Ok I know I left a good few weeks ago but it’s better late than never. Here is my list of the things I thought were great, and no so great about Belize.
1. The people
There are only about 350,000 people living in Belize. That is less than some of the cities in the UK. Even though the population is so small, the number of races that make up this great countries inhabitants are many. There are Garifuna, Maya, Creole, Indian and Chinese, all of whom live alongside one another in harmony. Belize is a melting pot of cultures and many different languages are spoken. The people are warm, kind, friendly and welcoming. The people of Belize are an example to the rest of the world.
Many people say, and I believe it to be true, that although there is little money in Belize, the country is rich. This is due to the abundance of resources available. The locals are obviously aware of this as most appear to take great of their forests and oceans. Obviously there are still unsustainable farming practices being used, such as slash and burn, but with education and investment, farmers can adapt. Belize has a great climate which allows plants to grow rapidly and some trees bear fruit all year round. Thanks to the authorities conservation awareness, there are excellent fishing laws. The people of Belize are mostly good people and they abide by these laws with no complaint.
Sadly, although Belize contributes very little towards climate change, it is a country that will suffer greatly. Most of the country is at sea level so flooding is a huge risk. Farming is the main source of income for the majority of Belizeans and farmers have already noticed the effects of longer periods without rain. You used to be able to set your watch by the changing of the two seasons, from dry to rainy, but this is no longer the case. For most parts, Belize is doing its best to look after itself. I wish all countries did that.
I used to love listening to the howler monkeys from our garden as we sipped on Pina coladas. Their lion like growls could be heard from miles away. I also loved watching the ants as they walked in formation whilst going in opposite directions, like an army going to and from the frontline. You would see a few of them and then as you followed the lines, it stretched further than the eye could see. Dom was fascinated by the huge variety of birds that we’d see on a daily basis. Birds ranging from tiny humming birds hovering over a flower, to Pelicans looking stupid in a tree.
Belize is full of creatures great and small. There are geckos, crabs that don’t live in the sea, scorpions, snakes and lots of other things to sting or bite you. The rivers are home to frogs, toads, fish and crocodiles, whilst the sea houses sharks, rays, turtles, lobsters and many different species of fish. Jaguars roam the jungle preying on deer, armadillos and tapir. The wildlife in Belize is beautiful, it is dangerous, and it is everywhere.
‘Go slow’ was the motto in Punta Gorda and everyone seemed to live by it. The pace of life is slow, no one is in a rush and rightly so. For a start, it is too hot to hurry. Most people seem happy too. They haven’t got much and don’t ever expect to either, and so they are content. It is never too early for a belikin, never too late to play music at full blast, and it is always time for rice and beans. I love their attitude. Always smiling and rarely complaining. Bless up Belize!
There wasn’t much going on in terms of nightlife where we were, and so people made their own fun. Bus shelters would double up as a BBQ shop or a spot for grown men and women to congregate and drink rum, just as we did when we were young. Even the entrance to local supermarkets would turn into social gatherings, with men propping up car bonnets and chatting over a beer or two which they had just bought from the shop.
As well as the consumption of alcohol to pass away the time, there is also loads of things to do for the more adventurous out there. The warm, clear waters of the sea provides great opportunities for diving and snorkelling. You can canoe upstream through mangroves and jungles, or swim and clamber your way through pitch black cave systems.
If water is not your thing, you can go hiking through the jungle or sail along zip wires high above the canopies, like some kind of makeshift monkey. You can go bird watching or visit cacao farms to witness the chocolate making procedure from start to finish. There are lots of jungle retreats for those who just wish to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, and relax in a hammock to the sounds of nature. You can do pretty much anything in Belize, you really should go there.
Again, plastic consumption is way out of hand. As with everywhere else in Central America, almost everything you touch when going for food is made of plastic. The chairs and tables, the plates, the forks, the cups, the lid you don’t need for your cup, the straws, the packaging for your fork, the packaging for your straws, and the fucking bags they insist on putting everything in.
In Belize the supermarkets are terrible for using plastic bags. It’s like they are in competition to hand out the most bags. Even if you only buy one thing, you have to physically stop them putting it in a bag. I don’t know if it’s the climate or what, but they keep the fruit and vegetables in plastic bags in the fridges too. In one shop I even saw a can of beans wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge. For fuck sake man. Discarding all of the needless plastic is also a big problem with a lot of it simply being carelessly tossed away.
2. Drink Driving
Before we came here I read that car crashes are simply a way of life in Belize and now I know why. Almost everyone drives after having a few beers. I myself, I am ashamed to say, was a passenger in a car with a driver who had spent the day drinking with me on more than one occasion. It is against the law but it is a law that is not enforced. Sort it out Belize.
For a country that is a melting pot of cultures, Belizeans can’t see passed rice and beans. As nice as it is, and they do make it brilliantly, they need to mix it up a bit. We had loads of nice snacks from vendors in the street and from door to door food salesman, such as tamales and pupusa’s, but if you went out for food, it was pretty much always rice and beans.
Belize is a poor country and so they don’t have the infrastructure, capital, or business knowledge to produce most things in-country, and so a lot of their goods are imported. And for a country so abundant in plants and wildlife, a lot of their food is shipped in too. This of course meant everyday things like milk, butter and wine cost us a small fortune.
5. Time went too fast
One minute we got there and the next minute we were gone. Four months went by like four minutes. There were things I didn’t do, and friends I didn’t see often enough as I took my living there for granted. And now it has gone. Bloody hell life, go slow will you.