Speed bumps on the road of life got nothing on the roads of Belize

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A rare sight in Belize: an actual stop light. This intersection is in the town of Orange Walk, in northern Belize.
A rare sight in Belize: an actual stop light. This intersection is in the town of Orange Walk, in northern Belize.

Is there a difference between a “speed bump” and a “speed hump”?

Apparently there is. I just answered my own question here.

I got to thinking about speed bumps (for brevity’s we’ll just call them all “bumps”) because I nailed one the other day and it knocked me right back to Belize.

There are thousands of speed bumps in Belize.

Thousands.

OK, maybe scores of them. Or many hundreds.

I never did stop to photograph a speed bump -- I mean, how dull is that? -- but I had to take a picture of this  sign which we came upon after nearly an hour crawling at 10 to 15 mph while dodging rocks and potholes. More Belizean humor, I think.
I never did stop to photograph a speed bump — I mean, how dull is that? — but I had to take a picture of this sign which we came upon after nearly an hour crawling at 10 to 15 mph while dodging rocks and potholes. More Belizean humor, I think.

Put it this way: As you approach any town of any size in Belize, its entrance is demarcated by a speed bump. Possibly two. Sometimes three speed bumps, of which one is usually called a pedestrian crossing. You’ll know when you are exiting the town because your head will hit the car roof three more times.

There are speed bumps just before schools, just before bus stops, just before entering traffic circles. Here’s a hard-earned tip: there’s a speed bump upon exiting traffic circles, bus stops and schools, too.

Beside every speed bump there are women and little children selling fresh fruits, vegetables and spices. They will hold up their wares as you slow down. And you know what? It works. Lots of people pull over – “hell, I’m almost stopped anyway …” – and buy stuff.

A native Belizean told me she once saw little kids, no more than six years old, walking out in front of cars slowing for speed bumps, their little hands filled with bags of fresh spices. That’s putting a lot of faith in drivers who often can barely distinguish the speed bumps from the road surface.

She pulled over, all right. And marched the kids right over to the nearby house where the mother sat and gave her a dressing down and threatened to call authorities if she ever put those kids to work on the road again.

“I drove by the same spot a week later,” she recalled, “there were no kids walking in front of cars. So I stopped and thanked the mother for being more careful. And I bought a little something from her.”

You know the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child”? I sometimes feel it was coined in Belize.

Once, after spending nearly an hour bouncing down a treacherous road filled with potholes, water traps and rocks, we came upon a 30-yard stretch of paved road leading right into a town. I’d no sooner accelerated – just for the sheer joy of going 20 mph again — when I slammed right into a speed bump.

Yup: Even the potholes have speed bumps in Belize.

You begin to appreciate the roadside commerce because often times there are no longer any posted signs warning of speed bumps and the once yellow-and-black-striped bumps themselves have been burnished to a dull gray, identical to the road surface. A cluster of people on the side of the road can mean one of two things – there’s a speed bump or there’s a speed bump and bus stop.

Either way, you slow down. Yeah?

On the other hand, there seem to be hardly any stoplights outside of the city of Belize. Between the potholes and the speed bumps, stoplights are a needlessly costly expenditure. And where we did encounter stoplights, Orange Walk for example, I’m pretty sure there were speed bumps leading up to them.

One curious sight as were were leaving San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye: town workers with jackhammers were removing concrete speed bumps from one of the town’s three paved streets.

Didn’t see that one coming.

You might think that Belizeans love their speed bumps. But no. No more than you or I do. In fact, they have a nickname for speed bumps that betrays a local disdain and wry sense of humor.

They call them “sleeping policemen.”

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5 thoughts on “Speed bumps on the road of life got nothing on the roads of Belize

    Game on, Belize | Bound for Belize said:
    October 16, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    […] Speed bumps on the road of life got nothing on the roads of Belize (robertjhawkins1.wordpress.com) […]

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    […] Speed bumps on the road of life got nothing on the roads of Belize (robertjhawkins1.wordpress.com) […]

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    […] Speed bumps on the road of life got nothing on the roads of Belize (robertjhawkins1.wordpress.com) […]

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    Roslyn Banks said:
    October 30, 2013 at 8:05 am

    I enjoyed your articles and can’t wait to see more. I am considering making Belize my next adventure even though I haven’t been there for a visit. Your Step 2 was definitely a reminder for me and I have already begun the process. Yes, it can be very painful but it’s just “stuff”.

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      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      October 30, 2013 at 11:41 am

      Sounds like you’ve had some adventures already! Good ones, I hope. Let me know when your plans for Belize come into focus. Step 2 is extremely painful! I’ve spent the last few days going through boxes with old newspaper stories, letters, photos, diaries, assorted writing notes and Christmas cards. Yes, I’m that bad.
      I’ve made it through a box and a half so far ….
      Thanks for reading and writing. Best of luck to you!

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