Paget’s Belize Journal #26

November 17: Night Noise, Settlement Day

I’ve had a restless enough go of it the last two nights that
I decided to complain a little. Although there are not enough
people here to make a truly difficult noise pollution situation,
it can be bad enough. The noise at night and early morning comes
from two sources – the “natural” and the man-made. Natural
is mostly dogs and roosters. Man-made is buses and trucks, drunks,
drums, and churchbells.

As I’ve mentioned before, most everyone keeps dogs as a security
measure, but not in the house. Although some of the dogs are
locked up in the yard or a pen during the day, they all appear
to run free at night. How they know which territory they’re guarding
I haven’t figured out. And how their owners know when to get
up and investigate is an even greater mystery. These dogs bark
ALL night long, in various combinations. There is never more
than 10 minutes or so when there isn’t barking. Sometimes they
get in fights and then some dog or three howls and whimpers for

There also is the whimpering puppy problem. None of these
dogs are fixed and so there are puppies around a lot. Although
now that I think about it, not as many as you might expect. Female
dogs are not considered to be very good watchdogs (can’t imagine
why), so probably they drown most of the female pups. Still there
are some because there are puppies.

The people who run the Chinese restaurant just down the street
have a new puppy that they keep on their balcony, quite likely
because they don’t want to listen to it all night (their living
quarters are air-conditioned and closed up.) It whines for hours.
Well, I think it’s the same puppy. Dog isn’t on the menu but
come to think of it, I haven’t heard it for a day or two. Let’s
hope it just got over being lonely.

Then, in addition to the barking, there are multiple roosters
crowing whenever the dogs wake them up (every 10 minutes or so
remember). These roosters don’t have a clue that they’re supposed
to greet the sun and in fact, by sunrise, only one rooster has
enough left in him to do a proper job. This rooster lives just
over the back fence from me. He is so excited to be up AND to
be the only rooster on the job that he crows every 8-10 seconds
for 20 minutes. I think he goes back to sleep then.

With any luck at all, I could get a little sleep then between
5:30 and 6:30, but the buses start at about 5:30. Oh, and they
ring the bell for 6 o’clock mass at 5:20 am. Why? To make sure
the choir is up? Just a few little ding-dongs, but the church
is only a block away. Then at 6:00 they ring it a lot. I’ve written
about the buses and truck before so I won’t belabor that one,
except to say that I’m not getting very used to it. Sharon sent
me some earplugs that help, but so far my ears get too sweaty
and itchy to wear them all night.

Actually, there’s usually only 6 o’clock mass two or three
times a week, but we’re having it every day because this is a
big celebration week. Settlement Day – commemorating the arrival
in Belize of a large group of Garifuna people after they were
kicked out of Honduras for being on the wrong side of a civil,
political dispute. The Garifuna (more properly, but not commonly,
called the Garinagu) are descended from two boatloads of shipwrecked
and marooned Nigerians who were to be sold into slavery, but
never actually were slaves, because they never got to the States.
They knocked around the Caribbean for two hundred years intermarrying
with the local Caribes before finally finding a place, Dangriga,
where they could settle and be left alone.

Anyway Settlement Day is a very big deal here, celebrated
by lots of drumming, dancing, singing, church-going and drinking.
There are apparently impromptu marches quite often. All it takes
is the flag (the Garifuna flag, not the Belizean flag), a drum
and someone willing to lead the singing. Then it takes off from
there. The one Monday night was about 75 people, three drums and
the flag bearer, four baby strollers and about 10 bikes. The marching
people are just joyful and noisy and don’t seem very drunk, but
later in the evening, there are a lot of very drunk people roaming
around and hollering at each other. Lots of belligerence and
use of the “f word” (which rhymes with “rock”
here), but no fights that I’ve seen. This goes on all night long
though. I’ve been told that most people plan to sleep in the
day and party all night for this week and I believe it.

Don’t they have jobs? you might ask. Well, actually no. Contrary
to my first impression, the Garifuna do not work in the citrus
orchards. This work is considered beneath them, so that’s what
all the Guatemalan and Mexicans are doing here. Therese told
me that when her father (maybe grandfather) first planted a lot
of citrus, the Garifuna wrote a song about how if he wanted them
to pick his citrus, he’d better plant it in their back yards.
Many of them fish and farm, so for this week, they just let things
slide. And, unfortunately, too many of them just live off what
relatives in the States send.

So, by next week things should be back to normal and the man-made
noise should revert back to mostly buses and the occasional
drunk. Tony and Therese have a big job in Placencia this weekend
so I’m going with them. I will likely be helping to write up
the web site text so it always helps if I can see things first.
This is a destination guide, not a site for a specific property,
so we get to do everything we can squeeze into three days. Should
be fun. I decided I won’t miss the big night too much and as
Victor (Laura the wine lady’s gentleman friend) said, they will
do the same thing next year. Interesting how everyone assumes
I’ll be back. They’re probably right.