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The official Blog of John McAfee (excerpt)

Filed under: belize,culture,global islands,police — admin @ 6:10 am

Understanding the culture Part One – Timesha

Posted on November 20, 2012 by John McAfee
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I met Timesha 2 years ago while writing a story about the Mennonites of Belize. The Mennonites are austere and hard working, yet each Friday, many of the men allegedly went to a local bar in Orange Walk, drank, paid women for sex, and partied. I found it hard to believe, so I arranged to take photos at the bar on Friday mornings to help with my story. I showed up for five weeks straight before I finally got the photo I wanted:

While waiting for the right shot (it is difficult to get candid photos of men sneaking around and breaking rules), I met Timesha. She slowly opened up to me and over the next few months she told me her story. I asked permission to post it here, as I asked permission from everyone in every photo. Here is her story. I repeat it here because it is not an unusual story for young women in Belize. Here it is:

“Most of my hair fell out when I was 7 years old.” Timesha told me recently, sitting at a corner table in the abnormally quiet bar. “And my skin turned almost white. I was really sick. They said it was because I didn’t eat enough food. For a year, all we had to eat was boiled plantains. I got to hate them. My grandmother in Belize City started sending a box of food for us once a week on the bus and I got better.”

Timesha never really knew her father while growing up, and she and her four siblings were raised by her mother in Orange Walk Town. When she was nine, her mother’s boyfriend moved in with them and, not long before her tenth birthday, began having sex with her. She had her first child, a girl, when she was 15. The child was taken away from her by the girl’s father when the girl was 2 years old. The father, who was living with a woman in Gayle’s point in Southern Belize, seldom stayed at Gayle’s point and the child was left primarily in the care of the father’s girlfriend, who burned the child severely and repeatedly with a hot clothes iron. “She stares a lot now” said Timesha while describing her last visit with her daughter – something she is allowed by the courts to do once a month. Timesha has been trying, without success, to get her daughter back since the very day she was taken from her. As long as she keeps her current job, there will be no hope of retrieving the child.

She pulled out a tattered photo once to show me herself (left) and her daughter with the daughter’s paternal grandmother, who must be present at all Timesha’s visits with her daughter.

Timesha works as a “bar girl” in lover’s bar. She is not a prostitute. She is young and pretty and men may sit with her providing they simply buy her a beer. When the beer is finished, they must buy another or leave the table. Sometimes she dances to attract customers, either by herself of with another girl at the bar.

She dances provacatively, in the Garifuna stye – with much swinging of the hips and suggestive hand gestures and body language.

Timesha is charming and intelligent and is in high demand for conversation among the bar’s clients who can afford a beer, but not a prostitute, or who simply want the company of a pretty woman – frequently hoping that they can bed her later. A beer normally costs $1.50 for a patron who buys one for himself, and $3.00 if he buys one for a girl. Timesha is paid $1.00 for every beer that she drinks. When each beer is delivered to the table, the girl is given a chip which is cashed in at the end of the day. While a man is sitting with her, they are allowed to touch her, except for the private parts of her body, and she will place her hand in a friendly manner on the man’s leg or drape an arm across him in some fashion.

“How many beers do you drink on an average day?” I asked her.

“It depends” she replied. “On weekdays maybe 20. On weekends I can have over 50. I once drank 16 beers in half an hour. The customer liked me. I usually make an excuse, after a few beers, to leave the table and then go to the bathroom and throw them up. I put my hand down my throat”

“Do all the girls throw them up like that?” I asked.

“Most of them do” she said. “But a few just drink until they get too drunk to work”.

Timesha is adept at dispatching beers without appearing to chug them. The faster she drinks, the more money she can make.

Timesha was born and raised in a tiny house at the edge of Orange Walk Town 22 years ago. The house has belonged to her mother’s family for three generations. She seldom went to school – there was usually no money for books and other costs associated with education, and in addition, she was needed at home. Timesha is the eldest of five children – she has three younger brothers and one younger sister. They are all from different fathers. Timesha’s father left home when Timesha was three years old and never returned. He provided no support after leaving, and little support while there, and did not contact Timesha for 14 years after leaving. She confronted him when she was 17. She told him about the lack of food, clothes, electricity and the absence of even the simplest comforts in the home she lived in while he, during the same period, was drinking, partying and ploughing through a long line of women. He had come to the home, on learning that he had grandchildren, and brought a doll as a present.

“If you knew anything at all you would bring food.” She told him. “You buy that bitch you’re with a necklace and your granddaughter is hungry.”

Orange Walk is a small place, and the goings on of each citizen is well know to all of the others.

Timesha’s two daughters were born in this house. She had one miscarriage, at the age of 14. Few people in Belize go to hospitals to give birth. Most give birth at home, in front of the entire family. Children as young as two will watch. Mothers hand down the secrets of childbirth to their daughters, making midwives an unnecessary element of the society.

Violence in the home is the norm in Belize. Drug and alcohol abuse is endemic, and, when combined with widespread poverty, creates a volatile mix. Police will not respond to a domestic violence call unless a death or serious maiming has been the result. Judges will generally not mete out punishments for conflicts arising between husband and wife nor between parents and children. The general assumption of the populace is that marriage and family contain violence as an integral component.

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