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In the village in Belize that we call Jacintoville there is a local man known as Jacko. No he has nothing to do with the self-proclaimed king of Pop that had to face child molestation charges in a California courtroom. The Jacko I am referring to is a kind man, despite his inclination to often indulge in libations more than he should. Of course those that live in glass houses should not throw stones.

That said, Jacko has treated me well from the very first day we met. It occurred about three years ago to the day that I am sitting pounding my keyboard with a glass of my favourite libation nearby. The day we met I was dead tired from a full day of bushwhacking in my piece of paradise. As I had just acquired my land, I had yet to build a hut or a house and therefore I was forced each day to return to the district town on my bicycle, a distance of some eight miles.

The ride was particularly painful not only because it forced me to ride into the afternoon wind that blew in from the sea, but also because I was terribly out of shape. Regardless, at the time I had no vehicle and the bike provided cheap transport to and from the hotel room that I had rented for the month. Everyday I would pack a daypack, pull on my knee high rubber boots and grab my machete and knives and head to the bush.

As the village that I live near is small and as is the case in that part of Belize, a gringo riding a bike back and forth each day had the locals watching my every action. I did not realize just how curious they were until one day as I was starting back toward the town after a long hard day of clearing land with two local men and Jacko ran out to from a local 'cool spot'.


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.

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