Counting iguanas? ‘Not in Kansas anymore’

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Full disclosure: I was not running when I took this picture of an iguana ... but, it is representative of many of the Ambergris Caye iguanas that I encounter each day on my runs. And, anyway, think about it: Would you really want to stop running just to take pictures of iguanas?
Full disclosure: I was not running when I took this picture of an iguana … but, it is representative of many of the Ambergris Caye iguanas that I encounter each day on my runs. And, anyway, think about it: Would you really want to stop running just to take pictures of iguanas?

I have picked up a small obsession during my daily morning runs here on Ambergris Caye in Belize.

I count iguanas

At first it was just the novelty of it all. Running in San Diego most of my adult life I encountered plenty of rattlesnakes, small lizards, coyotes, dog poop, dollar bills, drug syringes, homeless people and tourists. None of these were in quantities worth noting on a daily basis.

But here, the number of iguanas warming themselves on the rip-rap walls at the edge of the Caribbean Sea is pretty amazing. And sometimes alarming. Well, at first.

I mean, why are they all staring at me with those inscrutable, expressionless faces? Haven’t they ever seen a runner before?

It wasn’t long before I realized that these magnificent creatures had no interest in me. For one, I am far from the only runner out there, most mornings. No, the iguanas were doing just what they seemed to be doing: gathering warmth from the early morning sun.

Still, once you start counting iguanas …

My best is 21 iguanas. Most days the number is between 14 and 18, depending on the time in the morning and the route that I take.

Size varies, too. As I grow more familiar with their habitat and habits I think I’ll start categorizing them into Godzillas, Mamma Iguanas, Throne Seekers and Toddlers. Names to follow.

I mentioned the iguana obsession on Facebook recently. My former U-T San Diego colleague and friend Greg Gross quickly shot back: “When you start to measure your morning runs in terms of iguanas rather than miles, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore …”

You got that right, Greg.

But that got me thinking. Are there ways that Belize, specifically San Pedro Town, is like Kansas?

The answer to that, I can’t say. I think I only drove through Kansas once, in the early 1980’s, en route to California, and I was in a stupor the whole way.

However.

I do see similarities to life in the U.S. in general.

For example, in San Pedro we, too, have drive-through pharmacies:

Just enough room to fit a golf cart.
Curb service: Just enough room to fit a golf cart. And don’t you just love the happy dancing pills on the poster? Reminds me of the dancing popcorn container, candy box and Coke cup during drive-in movie intermissions: “Oh, lets all go to the snack counter …” But I digress.

 

And we have discount pharmacies — which bring smiles to  faces all over the island, I assume:

Got to love a pharmacy that sells discount Viagra and Cialis ... and real Cuban cigars.
Window shopping: Got to love a pharmacy that sells discount Viagra and Cialis … and real Cuban cigars. And if that price is in Belizean dollars … holy cow.

 

There are publicly accessible GPS/search engine stations to help people navigate San Pedro Town:

Bonus feature: Each GPS/search engine station comes with a life-size model of a local fish atop the "screen."
You are here: Why Google it when you have such readily available databases? Bonus feature: Each GPS/search engine station comes with a life-size model of a local fish atop the “screen.”

 

Sometimes our parking lots fill to capacity:

parking lot full

 

And sometimes — more often than you would think — there are traffic jams:

This picture would be more typical if it included a few golf carts but you get the idea. Bonus feature: to the left of the pickup truck is what I believe to be the island's only electric two-seater Smart car! Loved driving those things in San Diego. Would love to see them replace the noisy golf carts here.
Convergence: This picture would be more typical if it included a few golf carts but you get the idea. Bonus feature: to the left of the pickup truck is what I believe to be the island’s only electric two-seater Smart car. Loved driving those things in San Diego. Would love to see them replace the noisy golf carts here.

 

Bitcoin, schmitcoin … we have innovative money markets/currency exchanges, too:

Some day, somebody will figure out the Belikin-to-Bitcoin ratio and begin trading in those too. Meanwhile, the going Belikin-to-US dollars exchange runs one bottle to $1.75-to-$3US. (You understand I'm kind of making this up. Don't hold your local bartender to it ...)
Let’s go to the Big Board: Some day, somebody will figure out the Belikin-to-Bitcoin ratio and begin trading in those too. Meanwhile, the going Belikin-to-US dollars exchange runs one bottle to $1.75-to-$3US. (You understand I’m kind of making this up. Don’t hold your local bartender to it …)

 

Innovative entrepreneurs abound, unshackled from conventional business notions:

Who says a hair salon has to be just a hair salon -- or a bookstore just a bookstore? There is also a clothing boutique/ice cream parlor in town.
Re-purposing resources: Who says a hair salon has to be just a hair salon — or a bookstore just a bookstore? There is also a clothing boutique/ice cream parlor in town.

