Friday

Belize Survivor, part 69

"If you're going to be here, it's better to know what to expect,” said Betty, now fully enjoying the effect of her diatribe. “When the rains first begin, the ground is so dry it sucks up everything. But when it reaches the saturation point, there's simply no place for the water to go. The roads turn into rivers of mud and the creeks flood so badly that sometimes people aren’t able to get to town for weeks."

"Is that why so many houses are up on stilts?” asked Alexis. “Because of the mud?"

"Well, that and other things. Being high up keeps your house cool in the dry season because you catch more breeze. In the wet season it keeps you out of the mud, but it also prevents most of the critters from crawling through your house."

"Critters?" said Alexis, not sure if she could take anymore. "Like what?"

"Mostly snakes and tarantulas. But pretty much anything can get in your house if it's on the ground. Of course, having your house on stilts won't prevent cockroaches and scorpions. And for sure it won't stop the army ants, although it might take them longer to get there. Do you know what army ants are?""

"No, but I have the feeling you're going to tell me."

"Ahh, they're not so bad. They're actually good because they clean all the other bugs out of your house. Army ants come by the millions when they're on the move. They cover the ground like a living black carpet. Whether your house is on the ground, or on stilts, they march right through, eating all the cockroaches and scorpions."

It was not a pleasant visual. "They only eat the bugs?"

"Yep. Natural exterminators. They don't even bite unless you step on them and get them pissed off. The best thing to do is just leave your house for a couple of hours and let them do their thing.

They're harmless."

"Harmless. Uh-huh."

"The rainy season has other drawbacks too,” Betty continued. “When you hang your wash on the line, it might keep raining for days, and then there's no way to get your clothes dry. There's so much humidity inside the house that your sheets and towels start to grow mildew sitting right there, folded on the shelf."

"It's a wonder you don't start growing a fungus on your skin," Alexis joked.

"Oh, you do,” said Betty, triumphantly. “I have some right here on my stomach. Here, want to see?" she said, pulling up her shirt.

"No! Geez, that's gross."

"You’ll get used to it. But there's an upside to the rainy season too. The new growth comes out and the look of the bush changes. Instead of being dry and brittle, it gets full and lush again. In June, the trees and plants bloom in the most gorgeous colors. There are beautiful rainbows, and wild animals, and huge psychedelic-blue butterflies with eight-inch wingspans..."