Looking For a Secular Florida Umbrella School?

Sunday, May 23, 2004


1 a : having the soothing, healing, or aromatic qualities of balm or suggesting those attributed to balm b : mild
2 : foolish, silly, insane

That sums up our present situation.

Sweet G and I are still conflicted about what comes next. He's been pushing for Australia, reminding me to consider our original intent. With so many changes in plans, it was difficult to remember what that was, but it came to me after writing the other day.


Our first plans were to operate a small resort in the jungle. The property we chose was not exactly conducive to that because of an insufficient water supply. There was a good-sized cistern for drinking water and a small pond for wash water, both of which had supported up to 10 people at a time, but would never be enough to operate guest houses. We even jokingly named our farm Macaa Ha which means 'no water' in Kekchi Mayan. Our one, very deep, very expensive well produced a small amount of water before the drill punched through the bottom of the limestone chamber and all the water drained out.

Years ago, after G had been down with his speculator brother, on a two-for-one Eastern Airlines deal to show you how long ago that was, he wanted to show me the country. We flew down, thinking we would find a little beach and live happily ever after under a coconut tree. Instead, we headed inland, and had an amazing time crawling around and swimming inside giant caves, climbing and committing seriously sacrilegious acts atop Mayan temple pyramids, and meeting many fascinating people, all with remarkable stories to tell.

Returning to our hotel, we had just finished exclaiming that this was the place to be in Belize, with its lush tropical forests and exotic ruins, when we passed a small hand-lettered sign: 100 acres for sale. We called the number when we returned to our room, met the owner on our way to the airport the next day, and made a deal.

I don't believe in signs, but I do believe in serendipity.

Over the next few years we contracted with the local old order Mennonites, who raised the house for us, found a capable manager, and were adopted by a local family with ties all over the region.

Then I got pregnant. We were afraid of raising kids down there, so when child numero uno was about a year and half old, and we were approached by an organization dedicated to saving the rainforest, we reluctantly decided to sell.

While we were down there, we had taken numerous trips down to Barton Creek, the closest major source of flowing water, for picnics and swims, and met an American ex-pat horticulture enthusiast who had spent years collecting and propagating countless tropical fruit, flowering landscape plants, and hardwood trees on his property. We'd always admired his place and last year when I found his property listed for sale on-line, we immediately took a trip down. It's paradise. With 4,000 feet of creek frontage and every tropical fruit you could think of growing there, it's nearly self-sufficient. In addition, the creek flows into a large cave adjacent to this property, where there are Mayan burials deep inside, which has become a popular tourist sight for canoeing and tubing adventures. (After returning from that trip, our architect showed us a page from an article on caves he had saved from an issue of Conde Nast's Traveler, teasing us, wondering if our cave could possibly look as spectacular as the one in the photo. It was our cave.)

So, back to our original intent: To live a real life. To show our children how the rest of the world lives. To teach our children to provide for themselves.

This could be done anywhere. Belize, Australia, here even. The difference is in making the lifestyle change, not only a location change. Our island has been a location change. Sweet G is in the same line of work, and though our friends laugh out loud when I say it, we still live in the suburbs. Australia would be a location change. A big one. Belize is a lifestyle change and only a two hour flight out of Miami. You can even drive there.

If we went down with two yurts to live in while we built a house, we could use those for guest housing later. A small hydroelectric system (I don't need electric, but you know guests would), water ram, gas refrigerator (I do require ice for cold drinks), and you're all set.

I'm now comfortable in my ability to teach my children on my own. What about college? Well, if they want to go, they will be prepared, if not, they will still have a good education and plenty of skills to manage their own lives.

Sweet G wants me to start making calls, arranging another trip down in late June before we commit.

No comments: