My husband and I have been on a treadmill set at warp speed over the past year or more. Most of the life-workout has been wonderful and I’m not complaining . . . travel, family, adventure, etc. Some parts were not so good . . . failing parents, the death of my uncle after his slow decline, and the sound of my writing coming to a screeching halt.
We needed a time out. Big time.
When we vacation, we usually cram every minute visiting landmarks and museums, walking our feet off, and savoring local food. We collapse at the end of the day and hit repeat the following morning. We aren’t sit-on-the-beach-and-contemplate-our-navels kind of people.
After red-lining life for so long, we were in the mood for a vacation that included rum drinks with umbrellas in them, sandy beaches, sea breezes, and limited Internet.
We considered Hawaii or Mexico, but while doing research on tropical destinations, I came across a resort situated on an atoll 25 miles off the coast of Belize. For those of you who are geographically challenged, Belize is on the east coast of Central America with Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south.
The sole resort on our vacation island boasts 18 private cabanas on a blindingly white beach, no television, radio, or paved roads, three meals provided daily, and world-class snorkeling and SCUBA diving out the front door. Think Gilligan’s Island with Internet access only available in the Skipper’s hut.
Over the next few posts, I will do my best to not bore you with an endless slide show of the hundreds of pictures we took while in Belize. But first, not knowing a damn thing about the country of Belize, I did due diligence research (what did we do before the Internet?) and read some things that made me scratch my head. Did any of you guys know this stuff?
Belize’s barrier reef is second only in size to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Who knew?
Mr. Wick E. Pedia casually mentions that chewing gum was invented in Belize. Listen, buddy, you can’t drop that bombshell and not give us more details about the who, what, when, where, and how Belize came to be the birthplace of Bazooka Bubblegum.
Belize City, the largest city in Belize, is little more than a slum. Actually, calling it a slum is an insult to the word slum. It is a pit. The ramshackle houses look abandoned until you notice the fresh laundry hanging on the line. Dozens of buildings are mere shells. Vacant lots are strewn with garbage and worse. Dental work appears to be an unheard of luxury. The abject poverty is sobering. Fortunately, we were only in Belize City for one night before heading to our island paradise.
In stark contrast to the poverty, the literacy rate is 77%. Local churches run the schools and the kids wear immaculate uniforms unique to their particular school. Belizeans may not have money for dental work, but they take a great deal of pride in their educational system and starched uniforms.
A large population of Mennonite farmers settled in Belize because the government granted them freedom from religious persecution and exemption from military conscription. The Mennonites are the nation’s farmers, producing goods for the general population as well as for export. They pretty much stick to their farms, but we saw a few couples shopping at the pharmacy in Belize City. It was like the cast members from the movie The Witness made a wrong turn and landed in a ghetto.
The country is rich in Mayan ruins dating back as early as 900 B.C. Archeologists estimate that at its peak, the Mayan population was one million. Keep in mind there are only 334,000 people living in Belize today. More on the Mayan ruins in a future post.
They may be poor, but the Belizean pride in their heritage, culture, and the country’s beautiful landscape is apparent. One last thing . . . Belizeans are warm and welcoming souls. Even with teeth in dire need of orthodontia, they have the most beautiful smiles.
As a preview to future posts about our trip, here is a teaser photo of the view from our cabana.