Belize

Posted on January 6, 2018

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It might only be next door to Guatemala but my God what a different culture exists in Belize.

After spending two hours in the immigration line and a confused officer misreading my occupation as “DRIVER” not “DIVER” until I shook my fins at him I hurried towards the exit.

I was the last passenger from my bus and I was very conscious of it. Sod’s law as I approached the “nothing to declare” line a cheeky looking customs officer blocked my path.

(Oh Jeeesus, please don’t ask me to open my bag…I thought.)

“Where you from?”, his Caribbean lilt singing the words into an upward question, smiling and revealing his gold teeth.

“London, England,” I said in a firm voice.

“You like Manchester?” He asked.

“Aye, Manchester? That’s up North, that’s nowhere near London,” I said craning my neck past his shaved head and stubbly chin frantically searching for the bus in the bright sunlight.

“He’s from Manchester,” he continued, pointing to his mate, sat slumped on a swivel chair looking bored out of his skull.

(Ahh i see what this is. These poor bastards have nothing to do all day and just want to interact with someone.)

“I sincerely doubt it,” I retorted.

Raising his tubby body onto his fat legs, his colleague swaggered over.

“What team do you support?” He asked smiling and swaying on the spot to steady himself.

“Football!” I screeched. “You stop me to talk about the premier league just because I’m English!!!!” I half laugh and scolded him. “I’m gonna miss my bus,” I protested now blocked by both of them.

“Nah they’ll wait,” he reassured me.

Relaxing a bit I said, “Alright, lemme guess you’re a Man City fan.”

“How’d you know?” He asked surprised as hell.

“The word Manchester kinda gave it away, so it was a 50/50 guess mate,” i said getting into the banter.

“You an Arsenal fan?” He asked almost accusingly.

“I do not support any team,” I laughed, stepping between them and now making baby steps towards the door. “But there is nothing wrong with Arsenal.”

“CHELSEA!” He yelled at my back.

“Never, I hate Chelsea,” I shouted back turning my head around while walking outside.

Back on the bus I shared my football is a language that knows-no-barriers-across-the-world story with my fellow passengers who all laughed.

Three hours later our bus creaked into Belize City. It is a dusty back water that looks like a cross between Havana and what I imagine New Orleans to be like. It once functioned as the capital of British Honduras. It’s been smacked with several powerful hurricanes over the years, a reminder of just how vulnerable a low-lying island it is. Most of the houses are clapboard. The wood decaying and brightly coloured pant peeling. There’s a huge American influence from food, currency, and the size of its people. But Caribbean influences too that remind me of my mother’s Trini roots, like the accent, the sweet talking charm and mischievous behaviour.

I am here to dive and thank God. I have walked the main area of downtown and my neighbour in a few hours. It is safe, as long as you are streetwise and don’t flash cash. There are homeless on the streets and drunks and craaazies, but then London has those too. I have not been hassled and everyone I have stopped to engage with has been friendly and curious to know where i am from. Few people walk here, only the poor and me. Probably helps that I could pass for a local. Amen for dark skin and curly hair.

My boat The Aggressor III is docked smack bang opposite the Radisson on a pier not to dis-similar to the one in Fiji I used to walkout on everyday. I am psyched to get on that yatch. It is a luxury boat that sleeps 18 and offers up to five dives a day. It’s all inclusive of food and booze – I will be abstaining as I am now sober 80 day and counting. I have no idea who my roomie will be. I hope she is a quiet sleeper, amicable and not a slob. There are a lot of very loud Americans staying at the Radisson. So it’s anyone’s guess who is going on the vessel and who isn’t.

The cays and atolls in Belize are reputed to be world class for diving and the barrier reef here is meant to be outstanding. I am away for a week, no wifi and no signal – perfect. It’s been three months on terra firm and I just can’t wait to slip back into neoprene and get beneath the waves. Adios amigos!!

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