Monday, March 2, 2009

The 'Big Smoke' Belize City

Before we went ashore in Belize City, we took a little dinghy cruise up Haulover Creek which runs through town before turning into the Belize River several miles on. It’s a great way to do preliminary reconnaissance before hitting the ground.
Here’s part of the fishing fleet.

Lobster season has just ended, at least officially.

Amsterdam or Venice or even Ft. Lauderdale it’s not. A local newspaper refers to it as “’Trash City’ roamed by rats and pests” and I can see how this would be true. Escaped plastic is the seaweed of this waterfront, and used tires are the bulkheads. Metal grates on windows and doors, block walls and chain link fences and even concertina wire also send a certain message. When we came ashore later, Doug was carrying his knob-headed wooden cane.

On land, the downtown area isn’t so bad, small and full of bustle especially when school lets out. Downtown the streets are clean, the shops decently supplied, and reminiscent of lots of towns in the eastern Caribbean. Our mission was to buy a Belize flag which nautical etiquette requires, and the seasickness remedy Stugeron. Both were available, but in the wrong size. You do notice that some shops keep their doors locked, and the others have door-minders or bouncers.
I was sent into the Bottom Dollar for groceries, which it had in good supply, and came out to find Doug lounging in the shade of Marlin's Cafe across the creek with an ice cold Belikin in hand.

Here’s the good news: people are really nice. And they speak English! So now I understand that plastic phone cards like you’d use to make a call from a pay phone are old technology, except in the US. In Belize, you can send money from one cell phone to another in about three seconds, and be talking to anywhere in four. Seems that having all that land-line infrastructure has slowed the US down in cell phone technology.

The same newspaper said that the price of red beans was $1.25 BZ a pound a year ago, $4.25 now. Lots of other staples have also gone up. The head of state says he’s looking for overseas loans but otherwise hasn’t a clue as to why prices are up. You’ve got to feel sorry for the vast percentage of good people who just want peace and security, and wireless internet!

A taxi driver took us past his wife’s lunch stand to wave at one of his sons. He explained his eight children by saying there was no television to fill the time. Now he’s got flat-screen, and the breeding has stopped. I asked him what he liked best about his country and he laughed and said expansively: I like EVERYTHING about my country.’ Then after a pause, ‘except maybe the government’.

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