Friday, August 17, 2007

Roof Raising

Tom and Selwyn have spent the week working on the roof of the little house by the road. It took them most of a day to get the remains of the old roof down and the peaks of the building propped up, and then they were able to start building the new roof.

They worked from one end of the building to the other, and said it was easier as they went because each new board had more to support it. Neither of them have ever built a roof from scratch, so it was a little trial and error, and they ended up putting two support poles inside the building. This doesn’t really matter because we’re planning to divide the building into a few different rooms, so these poles will just become part of some walls eventually.

By this morning (Friday), they were ready to put the zinc for the eastern exposure on the roof. They started early – 5:30am early – to get the metal on before the sun was up.

They then moved to the western side of the building and finished putting up the rafters for the porch roof, where they can work in the shade. The building has a solid cement slab porch that is probably 2/3 as large as the interior of the building. Tom figures he’ll leave it open so he can move big things on and off, and use it as an extension of his shop for things that are too big to fit in the building.

The only break Tom took from the roof this week was our trip to Spanish Lookout on Wednesday and on that day Selwyn stayed on the farm and built the three doors for the building. Unfortunately, we forgot to get hinges, so the doors can’t be hung until we pick up hinges on Monday, when we have to go to Belmopan to get our passports stamped.

On our trip to Spanish Lookout, my faith that the horse god keeps an eye on our horses and us was renewed. We were almost out of hay, and it’s been difficult to find hay that the horses like because it’s been dry longer than usual this year, so the farmers haven’t had as much hay to cut and bale as usual, and they’re saving much of what they harvest for their own livestock. We picked up the lumber we needed, and then tried a couple of farms where we usually get it. One of them gave us a phone number of another farmer who sometimes has hay for sale, but since it was almost lunchtime, we decided to get our grocery shopping done and then continue the hay search. We were a little nervous about not finding any, because besides being almost out of hay for the horses, we’ve found that trucking loads of long boards up either of the dirt roads to our place is much easier if the lumber is held in place by strapped-down hay bales.

We were standing at the hardware counter in FTC (the Farmers’ Trading Center, basically the Walmart of Belize), and Bernard walked past me. Bernard is the grocery manager at FTC, and I met him a couple of months ago because he purchased some horse videos from a friend of ours in NY, and when she realized that he was in Belize, she gave each of us the other’s contact info and we met one day when I asked for him in the store. I said hello to him, and introduced him to Tom. Knowing he’s a horse person, I asked him if he knew where we could find some hay. He couldn’t think of anybody with a lot of hay to sell, but said that he would sell us five bales of his own horse hay, which was all we needed to get the lumber up the road and feed the horses until the next time we’re in Spanish Lookout.

We drove to his farm, loaded the hay, and then had a delightful conversation with Bernard and his wife, Lisa. They are Mennonites, and both were born in Belize. They talked about what it’s like growing up as a native in a country where the rest of the native population is black or Hispanic, and about how they must learn parts of multiple languages – German, English, Spanish, and Creole – in order to live and do business in Belize.

During this discussion, we learned something that had been puzzling us since we’ve been here. We’d noticed that when people are saying how high something is, they illustrate it with their hands in a number of different ways, and Bernard said that learning what the different gestures mean has helped him do business in Guatemala and Mexico, where English is spoken much less than it is in Belize. If you want to say how high grass or a plant or bush is, the gesture is the forearm held parallel to the ground, with the hand flat, palm down. To indicate the height of an animal, the forearm is again held parallel to the ground, but the hand is held in a vertical position with the palm facing the person being addressed; the animal’s height is the bottom edge of your hand. To indicate the height of a human, the forearm is held perpendicular to the ground with the hand pointing up and cupped; to get a vision of the person’s height, imagine the person’s head being held in the cupped palm. We learned this on Wednesday, and on Thursday Ofelia and Iris stopped by, and we were talking about how Iris has grown taller just since we’ve been living here. Ofelia was telling me how short Iris used to be and indicated her height exactly how Bernard had shown us a person’s height should be indicated. We mentioned this to Selwyn, and he said that although he’d never given much thought, it is an unwritten rule, and to indicate a thing’s height in the wrong way could be taken as an insult. So, although it’s somewhat depressing to know that learning Spanish involves not only learning the vocabulary and the grammar, but also the hand gestures, at least we now know how not to insult someone by measuring their child’s height as though that child is a plant or an animal.

The puppies are continuing to grow. They were over 45 pounds each the last time we weighed them, about a week ago.

The only thing they’ve destroyed is the screen that we didn’t protect with the quarter-inch wire on the porch where they sleep, so we’ll have to re-screen the bottom of that porch, and run the quarter-inch wire all the way up to the rail.

Beli is a perfect angel, but Stout continues to vex us with his habit of being bad but being such a clown about it that we have to laugh. He still has difficulty keeping his feet out of the water bowl, and he continues to act like the feet have minds of their own, and he just isn’t strong enough to keep them out of the bowl. As we were eating breakfast this morning, he and Beli were playing and running around the table chasing each other and wrestling. Every once in a while, Stout’s feet would take him to the water bowl, where they’d start to dig. We’d yell “STOUT!” and the feet would come out of the bowl, and he’d gallop after Beli. After three or four stops in the water bowl, his wet feet had the track around the table pretty well soaked, and the floor was slippery. So, after he’d take off after Beli with his newly wet feet, he’d slip. At some point this became part of the game, and he’d let his front feet slip out and he’d slide like a seal across the floor on his head. This was funny enough, but one time he misjudged and slid his head right into the wall with a big thunk. It didn’t seem to phase him, and he did another lap and the feet made another stop at the water bowl. That time we really couldn’t yell at him because we were giggling too hard about him bonking his head.

We haven’t seen too many real snakes around the property – still only the one venomous fer-de-lance when we first moved here, and just a few other snakes. So, the boys next door decided that they needed to show us the snake that they “caught” in their yard.

Ronald, Hector, and Wilton even let Tom hold it!

And, by the way, for those of you who are tracking it, we know that Hurricane Dean is heading in this direction. However, with what the forecasters are predicting now, it looks like the hurricane will make landfall well north of here, somewhere in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. We’ve asked the locals what happens when a hurricane hits near here, and pretty much without exception they shrug and say “Lots of wind. Lots of rain. And then it clears up.” So, we’re not anticipating any big deal, and if it stays on the predicted track, we may not even see any change in the weather.

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