Monday, October 8, 2007
Big steps, little steps
Last week we had no holidays, no sick days, no emergencies, and our biggest distractions were shopping in Spanish Lookout and getting some work done on Tinkerbell, which are both really just part of progress around here. One of the things we had done to Tinkerbell was to get the exhaust fixed AGAIN, but like I said, truck maintenance is just part of the routine. Tom and Selwyn made a lot of progress on the bathroom addition on the second cabin, and as of this morning (Monday) they had the showers framed and the plycem on the floor of one and were working on the outside walls.
They plan to finish putting up two of the three sides on each of the bathrooms, but will leave the middle walls open where the utility room will be to make it easier to get the big sheets of plycem in when they’re ready to finish putting the plycem in for the shower walls.
Tom also finished hooking up our water system, so the only thing that remains to be done now is to bury pipe. We now have more options with water than we can figure out. We can fill either the tank by the road or the tank on the hill from the pipe if we have sufficient pressure, we can pump water from the bottom tank to the top tank, I can run a hose to my garden from the pipe via the fill pipe on the bottom tank, and the rainwater collection system is still working. Fortunately water isn’t really an issue for us right now, but I’m sure we’ll be glad of the various ways to get water when the next dry spell rolls around.
The animals are all fine. I finally managed to get a picture of Beli while she was awake but not moving. She’s already becoming a very good watch dog, and she spends a lot of time sitting in this corner of the porch where she can see down the driveway. If anyone comes, she gives a few warning chuffs, and if that doesn’t get any reaction from us she starts barking. That, of course, gets all the other dogs barking which is a little annoying, but we’re glad that she’s doing her job. Stout is more interested in following us around and drooling all over us so we’ll love him, but I’m sure his protective instincts will kick in sooner or later. The big dogs are all fine. Nock hasn’t yet captured the kitchen rat, although she’s still working on it. Mel has been feeling better, and although his hind end is weak and he sometimes wets his bed at night, he’s doing okay. Lou is Lou, doing his best to keep me in sight at all times and annoying the hell out of everybody when he loses sight of me.
George told us last week that if we wanted to we could tie our horses out in his mother’s field, which is adjacent to our pasture. While I’m not nuts about tying horses, the grass in the field is too good to resist, so we got some long ropes and we’ve been tying the horses out every day for four or five days. So far we haven’t had any problems with the horses getting tangled in the ropes, and they’ve all gained noticeable weight in less than a week. Glinda is even getting fat. Elphie’s ribs still show, but I guess while she’s growing at this age we’ll just have to live with that. We still have a dozen or so bales of hay in the shed, but we’ll save that for when we don’t have any more grass for the horses. The star grass that we put in the front pasture last week hasn’t taken off due to a mini-dry spell which started last Wednesday and just ended this afternoon (hence the reason I’m inside updating the blog), but we’re still hoping that a little bit of moisture will help it take root.
We haven’t found any exciting creepie crawlies this week, other than a couple of scorpions which, as I said last week, have become routine. We also haven’t seen anything exciting when we’re out riding in the jungle, although last week the three of us were out for a ride and we found Selwyn’s Uncle David, who is a professional birder, out on the trail. David works for various birding societies, mostly Birds Without Borders which is based at the Minneapolis Zoo but has an office down here where they study bird migration patterns. The Belize Government is working with the organization to get a better idea of what birds are in Belize, and is trying to get landowners to make their properties more bird-friendly. David was mapping a trail mostly on National Park land so some professional birders (and even he says this with a sort of sheepish grin) can walk on the three-mile stretch of trail he flagged twice each day, stopping every 250 yards to catalog the birds they see and hear. When we ran into David, we were on a trail I ride all the time, but David wasn’t quite sure where he was. This really surprised Tom and me, but Selwyn said that many people grow up around here and never set foot in the jungle, so they don’t know any of the trails. David admitted to us that he was glad we ran across him because he wasn’t sure how far out in the middle of nowhere he was, and he was glad to see people. He also said that he’ll make sure we get the results of the bird survey, and he’ll give us a copy of the pamphlet they’re creating about how to make our property more bird friendly.
