There is a frog lightly hopping and then pausing along the edge of the veranda. It is night, so it is barely illuminated in the glow from the light. A gecko leaps from the wall and scurries off. Maybe I scared it? Although, it is our nightly ritual to hang out together—me working, it doing whatever it does…hanging there sideways on the wall.
I am living at the end of a very rutted and pocked dirt road. My daily ritual has me ride down it on bicycle into town at least twice a day…once for the sea, to go swimming, another for shopping for fresh produce or to go out dancing. Every so often along the way there is a speed bump made from two very thick braided ropes lain side by side. The road is so bumpy, it makes me laugh to think they need the speed bumps, but I guess they feel they do. Between the ruts and the ropes, it is one heck of a ride by bicycle, back and forth each day. And yet, I have grown to love the ritual. The dogs that one day come up to me smiling and begging for a pet and a pat, the next day, barking away as if they have never seen me before (I think the heat addles their poor little brains.) I smile and wave at the workers tearing down an old bar that burnt down, and the others, putting in a new dock, while yet others are painting the veranda of a new friend of mine. Sometimes, I stop to chat about the weather (how incredibly hot it has been) or to joke about how bad they are making the road with all their construction (as if what they are doing has hardly any impact on the road that is so bad to begin with.) They laugh and smile with a glint in their eye. We enjoy that we share this ritual together.
It is such a different world here than the crazy hustle and bustle of the San Francisco Bay Area that I left before coming here. The city life sucks me dry and drains my life force until I feel I am nothing but a ghost. Here, in a town of approximately 1,800 people, I feel filled up and renewed each day. In the city where so many people “know” me, but I do not know them. Here, where more and more people really know me without even for what I am known for. Here I am the girl who loves to dance, says hello with a smile to everyone, chats with the locals about their lives, their loves, their loves lost, their latest conquest of some foreigner. Here, I am the girl who shops like religion at David Perez’s fruit and vegetable stand and the produce truck that comes into town every few days. The girl who buys the hand-made tortillas once a week and hopes and prays for the days the avocados and tangerines come to town. Here, I am the girl who was casually invited to come to the “celebration” of an elder’s passing—everyone brings food and drinks and dances all night before the burial. I did not go because I did not know how to go to a funeral for a man I did not know. I offended the local friend who invited until I helped him understand that where I come from, a person would never go to the funeral of a person they didn’t know unless they were actually with someone who was a friend or relative. He replied, “It’s OK Mon (pronounced like a soft “man”), but here it is different. Here, once you are invited, you are family.”
I love it here. I love that I am already becoming part of this dysfunctional, wild, belligerent, beautiful, funny family of this place in Belize. I love that even though everyone has some kind of agenda, most are willing to let go of it after they realize it is not going to get them anywhere with me, but that I still want to be their friend. I love the ritual of swimming, produce shopping, working (via internet), cooking, dancing, chatting, and laughing. I love how easy it is to laugh here. It is often childlike here. They will get upset, territorial, and even manipulative. But rarely is it in malice, and even more rarely do they hold a grudge. Life is too sweet for that. And, usually, it is nothing that buying someone a beer won’t cure.
There are some people here I am wary of. There are those from outside the area who are thieves, who have no problem stealing from you even after they know you. There are locals who will see how much they can get over on you and get away with. There are jellyfish in the water, and mosquitoes, sand flies, and ants that have eaten me alive and made me look like a war-zone. There are small-town politics the same as just about anywhere (only worse here, because at least half the town is related.) There is dust and unbelievable heat some days that makes you sweat to even think about moving. And time… well that is a whole other story unto itself. Time here, takes its own time. And still, I love it. I have found home. What a beautiful feeling it is. It has been a very, very long time coming. And I am so very grateful to have found it.
Love and Simple Pleasures,