Paget’s Belize Journal #21

October 19: Hopkins Village Part II

There are a few more things I want to relate about my visit
to Hopkins before I forget. Hopkins is primarily a fishing village,
the fishing boats (really slightly enlarged rowboats in a variety
of colors – mostly blues) are just pulled up onto the beach.
“Our” boat, that is the one that is beached right in
front of the Tipple Tree, is jointly owned by two older men,
probably in their 70s. They go out very early in the morning,
about 4:00 am when I was there. Debbie says that sometimes they
stay out for days, living and sleeping on this small boat. I
think this must be an exaggeration, because surely the fish you
catch the first day aren’t much good by the third or fourth day even
if you have them in a cooler, right?

Well anyway, this day they came back around 4:00 pm with
a boatload of fish and immediately drew a crowd. They were cleaning
and selling fish, we could see, sometimes just a few, or a fish
steak or two, sometimes a whole gunnysack full. But there were
many more children staring into the boat than seemed reasonable
for what must be a common occurrence in the village. Eventually
we strolled down to see what was up. The two fishermen had lots
of snapper of various kinds, and a few large barracuda and some
other fish I have no idea what they are – all of them caught on
a handline, no mean feat with a barracuda.

But the star of the
show was a 6 foot, black-tip shark, also caught on the handline.
I can’t imagine their being willing to haul that thing into the
boat. Sharks are reputed to be hard to kill and even harder to
dress out. And I believe it. Some very tough and experienced
old fishermen. And someone explained to us that shark was excellent
eating and the shark oil was used in many natural remedies and
would bring the fishermen a very good price. I was just as glad
I wasn’t around for the rendering process.

The night before there had been bonfires all up and down the
beach. When I asked if this was usual, Debbie said, no, but since
there is no trash service in the village and since all the houses
are made of untreated wood, everyone waits for a very still night
to burn trash. And of course they all do it at one time. I didn’t
mind, though, it kept the sand flies away for a while. I got
really chewed to pieces in Hopkins and am still feeling the effects.
Yesterday, though, Laura (the Dangriga wine maker, retired Canadian
teacher) gave me a dose of antihistamine for the itching and
so I would sleep and I feel much better today. I also learned
that DEET has absolutely no deterrent effect on sand flies (although
it will soften fingernail polish nicely), but if you coat yourself
in oil (mineral oil, baby oil, cooking oil, whatever), it’s supposed
to keep them from biting and also clog them up and kill them
somehow, by drowning I think. Haven’t tried it, could be hard
on the sheets.

My other Hopkins fishing story is this. I saw lots of pelicans
fishing and frigate birds. It’s interesting because you can tell
where the schools of fish are by watching the birds. And some
of the dogs can too. As soon as he saw several catches by the
pelicans, the neighbor dog swam out into the shallows, paddling
around in circles, peering intently into the water. Then, CHOMP,
grab a fish, swim like hell for the shore and toss it down so
you can eat it at leisure. Probably why the dogs survive and
the cats don’t. A cat can’t learn to fish like that.

Things are improving on the home front, besides the bed I
now have a water cooler and a stove. Hooking up the stove was
a project. This is Therese’s old stove. She got a new one when
they moved into their new house. The fact that I could use the
old one was just enough of an excuse, I think. When she first
offered, I said I couldn’t use it because there was no gas in
my apartment. But of course, you just hook a tank of gas to it
with a copper tube and some fittings and that white joint tape.
Very nice addition to the kitchen decor. At least the tank is
white. Kurt the young (19) programmer here at Naturalight hooked
it up for me, but I have to admit I haven’t used it yet. It smells
just the tiniest bit “gassy” and I’m waiting until
the (properly mature and experienced) neighborhood handyman comes
back from his trip to the States to check it out.

And I have a visitor from the States coming this weekend (a
friend, I mean, one of you, a recipient of this newsletter),
so there may not be any new messages for a while. But I’m excited
and we’re sure to have more adventures to report. Two can be
much braver than one.