04 February, 2009

Chilly Wednesday Morning

This morning dawned cold and windy, at least it was dry. Walking the dogs required blue jeans and my hoodie sweatshirt, topped off with brisk walking to keep from shivering.

I know, I know, those of you from up north, smirk at 68 (f) degrees as being cold, but let me tell you, once you get acclimatized here, cold is cold. Don't forget, no one down here (that I know of) have furnaces or even fire places in their homes, so when the thermometer takes a drop, it gets cold. And with our usual high humidity, there's no such thing as saying "but it's a dry cold".

The other morning, was worse. It was cold, windy, and drizzly. As you can see from the photo below, we hardy dog walkers get out before sunrise, whether it's wet, or cold, or windy. As you can tell, Doug is the hardier of the bunch, wearing his shorts and t-shirt.

This picture was taken in the Corozal market. It was even too early for most of the vendors. When we come through, usually there's only three or four vendors open for business at that time, so we tend to get the freshest fruits and veggies of the day's offerings.
Doug, Twyla, tupelo, and Lola - Walkies
I've been meaning to get this picture of one of the market tents since we came down here. Just a curious use of USAID materials. I thought it was kinda cool.
USAID Tarp
Northern Belize Violence
A little excitement has come to northern Belize. Normally, it's relatively sleepy up here compared to San Pedro and the more touristy areas of the country. That has changed. We've had some unrest in the Orange Walk area involving the Belize Sugar Industries (BSI), Ltd (http://www.northernbelize.com/econ_sugar.html), and independent sugar cane growers. Actually, more than just "unrest". "Violence" is the term we should use. a striking cane farmer was killed and several wounded in clashes with police.

Ostensibly, the argument is about something called "core sampling", which is a piece of machinery that takes a core sample of a truck load of sugar cane to determine sugar content.

What BSI wants to do, is pay farmers according to the quality of their product, instead of just paying by weight of cane delivered to the Tower Hill Sugar Factory in Orange Walk. To those of us that are not involved in the industry, that sounds reasonable on the face of it.

However, yesterday we had a Neighborhood Watch Association meeting, our meeting host's housekeeper, to her credit, piped up during our discussion of the violent turn of events and gave us the independent cane farmer's point of view of the problem. Her comments were eye-opening in that the only side of the story we had been getting to that point was from the local TV media, which seems to have pretty much provided the public what BSI wanted broadcast.

Anyway, it seems the issue is more BSI keeping down cane prices artificially through use of their company-owned cane fields, really lessening the effect any action the independent farmers may try to take to increase their income. The core sampler issue is more the focus of that effort, the lightning rod, so to speak, than the primary issue - at least that's my take on things.

So, the day before yesterday, things came to a head. The farmers barricaded the Northern Highway, and tried (I think) to blockade the factory itself. Because of the blockage of the highway, brought a response from the Belize Police Department. Things turned ugly, when some cane farmers apparently used machetes to threaten police. The police responded with force. The rest you know.

Apparently, now the highway is open, BSI is still processing cane in the factory from their own fields, and still arguing for use of the core sampler. To think the problem has been resolved or is anywhere close to that, would be premature at best. Politics has gotten involved up to and including the Prime Minister. Hopefully it will get resolved fairly and soon.

Guest House Update
Alright, enough of that sort of reportage... Our guest house is now forest-less. All the sticks and plywood supporting the roof have now been removed (except for the outside doorways because of the size of the headers, which are also concrete. It'll be another week or so before plastering is begun on the walls of the house. I'll try to remember to include some photos of the bare house interior a little later on.
Tunes On the Site
Something new on the site is a list of my fav tunes. I picked kind of an eclectic mixture. Featuring the late Andy Palacio, Belize's best know musician. He unfortunately died just as his career was getting ready to take a huge international jump. Still his music is worth listening too. I've included a bit of reggae, which I've been a fan of for years, and even some Ol' Blue Eyes, just cause I Frank is such a groove of a singer. Let me know what you think of this feature. It's still in beta on Google's Blogger services.

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