Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Independence Fervor

Independence Fervor

Everyone in Belize is gearing up for the celebration of independence day, September 23, with flags waving and lots of marching. The Chinese stores (all the grocery stores) are selling red, white, and blue cowboy hats. Each school has children ready to perform. Unfortunately, most of the schools are run by missionary groups that perpetuate the colonizer’s purpose. Belize has the worst literacy rates in the region.

One thing I have learned is that people in Central America live in fear of being murdered in their sleep. Consequently, they build house that can be completely closed up at night, where people sleep in the heat.

I have finished a few more books. The two latest are a dual language Garifuna/English easy reader and Holocaust of Native America: An Introduction. The other two are Mr. Finnegan and the Bears and Code Talkers. I am working on sketches for A Ride Through Chaco Canyon. When I was working on my dissertation, I amused myself by writing children’s stories, sci-fi, and poetry. I hope to have a few more Garifuna/English books by mid-2020.

I haven’t been able to get down to Tumul K’in yet. When I go, I have lots of Native American materials, books, journals, and DVDs, for them, enough to start a library. I am hopeful that the students in the school might come up with some publishable stories in Mopan or Queche Maya. I am also donating linguistic and composition texts and journals to the Department of Eduation and Arts, University of Belize. I can get most of those professional journals online now, and I have hung up my researching shoes.

I have also learned that rabbits can growl. I think my rabbit spends too much time with the dogs. One day, he growled at me when I was trying to feed him. The dogs continue to grow into really good dogs, Ikana moreso than Amafo Little Foot, who is the smaller one. He just wants to be babied a lot.

I miss all of you guys. Let me know how you are doing.

Hot and Dry

Hot and Dry

Two weeks of above 100 degrees—104-107F (40-42 C)
now in the mid 90’s
One day of a rain—3/4 “

Hot dry breezes fan the palms and rustle the leaves of the chestnut tree
its first time blooms blown to the ground
The yard toad cools herself in a bucket of water (see attached photo)
Iti Shvski, the mother Manila mango tree pregnant
Attracts a flock of grackles that knock the little green mangoes to the ground
After taking a bite & that
Attack a stray grackle that wandered into the yard
Pecking it mercilessly
Then disappearing never to return

The dogs own the yard &
worry needlessly every time I leave
Chukfi Nakni, my trickster rabbit, spends a lot of time sleeping under the bed
His fur grown out from the last romp wih the dogs
Tek, my little mother cat, scolds me if I stay up too late
insisting that I retire with her

Class ended
 turned in my grades
set up my summer course
Painting my little clay booger masks
Cherokee booger dances were winter dances
The 19th century missionaries hating and forbidding them
Have 3 children’s books set up and ready to proof
two of them stories in Choctaw
Working on an Eero Hand adventure book
(you may remember that Eero is my grandson)

started on my list of things to complete before
summer class that begins May 20

Feb 2, 2019

Feb 9, 2019—The hot dry season commenced, almost a month early.  Fortunately, the mornings were still cool, but by noon the temperature soared to about 83F/31C—sweating weather. And the warm winds sprinkled lime dust on all the vehicles. People began to worry about the coming months and the heat.

I got to see the police in San Ignacio practicing in riot gear behind clear bullit proof shields. There they were standing in the heat, seating, and most of them overweight.
 Most homicides in Belize are done by strangulation or machete. These shield must have been a donation from some country.

One morning
As I biked to the pool,
I saw a young, attractive creole man
long dreadlocks and many tatoos
Dancing the Tai Chi
When next I saw him, I hollered
“Are you going to dance the Tai Chi?”
He grinned and said, “Yes.”
I didn’t see him for a couple of weeks.
As I was walking to the pool, he came running into the park.
“Hi,” he said.
“Have you taken up running?” I asked, looking down at his slip on canvas shoes.
I kept walking when I heard him shout at me, “Let me know when you are ready.”
“What?” I replied as he walked toward me.
“Let me know when you’re ready?”
“What do you mean—Ready to do Tai Chi?”
He walked closer, touching my upper arm, grinning.
“Ready for whatever you want.”
And for one momen I was tempted by the fantasy before
I said,
“I’m 73.”
“73 is good,” he said.
“For me, not for you,” I said over my shoulder as I kept walking.

