Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween, Lots of Rain and an Eye Infection

Friday was the school’s annual Halloween Fair. Most primary schools in Belize throw a fundraiser fair for Halloween with food, games and raffles. Each class was responsible for running a booth or activity at the school. Miss Laura’s Standard V class had a lollipop game. Pay $0.50 to pick a lollipop decorated like a ghost, if there’s a piece of paper wrapped inside then you win a prize, otherwise you just get a lollipop. I tried 4 times and never won a prize. Now I have 4 very blue lollipops that make your whole mouth bright blue. There was a bake sale, dance hall, haunted house, dart games, games of chance and lots of food! The school had a BBQ chicken with rice, beans and coleslaw (a very traditional meal here) for $2.50 a plate. Mr. Freddie and Mr. Jason manned the grills all morning. Some kids dressed up, but most came in “rags,” or regular street clothes. Unfortunately, Mr. Vernon wouldn’t let the Std. V kids wear a costume or rags, so they were all in uniform.

The weather almost put a damper on the festivities. With a rising tide and strong on-shore wind, much of the property was flooded, and many booths were moved up onto the verandas as a result. The fair lasted a couple hours in the morning and was over by noon. In the end, the school raised about $1500. For a community that can barely put food on the table every day, this is a sizable amount. As Miss Francis always says, “Little drops of water, tiny grains of sand.” Unfortunately, this amount won’t even cover this month’s electric bill at the school. Everything is super expensive down here in such a remote location.

When I woke up Saturday morning, my right eye was swollen and I looked like Disney’s Hunch Back of Notre Dame, without the hunch-back part. (Photo available upon request only.) Living a town with virtually no pavement, strong winds mean there is lots of sand, dust and other debris flying around. I think something got lodged in my eye and got infected.

This is the only time I wished I had a working cell phone. Originally, I was going to get a local SIM card, but after a couple weeks I realized that I really have no need for one. Besides, they are really expensive ($0.25 per minute). Anyways, I paid for some minutes on a neighbor’s phone and got in touch with Miss Linda, the school office manager, to find a doctor to go see on a Saturday. 45 minutes later I was at Dr. Lerida Rodriguez’s office south of San Pedro.

I was pretty impressed with her office. It is simple but well-equipped with two patient rooms and a small pharmacy. I think the back room was a baby delivery room. She checked my eye out for any more bits of dust and gave me two antibiotics, one in drop-form for my eye and the other an ointment for the lid and tear duct. In the end, my office visit and 2 prescriptions cost me $75. While this is a bargain on US standards, it’s still more than one week’s pay for most residents here. There is a free clinic (donation requested) but it’s only open on weekdays (8-4:30) and usually only has a limited availability of medications.

The rest of my weekend has been pretty dull. My swollen eye hurts and is making my right eye strain to focus, which has caused a persistent headache. I have to keep sunglasses on while I’m outside to keep more debris from getting in it. Also, I don’t really want to walk in any stores where I have to take my glasses off to reveal my ogre-looking eye, so I’ve been reading books and watching old James Bond movies.

At first, I was a little bummed out that I was going to miss all the hoopla of Halloween. Then it started to rain. When it rains here, it RAINS. It can downpour for hours. Locals call it Nortes, referring to the North-easterly winds that bring persistent rain and wind. Every time I woke up Saturday night it was raining. I’m curious to find out if people still went out to celebrate that night. If it rains in the morning, attendance plummets at the schools because the locals think that if they go to school in the rain, then it will make them sick. I wonder if that applies to parties and bars too.

Luckily the rain brought cool weather with it. Then, it’s at least tolerable to stay inside during the hottest parts of the day. The sea side of the island always has a nice breeze. Although Ambergris is only about 250 yards wide where I live, I don’t get any breeze off the water living on the lagoon side of the island.  During the middle part of the day, it gets so hot that I have to sit right in front of my fan to be remotely comfortable.  I’m writing this at 1pm in the afternoon and it’s quite pleasant lounging in my hammock with the fan on low. As a side note, I think my hammock was the best $35 I could have spent on this island. It beats sitting in a plastic patio chair all the time.

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