This past weekend was the Belize National Agricultural Fair and Trade Show. The fairgrounds are located in Belmopan, and Tom and I had never seen anything happening at the grounds when we’ve been in Belize. The fair is only open one weekend a year, and we were lucky that this year we were here and had the time to go on Sunday. Our neighbors Rosa and Iris went, along with Selwyn and his family, and while we were in San Antonio picking up Selwyn’s family, a friend of Rosa and Iris decided to ride along. The friend, a young man named Rafael, had to ride in the back of the truck because the front was jam packed with the rest of us, but he didn’t seem to mind. Tom asked him if he was the boyfriend of either Rosa or Iris – leave it to Tom to ask those questions – and Rafael replied that he wasn’t yet, but he’d like to be. We don’t know if that meant he’d like to be Rosa’s boyfriend, Iris’s boyfriend, or the boyfriend of both or either of them, but even Tom didn’t have the nerve to ask that question.
Hilda is feeling better, so when we got to the fair, Rosa, Iris, and Rafael went off to do their thing, and Tom and I wandered around with Selwyn’s family. Tom and I were amazed at how similar this fair is to the fairs we’ve enjoyed attending to in the US. It’s nowhere near as big as the New York State Fair, but it’s very comparable to one of our NY local fairs, like the Hemlock Fair or the Ontario County Fair, or to the way the Flemington Fair was when Tom and I were growing up in New Jersey. There was one barn each for horses, cows, and small stock, and lots of agricultural exhibits, which of course included a John Deere dealership, with shiny green tractors ranging from a smallish lawn tractor/lawn mower to the big, air conditioned cab, giant wheeled, do everything farm tractor. The fair had a midway, which we skipped in favor of the rodeo, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
The rodeo began with an exhibition of “English riding,” which the announcer repeated ad nauseaum. The announcer was a lot like the announcer who frequently announces for the Spring Horse Trials in Geneseo. He seemed to feel that quiet airtime was something to be avoided at all costs, so he’d prattle on, saying all sorts of inane and inaccurate things, which was entertaining at times just because it was so silly, and frequently really annoying. Anyway, the English Riding Exhibition was very entertaining. There are apparently three jumping thoroughbreds in all of Belize, and they came out and trotted and cantered around the ring carrying three students of “The Maestro,” who is apparently Belize’s only jumper trainer. The students were a very young girl, probably only five or six years old, and teenaged girl, and a teenaged boy. Four jumps were set up in the middle of the ring – the very middle of the ring, arranged like a plus sign with all four jumps originating from the center of the ring. One other set of standards was a little further out, and was set so the horses could do a three stride combination to one of the jumps in the middle. This would be a whole lot easier to explain if we had taken the camera, but we forgot it, so this description will have to suffice.
After all three horses cantered around, the English Riding Exhibition began with the little girl doing the jumps, which might have been set at eighteen inches. Her horse just trotted over them at The Maestro’s voice commands, and the little girl hung on and performed bravely in front of the crowd. Then they raised the jumps to two feet or maybe 2’6”, and the teenaged girl came out and actually cantered over the jumps. Then they put them all the way up to three feet, and the boy came out and cantered around. His horse seemed to have a problem taking jumps off a right lead, and we spent quite a while watching the horse slide sideways past the jumps. Tom and I were both mouthing “outside leg,” and apparently The Maestro had the same advice since he called the rider into the center of the ring for a little conference. The rider still couldn’t take the jumps from the right, but the horse was perfectly willing to jump off a left lead, so they did a few jumps and the boy cantered back to the center of the ring. Tom and I were all ready to pooh-pooh the English Riding Exhibition, when the boy got off the horse and The Maestro climbed aboard. The ring hands put the jumps up – probably in the 3’3” to 3’6” range, and The Maestro cantered around in both directions and jumped the jumps. Then the ring hands put them up again, probably in the 3’9” to 4 foot range, and The Maestro jumped them all again. Then they went even higher, and The Maestro once again piloted the horse around the small course. Tom and I were impressed, and Selwyn, who is an excellent horseman but has never done anything out of a Western saddle, was really wowed. Then Tom and I were even more amazed, because The Maestro swapped horses, and got on the horse the teenaged girl had been riding. Without any warmup over smaller fences, he cantered this horse around and jumped all the jumps as they had been set for the first horse, and a few of them were close to five feet with a couple of pretty wide oxers. I’m not sure who The Maestro is – those details were lost in the announcer’s patter – but he apparently works out of Banana Bank, which is about an hour from here, so maybe an occasional jumping lesson will be a possibility in Belize!
