Monday, April 18, 2005



so i went to belize. and then i came back. and it was fun :)

anyone even know anything about belize? cuz i didn't. i assumed it was all latin-influenced and typical central american stereotyped and such. yeah, no. it's crazy carribbean flava.

i went with my then-housemate seth and his girlfriend agnes. the motivation for the trip was my need to visit my friend nikki, who has been down there for the last year and a half with the peace corps.

we took off thursday, february 17th (my birthday, wOOt!), taking a red-eye down to belize city. having had virtually no sleep the night before (thanks to good dancing and a yummy birthday present from friend ian), the fact that i then proceeded to get another 0 hours of sleep on the plane meant that my first day in-country consisted primarily of naptime. but what i saw of belize city was pretty cool. it's the biggest city in the country, but that's not saying much. it reminded me of a town on barbados or similar. full on rasta-stylee, with jamaican accents flying around in the air. all the signs in english. u.s. dollars accepted everywhere (literally). SUPER-friendly. no catcalling. no weird looks. just nice folks.

the next day seth and agnes headed off for a few days in guatemala, and i started my trek down to nikki's village. belize city is in the northern half of the country, and i was heading to the far southern tip of belize. took a bit of time, yes. after a loooong bus ride i arrived in the town of punta gorda and found a hostel. i found a restaurant that nikki had recommended because the proprietess was a friend of hers. the woman's name was marian, and she took very good care of me. sunday morning was spent lazing and wandering around waiting for a ride down to nikki's house in the village of blue creek. finally got down there and found nikki 'round mid-afternoon. she lives in a small house (with running water and electricity, thankyouyes) with another woman. both of them teach at an alternative high school for mayan kids. the house is located on the schoolgrounds near other teachers' homes and also near the kids' dorms, so it was a fun social place to spend a few days. the kids were great--a lot of fun and super-friendly. i spent my time lying around reading (this was definitely a VACATION, remember!!), wandering around the village and town with nikki, and occasionally helping her do something productive. we spent one day erranding in punta gorda, and i really enjoyed getting to see how life went in a small town. punta gorda is small and sleepy, with a very different feel from belize city. still friendly, but with a lot more spanish spoken, and a lot more latin influence. another afternoon we went to the blue creek cave. i guess i've never really been to a cave with a river running through it--i was in awe of the feature and also a bit spooked. nikki suggested we swim all the way in and check out deeper parts of the cave, but i verrry quickly nixed that idea, being totally content to stay in the pool at the mouth. beautiful though, that's for sure...

i left nikki's early wednesday morning and got on another series of buses. crazy surreal weirdness, that country-- imagine sitting on an old yellow u.s. school bus, modified a bit to encompass allll the rasta colors in the side to you is a teenage girl, black with carribbean-accented english and fully done up in u.s. hip hop fashion...across the aisle is a menonite couple speaking german to each other and generally acting very stiff and front of you is a mayan family in traditional dress, speaking ketchi...behind you are a couple of latino men speaking rapid spanish but just smiling shyly if you ask a question...over the bus's sound system you're getting a mix of early 90's u.s. soft rock (complete with mariah carey, george michael, and berlin), dancehall, reggae, mariachi, and latin pop...

got up to belize city and took a boat taxi over to the cayes, the main tourist attraction in the country, where i rejoined seth and agnes for the second half of the trip. the cayes consist of a couple of islands that have lots of hotels and restaurants and diving outfits. lodging is cheap, food is waaay over-priced and not very belize-ish, and the people are slightly less friendly than on the mainland. (though really, if i had to deal with that many stupid americans on a daily basis, i'd be slightly less friendly too.)

the culture shock of quick transition from pc-worldly-cultural-experience-backpacker to drunk-idle-i'm-going-to-lie-on-the-beach-and-wait-for-you-to-entertain-me-tourist was a bit much, and it took me a while to stop being grumpy about how nasty patronizing the island tourism culture is. but eventually i remembered that i was on a tropical island with nothing to do but lie around and be lazy, and i decided to stop feeling guilty and have a totally wonderful time.

we were staying on caye caulker, which is the less ritzy of the two main cayes. we had a nice room in a hostel with a cozy front porch, out of the main rush of things. one morning we did a snorkling trip that stopped at three interesting locations--two reef areas and one shark/ray petting area. the snorkling was wonderful fun. i hadn't been in years, and enjoyed it more than i remembered. i think it helped that there were only five of us on the boat besides the guide, and also that the other four folks weren't enthusiastic swimmers--the guide spent a lot of time showing me cool stuff while we waited for the others to catch up. another day we went to ambergris caye, which includes the town of san pedro. way more expensive than caye caulker, and less interesting, but please note that the madonna song 'la isla bonita' was written about ambergris caye and san pedro, so the novelty of that compensated for the island's shortcomings :)

i'm generally very bad at meeting people while travelling. i'm not sure why. well, actually i know why--it's cuz i don't talk to people--but i mean i'm not sure why i don't talk to people. i think it must be related to my nervousness about accidentally befriending someone who can't tell when it's time to let me get back to my know? (i could digress here to a story about having to spend a 10 hour train ride dealing with an over-friendly man in the seat next to me as i tried very hard to nurse a shitty hangover, but i'll spare you.) but i managed to make a few new friends on caye caulker. the most interesting was a boy who works at one of the shops. he saw me walking away from a book exchange and wanted to know what i had gotten. it happened to be 'the screwtape letters' by c.s. lewis. aaaand SO, i ended up in a two-hour conversation about religion and spirituality with an 18-year-old baptist kid. ?!? his shop was right near our hotel, so i saw and talked to him a few times a day after that first conversation. our snorkling guide was another new friend, and since his business was also near our hotel i got to have the lovely experience of having people call hullos to me every time i left to walk around. yum :)

the other new friends were travellers. i saw a boy wearing a shirt that said 'pink mammoth', so of course i inquired as to whether he was associated with the sf party group of the same name. indeed he was (and is). his name is vincenzo (and he is RAD because he tried to hook me up with a gig go-go dancing on a bus, which didn't work out but was totally cool to just *think* about. thanks, yo!). and then on our last evening as we were watching a specTACular sunset, seth, who is horrifyingly friendly, started talking to a group of kids from canada. i eventually overcame my silly aloof i-don't-talk-to-people-while-i'm-travelling thing... (ok, so i managed to overcome the barrier primarily because one of these kids was a super super cute boy with an accent. but whatever.) ...and ended up making plans to go out with them later. so my last night was phenomenally fun, with a huge crew of us hitting first a weird swiss-family-robinson-treehouse-style reggae bar and then a silly-fun hip hop club that was having a birthday party for 'the hottest male stripper in belize'. and the cute canadian boy continued to be very cute and adorable, a moderately good dancer as well as a moderately good kisser ;)

if you're still reading, i'm impressed. i can't stand reading people's travel accounts. if you're a REAL glutton for punishment, check back later to see if i can manage to past in a link to the trip pictures. (there are only about 24 of them, but they aren't that exciting.)

the end :)

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