You Better Belize It
The last 3 weeks living in Belize have been quite the adventure. Though I have been out of the country before, this time was very different. Unlike before, it wasn’t with either of my parents. On top of that, Belize was one of the least developed countries I’ve been to, but I had a pretty good idea of what to expect having come to Mexico before. Throughout the course of my relatively short stay in the country, I learned quite a few things; if you’re planning on taking the 5 hour jaunt south to Belize via plane, or even if you're not, the following article may entertain you.
The food in Belize isn’t really much to gloat about. Shockingly, the primary diet of Belizean people seems unhealthy. For some reason I had it in my head that all they ate were rice, beans, and bananas all day and got copious amounts of exercise walking and biking everywhere because cars were so expensive. Part of that is true. Cars are egregiously expensive to own and operate, and locals consume an incredible amount of the ever-economical rice and beans. But, there is very little variety in their diet, add that to the constant supply of fried foods (panades, fryjacks, fried breadfruit, fried plantain) that is consumed everyday I started to understand why I saw so much obesity. Though I did have some good Belizean cuisine, it couldn’t hold a candle to even American food, much less the wonders that are derived from the far east and western Europe.
The population is somewhat diverse, but most everyone seemed to be cordial enough to me. Where I was living, I was one of just a few white people in the entire town of about 3,000. The only time that I ever got harassed was when I was walking alone. Though I never felt physically threatened (the Belizeans are not an intimidating bunch) I did feel a bit on edge a few times, but mostly annoyed. The stereotype in Belize is that anyone that’s white, is rich, which relative to the local population, most of them are. Being white makes it impossible to navigate the streets without having something being asked from you, some in more derogatory terms than others (calling me across the street and yelling “hey white boy!” isn’t getting you my money haha). It’s interesting to note that when I was walking with my two friends, both white males with athletic builds, no one we didn’t know would even address us. Especially at night.
Where I was at, the terrain was pretty boring. Basic sub-tropical locale with lots of dirt and shrubbery. The town was dotted with trees that always seemed to be gushing with coconuts. It got awesome when I took the 10 minute water taxi ride from Independence/Mango Creek to Placencia, a hardcore tourist stop. Placencia was right on the coast of the Caribbean and littered with Canadians. The water was a gorgeous green fading into blue and the sun was fantastically warm. In January, the temperature typically fluctuated from the low 70s to the high 80s. The beach at Placencia is pretty clean! There isn’t any type of rake service to clean up the weeds that wash up from the water, but compared to other places (looking at you Florida Keys) there isn’t much seaweed washed ashore. Although I never had the circumstances to go out to them, there are a ton of tiny islands just a few minutes away by boat, I hear they are stunning. I would have gone, but I sustained a bleeding face injury in an intense game of futbol with the locals and was unable to attend. Never wear sunglasses whilst playing futbol. Belize also has mountains, but they were so far away from where I was staying, I could only observe from afar.
In Independence, Belize there is a very limited number of restaurants. All of them are jank-city compared to most places in the U.S., but that’s totally part of the experience. In Placencia, things get more American very quickly. Seemingly everywhere you turn, there is a Canadian asking you for directions there! My favorite places in Placencia are: Barefoot Bar, Brewed Awakenings Coffee, and Tutti Frutti Gelato. Barefoot Bar is right on the beach and all open-air. It’s right next to a few other bars that have good food and cheap drink. During happy hour I got a rum and coke for $.75usd. At Barefoot, they have an amazing teriyaki chicken burger with butt bacon, lettuce, caramelized onions and grilled pineapple –by far the best meal I had down there. Brewed Awakenings has fantastic fruit smoothies and also serves French Press coffee, my favorite style coffee ever. Tutti Frutti is nothing short of majestic. If you go to none of the aforementioned establishments, go to Tutti Frutti. It’s a tiny, air-conditioned, little Gelato parlor with a small Italian lady that makes the most stupendous frozen creations you will experience. Go there. You’re welcome.
Do stray dogs count as wildlife? In Belize, strays are on every corner in every town. They are all disgusting to look at and incredibly annoying at night when they decide to yelp and bark and howl and sound like death at 2am. I wouldn’t recommend a trip to Belize if you have a strong love or a strong loathing for dogs. The dog lovers will cry and the dog haters will get institutionalized. Other than a few cats begging for food, there really weren't any other mammals visually present, but the birds made sure I knew they existed. I’m not really sure what the species is specifically, but every so often I would wake up to what sounded like a mechanical squawk, almost fake sounding. Along with the mech-birds flying around, the entire village I resided in was inundated with chickens…so…many…chickens…
The other side of Belizean wildlife was the insects and the arachnids. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I never had a run-in with a tarantula, but I did have a fun time with 2 scorpions. On both occasions I freaked out, maimed, and subsequently killed the scorpion with the help of my friend Kevin and a machete. Everyone says that scorpions are a bad thing to be stung by…so yeah. The mosquitos I was warned about before I came down, but honestly, they weren’t even close to what I have seen during the summer in West Michigan. So other than the possibility of contracting Malaria, I wasn’t too concerned. My least favorite animals were the tiny red ants. Randomly they would appear in mass and I would send them to their graves with my potent aerosol ant spray (which may have taken a few years off my life inhaling, who knows really though). Every time I went on an ant-killing genocide, at least one if not five of the buggers would bite me. Not so much painful, but super annoying.
Would I Go Back?
Yes. And no. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Belize. It was probably one of the best, if not the best, experience that I have had abroad. Retrospectively though, I think the reason was purely circumstantial, not because Belize was such an amazing destination. If given the opportunity to return, I would take it up in a second, but there are too many other places I want to see to actively seek out a return trip. Hopefully I can find myself in Europe again soon, but as of right now next on the docket is Seoul, South Korea.
Happy Travels! :D