Resigned to accept
Trip Start Jun 14, 2004
27Trip End Jul 30, 2006
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I spent this last weekend up in the village that my friend Ben lives in. It is one of the most rural placements of any of the volunteers in Belize. The village has about 150 people and there is no electricity or running water in the houses. Only 2 buses run there a week and it takes 2 and a half hours to make it the last 40 miles because the roads are so bad. Its rurality is one of the reasons why I love it so much, but it's isolation from the outside world means isolation from choices and information.
The last time I was there about 2 months ago, a woman who I had gotten to know fairly well from the village, came to Ben's house the night before I left. She came to ask me about ways to "control herself" without pills, meaning her options for natural birth control. She explained to me that she didn't want to have to take pills and she was worried that one day her children would need something and she wouldn't have the money to pay for her pills. She said she didn't want anymore children because she already had six and her daughter is already having children and it would shame her to have another.
I had researched that topic some what, but did not feel qualified to say anything at that point. I told her that I would read up about it more and that the next time I came, I would tell her everything I had found out. After speaking to the nurse that I work with and also doing much internet research, I began to have doubts about giving all this information to her. Temperature readings and cervical mucus monitoring . . . I am sure she did not have a thermometer and I did not at all feel qualified to teach her about her own cervical mucus. I had serious doubts that it would work for her because even if she learned to chart her ovulation cycle and take her temperature, the fundamental aspect of natural birth control is abstaining from sex for at least 10 days a month, if not more.
In Belize it is a man's human right to have sex with his wife. It is his RIGHT.
I felt that so much which natural birth control hinged on would not work for her. The first full day I was in San Carlos, she called me over and asked me if I had found out anything about the "natural way." Trying to simplify it to the easiest terms, I told her that she had to chart her period every month and that she would not be able to have sex with her husband for 11 days in a row. Immediately she began to shake her head. "no, no, that would not work. Maybe the man could go 2 or 3 days, but not so many in a row." I tentatively ask about the possibility of condoms. "yes, they are good protection, but sometimes the man not want to wear them." Forget telling her husband that she didn't want to have any more children so this is what was going to happen. Forget even the possibility of discussing it because it wouldn't work. Inwardly, a part of me sighed relief because I believe the pill is much more effective. But another part of me is saddened because despite the fact that it is HER body it is not her choice.
She had her first child at seventeen and described her child birthing experience as, "as soon as the first is holding himself up, and walking a little bit, the next one is coming. You try to get them ready and while you brush the hair of one, the other one needs its diaper changed and they are all crying and you are crying and going crazy." It would be foolish to think that her husband helps her with any of the responsibilities of raising the children.
After her fourth child she starts "controlling herself" with the Depo-shot, which is taken every 3 months. One month she does not have the money to buy the shot AND the fare to take the bus, so she gives her card to a friend and hopes that her friend can get the shot and bring it back to her. The friend loses her card and she cannot get the shot. One month later she is pregnant again. After this fifth child, she again starts to "control herself," but after six years, she goes off of the pill. Soon after she stops, she is pregnant again. She delivers this baby like the rest in the neighboring village where they have a midwife, but this labor is difficult. The afterbirth will not come out and so the midwife forces her to drink vegetable oil and then tries to get her to throw up because it will give her the strength to push it out.
As I am listening to this, a slew of emotions are bubbling up inside of me. I am angry that she had to birth those children that way. I am sad that she did not want so many children, but did not know how to stop if from happening. I am resigned to the fact that this is the way and I am encouraged that she had the knowledge and financial ability to start taking birth control and did not end up with ten or twelve or twenty children like so many women end up with in this country. I am grateful that I am an educated, well brought up woman who understands my choices and will fight for them. I am grateful I am not her and I am ashamed that that particular thought goes through my head.
"The man is the problem," she says and laughs, "the man is always the problem," and laughs again. I laugh with her.
We talk about other things and I come to find out that a resort from San Pedro wants to build a golf course very near to here and a resort on the lagoon. [San Pedro is a caye off of Belize and very popular with tourists. It could be Jamaica or costa rica or Mexico or Belize. It has been de-culture-fied.]
I find out that an oil company came up here and blew up dynamite in the lagoon. I sigh deep and swallow the fury rising from my stomach. Those people don't think about the people that live here. Somewhere people are desiring oil or a golf course or money and nowhere in their thoughts is that they might make a decision that could effect hundreds or thousands of people. Or maybe they do and say "its for the good of the people. We will bring them electricity and televisions and cell phones and better clothes. We will employ the people from this village and give them a steady income." The fields are abandoned for jobs that pay 17 US a day, but won't break a man's back. The children never learn their father's trade. They stop remembering how fun it was to make your own fun or the family's laughter at night under a kerosene lantern because they're eyes are glued to the TV. They are employees to a white man who brought a white world to their world.
Those people with the golf course don't think about that because they have found something unique, something untouched, something beautiful and they want to destroy because they have their eye on their prize. It is a concept drummed into us from a very young age: Work hard enough and you can be rich, you can be successful, you can be famous, you can expand, you can feel good about yourself. You can be happy.
They don't think about the ruination of the lagoon or the animals or this pristine place where I sitting across from a woman, like any other woman in the world. I am sitting in an old plastic chair and she in a homemade wooden stool, and next to her, is the cement hearth where she cooks every meal for her family. We are in front of her house, which is made of sticks. We are content because this particular day has been good to us.