 

And there are entrepreneurs, like Maria, who carry their entire inventory on their heads or front of their bicycles and travel the length of the town setting up shop where they find people and a stretch of shade:

Maria, I just met a girl named Maria!
A head for business: Maria, I just met a girl named Maria!

Can you think of any other similarities between your homeland and Belize? Post them in the comment section! Thank you for participating. There are no prizes, only glory.

 

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12 thoughts on “Counting iguanas? ‘Not in Kansas anymore’

    Rebecca Coutant said:
    March 27, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Tee hee. You did meet a girl named Maria! Gonna share this one if you don’t mind…

    Like

    Robyn said:
    March 27, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    I am a small town Kansas girl, and the biggest similarity between small town Kansas and San Pedro is the sense of community pride. I have been to San Pedro five times, and it feels like home. Everyone is so friendly and cares about their beautiful home.

    Like

    Jenn said:
    March 27, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Hi. Any advice for me? Will be down there in July for a month, hoping I could find a job and stay out there permanently by the end of the year. Interested in Corozal and Placencia

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      March 28, 2014 at 8:02 am

      Hi Jenn,
      I think you are taking the right steps, as we learned them from others before us:
      1. Spend some time in the country before moving here. (Placencia and Corozal are dramatically different, so you need to experience both. Also, consider San Ignacio, Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye.)
      2. Read up on your locations — especially check out local discussion boards. Your most basic questions have been answered over and over on these websites. Here’s my personal contribution: Set up a daily news feed on Google for “Belize.” You can refine it with feeds for Placencia and Corozal, too. Every day you will get an unanticipated perspective on this country. I promise.
      3. Depending on the kind of work you can do, getting a job can be a challenge. My understanding is that you can not take a job that can be readily done by a Belizean. Getting a work permit can be a long process — again, I understand if you have a sponsor/employer who needs your skills (restaurant manager, for example), it can move along more quickly. We have met some people who work online for U.S. companies and organizations. Technically they are working in the U.S. and getting paid there. (I want one of those jobs!)
      4. Back to locating a place — talk to as many people, locals and expats, as you can about the community. Locals hangouts are not hard to find — but I’d seek out places where locals and expats mix with ease.
      5. Everyone we spoke with said, rent before you buy. I like that idea. Everything is so different from the U.S. it takes a while to develop local eyes and sensibilities. Places that once seemed so out-of-bounds are now quite comfortable. Sticking around for a while expands your options.
      6. Any other readers have some advice?

      Like

        Jenn said:
        March 29, 2014 at 8:54 pm

        Yes. I was going to check out all the places you advised, except Ambergis Caye, seems to pricey for me. Do u suggest I stay at one location and travel daily, within that location and other towns or switch up towns per week? What’s your opinion on the hostels?

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        robertjhawkins1 responded:
        March 30, 2014 at 8:25 pm

        Hi Jenn, that’s a little hard to advise you on. Personally I would give each community a minimum three days. Belize is so different from the US or Canada. It takes time to acclimate and see the real community. On our first visit we spent a few days each in San Pedro, Corozal, San Ignacio and Placencia. Could easily have spent a week in each and still not gotten everything we needed. I wish I could help you on the hostels but I have no experience with them. Two on Ambergris with very good reputations are Changes in Latitude and Pedro’s Hotel. Lots of information on the web though. Good luck!

        Like

    Emily said:
    March 28, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    I’m sorry, sir, but you are mistaken. There is also a red Smartcar on the island! Now you have something else to look for during your runs… 🙂

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      March 29, 2014 at 6:52 am

      Ah! A red one! I shall not stop running until I find it! Wonder if there are Smartcar convertibles?

      Like

    Katerina said:
    March 29, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Love the iguana tale, Bob. When we get up in the morning the first thing Mike does is look out the door to our balcony and count the iguana tails hangling from the sea grape tree. Most days he counts at least five huge iguana tails hanging from the tree. They absolutely LOVE sea grapes… We have a regular iguana colony for neighbors..They are decent neighbors, other than they pilfer our sea grapes!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      March 29, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      So, they like sea grapes. Do they also keep the bug population down?

      Like

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