When I first came to Belize, the woman I stayed with said that the problem with Belizean men is that they wanted to be paid for sex. And you will see old, wrinkled white women with young Creole men. In addition to this young man, I also have 23-year-old with 2 children José who looks like a pudgy 12-year-old who wants to “visit with me and give me a spa.”  Sex trafficking is a significant problem: Human trafficking is one of the reasons that Belizeans can no longer get visas to the U.S. easily.

Some of my Spanish as a Second Language errors

Jabón (soap) for jamón (ham)
Miércoles (Wednesday) for martes (Tuesday)
Una mesa (a table) for un mes (one month)
Hago (I make) for tengo (I have)

Sometimes when I try to speak in Spanish, it’s like trying to grab words as they swirl around in my head.

I had a second meeting with the Maya language teachers at TumulK’in.  Neither of them have any linguistic training, so we had to work through some misunderstandings in our communications. We made some good progress on the curriculum. We will meet again at the end of April or beginning of May.

I have 3 children’s books almost set up for printing—just waiting for a little clean up on some illustrations.

James and I are headed for New Zealand and Portland.

Notes from Paradise

Notes from Paradise

I start my days working out in the pool (after I feed my menagerie and get the latest news from Bloomberg)surrounded by palms trees swaying in a light breeze and the calls of brightly colored birds, followed by hot Belizean coffee from the café to help me warm up from the cool water, and a short nap in the sun (on the days the sun shines).  The women who work at the resort help me with my Spanish a little bit at a time. Usually, the only other person around is the pool guy, cleaning. Some mornings, there are children. Adult tourists have finished breakfast and left on their various tours. It’s a great way to start a day.

Classes started at the University of Maryland Global Campus on January 14. I had 31 enrolled for the first session, but I am down to about 28 now. My second class begins on February 25, and there are 26 enrolled in that class. All of the classes use materials available to the public, and one of those links started requiring a login. When I reported this to the course chair, she suggested I select a new article for the course. This was followed by an email to two other instructors telling them that “professor George Ann Gregory” had selected a new reading. It was kind of tickled me to see myself referred to as “professor” even after all these years.

Native Daughter Publishing almost has its first book ready for publication—Mr. Finnegan and the Bears: Once When We Were Homeless. I am just waiting on my Photoshop guy to get a few illustrations back to me. In the meantime, I am putting all the little Choctaw stories into one big picture book. I am still trying to get a book done in Garifuna. My autobiographical piece about the sixties is back from readers with some notes. I will probably get back to this during my next break.

Clifara still comes by occasionally for help with math. We spent an intensive two weeks working on division after she started back to school in January. One math lesson was on fractions, and we baked cookies for that one. Kalon helped me clear weeds so that I could plant jicama, and he was happy to get a pair of Adidas basketball shoes. I am working a bit with Mary Ann, their mom, on math materials for her classromm. Outside of small problems like figuring out how to get the cover off the refrigerator light so that I can exchange bulb and getting the screws on the lawn mower loose enough to adjust the blades, life seems to be going OK.

I would love to hear what you are doing.


George Ann

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

2019, Here I Come

2019, Here I Come

I keep trying to step out of the world of Academia, but I just sent off a proposal to a conference this next summer in June in Albuquerque. It is a presentation on what Tumulk’in is trying to accomplish. I had a very productive visit with the teachers during my visit in December and got a pilot curriculum written for the first year course on Mopan Maya. I have made my suggestions for getting more Maya data into the Social Studies curriculum. Right now, Mr. Makin and I are looking at Maya Mathematics.

I have been hitting the pool every morning for a week, and I really love the results. On the first day, it was about 70 and raining. The pool guy and I were the only ones around. He brought me a cup of coffee, which really saved me as I didn’t get out until my teeth were chattering.  Now it has become a morning ritual for us to share coffee in the morning. He is a seventeen-year-old from Arenal, a village on the Guatemalan border. His English is pretty basic and Belizean English at that. Because the phone service in Arenal comes out of Guatemala, he can’t even talk to his parents. I think he’s a little lonely.

I finished the first draft of my book about my experiences during the sixties. It’s a collection of narratives, vignettes, sketches, and poetry. Writing it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I have a couple of people reading the draft now. There are a few places where I want to do some additional development, but mostly I am going for readability and enjoyability.

