Juanita’s Victories Chapter 16.
Written by Sher Trott-Bailey
Salvano had arranged a tour bus to meet them at the airport. Hikaru, Daisuke, Dal, Ji-Hoon, and Sung-ho were all comfortably ensconced in the small tour bus which was following behind Salvano and Juanita’s car. By the time they had reached Salvano’s home, it was well after 5 pm.
When they alighted from their vehicles, they were greeted by Mrs. Mac, Salvano’s part-time housekeeper and cook. Mrs. Mac usually came by twice per week to clean. However on special occasions like this, when Salvano had guests, Salvano would call her in to stay for longer. As the guys came out of the tour bus and grabbed their luggage, Mrs. Mac came closer and warmly greeted everyone.
” Hello, Hello, Hello welcome to Belize. Annyeong haseyo, Konnichiwa.” She said.
Mrs.Mac was a plump black woman who had a beautiful smile and loved entertaining people. Her husband also worked for Salvano in his beetroot business. She had pressed Salvano to teach her a few greeting words in Japanese and South Korean. She had been practicing all week.
” Hello, nice to meet you.” The guys greeted in return.
Turning to his guests, Salvano said in Japanese,
“中に入ってください ( pronounced: Chū ni haitte kudasai, Translation: “come inside please or please go inside”).
Then he said the same thing in Korean to Dal, Ji-Hoon and Sung-ho,
” 제발 안으로 들어와”(pronounced: jebal an-eulo deul-eowa)
Salvano paused to introduce Juanita to Ms.Mac. He then took the guys to their rooms. The Japanese guys, Hikaru and Daisuke already knew each other and so they opted to stay in the same room. So Salvano gave them a large guest room with two single beds and a large bathroom. Salvano then assigned each of the Koreans their own room.
Salvano then said to Juanita,
” Juanita I think you should stay the night, it’s late and I’m sure you’re tired. Call your mom and ask her. Just tell her that Ms.Mac will be here with us, i can also talk to her.” Salvano suggested.
” Okay. Let me call her now.” Juanita had replied, liking the idea of staying over.
Five minutes later, after Salvano and Ms.Mac had appeared on video chat with Maria Cortazar, Maria agreed to let Juanita stay over by Salvano’s. Salvano took her upstairs to a beautifully furnished room. Juanita was just blown away by the beauty of Salvano’s home.
” Here you go, here’s some jogger pants and a hoody. You can change into these for the night. Ms. Mac has food downstairs for all of us when you’re ready.” Salvano told her.
An hour later, it was only Salvano, her, and Dal who came out to eat. The other guys were sleeping like deadwood. After talking to Dal they found out that Dal was a part-time traditional Ssireum wrestler. Ssireum is the traditional wrestling sport of South Korea. You would have never thought he was a wrestler, given his slender frame but Dal said,
” İ compete in 60 kg weight class.”
“저는 60kg 체급에서 경쟁합니다.”
Dal showed everybody videos of his competition. He wolfed down plates of Ms. Mac’s fried fishes with rice and beans and ripe fried plantains. Dal drank a whole pitcher of soursop juice by himself. Everyone laughed watching him eat. You just wouldn’t believe that someone who looked like him could eat so much!
When Dal was done eating, he told Ms.Mac over and over again,
” Delicious! Delicious, Delicious. Thank You.” “맛있는! 맛있다, 맛있다. 감사 해요” Dal said enthusiastically bowing his head politely.
After Dal had gone and Ms. Mac had also retired to her room for the night, Salvano and Juanita went outside on the verandah.
” What a day!” Juanita exclaimed.
” İ know right,” Salvano said while reclining in a comfy chair.
” Salvano, your house is so beautiful and the decor! Just nice. İ mean I have a free-standing soaker tub and bidet in my very spacious bathroom. The bed is huge and the sheets are so soft. İ feel like I’m staying at a fancy but very homey feeling hotel. Like… your house looks like million bucks!” Juanita gushed.
