Belize, the Central America Paradise

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Paradise on Earth? You Better Belize It

“We want you to feel at home in Belize”

"We can't go out and explore the world, so we want the world to come here"

“We can’t go out and explore the world, so we want the world to come here”

In what is said to be record rainfall this year in Belize, California is ready to declare a state of emergency from their driest year in recent history. Belize is a third world country, so yes, it’s going to have high theft areas of crime. Thankfully, there are just as many safe havens full of the nicest people of any high traffic tourist area. The people of Belize are limited in traveling only across near borders. Without a visa, the furthest they can go north is Mexico, and thus they depend on the tourism industry to meet people from around the world. Ambergris Caye is the place a lot of the mainland people move  because of the serenity of the island. It sure feels like paradise when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing off the shore. They may be seeing record rainfall, but the sun is still shining hard every day periodically between what I know from living on the west coast as pineapple express weather.

Most people know Belize through the hit television show Breaking Bad mentioning it as an analogy for murdering someone. Luckily, my trip to Belize didn’t have such a drastic ending. People either catch this reference, don’t have any idea what or where Belize is, or have been to Belize themselves and know of the paradise with a lack of infrastructure. This emerging getaway has seen many people including Harrison Ford and Madonna come and go. It’s undeveloped compared to that of the Myan Riviera, or Cancun, which is perfect for baby boomers looking for nostalgia. Beach bars blast Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones while people bet on horseshoes or eat at the adjacent barbeque. The amount of diversity is astounding and everyone is eager to mingle with each other tourists and locals alike.

Sunday beach party at the Crazy Canucks Bar

Sunday beach party at the Crazy Canucks Bar

This island was compared to paradise from all the locals I encountered, people from the mainland who saved for years to come to the emerging island get away, American Army vets looking for a place to retire. The Ambergris Caye is located off the east coast of the mainland of Belize, only a fifteen minute plane ride away.  This small island is only a mile wide, allowing you to see the sea on both the east and west coast simultaneously. The crystal blue waters include a river through the island resulting in a lagoon as well as the vast beautiful turquois ocean, the Caribbean Sea. The beach is composed of coral reef sediment sprouting from the second largest reef in the world just off the coast of the island, if you focus on the horizon you can see where the waves crash upon the summit of the reef to ease the waters heading into the Caye. Many citizens of San Pedros own boats and other aquatic craft to navigate the local area efficiently as well as go to the mainland for food, supplies, etc. Most bars are on the beach, some even featuring jet –ski access. The popular clubs of San Pedros are located in the high traffic tourist area, and the locals will be keep you partying there all night if you let them. The most popular club on the island is called “Jaguars” featuring an awesome entrance that’s intriguingly welcoming as you enter the mouth of a Jaguar next to the city center clock tower.

"Jaguars is the place to go" - Yaneli Young

“Jaguars is the place to go” – Yaneli Young

At home in Canada, a dollar doesn’t go very far anymore. In fact, unless you go to a dollar store or settle for subpar quality, you can’t even get a soda for a dollar anymore. Ironically enough, most dollar stores are even bumping their rates to $1.25. But in Belize, your dollar goes a bit further into the realm of minor refreshments and beyond. Your American dollar is worth double in Belize, and though this may sound appealing, there is a price we the tourists pay, then another price for the locals that can’t afford as much. In some cases locals will trade things with each other, such as fishermen trading for produce. This allows for some old fashioned bartering with the right establishments. In souvenir shops, for example, where cheesy shirts say “You Better Belize It!” or “UnBelizeable” which is eye candy to tourists, but not necessarily appealing if the price tag exceeds the novelty.

Goodbye 2013. Hello 2014

Goodbye 2013. Hello 2014

In Mexico or Jamaica, you might come across people desperately trying to convince you to enter their establishment or buy some product in an attempt to make ends meet. While I always felt uncomfortable being led into random, sometimes sketchy places, you won’t encounter much of that in San Pedros. People here are not pushy. They may ask if you would like to have dinner at their restaurant but they leave you alone at no. If you show interest, they might show you the menu before directing you into the establishment, still allowing you to decide for yourself. Most of the time, people greet you in the streets and ask you how you are enjoying Belize. They don’t necessarily want your money, they’re genuinely glad to meet you and are always willing to strike up a conversation to a passerby.

Better than front-row seats, this is our slice of beach feet away from the front door

Better than front-row seats, this is our slice of beach feet away from the front door

Belize has a struggling economy, due to the world economic struggle and their attempts and enticing more people to come to Belize thwarted by the fact that money is going into the wrong areas of town, funding seems to get lost in translation. Despite the rap that parts of the mainland have cases of crime, one thing is for certain, the people of Belize, at least the people of the Ambergris Caye, are welcoming people that are very kind. There is no stigma of keeping to yourself so as not to defend the wrong people like in North America. This spreads the feeling of community, a feeling that even just as a tourist that you’re a part of something bigger and better when you can just walk up to anyone on the street and strike up a conversation, provided you speak enough English or Spanish. That kind of thing doesn’t happen here without being branded as out of the ordinary, despite the fact that humans were made to be communal beings. That all got lost in translation in a lot of places it seems, but you better believe that it hasn’t happened here in Belize.

My best friend in Belize, a young lady I will never forget.

My best friend in Belize, a young lady I will never forget.

Anxiety Blog 3

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I’m starting to realize as I continue to recover from my anxiety disorder that things that used to give me horrible anxiety no longer even seem to affect me in some cases. 