I thought my days of raising children was over, but I continue to be involved with the two kids who live across the street. I hired Kalon, who is fifteen, to mow my lawn. That will free me up some and give him a little jingle in his pocket. I asked Clifara, who is now twelve, if she could come twice a month to dust and mop my floors. I can do both those things myself, of course, but it is my way to give them something. I need to help fix the holes in their fence so that Clifara can get another puppy. That last one got out and was struck by a car. The deal is that I will buy her another puppy from the Humane Association if she shows me that she can keep her dog watered, fed, and in the yard.

That’s mostly what I am up to. Let me know what you are doing.

George Ann

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

November in Belize

November in Belize

The highlight of November was a visit by my oldest son and my grandson. It was a long trip down for them. They had to leave before sun up and arrived after dark in Belize. That included sitting for two hours on the ground in Denver while de-icing the wings and what not. After they touched down, got their bags, and went through customs, it was another two-hour drive to San Ignacio. We arrived here a little after 9 PM, unloaded, and walked downtown (literally down the hill). We found a few places open, and they chose a burger place that had its own cat that could be fed leftovers. The one thing you can count on here is getting fresh juice, so Eero, my grandson, had lots of watermelon, pineapple, and orange juice while he was here. He also found a place that made wickedly good strawberry smoothies.

I had great fun with them. Sunday was a fairly quiet day, and we visited a Maya elder and my landlady’s house—her mom keeps parrots. Monday was a holiday—Garifuna Settlement Day. That was a pool day for us. Eero loved the pool. He swam and swam and swam. In fact, almost every day became a pool day. Tuesday was a day trip to the Howling Monkey Pavilion to feed a howler monkey. It rained a downpour, but stopped just long enough for the three of us and the guide to find the howler monkeys. There had been no other customers that day. The forest was thick with mosquitoes. Because of the rain, they weren’t serving any food that day, so we had to go back toward the highway to find a place to eat. This was at the turn off to Burrel Boom. All they had was chicken fingers and chicken wings with French fries. The place is pretty far from any large grocery stores.

After eating, we headed back toward San Ignacio on the Western Highway to get to the Belize Zoo, a place that only houses animals from Belize. So each animal is in its natural habitat. There were no other visitors, and it was raining. We got to see all the animals because most of them came up to the fence, even the jaguars. Wednesday was another pool day with a visit to the green iguana sanctuary. We got to pick them up and put them on our shoulders. Afterwards, Matthew and Eero went back to the pool while I headed home to grade some student papers—it was the last week of class.

Thursday was cave tubing at Jaguar Paw. I got a recommendation from someone, so it was just the three of us and Mario’s nephew Ozzy. He tailored made the trip for us. We had to put on life-vests and helmets with lights and haul the tubes up the mountain. The guys got regular black tubes, and Eero and I had bigger tubes that could be tied together and guided down the river. I didn’t mind, but Eero protested a bit. The upper cave was still flooded, so we got into the river just outside of the lower cave. There were huge groups of people who had booked tours with the bigger companies. Sometimes there was up to twenty tubes tied together with three people guiding the whole bunch down the river.

Mario, Ozzy, and Matthew helped to get Eero and me safely through all the channels. Once inside the cave, we climbed up the limestone—the caves are limestone & there is lots of limestone in Belize)—and left our tubes on top and walked (you need water shoes) over to the entrance to the Crystal Cave. I had already said no to going through here because it contains human remains. I am opposed to parading the remains of indigenous people as a tourist attraction. That cave was full of angry spirits. I wish I had thought to bring an offering. As it turned out, I did lose an earring.

From that cave, we swam back in the dark with just the light of our helmets to our tubes. At the place where we got out, there was a huge rock that overlooked some deep water at about the center of the rock. Matthew, Ozzy, and Eero did the jump two times. I didn’t do it because I don’t like the water rushing up my nostrils, and I already had that experience as a kid, swinging out over the creek and letting go. From there, we got our tubes and back into the water and went through some dark rooms to the end of the cave and down the river. Mario said that we could float all the way to the Caribbean. I asked if there were crocodiles further down. He acknowledged that there were.

Friday was a trip to Cahal Pech, a Maya ruin just up the hill. Because it was already late and hot, we took a taxi. Again, I wish I had thought to bring an offering. It was a good workout for my knees as those steps are quite high. After thoroughly exploring what was left of that village, we walked down the hill all the way to downtown and ate at Matthew and Eero’s now favorite restaurant—Tandoor Restaurant & Bar, where they had strawberry smoothies and chicken strips. I had samosas. They went on to the pool. I had papers to grade.

