Thursday, May 28, 2009


Woke up last night in the middle of the night because of some funny sounds in the bedroom. Our bed is dancing on its four legs, the windows are shaking and my dream-catcher is swinging frantically above my head. What is going on? Am I dreaming? Must be. I poke my husband who gets up to go to the bathroom. The shocks last, a few minutes but I still can not determine whether I am dreaming or not. Next morning, I ask my husband. He can not remember anything. Then I hear about the earthquake in Honduras and the tsunami alert for the Caribbean countries. Wow, so I was definitely NOT dreaming. A real earthquake in my bedroom. Truly shocking!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sweet Deal?

The reason why we are living here in Belize is a sweet one. Michel is working as a consultant for the European Union to support the Belize sugar sector. For many years, the EU and the so-called ACP-countries (African, Caribbean and Pacific countries) have had a mutually beneficial relationship established in the sugar protocol. This agreement, which dates back from the seventies, stipulated a guaranteed access to the European market of fixed quantities of sugar cane for a certain minimum price. Sugar accounts for 60% of Belize’s agricultural production so you’ll know how important it is for this small country.

You will also understand that this is a kind of protection measure and t
hat not everyone is happy with that. Other sugar-producing members of the World Trade Organization, such as Brazil and India, as well European sugar beet producing countries, saw their sugar prices decline and started to complain. This has lead to the ending of the EU-ACP sugar protocol in 2006. As a kind of compensation, the EU waived its magic wand, did a little hocus pocus and voila.., there was 48 million euros to upgrade the Belize sugar sector, which is known to have one of the lowest levels of efficiency in the world while the price per ton had been slashed by 36%.

It is Michel’s job to advise the Ministry of Agriculture on how best to spend that money. Part of it has to be invested in infrastructure (roads, equipment) and part for improving production methods and diversification. There are about 6,000 cane farmers in northern Belize, and as you can imagine, they don’t all have their nose in the same direction (as we say in Dutch). When I had just arrived here in February, the cane farmers were on strike and rioting against the police. One farmer even got shot dead! In this peaceful country?

The same can be said for the Ministry people, and other sugar stakeholders. They all have different ideas on how to spend the money. They all know what the other should do. Combine all of the above with a general Caribbean attitude of all talk and little action and you have a guy coming home in the evening answering my question ‘How was your day, honey?’ with the usual: useless. Not so sweet after all. But he does not give up easily so we’ll see what happens in a few months. To be continued.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Feather or Dot?

I have mentioned it a few times before; Belmopan is not exactly the centre of the world and there is not much excitement here. We don’t even have traffic lights. Not that those are exciting, it’s just to illustrate the scope of this capital. Anyway, in places like this you have to create your own fun and luckily for us, we are pretty good at that. We have revived the Belize Hash House Harriers (you can check it out at and Michael has set up a thing called ‘Belmopan Bravo’. It’s a weekly get-together TGIF idea, every Friday in a different place. In Sri Lanka we had Colombo Charlie, same idea, go for happy hour with a group of friends. This first time we proposed it here, a few weeks ago, we were five people, now there are twenty to thirty people weekly! A nice mixture of Belizeans, Europeans and Americans. It is supposed to be a 6 to 8 pm thing, but we never reach home before 11 pm and that is because we have to drop off our baby sitter.

Last weekend we had a party. It was hosted by Richard, a colleague, at our house. He had thought of a theme: Indian, and he had made a couple of curries with yellow rice. It was a costume party, which the British call a Fancy Dress but that only created confusion as the Americans thought they had to dress in an evening gown. For Micheal and me it was easy because coming from Sri Lanka I have a pretty sari and he has his Bollywood party costume. For other guests it was less obvious however, as people started to ask: what do you mean by Indian? American native Indian or Indian from India? In other words: do I wear feathers or a dot on my front? It did not matter, I just replied: come in whatever you look most sexy. And interestingly (and understandably), most Americans and Belizeans came with the feathers while the Europeans wore the dot. And that is how we ended up having a party with pretty girls in sari’s, sensual Zen masters, a cool-looking Indian casino worker, an American ambassador with feathers and finger paint on his cheeks and even Ghandi himself appeared in his self-made diaper made of white towels. Who says you need to go to bars and clubs to have fun?

Friday, May 8, 2009


One of the major reasons we enjoy living abroad is of course: the sun. It is just easier to wake up in the mornings when the sun peeks through your curtains, when you can wear cute sandals without having to worry about socks and when your face is tanned.

Of course we sometimes complain that it is too hot but I am careful with what I wish for. However, there is one serious down side to the hot tropical climates we have been living in for the past fifteen years. With heat comes humidity, and with that comes…bugs. Roaches, mosquitos, flies, fleas, ants whatever... I thought I was used to it by now. Until…

…on the very first day we stayed in our newly rented house, we had two ladies giving it a good clean up. They found a tiny bright green frog in the store room, screamed and then ran away from it. They said it was a poisonous frog and that it could spit in your eyes and make you blind. I found that hard to imagine from such a tiny thing that looked like a Haribo gummi candy. But am I going to disbelieve these Belizean women? No way, so we took it seriously and approached the empty room with utmost care.

Later that day my guy wanted to see if froggy was still there and he found a black spider keeping it company. Now this was getting interesting. A frog and a spider in an otherwise totally empty room? Is this a new fable of La Fontaine? Later that evening he took another peek into the store room, and to his big surprise the frog and spider had been joined by a scorpion! Really true, all on the same day in the same room! What is this? Some kind of plot to say that we are (not) welcome in this house? A scorpion? I have never had those in my house… those fellows are a little dangerous aren’t they?

We have baptized that store room the Freaky Room. I will forever be careful when I go in there, and will never go near it with bare feet. We’re still enjoying the sun but have yet to learn to accept all creatures that come along with it. If you decide to visit us I promise you you won’t have to sleep in the Freaky Room. Unless you like scorpions…