Belize time – I’ll do it right now….

Since moving to Belize, if I need something done urgently, and someone tells me they’ll do it “right now”, I get an uncanny sinking feeling in my stomach.  In Belize time, “right now” can be roughly translated as meaning “at some indefinite, potentially distant time in the future”.  It certainly doesn’t mean “now”.

The time in Belize is -6 hours GMT.  But “Belize time” is a far more subjective and fuzzy concept.  Work begins on time (unless it is raining, in which case if you don’t have a car, then it is perfectly acceptable at many workplaces to not show up until the rain stops).  Meetings begin 15-30 minutes late.  Parades, weddings and other big events start one or two hours after the “official” start time.

My own wedding had an “official” written start time of 3pm.  So, at 2.55pm, my dad arrived at our house to drive me to the wedding venue.  I was wrapped in a towel, with wet hair, in the middle of sticking on my false nails.  I’d forgotten to tell my dad about Belize time.

While the official start time ticked on by, Ray’s extended family whisked around frantically finalising the wedding arrangements.  Dresses were being sewed, hair braided and beaded, lamb stewed, chicken barbequed, tortillas baked and drum skins tightened.

Belize time
Platting of palm leaf arch…1 hour before “official” start time.

But by 4.30pm, spot on for Belize time, everything was ready, and down the aisle we walked to the beat of drums, shake of shakas, and the sound of Ray’s dad singing.

Walking down the aisle

Organising things here is as different as imaginable from the micro-managed, minute-by-minute “story-boarded” events that I used to be involved in when I worked in London.  But the amazing thing is, it always works out in the end, albeit to Belize time.

I have been a very busy bee recently, and for that reason, my next blog entry will be along right now….

www.warasadrumschool.com

He-He-Hey! Sucking Teeth & Pointing Lips

I’ve lived in a few different countries in my life, and in each one, I have learned the specific cultural gestures and sounds that are used to communicate on a daily basis. In South Korea, people would make a “hol” honking like sound when surprised or shocked, and would beckon people with their arms held out full stretch, palms down, frantically flapping their fingers (doing it palm-up is highly insulting, as that is how you beckon a dog).

In Belize, Garifuna people have the Garifuna laugh, which phonetically goes something like “he-he-he-ey!” – the final “he-ey” being louder and higher pitched than the rest. They also have a habit of pointing at people with a slight upwards nod of the head and sticking out their lower lip. Sucking your teeth to make a squelchy kind of reversed hiss is the Belizean sound of annoyance or impatience. I try and think of what some typically Scottish non-verbal communications are, but I guess they are so deeply ingrained in me that I can’t identify them – feel free to enlighten me!

 

https://www.warasadrumschool.com

Belizean Blue Crab Syndrome

Coming out for the annual rain dance

I will most probably always be considered an outsider in Belize, but I think that is the case in almost any country you emigrate to where you stick out either due to your accent, skin colour, background or otherwise. And there are definitely many things that I still don’t know about or don’t understand about Belizean culture. One of them is something known as Blue Crab Syndrome.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Belizean wildlife, at the start of every rainy season, thousands of giant (up to 10 inches including claw span) blue crabs emerge from the mud of the jungle/ditch/back yard to do a celebratory rain dance before the rains dry and they go into hibernation again. Of course, many Belizeans like a good crab soup, and so crabs are often caught and stuck in a bucket ready for the stew pot.

Blue crabs ready for the stew pot

Not surprisingly, the crabs don’t care too much for buckets or stew pots, and try to climb out, but none of them make it, as they all step and stumble over each other and pull each other back down. I don’t know if it is due to colonialism’s divide & conquer phenomenon, or a side-effect of being such a small country, but sadly, it is all too common for Belizeans to hamper and sometimes actively sabotage their neighbours’ attempts to better themselves. Sometimes it even goes as far as burning down houses or businesses, but more commonly involves spreading malicious rumours and the like. Thankfully Ray is generally well liked in PG, so we haven’t suffered anything too detrimental as yet, but I am always disappointed when Belizean owned local businesses fail to support what we are trying to do. We haven’t asked anyone for money, just for a good word and general advice, but it’s not always as forthcoming as we’d like. Ironically, it is the expat-owned businesses that support the venture more. Of course there are many locals that totally support what we are trying to do, and I hope that continues and spreads so that Warasa isn’t another victim of Blue Crab Syndrome.

https://www.warasadrumschool.com

Even if she’s green, she’s still your auntie

A few months ago, Ray and I were at his uncle’s house watching (me) and helping (Ray) make a drum.  I was perched on the edge of another future drum.  Ray’s dad Mario was also there.  Everyone was taking a few minutes rest from the hot Belizean sun.  A little boy came running into the yard, and then stopped in his tracks when he saw me.  He looked at me suspiciously, then hovered in the corner for a minute or two.  He then plucked up some courage, and said

“Uncle, I wahn ask you somting”.

Ray responded “Well ask me den”.

“It’s a secret”.

“Well come tell me in my ear den”.  The little boy whispered in Ray’s ear.

Ray roared out “Who dat white gyal? She da me wife, she yo auntie, hear?!”.

The little boy looked mortified at having his secret question blurted out, but recovered, and then looked confused while he continued to look sidelong at me: “She cahn be my auntie”.

Ray: “Oh really?  Why cahn she be yo auntie?”.

“Cos she white”

At which point, Ray’s dad jumped in and said,

“Boy!  Even if she green, she still yo auntie, hear!”

https://www.warasadrumschool.com