Saturday, they had waffles made in cast iron waffle irons in animals cooked over a fire by one of the local Chinese families and fresh juice at the market. Eero bought gifts from Tiadora and Ale(jandra), two Mayan ladies who sell handmade items. Ale makes jewelry with sea glass that she collects from her hometown, Punta Gorda, which is further south. Tiadora and her mother make baskets and also sell beaded necklaces and the like. Afterwards, we picked up Clifara and her brother Kaylon and went back to the pool. After a couple of hours and lunch, I had to finish grading papers and posting those grades. I made it back down to the pool just a little while before dark. By that time, the drunks were already out. Most of the patrons of the resort got out of the pool when the sun went down although the pool was well lit. In fact, there was a rotation of colored lights beaming through the water in the pool.

We walked Clifara and Kaylon up the hill to their house. The three of us had our last dinner at Tandoor’s. They ordered strawberry smoothies and the manager walked over with a shot of rum for Matthew—he hadn’t ordered it.

Sunday, we walked down the hill to Ko-ox-ha-na for breakfast. I had a little coffee. I don’t usually drink it, but this coffee (Belizean) tasted really good. In fact, I don’t usually eat breakfast, but since it was our last day together, I tried their huevos rancheros. Actually, the eggs had a really good flavor. They do raise their own chickens and lambs, so maybe the flavor was because the eggs were really fresh. We made the two-hour drive in about an hour and 45 minutes—there was very little traffic on Sunday. Those guys got checked in, and we had some lunch at the airport restaurant. Eero and I had some coconut dream pie—mostly whipped cream. It tasted really good, but I paid for it later with digestive track inflammation. I received a text message from Matthew that they were stuck on the ground in Denver, waiting for a gate to open up. But they arrived safely in Portland on time.

Now, I am getting ready to go down to TumulK’in to take them some materials to use in their Mayan language classes and some donations I collected.

I wish all a happy and healthy holiday season.

 Tiadora and Eero
 queen of the howler monkeys--they are a martriarchal society
 Eero, Kaylon, and Clifara
 Eero and Ale

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Future of Belize

October 28, 2018

Future of Belize

While Belize was founded by Creoles, the descendants of African slaves, and that group has dominated the government until recently, the Mestizos and Maya are rapidly advancing economically and socially. A recent report indicates that the Creoles and Garifuna (descendants of African slaves and Arawak Indians) have the highest rate of unemployment. Belize is also a haven for displaced Central Americans. One of these is Adonías, an immigrant from El Salvador. He is an electrician and the owner of Z Power. He married a Belizean woman, and they have three children—two girls and a boy. Adonías works all over the country and the Caribbean. Albert’s parents came from Guatemala and Mexico. He repairs washing machines and works as a clerk at Juan Chuc’s Hardware Store (Mayan owned).  

The pool

One of the nicest things about October has been having the pool at Midas Resort all to myself.  The temperatures have cooled a bit, and I love making big X’s in the water, crisscrossing the pool.

Street construction

The town council for San Ignacio/Santa Elena sent out crews to dig out the drainage ditches and grate the roads. They did the road in front of my house the same day that I needed to drive to Spanish Lookout to do some shopping. That meant that I needed to move my truck early. It is always a bit difficult to get the truck out of the yard because of the dogs. I usually have to trick them into coming into the house and having to lock them up there, getting the truck out, closing the gate, and then letting the dogs out. Because they wanted the truck moved right away, I wasn’t able to get the dogs locked inside. Instead, they took off and disappeared down the road.

In a little while, one of the men signaled me where the dogs had gone. I ran down the road looking for them and finally saw them about three blocks away. They were frantically looking around—I guess they could hear my voice but couldn’t see me. Once they saw me, they came running. The little one went right into the yard, but Boss, the medium sized dog, began twisting and leaping and running up and down the street. I had to get hold of her collar to get her back into the yard.

The next day it rained, and the road, which is mostly limestone, was a slimy mess. One good thing that came out of that entire business is that Leroy, my across-the-street neighbor, had to move all his clunkers off the road onto his own property. That makes it a bit easier to back out of my drive now.

I have been taking Boss out for Sunday morning walks on a lease to get her used to walking with me. The first time we went out she began leaping and jumping and I got pretty banged up trying to get through the pedestrian gate (she slammed me against it a couple of times).  She has been gradually doing better except she gets too excited around people and other dogs. Both pups are about a year old now, so hopefully both will become calmer as they age.

