Monday, February 26, 2007

Banks & Poisonwood

On Monday morning we decided that it was my turn to do what usually turns into an all day trip into San Ignacio. I left Tom instructions for lunch, just in case I wasn’t back, with both of us knowing full well that there was no way I was going to be back anything close to lunchtime. I picked up Honduran Marta, Giovanni, Eduard, and Thelma, whom Marta had kept home from school to go to San Ignacio with her because both boys were sick, and she was worried about taking care of both of them and not being able to communicate with me since she knows very little English and I know very little Spanish. We picked up some people from the San Antonio bus stop and gave them a free ride to San Ignacio, although I’m not sure they thought it was worth it by the time we got there. As I think I’ve mentioned, they’ve graded the road between San Antonio and San Ignacio, but it’s still pretty bumpy. The truckload of people riding in the back of the pickup on a very bumpy, very dusty road must have been pretty gritty and rattled by the time we reached San Ignacio, but nonetheless they enthusiastically thanked me and offered to pay me when we got there. I said de nada, and we went our separate ways. I would never pick people up and let them ride any distance in the back of a pickup in the US, but here it’s just part of how people get around. If I did pick people up and they had to ride in these bumpy, dirty conditions, they’d probably sue me when we got to where ever we were going, but here I get big smiles and thank-you’s.

After parking and agreeing to meet Marta and the kids back at the truck at noon, my first stop was Noah’s, where there was no new news regarding the closing. They’re still expecting that we should be able to do it by the end of this week or the beginning of next, depending on when the signed papers arrive back from England. Noah and Frank gave me copies of the survey map for the property so we could walk the property lines. This first stop, which would have been 15 minutes in NY, was over an hour by the time we chit-chatted, messed with the printer which, like all electronic things in the tropics, is a little temperamental, and figured out the scanning program so Frank could make a big copy of the survey map. I then went to the bank, where we’re trying to open an account so we have quick access to our money in Belize. Unlike US banks, which are more than happy to take your money, Belize banks require two letters of reference from banks where you’ve previously had accounts, and a reference from a Belizean. Since Noah knew we were good for $5K cash in a half hour as the good faith deposit when we made our offer on the property, he consented to be the co-signing Belizean, but the letters of reference are more difficult. They can’t be emailed or faxed, they must be original, signed-in-ink hardcopies. To send a request for the referral from the Belize bank to the US bank, the Belize bank charges $20USD. Then, when and if they allow us to open an account, there are all sorts of restrictions on how much money we can take out at any given time and when we have access to our money. If we didn’t really need quick access to more cash than we’re comfortable having on hand, we’d just say forget it, but since we’re going to spend a lot of money once we close here, we don’t see any way around it.

I then went on a search for sheet metal to finish capping the supports for both cabins, and angle iron to better secure the diesel tank in the bed of the truck. The sheet metal wasn’t too hard to find, but the angle iron involved multiple stops, and I finally found it at Art’s, the welding shop we had discovered in our first couple of days in San Ignacio. I had to drive to Art’s from where I’d parked the truck, which meant I had to go back to where I’d originally parked so Marta wouldn’t think I’d deserted her if she showed up and the truck wasn’t there. I went to the produce market to get fruits and vegetables for a few days, and stopped at the meat market to get something fresh for dinner, and something frozen to help keep the fridge cold and to defrost for the next night’s dinner.

From there I went to the pharmacy, looking for Benedryl. I’m apparently pretty allergic to poisonwood, and without even knowing where I contacted it, it’s all over the backs of my hands and between and on my fingers, with other random blisters on my arms and lower legs. Hydrocortisone cream helps a little for a very short time, but since the itching was keeping me awake at night, I decided to take an antihistamine before bed. Belizean pharmacies are not like US pharmacies. While many drugs that require prescriptions in the US are over the counter in Belize, everything is over the counter, and you can’t just walk down the analgesic aisle and pick up a bottle of ibuprofen, you have to talk to the pharmacist and ask for it. The pharmacist doesn’t just take your order and give you a bottle of pills, she talks to you about why you want the drug and counsels you on what to take and what other treatments might be necessary. This is great individual service, but it means you have to wait in line. So, I waited my turn in line, and asked for Benedryl or whatever the generic version is. She said they didn’t have Benedryl, asked me why I wanted it, and looked at my hands. After a lot of clucking and questions, she gave me five days worth of clorfeniramine and told me to take it three times a day, not just at bedtime, and said that from the looks of my hands I had about five more days of discomfort. She then told me more than I wanted to know about poisonwood, like how it’s basically a steroid that gets in your system, which is why you need to take an antihistamine rather than just using topical treatments to make it feel better. She said the myth about it spreading from point to point on your body by breaking the blisters is just a myth, as it is for poison ivy, and that what really happens is that the reaction to the steroid is worse where you’ve been in contact with the sap, but that when it erupts in other spots, it’s because the steroid is traveling through your system. I’m not sure if that’s true for poison ivy as well, but it makes sense with the poisonwood since it’s worst on my hands, where I could have picked it up from the dogs, but I also have blisters on my ankles, and I’ve pretty much lived in long pants and hiking boots since I’ve been here so I don’t know when I would have been in contact with it there. I explained all of this to Tom since he has a little bit of it too, and his reply was a snort and the comment that he can see why the Red Cross won’t take your blood if you’ve been to Central America within a year. The other big difference between doing business with a Belizean pharmacy and an American pharmacy is the price. My total for five days worth of pills was $3.75BZ, or a little less than two American dollars. How would the American pharmacies deal with that when you have a $10 co-pay prescription plan?

Marta and the kids met me back at the truck, which I’d managed to park only a few spaces away from where it had been originally. We went to Erva’s for the great burritos for lunch, went over the bridge into Santa Elena to get beer and water from the distributor, then back to the big grocery store before heading home with another truckload of people hitching a ride from Santa Elena to San Antonio. We stopped to use the internet in San Antonio, which I thought would be a quick stop to download email and upload blog entries, but I decided to send Tom’s parents the pictures of Marta and her family. BIG mistake on a satellite. I knew the satellite upload time was slow, but when you bog it down with eight or ten photos at once, it’s really slow. It took almost 45 minutes. The only saving grace was that as we headed out of San Antonio, we found that the road had been graded almost halfway to the junction. The graded half was the half that didn’t have the really big holes, but it was still a help.

When I got back to the property, Tom and Selwyn were quite happy with their day’s work. They had cleared all the brush away from the second cabin and its fenced yard, and had removed the mangled chicken wire that made up the fence. We plan to leave fenced yards attached to both cabins for people traveling with pets, but we’re going to replace the chicken wire with the heavier cage material. They worked on the second cabin because the first still smells like insecticide. Tom says the smell doesn’t really bother him, but when he took me into the building to show me the ten dead scorpions on the floor on Sunday, I got a headache that didn’t seem to want to go away, and I figured if I had that reaction, it probably wasn’t good for anybody to be in the building. They didn’t do any work in the first cabin, but still had to check it out, which I know because Tom reported that the ten dead scorpions had disappeared. We’re now wondering what wanders around in the night dining on dead scorpions. We don’t think we want to meet it, especially since whatever it is, it’s probably damaged from the insecticide.

1 comment:

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