Sunday, October 01, 2006
We fell in love with Belize accidentally. We ended up there after realizing Cambodia would have to wait till after we had M, and decided it would be an easier to check out Belize and Guatemala. We had no idea it would change the course of our lives. But when we found that little village in eastern Belize, and then realized land was cheap enough for our meager income to afford, we decided to try and make a go of living in the jungle one day.
We went back while I was on maternity leave. We figured we could spend time getting to know M just about anywhere so we decided to rent a little house in the jungle and look for land we could potentially afford. We knew we wanted to explore this as a reality and decided we should try and get to know the place we'd like to call home for a while.
M was easy to carry around then - at only two months old she was an easy traveller, and we arrived in the middle of the jungle without a hitch. Setting up a temporary home was a bit more challenging than we expected - I hadn't really thought through how we'd deal with undrinkable water, a hell of a lot of bugs, and in the middle of the rainy season at that.
Luckily we knew a few folks there and they were extremely welcoming when we arrived - hot food, cold beer, the place doesn't get a lot of visitors so we were a welcome diversion of sorts. We got some help getting bottled water delivered, and one of the women took me with her to town to do shopping "the Mayan way". I learned a lot about the Mayan way on that trip - how to wash clothes by hand, how to make tortillas from maza, how to bbq an entire chicken and use every single bit for some sort of sustenance. The best part was when the women in the village would look at me and say "how is it that you've gotten a husband? And how do you eat? Or stay clean?" I know they thought I was somewhat of an idiot - incapable of living the way they so easily do and rolled their eyes good naturedly when I explained that at home, tortillas are bought at the store, machines do the laundry, and you can drink the water out of the faucet. I tried to defend myself, that I really do work pretty hard at home, but I am confident no one believed me. Boiling bottled water, then cooling it, then using it in a big bowl to bathe my child was definitely interesting, and I won't act like I wasn't terrified she'd get bit by some jungle bug, or that we'd get sick, or felt we were making the biggest mistake ever trying to do this when she was so small, because I was and I did, but none of that happened so I can look back on it and remember instead how sweet homemade tortillas tasted, or how the jungle sounds at night, or how we had toucans in our backyard.
We spent our days visiting some local Mayan excavation sites, and casually looking around for land.
It's a tricky process because many Belizeans lease land, and since it's not owned outright they cannot sell it to foreigners. That doesn't mean that folks don't try, and it usually ends poorly. We are nowhere near savvy enough to negotiate something that took any sort of cunning, so we knew we'd be relying on faith and trust if we were going to make it work. I've posted about all of that in the past so again, I'll spare you the redundancy of it all. Short story, we found land we could afford and proceeded to enter into an agreement that would take almost two years to complete.
We've been back a few times since to wrap up loose ends and get to know the area a bit better. I've learned that bringing makeup and clothes from the states goes a long way to thrill the women in the village, and they've humored me a bit more about trying to figure out how the hell to survive when you have to do everything yourself (for christ sake...) but I will always remember that time in the jungle when we learned how to be a family. We can't wait to figure out how we'll actually get to live there for a while, and give M a different sort of experience for a few years, learning to live off the land and make due with less because in the long run, it is really so much more.
Posted by jen at 1:38 PM