Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nazarene school children at lunch in San Ignacio Town, Cayo West

Nazarene school boys, eat lunch at the Hindu Restaurant in San Ignacio Town of Western Belize. You will notice a mix of ethnic races. There are Maya, Mestizo and Creole in this group of boys. My wife and I usually eat lunch at this Hindu restaurant, as I am in town to use the internet café, in the next door Del Mar Plaza, a very small one building, shopping center, which has a very small movie theater, a music store for lessons, a clothing store, the internet café and a jewelry store. The Hindu restaurant is convenient as it is on the side of the building. The second floor has recently been converted to expensive hotel rooms. The building is owned by an immigrant Mexican lady who is now Belizean. Between her and the bank loans, she keeps trying to make money from rents and pay her loans.

Of the school boys during the lunch hour, only three of nine boys actually had the money to buy lunch. One fat boy had his own bowl of soup and two other boys had bought the big plate of French Fries each. Everybody sort of shared the French fries, which cost $2 Bz a heaping plate. During school lunch hour, a half a dozen Nazarene schoolboys usually gather at this Hindu restaurant to watch cartoons on the television behind the counter. The Hindu immigrant owner has two children of his own. His wife and he cook here. There are four tables, with chairs and a bar type counter with stools; and expatriates of both European, South American and North American residence, from rural areas around the Western Cayo district, eat here during the lunch hour. Mostly because they are using the internet café, which is air conditioned, has the fastest DSL speeds in town and the lowest prices at $3 Bz ( $1.50 usa per hour ). Restaurant patrons live in rural areas of the twin towns, or other villages and towns, which do not have internet service available. So a shopping trip to these twin towns, the center of the Western Cayo District, usually includes an hour at the internet café to keep touch with the outside world. This is a daily, two mile trip for us, from Green Parrot Valley, a suburb of Santa Elena Town across the Macal river bridge, to check “ Falconview Backpackers Adventure Hostel” bookings on the email. We look forward to chatting with gringo expatriats from the USA, England, Rumania and Colombia, we have come to know as friends, here at the Hindu restaurant. Most of who live; either in Bullet Tree Falls ( five miles away ), or Cristo Rey, ( five to eight miles away ) or San Antonio Town ( 16 miles away ), or even far distant Barton Creek ( 16 rugged bad roads away ), this latter a survivalist type remote area in the Appalachian type tropical hills, favored by Mennonite farmers who live the no modern electronic frills life style. They grow most of the potatoes in Belize, with horse labor and transportation. Expatriat immigrants, or residents in Western Belize, usually run a wide range of fiscal capabilities. From enormously rich multi-millionaires, to poor young people into self sufficiency type organic agriculture. Most enjoy the agriculture, or tourist service, life style.

On this particular day, it was my 71 st birthday, so I splurged and treated myself to the more expensive, $5 Bz ( $2.50 usa ) lunch; which included a thick bowl of vegetable soup, hot, spicey with seasoning and curry flavor and a bowl of steamed white rice. A very filling meal. Normally, we eat a Somoza, which costs $1.25 Bz and is a pastry type filled container full of vegetables, along with a Ginger flavored glass of lime juice, fresh made Hindu style. Sometimes we have $1 Bz panades, which is three small, hot fried pastries with a little ground meat inside it. We normally have these for lunch to try and stay on a diet and lose weight. You can eat and drink for lunch, for a total of $2.50 Bz, or $1.25 usa. The ginger lime juice, a Hindu specialty is a sharp and biting cold drink on a hot day. Many expatriates have various types of milk shakes. There are an assortment of Hindu dishes with fluffy and really light foods, I find peculiar for my palet.

Not all school children eat even one meal a day in Belize. This is mostly found in town areas for illiterate parents who rely on day labor, or low paid jobs, at about $125 Bz a week ( $62.50 usa ). Inflation has made it extremely hard on the majority poor laborers. These are usually children of immigrant parents in this school, who in turn have no skills. Corn tortillas, with Red Kidney beans stewed overnight over a wood fire place, and rice are the norm for a meal for a child of the poor classes. Vegetables are cheap enough. You can buy 10 bananas for $1 bz., or 4 oranges for a $1 any day of the year. The poorest people though, do not have steady incomes, or work and so often lack even the dollar to buy anything. Belize primary schools are mostly CHURCH/STATE schools. There are many religious schools. Though no Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, or Tao schools that I know of. Most schools are of variations on different Christian professing cults. The government pays most of the salary for school teachers in church/state schools, so any aspiring demagogue or charismatic preacher, can start his own religion and school and end up with a government salary of sorts. The catch is; you must first build your school and run it for three years, before you qualify to get a teachers salary subsidy for your school. These Nazarene religious school boys in the photograph, they have uniforms and most religious cult schools have identifying colored standard uniform requirements for children. This itself is an enormous financial burden on the lower classes. Not having shoes is more of the norm for rural and poor class people as well. If an immigrant can get a piece of land to build his own house, even a shack and grow a bit of corn and vegetables, you can usually with very little work, have something to eat almost all the time. Most schools are severely overcrowded. Producing babies is something Belizeans and immigrants do very well.

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