“Just stop by,” the expats would say. So I did just that, something rarely done in Orange County especially when you hardly knew the person.
We had a new life in Belize and I needed help. Advice on schools, grocery shopping, what local Belizeans were like, where I could get a supply of fresh milk.
Carol, a French Canadian who lived in Corozal, was the only expat I knew with kids. Her front door stood wide open maximizing on sea breezes from the bay of Chetumal. Air-conditioning was non-existent in most houses. Carol invited me in for some refreshing watermelon juice. Her house was the size of a large bus and squished on the side sat a trailer they’d brought with them from Quebec. Carol told me they preferred the trailer to the house, “because it’s air-tight. Mosquitoes can’t get in, so we sleep in the trailer,” she said. I found this very strange that they’d pay for a house, yet sleep in the trailer.
Carol needed to talk just as much as I did. We sat on a couple of Mennonite chairs in her shower-size kitchen when a truck drove by and Carol knew, from the sound of the engine, this was the “Crystal” water guy. He walked straight into her kitchen and dropped off a 5 gallon plastic container of water. She searched for a coin in her soap dish container, to pay him.
Carol answered all of my questions regarding shopping and then handed me a gringo expat list of names and phone numbers for me to keep. I was amazed at how everyone helped one another here. I complained about the bug bites and Carol lifted her trim body from the kitchen chair and tiptoed to her bathroom, returning with a tin of cream she’d made herself. “What’s it made from?” I asked.
“I invented it,” she said. “I mix beeswax, olive oil and herbs. “Here,” she said, handing me the tin. “Try it. Tell me if it works.” I thanked her and spread a dollop on some swollen mounds on my legs. Carol stared, waiting to see my reaction. I smiled and told her it was a miracle cream. She wanted to market it locally, and called it her “very secret recipe.”
A guy on a scooter stopped in front of Carol’s house and honked. “It’s the mailman,” she said. She greeted him and returned holding only one letter, no junk mail. I thought how wonderful to live in a country where trees aren’t cut down and turned into junk mail. Back in California, I never bothered to look at junk mail. I hated the glossy photos of garages that looked better than many living rooms around the world. I felt embarrassed that people would need a granite-looking garage floor to park their perfectly shiny SUV or Mercedes. Who cared what the garage floor looked like, certainly not the car. I used to throw junk mail into recycling, without even looking at it.
I’d like to know where you live now and whether you can just stop by to visit? Do you have to call first, or make an appointment to visit with a friend or neighbor?
Any comments on junk mail, and whether you read it, need it, etc?
Any questions or comments you have, I shall be happy to answer on BELIZE BUZZ Wednesday, where I link your question to your blog, and answer it.
Thanks, and have a great week blogging. Enjoy life.
Kelli Nørgaard says
That is one thing I have had to get used to… people just stopping by! Although I still refuse to do it myself! Danes do not care, though. Just come on in….
not that our house is ever actually dirty, but I just fret over things that most Danes see as silly…
Hopefully I will loosen up!
I love your description of your former neighbor. Her bug cream sounds really interesting. I hope she got a nice little business together for it.
We sometimes get coupons to stores and restaurants we frequent in the junk mail so I will flip through it, just in case. Other than that, to the trash it goes. I don’t really know my neighbors, but I have tentative plans to hang out with one of them sometime in the next couple weeks… lol…if that answers your question.
I would like to be somewhere that people would just pop by. However, I’m rarely home so this wouldn’t be much fun for them!
KelliIsn’t it funny how Danes do that. I still remember popping in and always being welcomed with a cup of coffee and smakager.
Laurenyes, it felt good to just pop in to expats homes.
Hit 40 says
I think your question depends on the friends that you make. I have several who would not be sad if I just popped by.
I bring my mail in straight to the recycle bin/ shredder. My bills are emailed to me. Overall, the mail is trash. Unless… there is a birthday in the house.
Lady Glamis says
I LOVE these Monday posts, let me just tell you. I love getting a glimpse into what life was like there in Belize. It sounds wonderful, despite the bug bites. So how well did that cream work?
Junk mail, yeah. We have a lot here. It drives me nuts, and it makes me mad at the amount of waste that happens here in America.
Where I live we can pretty much just drop by the houses we know. It’s pretty laid back in the area I’m in. Other areas are different, though. Where I’m at most of us are the same religion and attend the same church, so we’re all very comfortable with each other.
Well you already know I live in Paraguay. But since it´s a Mennonite community we live in, I will speak of that and not the Latin culture.
I think “Hit40” made a good point. It depends on who your friends are. Some of mine, I can drop by anytime, and if they have time we will have some Tereré, but others you need to make an official appointment…. 🙂
For me I don´t mind unexpected visitors, if I like them…. 🙂
We got very little junk mail in Paraguay, but lots of flyers on the street, which would be like junk mail.
I like it both ways, I like it when people drop in, and I like it when they call first, like our culture. I think you adapt your life accordingly. I am still adjusting to life in the US and am slightly annoyed by all the phone calls. Americans make lots of phone calls! In Paraguay people would text or come by for what ever they needed.
As you know, I come from England, where it is very normal to pop into people’s houses unannounced for a cuppa and a chat.
