Final thoughts on Belize

Feb. 20th, 2019 08:37 am
chickenfeet: (Default)
[personal profile] chickenfeet
I guess it's really great, if expensive, if you are the kind of person who likes swanky resorts and canned day trips to do things like tubing and zip-lining. If you are more into cultural tourism and the odd day at the beach I think there are better, cheaper, alternatives. Yucatan, for instance, would offer as much in the way of beaches and Mayan ruins but be much cheaper and just as easy to get to. That might be even more true of southern Guatemala though that might involve roughing it a bit more.

If I did Belize again I'd probably stick in one centre; either San Ignacio or Belmopan, and do day trips. I'd probably use the local buses more to keep down costs. The buses are a bittricky as, unsurprisingly, they are set up to serve the locals rather than tourists but Belmopan seems like a reasonable "hub" for most of the country. It is, after all, the capital.

The only other more or less adventurous destinations I've been to are Peru and Thailand. I think I'd go back to either before I went to Belize again. Both have more to offer in the way of attractions and are much cheaper, despite it being a more expensive flight.
sabotabby: (lolmarx)
[personal profile] sabotabby
 So for those of you who don't follow Canadian politics, there's a convoy of pro-pipeline yellow-vest (it means something different in North America—the fascists have adopted it) demonstrators that was headed to Ottawa. They present themselves as a grassroots protest movement but they're astroturf and supported by the likes of Faith Goldy and Maxime Bernier.

Anyway, they apparently are now stranded in Ottawa because the organizer took off with the gas money.

You can't make this shit up. 

Sent

Feb. 20th, 2019 09:21 am
rydra_wong: Fragment of a Tube map, with stations renamed Piero della Francesca, Harpo, Socrates and Seneca. (walking -- the great bear)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
To: privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk , public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Dear Home Secretary,

Apparently you have decided that the British citizenship of a young woman born in Bethnal Green -- and that of her week-old child -- can be revoked because the fact that her parents are of Bangladeshi heritage means she could theoretically apply for citizenship in Bangladesh, a country she has never been to.

Whether one regards Shamima Begum as a groomed child, a criminal, or both, it is profoundly abhorrent to adopt a policy wherein people with immigrant parents have a literal second-class citizenship, which can be revoked where that of others can't.

I have enough Jewish ancestry that I could apply to emigrate to Israel, if I had any desire to do so. Does that mean my British citizenship can be revoked?

yours sincerely,

[name]
[address]

Context.

In Hopkins

Feb. 19th, 2019 04:15 pm
chickenfeet: (Default)
[personal profile] chickenfeet
We spent our first full day in Hopkins futzing around trying to figure the place out. Basically, beach aside there isn't anything much so we decided to splash out on a day snorkelling and fishing.

So next day we went out with a boat and crew to do just that. We snorkelled on the reef at Bread and Butter Caye; about 25 minutes by boat from Hopkins. It's pretty spectacular. now that the Ozzies have trashed their reef this may be just about the best one around. Then we went fishing. We tried bottom fishing (leger rig) in a couple of spots and caught a fair few snapper, porgy grunt etc. Then we did some trolling and I caught a barracuda; definitely the best catch of the day. We had lunch at the caye; snapper and barracuda fried up with tomatoes and spices and served with coconut rice. Very nice!

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When we got back Mel invited to join a cultural/educational event the next day. After learning some Garifuna history we got to cook the Garifuna signature dish, hudut, from scratch. First step was husking, cracking and grating coconut to make coconut milk. The milk was cooked with herbs from the property and salted fish head/bones to make a broth. Then we made a plantain paste. Unripe and ripe plantains are boiled then the unrip ones are pounded in a pestle and mortar. This has to be done until they take on the consistency of a sticky dough. Then the ripe plantains are incorporated in the mix. The fillets of the fish were highly seasoned and deep fried. One gets a bowl of broth and a second bowl of plantain paste. One takes some fish and plantain between ones fingers, dips it in the broth and eats. It's good but one of those dishes that isn't really worth the prep time/effort. It would be a bit like making one's own haggis from scratch. As far as I can see most Garifuna food is like that. The process for making cassava bread (a bit like dessicated cardboard) is similarly involved. No wonder it keeps for ten years. Nobody will eat it!

Later we headed into Hopkins to check in for our flight out and to eat some very good pizza and fish and chips at the Driftwood Bar. This turned out to be pointless as Belize airport won't accept electronic boarding passes and we had to check in manually anyway.


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rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
*points*

[personal profile] sciatrix: Biology friending meme?

It occurs to me that I have an awful lot of subscribers and friends who have varying interests and expertises in biology, psychology, and all sorts of related topics and ideas. 'Related' being read broadly here--if it touches on natural or social sciences and you want to share, please do.