On Friday night, Olmi and Daisy, followed by Wilton, followed by Damion, came over to talk. We do this once or twice a week, and Olmi works on her English and Tom and I work on our Spanish. Olmi and I talked about it, and decided that this is the best way right now for us to learn each other’s languages. We’ve both thought about doing it the traditional way, with classes, where you learn to read and write as well as speak, but decided that for now what we both need the most is just to be able to speak. I’m finding that I can read Spanish okay, although I have trouble writing it since I can’t tell a hard “c” from a “qu” phonetically, among other things, so my spelling is bad on top of my wretched grammar – which, being a former English teacher, really really bothers me. Doing what we’ve been doing for a few months now, we’ve found that we’re all getting better. We used to use Wilton and Daisy, who must learn and speak English in school, as translators, and they used to have to translate just about everything for us. Friday night, we talked for about two and a half hours, and I don’t think we had to turn to Wilton and Daisy more than two or three times. And, we’re learning all sorts of things that wouldn’t be taught in a formal class, like the fact that the Belizeans use the word “wishar” to mean urinate, which is really a Mayan word commonly used here, although not in other Spanish-speaking countries.
Olmi and I did, however, turn to one book. We’ve found that one of the topics where we both learn a lot about the other’s language is cooking, and we’ve both learned enough that we can talk about cooking pretty much indefinitely in Spanish or English or a mixture of the two languages without getting lost. My friend Vicky’s father, Jack, recently sent me a cookbook about Mexican and Central American food, and in addition to being a recipe book, it’s a reference book for all sorts of Mexican cooking methods, spices, and dishes. I showed it to Olmi, because although the text is written in English, everything with a name is named in both Spanish and English, so we were able to clarify a few things that had confused one or both of us, like the difference between a tostada and a sopa, which Olmi knew but didn’t have the vocabulary to explain to me. Olmi was very excited to find a whole chapter on tamales, so she could explain to me the different types of tamales and tamalitas. She had been trying to explain one specific kind and I wasn’t getting it, and she picked up the book and the exact thing she was talking about was explained over about three pages – no wonder I couldn’t get it! But once we went through the book it was perfectly clear.
Anyway, as we were talking about different things being cooked with different types of breads, pizza came up and we found that Olmi and Daisy had never had it, Wilton had only had it once – here – and Damion had only tasted it a couple of times. So, Tom and I invited the four of them over for a Saturday pizza lunch, and Daisy and Olmi came early so they could help out and see how pizza is made. It turns out that Olmi’s tortilla making skills were useful, since when I split the dough and tossed half to her to put on the pizza pan, she had hers stretched, spun, and spread out evenly before I could even get it shaped to the pan. We made a ham pizza and a sausage pizza with homemade sauce, and the six of us had a good lunch. Now I’m waiting for Olmi to start experimenting with pizza at her house, where she will no doubt give it a delicious Belizean twist!
Our only other big activity was trying to get a start on a web page. Since we’re getting close to getting the other cabin ready for guests, it’s probably time to start thinking about how we’re going to find the guests to fill the cabin. Much business in Belize’s tourism industry is generated on line, so while we’re hoping that word of mouth and walk-ins will provide some of our business, a web page is necessary. Our friends Karl and Kristen do marketing web pages for a business, so I contacted them last week and actually asked if they would do the page for us. Karl responded to me within minutes, with the information that Tom and I know enough to do the web page ourselves, with some guidance from Karl and artistic help from Kristen if necessary. He very graciously told us where and how to get the tools we need, set up a host for us, and has been available to answer our many questions. So, Tom and I spent yesterday with the generator running and the satellite on, sitting at our two computers at our dining room table and trying to figure out what we want to do and how we want to do it. We’re a long way from having a web page that anybody can take a look at, but we’ve hammered out a few design concepts and started to figure out what’s possible, so we’re on our way.