In Belize, the crustacean sensation is sweeping the nation

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Bicycling long the beach in San Pedro Town today, a warm and clear day after a huge drenching during the night.
Hot, hot, hot: Bicycling  along the beach in San Pedro Town, Belize,  around noon. It has been a warm and clear day after a huge drenching during the night.

This week in San Pedro, Belize, our culinary gods are arthropods.

There is nothing more satisfying than a heaping plate of tender, buttery meat-laden exoskeleton. It is such a thrill to much on these giant krill.

The crustacean sensation is sweeping the entire Belize nation.

Yes, you rock, lobster.

Heck yes, it is LobsterFest.

Yes, I bought the official LobsterFest T-shirt. Couldn't resist this cool image. And it is my first white T-shirt. Of what importance that is, I have no idea.
Yes, I bought the official LobsterFest T-shirt. Couldn’t resist this cool image. And it is my first white T-shirt. Of what importance that is, I have no idea.

This weeklong celebration  marks the start of the lobster season and there clearly was a community feeling of anticipation building up to the start of the event this past weekend.

You know what this anticipation kind of reminds me of? And this is completely useless information unless you were a fan of the TV series “Northern Exposure.”  The coming of LobsterFest is sort of a cross between the buildup to the Christmas Raven Pageant and the “Spring Break” — aka waiting for the ice to crack – episode.

I don’t mean literally – although I hear that LobsterFest II, later this month on Caye Caulker, tends to get pretty wild.

The Belize Chocolate Company was handing out delicious little lobsters with each chocolate drink purchase on Wednesday.
The Belize Chocolate Company was handing out delicious little lobsters with each chocolate drink purchase on Wednesday.

Come to think of it, there is a little of Cicely, the imaginary and remote Alaskan village, in San Pedro Town. There are strong, vivid and iconoclastic personalities here. Sometimes with just the right amount of quirkiness to fuel a whole dramedy series on TV.

Whoa. This is as crazy a digression as any that I’ve ventured into. I think I’ll take the exploration of similarities between Cicely and San Pedro off line for now.

So, LobsterFest.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve's offices/museum is worht stopping into before you go snorkeling. Remember an informed snorkeler is an enlightened snorkeler -- or at least one that knows the names of some of the crazy beautiful stuff you see beneath the waves.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve’s offices/museum is worht stopping into before you go snorkeling. Remember an informed snorkeler is an enlightened snorkeler — or at least one that knows the names of some of the crazy beautiful stuff you see beneath the waves.

After the power came back on Sunday afternoon, Rose and I bicycled over to Caribbean Villas for the opening LobsterFest beach party. Yeah, the power was off from 6 a.m. until about 3 p.m. as the whole island was shut down for maintenance on Father’s Day/World Cup Day/LobsterFest.

The party still went on – you don’t need electricity to serve drinks and BBQ lobster – but we decided to make the most of this quiet time and simply stay in bed with our Kindles powered on. Read and relax, just as God intended on the seventh day.

When the tell-tale hum of air conditioners and water pumps returned, we hopped on the bikes and pedaled south. Our more-experienced island friends were well into their afternoon celebrations and had consumed plenty of lobster before we got there.

OK, mental challenge time. Can you unscramble the panels which make up the backdrop for the LobsterFest stage in Central Park and figure out the last event for which they did service?
OK, mental challenge time. Can you unscramble the nine  panels which make up the backdrop for the LobsterFest stage in Central Park and figure out the last event for which they did service?

Karaoke was in play under the band canopy and there was a fascinating display of twerking by a young blonde that made most everyone forget about lobster for the moment.

Unaware that Rose had ordered two lobster roll dinners for us, I wandered over to the kitchen and ordered a third dinner, which I thought we’d split. That’s why later that night at home we were still eating lobster roll. And believe me, that is no complaint.

So, a big chunk of the festival is the Lobster Crawl. Each day, participants take their “passport” to a designated restaurant or business to get stamped. There’s a daytime location and an evening restaurant which features a lobster dish or two on the menu.

