75. Whenever I go out to sea, I try to bring home a couple of hogfish. The flesh is white and very mild and is delicious baked. Last night we had it served with scalloped potatoes, rice and beans, cucumber slices, carrots.

I usually get a letter from home on Wednesdays, so Iíll stop by Peace Corps to see if I have a letter today. Itís always good to hear the news from home.

[Photos: Lamanai, Belize, February 1977.]

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Re: Long ago Peace Corps Days, by Alan Jackson [Re: Marty] #552683
09/14/21 10:55 AM
09/14/21 10:55 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 75,685
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
Journal Entry 37

February 21, 1977 / Belize City, Belize:

This week the circus came to town. The Suarez Brothers Circus from Mexico is in Belize City for a few days. On Sunday morning I walked over to Dentonís house and then we both went over to check out the circus activity in the empty lot by Belcan Bridge. It seems to be a large circus, and Iím sure they do put on a good show. I may go see it later this week.

Yesterday afternoon I went on an Audubon field trip to Big Falls Ranch, a rice plantation about 20 miles west of the Belize City. It was a good trip, and we saw quite a few birds. It was especially fun because many of the birds we saw on this trip were quite exotic looking: great blue heron, wood storks, white fronted parrots, etc.

I was asked to bring home the barbeque grill from Fisheries today. I hope that means weíll be having barbeque for dinner. A hunter comes by every few of weeks to sell us game meat.

Iíve just been given the assignment at work to develop a slideshow on the Fisheries Unit. We have a community involvement program and have a lot of school children coming through the lab. Mr. Miller thought it would be nice to have some slides to show them.

For the past six months all the water weíve used at home has been rainwater that runs off the roof and into a vat. Yesterday we hooked up to the city pipe water as we are entering the dry season and have used up all the water in the vat. My only concern was that the pipe water would be colder than the water in the vat. (We donít have a water heater.) It doesnít seem to be, though.

My work is coming along okay. I have plenty to keep me busy and Iím sure Iíll be able to leave something behind to help the fisheries of Belize. I hope I can use my work here to partially satisfy the thesis requirement for a masterís degree in biology or marine biology. Iíve written to UCSD to advise me. If I had known before coming down here, Iím sure I would be able to have gotten permission from Cal Poly to do this.

[Photo: Sugar storage and barges on Haulover Creek, Belize, 1977.]

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