Paget’s Belize Journal #31

December 7: Thanksgiving in Mexico

Thanksgiving in Mexico with Carol’s friends was a good combination
of traditional and local color. Carol and J.B. are back in Bacalar,
located about 10 miles from Chetumal (just across the Belize
border) on a beautiful lake called “Lake of the Seven Colors.”
The water is very clear and still and the combination of vegetation,
a bright sandy bottom and differing depths produces spectacular
colors – many more than seven. The overall affect is turquoise,
with many shades of blue and green and even some violet in the
right light. So many changes throughout the day, it seems you
could sit and look for hours and never be bored. But even though
Carol’s house is right on the lake and the hammocks were up,
of course we had too much to do for me to test that theory.

The Thanksgiving dinner was turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed
potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, spinach salad, and all
the rest served as a sit-down dinner outside on the patio and
accompanied by margaritas, Mexican champagne and French brandy.
There were about two dozen guests, about half U.S. folks who
live in Bacalar year round, some “snowbirds” from the
U.S. who winter at an RV park somewhere near Cancun and are friends
of the hostess who also used to do that, two local (Mexican)
couples and another Mexican woman and the guy from the Netherlands
she used to be married to, along with their children.

After cooking
and eating and cleaning, everyone sat down again for a while
and one of the Mexican men entertained us playing the guitar
and singing many Mexican ballads and a few rousing something
else’s that had the singer rolling his eyes comically and the
Spanish speakers grinning and winking. Lots of fun even if you
don’t have a clue. One earnest young botanist (doing interesting
things in the forest) tried to explain the songs a few times,
but it was not a success. The phrase “lost in translation”
does have a literal meaning.

Fairly early to bed Thursday so we could get up early and
go shopping Friday in the Free Zone, also called “the Frontier.”
This is in the no-man’s land between the borders and is a duty-free
place with lots and lots of imported Asian junk. Well, and other
things, too. There’s a nice duty-free shop like you see in every
major airport in the world with booze and perfume and there are
a few grocery stores (?) and an electronics place or two, but
mostly just little shops with artificial flowers and already-rusting
cheap tools and shampoo and elaborate, tacky plastic children’s
toys. But Carol and J.B.(and an ex-pat friend, Penny) knew what
they wanted and were willing to shop for it, so we had a successful
day. Five hours of marathon shopping with only two stops for
juice. They bought kitchen utensils, wastebaskets, roll-around
vegetable storage cart, juicer, ironing board etc. Lots of household
stuff. I bought Christmas lights, wine (three bottles of a very nice
Cote du Rhone at US $6 each) and a chicken-roasting pan.

Another tropical roulette game getting back into Mexico. You
go the customs counter and push a button. If the light comes
up green, you walk through without inspection. If it comes up
red, you get to take everything out of your bags and show them
the receipts and get everything matched up. With four women who
had re-balanced the loads and traded off packages several times,
this was quite a lot of fun. So it didn’t really matter that
only one of the first three got the red light, they all had to
unload in order to get past the inspection. I was the last one
and I had to hand up receipts and about half what I was carrying
to help the matching. But then I got a green light, so we were
off again.

The four of us had a wonderful late lunch at the best restaurant
in Bacalar, a pitcher of watermelon juice and beautiful little
crispy 4″ chicken tostados all around. Three apiece with
avocado. The experienced eaters ordered theirs without beans.
Because the beans are made from powdered, dried beans and are
kind of pasty. The total bill was about US $7.00. Carol said
when they first discovered the place, they thought, “Why
cook? We’ll just eat here every night.” But as it turns
out everything tastes the same, so they got tired of it. And
then there are those instant beans.

We were going to go to the movies that night (there are no
movie theaters in Belize so I was up for it), but there was a
party in the movie “theater,” so there was no movie.
This is a large roofed, open-air building where you sit on folding
chairs and smear yourself with insect repellent and they show
the movie on the white wall. Probably you can drink beer too,
but as I said, we didn’t get to do it.

So we spent a lot of time talking and comparing notes on our
experiences and plans (Carol has them, I don’t) and I watched
them organize their household and negotiate repairs to the place
J.B has bought there. Some of our observations about changed
perceptions, priorities and tolerances.

  1. You absolutely must paint your toenails in the tropics, but
    you don’t have to wear make-up.
  2. And you don’t have to wash your hair every day or even your
    body (except the naughty bits), but you do have to wash the dishes.
  3. It’s absolutely appalling how domestic animals (cats, dogs,
    horses, donkeys) are treated, but you can’t do anything about
    it so you might as well get used to it.
  4. Some bugs in the house are not so bad and lizards are positively
  5. Six o’clock in the morning is a nice time to be up when it’s
  6. Political correctness is a concept from another planet.
  7. The world is not white and never will be.
  8. It’s their country.

With that I’ll sign off.