Friday, June 28, 2013

Random thoughts

In the documentary A Map for Saturday, there's a brief discussion on saying goodbyes and how difficult that can be as a traveler because you build quick connections with people, spend time with them and create memories with them, and then one of you is off to the next destination. I've just experienced my first goodbye of the Central America trip. More on that in a moment.

Yesterday was my last full day in Caye Caulker. I decided to have a chill day (well, they all were pretty chill, in reality) which got started with fresh cut mangoes and ice cold water as I walked along the beach. I ran into one of the locals that I'd made friends with and asked him where a nice shady spot was to hang out for awhile. I figured I'd finish up my water and read for a bit, but Aaron decided to show me his favorite spot rather than tell me - it was at the end of a pier, cooled by a breeze and shaded by a palapa (a thatched roof dwelling) - and we ended up chatting and sharing music for awhile. Using one set of earbuds, we'd listen to a song or two of his, then a song or two of mine. Sometimes we were familiar with the other's song, but sometimes it was brand new for us. It was pretty fun to get an idea of what Belizean people listen to. Finally I needed a pee break, so I promised Aaron I'd catch up with him later and I was off. At around the same time, I decided I also needed some a/c so I grabbed a coffee and free wifi from this coffee shop I'd found a few days earlier.

I also decided that since it was my last night in Caye Caulker that I was going to have LOBSTER for dinner. Because yes, it's lobster season and it's plentiful and cheap and I'm leaving the coast. Perhaps I was trying to convince myself? :-) Anyway, one friend declared it "scary looking" when I texted the picture, but I can assure you it was deeee-lish!
(Lobster with salad and coconut rice, plus a Cuba Libre in the background)
So then it was time for goodbyes. Aaron (the Belizean I mentioned earlier), Peter (Aussie), Brittany (Canadian), and I were all having quiet nights in for various reasons. I met this gang on my first night in Caye Caulker over a week ago and then fell back into step with them when I came back, too. It was a group that shared a lot of laughs and jokes, so I wasn't exactly looking forward to saying goodbye. But we hugged and did the traveler's version of it - "hey, see ya around! Maybe we'll run into each other again!" - and it wasn't so terrible.
(Me, Aaron, Peter, and Brittany enjoying Taco Tuesday)
This morning I went to the water store to refill my water bottle and then had the most delicious (and cheap!) breakfast ever. It was eggs and pulled chicken stuffed into a fry jack (a kind of fried dough, almost similar to pita bread). It wasn't until six hours later that I finally started to get hungry again and it only cost me $1.25! After checking out of my room, I headed to the ferry for my last ever ferry ride (well, at least for a while). Back in Belize City, I took a taxi to the bus terminal and there realized that I'd meant to stop at an ATM and found myself with only Bz$17 (a little more than $8). This is a silly mistake, one I should know better than to make, but it wasn't the first time and it surely won't be the last time either. I wasn't sure how much the two and a half hour bus ride to San Ignacio would cost, so I asked about an ATM and started walking in search of it. Now, the thing about the streets in Belize is that they aren't particularly well marked. So if you're given directions, it's usually something like "walk that way for five minutes and then turn left." Kinda crazy. But...not at all crazy that I didn't find it. I could've kept walking, but I didn't want to miss the bus and besides, I was melting in the heat. 

As it turns out, the bus only cost Bz$8. Yep, only four dollars to cross from one side of the country to (literally) the other side (here's a map for perspective). While I was waiting for the bus, I was offered an opportunity to take a taxi instead for only $65 - that's US dollars, ya'll, a mere difference of Bz$122, or more than 15 times the bus fare! I couldn't help but remember the time that same thing happened in India.

Transportation between cities or countries is always a time of quiet reflection for me. Sometimes I'll pop in my headphones and just stare out the window, other times I chat with the people around me or "listen in" on conversations that are happening in a language I don't understand. Today, as I watched the lush countryside pass me by, I couldn't help but feel a peaceful happiness come over me. It was a similar feeling to the one I had upon arrival in Belize. It's kind of hard to explain, but it's a "this feels right" kind of a feeling. Do you ever get that?

One thing I've always loved about this kind of travel in third world/developing countries is the food. Now, that might seem like an odd thing for me to say, but hear me out. There are always people popping on and off of buses and trains selling snacks. (You get hungry and bored after traveling for a while, ya know?) Sometimes the buses and trains are so crowded that the vendor conducts his business through the windows instead. These snacks vary from region to region, but you can count on them being made by someone's mother or grandmother, in a home kitchen and not a factory. In Belize, the most common snack is plantain or cassava chips, but today it was lemon tarts, coconut tarts, and jam-filled pastries for Bz$1 each.

Anyway. I've gone on way too long about the most random collection of things. It's only 10pm and I've been yawning for the last hour and a half, so I think that means it's time for me to go to bed now.

Caves and ruins and archaeological stuff coming up in the days ahead...

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