If you are not into going out to dinner a lot, the Lobster Crawl is just kind of a thing that goes on until Saturday when there is a big public festival in Central Park, with music, singing, outdoor cooking and good times.

Lobster Crawl 2014 passports at the ready!
Lobster Crawl 2014 passports at the ready!

The more stamps you get, the more chances to win stuff like hotel stays, golf cart rentals, meals and drinks. Rose and I have collected a surprising number of stamps mainly because all the stops so far have coincided with our daily trips to yoga and Pilates.

Monday, for example, we stopped in at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve office/museum which has some great displays of coral reef life. I learned that a sea turtle has actually nested south of town, which I gather is unusual. Turtles usually nest well to the north of town but development, dock lighting and dubious activity near the border with Mexico may be driving the turtles to the south.

That was worth getting a stamp.

Beyond chasing lobster stamps, Rose and I have been getting ready for our trip to England for a wedding and back to the States for a couple of weeks.  We’re also still exploring the possibility of moving to the south of town when our lease is up in August.

We’ve been watching the World Cup with far more interest and intensity than either of us would have ever imagined. It helps when you are surrounded by people who legitimately have invested their heart and soul into their country’s team. And a lot of countries are represented here.

I can bicycle through town during a football match and pretty much tell how the game is going because every television set is fixed on the same station, broadcasting the same game at full volume.

Did I mention the carnival rides? No? They are actually part of the next San Pedro festival which is Dia de San Pedro, June 20-29 -- some overlap -- and involves much prayer  in the Catholic Church, carnival rides, music, eating, fireworks and fishing. Much of it takes place at the football field on the west side of town.
Did I mention the carnival rides? No? They are actually part of the next San Pedro festival which is Dia de San Pedro, June 20-29 — some overlap — and involves much prayer in the Catholic Church, carnival rides, music, eating, karaoke, dancing, fireworks and fishing. Much of it takes place at the football field on the west side of town. There’s also a boat procession before the June 29 Fishing Rodeo.

This week has also been consumed by the latest novel from Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, “The Son.” While this is a police-related thriller, it does not involve Harry Hole (Hoo-lay), the brilliantly failed cop who stars in so many of his novels. Same crime-ridden Oslo, same corrupt police force, same kinds of horribly diabolical human beings – and the same kind of morally complicated scenarios that Harry Hole stumbles through.

In this one, a 30-year-old Sonny Lofthus has floated through 12 years in prison, pretty much perpetually high on heroin. In that time he has confessed to two murders and is about to take the rap for a third when he learns some significant information about the apparent suicide and corruption confession of his father, a one-time highly regarded cop.

Sonny breaks out of Oslo’s newest and most secure prison and disappears, surfacing only to take extraordinarily appropriate and gruesome revenge on the individuals who destroyed his father and his family.

Pursuing Sonny is a cop who was once his father’s best friend. He’s also being pursued by corrupt cops, government officials and mobsters – all of whom have something to fear from Sonny’s acts of vengeance.

I don’t mean to be writing a book review. It is just that Jo Nesbo is an insanely good writer and storyteller. If I don’t surface for a while, it is probably because I have gotten hooked on one of his books. Or one of Haruki Murakami’s. He has a new one coming out soon, too, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.”

Suffice to say, I’m never bored when I have Jo and Haruki to keep me company.

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3 thoughts on “In Belize, the crustacean sensation is sweeping the nation

    Jenny Bryan said:
    June 23, 2014 at 8:35 am

    I like the Northern Exposure reference! That was one of my favorite shows! I always thought Cicely wuld be an awesome place to live because it was so close knit….but then there’s the snow, so I had to tap out!! I like that I may get that feeling in a tropical paradise! Have fun at Lobsterfest!!

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      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      June 23, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Thanks, Jenny. I used to have the entire series of Northern Exposure on DVD. Each case came enclosed in a mini-down jacket….kind of to emphasize how freaking cold it got in Cicely. Poor Joel, he was always freezing.
      LobsterFest was a real treat.

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