It’s day 10 of lockdown in Belize. I know loads of other countries have been living this reality much longer than we have but I’m still wrapping my head around the changes we’re observing. Placencia went from tourist hub to ghost town in the blink of an eye. It is eerily quiet today, with even the grocery stores being closed for Good Friday. Without any “essential business” to attend to, there is no movement on the streets and I can hear the gentle rhythm of waves from my deck- something typically muffled by the other white noises of village life: chatter, music, kids playing, golf carts buzzing up the road.
What would typically be a busy, boisterous, bawdy weekend of beach parties and beer-drinking contests is instead a muted nonevent. Easter weekend brings arguably the biggest and best parties of the year and Belizeans from all corners flock to hotspots like San Pedro, Caye Caulker, and Placencia to see and be seen. But this year there will be no gatherings and no flocking to hotspots as roadblocks have been set up to restrict movement between districts.
I expect the holiday weekend will look much like the past 10 days have looked, and much like the next 10 days will look, and probably the 10 days following that. We’re doing what a lot of other countries are doing; sheltering in place, remote schooling/ distance learning, and watching Tiger King on Netflix. We can walk or jog on the road between 5 and 8am each morning, grocery and hardware stores are open 8-3 for shopping but most require you to submit a list via WhatsApp and they pull the items for you for pickup or delivery, and there is a strict national curfew of 8pm. Here in Placencia the firetruck roles up the road each night a few minutes before curfew blaring the siren as a warning; curfew violators will be fined and/or imprisoned.
I’ve been completely uninspired to do chores or get creative crafting with my kid (like so many of my mom friends are doing and documenting on Facebook, kudos to you all), choosing to idle away most of the days reading in the hammock and mixing a drink by late afternoon. My friend Nicole (of Dolce Cabanas) has stayed busy planting a garden and even getting chickens! This had me taking a hard (albeit brief) look at my own yard resources and I don’t want to brag (because I have very little to do with our garden’s upkeep) but it’s not too shabby. In addition to a few coconut and banana trees we have mangoes that are just coming in to season.
Captain Jaks, our neighboring property, gifted us a young soursop tree a few years ago that shouldn’t take too much longer to fruit.
There is also a big Noni bush off my back steps that I have ignored for a long time even though some people rave about the benefits of consuming the fruit either juiced or fermented in a tonic which I’ve tried in the past but LAWD ALMIGHTY- it is repulsive!
A recent Facebook post informed me that the leaves of this plant can also be eaten. I’m game to try most things at least once so here it goes. I rinsed the leaves and sliced the slightly thick stem vein from the center, sliced it thinly and added to the late stages of my rice ‘n’ beans cooking pot so that the remaining liquid boiled and steamed the greenery a bit.
The verdict: it’s not too bad, it’s not good by any stretch but it isn’t awful. It tastes like what you might expect some leaves from a bush in your backyard to taste like- earthy in a green bitter way. Mixed with coconut, onion, and other spices in this dish made it if not palatable at least imperceptible. I’ll probably use it again; after all it can’t hurt… unless it can hurt- please if you know more about the proper way to consume Noni leaves and I’m making a potentially fatal error in its preparation let me know in the comments below!