Lebanon Reporter

Columns

November 28, 2012

Chubby old Gringa in sunny Belize

As I write this article, I am privileged to be sitting in sunny Belize. The warmth is a welcome reprieve from the cold Indiana temperatures of the past few weeks.

Admittedly, the Belizeans feel as though they are the ones freezing right now as the temperature here is “only” in the 70s. It is amusing to see them bundled in sweatpants, coats, and even boots. As we disembarked from the plane on Sunday morning, a security guard apologized for the “cold front” that is sweeping through the tiny country. It was 66 degrees, and I was itching to get to the hotel and change into shorts and flip-flops. This is definitely my kind of cold front.

During the one-hour drive to the Bullfrog Inn, hubby and I tried to figure out how much time we have spent in Belize over the past six years. His work takes us many places, and I think he’s been here for a total of 45 weeks. The kids and I have been with him for over half of that time, so we’ve made a few friends and developed some relationships.

Last evening, our jungle-living friends invited us for dinner. Emilia is an amazing cook, and we are always excited to be introduced to new foods. This particular meal included homemade sausages and some sort of flower that was surprisingly meaty. She rounded out the meal with rice, a chicken and cilantro salad, hand-made tamales, and a delicious bread pudding.

We practice our Spanish, and they practice English, while their bilingual children interpret anything that isn’t understood. They told me that when hubby last visited, he showed them our wedding pictures. “We just celebrated our 21st anniversary!” I said.

Emilia responded with some Spanish words I didn’t understand, so her daughter translated, “I can’t believe it has been 21 years because you look just the same. Only now you are chubby.”

Ah, yes. It was the Spanish word for chubby that threw me off. I wasn’t familiar with that one.

I have become familiar with another word though, and my 6-year-old daughter learned it this week. We were taking a walk, soaking up every ounce of sunshine that we can possibly absorb before heading back to winter. Daughter called out to two young girls across the street.

“Hello!” they replied, waving enthusiastically.

They continued to call back and forth to one another, and then as they got further away one of them shouted cheerily, “Good-bye, gringa!”

Daughter gave me a perplexed look. “Why did she call me that? That’s not my name.”

I hesitated for a moment. One of the advantages of traveling around the world, and frequently hosting international guests in our home, is that my children truly do not see skin color. I gently explained that the girl called her “gringa” because her skin is white.

She looked down at her arm. “Huh?” She couldn’t quite grasp the concept.

I continued, “You know how most of the people here look tan? But our skin is very white. She was just calling you that because your skin is white instead of brown.”

“That’s kind of weird,” daughter said as she mulled this tid-bit over in her mind.

I agreed.

We stopped for lunch and then continued our adventure in a local nature park. The kids were having a great time exploring along the jungle path, and we totally lost track of time. A concerned park attendant came to check on us, and we made small talk as he guided us along a path that would lead to some wild monkeys.

“How old are you,” he asked.

“Forty-two.”

“You’re really starting to get up there in years, but you still look good for your age,” he offered in a consoling voice.

OK, so Belize is still a great place to visit, even if the people are painfully honest. This “cold” tropical weather is absolutely perfect for a chubby old gringa!

Ginger is an author, speaker and mother of five. Contact her at ginger@gingertruitt.com or visit http://www.gingertruitt.com.

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