Maya Ruins, Rain, and Bananas

Published: June 22nd 2009
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Three weeks down, six to go. Time has been going by pretty quickly, although a day in the life of a kitchen intern resembles nothing like a routine yet. The wet season is getting underway in southern Belize. Heavy rains have swollen the rivers, turning the winding turquoise stream into a swift muddy river. It’s still beautiful but much harder to cross without an experienced person in the dory.

Between experiments in trying to prepare meals from the food on the farm (and trying to come up with creative ways to use the excess number of bananas that keep showing up), I have had some opportunities to do some exploring and volunteering in Toledo district. Two weeks ago another intern and I took a day to volunteer with a food distribution program for elderly people in Punta Gorda (PG) through the Red Cross. We hauled squash and the ever-abundant banana bread across the river, up the trail an hour to the village, on the bus into town and across PG. We did what little we could to help prepare the meals then went along to deliver them. We got sincere appreciation for our time, made new friends, and had a delicious Belizean meal that unfortunately reeked havoc on my digestive system.

The farm is located in a valley that is littered with remnants of an ancient Mayan city. So, one day we went on an explorer-type adventure, hiking through the bush up the hill to a Maya-built wall in ruins amongst vines, trees and ant colonies. The view of the surrounding Maya Mountains was beautiful. Last Saturday, Liz the intern-coordinator and I were granted a day off, so we decided to go on another ruins adventure. We headed out of the village in the morning to go to Nim Li Punit one of the only ruins in Belize that have stella with ancient glyphs intact. I am astounded that any modern person could decipher the pictures carved in stone thousands of years ago. The place was really quiet with stone walls, tombs and a ball court; as quiet as any place in the jungle gets with buzzing insects and calling birds. By the time we got back to the farm in the evening, I was exhausted. We each had to plunge into the cool river, bags above our heads to keep them dry, fighting to walk across the current. We’ll see what the wet season does to the river’s navigability.

We were supposed to host a college group taking a course on Belize ecology, but the bridge that connects northern Belize with southern Belize was well under water with the rising river, cutting Toledo district off from the north. These sorts of occurrences are not uncommon, but are certainly a source of town small-talk… and I hear the bridge is back open again.

Right now there is a whole host of foods that are in season at the farm, though I have been told the heavy rains will start to stress the plants. It is the beginning of the avocado season. Papayas and mangos are ripening. We have run out of places to hang all bunches of bananas. Squash, lemons, limes, chaya, coconut, sweet potatoes, coco yams, cassava, pineapples, are some of the things coming into the kitchen. I am starting an edible plant guide for the intern program at the farm and was astounded to find that there are over 60 cultivated edible plants along with a whole host of medicinal plants, ornamentals, and plants used to condition the soil. Looks like I still have a lot to learn.

I am looking forward to new interns arriving in the next month and for some of my relatives to visit in August before I head home.

Additional photos below
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The Caterpillars are InvadingThe Caterpillars are Invading
The Caterpillars are Invading

These little guys (not poisonous, thankfully) keep falling through my thatch roof. They have replaced the thatch's resident wolf spiders in my jungle creatures nightmares.

22nd June 2009

Another World away
Looks like life is and interesting place. You are having experiences I can only dream of. You have far exceeded anything I thought you would experience. The Mayan ruins must be spectacular to view and your kitchen interesting to work with. We look forward to visiting.

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