Hurricane Season Is Over In Belize
Date: 3 December 2002

Greetings from Belize to our friends and family! Well, we are resting easy now that the hurricane season is officially over. Belize managed to escape the hurricanes this year. Hurricanes over the last two years brought extensive damage to the cayes and Placentia in the south. While tropical storms do continue to develop from time to time, the worst, they say, is over -- at least until next season.

We are starting to really enjoy the country now -- especially the milder weather. Temperatures are around 29C/85F during the day and 23C/73F at night -- and often cooler. We hear from Canada that snow has already fallen, and while we will miss skiing, skating, sledding, and the winter festivals in Quebec, we are happy to be here. Lila's mother and elder sister will be visiting us in a couple weeks for a month, and we are looking forward to showing them around.

Halloween was a bit disappointing as it rained, and the Belizeans don't even show up for work if it rains -- everything stops, except petty criminals who often break into houses during stormy weather because dogs are often kept inside, and it is harder to hear the thieves breaking in over the roar of falling rain and thunder. We, too, have had our share of petty theft. A few weeks ago, someone got into our bus and stole a few things -- a CD player, GPS, gold chain, computer bag, flashlights, and spare change. Not thinking that we would have much luck in retrieving the goods, we did not file a report with the police. A few weeks later, while I was taking pictures of some children dressed in their Halloween costumes, a couple of teenage boys approached me and asked if we had been robbed of a CD player and other stuff. I said yes, and they said that they knew who did it, and asked if there was a reward for returning the property. I said 'of course!' So a couple days later the boys returned with the CD player. We were thrilled and surprised. I gave them $10US and asked where the other stuff was. They said they would check into it. After giving us the name of the thief, the boys left. Shortly after they left, a woman on her bicycle stopped by and told us in her thick Creole accent, "Hey, don't give those boys any more money -- they are thieves, all of them. They've just been let out of jail. They sleep all day, and all night they are in people's yards stealing. They are very bad men, very bad." She told us their names and warned us repeatedly that 'they are very bad, very bad.'

So who knows who the thieves were -- they could very well have stolen the stuff and brought it back for a reward. So, I walked over to the police department and told them the story. The police knew all the boys and where they lived. Without filing a report of any kind, I hopped into the police pickup truck with 3 officers and drove to the house of Charles Usher, the one who supposedly robbed us. We arrived at the small clapboard house to find the mother home with lots of little children running around. I brought my video camera to record the event. The mother denied everything and said that Charles was not home. The cops told her to find him, and she sent one of her kids to get him. Charles showed up a few minutes later. He was short and about 15 years old -- and was sweating with fear. Charles denied everything and said that Alex broke into the bus. Alex was one of the boys who came to the house with the CD player. So the cops put him in the truck, and we all went to Alex's house -- the cops didn't need directions.

Alex's family lives in a trailer. Again only the mother and about 5 children were there. Alex was not to be found. The cops were getting angry now. "OK, how many more lies are you going to tell us, boy?" Charles just stood silent. One of the cops found a 3 foot length of PVC pipe and looked as if he was going to hit the kid with it. The chief went on how he was going to take Charles to jail and give him a good 'man-beating'. He said they would use lye and electric cables -- he left nothing to the imagination of the torture the boy would receive. (Surprisingly, the cop didn't care about my taping this exchange.) They took the boy again in the truck and said, "You get this man back his stuff -- all of it -- by the end of the day, you hear me?!" Charles just nodded and the cops stopped the truck and put him out. They told me that if I don't get my stuff back by the end of the day, to come get them.

When I returned, the 2 boys who had been by earlier came by again. They said that they couldn't get the rest of the stuff and that I would have to go to Charles' house personally to get it. They said that they had ripped Charles off of the CD player and that they would have to beat him up to get the rest. They asked that I don't go to the police because Charles would likely go to jail because it wasn't the first time he had been before a judge. I told them it was too late, that I had already gone to the cops and confronted Charles. I told them that the first words out of Charles' mouth was that Alex had done it. Alex was not happy about that. He proceeded in telling me all the gory details of Charles and his past. They told me that Charles was lying and that he had all of the stuff in his room in his house. I walked over to the police station again and told them what Alex had said. They said just wait until tomorrow if I don't get the stuff back today.

I went home and Lila told me that Charles had been by with a couple other boys. He returned the GPS, the computer bag, and a flashlight. We were still missing a few things but chances are they were sold off to someone else -- the stuff we got back wasn't really anything he could sell. We were happy to get the CD and GPS back, and I didn't press charges, although it probably would keep this kid off the street for a while (only to return as a tougher criminal 10 months from now.) We wouldn't have gotten anything back if it hadn't been for the 2 boys who told us about Charles in the first place. I guess there is no honor among thieves after all. ;-)

Our car is still not yet fixed. We have, however, found another Pathfinder in a state of disrepair. I checked into it and we may end up buying it and using the parts to fix our car -- or we may fix it up completely and then try and sell it for a profit. Parts have been located in El Paso, but I need a way to get them down. There are several guys down here that make regular trips to the States to bring stuff back through Mexico, and I am trying to find one with good references. In the meantime we still drive the bus from time to time. We did, however, get stuck in the mud on our last visit to Copper bank. We had to sleep at a slant that night, but we got out the next day with the help of a big tractor.

Friends of ours living in the next town over, San Joaquin, are old 'homesteaders' from Washington State. (They are now selling their beautiful, shaded lot - click here for details.) They raise their own chickens and ducks, and have a little farm for fruits and vegetables. I had my first experience killing and plucking ducks. I nearly passed out after the first head rolled -- I had to sit with my head between my legs for about 5 minutes. I have the same reaction whenever the doctor takes blood or uses a needle. But I got over it and learned the fine art of plucking. After the bird has lost its head, it is soaked in a bucket of hot water for a few minutes which makes the feathers easier to pull out. The wing feathers are the hardest to pull out, especially the tips. It took about 30 minutes per duck. Our friends usually just skin the birds because it is faster and there is less fat. But we like to grill the duck breasts and use the fat from the skin from the rest of the duck for 'confit de canard.' We ate one and froze another -- it was excellent!

Thanksgiving was simple -- nothing special although a few of our gringo friends had get-togethers. The end of the month was filled with parties everywhere -- Belizeans get paid at the end of the month. Also, national elections are on the horizon, and the politicians have been in town drumming up support with free beer and political favors. Both the prime minister and governor general have visited Cheyenne's school next door. It amazes me how much goes on in this little town.

That's about it for now. Be sure to check out the web site for pictures and our past newsletters:

Next stop, Christmas decorations... Ciao,

Eric, Lila, Cheyenne and Lakota

Next Newsletter - 27 January 2003, Happy New Year From Belize

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Early Morning Field Trip
A group of children, parents and teachers wait for the school bus at dawn for a field trip to Belize City.

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Belize Weather Bureau
Methodist School field trip to the Belize Weather Bureau.

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Belizean children celebrate Halloween.

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Cop and Charles Usher
See the movie.The police lay it on the line for Charles Usher. "Get this man's stuff back -- today!"

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Stuck in the Mud
The bus got stuck in the mud at Copper Bank. A tractor helped get us out.

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Plucking Duck
After soaking the duck in hot water, it's easier to pluck its feathers.

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Duck Breast
The breasts of duck are ready for the grill. We cook it just like steak.