**Warning : this entry contains a description of a fowl death. Parental discretion advised.**
We awoke quite early as you may expect. Cory says he was awake most of the night on account of a visitor he had in the middle of the night that crawled over his hand. No one else experienced such a thing so I expect it was his imagination. The roosters all started crowing around 5 am but we forced ourselves to stay in bed till 6 then it was up for breakfast which consisted of eggs, beans, and fruit. Justino asked if we would like a tour of his farm so we were quite happy to take a hike to what we thought would be his barnyard. HA.
However before I get to that part of the story, I must share something that still has me slightly disturbed. In one of the articles about home stays Elaine read that the men might go out with the men, to tend to the manly things like farming, while the women would stay with the women, cooking, cleaning, and perhaps even killing a chicken. For quite a while now Cory and Elaine and Chris and Anne have used the term, “I’ll have to kill a chicken to get that image out of my head”, so Elaine thought why not. So before we headed off to tour the farm, it was time. Now Cory and Fiona had both informed Elaine of the possible ways this would be done. Either pulling and twisting the head, or chopping off the head. Christina brought the chicken to Elaine, and I think she felt she was being involved in a Mayan sacrifice. She was a bit hesitant at first, because neither of the methods she was prepared for, was the Mayan way. The chicken, was held by its legs, while it’s neck was put under a stick, Elaine was to step on the stick and pull the chicken. It was a small stick, and on the first attempt Elaine only succeeded in pulling the chicken out from under the stick. It was clear to see that the chicken was in a fowl mood, and would need to go see a chiropractor for a neck adjustment. I won’t go into any more of the gory details, but suffice to say this chicken didn’t exactly meet with a quick death. Anyway after the chicken sacrificed its life for our lunch our tour of the farm started. Justino has over 25 acres under cultivation which he harvests himself with the help of his family. The “farm” is spread out over the side of two small mountains (small exaggeration no matter that that is what it felt like) The Mayans in this area are a blend of Mopan and Ket-chi (sp) They haven’t any machinery or farm implements that we take for granted so everything is done by hand. They first take machetes and chop all palms and resident plant life and allow it to sit and dry for several weeks then they light a match to it which although not particularly eco friendly they make up for that in other ways. When the smoke clears they plant. Seed by seed following the natural topography in a seemingly random fashion but when asked Justino said that the plots are carefully laid out according to landmark features. He says there are no problems with other farmers crossing boundaries. As well as cultivating Cacao and corn for market he has for his families personal use Orange and Lime trees, pineapple, mango, potatoes and onions and a true wealth of other foods. He is along with his neighbours self-sufficient. We were thrilled to taste fresh allspice and cilantro and many other plants were pointed out to us that grow wild in his back yard. He also has 15 head of cattle, which he uses for personal use, as well as selling in the village, and in Punta Gorda. Though Justino and his family live simply both of his eldest daughters are attending university. The daughters already have homes of their own in the village and have no plans to live elsewhere though they may commute to work as they do now for university. Though they live simply they are very happy and we are left with an impression that they are indeed wealthier in all the things that count.
Belize cacao is a huge industry, and is a large focus of the Mayan village. It was fascinating to see where chocolate starts from. It is quite an interesting process, and we were able to eat raw cacao.
After our tour we headed back to the house. If you recall from yesterday’s entry I described the washroom facility. Well, after the tour it was time for bathing, so off to the crique (that’s Mayan for creek) where we very quickly washed in the rather cool water. We met Patrick, a member of the Peace Corps doing his laundry, in our bath tub. Laundry facilities consist of a brush, a bar of soap, and a really big large flat rock. Due to years of use, there are many in the area.
After we were all freshened up it was time for lunch. Chicken soup was the feature, along with rice, and salad. Elaine was quite tickled that the salad dressing was Salad Cream. It is her favorite dressing, and she buys it in Canada as English Salad cream.
After lunch it was time to catch a ride back to Punta Gorda, and catch the boat to Livingston, Guatemala.
However upon arrival in PG (as most Belizean’s call it) we discovered the boat had been cancelled, so we spent the night in Punta Gorda.