The rest of the rodeo was just like rodeos in NY, complete with the same cast of characters. We watched bronc riding, calf roping, bull riding, and the keyhole race in the arena, and in the grandstand we watched the wannabe cowboys slouching back and forth in their boots, jeans, Western shirts and cowboy hats, mostly black, in the 95 degree sun. We even had a little girl in back of us vomit and splash us – which has happened a couple of times to us at the Hemlock Fair. Rides, hot sun, excessive sugar, and ice cold sugary drinks do the same thing to kids’ stomachs no matter where they live. What was funny to us about the rodeo was that they apparently only had four bucking broncs, and four calves, so those events were done in alternating sections so the four horses could rest while the four calves were roped, and vice versa. I know some animal rights people think calf roping is inhumane, but at least in this competition, the only one who got beat up was the rider. One horse and rider team had the whole crowd – which was pretty big – in hysterics because the horse didn’t seem to get the part about standing still while the rider jumped off to hog tie the calf. The rider had to grab onto the rope to go hand over hand to the calf, but both the horse and the calf were wandering around, so it took him a while to get to the calf. Then, when he got the calf down, the horse was still wandering around the arena, so the rider kept losing his grip on the calf, who would start to get up after dragging the rider around for a while. The rider finally managed to sit on the moving calf as it was being dragged by the horse, and after a bunch of failed attempts, got the rope around the calf’s legs. Needless to say, that rider didn’t win the calf roping competition, but he was the crowd favorite, and he did better than the many riders who didn’t even manage to get a rope around the calf.
Selwyn thought the bull riding was pretty cool, although we had to listen to the announcer and really pay attention to the gate where the bull and rider were supposed to enter the arena, because most of the riders were off the bulls in a fraction of a second. A few didn’t even get through the gate, and only one got more than five or ten feet into the arena. The bulls were real bulls, and they would throw their riders and then turn around and try to stomp or gore them, but the decoy cowboys did their jobs well, and only one bull made any contact with the rider after the rider was on the ground; it wasn’t enough to hurt the rider any more than he was already hurt after hitting the ground, and as soon as the cowboys had the bull contained, the bull rider walked out of the arena without any help. Selwyn, for some reason, thinks this looks like fun, but Tom and I, with Hilda’s blessing, told him that if he wants to try it next year, he’s fired. We told him that we know a few men who have done it, and they all walk around like old men even when they’re barely middle aged, and we don’t want to have to worry about him. He decided that maybe he’d learn to jump, since he now has access to our English tack, and we told him that he could do that with our approval. Now I just have to either get Esmerelda jumping so he has something to learn on, or go out and find a suitable thoroughbred!
We were all hot and thirsty from the fair, so we stopped at the Cayo Twist for ice cream on the way home. We then dropped Selwyn and his family off at their house in San Antonio, and continued towards our place with Rosa and Iris. All the way home, we had been playing reggae from Selwyn’s MP3 player through the truck radio. Rosa had been listening to Belizean cultural music on her MP3 with earphones in the back seat. When we lost Selwyn’s MP3, Rosa offered hers so we could listen to the Belizean music between San Antonio and home. Rosa explained that one of the songs was a favorite for Belizean dancing, and told us that she had done a dancing exhibition to that song at her graduation. We, of course, asked her if she’d show us when we got home, and she said she would, under the condition that Tom and I would try to learn the dance. The dance lesson proved to be as entertaining as the fair, since the dance is basically shaking your tush in time to the music, without moving any other part of your body. We could see why Rosa had been selected to demonstrate this dance at her graduation; she has a perfectly shakeable little booty, and she can wiggle in perfect time to the music while smiling and looking at the audience like she couldn’t be doing anything more fun than dancing. She was also dressed nicely for the fair, and was wearing a cute little short flared skirt and strappy sandals that made the dance look even better. When it came time for Tom and me to try, we found that we just don’t keep the rhythm as well as Rosa, we don’t have cute little shakeable booties, and our J. Crew and Talbot’s shorts and Teva sandals just don’t have the same effect as Rosa’s outfit. However, our efforts provided a lot of entertainment for all of our neighbors, who left their dinner preparations in their kitchens to come out and watch the show and cheer on our efforts. Tom finally told Rosa that he’d rather just watch her than do the dance himself.