Chuckling Salvano said,
” İt’s funny you should mention a hotel because I started working in hotel construction at 19. I worked for a really wealthy Chinese guy who was going to start a luxury boutique-type hotel here in Belize. However for some reason, he changed his mind or maybe it was his finances or partners…who knows. But he had imported all this furniture and light fixtures, bathroom tubs…. you name it. Long story short, he practically gave me all the stuff, I mean I literally paid him next to nothing for the stuff you now see in my house.” Salvano explained.
” Wow!” Juanita replied.
” I’ve been taking my time for the last three years or so to just build up the house, landscape, decorate, etc,” Salvano said.
” İncredible. You’ve done a top-notch job.” Juanita commented.
“So have you always been on your own, I mean, I know about your dad but where is your mom?” Juanita asked.
” Leyla, my mom, got married to a rich guy named İsmail around six years ago. She of course left me to go live with him. She left me the house, which was really from my father Jules Martinez. I took care of myself since then. Back then we only had two rooms and the house looked nothing like it does now.
She calls me occasionally when she feels like it or in more recent years when she needs money to bail her out of some credit card debt or gambling debt she doesn’t want her husband to know about. I’m not exactly welcomed in İsmail’s home either.” Salvano shared.
” Oh I see.. your life is pretty interesting,” Juanita said.
” Yes, it is. Want to hear another story?” Salvano said, looking at her with a cute smile.
” I’m all ears. Tell me!” Juanita responded.
” When I was in South Korea for the six months, I was staying at this beach hotel. Then some guy randomly walks up to me, starts complimenting my physique and offers me a job as a fitness trainer. Says he’ll pay me USD$300 for every hour I train his clients. But I wasn’t interested so I refused. But right after, the guy says,
‘Would you be interested in boxing? I’ll pay you USD $2,000,000 to enter the ring and another USD$2,000,000 if you win. Don’t answer straight away, think about it. I’ll be back at the end of the week, you can answer me then. You’re not checking out before then are you?’ Salvano narrated changing his voice to mimic the guy in the story.
” No, I’ll be here. İ said to him” Salvano continued narrating
” Ok. Ok. Think about it. He says” Salvano mimicked the guy’s voice again.
“Turns out this guy owned the hotel, and he and a group of other hotel owners were the ones putting on the fight,” Salvano explained.
” So what did you do?” Juanita asked, her eyes bugging out at his story.
“At first I was like no way! I’m not here for that, it’s so out of the ordinary blah blah blah… but then I thought it could be fun. Plus he said I’d get USD$2,000,000 just for showing up in the ring. So when he did come back and I saw him again… I agreed.
A few days later he brought a contract and took pictures of me. İ told him that I wanted USD $ 1,000,000 upfront first. He said he could give me the million but only seven days before the actual fight.”
“And? So? What happened next?” Juanita asked with uncontained curiosity.
” He kept saying he wanted to pay me in cash, but how was i going to get out of Korea with a million in cash?”
” So what did you do?” Juanita chipped in another rapid question.
“Well, I opened a local Korean bank account in US dollars using my passport and gave him the account number. Just like he said, seven days before the fight, there was a million dollars in my account.”
” The fuck is this shit!….” Juanita said in disbelief. His story was so fantastic.
“You’re telling me, this guy wired a million dollars to your account? Seven days before your fight there was a million dollars in your account? Well did you turn up for the actual fight?” Juanita blurted.
” Yep! Yep and Yep” Salvano answered.
” And??????” Juanita asked almost at the edge of her seat.
” What do you mean and?” Salvano said being deliberately obtuse, teasing Juanita in his own way.
” Well did you kick ass or did you get your ass kicked?” Juanita asked.
” I went five rounds with a boxer from Nigeria. I won by knockout.” Salvano said smiling.
