“Mom, there’s a rodent in here,” Jordan called from the bedroom where he was supposed to be taking a nap.
“How big is it?” I asked bracing myself before entering the room, having to contend yet again with a Central American bug. There are always
so many possibilities of what rodent can mean.
“Ummm…it’s bigger than a beetle?” Jordan said more like a question,
guessing at how he could describe the four-legged creature to me as if
taking a multiple choice exam and not quite sure of the answer.
Beetle-size. Okay, I could deal with that. Walking in the room I found
a dead half-dollar sized cockroach lying belly up attracting a small
trail of ants, flurrying to celebrate their fortune. I swept it outside
and told Jordan to sleep. He seemed convinced, with all the rodents
taken care of, he could rest.
So, now I’m at my laptop thinking about the little Belizean town that
has become home over the past several weeks. Placencia—it means
placenta or nourishment. To me it means a life-style so
different from the one I have at home.
Not only does our town have the best Jerk Chicken Nachos on the planet, there is a list of pleasures and pluses.
Biking is how we get everywhere–grocery shopping, visiting the
pharmacy, playing with friends, exercising, exploring. Our bikes with
baskets double as kid carriers. Maddi rides like a local, holding her
hands out to her sides she says, “Look, Mom! No handed! Can you do
She loves to ride over the bumps that fill the dirt roads, while I try
to avoid them. We battle to see who the real driver is as she steers me
towards the potholes. Worse than a backseat driver the bicycle gives
her direct access to the steering wheel!
Maddi’s skin is golden, the color of ripe coconut and she is wearing
her favorite flip-flops, which the people here call slippers. I love
the thought of wearing slippers outside. Both of my kids would rather
go barefoot if I’d let them, many Placencians do. And trust me, if the
Placencians are doing it, my children want to do the
same. I guess peer pressure occurs in all cultures.
We took the water taxi today to visit the town across the canal. The
locals said there is nothing to see. We were curious what nothing looks
like. Riding in a small flat bottom boat was the actual attraction for
my four and six year olds. Nothing looks pretty good when you need to ride a boat to get there.
I have all the doors open and the air smells like the jungle, warm and
fresh with vegetation and flowers. There is reggae music wafting in
from the center of town and I’m curious to see the garifuna playing
their drums. The man across the street tells me
it will be 33 degrees Celsius today, which translates to 92 degrees Fahrenheit.
I’m cleaning a watermelon for supper, the kind that dribbles down your
chin while taste testing. I’m the type of mom who takes out all of the
seeds for her kids. My mom did this for me when I was little, so it seems nearly
sacrilegious to not carry on the tradition. I think the next time
Maddi tells me she loves me as much as 161 Dalmatians (her way to say
“a lot”—which is a pretty good analogy because 161 Dalmatians would be
a lot!) I will tell her that I love her so much I’d take 161 seeds out
of a watermelon for her.
When her Aunt Lori came to visit they enjoyed a papaya smoothie. Or I should say Maddi gave Lori a sip.
The people of our village work hard, demanding jobs–anything in this heat proves to be a big job in my opinion.
We spent the day at a resort that lets its customers swim if they buy lunch from the restaurant. This is a great marketing strategy!
While eating, Jordan asked the waiter if he could help. My six year old dreams of getting a job like most six year old kids wish for a Nintendo DSi for Christmas. The waiter is amused and gives my son a pile of red cloth napkins to fold. Jordan follows the waiter, bounding from table to table placing napkins in the center of the plates.
I gathered our belongings from the pool and called, “It’s time to go.” Jordan said goodbye and told his supervisor, “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
The waiter grabbed two maraschino cherries, giving them to Jordan on a pink plastic toothpick used for fancy tropical drinks. Jordan was more than pleased as he told me, “I got my payment for working, Mom!” I think he should ask for a raise. He could probably convince his boss to pay at least three cherries a day, but then again he's not a disgruntled employee–not in it for the money.
The Belizean flag motto: Sub Umbra Floreo means “I flourish in the shadow,” referring to its dependence on the UK when Belize was a British colony. In 1981, Belize gained its independence but kept its flag's motto. I find a connection to the idea that we can thrive even when we find ourselves dispirited.
“Everyone can afford some kindness,” Miss Janis told me when we lived above the bakery. She gave me a novel to read, “Run” by Ann Patchett, a story to get lost in. I’m intrigued how the author covers a mere twenty-four hours in time while introducing the reader to a lifetime account of a family's history.
Questions are raised about relationships and loyalties and what really defines a family. Miss Janis is right, whether in our family or with our friends or even among strangers, kindness pays the expense for many hurts and wrongdoings.
Reading is one of my favorite things to do when I travel. At night I've been reading chapter books to Jordan and Madelynn before they fall asleep. We're reading, “The Tale of Despereaux” about a brave tiny mouse in love with Princess Pea. My children beg me to read “one more chapter” no matter how many we have read. But, at some point, and the point is different each night—mostly depending on how much energy their mama has left in her—they need to go to sleep.
Do you ever go into your child’s room while he or she is sleeping to make sure they are breathing? I still check on my babies even though they aren’t babies anymore. I rush to see if their chests inflate up and down like little waves in the pool and then I can relax and go read my own book until I join them in slumber. I get my best rest when I know my little ones are soundly resting.
Some may find my idea to leave on a whim, home-school my kids in
Belize and take a writing sabbatical as somewhat nonsensical, maybe
fanatical–certainly unconventional. There was even a part of me that
thought the same. But, sometimes we need to find an unusual remedy for what ails us in order to keep our mind free and working. For me traveling has always been good therapy.
Needy creatures that we are, we put the brain's spiritual centers to
use all the time. We pray for peace; we meditate for serenity; we chant
for wealth. We travel to Lourdes in search of a miracle; we go to Mecca
to show our devotion; we eat hallucinogenic mushrooms to attain
transcendent vision and gather in church basements to achieve its sober
opposite. But there is nothing we pray — or chant or meditate — for
more than health. -From "The Biology of Belief" -by Jeffrey Kluger; Time Magazine.
Health is vital and by late January I found myself stranded, far from what I would define as healthy. The Minnesota winter mimicked my mind like a blizzard itself: low spirits in exchange for low temperatures, strong mood swings in place of strong winds and a heavy heart equal to heavy gusts of snow. It is hard to admit that over four years on my grieving journey, I still battle grief the way a feisty snowstorm can paralyze certain regions. That is why I left in a hurry. Before I found myself snowed in.
But, whether we adventure at home or afar, our fate
finds us. I know that loss doesn't disappear. I also know we have healthy options for healing.
Better said by the little mouse whose story I have grown
quite fond of:
Reader, you must know that an interesting fate
(sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse
or man, who does not conform. –The Tale of Despereaux
Rise up! Follow your instinct. Try something new (jerk chicken nachos, maybe?)
Wherever you find yourself while visiting my blog today, I wish for you satisfying nourishment and happy adventures.