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What’s New with Lyn Hancock?

December 2016,  After what happened to me on my first day in Belize (see my recent blog BETWEEN TWO BULLETS IN BELIZE) I am now safe at my computer in Sarteneja, a remote Mayan-Mestizo village on the Caribbean Sea close to Mexico. I live in a simple, humble, ‘home-made’ but strikingly coloured turquoise house, a construction project which is a story in itself. It shows what can be done with little money, scarcely any tools other than a hammer and a machete, and a lot of ingenuity and improvisation.

My humble but still colourful abode in Sarteneja

Even getting to Sarteneja is an adventure. Here I am winching one of two ferries that cross rivers between Corozal on the inland highway to the seaside village of Sarteneja

one of the two little hand-winched ferries on the rivers between Corozal and Sarteneja

Entrance to Sartenaja

Chuy the artist and me at his workshop and gallery. I am holding the giant welcome card Chuy made for me to welcome Isaac, a young man I have been helping to support during his teenage years, I regard him as the son I never had during my marriages. This is the first Christmas together.

My chief joy is the wall-size mural you see as you step inside the front door, a stunning sea and landscape created in three days by local artist, Chuy, his wife and small son while I sat at the kitchen table and took notes. Chuy paintings brighten this colourful town – the Welcome sign at the entrance to the village at the end of the long dusty bumpy marl road that meets the ‘highway’, the Welcome sign on the seafront that adorns the town toilets, and of course his paintings for sale on the walls of his workshop and art gallery. Other artists have painted the concrete benches that line the palm-girt shores of this unique little village with scenes of local attractions, sailboats, wide wooden dinghies, lobsters, conch,  manatees, fish.

You never have to leave your house to enjoy life in this Belize village. I leave the door wide open and visitors pop in to chat, see how I am, see Chuy’s mural, or sell their fish, conch or baking

Lyn at the Merry Christmas sign on seafront

Bench with artist’s rendition of a typical Sarteneja wooden boat

Bench with lobster and underwater life, typical trademarks of Sarteneja

Even the public toilets are pretty in Sarteneja, thanks to Chuy

No busy resort hotels and lines of military-style deckchairs and umbrellas here like the rest of the Caribbean, just a few wooden piers that stretch out like spokes from shore to get you to deeper water for a swim or watch the sunset. Except for the two and three-storey palatial concrete homes of the few foreigners who have discovered this secret destination, the rest of the people live in small bungalows of wood or stone with roofs of tin,wood, brick, even thatch. There’s no shopping centre, most shops are extensions of people’s private homes or verandas and tend to sell a bit of everything, especially candy and soft drinks. There’s little variety in the fruits, vegetables and fresh meat that I crave for my meals that differ vastly from my neighbours’ reliance on rice and beans, tacos and tortillas. Potatoes, bulky carrots, wrinkled green peppers and massive cabbages are the staple vegetables and few villagers grow their own. Instead, the Mennonites from the nearby community of Belize bring them their vegetables.

This Mennonite family (Mum was shopping) was kind enough to let me take their picture. I have never imposed before in my 10 years of visiting Belize. Do not copy, please respect their way of life. In our busy modern world it is a pleasure to find families still living the simple traditional life.

The junk man still rides around in a horse and cart

Sheep share the road with bikes on the main street of Sarteneja.

(One of the fascinating aspects of life in Belize is its multitude of different cultures, English, Spanish, Creole, Mestizo, Black…and the Mennonites (originating from Canada) who are the most conspicuous in their appearance and lifestyle. Tall, lanky blonde, clean-shaven men in overalls and braces, plump women covered from neck to ankle in Victorian-type dresses, their children identical but younger versions of their parents. All wear Panama straw hats. The Mennonites of Little Belize drive, not cars and trucks, but horse and carts.

So I go from door to door to get my groceries, or else buy them right at my own front door from kids and their mothers toting their baking  by bike. Banana bread, carrot cake, coconut sweets, two huge snapper, a pound of pork (slaughtered on the street the day before) and best of all, tamales (chicken wrapped in plantain leaves). Most people ride bikes despite the lumpy limestone roads. There are no lights or stop signs. This is welcome after the impossibly chaotic, death dealing traffic of Alexandria and Cairo I had experienced in Egypt a month earlier.

My Belizean friend Essau, who is a self taught agronomist is experimenting with Mayan methods of growing vegetables in the forest – watermelons, corn, pineapples, plantain, beans. He cleared an acre of jungle almost singlehanded with a machete. He is also a traditional Mayan healer who whenever you have ailments like I have had several times in my first month in Belize he knows exactly which herb he finds in the jungle to  cure you. Amazing!

I have spent a few days in a cleared acre of the jungle a three-mile bike ride from Sarteneja, planting watermelon seeds and hoeing the young plants that have grown quickly just a week later.

In Belize I am escaping the unusually frigid temperatures and abundant snow of British Columbia’s Wild West Coast and continuing to write my current work-in-progress, a book on my travels in Africa from 1960 to 2016, a formidable time span covering my adventures (and misadventures) in 22 countries beginning with apartheid in South Africa and ending with apartheid in Palestine. Many and varied have been my methods of travel – from hitchhiking and overland truck camping trips to sailing on feluccas and cruise ships.

I will try to whet your appetite for the finished book by publishing some of my memories in this blog on my website so stay tuned. I must finish my manuscript in 2017, for me THE YEAR OF THE BOOK.

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Earlier

I first travelled to Africa in 1960 when she jumped ship in Cape Town en route to London and hitchhiked instead. Between 2011 and 2016 she has returned to Africa several times. In 2013 Lyn was travelling in Africa from South Africa to Namibia to Botswana (eventually Egypt, Israel and Jordan).

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The Ring

Here is the most current interview from Lyn’s past book tour. Lyn  latest book The Ring: Memories of a Metis Grandmother in Edmonton where co-author Marion Dowler lived. Lyn did an interview on CTV Noon News before her presentation at Audrey’s Books. Click here to watch!

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