” Holy shit! so you’re telling me that you pocketed another three million dollars after the fight?” Juanita asked.
” Yep, and your the only person I have ever told, so let’s keep it a secret between us. Ok?” Salvano said staring directly into her eyes.
Juanita gestured with her fingers to her mouth, showing that her lips were sealed.
” No wonder you gave me your USD$ 5,000 that you won in the best-dressed competition at the Martinez’s party! You didn’t need it.” Juanita exclaimed.
” Salvano, you’ve got to believe in God. No one is this lucky.” Juanita said seriously.
” Hey, you’re looking at a strong believer in God. I’m not a church-going, prayer warrior and I have no desire to be, but God and I have been talking since I was sixteen. Your right…all my experiences have made me realize even more that I’m really blessed. Things always end up in my favor somehow. God is always giving me wisdom and making things work out for me.” Salvano said.
” So no one knows, not Marcus, not your mother, no one but me?” Juanita asked.
” No one! Especially not my mother. She would want to blow through my money like a hurricane. She has no self-control.” Salvano said.
” Let me tell you another story about my time in South Korea. At this same hotel, I met a lifeguard who was from a small island called Tonga. He had lived in Korea for eight years. When he first came he was an illegal immigrant. He got into a fight with some guy and accidentally hit the guy’s girlfriend during the fight. He ended up spending two months in jail. He thought for sure they would deport him, but turns out they gave him all his papers instead.
Apparently, Korea had such an aging population problem, that they were secretly or openly giving illegal immigrants their papers. They even told him that if he had any family or anyone else he knew that were illegally staying in Korea, that they would give them their papers too.” Salvano narrated
” Woah..just like that?” Juanita exclaimed
” Yep, but the best part was, while he was in prison he met some other guys who were in a house capturing gang. You see, there were abandoned houses all over South Korea and Jeju island. So these guys just went around claiming the houses.”
” The fuck is this shit…” Juanita exclaimed.
Chuckling at Juanita’s outburst Salvano continued the story,
“So after my Tongan friend came out of jail with his residency papers, he went and captured an abandoned house. Nice house too, fairly new. He said he then went to the post office where they dealt with utilities and submitted his name and address. They sent someone and connected his light, heat, gas, water for a small fee. No questions asked.” Salvano described.
” Oh damn, that’s so cool and inspiring. Things worked out for him” Juanita said.
” He was basically telling me that if I wanted to capture a house or houses in Korea he would show me how,” Salvano said.
” I’ve never heard anything like this before. Wow, all these things can happen to a person! Just wow.” Juanita exclaimed.
” Hey, it’s not like you don’t have awesome stories too. İ mean you made $80,000 in a few days and your suddenly a popular new designer on the scene after you made that amazing Jumpsuit.” Salvano mentioned.
“You are so right! And I’m going to be even more famous after playing Polly in Body Strike. Heck, I can even use my scenes in Body Strike to sell clothes that Polly has worn in each episode. What do you think?” Juanita asked.
” İ think that’s a fabulous idea. İ have no problem with it.” Salvano replied.
” I’m really glad I met you Salvano.”
” İ feel the same way Juanita, your really an amazing girl. You sure do think differently.” Salvano said.
Just then Juanita let out the biggest yawn from out of nowhere.
” Come on sleepyhead, it’s been a long day. You go to bed and get some rest.” Salvano said firmly.
” Ok. Your right. Even though I do want to stay up and hear more stories, I’m beat!” Juanita replied.
” You’ve been going hard for the past month. Go rest. Good night.” Salvano reminded her.
” Good night,” Juanita said and disappeared through the door. When she reached her room, she fell asleep within five minutes.
Salvano stayed up for another hour before he finally turned in for the night.
The Next Few Weeks:
Juanita and Salvano didn’t see each other for a week after their talk on his verandah. Juanita had returned home to new orders. She was also caught up in updating new looks to her website. Juanita had started sending little gift packages to her customers along with their purchases. She would include random gifts like dried fruits(jackfruits, sorrel), local fried plantain chips, and sauces made in Belize. She especially loved sending these to customers in far-off places like Belarus and Russia, where she had gotten a few orders from.
” Look at me getting customers from far-off places!” Juanita thought.
She also sent cute little craft earrings and bracelets that she found around the island’s craft markets. She had taken the time out to write little notes describing the different dried fruits and their health benefits.
” Ms. Juanita, I have finished embellishing the different sleeve styles and crocheting the various flowers. İ organized them away as you asked. Also, the girls are done with the last three orders that came in. Corinne has already packaged up everything.” Janet a new girl with very meticulous fingers came inside to Juanita’s living room to inform her.
Just then Corinne and Selma came inside too. The girls had been doing most of their work around work tables on Juanita’s verandah.
” Yes, Ms.Juanita we are just waiting on the gift baskets to go along with the order. Selma and İ will drive to FedEx and drop off the packages today.” Corinne added.
” Oh, that’s great girls! Let’s call it a day then. Here is some gas and food money Corinne for you and Selma. İ will call you guys when I need you again” Juanita said.
Juanita handed them the small gift sets. Smiling the two women, Selma and Corinne set out to deliver the orders. Turning to Janet, Juanita said,
” Janet, although your new, your really an excellent and patient embroiderer. Please continue improving your skills in new areas and new forms of embroidering. Also, there are some sketches that you and I will go over next week of some interesting things we can make. That’s it for today, let Diana and Sophia know that they should finish up and leave when they are ready. İ will send you all your payments by the end of the day. Here is some food money and bus fare for all of you. You know the drill by now” Juanita said with a smile.
By the time everyone had wrapped up and left, Juanita’s mother had arrived home. Juanita noticed that for this week, her mom was always home earlier than usual.
” Mhmm, nothing more than wanting to fast(pry) in my business.” Juanita thought.
A tired but content Juanita greeted her mother on the verandah.
” Hey mom, welcome.”
” Hey, Ms. Business woman, entrepreneur extraordinaire!” Her mother said loudly, slamming her door.
Feeling a negative energy coming her way, Juanita raised her eyebrows.
” What’s up with you? Did something happen at work?” Juanita questioned.
” No, but something is happening with my daughter,” Maria said back crossly.
” Nothing is happening with me that warrants a negative or upset attitude mom. So what’s the problem?” Juanita said calmly.
” First of all you embarrass Adrianna and try to take all of her shine away. Then you quit on me up by the estate. Now you have people in my house, going back and forth! On top of it, you’ve started sleeping out. Are you and Salvano already having sex?” Maria blurted out angrily.
Feeling blindsided and blown away by what was coming out of her mother’s mouth, Juanita could only stare and think,
” What demon is riding this bitch because that’s the only explanation for this outburst!”
” You think your some grown woman now! Moving up in the world! so you can show off on everybody and give us attitude! Well, this is my house and if you think you’re a woman now you can go!” Maria said stalking up the verandah steps angrily.
” Where is all this coming from? İ thought you were fine with me staying by Salvano’s. You could have said no and I would have found myself home.” Juanita answered.
” And as for Adrianna, how is that even a problem? İ should lessen myself so that Adrianna can feel like more. Am I not your daughter? You would think Adrianna was your biological child the way your acting?” Juanita countered again.
“You are NOT on Adrianna’s level Juanita, not in terms of wealth or connections so you better learn your place,” Maria shouted.
” Are you hearing yourself, in this modern age you are talking about levels?” Juanita questioned.
” Also don’t come at me with any shady question about me sleeping with Salvano, have you ever known me to be that sort of girl? Even more importantly Salvano is not like that” Juanita said.
A dumfounded Maria could not reply to all of Juanita’s counter-arguments.
” Well, you need to find somewhere else for all these people to go. İ don’t want them up in my house anymore.” Maria said and angrily stalked into the house.
