January 10: Caye Caulker – The Haircut
Well, my trip to Caye Caulker was one of those mixed experiences.
The water taxi from Belize City takes about 45 minutes and it
was threatening to rain and the wind was pretty chilly. But since
you’re packed in with (officially) 31 other tourists and locals
it’s not too cold. Quite cozy, really. On the way, we stopped
at a place called Caye Chapel (which I heard pronounced Chopper)
which has a big hotel and the only golf course in the country,
but is apparently not open to the public. It’s just amazing to
see this whole caye in rolling green grass and only a few palms
and mangroves. This is some coal-mining family from Kentucky
owning their own private island. Therese says the hotel has been
available off and on, but when the owner decides to come, he
just pays to have the guests moved somewhere else. So I guess
the staff just quit advertising. We took several workmen out
there and dropped them on a barge serving as a dock at a construction
site. More holes of golf, I guess.
I was uncertain what they had said (chopper sounds sort of
like Caulker and you never can tell; the meat market in Dangriga
is named Yearwood and pronounced yahrwoo), so I nearly got off
the boat, but came to my senses in time. It’s these little uncertainties
in a foreign country that take so much energy, I think.
By the time we got to the right caye, it was raining and the
place I had planned to stay was full. So I decided to have breakfast
and think about things. Found a little shop called Evita’s Fast
Food that looked nice and ordered a ham and cheese omelet and
tortillas. This has proved to be a good thing to order when you’re
uncertain, because the ham and bacon here are wonderful (minimal
preservatives), the eggs are beautifully fresh, the cheese is
often nice imported Dutch cheese and the tortillas are usually
freshly made. This time it was beastly. It was bologna and some
orange stringy stuff. But the tortilla was nice and it only cost
BZ $6. So I decided to stay cheerful. But also to hedge my bets.
If it was going to rain, I wanted to be prepared so instead
of one of the bare-bones guest houses, I sprang for the Tropical
Paradise. This is a set of cabanas on the beach with its own
dock and lounge chairs. But most important, the room I got (BZ
$80, whew!) had hot water, cable TV with a remote control AND
a reading light bulb on the wall above the head board of the
bed! Well, it was still a hotel at the beach – tacky wood
paneling, Marley floor, shower ran right through the floor onto
the sand and there was no bath mat, drinking glass, toilet paper
holder, soap, etc. But it worked out fine. I went out to sunbathe
and read and when it started to rain, I came in and watched the
Comedy Channel (this actually was fun, because I haven’t seen
any TV since I got here).
After awhile I decided to go get a haircut. When we were
in Indonesia we ran into some travelers (from Norway I think)
who said they always tried to get haircuts in foreign countries,
because it would give you some interaction with a local non-tourist-oriented
business and tell you something about the economy and health
and licensing standards, etc without being very expensive or
risky. We did this in Indonesia and it worked out fine. As they
say, one outta two ain’t bad.
Strolled down the road to a tidy little shop called Elvira’s
Unisex Beauty Parlour. Elvira was ready to take me right then.
BZ $15 for a cut. So I sat down and she combed my hair and fiddled
a bit and asked me what I wanted. I said, well, it was too long
and I wanted at least an inch cut off and then it needed some
shaping. So she fiddled some more and then said “I know
what will look nice on you. Shall I give you a nice style?”
“Okay,” says I. Well. It appears that Unisex means
Elvira only gives one haircut. I have the back and sides nicely
tapered and it’s left a little longer on the top (do any of you
gentlemen recognize this as the kind of thing you say to a barber?
Elvira knows just what you mean). I even got my side burns trimmed.
I mean it is SHORT. Remember my crack about the little Mayan
babies and the hedgehogs? I meant it admiringly, even affectionately,
but Providence apparently didn’t take it that way.
Elvira said proudly that this haircut was called a “Mushroom
Fade” and she really hoped I liked it. I just couldn’t get
over what a standard men’s haircut it looked like. I expected
a splash of Bay Rum at any moment, but instead I got generously
dusted with talcum powder. I think it was Evening in Paris (wasn’t
that the dark blue box with silver lettering on your mother’s
or grandmother’s vanity table?). The whole shop was covered with
Evening in Paris by the time I slunk out. I’m ashamed to say
I did not leave Elvira a tip. I guess I’m getting used to my
lack of hair, but it won’t grow much in the two weeks before
I get back. So those of you who are going to see me soon are
requested to say, “Oh, Paget, it’s not that short.”
But it is. It’s cool, though, just in time to come back and freeze
my ears off.
I’ll tell you the rest next time.