Stepping out of ice fields into a soupy thick air is draining. When I left home this morning, the snow and ice were still a stark, crisp landscape along the Great Lakes in Canada.
In December and January, Belize has day after day of 30°C rain. With the riverbanks bursting, and the air heavy with salty water, visitors not use to the humidity can only slowly move and try to adapt.
This is why many of the buildings, like the Chateau Caribbean, where I am staying in Belize City, require constant maintenance. The wet, salty air damages the paint and wood and carpets so that the natural world is constantly re-claiming the constructed one. At our hotel, for example, one of three locally-owned hotels in the city, the carpets are wearing thin and fraying by doors and windows, and the paint in the baths and window panes is flaking and black with mold. It is clean. The staff are constantly scrubbing. It is just difficult to keep up with the organic nature of the land.
It is holiday season in Belize. The schools are out, and neighbours are walking the boardwalks by the marinas and socializing on the streets. Belize is a small country, and the cities are the size of small villages where everyone knows everybody else. Crime is also low because of this reason. Walking along the street a vendor at one store suggested a ‘Chinese restaurant’ for lunch, and when my colleague showed some interest, the man simply went into the back door of the restaurant and got a menu for her. They weren’t related, but as neighbours, all of the residents work together to help each of their businesses succeed, and they work as a unit with each other to welcome visitors and travellers to the island. They are one, large family absorbing each new person into their world. It’s a warm feeling (no pun intended).
Belize City has an active group of street musicians known as the ‘Drums not Guns’ group led by saxophonist ‘Bro. Nafty’. They play together with whomever wants to join them down by the swinging bridge in the middle of the city, and hope to attract enough youth and people to promote traditional music and community to still crime. They even have a very popular Facebook page where fans and participants can contact them and message them.
Belize is a poor country. It is not uncommon to come across abandoned lots, houses, open sewers where cats and dogs run wild. The one redeeming quality of the city (also the name of the main, open air church – Redeemer) is its family. How does the saying go?
‘We may not have much, but at least we’ve got each other.’