"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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Out of the Jungle

Walt and Deb atop El Castillo at Xunantunich

We left our amazing jungle experience behind yesterday and made our way to Hopkins, a tiny Garifuna settlement on the Caribbean. While there was wifi at Table Rock, our jungle lodge, the satellite system they used didn't like Macs apparently, so I was forced off the grid for a week. That was a bit frustrating, but also helped me be even more present for the days we were out of touch. 

Since you heard from me last we've visited the market in San Ignacio and eaten our first pupusas, climbed pyramids, explored Maya ruins, gone caving, gone zip lining, seen incredible butterflies and hummingbirds, wandered villages, fed howler monkeys in the wild, seen miles and miles of leaf cutter ants wending their way from trees to nests, held green iguanas, and spotted my elusive keel-billed toucan as it flew overhead, away from me. We lounged at the palapa of the lodge every afternoon, reading or taking notes on the day, being served lime juice on ice by Jose. We've eaten five star meals prepared by Chef George, and had orange juice squeezed from oranges grown at Table Rock. Our breakfasts were made from eggs laid on their farm, and the fruit came from surrounding villages. We've made friends, met people who have moved into our hearts to stay. 

Leaving Table Rock was hard. We have never experienced such luxury. Yet we still felt  like we were contributing to the health of Belize. Alan and Colleen built the place from jungle scrub with nothing but vision and grit and the labor force of a neighboring village. They are off the grid electrically and use only local foods. Water is conserved. There are no outlets in the rooms.  But there is such a feeling of abundance, both materially and humanly, that we drove away overflowing with a sense of deep rightness and connection to life.

Our arrival at Hopkins was another huge culture shock. Partly it was being away from the family feeling of Table Rock. Partly it was the heat and return to a scrubby landscape. Partly it was being faced one more time with the incredible poverty in this country.

We had visions of a romantic week in our secluded cabana on the beach. Ingrid, our hostess, is a warm and lovely German woman whose English leaves me baffled frequently. At first glance, the cabana was everything we hoped for. After Ingrid left us to ourselves, however, the cracks began to show. The lovely beach front we had to ourselves was littered with garbage, and the sea breeze, while comforting at first, after a bit felt more like a blast furnace. The cabana itself was a bit beyond rustic. Which might all have been okay, except it did not cool down even a bit last night, and we woke up this morning groggy, grumpy, and not sure what to do next.

To make this long story shorter, Ingrid found us another place on the beach (she apparently manages a number of properties in Hopkins). We have gone from run down rustic to a room in a million dollar home, with access to the living room and kitchen of the suite next door because it's currently empty. It's beautiful here, more than we actually wanted, but the air conditioning is making us both very happy right now.

As we drove up to the place this afternoon after a day of adventuring in Placencia (where we had lobster for lunch that was caught this morning), we saw a  very small girl, probably 7 or 8, riding a very large bike up and down the side of the property. I talked to her about the size of the bike and her prowess with it, and got great smiles. Her home is a wooden shack on stilts, right next to this house. The houses on the other side of us are much the same as hers.  It's interesting that my first experience with Belize was the poverty, and the ending of my time here is surrounded by it as well. 

It was Linda who commented on the last post that what seems so unusual at first will become familiar. And that's certainly been true of a lot of our experience in the last ten days. We've grown accustomed to the roads (which are worse in some places than the guide books warned). Walt has learned to drive like a local, which means passing cars in places and ways that seem insane at home. We've gotten used to the bugs (which really aren't as bad as we expected). We're moving slower, in part because of the heat and humidity, and in part because no one moves fast here. Our ears are more attuned to English spoken with a Spanish accent and I find myself hearing in my head the names of the places we've been, spoken with the most musical of lilts.

