It’s not actually the fourteenth of April, and I’m not actually in Belize at all. But I WAS there on the 14th, I promise.
I thought I might check it out. Go out to the cays for a dive, or something. Besides, Sabine (my German freund) needed to leave Mexico to renew her tourist card before she went up to the Yucatán*, and I need a way around the roadless jungle between me and Tikal. We made it to the border town of Chetumal on a night bus. I should have known this Belize place was going to be trouble when the busses crossing the border left from the parking lot of a produce market. After waiting an hour, we found out we were waiting at the wrong end of the parking lot and had just missed the bus, meaning another hour and a half wait for the next one. The beginning of the bus ride was nice; we got to see the Caribbean coast and stuff. There was a really beautiful place the bus stopped for a minute where it smelled like your head was inside a flower. But soon thereafter a friendly man got on the bus and started talking to us. He suggested we not visit practically anywhere in Belize, particularly Belize City, because the second we alight from the bus we will likely be raped and killed and certainly at least violently robbed. A few bocks walking after we got off the bus in Belize City, just before it started pouring rain, I decided it wasn’t so bad as he said. Still, for somewhere that is most expensive place in Central America, it just doesn’t make sense that it should be so ghetto. For example, most of the shops are closed up with big metal bars, and if you want anything you have to tell the little Chinese ladies to get it for you.
Everything seemed a lot nicer after some rest and some food, but it was still kinda lame. And when I was told I couldn’t do a one-day introductory scuba dive, that I would have to do a full certification course for lots of money, it became increasingly clear that one night in Belize was enough for me.
I don’t regret going, it was interesting to see this strange place, nestled on the mainland but more similar to the English speaking islands and full of black people. A country who has its origins because it is the terrestrial shadow of a barrier reef impassable to Spanish galleons, and thus the perfect base for English pirates. They (most of them) to this day speak English (or almost close enough) and have a picture of a pretty young lady named Elizabeth on their money. And it was money that gave me a great farewell to Belize. I, and the Canadian guy named Graham (with whom little did I know I would be traveling for a few days), got nice and ripped off by the money changer right before entering Guatemala. The Belizean border guards let us go back and try to find the guy once we got wise to it. According to some of the other money changers, he had conveniently “gone to lunch.”
Well, I gave Belize a chance, which is way little and still more than it really asked for.
*I heard a story, true or not, that when the Spanish first came to the Yucatán, they asked the locals what the place was called. Not speaking nor understanding Spanish, they responded with “We don’t understand.”, which, in their language, sounded like “Yoo-Kah-Tan.”