Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Party

When we moved here, one of the things we brought with us was our collection of Christmas special VCR tapes and the VCR to play them. Every year, around the end of November, Tom starts planning a party with some local kids so he can show them what US citizens watch to get in the Christmas spirit. Really, Tom just wants to watch the tapes, but it sounds good to say he’s going to share our traditions with the local kids. This year, Tom decided that the event where the tapes would be played was the company party for the property he manages down the road, so he cleaned up the house, made sure the TV and VCR were still in working order, and invited Julio, the caretaker, and his family to watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman. He also invited our friends Rich and Cindy from Belmopan, Marjie and Chuck, and some other friends who help Julio out at the farm when extra hands are needed.

Julio and the boys, except 2-year old Melbor, came to help Tom with some chores around here in the morning, while I made lasagna for dinner. Rich and Cindy showed up a little before noon, and we loaded everybody in the trucks and headed to the farm. Janet had been there since the morning making chicken burritos for our lunch, along with vanilla Christmas cake with caramel frosting. We ate lunch, and started the video marathon.

After the Peanuts and Rudolph, some eyes were starting to glaze over, and Rich, aka Mr. Entertainment, stepped up to the plate to get everybody moving. He sent the kids off into the jungle to collect cohune nuts, three per person, and then taught, or at least attempted to teach, us all how to juggle. Some got it better than others, and after only a half hour or so, Angel and Julio were well on their way to being jugglers, along with Eric. The rest of us got tired of chasing the cohune nuts we kept dropping.

We went back inside and sat down for the next couple of videos. Marjie and Chuck showed up with homemade brownies, everybody sampled the Christmas cookies Cindy and Rich brought, and I made popcorn while everybody watched Frosty and a Scooby-Do video Chuck and Marjie brought. Somewhere in the middle Tom, Angel, Janet and I ducked out to run back to Moonracer Farm to feed the animals, and then we got back just in time for the end of the Scooby-Do movie, and to see Melbor, already traumatized by the Abominable Snowman in Rudulph, get up and get re-traumatized by the monsters in Scooby-Do. The Scooby-Do movie was cut off just before the end to prevent a 2-year old’s meltdown, and Mr. Entertainment stepped in again to make everybody happy again.

We invited Rich and Cindy because they’re friends, but being new friends we found there are a few significant things we didn’t know about them – like the fact that Rich is an absolutely amazing magician. He did card tricks, and they were, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, real magic. First, he magically pulled all the aces out of the deck. Then he had four of the guys try to pick up stacks of ten cards each – and somehow had the ten of each suit appear as the top card in each of their stacks.

Then he showed Angel four cards and had Angel pick two and hold them between his hands – and somehow replaced the two he picked with the two he didn’t pick. He read Odali’s mind and had her pick a card and then had Eric pick it out of the deck. Around this time, everybody was getting really curious about how he did it, so he explained – magic, of course.

He then explained that everybody has some magic in them, like how Janet can make almost 50 perfect tortillas, all round, and all the same size. To prove that Janet is magic, too, he pulled cards out of the deck so she couldn't see the faces, she read his mind, and she directed him to put the unseen card into a red pile or black pile. Once she got the hang of it, he gave her the rest of the deck and, without looking, SHE put the face-down cards into a different red pile or black pile. All the piles were turned over and, amazingly, all black cards were in the black piles and all red cards were in the red piles. None of us had any idea as to how Rich did it – and I, at least, am perfectly happy to accept the explanation of magic!

It was a very interesting day for us, watching Christmas videos with people who had to ask what all the white stuff is, who the fat man in the red suit is, and why everybody is obsessed with toys and gifts. Here, Christmas is still mostly a religious holiday, and while some places decorate and people may exchange small gifts, the all-out commercialism that has become the US Christmas tradition isn’t really understood here. Still, everybody enjoyed the videos, and we all ate way too much. And spending the afternoon relaxing with friends was a great way to get in the Christmas spirit!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Busy Week on the Wildlife Cam

We had a busy week on the wildlife cam. I lowered it per Roni's suggestion, and while we still caught some tail ends, we got a few pictures of better quality. Let me know what you think!

Finally - a good picture of an agouti!
No idea whose tail this is. A coati? Tayra? Any other ideas?
A little better picture of our spotted cat. The same ocelot?
The neighbor's dog. Grrr.
A ground dove. Woo hoo.
The hind end of something. I suspect the neighbor's dog again.
Hmmmm...whose legs are these? And I wonder if he knew he was photographed...
Hind end of an agouti, I think.
Tail end of our favorite grey fox?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Kate & Simon - Travel Writers

Last week, we were very honored to be visited by Kate Joynes-Burgess and her husband Simon. Kate is in Belize for almost two months gathering information for a Belize travel guide to be published by W.W. Norton & Company. They’re trying to cover the whole country in this time, which means they have to do a bit of picking and choosing about where they want to stay, and we were very glad that they decided to spend a little bit of time at Moonracer Farm.

Tom picked them up at Jaguar Paw and made stops at Banana Bank and the Jungle Dome on the way back here. After a quick lunch, they headed into the Mountain Pine Ridge to visit Rio Frio and hike on the trails in that area, stopping at the Pine Ridge Lodge on their way back here for dinner. We made an early night of it, because they had to meet Selwyn early the next morning for a hike from San Antonio through the Elijio Panti National Park, with a stop at Sapodilla Falls, then on to Five Sisters Jungle Lodge. Tom picked them up there and took them to Blancaneaux, where they spent the next evening.

They had intended to go to ATM with Gonzo the next morning, but plans were changed because ATM had been closed due to flooding a couple of times earlier in the week. Instead, Tom picked them up early and made a quick stop at Big Rock, then came back here for a tour of our grounds which we’d skipped the previous day. They then went down to talk to Jackie about camping at the Barton Creek Outpost, and then on to Mike’s Place to see Barton Creek Cave.

By this time is was lunchtime, and despite having had upset stomachs the night before, they ate a typical Belizean lunch with Julio’s family in 7 Miles before taking a tour of the Ka’ax Tun Park and Education Center. Tom got them back to Blancaneaux by late afternoon so they could get massages in Blancaneaux’s spa – a very welcome Belize experience after two long, strenuous days of seeing the sights in the Mountain Pine Ridge!

Wildlife Cam pic of the week

The Cuddeback wildlife camera only got one good picture this week, of this grey fox.

If you don't follow the comments on old posts, you probably don't know that we got more information on the previous set of pictures posted. The spotted cat is an ocelot - you can tell by the length of its tail. The two small animals are agoutis, and there are two in the picture, not only the one I identified initially. Nobody is positive about the dark cat, but everybody (including me) thinks it's probably the feral domestic cat we see around here.

Thanks to Roni Martinez's comment, the camera is now mounted a little lower, and I've tried to point it more directly towards the center of the trail. His comment came in just as I was downloading this week's pictures, so I took the camera right back out and tried to use his tips. Thanks, Roni!