Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tamales & Unexpected Holidays

On Sunday we spent the morning catching up on paperwork. Tom has been so busy outside working on the property and buildings that he hasn’t taken the time he usually takes to make sure our finances are straight. I took the opportunity to catch up with email. Around 11:00, Iris appeared at the gate with an invitation to go to Elizabeth and Augusto’s for lunch to celebrate Anthony’s third birthday. We wandered down the road around 12:30 and found Damion in his hammock studying for his guides’ course which began on Saturday. Being a Belizean guide is a big deal; only people born in Belize may be licensed, and to get a license, they must take an eight-month course which meets all day every Saturday. Licensed guides must sign for the guide candidates and serve as mentors, and in addition to the class, the candidates must do internships. After their initial certification, they must take additional classes every year, as well as remaining up to date on things like CPR and first aid certification. This is why, when traveling in Belize and using a guide, you should always make sure your guide is licensed; a licensed guide will always be safe and knowledgeable.

Because Damion and Augusto work for Jim and Sharyn, Jim and Sharyn are sponsoring the two of them for the guide course. Augusto, however, wasn’t studying, because he was hosting his son’s birthday party. The guests were Jim and Sharyn and Tom and I, as well as all the kids. Elizabeth and Lucy made a delicious stir-fry pasta dish, which they served in humongous quantities. We paid George for the rest of Esmerelda, and on the way home, we stopped at Julian and Marta’s to see what they were doing. What they were doing was making tamales with Honduran Marta and Maria, who is mother to Augusto, Damion, Marta, Lucy, George, and Ronald.

Making tamales is a huge undertaking. Maria had mixed up giant cauldrons of corn meal mush, Marta was stirring meat stew in another cauldron on the wood hearth, and the others were preparing banana leaves to wrap the tamales by washing them and cutting them to the appropriate size. When everything was prepared, the assembly line was set up by putting the banana leaves, stew, and corn meal mush on a long table. Marta, Honduran Marta, and Maria each took a place, and would lay out a banana leaf, plop a pile of mush on it, make a hollow in the mush with the back of a wooden ladle, then fill the hollow with meat and gravy. Then they’d roll the whole thing in the banana leaf, folding and tucking the ends so nothing could leak. They somehow managed to make every single tamale exactly the same size and shape, and piled them in a big cauldron. We’re not sure what the did after that, but I think they steamed them. This batch of tamales was being made for a church dinner, but I asked to be included the next time they set up shop for tamale making.

When we got home, we collected our trash and the neighbors’ in preparation for Tom’s garbage run. He delayed the run from Sunday to Monday this week because he has to go to Spanish Lookout for building supplies Monday morning, and he’ll go right by the Georgeville dump. After getting the garbage together, we headed into San Antonio to pick up some fresh produce and another 5-gallon water container. Bol had asked that we let him know if we were heading to the Western Highway because he needs to get to Belmopan to pick up some paperwork to renew his guide’s license, so we stopped at his house. Bol wasn’t home, but his wife, Petranela, who is also Selwyn’s mother, asked us if Selwyn was working on Monday. At our puzzled expressions, she explained that Monday is Baron Bliss Day, a national holiday commemorating a man who, from what I’ve read, died and left millions of dollars to Belize. We did a 180 and went back to Selwyn’s house to tell him that it was up to him if he wanted to work on Monday. We really don’t care; if he wants to work, he gets enough work done that he’s well worth time and a half for holiday pay, but if he’d rather take the day off, we’re not on a strict timeline at this point where his absence for a day is going to ruin our plans.

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