October 27, 2013
Early Thursday morning on October 10, I started my journey with the Landings books, 2 boxes plus 1 at the main terminal in Belize City. I boarded the bus with the boxes, digital camera, a small duffle bag and a list of libraries to visit. I wasn’t daunted by the miles and task ahead, only the time. On the bus, I watched the
two boxes with hawk-like surveillance. Once in Belmopan, I took a taxi to the
Institute of Social and Cultural Research. Ms. Selene Solis accepted the book and was very impressed with the presentation and content of the Landings book. From there I strolled down the Culvert Road to the National Heritage Library.
Mrs. Felene Swaso was more than happy to receive her copies of the widely spoken about art book. While I charged the camera and tried to mentally chart out the logistics of the rest of the trip, Felene graciously
gave me phone numbers for taxi drivers in Belmopan and Dangriga. She also suggested that I call the librarians at both libraries in Dangriga before hand. A detail I’d overlooked in the rush of the trip.
With the camera charged up, arranged meetings for both libraries in Dangriga, I thanked the staff at the National Library Service for all their assistance and set off. The taxi driver came and I loaded up and we were en route to the Belize Archives Department.
I’d never been to the Archives Department before, as a child I would pass it on my way to school, or sometimes on the way to the park, for me it was always a sign and a closed door. A high school friend works there now, she was the Ms. Mary Alpuche the receptionist had transferred me to. Now I pressed the buzzer and there she was dressed professionally as a Public Servant but with all the warmth of an old familiar
friend. She could not believe that the Image Factory would have the books hand-delivered. She liked the human touch and profusely complimented the sleek, modern, beautiful book. We laughed about liking the “new book smell.”
One box down, one to go. Now that the load was lighter I rested easy on the bus. Felene had given specific instructions that I stop at the Southern Regional Hospital before proceeding into town. I stopped there with my box and duffle bag and looked for the first taxi. She had insisted that the distance between the hospital and the library was very short, still, there was no way I would walk to the Allan Arthurs Library with the box full of books in the unforgiving afternoon heat.
Ms. Susan Nicholas greeted me and called her assistant librarian to come and help with taking the pictures. The assistant came in a little later with a little one on her hip. They wanted to know about the book and the Image Factory. They said that they must have been living under a rock, because they hadn’t heard about it
before. They were both very jovial and wondered why I had come all this way alone. ‘I would have
been scared to go to the city alone’ remarked the library assistant. I smiled, to me Dangriga is way safer than the city. I probably would be daunted at the idea of going there alone as well had I not come to live in Belize City at age 11. They looked through the book with me and promised to put it in a bright spot
where all the visitors could see it, but away from the window, where it might get ruined. After thanks and goodbyes, the taxi arrived and off I went to the Pen Cayetano Studio and Art Gallery.
The studio was cozy and full of works by Pen, Ingrid, Mali and Ibo. It resonated the energy which productive
spaces do. Here, work was done all the time. Through the window, just above one of Ingrid works, which she admits is new but old too, because she had started it many years ago, I could see a stage. Ingrid told me that Pen was in the backyard working. Just as I was wondering how to take the shot, the taxi driver eagerly offered to help. ‘Let me help you,’ he said, in a excited Nigerian accent. ‘He even took off his shades to take the second photo’ Ingrid said smiling. She gave me some of Mali’s postcards and a gallery brochure, tokens of gratitude, and told me that Mali’s new book Wanaragua would arrive that same day, if all went well. Back in the taxi, I ticked off the places I’d visited that day on my list. The day was turning out well.
The taxi driver asked me what I was doing? where I worked? was I Creole? in rapid fire style as we drove toward the Ignacia Cacho Library. This library is downtown facing the sea but featured all the opened windows (offering fresh breeze) as its sister library in New Site. Ms. Romy Sabal was alone in the airy
white box. As she removed the shrink wrap seal and browsed the images, I snapped some candids. Two girls came in shortly after to do some research. Ms. Sabal paused from her browsing and handed them an Encyclopedia Britannica which they took to a nearby table. She asked me my details for the logbook, and I was off to the terminal.
I waited there, picked up my copy of Love in the Time of Cholera and later had lunch as I waited for the James Bus to Punta Gorda. Now I had only three books left and an entire seat to myself. So I propped the box on the seat, put my duffel bag on top and continued to read, and occasionally closed the book and my eyes and slept. The journey would be long and the sun was setting on a full day. I arrived in Punta Gorda at minutes to eight, as it was preparing to fall asleep, all the lights were dimming, the doors were mostly closed. I would find a place to eat, shower and sleep. All the other deliveries would have to be done
At eight the next morning, I strolled over to the Punta Gorda library where I met Ms. Elzena Labriel. Their library had objects with labels in Garifuna and English. All around the books and shelves were Halloween
decorations. She posed with the book then said jokingly ‘that she would ensure people’s hands were
clean before they handled it.’ I asked how to get to the San Antonio and Barranco Community libraries; she said that it would be tricky but arranged for me to tag along with the Library Service as they toured the South.
I rushed to meet them where they had just finished breakfast, with the two remaining books and my duffel bag. They drove to the San Pedro Columbia Community Library where Ms. Henrietta Ical was trying to rearrange her shelves and books in the Community Center after a pageant. She happily received the book
I presented while pictures were taken with the Library Service’s iPad and the IF camera. We were invited to
lunch at Ms. Ical’s home, which was just down the hill from the football field.
The meal was a sincere and simple stew, served piping hot at their family table with warm hand-made tortillas. I had not yet eaten so I really appreciated the kind gesture. The air was warm and fresh, hogs grazed and ran around in the yard nearby. Now full and drowsy, we drove away Independence-bound and with the last of the eleven books I had brought on this journey.
At our last stop, Independence Library in Independence village, Ms. Rene Lozano received the white block. She mused on how heavy and well-packaged and fancy it was. She insisted that her co-workers and myself only take flattering pictures. The library is nice, situated on a corner in the space of two large yards.
Inside, it is filled with books and computers and in the children’s section, cute fraction style tables. Lots of
room for endless possibilities I thought.
I felt a sense of completion. The books had all been hand-delivered and I felt that I was part of a bigger project. A diffuser of knowledge. Injecting into new orbits a hurricane preparedness manual. A what-to-do guide for the consumption and creation of culture in the intangible and vast virtual space. In the barren
cultural environment which our Noh Mul pulverizing government is perpetrating, a seed, similar to the one Wall-E fought to save, not a forest, but a tiny plant: hope.