 

I don’t like curveball’s, I never did. As long as I can remember, once I got something in my head, anything that got in the way of it was an obstacle. Growing up, that obstacle was crippling anxiety. It’s hard to describe. A lot of people think 3 steps ahead of what they’re presently doing, but in my case I can’t even think about doing other things before I do those three things I was already thinking about. This likely stems from a memory issue that has also been repaired through post secondary education.

 

There’s a difference between getting annoyed from an obstacle and having anxiety about it. To put it into perspective, there was a time my mother asked me to walk the dog. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to request since I walk the dog every day, but the timing was against me. I had thought 3 steps ahead, so now I had to rush those three things. As I rushed doing those things, I felt winded and dizzy from the panic attack that was now in full tilt. During the walk, the stress of the day already seemed to fall away even though it wasn’t even lunch time yet. The sun was shining, Chloe (my 16 y/o multipoo) was happy, and the tide at White Rock Beach was out. The serenity of nature is something that has been a large part of learning to deal with my anxiety. Often I’ll go out of my way to take a stroll through the park to ease my mind, sometimes listening to music that reminds me of simpler times, or the music that opens my mind.

 

Anxiety alone is a complex thing. I estimate that I have had anxiety issues with panic attacks since I was 6 years old. My earliest memory specifically was moving for the first time when my parents divorced, I kept everything packed in my closet. Unpacking and putting things away felt weird in the new house, and when I was asked to unpack, every item I retrieved from the closet to place somewhere in the room felt like a punch to the gut. As if unpacking was forever binding me to the spot, a slave to my space.

Alert and attentive, but anxiously uncomfortable

Alert and attentive, but anxiously uncomfortable

A form of anxiety that’s rather common, as it reaches those that don’t otherwise have the pleasure of experiencing anxiety, is test anxiety. It’s the big day of the final and you studied all night, barely getting any sleep. You walk into class and instantly are struck with fear. Desks are organized with tests for every seat, you sit in the back corner by the window for some natural sunlight, as if it will help you. As you gaze onto the paper, the first question doesn’t look familiar and you instantly panic, assuming you studied the wrong chapter. This is when people need to take a breathe and just read all the questions, go through it and note the questions you DO recognize. With every answer you feel progressively less confident in your test, knowing that you will fail. When you give the test to your teacher finally, (s)he looks up at you with a sinister grin, they know you failed just from looking at your answers. You grab your stuff as quietly as possible so as to not disturb the peace and quiet, and hurry out of the room. The worries of the test are over, you feel sweaty and tired, but you survived. That’s the feeling of surviving a panic attack, but a far more tame version.

 

As a writer, I get in ‘the zone’ similar to the ‘wired in’ term used in the successful film “The Social Network” about the origin of Facebook. This is the only thing I still get significant anxiety if it’s interrupted, fearing to lose the roll I was on, scared to lose my inspiration and end up playing video games instead. Usually this means I’m writing in my room with my stereo playing Blink-182, surrounded by the soft glow of my laptop, or sitting on a hill with notepad and pen in hand the old fashioned way. I require a bubble to be in this zone, and get anxious the second someone steps into it. I minimize what I was writing if they hover over my shoulder, because to me, none of my work is worth reading until it is finished. When asked what I’m doing on the spot, usually I’ll lie and say I’m just on Facebook, or doing nothing at all, revealing to the same person later that I was writing an article; proceed to show them the finished article no problem.

 

People think my anxiety is a social anxiety, a sign of a lack of confidence. People who hang out with me frequently know that is not the issue. The problem is I’m afraid of what people assume. People see what they see, they don’t live your life, so if they don’t see you do something and you don’t talk about it, then it didn’t happen to them at all.

 

Instead of acknowledging a sign of ignorance, us humans seem to wish to piece everything together ourselves without asking questions or talking about the subject matter. So something as simple as walking to the store can be blown out of proportion. If your boss doesn’t witness you doing your work, they will assume you are an insubordinate and lose faith in you until the results come in, in which case the boss takes credit because you were clearly on Facebook while helping customers, or because you had your phone out as (s)he passes by your cubicle. Teachers in college assume students aren’t paying attention when they use their laptops during a lecture. Girlfriends assume you’re mad at them if you’re having a bad day. Boyfriends assume you’re PMSing just because you’re having a bad day. Instead of assuming things like this, what is the harm in simply asking what’s the matter. That takes a significantly less amount of energy to do than creating your version of the story.

 

With a society that seems to be plagued with a constant sense of entitlement, it’s based upon these outlandish assumptions creating a jumbled world where people would rather come up with stories than listen to the real side of the story. We’re all guilty of assuming too much, even myself. I often catch myself assuming certain things, but better to catch myself before I let it take over and become truth in my brain. Maybe it’s because a lot of people are incapable of articulating their feelings, or thoughts without getting angry and into a heated argument. That’s how things were with me until I understood myself a little more. Maybe the first step is to look within.

Great quote, good color scheme

Great quote, good color scheme

Like I mentioned yesterday in my shout-out to Bell for another successful annual Let’s Talk event, spreading awareness about mental health is in a lot of cases more important than raising money for the cause. The more people know about it, the more we might be able to diagnose things before they consume too much of someone’s life. It took almost 20 years for me to conquer my anxiety and I still whimper to the effects on bad days. People suffering from any mental illness come with them their own set of ticks and social issues, but if society understands the difference between someone that’s bi-polar and someone that’s a paranoid schizophrenic less people will be outsiders, less people will face rejection, and we can create a more suitable environment for all of us.

This blog summed up in one photo

This blog summed up in one photo