To the coast

Feb. 19th, 2019 09:31 am
chickenfeet: (Default)
[personal profile] chickenfeet
After ATM we decided it made sense to head for the beach. On balance I'm not sure that this was a smart move as I definitely prefer San Ignacio to the coast but the lure of swimming in the Caribbean was too strong. We had trouble finding available, affordable accommodation and ended up at the Palmento Cultural Centre. This was certainly interesting but not the most comfortable of choices. It's located at the north end of Hopkins just across the river. It's off grid. Electricity (generator) is only available a few hours a day and the well water is sulphur laden. Also the variable water pressure makes getting a shower pretty hit and miss. Still the cabin was comfortable and Mel, who owns the place, is lovely. It's a longish walk into the village but that's the least of it. getting across the river involves kayaking. We got the hang of this soon enough but not before the lemur had managed to capsize the boat in the dark dumping me in the river. Fortunately we didn't see any crocodiles.

Hopkins is a Garifuna village though it's now increasingly taken over by resorts and businesses catering to tourists. It has a lovely beach but facilities are basic. There are plenty of restaurants and bars including Tina's which is pretty good for local specialties. The Chinese run supermarkets are pretty basic. There's one ATM which has lovely air conditioning and fine mahogany panelling but doesn't actually seem to dispense cash. It's here that you realise there are no cheap options on the coast (which is where most tourists go). Accommodation and food is much more expensive than in San Ignacio and doing anything costs wads of cash. Still, ocean.


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Breakfast at Tina's; fry jack with stew beans, salsa and fried fish.  Totally delicious but, oddly, fish is the most expensive choice.  It always is for some reason in Belize (ok specialties like lobster, conch and game meats are more expensive but fish costs more than chicken, pork or beef... even on the coast)

Actun Tunichil Muknal

Feb. 19th, 2019 09:20 am
chickenfeet: (death)
[personal profile] chickenfeet
Actun Tunichil Muknal may have been the highlight of the trip.  It's a cave system that was used for various Maya ritual activities.  Admission is restricted to guided parties but I'd say it's still too busy and there has been some damage to the site as a result.  Guiding licences are now grandfathered in an attempt to slowly run down the number of visitors.

It's quite an excursion as the approach hike involves crossing the river three times including at one place where swimming is required.  Inside the cave both climbing and swimming are required.  It's not too hard but definitely not wheelchair accessible!  We were the first party in that day and there was just myself, the lemur and our excellent guide, Braynard (most parties are much bigger). We had about an hour at the business end of the cave before the large groups started arriving.  I think that made all the difference because it's a weird and eerie place.  There are interesting rock formations but the main interest is a whole series of calcified remains of various ritual offerings including human sacrifices; some of which must have been pretty brutal judging by the state of the remains.

The generally accepted view is that the cave came into use as a ritual site as the rains began to fail at the end of the "Classic" period.  The cave was seen as a gateway to the parallel underworld where the gods lived and so an attempt to summon the rain god back to the upper world.

No photographs as photography is forbidden.  If you ever go to Belize I'd say this is the one "must" provided you are up for the physical aspects.

A lazy day in San Ignacio

Feb. 19th, 2019 09:13 am
chickenfeet: (Default)
[personal profile] chickenfeet
Needing a break after the exertions of Tikal we took a "lazy day" in San Ignacio. We spent the morning at the Iguana sanctuary and rum tasting. Iguanas are cute and Belizean rum is pretty good. I'd go with the Travellers Five Barrel for optimum value though the higher end stuff is interesting. Lunch was at a local restaurant noted for local specialties. I had fried fish with a tamale like object made from grated green bananas and a creole sauce. This was where we discovered that "fried fish" in Belize usually means a whole fish semi-deep fried. Very tasty but lots of bones! The lemur had a lobster curry.

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Tikal

Feb. 19th, 2019 07:39 am
chickenfeet: (bull)
[personal profile] chickenfeet
 Sunday we went to Tikal.  This is a massively important Mayan site over the border in Guatemala.  The arrangements included being driven to the border and shepherded through immigration to meet a guide on the Guatemalan side.  There's a border dispute between Belize and Guatemala so there's about 200m of no man's land (overseen by the OAS) between the border posts.  It was all a bit weird and reminiscent of Checkpoint Charlie.

Tikal is amazing.  It's not even been completely excavated but there are five major step pyramids plus seven pairs of minor ones, an astronomical observatory, a living complex for the elite, a necropolis, several ball courts and more.  The lesser structures occupied by the middle classes have not even been excavated,  The scale can only really be understood from the top of one of the pyramids or the observatory.  It's huge and most of it is still buried in the jungle.  The population may have been as high as 200,000 at its peak.

Seeing it involves a lot of walking and even more step climbing.  Expect very sore muscles unless you are super fit.  "Experts" suggest one needs three days to fully explore the site but one can see a lot in a packed half day.  Of course it's only one of many major Mayan sites (albeit a very important one) that's been discovered.  Corocal and Chichen Itza are on a similar scale and nobody really knows what may be hidden in the jungles of southern Belize or the more remote parts of the Guatemalan highlands.

