Belize is PAVED in orchids!
I went for a walk last night, looked up into a tree by the water, and my goodness! The rosette cups of bromeliads, the big flat leaves of orchids, crumpled yellow-and-maroon sprays of flowers COVERED the branches, and half the trunk. The tree was a bouquet of blossoms.
Then I started looking around, and realized that EVERY tree is like that. For an orchid aficionado, it’s paradise.
I had never really thought about orchids before. I mean, I have about a hundred of them, and always have a blooming orchid on my desk, but I had never *thought* about orchids before. They were potted plants you bought from a nursery. Seeing them just growing, wild, was a tremendous shock.
The first time I saw an orange tree, I was just 17…I had just arrived from the East Coast for college, and one day I saw an orange tree by the post office. I rushed back to my dorm and breathlessly told my roommates, “I saw an ORANGE TREE! I saw an orange tree!!”
Well, one of them was from Arizona and the other from Southern California, so they naturally looked at me as you would a complete idiot. Umm, yes. It’s an orange tree. So? The world is paved in orange trees.
“You don’t understand! I’m from the East Coast! I know all about oranges, they grow in little crates in the back of the supermarket! But here they’re on a TREE!”
So, that’s how I feel about the orchids here. They’re not potted plants! They’re real live plants! They live on bark and everything!
So now I’m wandering around looking at all the trees along the way. (Not only are there orchids, there are all kinds of exciting lizards and anoles–I think I saw some kind of crested basilisk this morning.)
It’s funny how often you know something, and then something happens that makes you look again, in a totally different manner, and realize that you really didn’t know it at all.
I spent half the morning talking to Chet, the guy who owns my guesthouse. It all started when I mentioned I was interested in weaving and chocolate. He said, “Hey! I have a book titled Llamas, Weaving, and Organic Chocolate. You want to see it?” and we were off.
Anyway, it turns out that he’s an expert in ecotourism and cultural preservation, and is working very hard on a plan to preserve the culture of the local Maya in the face of an planned highway through Punta Gorda. Right now, Punta Gorda is the end of the highway, a sleepy little backwater, where the old ways are preserved because no powerful interests care enough to push the Mayan villagers off their land. He’s working on a plan to enable economic development without destroying the local culture, and has some really interesting ideas about combining ecotourism, “green” agriculture, and cultural tours for a holistic solution.
He needs seed money and a solid project manager to make the project succeed (he’s more of a visionary), and I’m giving serious thought to taking it up as a project–at least, the sale and marketing of his proposed products in the United States. It combines quite a few things I’m interested in, like chocolate, spices, and handicraft. (One of the products is ground cacao mixed with spices like cloves and orange peel, which is wonderfully yummy, and I think would make a very good upscale drink for sale in cafes et al.) I’ve been looking for something more meaningful than high-tech for awhile, and I think this might very well be it. So I’m going to have some longer conversations with him over the next day or so, and look seriously into feasibility.
Meanwhile, the Toledo Ecotourism Association, which sets up the trips to villages, doesn’t seem to be open today (people here tend to open shop whenever they feel like it, so things can be kind of sporadic). But do I care? NO! because, on Chet’s advice, I went to see the Toledo Cacao Growers’ Association today, and they said they’d try arranging for me to spend some time with a cacao farmer, showing me the different stages of production. He warned me that I might have to stay with the farmer overnight. Ooh, hurt me. 🙂
So anyway, I’m going to have lunch, and then see what the Cacao Growers Association can do for me. If they can’t get me out to the trees today, I’ll take a walk, see what else is in town, and then (if there really is nothing else to do) curl up with Llamas, Weaving, and Organic Chocolate.
Hmm…I wonder if they grow vanilla here, as well?