Letter from Belize no. 47

‍29th October 2015

Well finally the rains came and over a weekend it felt as if we were getting all the season’s rain in just a few days. Parts of Corozal flooded and two shelters were set up for people who had to evacuate their homes. I had reason to go to the dentist this week and it is always interesting to talk to people who have lived here all their lives. He, the dentist, told me that over 50 years ago when his grandparents built their house on the property where he now has his practice, the concrete floor of their wooden house was above the level of the road. When he pulled that house down about 5 years ago the concrete floor was 18 inches below the level of the road. So it seems that what happens is that year by year the roads get repaired once the potholes get too bad and more gravel and marl is piled on top, raising the level of the road but with no thought being given to the drainage and the effect this is going to have on the surrounding properties. Hence, every time there are substantial rains some people are very badly affected. Crazy one thinks, third world one thinks but then I have to remember there is an awful lot of flooding that goes on in UK where housing estates have been built on natural flood plains. Hmmm. I think it comes down to money – like all things it seems.

September was a month of anniversaries. 21st September is Independence Day, the most significant and the most celebrated of all the various holidays throughout the year.

Over several days there are three major parades.

First the schools.

Then all the social services.

And then the big one on the eve of Independence with dancers, majorettes, floats. It is truly magnificent.

And then 25th/26th September was the 60th anniversary of Hurricane Janet which tore down much of old Corozal, at that time a small town with mostly wood housing.

I went to a very interesting talk given by our friend, local historian Roy Rodriguez who also attends our meditation sessions. He described how his lasting memory of the hurricane as a 7 year old was people all holding hands to secure themselves against the might of the wind which lasted all Sunday and into Monday morning. I think I am right in saying only one person died but the damage to property was immense. As so often can happen with disasters, good came out of it. Before the hurricane there was a real hierarchy of wealthy mestizo and British who owned and dominated the centre of the town. There was a kind of apartheid. Roy described how there was a dance hall in the town centre which was only open to those living in the central part of the town. Anyone outside that area was considered inferior and not allowed in. But Hurricane Janet put and end to all that. The land was purchased by the Government, divided into small lots of 50 by 100 feet and with the help of huge aid money coming in from Britain and other countrieds including Mexico new concrete housing was built. Some were acquired by hire purchase and others were given in exchange for providing labour to build them. A new hospital still used today was built on higher ground, the central park which had previously been a football field was created, new police station, new churches, new schools – in fact a whole new town with the hierachy system now broken down. I wonder though if they thought through the drainage problem carefully enough.

At home the garden continues to delight and surprise us. Where Henry thought he had planted a sort of marrow rather like a gem squash up popped these beautiful melons, and the other fruit has been pretty amazing too.

Ths yellow fruit is also a type of melon that no one recognised and we are not even sure where the seeds came from but they were absolutely delicious and gave us wonderful breakfasts for several weeks.

My love to you all

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