Beans are YUMMY! - Tuesday, March 04, 2003

One minute we are freezing our butts off in the ICE STORM of 2003 in Dallas, the next minute we found ourselves BOUNCING to a halt at tiny Belize International Airport. After breezing through customs and baggage within 5 minutes, we were whisked through Belize City just in the nick of time to catch the last water taxi to Ambergis Caye.

We were immediately struck by how improvershed BZ is - shanty houses, dirty, barefoot kids running around, broken cars, boats, and homes that looked like they never recovered from the hurricane a few years ago. The country is sparsely populated with about 225,000 people. Strange since it's about the same size as El Salvador which has over 3 million people! The country used to be known as the British Honduras, another country that Brits got their hand on. Come to think of it, over the past year, we've only visitied former British colonies!

Belize is an interesting mix of folks from Central American and Carribean countries. Is often that you'll hear Spanish, English, and Creol/Carribean English spoken in the same conversation or sentence by people who are black, white, Indian/Mayan, and Creole. The people here are quite friendly as well.

Back to the boat... We quiickly handed our backpacks over for stowing under the boat and boarded the water taxi to San Pedro (Ambergis Caye), an area famous for the diving/snorkeling trips to the 2nd largest Barrier Reef in the world. Sitting amongst the boxes of tomatoes, bags of laundry detergent, families with little kids acting like they were riding the bus, we both realized our adventures were truly just beginning!

The water taxi was a 32ft dingy with two big engines and a haphazard crew and driver. The seats were around the outside and the staff used our heads as a hand rail saying "Qcuse me, pardon me" as they went by tapping your head walking the rail of the boat gathering groceries, supplies and children into any available space on the boat they could find. Oh yeah, while we didn't have to dodge too much water splashing from the waves as the boat cut it's path, we didn narrowly miss getting splashed by the "Drunky" who got sick as we were pulling out of the harbor. Thankfully, we were packed into the boat like sardines which caused us to be forcefully propelled toward the middle of the boat narrowly missing upchuck coming our way. Needless to say everyone was grossed out.

After spending the past week or so planning for our trip to Costa Rica in 2 months (some friends are meeting us), we crammed for our short week or less trip to Belize. After the hour and a quarter boat ride, we checked into our little hotel on the cheap but not a piece of crap. How cool, Hotel del Rio has grass thatch huts and hammocks to relax right on the beach. We stepped out for a quick bite to eat and definitely enjoyed our first taste of Belizean cuisine and Belikin Beer. We approached a very tan and very blond American looking woman for a suggestion on a place to eat. Turns out the place this blonde suggested was a hit with the locals.

Miracle of miracles, this restaurant converted Marisa from a bean hater to a whole bean (stewed, not refried) lover. This sand floored restaurant turned out to have amazing cheap food as well as offering some interesting overheard conversations from the other patrons. "is Bush bluffing", PUD or UDP (2 parties going at it for the local elections on Wednesday) as well as "I don't think of God in the first person, but rather in the third person". This was a long overheard conversation mixing english and spanish.

Lucky for us, George, a random stranger from the restaurant offered us a ride home with his wife Marie in their golf cart. Golf carts are one of the primary modes of transport here on the Caye (key). This lively older couple from Texas, George in his 80's and Marie a bit younger, own a hotel in San Pedro, some land on the North and South ends of the 36 mile long oasis. Marie also owns the record for the largest tarpon fish ever caught off the island (224 pounds and took 3 hours to pull it in).

We're heading snorkeling on Wednesday with Roberto. Tomorrow also happens to be the last day of Carnival so the little town is probably going to be quite crazy. More later from the wonderful blue waters of Belize.

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