Tuesday, March 29, 2011


At every family event, I arrived with my big-mini paparazzi camera, which most of my kin detested until Cousin Maria announced that she was traveling to Belize for the holidays. Our other cousins there wanted to see current pictures of “di fahmly eena di States,” because it had been over a decade since we last saw each other. Putting their annoyance aside, my stateside family smiled slightly, and for once, I was capturing more than palms.

”Whey yuh di snap dey evalastin’?” Cousin Maria asked, pushing back errant strands of her salt and pepper wavy hair that escaped from her taut ponytail. Without waiting for my response, Cousin Maria said, “Mekka see.”

I handed her my camera and showed her how to scroll through the current images as well as the ones I had forgotten to delete from our holiday and backyard gatherings. The more family fetes Cousin Maria saw, the more her smile faded away. After looking at four events, she had turned completely sullen.

"What's wrong?" I asked, concerned.

"Dis," she started, pointing to herself and leaving her fingerprint on my camera's screen. "In every picture me di wear the same shirt."

I looked. She was right—and she was wearing the same black and white stripe shirt that day.

"It's alright, we're family," I said, trying to comfort her.

"No! Everybodie have on ah nice pretty frock or press-up dungarees and me one have on ole clothes. Even mi shoes dem look mashup eena di pictcha and now dey have a hole," she said showing me.

I looked. Two of her toes peeked out.

As Cousin Maria’s brows furrowed and her big brown eyes started to water, she picked up her bag to leave and announced, "Me wahn juss stop come out." And at that, she was gone.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


With much groveling, I had convinced my parents to allow me to attend a public high school instead of the all girl-girl Catholic school I had been accepted to on an academic scholarship.

At my mother's insistence, I had signed up for keyboarding class, electing to sit next to a girl who warmly smiled and waved me over. As soon as I sat down and squeezed my new five-subject spiral notebook and pens into the tight space between our archaic typewriters, the girl scooted her chair closer to me, then tossed her knapsack on her thighs.

"Yo girl," she said, startling me.

She doesn't seem so friendly anymore, I thought.

"Hi," I mumbled feebly.

"Look over here," she said pointing to her lap.

I looked at what seemed to be dirt in a plastic bag. "What is that?” I whispered.




"Dirt?" I asked in response. At fourteen, I had never heard that word nor seen weed.

"No," she hissed. "Weed. To smoke." She rolled her eyes, taxed that she had to even explain what it was.

I looked again and a light bulb went off in my head. "Reefah? I said, my Belizean accent automatically changing the "er" to "ah." I had only heard my mother mention reefah when referring to wayward, often ostracized family members.

"What?" The girl snapped.

"Reefah. That's what that is, nuh? Drugs?"

"No one says reefer anymore, and it's not really drugs. Just a little something to mellow you out," she explained, once again smiling.

I was rooted to my chair in fear of being labeled a drug-user, or worse, expelled. My public school experience was turning out to be nightmare. Maybe I should go back to Catholic school where it is safe, I mused in my naiveté.

"Here, try it," the girl said, offering me a smaller baggie. "I'll give you a free sample and tomorrow you can buy some from me."

"Um, well, my parents wouldn't want me to have it in the house so..."

"Smoke it in your bathroom when they're not home and spray some air freshener. You do know how to smoke, right?"

I avoided her question, instead saying, "Well, I...I won't have any money tomorrow. I think I'll pass, but thank you for offering," I said cordially.

She looked at me with disgust and started pitching the other student to the left of her. In an attempt to be helpful, I interrupted the girl’s presentation and showed her a sign that read, Say No to Drugs.

She glared at me then scooted her chair further away.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


At 28, I was still unmarried, which was akin to cardinal sin in my Belizean family.

During another family cookout, my mother decided it was apropos to roast me in front of everyone, loudly proclaiming and complaining that, "After giving birth to five pickney, all me have is one grandchile."

Like grandchildren are items someone can pick up in the grocery store, I thought.

Glancing at me, she shook her head and walked away dismayed. I was her eldest child and by her standards, should have been wedded, bedded, and made a couple babies by now.

Feeling sorry for me, my cousin, Maria, sidled up next to me, gently taking one of my hands into her two clammy ones.

"Gyal," she began in her heavy Belizean dialect. "Whey di tek suh long?" she asked of my seemingly perennial singledom.

"I don know...I want to meet the person I’m supposed to be with and love forever. There's this one guy I kinda like, but..."

Cousin Maria interrupted me, sucking her teeth. "Love? Yuh di fool 'rung, gyal! Yuh mussee di wait fuh di perfeck mahn, but mekka tell yuh something: He nuh exist! Dat is di problem wid oonu young people today; oonu want nice nice all di time."

"Maria, you’re missing the point. I'm not asking for perfection, just someone who is compatible with me emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially..."

She interjected. "Gyal! Dat is too much! Di mahn yuh like--he fat? He black? He bruk?"

"Well, he's kinda dark and thick..."

"Lookyah, none of it matters," Cousin Maria said, caressing my hand in comfort. The clamminess was irking me.
"When yuh get eena di bed and di lights off, he can be any mahn yuh want him fuh be. 'Membah dat," she said winking, then walked off.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011



Two kids are playing in a pool—a toddler girl and boy. The little girl looks between the boy's legs then asks, "Can I touch that?"

The little boy replies, "No, you already pulled yours off."


My cousin, Maria, who was born in Belize, but has spent half of her forty-three years of life living in the United States, only recently heard of the letter 'z'. Until 1981, Belize was called British Honduras and accordingly, people—including Maria—learned to spelled words the European way like color instead of colour and theatre instead of theater.

During a family backyard cookout last July, my precocious nine-year old niece,Kate, started spelling all the words she knew that started with the last letter of the alphabet. Hearing her, Maria turned to my sister, Kate’s mother, and asked in her distinctive Belizean dialect, “Ah whey she di sey dey?”

"What?" my sister queried, clearly confused.

"What was di fuss lettah di chile mi sey juss now when she middi spell zebra?" Maria replied, pointing at my niece.

"Z," my sister said.

"Z? Ah whey dat? I nevah hear ’bout dat before.”

Raucous laughter erupted from my mother, siblings, and cousins who had all paused with their pina coladas in hand to listen to the exchange. When everyone settled down, my sister turned to Maria again and said, "After being in this country over two decades, how is it you have never heard of the letter 'z'?"

"Me don't know. Me always said zed. Like zoo woulda be zed-o-o."

Got a joke or funny anecdote? Holler! BTW, today's joke was the courtesy of Tiger. :-)

Later Lovelies,
-Betsy Ice