Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Week in Belize

Sunset on Caye Caulker, where a single room can be had for BZ$20, about ₤5.

This is my first update from Belize. Before I say anything else, I have to say that something funny is going on. I’ve been here 5 days and it feels like a month. At the same time the national catchphrase is ‘go slow’, and it’s rigidly enforced in a way that nothing else is. Maybe more happens when you go slower…? I’m liking it so far anyway. A week in Belize is not like a week anywhere else I’m thinking.

Seven hours behind, but something more fundamental has happened to my sense of time…

For the next three months, I’ll be staying with Evan and his family. Evan has a nice house in the centre of Belize City and has been a fantastic host already. I have my own large room and we even have cable tv. I have good intentions of improving my Spanish by watching many of the various high-quality Mexican soap operas that we get – think Dynasty meets Hollyoaks but with shorter skirts, more pouting and pointy moustaches.

With impeccable timing, I arrived just before the holiday weekend. On 10 September 1798, legend has it that a few hundred Englishmen and 50 Baymen (decendents of African immigrants) defeated the mighty Spanish armada at the battle of St Georges Caye. Interestingly, the legend states that, in the style of the A-Team, there were no casualties. An alternative version suggests that the Spanish got a bad dose of something on the way and abandoned their attack before reaching Belize. I’m with the alternative version. Either way, the parade through Belize City on Saturday didn’t seem to have much to do with sea-battles, but plenty to do with the raunchy dancing of Punta-Rock, a combination of traditional Belizian drumming and rock music.

Jah Man! Learning a bit of the Creole language and culture at the carnival.

Had a great couple of days Sunday and Monday - took the water taxi out to one of the islands. Caye Caulker is just 45mins from Belize City by water-taxi. I’m already sure that the island will be one of my favourite places in Belize. It manages to be lively and very, very laid back at the same time. The relaxed atmosphere is helped by the fact that, at just 4 miles long and a mile wide, it’s all beach and bars, and there are no cars, just a flotilla of golf carts.

Diving and snorkelling are excellent from CC. Just 10 mins in a boat and i was swimming with sharks and stingrays. The stingrays are the same type and size as the one that did for Steve Irwin, though the guide was insistent that the animals would not attack unless severely provoked. They certainly seemed pretty tame as they swarmed around, brushing against us.

The dark shape at the top of the picture is a nurse shark, the other is a stingray.

I bumped into Kirsty - the other volunteer from Scotland - in one of CC’s pubs in the evening, which just goes to show what a small place Belize is. Kirsty is working for the Red Cross at the moment. Spent the holiday Monday swimming and lazing about in hammocks, though if it’s any consolation it was raining heavily the next morning and I was in work by 8.15 - almost like being back home!

Hammock time…