Sunday, October 01, 2006

more travel lust




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.

19 comments:

Momish said...

Wow, you amaze me. I won't even venture into suburbia yet alone the jungle. It does sound lovely though, but I know I wouldn't last beyone one mosquito bite. I guess that leaves me living vicariously through you! I give you a world of credit and stand in awe.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for visiting :)

Best of luck with your plans, especially the long-term ones. My own experience in Costa Rica has been a good one, although much less exotic than your jungle community!

Good to hear you were careful about your real estate...my husband is a surveyor and we've seen lots of foreigners run into trouble when buying land here.

Enjoy Central America. (You can go for weeks without meeting another Jennifer - what's not to love?)

Lisa said...

Wow. You've got an amazing life story here. I can't wait to see how things turn out for you all. PLEASE keep blogging about this!

And thanks for the visit. I hope all goes well with you and your family and your adventure!

Mrs. Chicky said...

I am so amazed by the stories of your travels. Personally, I'm too afraid to even drink the water from the tap so I'll live vicariously through your posts.

marsha_tm said...

Looks like an awesome trip. I might have some trouble convincing my daughters to take a trip like this one - any bathroom without seat covers and quilted toilet paper they consider 'roughing it.'

Haley-O said...

My parents went to Belize and LOVED it. The pictures they took were magnificent. I so want to go there.... :) I'm not as brave traveling with my little one, though....not yet, anyway. :)

Anonymous said...

Your courage is inspiring & I just LOVE reading about your adventures.

Meg said...

Oh my gosh. Your life sounds so exciting! You sound like such a fearless woman. Your courage inspires me! There is no way I could live in the jungles, much less with a newborn. Please keep blogging about such adventures...I would love to hear more!

Thanks for stopping by my site!

Mommy off the Record said...

Belize looks beautiful! So green!

I am amazed that you travelled there with a 2 month old. I was barely out of the house to the grocery store. You are inspiring!

penelopeto said...

thanks for visiting - being as I am in Canada, we'll count this as international travel?

your plans sound amazing, and i can't wait to sift through your archives and read more.
I have a huge case of wanderlust that has not been quenched in a while (Florida to see my dad definitely does NOT count!), but we are totally into spending a good amount of time as a family somewhere... else.
the plan is in the works, and if i start to feel like it may not be doable, i'll pop by here for some inspiration.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been to Belize, but do want to make sure you keep Cambodia on this list. Ankor Wat was amazing.

Diana said...

All I want to know is... when you move, may I come visit? ;) lol!

Seriously though, it all sounds so magnificent.

cinnamon gurl said...

I'm with Mommy off the Record. I believe I made my first successful trip to the grocery store when my little one was two months old. But now I am realizing that that was likely his most portable time so good on you.

acumamakiki said...

You're my new hero. How very cool that you've found a partner in life who shares your dreams and you've found a way to make that a reality. How lucky for me, that I get to read your stories and see the pictures.

dogfaceboy said...

Fabulous. I love traveling with you. (And I'm finally adding your blog to my sidebar.)

I just want you to know, Jen, that a few people who visit me are now visiting you. :)

Mom / Ma'am / Me said...

I do totally love your sense of adventure. Your stories are amazing. I like to travel, but I'm too chicken to try anything too adventurous. ;-)

metro mama said...

Sounds amazing - we would love to live somewhere else for awhile. Unfortunately, we're not quite so adventurous. I must read your archives...I feel I'll be inspired...

lildb said...

can I copy you and do the same thing? because that?

sounds unbelievably fabulous.

scary parts and all.

Hulai said...

This sounds soo amazing! I hope you do get to live there for a while for the experience for your child!!!