The fantasticness of Belize

Trip Start Jun 14, 2004
Trip End Jul 30, 2006

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Wednesday, March 2, 2005

The fantasticness of Belize:

Now that I have been living in belize for almost nine months, I feel that I have started to really come to understand the "Belizeness" of things.
Belize is a country of randomness. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a cross between the land of broken toys in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the puzzlement of Pee Wee's play house. Let me elaborate with some examples:

1. A few weeks ago I had a very sad day when I realized that I had lost my sunglasses. I had brought two pairs with me from the states, promptly lost one and managed to hold on to the last pair, hoping that they would last me until I visited home. But of course not. So here I am in sunny ass Belize with no sunglasses. I started looking around for another pair, but quickly began to realize that it was going to be a more difficult endeavor then first predicted. The popular style in belize right now seems to be "sunglasses that no one in the entire world in their right minds would ever want to wear." Such would be rhinestone encrusted glasses with a sparkly little heart ON the lenses with something like bling bling on the side. Im sorry, but I just can't do it. Then I struck gold. I happened into a pharmacy to buy some soap and notice a rack of sunglasses. And behold! A normal tortoise shelled pair of sunglasses rather similar to the pair that I had lost. Yay! The price was right and I had myself a new fantastic pair of sunglasses. A few Saturdays later, Katy was in town and we were doing the usual. Going to the market, eating at the wildside, gossiping and catching up, when she looked at me strangely and said "Keely, those are the most ridiculous sunglasses I have ever seen." What? I couldn't understand. I thought they were nice. She then starts to laugh hysterically and while gasping for air said to me "the two sides are different!" what? I took the glasses off to inspect and then noticed what I had not noticed before. The two sides of the glasses were actually two different shapes. What? Is that even possible? Can machines make mistakes like that? Was this supposed to be on purpose? Even the lenses were two different shapes! What? I am officially that guy from the movie Mannequin. And of course Im going to keep wearing them because, well, this is belize!

2. I have two new gringo neighbors! Yesterday I went over to say hello and introduce myself. Greg is the director of ProBelize, a volunteer organization and Matt is the program director. Greg just broke his arm last week playing basketball and told me an amusing story about his x-ray. He went to La Loma Luz, a hospital in Santa Elena, the sister city of San Ignacio, the town that I live in. Just a river divides the two towns. So he goes, gets the x-ray and is informed that if the arm is broken, he has to go to Dr. so-and-so to get it cast. A person hands him the x-ray and walks away. What? Confusing. He has the x-ray, yet doesn't know if his arm is broken, because, oh yeah, he's not a doctor. Wait. "can someone read this for me?" "Is my arm broken?" He is again told that if the arm is broken, well he has to go to Dr. so-and-so to get it cast. "yes I know that I have to go there if my arm is broken, but can someone tell me if it's broken? . . . but wait. I am IN a hospital and I HAVE the x-ray. Its right here, in my hand. . . No one can read this for me? What? . . . But, Im IN a hospital. . . YES, I know that I have to go to Dr. so-and-so if its broken, but I can't read x-rays. Im not a doctor." Finally after a few rounds of this, he found a Canadian that could read x-rays and indeed it was broken. If this had happened in the states, it would have been puzzling. But here you just laugh and say "of course. This is Belize."

3. I decided to take a regular bus instead of an express to belize city when I had an appointment the other day. The difference between a regular and an express is that the express does not make any stops on the side of the road and is air conditioned while the regular bus will stop wherever a person is standing on the side of the road waiting. So if there are people standing perhaps two hundred feet away from each other and both are waiting for the bus, the bus will stop for the first person, go, and then stop for the second person. Sometimes it can be quite torturous, but I wanted to save some money and decided to suck it up. On the way to Belize City a peculiar thing happened. I was just sitting there, enjoying my music and reading a magazine when we came to a stop. Not anything out of the ordinary, because we had been stopping every five or ten minutes to pick more people up. But after the ten seconds it usually takes to pick someone up, we still hadn't moved. I look up and see the bus driver just sitting there. The door to the bus is closed. I look out the window to see if someone is running from their house to catch the bus and the driver is just waiting for them. Nope. No people behind the bus running to catch it. What are we doing? A minute passes . . . two minutes pass. I look around me, but no one seems to notice that we aren't moving. Is this real? Am I just imagining things? Okay. No I am not dreaming. This is real. I look up at the bus driver again and he is still just sitting there, not moving, looking ahead. Three minutes pass . . . four minutes. Finally its like something just clicks and we start moving again. No one got on. No one left the bus. We just sat on the road for five minutes and then started to go again. Oh Belize, how I love you.

