"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Culture Shock & Crooked Tree

We arrived in Belize City at 10:30 in the morning. I have no idea what time my body was thinking it was at that point. I knew it was Tuesday. I knew I'd been up beyond one bedtime, with only about three hours of sleep (if you can call it that) on the plane. When we stepped out of the plane and onto the stairs down to the tarmac, the first thing I noticed was the heat. Which hit with a force that felt like it had real substance.

We made our way into the airport and through customs. It's always sort of intimidating going from one country to the other, no matter how in order things seem to be. The bored officer asked a couple of desultory questions and stamped us through. A second slightly more animated officer took our declaration form, and I think welcomed us to Belize.

We walked across the road to our car rental place, Jabiru Rentals. A father and son operation tucked in a tiny office with room for five people if they liked each other a lot. They were warm, extremely helpful, and before long we were out of the airport in our sporty yellow Dihatsu four wheel drive SUV. It wasn't until we'd traveled a few miles that I realized we were the only sporty yellow car on the road, and so might as well have been wearing a sign that shouted TOURIST.

The trip out of Ladyville toward Crooked Tree where our first stay was booked, was depressing. I kept telling myself I was tired and hungry and in culture shock. But the garbage and poverty and scrubby land didn't change for the whole drive until we turned off toward the resort.

The guide books weren't kidding about the roads. There are speed bumps on the highway, in what appear to be random places. In a great show of entrepreneurship, the locals have set up food stands at every bump.

Once off the highway, like the very long road to our resort, the condition of the roads made it clear why the rental companies only seem to have four wheel drive vehicles available. We bumped and swerved and plowed through deep standing water. We drove so long with no sign of civilization, we wondered a couple of times if we'd taken a wrong turn somewhere.

In the meantime I was searching for birds, the toucan in particular. I was seeing lots of new ones for me, but nothing that took my breath away. The best sighting was of basilisk lizards running across the road on their hind legs, like they were playing some reptilian version of chicken.

Crooked Tree Lodge was a relief in more ways than one. Located on the lagoon of the Crooked Tree Refuge, it's beautiful, rustic and exceeded their advertising. Mick and Angie and their two adorable boys are amazing hosts. It's very much like a bed and breakfast here. We eat our meals family style, meals that are abundant, delicious, and prepared with love. We are surrounded by beautiful country, flat calm water, and sounds that I'm pretty sure were heard in Eden.

We are at the end of day three. It's Thursday afternoon, almost 4:00. We leave tomorrow for San Ignacio and a week inland. In the last days we've experienced horrific humidity, sweltering sun, and this morning for about an hour, the most torrential rainstorm I've ever seen.

 We've done a sunrise birding boat ride where I got my fill of new birds, saw crocs and iguanas, and learned some local lore.

 We went to the Belize Zoo, where there are only Belizean animals which have been rescued in one way or another.

We visited our first Mayan ruins at Lamanai after an amazing boat trip, and climbed to the top of a pyramid. We wandered in Orange Walk Town, visited a grocery store (one of my favorite things to do when I'm traveling), and saw Mennonites walking the streets among beautiful brown skinned people. We were the only tourists around, which felt a little weird, a little wonderful, and ultimately didn't seem to matter at all - even with our snazzy yellow car.

I have so much to share, but the internet connection is slow here, and I don't trust it, so I'll close for today. It's an amazing country. It's amazing to be here. We're having so much fun, even without toucan sightings. I can hardly wait to see what's around the next corner.

The view our first morning at Crooked Tree


Stacy Crawford said...

Looks amazing!

yaya said...

Beautiful and depressing with all the poverty outside of the resorts. We are very spoiled in our country..even the poorest have many advantages over other cultures. I hope the rest of trip goes as smooth and you enjoy yourself to the fullest!

Anonymous said...

Hey there, Belizians!

Love your descriptions, as always. Wish I could have seen the basilisk lizards with you! Not to mention the other stuff...yowza! Hope your inland journey is as unique as the Crooked Tree portion. Your drumming must also be coming up soon. :)

Love and hugs,


Teresa Coltrin@Journaling Woman said...

