Paintings

Customer service, Belize-style.

Belize is a tiny country, not much bigger than Wales, nestling just under Mexico on the Caribbean coast. It is essentially a third-world country, crawling its way up out of poverty and corruption. It is nonetheless very beautiful and boasts some of the largest and most important conservation sites, both on land and in the sea, in the world. For that reason alone you should go.

Of course, there are horrid areas, as is always the way, and Belize City is a violent place after dark. There was a child shot dead just before we arrived. We stay in the Radisson when in Belize City, safely nestled away among smart ex-colonial houses where any violence and gang crime is kept well out of sight.

Our own house is over an hour’s drive away in the Stann Creek area. There is a section of the coast there which is essentially African – Garifuna is the name. Their language is similar to that on the west coast of Africa. The people originate from a shipwrecked slave ship in the 1700s, and they have retained their unique culture. Punta Rock music originated there. Drums are the thing. Big time – and oh so loud! Enough to drive a saint round the twist sometimes.

The main town is Dangriga (I expect the name Stann Creek is a corruption of the name Dangriga – perhaps a Hispanic pronounciation stan-creeka juxtaposed with an English spelling …….?) and is just a smaller version of Belize City. Not nice after dark. Not that I’ve ever tried it. And it is a shame because during the day you’d be hard put to find a more smiley and helpful people. Although the population is African-rooted, the shops are owned and run mostly by Indians or Chinese. The Chinese speak no – or very little – English. A recent conversation in a shop with the Chinese lady who owns it:-

Me: Hello, good morning (I always make sure I sound thoroughly British because a large percentage of white visitors are American)
Her: goo-morree
Me: Have you got any towels ?
Her: *..

Me: Towels. (Quick demo of rubbing myself with a towel)
Her: (face lights up) Ah! Towa ! (- and produces from some dark corner a dusty box of cheap towels)
Me: Excellent. Thank you. Do you have any shower curtains?
Her: <><**?
Me: Shower curtain. (Quick demo of drawing a curtain etc)
Her: (face lights up) Ah! Curta fo sha ! (- and produces from some dark corner a cheap and dusty shower curtain, pink with silver roses).
Me: Excellent. Now I need a small shelf of some sort …….? A bathroom shelf?
Her: %$£??
Me: Shelf. Small shelf. (Quick demo of putting things on and taking off a shelf)
Her: (face lights up) Ah! Shel ! (- and produces from some dark corner a nasty little plastic shelf that will have to do)
Me: Excellent. Last thing, then. Do you have a slip mat ?
Her: >+(*??
Me; A slip mat. A bath mat. Shower mat? (Quick but unsuccessful demo)
Her: @)*%??
Me: Look. (Grab pencil and paper and do a quick drawing of boy slipping on mat)
Her: (face lights up) Ah! Skate board!

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Posted by Catherine Broughton on 26 September 2011

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