Thursday, March 15, 2007


Shortly before we went to bed on Wednesday night, Tom discovered that the reason the water was only trickling into the tank wasn’t because no water was coming out of the pipe – it was because there was a kink in the hose. He fixed it and let it run for a little while before we went to sleep, but it was obviously bothering him because he was up at 3:30am to fill tanks. The good thing about filling the tanks at that time of night is that there is enough pressure to fill the water tower directly, even though it’s about 22 feet up in the air. This was a surprise, because even when the water pressure is good, it sometimes takes quite a while to get enough water pumped up what’s probably a three to four foot rise to fill the camper’s tank. When the tank on the tower was full, Tom put the hose into the big tank to let it fill until water stopped running in the morning. So, he went back to bed at about 5:00am, and we got up around 6am.

I had made plans with Bol the day before to walk around our property and investigate a few holes that looked like they could be caves. I have no desire at all to put myself in a dark hole in the ground. The thought of what might be living in there way overpowers the temptation to see where the hole goes or what it might contain. I read somewhere that a cave hasn’t yet been discovered in Belize that doesn’t contain some Mayan artifacts, and even that isn’t enough to tempt me into exploring underground. Bol, however, has discovered a few caves, all of which have contained artifacts, and since it doesn’t bother him at all to tie a rope to a tree, drop it down a hole, and rappel as far as he needs to go to hit bottom, asked if I would show him the holes we’ve found.

While Tom was putting the finishing touches on our temporary water system and Selwyn was sanding doors, Bol and I took off into the jungle. Both the holes we’d seen were close to trails on the property – which is why we saw them – but Bol thought it would be more interesting to bushwhack. It was more interesting to bushwhack, and Bol showed me a few spot which he suspects are Mayan mounds, but even though I grew up in the woods in the northeast US, and even though I’ve spent a lot of time hiking and have stayed pretty fit, following Bol through the jungle made me feel like an oafish city slicker. Bol ducks a vine here, dodges a thorn bush there, flicks his machete a few times and makes a hole magically appear in a tangle of vines, and scurries and scampers through the underbrush with no more effort than a squirrel. I lumbered along behind, tripping on a vine here, getting scratched by a thorn bush there, and trying to get my body, which seemed to have doubled in size, through the holes Bol had cleared in the vines. And with all of that, Bol was still watching me with the eyes in the back of his head, telling me not to hurry and that even though I was behind him, I still needed to pay more attention to the ground to watch for snakes. We finally came out of the jungle on the cleared path that follows our property line, and headed up the knoll to the first hole.

Bol cleared the underbrush from around the hole, and made sure his rope had a straight shot from a good sized tree where he tied it to the hole. He threw a few sticks in the hole to wake up anything that might be in it, and listened and shone his flashlight around to hear and see if anything was moving. All was quiet, so he dropped into the hole, which went four or five feet down before it took a bend. Bol moved very slowly and carefully, but soon disappeared. In a few minutes, his head popped back up and he told me to come down. I resisted, but he assured me it was safe, so I dropped in. That hole is a cave, albeit a very small cave. After the bend there’s a chamber, which is about 10 or 12 feet in diameter and four or five feet high. The ground is dirt, and the walls are pretty limestone formations. The cave has no doubt been “discovered” before, so there was nothing in it but dirt and leaves, but it was interesting nonetheless.

We then hiked down a trail to the other hole, where Bol repeated the process. This cave, however, isn’t a cave, just a crack in the rocks. Bol slithered down on his stomach through a small opening to see if anything opened up beyond that, but nothing did, so we packed up and headed home. I made lunch for the four of us, Bol started fires in all the piles we’ve been collecting, and Tom, Selwyn, Bol, and I ate lunch. Bol informed me that I’m learning to cook like a Belizean, and that I could live with a Belizean and he’d be happy with my cooking…which I think was a compliment. I explained my “do the best you can with the ingredients on hand” philosophy of cooking, and since I’m getting my ingredients locally and cooking in Belize, it shouldn’t be too surprising that I’m learning to cook like a Belizean. My tortillas still aren’t round, my beans tend to get a little dry, and my rice is inconsistent, but if I watch enough other women make these things and taste the results, I’ll get the hang of it sooner or later.

I’m learning about cooking, and Tom is learning about carpentry in Belize. At this point, the cabins are stripped, so Tom is rebuilding one piece at a time, with Selwyn’s help. Tom told me that he was going to spend Thursday hanging the two external doors to the cabin, and after watching him hang quite a number of doors in our old farmhouses over the years, I couldn’t figure out why he was scheduling a whole day for the two doors. Over the course of the day, I found out. The doors don’t come pre-hung, and a 34” door can be anything from 33” to 35”, and the door openings into the cabins are not consistently sized. This means that Tom has to make the three pieces – the opening, the jamb, and the door – fit together, which first requires figuring out what size frame and door to buy, and then figuring out how much has to be cut off each piece, and where to do the cutting. I’m sure they could be slapped in pretty quickly if you didn’t care about gaps and making the final result look even and balanced, but you know Tom isn’t like that; each door must be symmetrical, and anyone casually staring at it after a few beers had better not notice any inconsistencies. So, it takes a day, or in this case two days, to hang two doors.

We saw the kinkajous in the sapodilla tree for the first time Thursday night. We heard squabbling and then heard the metal roof of the first cabin being pelted with sapodilla fruits, so we took the spotlight out and lit up the sapodilla tree. Sure enough, we saw little eyes blinking, then we saw more little eyes blinking, then we saw the little monkey crawling out on a branch to get the sapodilla fruit. We watched for a while, and a few of the monkeys are regular little exhibitionists, happily crawling and climbing in the light. The others hung back in the leaves, and all we saw were occasional blinking eyes. Now we know not only what has been making such a racket on the metal roof, but why Nock has been so fascinated with running in that direction.

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