It was obvious that he had probably been in the shade of the
small roadside thatch hut longer than he really needed to be,
but again, who am I to question the actions of any man, much
less that of a total stranger. So as Jacko approached, I stopped
my peddling and pulled the bike over onto the shoulder of the
highway. Forever would I be a changed man.
As Jacko began to speak, his smile broadened. He began to question
me immediately as to who I was, where was I from and why was
I riding the road back and forth, day in and day out. I explained
that I had recently purchased a tract of land and that I was
preparing the site to eventually build a small dwelling that
would house my wife and son and myself. He then stuck out his
hand to shake mine and politely said, "welcome to the village
my friend, my name is Jacko."
That day a friendship began that is as of this writing three
years old. Of the course of the time that followed that first
meeting on a hot tropical day I have learned a lot about Jacko.
It turns out that years back he was a scool teacher. By all
accounts he was one of the best teachers in the school where
he taught and he truly loved his chosen profession. However,
one day during one of those show and tell situations that we
have all experienced in school in our hometowns, Jacko's career
sadly came to an end.
The way the locals tell it, Jacko had suggested that for the
following days assignment that the students should bring something
from home. He described what they should look far and if they
found it they should bring it to school. For those that could
not locate the requested item, they would not be penalized.
The next day the students returned in large numbers that which
their teacher had sent them in earnest to look for. When school
officials learned that the item in question was a controlled
substance, they released Jacko from his duties. Their action
was obviously justified, but not only did they loose a wonderful
and creative teacher for the village school, they also crushed
a man's will. Instead of teaching and enlightening the youth
of an emerging nation, Jacko by all accounts turned to those
little bottles of rum that plague villagers from Corozal to
Punta Gorda, from San Pedro to San Ignacio Town.
Over the last few years I have been fortunate to get to know
our fellow villager Jacko quite well. For the record he does
not partake of the controlled substance that he requested from
his students for 'show and tell'. His vice of choice comes in
liquid form. At times we have all worried for him and his health,
but we all live in those previously mentioned glass houses,
and in Belize, people are judged by who they are, and as a collective
society faced with mounting challenges that the rest of the
world could not fathom day in and day, people accept Jacko for
who he is.
And Jacko is a very good man, someone that you can turn to
for help when you need it. He stops by my house occasionally
and he always has that infectious smile blazing ear to ear.
In tow is always a colourful story. He has brought me artefacts
from his adventures in the deep jungle to access for him, and
although I do not buy the antiquities he offers, I am often
amazed at his resourcefulness. He is to me a man among many
and I consider myself fortunate that he calls me his friend.