New Construction

Driving down Mud Hole Road to school, the babies and I passed half a dozen cars and trucks as well as the usual assortment of cows, sheep, horses and chickens. "Wow, the island's hopping," I thought to myself. "It's going to be a busy day."

We passed the snack shack in Man O' War Cay. A truck was stopped outside and several kids were picking up breakfast before heading heading off to the yellow schoolhouse next door.

It's not Starbuck's, but it's the morning routine.

New construction is all around us, as well.

I've been fascinated by an elegant new wood-pole structure going up just beyond the village of Hottest Sparrow.

I'm particularly curious because it sits in front of one of the most unusual buildings near us, a house plucked from another century. It's a very primitive construction with steep thatched roof and sides, and a family that cooks in the outdoors with the sea as their front yard and the hillside grazing grounds as their backyard.

My mom, Carol, was the first to notice this house hidden in the trees when she and my Dad spent a month here last spring. She liked to think it was an indigenous family of Garifuna, descendents of ship-wrecked slaves who found their way to Honduras, Guatamala, Nicaragua and Belize. But I have since determind that the occupants are Spanish Hondurans, not Garifuna.
Though I don't know for sure, I've imagined that the small, shoeless boy (maybe five years old?) who herds the cows and sheep from pastures on opposite sides of the road is part of this particular family. I wave to this little guy each day (and yearn to buy him some shoes). The babies say "Moo" to him as we go by.

Over the last few weeks, the wood-pole frame has been filled in with pieces of scrap metal and plywood. It suddenly looks like all the other aluminum homes across the island. The family has clearly moved from the back house to this new house, because there are pots and pans piled outside the front door, a long clothesline, and a handful of children running in and out. There is also a very pregnant woman who sits outside and watches the road.

A Palmetto security guard hitched a ride with us a few days ago. I asked him for details. In Spanish he told me that the family has many children (muchos ninos), the mother is pregnant again (otro nino) and they needed a bigger house (mas grande casa).

Joline, a former babysitter who lives in Hottest Sparrow, bummed a ride this morning. I continued my questions in English.

Joline told me that the original thatched house had been there for nine or ten years, since before the road was cut. It was very old and about to fall down. Sure enough, sometime in the last week or so, it did. The old roof remains, sitting like a hairy hat on the hill.

Joline also told me that the family has 11 children. Three are grown, but the rest are still at home. Muchos ninos, for sure.

I asked her if they would appreciate it if I stopped by with some clothes and shoes. Joline, whose own family barely has clothes and shoes, said simply, "Of course."

I will do that. I humbly look back on the two-year construction of our concrete and wood dreamhouse involving dozens of workers. I have zillions of photos, but they seem both trivial and gargantuan against the simplicity and hope embedded in this new structure. We spent a lot of money to have exactly the same view, plus some ceramic tile and a stainless steel fridge. Different economies, different scales.
Isn't it interesting that at this moment, though, we share the same road.

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