It requires a fair amount of hubris and cheek to go on vacation and assume that anyone anywhere would care to have you share the gritty details of how you idled endless hours in a hammock munching on fresh fruit and being lulled to sleep by the ocean’s waves…so allow me to express my gratitude to the many people who have sent messages expressing their anticipation of my doing just that. That you would want to participate in my experience, albeit it vicariously, means a lot!
MOM Squad. Man. There’s just so much to tell. I could write and vlog for weeks and still not properly convey the mix of sounds, smells, sights and emotions I experienced on this short trip. Still I must try so, I will begin by sharing my most immediate reactions and observations. Also, it is incumbent on me to advise that if you ever have the opportunity to visit Belize (or Placencia, to be precise), seize it! There’s no way you’ll regret it.
Marshall and I visited the country in order to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. We had originally planned to visit Greece, but changed our minds when Belize literally dropped in our spirits.
“Let’s go somewhere super exotic. Like Ibiza or Las Trampas (not a real place),” I said.
Marshall was Googling the earth and said, “What about Belize?”
And that’s how we ended up on its sunny shores instead of Greece’s debt-ridden coast.
The entire trip was fraught with excitement. After we landed at the international airport in Belize City, we took a much smaller aircraft to the peninsula of Placencia. The 10 seater plane, about the size of matchbox, was piloted by a handsome West Indian chap who handled the craft like it was a Hyundai taxi. Our landing strip at the Placencia airport – which was constructed to look like someone’s house – was the size of a postage stamp. A dog jogged onto the runway as we offloaded our bags. A shuttle driven by a stocky Mayan man named Cirilo took us to Robert’s Grove where we would spend the week.
The first thing we both noticed about Belizeans is how friendly they are – and not in that trained, tourist tolerating way that you become accustomed to when you walk into a Hilton hotel or Five Guys hamburger chain. Belizeans connect with you on a human level. It’s amazing. Marshall and I spent the first 36 hours trying to ascertain whether they were putting on or if this was their demeanor as a culture until I finally put an end to the query.
“Let’s not question this anymore! This is the problem with Americans….always so suspicious! This is just the way life is here, babe.”
Poor Marshall. All he could do was nod and agree with his wife.
To be honest, this aspect of Belizean culture has proven to make my re-entry to the United States most difficult. Since I have been back, I have had to make a conscious effort to “unlook” passersby and people with whom I share public space. When I first came from Ghana to the US, I would offer a greeting or at least nod in deference if I happened to make eye contact with a stranger. I was greeted with hostile stares in return. Then I moved to the South (Atlanta) and continued with the practice. True Southerners will nod and greet in response. But since there has been an influx of Northerners to this part of the country, that culture has quickly died as well. Now, I have learned to stand my ground, continue walking in a straight line and coldly refuse to look anyone in the face in passing. The person coming in the opposite direction does the same. But in Belize? My word… I couldn’t say “hello” enough! Every who walked by offered a hearty “Good day!” or “Good afternoon!” with a smile. A real, honest from the soul smile. I looked forward to making my way to the street just so I could interact with people in this way.
The second thing that has been hard about returning to the US has been that you can’t see the stars at night. Do you know how devastating it is to look up at the night sky and KNOW the stars are there, but be unable to see them? All the night pollution and artificial light blocks their view. I’ve been back two days and still haven’t adjusted.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the food. It’s absolutely incredible. We eat crap – actual, verifiable CRAP – in this country. Rafi, our tour guide told us as much. On our way to Nim Li Punit, we passed several cashew, orange and banana plantations. There were bright, blue plastic bags covering the hanging fruit of the banana trees. Marshall enquired about them.
“Oh that?” said Rafi. “That’s so that the pesticides that they spray from the airplane don’t get on the banana fruit itself.”
“We don’t eat dat sh*t,” he continued. “That’s they stuff we ship to you all in de US. Our food is organic.”
No apologies, no remorse. And why should he be remorseful? The FDA and grocery chains are the ones who request and approve the chemical covered and infused swill that we stuff into our bodies and call “food”. It’s not Rafi or Belize’s fault. They are just giving the customer what they asked for. But by God, you haven’t tasted a mango or a pineapple until you’ve had one in Belize, one grown in “good ground” as they call it. Rafi gifted us a mango from his yard which we ate on the morning of our departure. I had just gorged on fresh coconut and don’t particularly care for mango, but Marshall didn’t care. With a wide-eyed stare, he commanded me to eat this.
It wasn’t just a mango. It tasted like honey, nutmeg cinnamon and fleshy joy. It felt like pleasure sliding down my throat. It was divine. I never want to eat another mango after that. Every other mango will fall short.
In my next post, I will tell you about the sea. In Ghana, to ocean makes me very sad. Apart from the fact that it is absolutely filthy and fetid, the ocean holds a particularly melancholy place in my heart. It’s deep and spiritual. I didn’t feel that when I looked over the beach in Placencia at all… and I was shocked (and pleased) when I unearthed why that was.
*Check out my IG @ malakagrant if you want to see a few pictures! My iPhone was acting up, so there aren’t that many. 🙁 Boo. I know!