There’s something uniquely humbling about vacationing in a place where laundry is done in river canals, streets are run amuck by crime and potholes, and 18 karat gold smiles greet you around every humid, sticky corner.
It would be an understatement to say that as Americans, we are living a privileged life. This revelation was especially prevalent after seeing a country badly damaged by a major hurricane; the first to touch land in a decade. Interestingly enough, from Belize City to Dangriga Town, I have seen consistent gold and scattered teeth smiles, and bright grinning, joyous faces in a place where poverty is an overwhelming normalcy. I often hear stateside, “money doesn’t buy happiness”, yet greed is at the forefront of our culture. It is so easy to get caught in that deep tenacious longing for more money/materials-a stockpile of items to seemingly provide your worth. Talk to a local, or one of the boat captains of a small fishing vessel, they’ll describe a simple, life; one filled with smiles, joy and an uncompromising faith that everything will be alright.
How wretched am I to not behold consistent peace and thanksgiving in my privileged, more than comfortable American life. I am disgusted at the things that have upset me, I am ashamed for the ways I have reacted to minor situations. I am so thankful for the stories of peace and contentment found in the lives of Thelma, a hardworking mother of 8, or captain Eric Vasquez, a single father who trusts his 10 year old son will make it safely to the island he lives on 30 miles off the coast on weekends and holidays. Or perhaps Bol, the sweet tall teddy bear of a man, and the manager of Tobacco Caye Paradise who gave us the password to a less than reliable wifi signal and encouraged us to read the passage it correlated to-Proverbs 3:1.
This trip was nothing less than a spectacular and at time terrifying adventure. Steph and I arrived separately, hours apart into Belize City, after waiting out Hurricane Earl in our respective airport terminals, mine Houston, hers Atlanta. I left San Diego at 7:30pm on Wednesday evening, flew to the Phoenix airport, and then onto Houston-arriving at 2:34am. I spent early Thursday morning wandering about and dozing in and out of consciousness on uncomfortable airport chairs. I eventually walked to my terminal where I befriended a Canadian girl, Mercades, and a girl from Oxford, UK, Evelyn, or Evie for short. After spending 14.5 hours in the Houston airport, Evie and I boarded our flight and went on our way to Belize. Steph had boarded her plane, and was about to leave when she informed me there was another issue (no captain) and left a little over an hour later. Evie and I began to plan what our game plan would be as originally we had both planned to head south that day, her to Placencia, Steph and I to Dangriga, and ultimately onto the Bocawina rainforest.
After making it though customs, Evie and I began to formulate a plan, which eventually began to feel more and more bleak. The guy sitting next to us in the thick, hot and humid air asked us what our plans were for accommodations for the night, as no more planes were going out for the evening, and the busses had stopped running as well. Jacob became a part of our three person crew and we began to call hotels and inns nearby. We were warned by the locals to stay as far away from Belize City as possible, especially at night due to high rates of murder and crime. Jacob, Evie and I began to worry. Jacob was awaiting the arrival of his father, and I was awaiting Steph, and after they deplaned, we began to discuss our options. We settled on trying an inn down the street called Global Village. We grabbed a cab, along with a local man Jacob’s father, Seth had met on the plane. We began what was the sketchiest car ride I have ever had the pleasure of taking, dodging stray animals, fallen trees and an abundance of potholes. We aggressively passed several cars, including a police officer, which shocked all of us quite a bit. We pulled up to the Inn and there must have been 15-30 people sitting outside in the dirt parking lot and on the steps. They all looked at us as we drove in, and people rushed the car immediately to tell us there was absolutely no vacancy. Morale was low, and I could tell that we were all beginning to worry. Just then, the local man in the front seat told us he was a Belizean surgeon, who was the part owner in a hospital in Belize City. He then very matter of factory said, “No problem you will sleep in the hospital tonight. I’ll go there right now and speak to the charge nurse and get it all sorted out for you”. Next thing I know, after nearly being hit by 3-4 cars (our cab driver was dishonest, and terrible at driving) and overpaying for a cab ride, we are in a Belizean hospital ICU, using newborn baby swaddling cloths to dry ourselves after a very cold shower. Seth and Jacob took a room, and Evie Steph and I made it work between one hospital bed, a small pleather couch, and some cloth couch cushions strewn on the floor. Before having a terrifying thought that my organs would be harvested from me during the night, I locked the door and fell asleep, only to be awoken by an early alarm set to get us up and to the airport for the next step in our journey.
We got to the airport and boarded an 8 person plane to Dangriga town, said our goodbyes to our traveling “family” and began a 25 mile car trek into the Bocawina jungle. After waterfall hikes, plenty of bugs, many laughs and incredible zip lining, we said our goodbyes to the jungle and headed to the reef. We boarded a very structurally questionable fishing vessel and went full speed into the open ocean for 25-30 minutes until we came upon the gorgeously secluded Tobacco Caye island. Hand shucked fresh coconut, delicious Belizean fare and clear warm salty water greeted us at every angle, at every hour.
As I am sitting on a plane leaving the beautiful land of Belize with the politest and nicest people I’ve ever met I am filled with so much gratitude for the opportunity to be able to see other parts of the world and meet extraordinary people. Many, many blessings. Lord you took care of us and protected us so well, thank you thank you.