December 15: A Belizean Week-end
I got a little more adventurous this weekend and ended up
with some typically Belizean experiences, unlike my usual mode
which is mostly observation. On Saturday night I finally visited
a Belizean bar (a real one, not the kind at a resort) with Capt.
Frank, Sgt. Alejandro and another guy. But first I almost went
night-fishing, almost looked at a house to rent on the water
and almost went to a party.
Capt. Frank is a very dark, very dapper Garifuna man with
a very proper British accent. He is the retired boatman from
Pelican Beach and every bit as charming as Ishmael in his own
way. He’s the guy who taught Therese all her boating and water
skills. Sgt. Alejandro is his nephew (maybe), in the Belize army
(BDF – Belize Defense Force) stationed in Belize City. Mostly
what the BDF does is train in the jungle in case we have to repel
a Guatemalan invasion (a pretty real possibility) and help the
police force try to keep the flow of drugs and illegal aliens
under control. Lots of border duty looking through cars and bags
and squabbling over who gets one of the three drug dogs in the
country. The other guy had no teeth and was so drunk that I couldn’t
understand what his name was or any other word he said. But we
had a nice conversation.
The evening started like this. About 7:30 Alejandro came by
to take me to look at a house he owns here in Dangriga from which
he just evicted the tenants. I had been put in touch with him
because I’ve been complaining about the noise at my apartment
again. Now the Asian family across the street has taken to playing
that (to my ears) horrible, atonal, screechy, singsong music
on the short wave until well after midnight. The only respite
is loud static when they lose the station altogether or saccharine
Viennese waltzes, which may be from a station nearby on the band
and may actually be broadcast from the same station. I wouldn’t
be surprised. Then the buses at 5:15. You remember.
So Alejandro said would I mind walking over to the dock first,
because his friend would be there fishing and maybe we could
do a little fishing too or at least help him drink his beer and
then we would get a fish. But his friend wasn’t there, so we
waited and waited and waited because Alejandro really wanted
a fish for his sister. By the time we give up, it’s 9:00 and
Alejandro said that one of the staff people from his unit in
the army was having a party and it was on the way to the house
and he really needed to drop in. So I said okay and then we walked
about three miles, but the house was all dark and the party for sure
hadn’t started yet.
So we walked over to the house he had for
rent (maybe) which really wasn’t on the way at all, but he said
that it looked like the tenants were still in it so we couldn’t
go see it until the next day. As we were rounding back onto main
street, here comes a bicycle with, low-and-behold, the friend who’s
throwing the party. He said he just was out to pick up some last
minute things, but the party was starting right away. I said
well, it was getting late and I wasn’t up for walking back so
thanks but I’d go home. Then they held a long consultation and
decided that someone would get someone’s brother’s car and they
would come back and get us so I wouldn’t have to walk but I could
experience a real Belizean party. And we should wait at the bar.
So we went to the bar which is really a club, a lodge, and there
were Mr. Frank and the toothless guy. And several other couples,
etc., but they were the only ones who wanted to talk to a white
foreigner. Everyone else had money, I think.
Here’s what you drink at this kind of a bar. Beer. Rum and
coke. Brandy and “fresh milk.” The beer is Belikan
which is local (and pretty okay). The brandy is a French brandy,
which is bottled in Belize and is quite good. The “fresh
milk” is a special kind of Dutch canned milk that isn’t
condensed (but it still has some of that taste). So I opted for
rum and coke and the others were happy to drink along with me.
A round is BZ $6.00. You get a hip flask labeled Hennessey brandy,
but full of Caribbean white rum, a coke, some plastic glasses
and a bowl of ice. So we just sat around out in the courtyard
on these rickety old wooden stools and drank rum and coke and
talked about Belize’s place in the world until I got tired of
buying (four rounds). I was told with great seriousness that the
reason the World Bank had stabilized the Belize dollar against
the US dollar (a straight 1:2 ratio as you know) was that Belize
citrus is the sweetest in the world. Could be true, I guess.
Nothing else makes sense except the economy is so small that
nobody cares and we had them do it as a hedge against all that
unrest in Central America or as a favor to the UK or something.
The ride to the party never materialized, so I went home about
1:00. Over the course of the evening, we also made a plan to
borrow a boat from some uncle to go to Tobacco Caye the next
day to visit another uncle in Capt. Frank’s capable hands. I’ll
tell you about that the next time.