Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rainforest Remedies

A few weeks ago I went to a meeting of the Belmopan International Women's Group. There was a guest lecturer by the name of Rosita Arvigo, an American doctor of naprapathy (yes, we learn something new every day), which is form of chiropractic, those doctors who crack bones or something.I was not very keen as I am not a big fan of alternative medicine, but Rosita immediately caught my interest. Rosita has worked for ten years with an 86-year old Mayan traditional healer who was reknowned for his ability to cure hopelessly ill patients. She has produced a book 'Sastun - My Apprenticeship with a Mayan Healer' about her experiences with this very wise, witty and womanizing man, It's a must-read, thoroughly amusing and highly interesting. Did you know that 80% of the plants and trees in the Belizean tropical forest can be used for something? Ranging from mosquito repellent to easing stomach cramps and high blood pressure, from calming frantically crying babies to contraception. It's amazing what nature gives us, though only a few people seem to know about it and use it. Why would that be? Perhaps it's is quite hard work to collect the leaves, roots, and branches, chop them, dry them, conserve them; it's easier to mass produce pills. It's quicker to buy a can of chemical mosquito spray than to dry Jackass leaves, brew tea and rub yourself with it. Being a skeptic by nature and not suffering from any ailments that I know of, I decided to explore this bush thing anyhow. Together with my friend Linda I went to the Belmopan market. There we found Ms Janice Bain a true bush lady, behind her stall full of weird looking stuff. We bought the following: 

1. The Wash Out: a combination of ginger root, pissabed flowers and bukut leaf, to be boiled in half a gallon of water. It is supposed to cleanse the body. It washes out acids, plaques, fats and what not. Janice warned us about the color and smell of stool, but I was 'brave' enough to try it out for you my dear blog readers. The tea tasted surprisingly good and was very refreshing. I did have to go to the bath room but was not in a hurry or anything. I won't go into too much detail about the odors and colors...but I will say that there were certain changes which could very well be the acids and the plaques. I did not check it...

2. Billy Web Energy and Immune Boost. Little small pieces of brown root, looking like wood. It is supposed to work as an energy drink, to be taken when feeling tired or sluggish. I brewed the tea and drank it half warm, as I fail to see how hot tea can give you a boost when it's 40 degrees Celsius. It tastes awful, bitter and 'woody', maybe I made it too strong. I waited for some effects and I must say: I did feel something running through my veins, and I  felt a distinct energy peak, like drinking a Red Bull. The only  thing is that you'll have to wash away the aftertaste with a glass of wine.

3. Jack Ass Bitter. So bitter that you must be a dumb fool to drink it. Hence the name. It can be used to prevent and soothe mosquito bites, simply by rubbing the leaves or by brewing it and rubbing your skin with the lotion. I tried it by rubbing leaves on my daughter's mosquito bites but she scratched as hard as always.

4. The Hormone Check: last but not least, I bought a bottle of very dodgy looking stuff that is supposed to be a female Viagra, or a 'panty wetter' (not my words). It has wild yam and Chicoloco in it, whatever that maybe, and contains estrogen and progesterone. You can brew tea by soaking the pieces, up to five times. Needless to say that I am dying to try this one out! I did the first soak today... as my husband will be back tomorrow after two weeks of separation.. Curious as to its effects? Me too. More later.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Best of Both Worlds

We're back in Belize. That is, me and my daughter only, because Michel and his son Antoine are stuck in Miami since last Friday as a result of this ´phantom´ash cloud; who could ever have thought of a scenario like that? They were scheduled to fly back to Europe last week, Antoine had to start school again after Easter break, and Michel had to go back to see his mom and have business meetings that will determine our future. After five extra days in five different hotels in Miami Beach, suddenly South Beach is not so attractive anymore, very expensive. Guess who has to pay for it? We do!

As for Soleine and me, we are back in Belmopan, after five weeks . It's good to be back. Nothing has changed here in Belize since our departure, though it strikes me just how hot it is - always need a few days to adjust- and how dirty the road sides are. We are actually going to help clean up the Belize - Belmopan highway this Saturday, for Earth Day, so more on that later.