A few minutes later, A still angry Maria shouted from the kitchen,
” Look at you, you have been home all day and you didn’t even cook anything!”
Not answering her, Juanita simply went to her room. İnternally she was stewing. She had been thinking recently about getting her own place. But this episode with her mother really let it sink in. She knew the quickest route out of her mother’s house was to rent somewhere. Yet something inside of her insisted on buying her own land. So Juanita got on her phone and started looking up real estate in Belize.
” You think I’m some pushover mom! You think you can stop my business, stop my progress.” Juanita kept thinking fumingly while scrolling through properties.
Her anger spurred her on,
” İ will show you. İ will be out of here so fast you won’t even know where I am. God will help me to get out from under you! You watch!” Juanita thought in her head.
Before the night was over, Juanita had already screened four properties she liked, two of which had some semblance of a house on the land. She had emailed the agents/owners about her interest. She would call tomorrow to follow up. Hopefully, she could tour the land right away.
The next morning Juanita woke up purpose-driven. She was still high on determination. Her mind was made up. She heard her phone ringing and when she answered, it was a call from one of the landowners she had emailed.
” Hello, Good morning. Could I speak with Ms. Juanita Cortazar?”
” Good morning, This is Juanita speaking. How can I help?”
” Hi, I’m Fred Thompson. You sent me an email last night saying you would be interested in buying my property. I’m really motivated to sell, looking for serious inquiries really.” Fred said.
” Well I’m serious about buying right away but your not the only land I’m looking at. Why are you selling, by the way, Mr.Thompson?”
” Well Ms.Cortazar, I’m getting older and my kids want me to come live with them in America. None of them plan on coming back to Belize, they don’t want the land. İt makes me really sad cause I spent years planting so many fruits and crops…for what? But I can set up a tour of the land for you as soon as your ready.” Fred said.
” How about tomorrow Fred?” Juanita said.
” Well, it would be a pleasure, Ms.Cortazar. Ok, let me give you the exact directions.”
With that, Fred gave her specific directions on how to get to his home. Juanita and Fred agreed that she would be there by 1 pm.
Throughout the rest of the day, she received either calls or emails from other places. She also made different appointments with them throughout the rest of the week.
Juanita took a look at her options. There were several properties that she loved but they were too pricey. She kept wondering what was best for her, a small plot by the seaside or larger acres in more rural areas. She narrowed down her choices to the fact that she didn’t want to be too far from main towns and she needed quick access to major roads. Frankly, she didn’t have any other ideas on what she was looking for.
” İ will know when I see it.” Juanita thought to herself. She felt excited at this new step. There was no hesitation in her heart.
She heard her phone ringing, when she saw who it was, her face broke out into a grin. She remembered his last words to her after he had dropped her back home.
” Juanita I like you a lot. İ want us to continue getting to know each other.” Salvano disclosed.
” What do you mean Salvano?…Like dating? Boyfriend, Girlfriend?” Juanita had asked directly.
” Exactly Juanita, but I see you more as my wife.” Salvano had said bluntly.
A temporarily speechless Juanita could only smile. She had just nodded and said shyly,
” Okay, that was direct”
” Would you have rather I drag it out and string you along?” Salvano had asked wiggling his eyebrows.
” No, no I wouldn’t want that,” Juanita answered back.
” Well, now that I have acted like a man should and you have no objections to my intentions beautiful, let’s take our time to get to know each other more, spend time together…and no that doesn’t mean sex. İ actually don’t want to have sex at all before getting married,” Salvano said.
” İ agree about the sex part, on marriage… well we will see,” Juanita said firmly but still blushing at his directness.
” I’ll call you. İ really want you to come out with me and the guys whenever we’re going out. They will probably want to chill at home for a bit, I will show them the beetroots and stuff. Plus I have grapes, pineapples and papayas growing. Dal is now on my case about plantains. So I’ll show him how they grow.” Salvano said.