Here in the burbs of Stockholm, people phone long in advance to make an appointment to see each other. I do have some friends that I just pop into see without making an appointment and vice versa – and I really miss that easy kind of spontaneous visit.
Having said that, we now live on a street with 21 houses and lots of kids, so we are always in and out of each other’s houses – generally trying to track our kids down! 😉
I love your description of Carol. What was she and her family doing in Belize? Are they still there? And how did it go for her and her miracle cream?
Oh, forgot to say a word about junk mail. Over here we put signs on our letter boxes saying No Junk Mail Please! – very effective as the mail delivery people respect the signs.
Here in Egypt, no mail at all!
If we get something it goes to my husband’s work, but it takes about 1-2 months to come from Finland!
In Finland – too much junk mail, too many phone calls somebody sells something…
He in Egypt we live in a house with a gate and that’s locked!
If we meet people we call first so we know they are at home and other way round…
In Finland you normally call before your visit…people are so busy and tired..less and less time to meet friends…
I lived in Germany from 1992-1998 and i loved the fact that life was just a bit slower than life here in Orange County. I lived in a small village outside of Munich and had many friends from the expat community of all nationalities. Many of us had small children so we just took our morning or afternoon walks and stopped by peoples’ homes en route. It was an amazing experience for me and I often look back at the time with happy thoughts!
Gramma Ann says
That was an interesting post and I enjoyed all the comments. Here in Iowa, and the small town I live in, most people just drop by without calling first. As far as junk mail, it goes in the waste can and on to the burn barrel. We had our inline phone taken out and only use our cell phones, so that took care of those pesky telemarketers.
I like the idea of ‘just stop by’ way of life. I’m in Chicago and everyone I know lives in big buildings and you would need to call first to be let in. Plus, as with must cities, we all live busy lives and are on the go and away from home most the time so dropping can be difficult. Funny thing is, I knew thought of this before reading your post… it’s something to think about how city live shape your habits evens…
(another great post.)
Dropping in unannounced is depends a bit on the friends you make, and the social situation in which you live.
When I served congregations in rural areas, I would just drop in on folks, when I was in a particular region, since it might be a while before I got to that visiting in that part of the parish. If they were home, great; if not, I’d leave a note saying I was sorry I had missed them.
In cities, where people are more “on the go,” I usually call ahead to see if they’re going to be in or not. It’s all a matter of whatever works.
Junk mail goes immediately into the recycling box. There was a time, when we were developing our home, that we bought things we needed. (And other things.) Now we have a houseful of stuff, plus the stuff from my late parents home.
So now we’re in the “editing” phase (a delightful term we learned from our friend Dr. Ronna Jevne, Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada). Much of what had been my parents has now gone to our children; other things will go to our children and grandchildren “in due course.” Files that once held information for my journalistic work are being recycled, as I have little use for them. Likewise old sermons. Much of our collective library has been donated to the library of our denomination’s Theological School, which happens to be located in the city were we live. (I say “collective” because G3 and I are both clergy — she’s retired, I’m disabled medically and cannot work on any kind of regular basis.)
And I’m glad you made friends with ton amie Québècois. She was obviously helpful to you, as I’m sure you were to her.
Since we live in a big British-dominated NATO community in Germany, our neighbour situation is somewhat different. As for the junk mail, yes it goes normally straight into the recycling box in the cellar. The only problem is that one supermarket insists on wrapping several leaflets and magazines in plastic! Do I then separate the plastic from the paper as a good recycler should? That is the question.
Stacy Nyikos says
It could just be me, but in Tulsa, you can stop by for a short visit, say high. It was the same up in Indiana. Friendly lot, these Midwesterners!
K. B. Keilbach says
What a beautiful slice-of-life description, Sonia! For a moment there, I could almost feel the ocean breeze and hear the buzz of a lazy mosquito. Great job. And, oh yes, you can drop by my house any time 🙂
Mad Bush Farm says
I’ve really enjoyed this post. Where I live we do just drop in and say hello to people. My farm gate so to speak is open and quite often I get people I hardly know dropping in and saying Hi. We get junk mail here almost every second day. I use it in my garden now as weed surpressant.I think because I grew up in a family where my parents used to have people dropping in all the time this thing of calling someone first before visiting isn’t really some thing I do often – it just depends on the person I’m planning to visit.
I really enjoyed this story.
Jungle Mom says
Mostly people seem to drop in. A few call ahead. What is interesting to me is the visits seem so late to me. arriving at 8 or 9 pm to visit. I’m ready for bed by then!
Miss Footloose says
Hi Sonia, too late again! Just catching up. Loved your story about visiting Carol. I know how it feels when you first move into a community and have to figure out everything. It was easy enough to visit with other expats when I lived in Ghana or Armenia, although usually you’d call to check if they were home, or want to go out for lunch, or whatever. Everybody had cell phones and everybody, somehow, had busy lives.
Your life in Belize sounds quite a bit more rustic than mine has been in the last expat decade. I did live in a Kenyan mudhut village once, but that was long ago.
Drew Travers says
Here in Placencia… we don’t get real mail delivery, but the bills are delivered by hand! “Stopping by” happens here every day… and mostly it’s just fine. So stop by… themainestay.com