And we’re back.
If one benefit of travel is to discover things about yourself, then one thing I discovered these past six weeks is that I don’t travel and blog very well.
In fact, you may have noticed, I barely blogged at all.
To those who saw this as a blessed relief which opened up space in your own summer opportunities (ie, less time on computer) I say, you are welcome.
To those who felt that I skirted my implicit responsibility to keep you informed, entertained and distracted, I sincerely apologize. Let the mischief be renewed in full. Let the time wasting begin!
And to those who say, “Wait. Hello? Who the hell are you and how did you get into my burgeoning queue of Internet distractions?” I can only say that my name is Bob Hawkins and I live in Belize. I (we, to include my wife, Rose Alcantara) came to the island of Ambergris Cay six months ago to live, quite possibly, for the rest of our lives.
This blog has been about that process.
Where have I been for the last six weeks?
In a word: Homesick.
Like a sailor on land or the first time in months, I was constantly off-balance. At Heathrow airport it occurred to me that more people pass through this circus in a day than live on Ambergris Caye at its fullest, High Season.
That didn’t help.
I still managed to shoot scores of photos to show what a good time we had.
Now don’t panic. I’m not going to sit you down with the digital equivalent of 12 carousels of slides and numb you into oblivion with what we did on our vacation.
That will be a post for another day, a post which you will have the opportunity to ignore at your leisure.
Today I’ll stick to the blog theme “Bound for Belize” which I now interpret to mean that we, as strangers in a strange land, are in a perpetual state of discovery – to better-understand our new home country, its cultures and people and to better-understand ourselves and how we might fit in, so that we can be a positive presence in this great country.
We landed in Belize around noon on Tuesday.
Holy crap, it is hot and humid.
I mean sure, it was hot and humid before. But it was a comfortable hot and humid. You know, like they say in Las Vegas and Phoenix, “Sure, it is 192.8 degrees out, but it is a dry heat.” What does that mean? When they find you prostrate on the sidewalk you’ll make a good beef jerky?
Oh, yeah: Hot and humid.
We asked around. This is normal for this time of year. The only thing missing is lots and lots of rain. So, I guess we can tell visitors: “Sure, it is hot and humid. But it is a dry hot and humid.”
It did rain late Wednesday night, great gushing buckets of rain for a short while. Nothing but a spritz since.
We came back to an island recovering from the Miss Costa Maya contest which brought lovely ladies from all over Latin America here to pose awkwardly and compete for a very large crown. Already the town is gearing up for the Miss San Pedro contest. Rose and I watched the young ladies practice their poise, pivots and poses in an upstairs room at Fido’s restaurant while we dined on fish and chips below.
Since returning we’ve been revisiting some old haunts – Estel’s for breakfast and to say hi to Sam and Shantee; DandE for ice cream cones (sour sop!) and a chat with Dan and Eileen who once owned the local San Pedro Sun; Lee’s Fast Food for cheap fried chicken dinners; Wet Willie’s for a fab view and mediocre lunch; Coco Loco’s to toast the 19th wedding anniversary of owners Steve and Sue and see great neighbors and friends; and Wine de Vine’s Friday fete for good wine and more great friends.
September is a big month for all of Belize, which gained its independence in 1981 from England. That’s right, there is a whole month of celebrations — parades, pageantry, singing, dancing, speeches, lectures, contests, drinking and national reflection. Take that USA, with your Fourth of July. A whole month!
We also just missed the dedication of the new police barracks, a badly needed and long awaited facility that will improve the lives of those charged with protecting our lives. Rose heard about the dedication minutes before it began and, sad to say, I lacked the energy to get up and go.
More good news: The construction of a concrete road north of the Barry Bowen Bridge has begun. There’s rebar in the road, my friends! And that means concrete and concrete means a hot, hard and flat road and a road means crazy-ass taxi drivers speeding up and down it, and that means trouble, with a capital T, T-r-o-u-b-l-e, right here in River City! And …
Channeling my inner-Robin Williams a lot this week.
Actually the road will present some challenges but overall, like the police barracks, it is badly needed and long overdue. Not far behind the road construction – and in the right-of-way beside it, will come the North island infrastructure for municipal water and sewage.
Another game changer, but, again, badly needed.
One of my first acts upon arriving home was to dust off, pump up and grease down our bicycles. Six weeks sitting in salt air can do crazy stuff to cheap Taiwanese bicycles. Rust is growing like lichen.
Even lubed and tubed they somehow feel harder to pedal. Might be the weather and almost complete absence of exercise in my life these past six weeks. Certainly isn’t my age …. No, sir.
We’ve done a good bit of food shopping, as you can imagine, although the produce tables were pretty thin on Tuesday. We had a great time catching up with Maria and her son, Jose, on Wednesday at their stand south of town. Rose got to practice her Spanish with Maria and we cycled home with a full load of fruits and veggies, including a jug of fresh coconut water.
One event we did not miss this week was the graduation concert for the 2nd annual San Pedro Summer Music Academy, held in the R. Angel Nunez Auditorium of San Pedro High School on Friday. Kids have been learning guitar, keyboards, drums, percussions and steel drum techniques under the practiced hand and big heart of Carlos Perrote with Banda Cubana Cubanos.
There is nothing more beautiful than the expression on the face of a child who is creating something – music, art, stories, poetry, theatre, sports … You see the fire behind the eyes for the first time and you know that child is on his or her way.
We saw that fire a lot yesterday – as it consumed the small terrors of performing for the first time before family and friends. It molded faces into huge smile followed by deep hugs from mothers, fathers, aunties and abuelas, friends and other young musicians. So many beaming faces, not the least of which was Carlos Perrote’s as he introduced his young students and coaxed performances from them.
Mayor Daniel Guerrero was there for the whole event and was clearly enjoying it all. In closing remarks, before helping to pass out certificates to each participant, the mayor said he’d like to keep Senor Perrote on the island forever and promised to help provide the musical instruments that the small academy so badly needs.
You can’t fault his enthusiasm.
I thought about how wonderful it is that we have sailing clubs that ensure every island child who wants to learn to sail can do so. What if we were able to make the same promise for every child who wants to play a musical instrument?
Think about it for a while ….
* * * * * * * * *
While traveling around England and the States I occasionally joked about culture shock: Me, the little island boy, suddenly thrown into the noisy, crowded world of First World chaos.
OK. I wore that joke down like an old pair of stinky loafers. I guess I was playing to expectations.
In truth, San Pedro can be every bit as noisy, crowded and smelly as London or San Francisco. Bicycling through San Pedro can be just as hairy as navigating an English roundabout or trying to get on I-80 from North Beach.
The difference being that two or three blocks over from all the San Pedro chaos you will find sand, palm trees and the Caribbean Sea.
That’s where my mind is headed at the moment. Ready for a nice walk up the beach.
As soon as it cools down.