Intro...or who’s who....

Updated: Mar 5

My family moved to Belize in 2010. Richard and I (Alisa) arrived with our three kids: Alex, Maya and Tati and our rescue German shepherd, Shaggy. Since then we have created a bit of a haven, isolated from the modern world, living off grid, rearing children and animals. We have learnt a lot and had occasional struggles but not once have we regretted coming here...

(we were asked recently and really couldn’t think of one time!)



It is extremely hard work but especially in this mad world of 2021 not only rewarding but feels like a lifeline of sanity in a completely upside down world.



Alex went to China to study martial arts in 2019 but the school closed in October 2020, he was lucky enough to be offered an internship with Troy, @Troy’s team, Beijing, so is learning to be a stuntman (with the surprising nickname of Tarzan!) with an incredibly cool group of people. Maya and Tati (17 and 15) came home from their school in Honduras at the beginning of lockdown in March. Maya got into her dream school and after an epic fundraiser she went to study the IB in Mostar, Bosnia in August.



Tati is now left at home and not only has to deal with us all alone but also our 2 horses: Ideal and her baby, Monty; our 5 dogs: in order of age... Chaak, Dahl, Bolita, Munch and new puppy Fudge - also called Santa’s little helper as he looks JUST like him; Two cats: Slinky and Inca, both black, look like the same cat to outsiders!; Three rabbits: the two boys Mr Wabbit (Maya’s) and Alchy (Tati’s) who have just been joined by a Madame yet to be named but she growls and grunts a lot so I am aiming for Piggy, Tati wants something prettier as she is beautiful; and then the chickens.......


So that’s a brief who we all are! As I am new to this (and let’s face it I live in the middle of the jungle, the fact that I have even figured out how to do this much is a bit of a miracle!!!) I will try and publish without erasing everything and if it works there’s a load more blather to follow ( if you are not English blather = blither = babbling on about nothing in particular in a bumbling ‘old English codger’ way)......


A little up date, I feel an explanation of Earthships is due and my very own concise history of Belize....so here you are...


A very short and concise history of Belize and its people as written by me so I am SURE there are mistakes, get a history book if you want the full correct version (am going to put disclaimers on everything, ok?!)

First there were the Maya! Builders of extraordinary pyramids and discoverers of zero! Now that doesn’t sound hugely exciting (the zero bit) but think about it.. The Romans had NO notions of zero....The maya drew it as a shell: what was empty could be full or could be empty again. I love the simplicity and beauty of that. In fact their whole numeric system was amazing; based on the number 20 as we have ten fingers and ten toes. Their system of counting was so well engineered that their years were more accurate than the rest of the worlds until very very recently. I could bang on about the Maya for ages, their art was superlative.... but I’ll move on:

So 1492...The Spanish arrived in the “new world” ( I know!!!!) bringing all sorts of lovely diseases including their religious beliefs. You may or may not know that although the Spanish conquered most of central and South America with lots of lovely tales of murder and bloodshed, most of the Maya had already disappeared and it is only now that good hypotheses are coming out, a good and timely one is that they deforested everything and caused their own downfall ( sounding familiar and current???) by changing weather patterns and lack of food.....

So back to Belize, most of the remaining Maya here fled to the low and highlands of Guatemala so when the Spanish really ‘arrived’ there were very few pockets of people. Belize itself was just HUGE amounts of forest and all the lovely gold was with the poor Inca in the South. So the Spanish headed towards numerous different El Dorados with main bases around the northern Yucatán and then ports further south. Meanwhile pirates were becoming a bit of a ‘thing’ especially in the Caribbean and Belize is very useful as it has hundreds of small islands (called Cayes, pronounced Keys) that you can hide a boat behind to nip out and attack huge overladen Spanish treasure ships ( the name alone...don’t you want to attack it?!) and then hide all over again.