For the past five weeks we were in Europe and in the States, and this allowed me to compare these two continents. As usual while traveling I like to collect things. This time I collected 'things' that are, in my opinion, better in the US, and things that are better in Europe. Here's my list. Feel free to comment and add.

Things that are better in the States
  • The size of the roads and parking spaces. In Belgium I have to call Michel to come down three floors to park our car reversely in impossibly small parking spots while traffic is racing by.

  • Space shuttles. We went to the Kennedy Space Centre and were impressed by the US space program, seeing the shuttle that went to the moon 41 years way we would have pulled that off in Europe. 
  • Free refills for coffee and soft drinks. Wish they'd do beers too. Also, the quality of coffee in the States has improved tremendously over the years (or has my taste deteriorated?).
  • People cleaning up their dogs' shit. We can all follow that good example.

Things that are better in Europe

  • Food and sizes of food portions. I find most food in the US rather terrible and the portions are insane, leading to incredible amounts of food being wasted and shocking numbers of fat people. Many are so huge that they  do Disney World in rented scooters because they can't walk.
  • Inclusive pricing. If the menu reads that a meal costs 20 Euro, then you pay 20 Euro. The same goes for hotel rooms, rental cars and flights. In Europe the waiters do not add 18% (!!) to your bill for throwing your plastic food on your plastic table. I could not help but feel cheated all the time because of the hidden resort charges, parking fees, insurance costs, sales taxes and service costs.
  • Castles. True, Disney's castle is cute but need I say more?
  • Real smiles. Okay, people may not smile as much as in the States, maybe due to long hard winters and the fact that teeth-bleaching is uncommon, but when they smile, it's a real smile. Not the Time-Share Sales Guy Have a Great Day-smile (so fake).

Things that are better in Belize
  • The jungle! We went on a jungle trail in the Everglades. Ha ha, what a joke.An asphalted jungle trail? With garbage bins and warning signs?

  • Scenery. Likewise we crossed the Big Cypress park on 'one of America's most scenic highways', well...I can tell you that the highway from the Airport to Belmopan is more scenic, even despite the rubbish. 

  • The Keys (Cayes). We drove all the way down the US 1 Highway to Key West. I reckon that must have been one of the most expensive highways in the States but it felt like being on any other hardly notice the keys. It's much more exciting to take a water taxi and explore Caye Caulker or Tobacco Caye.

Agree? Don't agree? Anything to add anyone? Of course the real morale of my story is that we are just lucky devils to be able to experience the best of both worlds, and even more!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Funky Town

I remember my first time like it was yesterday. It was actually a few years ago, at the time I was living in Trinidad, and it was love at first sight. My first stay at South Beach, or SoBe, impressed me enough to mark the start of a life time long love relation with this fast, funky and fiery place. With its beautiful clean, white and wide beaches, its fancy Art Deco hotels and of course, its Show Off Boulevard better known as Ocean Drive. It’s the most “C&TBCn” kind of road I’ve ever seen, funkier than the Champs Elysees in Paris or Orchard Road in Singapore. Ocean Drive is one hundred percent about See and To Be Seen. But... you’ve got to have wheels. Preferably with fancy tire covers on a convertible sports car; Porches, Ferraris and Lotuses are plenty, but you can be equally cool on a bike, skate board or a pair of shiny roller skates.

It’s what I like most about South Beach: its relaxed yet energetic atmosphere. Everywhere you go you see active people. They follow Yoga classes on the beach, take their baby out jogging in its stroller, master the waves from underneath a mega kite or simply throw a Frisbee. We’re here for three days only, but we're all in for the game. When in Miami do as the Miamians, right? But by lack of wheels or a fancy kite we're taking the easy way out. We're running along Ocean Drive's walking path and the kids jump on the beach around their sand castle.Low tech but not 'low fun'. SoBe it.