Thursday, September 9, 2010


When life is going as smoothly as life ever can, our priorities always begin with the animals in our care and everything else falls into line. It takes a family crisis to put our neatly aligned priorities into the virtual shuffle-machine.

There must have been a particularly vindictive moon this month, leaping up and down on that shuffle button, not just for me and my family but for several of my friends involved in animal rehab in Belize.

A particularly dramatic event over the weekend was the ‘angry mob’ torching of the ACES Crocodile Sanctuary in Punta Gorda. Vince & Cherie Rose had built an amazing facility: a clinic, education & research centre, lab, cabanas, croc pools and nursery, the beginnings of a humane society and of course, their home. In a few short minutes of misguided ignorance, Belize lost an valuable resource for these misunderstood and abused creatures and Vince & Cherie lost everything they owned in the world, and the beloved crocs in their care were chopped or shot. Thankfully the owners were out on a croc rescue at the time, or the story may have been tragic instead of disastrous. I have to confess retaliation such as this is something that crosses my mind occasionally (not a long journey, as they say). You can’t continually deal with people and their animals without considering the repercussions of your actions, however well intentioned. In the case of ACES, the mob were whipped into a frenzy by the village witchdoctor who convinced the locals that the Roses had fed 2 children to their crocs. Absurd to you and I. Perfectly logical to the parents of 2 missing children. Especially as they are still missing, have been for over a week, the police have no leads and the media seem to have given up on their story in favour of that of the ACES predicament. PG is one of the most insular regions of a country where even in the cities, everyone knows, or is related to, everyone. Two children, 9 and 11 – not babies - go missing in broad daylight whilst selling fruit on the side of the road and no-one knows or saw a damn thing?? Well, then you really do have to have to ask yourself WTF?
One of many versions of the story

A family medical emergency has forced me to relinquish control of my empire and hand over the care of the birds and the farm to my daughter and son-in-law. It was actually not as difficult as I thought it would be – once I drove across the border to Mexico, there was very little I could do to control from afar, being as my cell phone doesn’t work here and I spend most of my days in hospitals where Skype is somewhat antisocial. The birds are surviving without me, which is a bit of a blow to my control-freakery, I am getting fat on junk food and my feet are cleaner than they have ever been.

With time to look around (and actually being in a place where there is something other than birds and trees to look at) I have noticed the world is getting younger around me. It has come as something of a shock, probably because I’ve been a virtual hermit for 7 years and amazingly enough, time has not stood still in my absence. Do others have this sudden realisation, or does it simply seep gracefully into your perception when you live in the real world? Regardless of how it happened, it appears that in relation to my existence, there are now more younger bodies than older bodies. I have become a Senora, a wrinkly, this mutton now needs to be careful with her lamb-based wardrobe. Yikes. I know I’m a way off drawing my pathetic pension, but - Yikes! I have purchased reading glasses in readiness for the inevitable, and I even took 5 minutes to shake out the “menopause” t-shirt from that drawer in my brain labelled ‘never happen to me’.

So – things I have learned this week.

1. I should spend more time hanging around old-folks homes and post-offices to improve my self-image.

2. Belizean food is not so bad

3. I don’t miss TV one little bit

4. Lots of Mexicans have really short necks.

5. Life is a conveyor-belt. You get on at the start and if you’re lucky you go all the way to the end without falling off on the way.

6. I have always taken people I love for granted.

7. Smoking is devastating - for the smoker and for their family: In the words of someone very dear to me “it is simply not worth it”