50 degrees to the south

Posted By: Marty

50 degrees to the south - 02/05/14 09:41 AM

Maybe you don’t want to be reminded of this at the moment. But in the course of a morning, well spent, one can end up in a place where winter (as we know it) is only a fading memory.

When I leave Toronto, the temperature is hovering at 20 below zero. When I land in Belize City, it is hugging 30. Driving in to the city on the Northern Highway, the hot breeze styling my hair, I wonder what the body thinks of all of this. I am not sure if we are constructed with materials that can tolerate the addition of 50 degrees in the course of the length of time it takes to eat our oatmeal, shovel the driveway, start the car, salt the steps and slither in to work.

But despite the climate change, I still feel, oddly, at home.

Formerly the British Honduras, Belize achieved independence in 1981. It is a young country, the only English-speaking entity in Central America. It boasts the second-largest coral reef in the world (after Australia) along with rainforests, sugar plantations, marine treasures, Mayan temples, fertile fields of fruit and more cultural diversity than is common for this part of the world.

But regardless of the difference in the environment, there are similarities to NL, beyond the history as a British colony. I note that they have a very broad view of the use of condensed milk, adding it to tea and historically using it as baby formula (among other things). Both places have a term – a “boil up.” Except that here it is a dish of boiled eggs, fish or pigtails and sweet potatoes and plantains. Rather than tea and Vienna sausage in the bush.

I get Fry Jacks for breakfast, and they look suspiciously like Toutons (or the other way around). Many folks in Belize speak with a dialect called kriol, and we have a dialect as well. In both places there is a similar debate about whether the dialect is a language in its own right, or just poor English. Both places have a dictionary to explain local terms. Both take pride in their local dialects. One person has said of kriol in Belize: it is “di stiki stiki paat” meaning the glue that holds the culture together.

The other day, I drove by “Nan’s Sports Bar.” And they refer to “baymen” versus those who live in The Town.

We have an historic connection to the Caribbean region and the Atlantic side of Central America. We used to send them our worst salt cod and they sent us their worst rum. A good basis for setting up an equitable relationship, wouldn’t you say? The thing is, they figured out some very tasty recipes for that codfish. And the rum for us, well, we forced visitors to the island to drink it in a little ritual.

Sure, there are major differences as well. But for now, as I adjust to the new surroundings, it is best to think of how we can travel a long distance and still be at home.

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