On September 23, 2013 myself, Briheda Haylock, and her dad loaded two boxes of Landings books in the taxi and began the journey of dispensing the big white book in schools and libraries in Belize City.
Nostalgia struck as we entered the Leo Bradley Library, where I had researched the human body, metamorphosis, and Belizean patriots when I attended St. Ignatius Primary School. The library building was the same, but there were more books, more foamy wall hangings and a more child friendly environment. Now with the landings book, I entered unchartered library territory, the administrative office. The librarians were friendly, the welcomed the donation from the Image Factory and five-o-one productions with happy smiles. They asked administrative questions of course: what was the cost of this book? how was the publishing process? and finally where was the table of contents?
We left the library and proceeded to Belize High School, were the youths were a little dubious about our unannounced visit and book presentation. After the photo with Mrs. Jamie Usher and her class, we went into their clean airy classroom, where I rattled off the languages and landings exhibit sites. Jin, the class president, perked up when she heard the words “also in Mandarin” and “Taipei.” The book was placed on a desk in between 4 young boys and carefully opened. The students absorbed the images. They didn’t worry about the multilingual texts. They understood, far better than I, that the images needed no translation, the visual is universal.
At Edward P. Yorke High School, Briheda’s alma mater. She pointed out to me and her dad that the school had new, nicer additions. She directed us to Principal’s office. He gladly accepted the book. I asked him if we could present it in the library or the art room. He told us that the library was under construction and the art program had been reduced. Mr. Cardinez, the principal, promised to share it with the students and asked Briheda if she was still doing art. She laughingly said yes and we left.
Off we drove to the Lake Independence Public Library. It is a small space with lots of books and an eager and friendly librarian Ms. Avril Reyes. She told us that a lot of young people visit the library in the evenings and especially on the weekends. With this tidbit, we leave and go to the Port Loyola Library. This two storey structure is in a wide open yard. Coincidentally , their feature presentation on the ground floor, the children’s section, is a hurricane display. Apt, I thought. We meet the head librarian sprucing up the counters, and for this reason she turned down the photo opportunity. While she and the photographer Briheda exchange reasons why she shouldn’t and why she should. I look around at the books, the charts on the wall and the information of the Hurricane display. It’s good to know the flag colours, I tell the librarian. Can Mr. Kevin Domingo take the picture? I ask. She agrees and later we leave.
At Wesley College we are directed to the library, which our guide, the office assistant, sheepishly tell us is all the way in the back. Their library is nice, they have the view of the seashore, sea birds and the horizon. Ms. Denise Bevans is happy to receive us in her library. She even encourages one of her regulars to pose for a picture. The student is poised, she gracefully and carefully leafs through the images, quietly, smiling occasionally. After thanking everyone, we jumped back into the taxi and drove to the neighbouring high school Anglican Cathedral College. It felt strange to be back at ACC, the last time I was there I was swamped with test and quiz papers, now I bore the big book of knowledge.
Mr. Ismael Requena accepted gracefully and said that Mr. David Anderson and the students would really appreciate it.
At Saint Catherine Academy, the girls and teachers had gone home after Mass. The library was open, where years ago my friends and I would read vampire novels and look through old yearbooks, had been elevated to the second floor. The librarian Mrs. Patricia Vasquez said she would review the book with the English department and then share it with the students. There was one student in the library reading a book, eager to pore into the beacon which came shrinkwrapped. She would have to wait for her chance later.
Our Belize City tour ended at the Turton Library, located only steps away from the Image Factory. Mrs. Priscilla Thomas decked in her high heels and her starched uniform greeted and thanked us for the donation and asked us if we had already visited the headquarters. Satisfied that we’d visited the Leo Bradley library
first, she posed for our picture with the Landings book which she admitted she had been waiting for since she heard about the launch at the SJC gymnasium.
Three hours later, we were back at the Factory with emptied boxes, images and recalibrated library experiences.