I roll into town on familiar roads with familiar potholes, drive the circle around the dramatically beautiful Drums of Our Father’s monument, and find my way to the seaside building of the District Education Department. The less than friendly treatment from the lady on duty – who believes she is doing me a favor by taking my paperwork to be forwarded to the Ministry of Education – does not break my spirit. It is a beautiful, sunny day, and Christmas is only a week away. I leave my original documents (which took me 6 months and two folders full of paperwork, permits and references to receive) in her “capable” hands, and head for my next stop, the Department of Transport, to renew my license plate.
I navigate through the crowded main drag of the city, and cannot wait to get out of the car. At Transport, adjacent to the bus station, jovial Officer Thompson greets me like old acquaintance; this is the third time we meet. He is in a talkative, happy mood, and cracks jokes while filling out my papers. Oh, the blessed holiday spirit!
I leave the car behind and walk back towards lazy Stann Creek (Creole for “Standing Creek”) in the heart of town. The district was named after this slow-flowing river.
The streets are bustling with activity. Vendors frame the main street with colorful goods on display in open-air stands; food is prepared and sold from residential porches and bicycle bins; cars meander among people and street dogs. Mattresses, motorcycles, clothes, household items, jungle herbs and spices share curbside space. Old ladies in wide-brimmed hats and frilly umbrellas sit and chat under the shade of bougainvillea blossoms. The energy is intensified by the sun and heat, and the overlapping, loud music that streams from the stores.
I walk across the narrow bridge to the north bank of Stann Creek, and reach the fragrant vegetable and fruit stands of the Central Market.
This is the Dangriga I’ve been looking for!
I’d like to linger, but I still have some Xmas shopping to do. On my way out of town, I stop by two supermarkets and find everything I need, including sourkraut for my annual Hungarian stuffed cabbage.
With a bottle of ice cold Caribbean Pride tropical fruit juice, I get on the road. The hour-twenty-minute-drive back to Maya Beach gives me plenty of time to think.
What made a difference today? Is it the weather? The holidays? Have I changed?
Weather conditions never made a big difference in my perspective. Many times I felt that adverse weather enhance my experience of adventure. I am away from my family in a tropical country, so the spirit of Xmas is not particularly pronounced in my life right now.
I am mulling over these questions as I drive. Traffic is sparse; the view is breathtaking. The backdrop of the distant, jungle-covered Maya Mountains enhance the bright green banana leaves of miles of plantations along the road. Blue sacks protect the fruit branches from insects. A run-down pick-up truck is in front of me, moving slowly, overloaded with fresh pineapples. Soon I hit a bad curve with bulging and heaping surface, but I know this section of the road; travelled it many times, so it does not phase me. I drive through the small settlement of Maya Center, and slow down as Grandma crosses the road with three barefooted kids. I love this road.
I think it is me who’ve changed. Inadvertently and naturally… It is one thing to yearn for a simple life, it’s another to learn how to appreciate it. The grouchy days, weeks, or months of culture shock are over.
I am adapting!
Let’s face it: It took me 5 months to shake hands with Dangriga. I still have a hard time seeing the town as a honeymoon destination, and I’ve never found the Gulisi Garifuna Museum, but I feel honored to receive and accept Dangriga’s “Mabuiga”.
Seremei (Thank you), Lady Dangriga!
December 17, 2015
Mabuiga: “Hello, Welcome”
Seremei: “Thank you”