Over time the pirates realized that they could also live here and became known as Baymen. Colonies were being set up all around the new world and the important thing was to make sure these colonials were 1.completely and utterly dependent on home for food and tools ( buy, buy buy!) and 2. Supplying ‘home’ with treasure: gold or valuables and precious woods. Belize abounded in massive old mahogany trees, there are photos of men standing on the cross sections of trees so massive you can not imagine how on earth they ever cut it down. As well as Mahogany they discovered log wood, an uninteresting tree that grows in swampy areas that can produce a fantastic range of dyes, from purple to pure black. Up until then black had actually been a very difficult colour to produce and so was very expensive. So you have your big ships coming out with old fashioned corned beef and tinned peas ( you know what I mean..ok pigs and a cow!) and instead of going back empty they bunged it full of logwood. Those who were still being a bit naughty and piratical soon realized that they could actually have a better living from chopping huge swathes of forest than from going out on a boat and nearly killing yourself...so pockets of Brits started popping up all around the Central American coast. This fair pissed the Spaniards off, especially as at the same time there were all sorts of wars going on in Europe, Napoleon and so on! Eventually the British and the Spanish signed a treaty or two concentrating the Baymen in Belize and getting them out of Mexico and Honduras. It all came to a head at the battle of St George’s Caye when there was a BIG battle and the Spanish attacked but the Baymen ‘stood firm’ helped by their nobel slaves (Yeah like they had any say in the matter!!) and saw the pesky Spanish off once and for all....

So as can be inferred from my last sentence the Brits were bringing in slaves...why work your arse off cutting down huge trees in the sweaty dense jungle if you can lie in a hammock, drinking rum and make your SLAVES do it? .... to work the jungle and also the sugar cane they were planting...it’s an old and not pretty story...

So now you have the whites, the blacks and when they mixed you got the Creoles. The Creoles are ....% of the Belizean population and everybody speaks it. The next group is the Garífuna...they were the outcome of the Carrib people ( who strangely came from the Caribbean...) and the escaped ‘slaves’: that had fled in ship wrecks and never actually been working slaves just poor sardines in hellish ships. The Garífuna also spread around the Caribbean and Central America but there is an official day in Belize that celebrates their ‘arrival’ here, which is very hard for us to forget as it is also Alex’s birthday, 19th November, which is a public holiday here, so Alex always had the day off school! The Garífuna are mainly in the South, near us and up to Hopkins and Dangriga.

The Maya in Belize are mainly separated into two groups, those that came in from the North off the south, with the Hispanics ( Maya Spanish mix) being a different group called Mestizos. The Mestizos mainly came from Mexico, fleeing the Spanish during the caste wars of the Yucatan. Then there are distinct Maya people but the main ones here are the Yucatec Maya, from the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico, and the Mopan and K’etchi maya from Guatemala. Our district is mainly Maya people and our village is k’etchi. The Mayan seperated into many different groups with 27 different languages, the k’etchi and Mopan do not understand each other at all, it is completely different, unlike, say French and Spanish.

Another group who were scattered around the Americas was a religious group called the Menonites. They had fled Germany and northern parts of Europe and ended up further south than the Amish (who tourists in Belize often mistake them for). They have very traditional views including NO KILLING (so won’t fight for the country they are in) and no paying taxes ( I believe that too in case you’re wondering!) so the Mexicans decided they didn’t want them...but the Brits who were in charge of Belize at the time thought ‘hard working Germanic stock” let ‘m in! They produce most of the poultry and watermelons in Belize, they also make wooden Little house on the Prairie style houses that are bought by many incomers as they are easy to put up, a bit like a flat pack!!! There are pockets of Menonites all over, some being much more traditional than others: they use horses and carts, have big families and speak their own language which is a form of old German / Dutch, the really old fashioned ones might have banjos.....

The Brits also brought in the East Indians ( NO! I’m not telling you where from, work it out yourself!) to work the sugar plantations. They also brought with them Turmeric ( known here as Yellow ginger) which they planted and it went wild. It has developed the highest Curcumin content ( the bit in turmeric that’s really good for you) in the World: most Indian Turmeric has a 2% curcumin content, Belize’s has 7.2%. The East Indians have become the teachers, doctors and nurses.

Now we also have a fairly large Lebanese population and the Chinese. Five years after the Chinese have become Belizean residents they can apply for American visas...so apparently that is one of the reasons there are so many of them! However down here they seem to be here to stay and compete for building the biggest supermarket with exactly the same stuff that all the other Chinese supermarkets have....

In 1981 Belize became Independent...and became Belize, before that it was called British Honduras, with a Prime Minister called George Price who is thought of as the father of the country. He was cool and saw the Brits off in style! However Belize remains a member of the Commonwealth and has a twenty something year-old picture of the queen ( no its not the picture that’s 20...it’s the Queen...) on all our bank notes. The British army were a large presence here and their jungle training was mostly in Belize until recently and a few Belizeans we know have gone to Sandhurst, and when Princess Anne visited she gave us tanks! When Prince Harry came he enjoyed rum and dancing and the Gibnut is known as Royal Rat as it was served to the queen...Belizeans think it is her all time favorite dish!

