Belize, the Central America Paradise

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.

The Global Village

Nowadays, you can’t escape the feeling of a global village. Now, if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it, I am sure many others feel the same. A global village is more of the concept of being closer to people in China, Japan, Haiti, etc. We know it most from media, in fact… it is BECAUSE of media that we are the global village that we are. This global village allows me to know what is happening around the world at the click of a button. It makes me think the world is so small, but if you go outside, especially if you go to sea, you realize the fact that the world is massive, and we are just these tiny little creatures with something the others apparently don’t have. My mom always talks about the frontal lobes and how that is a link to our superiority, but that is another subject altogether. Often times the global village all comes together to aid a chapter within. To support each other, pick each other up when they are at their lowest.

Natural disasters happen all the time, especially since the big climate change that’s happened in the last decade or so. We’ve witnessed Katrina, the horrible hurricane that destroyed not only New Orleans but surrounding areas as well. It left people homeless, and certainly hopeless. As minutes turned into hours, hours into days, days into weeks and still the aid was minimal. Many people were stuck on their roofs, in the hot southern sunny weather. Some people were stuck in hospitals, surely it was a very hectic situation, and my heart goes out to all the victims of that terrible hurricane. The next “big” natural disaster was Haiti. To me, I didn’t even know about this place beforehand, I knew it sounded awfully like the Greek god “Hades” which to me felt a little ironic. However, ignorance aside, it’s a small city on a small island in the Caribbean. Surely many of us didn’t know or care about this place before the dramatic 7.0 magnitude earthquake, but as soon as it happened we rushed to their aid. Helping people we didn’t even know or care about beforehand in their time of need. Apparently we learned from Katrina that these places need help immediately. My third example of these amazing natural disasters is Japan. We all know Japan, we all know and own things that come from Japan. Perhaps your car is from Japan, or perhaps your TV is, or maybe your gaming system. We are all linked to that one tiny island in Asia in some way or another. Suddenly, it was shaken to it’s foundations, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ruptured, and devastated the north east area of Japan. Areas were flooded, many more were destroyed, a nuclear power plant was leaking and in danger of exploading. Again, we flew to their aid. Even more than with Haiti, I remember not only was their ways to donate on the news, magazines, etc. But also on my PS3, you could buy themes for your PS3 where all the proceeds would go to Japan aid. Similar things like this arose in games like World of Warcraft, the biggest game in the world today. For World of Warcraft you could buy a vanity pet on the blizzard store where the proceeds too would go to Japan. Many more examples poured from my city personally, no matter where you went you could donate to Japan on the spot.

Media coverage isn’t only used in tragic situations however, it is also used to.. well… bring news. For example, expos around the world happen every year and Millions of people that wanted to go, simply cannot find a way there or it costs too much, or whatever. Personally, I can’t afford to go to California twice a year surprisingly… oh how I wish I was lying. BUT with the click of a button I can be watching the live Expo feed, free of charge. With sites like IGN running all the coverage all day, every day. In the case of my favorite developer in the world, Blizzard, you have to pay to watch a live stream, but somehow $50 sounds A LOT more affordable than the thousands it would cost to go there and see it in person. This constant flow of information is not limited to just expos of course. On the internet you can find anything you want if you look hard enough. It’s almost impossible to keep anything a secret anymore with the internet constantly getting bigger and bigger. Even on CNN “the most trusted name in news” they will post links to certain congressman’s twitters for example (Weiner man, we all know you did it). The internet is surely the global village of today, where the Television was the global village of yesterday.

Now for the bombshell you have been waiting for. I didn’t want to say it, y’all don’t want to read it but it MUST be said. The Vancouver riots. I know your heart skipped a beat thinking about it. Stanley cup finals. Game 7. Luongo… what the HELL were you DOING!? Sure it was a piss off that we lost, hockey brought us all together in ways that Transformers and Harry Potter simply cannot do. But we lost… and then we had a massive temper tantrum. Cars were lit on fire, windows smashed, store fronts completely destroyed. Thankfully nobody died for such a ridiculous cause, but did we have to take it as far as we did? We lost a GAME in a SPORT, sorry guys, I thought we always take that risk in sports. When teams lose the Superbowl, does their hometown blow up? No, they say “Oh well, we can get them next year”. This is a great example of why I like football (de Americano)more than Hockey. The fans aren’t a bunch of babies. On the news for the riot coverage the reporter said things like “I don’t think anyone could have predicted this” and “These aren’t hockey fans”. Hate to say it buddy but you are entirely wrong. This is the maturity level of hockey fans in Vancouver, also EVERYONE was a fan during the finals. As for predicting it? I did, I knew tear gas was going to fly the minute the game started. It’s that gut feeling of thinking about last time we were in Game 7. I chose not to go downtown cause no matter if we won or lost I just didn’t want to be there. It wasn’t worth it. What does this rabbling have to do with the global village? Well we, the people from Vancouver, became the Village idiot that night. The guy that everyone laughs at and makes fun of, that’s all of us. Introduce yourself to average Joe south of the border and he will likely say something  witty that his mom probably told him about the riots here. Personally, I am not one to separate myself from everyone else. Alienation breeds hate then depression. However, I am not the one that screwed up, and you know what?  I don’t even have to justify myself, I was home that night watching the game in my favorite chair. Does it suck to be associated with that when I tell people I am from Vancouver? Indeed it does, but nobody is going to make me feel like the village idiot. Nobody is going to beat me down because of where I come from. I love my hometown, and indeed my country. The only thing I love more than my country is my village. We are all a community, and ultimately… we are all family.