The invisible monkey boys, and my first conversation with a Mennonite

No pictures this time, just a funny story…

So I was out for a walk on the Progresso/Orange Walk road the other afternoon, and as usual it was fairly heavily trafficked – a bus, two or three cane trucks, the random vehicle, a few bicyclists.

But I happened to be alone on the road just as I passed a sugar cane field and heard a bunch of whooping monkey noises behind me – I could tell it was human voices, so figured a few of the cane cutters were having a little fun at my expense. I didn’t look back, though I was slightly concerned about having to turn around eventually and pass them again – not that I’ve ever felt particularly threatened by anyone in Belize, except the odd, clearly delirious panhandler in town once or twice (but Ray’s been with me and handled them).

So when I saw a Mennonite walking my way from the Little Belize cut-off (which is where I was going to turn) I thought, ah, good, he’ll go on ahead of me and the “monkey boys” will probably stay quiet if he’s within range.

I was expecting, at best, a nod as we passed, or at worst, the usual unabashed stare and silence. So I said hello and was surprised instead to get an actual hello in response, heavily accented but understandable. And yep, he was staring, but this was less the usual “what you looking at?” defiance than pure and absolute dumb-foundedness. Then he said, clearly, and I quote, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Apparently the idea that a woman – probably especially a white woman – would just be out for a walk alone on the road was completely incongruous to him. Or maybe he thought I had had car trouble or some other issue he should help me with?

So I said, “Walking. I’m going to turn around there.” And pointed down the road to the cut-off. He looked where I pointed but didn’t seem reassured, though he nodded. It seemed he’d either exhausted his English knowledge or was just too mystified to ask anything else.  So I gave him a little wave and kept going.

When I turned around at the cut-off a minute or two later, he was already out of sight around a bend in the road, but I figured he couldn’t be too far ahead of me. Now I was behind him and could just continue my walk as usual.

When I got back to the bend, though, he was standing in a spot of shade and looked as if he might be texting on a cell phone. Hmm. Caught in the act?! I thought this group of Mennonites was supposed to shun technology. He didn’t look guilty though, he just looked at me some more as if I was totally nuts. I just nodded and kept going. Whatever, dude.

At any rate, the monkey boys stayed quiet this time as I passed that cane field, and I was almost back to the entry to Progresso Shores when a Mennonite horse and buggy came into view ahead of me. A man and a woman this time, and they said nothing but also gave me the exact same “are you insane?” look that their compadre had bestowed on me.

Who knows, maybe he’d texted them: Get a load of this chick coming your way…damned if I know what she’s doing, maybe you can figure it out…

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One thought on “The invisible monkey boys, and my first conversation with a Mennonite

  1. […] My second conversation with a Mennonite went as follows: I stand, gesture at seat I had been occupying (the larger and more desirable tree stump); she nods and accepts. I then sit on less desirable piece of split wood beside them. Silence. Woman says, sighing, muy caliente, si? I agree: si. Silence. I pat baby’s foot and ask “boy or girl?” Woman says – heavily accented – grrrlll. Baby stares at me like how dare you touch me? (clearly, her training starts early). I look away. Silence. We watch ferry grinding across the river in the heat. When it finally arrives on our side, we get up and head back to our respective vehicles. And that was actually progress compared to the last (and first) conversation I had with a Mennonite (here). […]


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