And leaving it till last is the MOST annoying group: American missionaries!!! Belize is perfect for missionaries from American as it is English speaking (don’t even have to learn a pesky new language), has poor Maya people who live in thatch huts and have lots of kids ( fabulous for photo opportunities in God’s Weekly updates) and also has poor black people in thatch huts...yes! with lots of children!! All this combines for an irresistible mix if you want to get more money out of your rich partitioners back home...I belieze we have more missionaries per square village than anywhere else...Of course this also brings in the crackpots ( couldn’t resist...) and there is one man Richard and I particularly hate...and yes I DO mean hate. He has paid of the town council so he can ‘preach’ in the centre of town, but I have seen him following ladies into the bank and across streets asking them, “Are you a FORNICATOR??? Do you believe in the Devil?” And all sorts of other lovelies, he really is scum. To top it all a friend has actually found him on a US internet site with his best friend who is a convicted pedophile and felon....so he likes good company!!! Bear in mind, also that the general population are already deeply religious so you are quite literally preaching to the converted, however there are glimmers of fun amid the religious frenzy: one church was giving away chickens to its congregation, another retaliated with tilapia and the Catholic Church with just plain old cash. “Who was the winner?” I hear you ask? Well in this case the villagers, who spread themselves around going from church to church collecting all three over a month!

Belizean on the whole are a very easy going lot with a good sense of humor and an abundance of kindness. When we first arrived in Belize it was not just the countryside but also the charm of Belizeans that made us love this place.


Earthships:

An Earthship is a self-sufficient building made from recyclable materials. They were started by the architect Michael Reynolds in Taos, New Mexico in the 60s. He basically excited that houses were built for architects, builders and planners and not for the needs of the people who actually live in them, so he has evolved his designs so your earthship home will not only provide you with ‘free’ light (solar) and water, it will also keep you cool or warm depending on where you live and will allow you to grow your own food in its planters.

Truck and car tyres are used as foundations, rammed with a sledge hammer full of earth or whatever is to hand...after the Haitian Earthquake they went out and filled the tyres with rubble from collapsed buildings. These tyres are so packed that they weigh huge amounts, meaning nothing is going to shift them and yet they have the rubber tyre so are extremely good in an earthquake. On top of the tyres come bottles. These can be used in many different ways: whole as wall fillers or to create bond / belt beams (see below) or as ‘bricks’. A bottle brick can be made from plastic or glass but the essence is you get two bottles cut off the ends and stick them together...and voila! You can use the bricks as a brick:to be plastered over later, or visible, as a thing of beauty to let light shine in and through, creating patterns and colours. The bricks that are used like this must be cleaned and cut and cleaned again...it’s a long process and that is where child slavery comes in - it’s quite an achievement to convince your kids that it’s ‘fun’ to bottle wash....!

We went a bit mental here and our Earthship has evolved due to lack of any other recycling and the fact that I love making bottle walls and learning different techniques on every wall I build. Usually an Earthship would be sealed off with windows ( well, Alisa, MOST normal places ARE!!!) but we didn’t do that here!! The windows are angled depending where you live so you are shaded from hot or summer sun but the winter sun comes n and hits the tyre mass walls and heats them, leaving them to slow release heat keeping a constant temperature. Michael Reynolds has also designed an extremely cool heat venting system for the roof with passive cooling tubes in the ground for cooling an earthship down in hot areas.

On top of all this there is also a whole water catchment system that recycles water up to four times (rain > tank > washing > planter > toilet > skeptic tank > planter) and the black water that comes out at the end of their system has been tested after it has been through the plants and was cleaner than the Taos county council water!!!

The above are some of the reasons that Earthsips are becoming so ‘cool’, because they make sense and they help the environment. We first came across them purely by chance: a friend left a load of old DVDs that she had copied off Canadian tv programs and one was Garbage Warrior, which is the story of Mike Reynolds and his fight for the right to be able to make experimental housing, as he says, how can homes ever evolve if we are stuck in 1950s rules and regulations? So we saw it and emailed him, it was winter 2011 and he was cold so he came down for three nights and we talked and drank and made merry and came up with a plan! In March 2012 two of his guys came down for a full on month (that’s a whole other story!!) and the rest as they say is history.....

So look out for what you watch, it can literally change your life!



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