4. A few days ago I had to travel to the dreaded Belize city to take care of some things. But I took advantage of being in the city and went to the "good Chinese store." Other Peace Corps volunteers had talked it up so much that I had to see if for myself. It is just a cement building with faded large red letters that say "food and beverage center." If you didn't know it's a store, you would think it is an abandoned warehouse. I walked in to find a relatively small store with three aisles. A smile spread across my face as I spied all the food there to buy. Real soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger candy, rice noodles! It was like a little piece of heaven. I must have spent at least 30 minutes looking in the first aisle, amazed at the things there. Because of my excitement I had not taken notice to the other aisles yet or what else was sold in the store. Let them be a surprise, I think to myself. What other goodies could possibly be here? As I round the corner, Im suddenly brought back to the states. A confused and puzzled look slowly spreads across my face. What? Im surrounded by economy size foods exactly like you would find in a Sam's Club or a Cosco. Huh? What is going on? I just left China town and entered bulk food city. As I start walking down the aisle I become more and more amused by the randomness of things and wonder how this store came to be. I went up to the counter to pay for my things and glanced over to my left. I had not noticed all these other things here when I came in because I was so intent on looking at the food. There are stereos over there for sale. And computer stuff. And a film processing machine. And one of those Kodak scan machines that make pictures in a few minutes. Huh? What? The randomness of Belize never ceases to amaze me.

And across the street from the Food and Beverage Center there is a store called Smiling Meats. Why would anyone ever name a meat shop Smiling Meats?

5. Today I was told another great bus story by Katy. Katy was headed down toward Dangriga to visit another volunteer. Let me first say that regular buses are not like greyhounds or anything. They are simply recycled school buses. That's right, like the yellow kind that you rode as a child. So for Katy to get to Dangriga she must ride on the Hummingbird Highway, by far the most beautiful highway scenery in Belize. There are no roads turning off of the highway because there are not many villages on the way, but there are a lot of orange orchards. On the way down they came across a small accident on the road. It would have been completely possible to just pass the accident on the road, but the bus driver had other ideas. He's backing up the road. Katy is a little confused. What? Why are we backing up when we can just pass on the other side of the road? Woah. Yes that's right, the bus driver turns off the road and is now driving through an orange orchard. There is no road. He's just driving pass the trees like its totally normal. What? Just driving through some orchards. No big deal. Oh no. Oh great. The bus comes to a stream. Mind you now, the stream is not deep, perhaps two feet at its deepest point, but it is quite wide. Well, Katy thinks, what are we going to do now? Maybe the bus driver will have to back all the way back to the road through the orange orchard? Nope. Of course not. He's going to pause before the stream for just a second as if to say "yes passengers, that's right. We are simply going to DRIVE through the stream." And that is exactly what he did. Just drove right through. Yes. Of course. Through some more orange trees and . . . okay back to the road. The bus driver just keeps going on the road perfectly fine. As if driving through orange orchards and streams with a bus is a daily occurrence.

Other points of interest:
1. I was watching TV for the first time in a month at Thad's, the embassy house that I stay at sometimes. I find it past ridiculous and unnecessary that there is a Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper. By the time I make it home there will be layered soda. The first sip is Coke, the second is 7up, followed by root beer and then orange soda.

2. I eat cheese that doesn't have to be refrigerated . . . ever.

3. Dominic is moving in with me! Yay! He was transferred from Belize City to San Ignacio and we will live together for a few months so we can both save money. Unfortunately Belizeans cannot understand why a woman and a man would live together unless they were "together." I have been telling the families that I am friends with that a boy will be moving in with me, but we aren't married. They give me a puzzled look followed by, "oh yeah. Okay. So this boy and you are together?" "no. Dominic is just a friend." " Just a friend? But he will be moving in with you?" "yes." "well he won't be just a friend for long then." It doesn't help the situation that he is half Thai and therefore will make it even more confusing when people realize that two "Chinese" people are living together. How could two Chinese people live together and not be married? That just doesn't make sense.
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