The poverty, too, is becoming more familiar. What it isn't becoming is comfortable. I don't know what to do with it. At every speed bump, and there are at least six for each village we go through, locals stand either waiting for the bus or selling food of some kind. Our car has to come to almost a complete stop to inch across the wide concrete barriers. I sit with my window open and beautiful brown people within arms's reach. So I smile and wave at the faces we pass. Some, most actually, smile and wave back. It's not enough, but right now, that bit of affection is the best I have to offer. 

We have five more days here. I'm not sure what they'll bring. We have no specific plans for our remaining time in Belize beyond exploring, eating great food, and looking for whatever adventure presents itself at the next turn. I hope to post once more before we return home, but I've got so many stories just waiting to be told on the other side of this time. I can hardly wait to share.


18 comments:

DJan said...

A truly wonderful adventure. One that keeps on bringing new sights and sounds to me, the recipient of your posts. Keep 'em coming, Deb! This is really informative.

B. WHITTINGTON said...

What an informative piece about a beautiful place I'll most likely never be.
You're a brave soul to be driving the roads, of course with a companion it's much better!
Sounds a bit like Puerto Rico many years ago when I visited there.
Be safe. Blessings.

#1Nana said...

The two years we lived in Central America we never made it to Belize. I grew accustomed to the poverty and a more minimalist lifestyle. We are burdened with our stuff.

Mrs Catch said...

What an adventure! I lived in Buenos Aires for a few years. Never got used to the poverty, but made so many wonderful friends and had so many memorable experiences. It's true that travel broadens you as a person. Can't wait to see your photos.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Table Rock sounds especially wonderful. Glad you are having a good time, and I look forward to future posts!

Barb said...

Adventures within adventures. You both look wonderfully happy in the photo. Glad you can find some respite from the heat in your new digs. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

Lilith said...

Sounds wonderful. Made me smile.

Linda Myers said...

This sounds like a great trip, even with the not-so-great parts. And you're capturing the flavor of the place - including the poverty that is somehow not too awfully sad.

Sandi said...

What different adventures we are having my friend!
I don't know that I would choose such an vacation as you did, although it sounds fantastic, and very educational!

We've stayed in hotels that are much more luxurious than any I've stayed in at home, yet I still feel that I am a stranger in a strange place. The exhaustion, mentally, of trying to figure out what is going on in another language is very draining for me. Even though having Kailyn to interpret most of the time, it's still hard. I'm very frustrated at being unable to communicate much more than "bon jour" and "merci". The driving tour was fun, but we got lost a lot!

Can't wait to swap stories!

Wanda said...

And I can hardly wait to hear!

Dee said...

Dear Deb, that comment you mentioned about things becoming familiar so that we no longer notice them is true I think. But with you moving around and seeing different things, I suspect you'll never get used to the poverty.

I look forward to more blogs about your adventures!

Peace.

Stacy Crawford said...

How exciting to see those sights and smell the smells. It is hard to see people struggle, I'm sure all you have to offer right now is enough.

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh my! I haven't been on here in a while and didn't realize what you have been up to! Amazing!!! Loved hearing about your time there!

Mark Lyons said...

I told Walt he should have purchased a PC for you. :) I'm so glad that you are having a great time, your hip is holding up and you have a chance to see a world most of us will never have the opportunity to experience. I can hardly wait to hear the stories, read the blogs...and watch that 1000 picture slide show.

I Love you

Mark

kario said...

I'm so glad you are having a great time! I can't wait to hear more. What an incredible adventure.

yaya said...

Great pic of the world travelers! Sounds so interesting and you have a way of describing it that really makes me want to hear more...thanks for sharing this adventure! When you went into the pyramids did you happen to see a Mayan calendar on the wall? Did it say the end of the world was this Dec.? Just wondering if I should buy Christmas gifts...

Debbie Crawford said...

Deb & Walt,

So glad you are able to fully experience the entire culture and not just what is presented to most tourists. Summer should FINALLY be here when you get home. Looking forward to pictures, stories and tea.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Can't wait to hear them.