And there were coatis; Central America's trash pandas.

Our tour deal included a meal on the way back.  Definitely gringo food!  The tamales we had for breakfast were much better.

Click link for photos.

www.flickr.com/photos/chickenfeet1/sets/72157706795936345

Days 1 and 2 in Belize

Feb. 19th, 2019 07:15 am
chickenfeet: (Default)
[personal profile] chickenfeet
 I think our plane arrived just after about five others.  The line up for immigration was out of the terminal building onto the tarmac and it was hot.  It took maybe an hour to clear immigration.  Our prearranged driver was there and took us to the zoo on the way to San Ignacio.  It;s a great little zoo with many kinds of wild cat; puma, jaguar and smaller ones, plus coatis, crocodiles, monkeys and more.  We had our first meal of rice and beans with chicken; the Kriol staple dish.

Untitled

Our hotel was pleasant.  It was about 15 minutes walk from the town centre (San Ignacio is the district capital and the second largest town in Belize).  It was clean, had AC, the plumbing worked and there was wi-fi.  And dogs.  And a cat.  We checked out the town centre and bought tacos from a street stall.  Street food is cheap in Belize.  It's about the only cheap way to eat.  The town itself is neat and tidy for the most part with a bunch of Chinese owned stores and plenty of restaurants and bars.  There's a sort of mini "Khao San Road" with hostels and tour oprators and bars and stuff but it's pretty low key.  Bought some of the local (Belikin) beers.  The stout is much better than the the "beer" and the lager is best not mentioned.

The next day was Saturday, market day, so we headed in to town for breakfast.  The market has a bit of everything; clothing, electrical goods, produce, prepared food etc.  We had a pleasant breakfast of tamales and pupusas.  I learned a few things at this point.  Everything tortilla based is made straight from dough spread on the comale.  No tortilla presses here and anyway the dough is much too sticky.  One is expected to pimp up the food with pickled cabbage and hot sauce.  Things like tacos and burritos are kind of skinny by TexMex standards so this really is necessary.  The food stands are all run by women from the countryside (probably Mayan) who don't speak any English.  Their kids do though and each stand has a bright eyed kid who deals with the gringos and tots up the bill.

We spent most of the morning at the local Mayan site of Cahal Pech.  This isn't one of the great city sites.  Likely it was the centre of power for a minor local ruler/landowner so sort of the equivalent of a castle in medieval England.  It's not a fortified site though.  There are a couple of step pyramid temples, living quarters and a ball court.  It's a good way to get a sense of the componentry of Mayan architecture.  Obligatory Cancon; part of the excavation was done by Trent University.Untitled

Lunch was back at the market.  The lemur had a quesadilla while I tried the caldo; a veggie filled broth with some beef in it.  I chickened out of the calf's foot version.  Pimped up with hot sauce and orange juice it was pretty good.  We pretty much slothed the rest of the day!

Back from Belize

Feb. 19th, 2019 06:59 am
chickenfeet: (Default)
[personal profile] chickenfeet
 Just back from ten days in Belize.  I'll write up the details of the trip in a series of posts but first overall impressions.  Belize is an odd country in many ways.  It's very small.  One can drive across it in a few hours and the population is only just over 300,000.  For such a small place it's incredibly diverse.  There are seven languages spoken; English, Spanish, Kriol, Garifuna and three different Mayan dialects.  Maybe one should add Plattdeutsch as there are a non trivial number of Mennonites and at least one Chinese dialect as the retail sector is entirely Chinese dominated.  It now has a pretty decent universal education system so all the kids and young people speak English but that's by no means true of their parents.  Everybody seems to get on though and racism didn't appear to be a problem.  At least that's how it looks to an outsider.

It wears its history as a former British colony lightly.  It's the only former British colony in the region where they don't play cricket!  The police wear fatigues and carry automatic weapons.  In some ways it feels very central American but at least there have been no massacres of native people in modern times unlike neighbouring Guatemala and Mexico.  That said, there are no specific rights enshrined in law for indigenous land rights or languages.

It's an interesting place to vacation.  The country is definitely set up for tourism.  They have made smart decisions to prioritise environmental and cultural protection over exploitative industries which means that there are lots of well preserved archaeological sites, jungle preserves etc.  They pay for this by making tourists pay for it.  Fair enough but it makes it an expensive vacation destination.  It's possible to cut corners but, in general, one is spending a closer to first world rates than one would in, say, Mexico or Thailand.