It's always been difficult for me to look upon poverty, because I know how it feels. But, I really like that photo as well as the sunrise photo.

I love lizards and would have enjoyed seeing the Basilisk lizard.

Have fun.

DJan said...

I remember when I would spend time in Mexico and then return to the States, so much of what I had thought was essential was revealed to be simple waste. All the wrapping on food! I had gotten used to having fresh bread handed to me unwrapped, and the double plastic wrapping on the packaged bread seemed wrong and wasteful. The streets looked way too wide.. I look forward to hearing what YOU experience after this adventure! :-)

Debbie Crawford said...

No matter where I've traveled I experience culture shock at how many of the locals live. I feel so lucky to live in the US. Your adventure sounds amazing.

Keelen said...

Hi Walt and Deb! I just checked on Toby and he doing good! I liked the part about the basilisk lizard. They are very cool. I studied the Mayan ruins last year. I would like to go there some day. Hope you are having fun.

Mark Lyons said...

It looks and sounds like a trip of a lifetime...at least until Australia comes around. I'm glad that you are having a great time. I've got an idea on the toucan sitings though...try shaking a box of Fruit Loops. That should do the trick. :)

I love you

kario said...

Sounds lovely. I have a hard time seeing the poverty, too, except when those locals smile despite it all and I realize that it bothers me much more than it bothers them.

Thanks for the description of the lizards. It made my day!

Sandi said...

Hi Deb & Walt!
It seems like you're having quite the adventure! I loved your description of the roads and the lizard crossing!

We're also experiencing a mild form of culture shock. Doing without a car, depending on the girls to navigate the myriad tunnels and trails across the city. We've walked miles every day, but today was the first time I remembered my pedometer; final count, 8.3 miles! No wonder my knee is screaming! I'm sitting with an icepack at the moment, and hoping for the return of water! The motel is undergoing renovation and at least two floors are without water, ours and the girls!
Best wishes for finding the elusive toucan!

Big hugs!

Deb Shucka said...

If anyone is checking here, I'm trapped by a satellite system that won't let me send emails (it doesn't like Macs apparently), and won't let me do a new blog post. I can read my email, so if you need me for anything (Daune in particular) email, and I'll go to the office to respond.

We're having such a great time - I can hardly wait to share here. Today was the first day that I felt like I was having a true Belize experience - the market, two Mayan ruins and an iguana exhibit will do that.

Love to everyone. I'll write when I can.

Amber said...

What a wonderful adventure!!


Dee said...

Dear Deb, I'm glad you are hearing sounds that "were surely heard in Eden." Sorry though that you haven't sighted your first toucan yet. Maybe that's the gift awaiting you. Glad also that you are enjoying your trip. I look forward to your reflections on the whole journey when you return. Enjoy! Peace.

Pam said...

Can't wait to hear more! Seems like I may have to, but will be worth the wait. Have fun - hope you see a toucan soon!

KleinsteMotte said...

When you see how people can live with so little doesn't make you wonder how we got so obsessed with needing so much?
I bet it must be jungle like because you are just south of Akumal.

Linda Myers said...

What seems so unusual at first will become familiar. And when you come home, how odd that will seem at first!

It all sounds hot and humid and langorous and lovely.

Laura said...

"We are surrounded by beautiful country, flat calm water, and sounds that I'm pretty sure were heard in Eden." Some peace in the midst of the sadness...I'm glad you were able to experience that too Deb.

Retired English Teacher said...

I was stuck by the way you describe the heat. Calling it a "force that felt like it had real substance." I immediately remembered having that same feeling as I stepped on the plane in Mexico on my first trip there. I also was in great culture shock as I drove through the poverty. I wan't sure if I could handle the trip.

The place where you stayed sounded heavenly. I'm so glad you had this experience.

I look forward to reading more about your adventures.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I'm in for the finale. At first I felt like I was on a trip with my husband, dirt roads, no civilization. But seems you found some.

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