Driving to Belmopan

Belmopan, the capital of Belize, was carved out of the woodlands and is a planned community. Consequently, it looks more like a North American city than San Ignacio. All of the embassies are located there. I have to drive there every two months to renew my tourist visa and sometimes more often to shop. I try to leave fairly early in the morning. Most shops open at 8 AM, and it is a 30-40 minute drive down the Western Highway. While it is only 23 miles, the highway goes through many small villages with their speed bumps. About 8:30 AM, there are children in uniform walking along the highway to school, men with machetes chopping the tall grass, Mennonites in horse-drawn wagons, and lots of highway construction—the highway is being widened. The roads are paved with crushed limestone that has been oiled. It looks like asphalt, but it isn’t. And it doesn’t last as long.

Rabbit and door

After the two pups popped out the pet door, I tapped over the opening. That didn’t suit the Rabbit. With his teeth, he started ripping the tap until he had an opening large enough for him to enter and exit. He is also spending some time every evening lying next to me on the bed. If I don’t pet him, he begins nipping at me. A few times, he has tried out each of the dog beds as well.

We have had no rain for the past week, and it looks like we might get some this afternoon. It might rain out the circus that is in town.

 rabbit modified door
 Mestizo boy--future of Belize
 helping his dad--Future of Belize

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Off and Running

Off and Running

As some of you know, I had to turn around and return to Albuquerque unexpectedly to help James move out of his apartment. I booked the last weekday flight by Southwest until tourist season at 11 PM Sunday for the following Monday, August 6. I wasn’t able to get a return flight until the following Saturday. I contacted Brian who has a shuttle service about 5:30 AM on Monday morning. He already had a fare going in another direction. I could leave at 7:20 and go with him. He also called a friend who had just returned from The Netherlands and could pick me up at 12:30 PM for the airport, a two-hour drive. Southwest is usually the last flight out of the airport. I had sent an email to my landlady Sunday night and she came over about 8 AM to get instructions on taking care of my animals. I threw my supplements and a few clothes into a suitcase and headed back to Albuquerque for a few days. The short trip allowed James and me to hang out together and a bit of vacation.

I came back to the weeds and un-mowed lawn, so that’s where I started. Also, the clutch on my truck had slipped, and I needed to get that fixed. Of course, there are some businesses in Belize big enough to advertise on the Internet, but mostly I have to get referrals. Fortunately, I got a referral for two very good mechanics, two brothers, early on in my stay. One does mechanical work and the other does electrical work. Minimum wage in Belize is $3 BZ/hr ($1.50 US) and $8 BZ/hr. Labor costs are minimal here. Harry fixed the clutch and my turn signals, and I gave him $40 BZ for the two jobs. That’s a bit more than most would have given him.

Last Sunday, my washing machine stopped about 26 minutes before the end of a cycle. I called Brian for a referral, but he said he would look at it. He came by, diagnosed the problem, tried to find the part in town, and found out how I could order it and get it shipped here. He also adjusted my bike brakes. I have given him a total of $70 BZ for all that.

Let me give Brian’s business a plug. If you plan to come to Belize, use BeeGeez Shuttle (he is on FB). He will take you where you want to go and some free side tours along the way.

It took me most of a week, but I got the lawn mowed, and last week I started weeding and planting. I am posting a photo of my green bean sprouts and some of my trees. My first class has started with only two students who haven’t shown up. I sent my metaphor article off to a journal and the editor sent it back. He said he liked some aspects of it, but it wasn’t the kind of article he wanted to publish in his journal. He made one suggestion that I think I will add before sending it to another journal. In the meantime, I have finally started on my book about the sixties. I am having a good time with that.

The weather is fairly cool and a little rainy.

Trees I have planted

 coconut palm from a coconut
 mahogany from small tree
 chestnut from seed
 fan palm
volunteer shrub/tree

Sunday, June 17, 2018

 Cactus Flower--saved from a cat and puppy. She is growing her tail back.
My neighbor, Clifara, an 11-year-old Garifuna. We have been working on demystifying the English language.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

 Pet door on screen with the help of gorilla tape and string

The rabbit has reconciled with the puppies.

On the way to the market

My grandcat, Alfred

Eero at the top of Sandia Peak

Taking photos at the Albuquerque Zoo

Eero at the duck pond at the ABQ Zoo

Matthew and Eero feeding ducks

Tek in a red ribbon

Clifara walking