Belize, central America. A little girl called Adele.
“Travels with a Biro”
This is Adele. She is now almost four years old. She lives with her aunt and six other family members (apart from the aunt’s current boyfriend) in a shack next-door-but-one to our house in Belize. She is Garifuna (as opposed to Creole). She is holding a little doll I bought her.
Adele is one of nine children, all by different fathers. Her mother died of AIDS when Adele was seven months old and she, with one of her sisters, has since been raised by the aunt. The other children were farmed out to various relatives.
The shack in which they live is about 30 square meters in total, divided up in to two bedrooms and a living room. Small. It is built totally of planks and cardboard, with a corrugated iron roof. Every now and then extra planks and sheets of cardboard get nailed on, or extra bits of corrugated iron.
Outside there is a WC over a septic tank and a cold tap (the local authorities provided these for almost all inhabitants about ten years ago). Furniture inside the shack consists of an extraordinary old sofa with layers of sponge spewing out in all directions, several home-made shelves and seats, a total of three mattresses on the floor, a gas stove and a fridge. Everything is unbelievably dirty.
The house stands in about 200 square metres of sand. At the solitary window hang a pair of home-made bright pink and yellow curtains made from fabric I bought in Mexico and given to the aunt at Christmas. When we are there they put their rubbish (garbage they call it) in our own bins so that it gets taken away, but when we are not there the rubbish lies strewn about the dirt road. At the end of the road lies the Caribbean Sea.
Neither you nor I could hope to cope in these conditions, but I would never say that Adele and her family are unhappy. Quite the opposite, I think they are wholesome and cheerful people, as are the majority of folk in Hopkins, Belize. There is a great deal of shouting – indeed, the sound of cockerels, parrots in the tree right by our bedroom window and the aunt shouting – are what wake us every morning. There is frequent drunkenness (the scourge of so many people like this, all over the world, and coming hot on the heels of malnutrition, disease and AIDS), loud music and – when the aunt is not shouting, excruciatingly raucous laughter.
Belize, in direct cooperation with the British system (it used to be British Honduras) has a National Health Service and largely free education. It is a poor country and needs acres of improvement in both systems, but it is getting there. Diabetes is a problem in the country because of diet – but this is a choice: a good diet is there to be had, it is just a question of education. Other diseases were largely eradicated during British management.
I will keep an eye on Adele. I fear that she will in due course, as silly girls do, meet some man and find herself pregnant. And thus the circle will go round and round for her and her like. I wish I could educate Adele myself. Because that is the problem, the only problem. Grubby little poppet, I can see her already sliding the wrong way ….
Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. She is widely travelled and writes regularly for magazines and blog sites. Her sketches are on her web site http://turquoisemoon.co.uk . Her books are available from Amazon and on Kindle, or can be ordered from several leading book stores.
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Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. Her books are available as e-books on this site:-
https://payhip.com/b/tEva “A Call from France”
https://payhip.com/b/OTiQ “French Sand”
https://payhip.com/b/BLkF ”The Man with Green Fingers”
https://payhip.com/b/1Ghq “Saying Nothing”
They are also available on Amazon & Kindle, or can be ordered as paperbacks from most leading book stores and libraries.