On Monday, Damion came over again after work, with the same part of the bus’s butane system in hand as he and Tom had worked on Saturday. They had taken the fixed part into the Pine Ridge to retrieve the van, and still couldn’t get it started. So, he and Tom took it apart again, and found lots of residue in the butane filter mechanism. Tom said it wasn’t something he would have normally taken apart, but since they had to disassemble it to get the broken part off, they looked at it and learned more about how propane/butane fuel systems work. Tom found that you need a special screwdriver bit to get it apart, but he had one in the collection he acquired from Lowe’s in the US. Tom loves figuring out how things work, and using the tools he brought with him so he can justify their purchase. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no justification needed, but Tom is pleased that he didn’t waste any money with the tools he purchased to bring to Belize. Damion and the crew also found on Monday that the loaded trailer had a flat tire, so after determining that none of our spares would fit, Tom loaned them our WalMart tire repair kit that we used a number of times in Mexico – another $10US well spent! The palmetto collection crew ended up working yesterday, which was the Labor Day holiday in Belize, in order to get the bus and the trailer running, but it apparently worked since we saw them driving the rig back up to the Pine Ridge this morning.
Nobody except word freaks will care about this, but I was quite proud of myself when I figured out that the “pimento” sticks I’ve written about before are really “palmetto” sticks. I also have to correct my previous blog posting, where I said that the guys were collecting palmetto leaves – it’s the sticks they’re getting, and talking to Damion about that is what made me pay attention in the jungle to see if the palmetto leaves grew out of the hairy sticks. When the guys are talking about them in their accented English, it sounds like “pimento,” but while talking to Damion, who tries extra hard to speak English without an accent, I realized he was saying “palmetto,” so I watched for the trees when I was riding in the jungle. One more linguistic mystery solved!
The Spanish language has solved a long running problem Tom and I have had with our names. Over the years, many little kids have decided that we are one unit, and both parts of the unit are named either Tomandmarge or Margeandtom. Most people who know us can probably think of a little kid who did this, and some readers may even be one of those little kids. In any case, I was listening to the little kids from next door talk about us, in Spanish, and realized that they have no problem determining which Tomandmarge/Margeandtom is being discussed because they just put “la” in front of the name if they’re talking about me, and “el” in front if they’re talking about Tom. English needs some gender-specific articles!
Today is a catch up day, with me working on the blog and answering email that I haven’t attended to since Saturday, and Tom and Selwyn finishing the wall in the first cabin. Tomorrow, Tom and Selwyn will start working on the ceiling, which will be made of the same boards as the wall. I’ll be heading down the road into San Ignacio with Hilda again tomorrow, because they still didn’t have enough penicillin for her entire antibiotic course at the hospital when we went to get it on Monday. Hilda and I had a very enjoyable morning shopping in Spanish Lookout, and I’m sure tomorrow we’ll have an enjoyable morning going to the San Ignacio market, but it’s a little frightening that some of the medical supplies we take for granted in the US are so hard to get in Belize. I may be doing a little research and putting in orders with our friends and family in the medical profession before they visit us.
This is the wall just about framed. The door between the rooms will be at the far side near where Selwyn is kneeling.
Tom and Selwyn are putting the finishing touches on the wall. Wall boards like these will also be nailed to the other side of the frame, with insulation in the cavity to provide a little bit of soundproofing between the rooms. The only things that need to be done before we can move in are putting the boards on the ceiling in both rooms, doing the wiring, doing the plumbing, and getting our stove from the store in Spanish Lookout, whenever their Maytag order arrives. We may still be showering in the camper after we move in until we tile the shower in the cabin, and we may end up moving furniture around so Tom and Selwyn can put the boards up on the other side of the wall, but we’re close. We’ll also need furniture, which Tom and Selwyn want to build, but we figure we have a table, a mattress, and the drawers we keep our clothes in from the camper closet, so we won’t let a lack of furniture keep us from moving out of the camper.