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Pipe water and fresco!

FeaturesPipe water and fresco!

Monday, May 6, 2024

The British gave us some gifts that made us stand out from the rest of Central America. Law and order, with a police force that was mostly absent of corruption and the abuse of citizens, which is so prevalent these days. A judicial system that meted out justice in a more equal manner—rich or poor, you paid the price for your crime. Truancy was so rare that if a stranger came into town during the week, they would be led to believe that there were no kids in Belize! The streets were clean, the hospitals were adequate, and the education was, well, British! We didn’t value money uber alles! A person with a university degree was on a higher social plane than a merchant. The British also brooked no opposition, so while our neighbors were all caught up in conflicts and revolutions, we existed in a state of inertia! I’m talking about the ‘50s up to maybe the late 1960s. They made the trains run on time, metaphorically speaking!

In my opinion, it was a great time to grow up in Belize, especially in the city, in my case. Most houses did not have running water, so there were standing water pipes or faucets, all over the city that provided neighborhoods with an adequate water supply! Most of us didn’t drink that pipe water; no, we had vats or oil drums or barrels in which to catch rain water, drinking water. Pipe water was mostly used for laundry or showers, although women refused to wash their hair with that pipe water! They would rather drink pipe water and wash their hair with the rain water. What a ting!

During dry weather there would be lines of people, mostly women with the plastic buckets, waiting to fill those containers. Those lines were the biggest source of information as to what was going on in the city. Gossiping was the most important part of being in those lines, more important than the water itself. The gossiping was usually trivial and fleeting, except when, God forbid, a murder had occurred! Lawd a massi, the crowds around those faucets would swell and not wilt away until the murderer was tried and hung at the Belize gaol — that’s how we spelled jail in those days! Doors were locked and windows were closed at night! That’s how unusually rare and upsetting, people being murdered in those days was.

Now to my beloved fresco, and those multitudes of sweet and colored syrups that made my day, with those flecks of ice that would get caught between your teeth and shock you. Fresco was shaved ice with syrup, which later turned into snow cones, which was never as tasty, or as romantic. When that fresco bicycle cart came around, we kids would mill about it like kids do when the ice cream truck comes around. I don’t even know if we have ice cream trucks anymore. But we’d be counting our coppers (pennies the size of little moons), to see how many toppings we could afford. As a child I always thought that copper was the most valuable, since it was the largest of all the coins. Anyway, we’d get our fresco, and if you had extra kappas, you could get milk on top of your syrup. Oh, the ecstasy!

You know, when you see all the daily killings and death and craziness that is so prevalent in the Jewel these days, no matter where you live, you, who are from my generation, long for those days of yore! When life was much simpler, when we were softer inside, we had heart and conscience and empathy and love inside ourselves, our moral being.

I believe that it is our duty to share those times with our kids and grandchildren and young people in general. There are kids who have no hope, who need to know that this world could be a better place, was a better place! That not everything is a competition, that you can lose and still win! And most importantly, that anyone can make a difference, for the benefit of all!

Maybe it’s just a pipe dream, but what do you have to lose?


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