There are Mayan remains everywhere.  It's estimated that the population of what is now Belize was three to six times what it is today at the peak of the Mayan era.  The jungle reclaimed everything and only a minute fraction has been excavated or even mapped.
rydra_wong: stick figure on an indoor climbing wall -- base image taken from the webcomic xkcd (climbing -- xkcd)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
This is utterly wonderful:



Including: Mission Impossible, Point Break, Star Trek V, Vertical Limit and Cliffhanger.

He's having SO MUCH FUN: "Oh, this is one of the worst scenes in all of Hollywood climbing. Let's turn the volume up."

And incidentally providing very good explanations of various climbing techniques, and what's realistic and what's hilariously absurd if you're an actual climber.

(Content note: contains "spastically" used in a kind of derogatory way but when describing spasming movement, which is ... not entirely inaccurate? Anyway.)

Cross-posting to [community profile] disobey_gravity.
sabotabby: (teacher lady)
[personal profile] sabotabby
 Remember when Drug Fraud chops the education budget and fires teachers that there was enough money around for him to hire one of his friends, a failed Conservative candidate, at $140,000 year to chair a completely useless organization—a job that was previously done on a part time basis for about $5000 a year. Let's hear it for the job creators!

(Caveat: Link goes to a partisan website; nonetheless, it's easily fact-checked.)

Remember when they talk about everyone making sacrifices and tightening their belts, they are not talking about themselves or anyone in their tax bracket.

(no subject)

Feb. 18th, 2019 12:53 pm
ironed_orchid: comic of monster saying "i don't want to be just friends, I want to eat you" (don't want to be 'just friends')
[personal profile] ironed_orchid
I finally got around to watching Killing Eve last night and I accidentally the whole thing.

Was reminded to do so by this multifandom femslash vid by [personal profile] aurumcalendula.
rydra_wong: Angelica Lind stretches for a hold during a bouldering competition (climbing -- reach)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
From Free Solo, here's Alex Honnold explaining the Boulder Problem, the crux of the route he's planning to solo, which occurs about two-thirds of the way up a three-thousand-foot wall:

UK people: mark your calendars

Feb. 17th, 2019 08:44 am
rydra_wong: The BBC's error 500 page, showing the test card clown surrounded by flames. (error fire clown)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
23rd March -- People's Vote march

They've not yet finished their accessibility guide but there's going to be a short route option:

https://www.peoples-vote.uk/march_accessibility

And they need volunteers, if anyone wants to be a marshal.

There might even be a plan:

The Guardian: Remainers plan mass march and key vote in last days before Brexit: Cross-party alliance aims to build pressure on MPs in the run-up to 29 March

Anyway, whether this is a turning point or the last stand before the zombie apocalypse dystopia: time to work on our placards.
sabotabby: picture of M'Baku from Black Panther, "Just kidding, we're vegetarians." (m'baku)
[personal profile] sabotabby
Miss Lynx is having a princess party because we're grownups and we can do things like that now, so I baked a ridonkulous cake. I want to post it to FB but I don't want her to see it yet, and while she has a DW, she never checks it, so I think I am safe posting it here.

It is not as structurally sound as I want it to be, on account of I thought I would use good jam that was tasty, rather than cheap-ass jam, but it turns out the cheap jam does a much better job of holding cake together. Oh well. Fondant covers a multitude of sins. I'd like to get a bit faster with sculpting so that I can get a better face without worrying that it will dry out, but not bad for a first attempt at a person-cake?

oh and if you are misslynx, don't click this yet )

The heroes we need

Feb. 15th, 2019 11:33 am
rydra_wong: The BBC's error 500 page, showing the test card clown surrounded by flames. (error fire clown)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
Led By Donkeys are releasing all their artwork for people to do with what they will -- put it on t-shirts, do some guerilla postering, make beer mats and furtively leave them in Wetherspoons -- so if you'd like to help publicize these notable Tweets and public statements by Brexiteers which they'd rather people weren't reminded of, you can:

https://twitter.com/ByDonkeys/status/1094509748836331520

They've now put up over 150 billboards and have a new stretch goal so people can keep giving them money:

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/by-donkeys

how did I miss this

Feb. 15th, 2019 10:47 am
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
So that icon meme, where I was trying to explain my default icon --

So it's a staged photo, probably using professional fashion models but in the setting of a real air raid shelter and real fire masks (and everyone in London was living in the context of the Blitz at that point), and I think it derives some of its zing from that. Whether you know the women are models or not, they're stylish, casual, a little jaunty; the woman on the right is dangling the whistle thoughtfully from one manicured hand. With those uncanny masks obscuring their faces. I love it so much.

THE BLITZ, BUT MAKE IT FASHION.

US people

Feb. 14th, 2019 09:47 am
rydra_wong: A woman boulderer lunges up towards the camera for a hold. (climbing -- puccio!!!)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
Apparently Free Solo is now available on iTunes in the US. I'd rec seeing it in a cinema if you can, but obviously that's not possible or ideal for everyone, so now you have another option!

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