” Ok. Sounds good.”
” Don’t think I have forgotten about us going to get your official driver’s license either,” Salvano said.
” I’m ready when you are available,” Juanita said understandingly, knowing he would be busy with being a good host.
” Okay, I’ll see you soon Juanita.” Salvano had said hugging her. He turned and left.
Snapping out of the memory, Juanita answered her phone.
” Hey, beautiful” Salvano said enthusiastically.
” Hey, what’s up?” Juanita said cheerily.
” I’m on the farm with the guys. But I really wanted to hear your voice. We’re going out on the weekend… beach trip over to one of the smaller islands. İ would like you to come? Have you ever camped on the beach before?”
” No, I’ve never done that before,” Juanita answered.
” İt’s a lot of fun, Marcus has invited Lizzie and her brothers, by the way, Ms.Mac and her daughter are coming too, We can fish and dive for fun. Do a cookout. What do you say?” Salvano questioned enthusiastically.
” İt sound nice Salvano but right now I’m looking for a place to live,” Juanita informed him.
” What do you mean? What happened? You live with your mom. Did she kick you out?” Salvano questioned his mind connecting the dots.
” She basically came home yesterday and just started saying a lot of shit. She doesn’t want me to do my business out of her house anymore. More importantly, I want to leave too.” Juanita said frustratedly.
” Well, what do you want to do? You can come to stay with me, it’s not a problem.” Salvano said getting excited at the end.
” No Salvano, that’s not appropriate. Mom basically accused me of sleeping with you already. Staying with you would only give her a feeling of she was right. İ can hear her even now, telling everyone we know how I left her house to go live with a man” Juanita said forlornly.
” Well then let’s get married and live together,” Salvano said.
” Salvano we’ve just started dating remember,” Juanita exclaimed with disbelief.
” So? I’m very sure about you Juanita. İ just didn’t want to tell you and scare you off.” Salvano said frankly.
” Well, I would still need time Salvano to make such a big decision,” Juanita said seriously.
” Ok modern and independent woman. So I will wait then on the marriage part.” Salvano said.
” Anyway I made some appointments to go land touring. İ have a tour set up tomorrow actually.”
” Have you told your mom your intentions?” Salvano asked.
” No, and I don’t intend to. She will just come home one day and she just won’t see me.” Juanita said firmly.
Salvano burst out laughing at Juanita’s adamant tone.
” Ok, well then I will come with you tomorrow.”
” But what about your guests Salvano?” Juanita asked.
“Marcus is here, Mrs. Mac is here and the men on my farm are here. They should be able to keep the guests busy. Plus you already heard Dal’s English, he can help himself to communicate with Marcus and Ms. Mac.” Salvano reassured her.
” No arguments Juanita, what time tomorrow and where are we going?” Salvano asked.
” Ok, I’ll email you the links to the properties and the address. You can look them over.” Juanita said.
” Ok, well we have certainly pivoted into an unexpected direction. İ swear amazing Juanita, it’s always something new with you.” Salvano said in awe.
” İm surprised you didn’t scold me or encourage me to make things up with my mother,” Juanita said.
” I’m not sentimental about mothers. Not one bit. Plus it’s a step in the right and inevitable direction.” Salvano replied.
” Thanks. I’ll send you the property website links now, take a look when you can.”
” Ok. I’ll call you back later after I’ve looked at them,” Salvano said.
” Cool. Bye”Juanita hung up. She felt way better after talking to Salvano. İn truth she was very excited about becoming a property owner
Written by Sher Trott-Bailey Salvano had arranged a tour bus to meet them at the airport. Hikaru, Daisuke, Dal, Ji-Hoon, and Sung-ho were all comfortably ensconced in the small tour bus which was following behind Salvano and Juanita’s car. By the time they had reached Salvano’s home, it was well after 5 pm. When they…Read MoreRead More