SATURDAY’S CHILD – Play Misty for me
AT?EIGHT?IN?THE?morning the mist was still thick. It is what I have always liked about Belmopan, the capital of Belize.
Even though it seems to be a city built around a shabby bus terminal first, and then the parliament and ministries of government like an afterthought, Belmopan has a rustic charm that is unlike any other West Indian or even world capital.
In some ways you think of it as being in the middle of nowhere and because of its height above sea level, the top of nothing. But the city grows on you, especially after a visit to the bustling, cosmopolitan though rural, polyglot market, where for one Belize dollar (US50 cents) you can get eight bananas or ten oranges.
They sell everything in the market. The Mennonites fill one corner with finished furniture, and take orders for everything from chairs to houses (which they deliver by truck); next to them is someone from Dangriga with a trailer load of different tools and parts, drills and screwdrivers trying to loosen your pockets; the Taiwanese with the huge guavas they grow out on their highway compounds – some sell birds, dogs and small turtles, others sell orchids and cheap jewellery although sometimes you can get jade artefacts at a good price; the Mayans with everything else from fresh produce to pepper sauce, slate carvings and big “horse” plantains, meat and potatoes, tortillas and butter, rice and peas with stewed chicken, first edition books and many stalls selling used clothing which people snatch up, underwear and all. Luck of the drawers, I suppose.
Four years after I left Belize, I returned last week to spend a few days in Belmopan. It was as if time had stood still, especially cocooned in the morning mist that covers the city in late November to early February.
My first home in Belmopan was set in the midst of an orange plantation off the aptly named Humming Bird Highway. Early in the morning the mist swirled around and covered the view in all directions, from the distant hills to a wooden shed only 20 yards away.
It was a benign isolation, a feeling that the world was mine and that time was a foreign magazine with no place or relevance to us.
I had some interesting experiences in Belize. First there was the spider from Placencia. I wrote at the time, “My towel was on the back of a chair, drying out since my early morning shower. I picked it up and went through the normal gymnastic procedure. As the towel brushed my left buttock, I felt a bump insteadn of the soft cotton to which my very sensitive skin is accustomed.
“I glanced down to see what had occasioned this departure from the norm. It was not a bird, a plane or Super-Grover, although it was almost as furry. It was merely a large tarantula spider that claimed my towel as his or hers and was about to claim the rare privilege of feasting on my rear.”
I considered myself lucky since had I been one of those persons who put the towel between their legs and proceed to rub vigorously up and down, I would have been history (or so I thought at the time).
Then along came another spider, this time in my daughter’s shoe. After putting on her school shoes, and heading to school in the car, Jasmine got bitten by a tarantula spider that had hidden in her shoe. In the actual situation, it was panic stations since the spider in question was what we call a tarantula, black, hairy, bulbous, and Jasmine was shouting, screaming, trembling and in agony in the back seat.
Fortunately, it was not radioactive otherwise we might have ended up with a spider woman on our hands.
We eventually found the creature dead in the car and we postulated that spiders have a sense of smell.
Those emotions recollected in tranquillity after a four-year absence have lost their sting, so to speak, and reside in the general feel-good mood
that inevitably accompanies our thoughts of Belize. There was the time that one of my colleagues ordered Fried Jacks and Johnny Cakes for breakfast thinking that the fried jacks were fish. We wondered about the quizzical look that the waitress gave him, but it is only when the food arrived that we realised that fried jacks and Johnny Cakes were essentially both fried dough with slight differences in the shape and the ingredients.
There was the day when, to our surprise, we discovered a Sri Lankan restaurant in the town of San Ignacio almost on the Guatemalan border. Then there were the friends we made and the tears our children shed when we had to leave. One of them had tried out his Spanish on the chubby sister of someone he was visiting. One decidely chilly December night, he greeted her with, “Mucho coolo” which she interpreted as “Mucho culo” meaning that she had a big behind. She stomped into the house leaving him outside shivering.
?• Tony Deyal was last seen asking, why do black widow spiders kill their mates before mating? To stop the snoring before it starts.