Back story: I’ve been coming to Belize from time to time for 30 years. In 1989, there was no electric power cable under the sea from the mainland to this island. Electricity was supplied by a humongous generator in town that hummed like a sleeping giant. It shook itself awake periodically, knocking out the power, bringing darkness and an ominous quiet. Eventually the purr of the ceiling fan’s return to slow revolutions followed the hum returning to the background. We slept in a thatched hut at the water’s edge. No window glass. Louvered hardwood window slats.
An elusive boa constrictor resided in the bar at the center of the semi-circle of huts, and my young sons hoped to see him in the rafters as they took turns getting drinking water for the hut.
The streets (Front, Middle, Back Sts.) were still unpaved—silky, hard-packed sand. My 9-year-old son Chris wore a machete in a leather sheath as he climbed the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha. We danced energetic Soca on Friday nights on the patio of the Sun Breeze Hotel.
One Sunday morning, we walked by a man lying in the middle of the street. Flies buzzed around his closed eyes.
“Is that man dead, Daddy?” my 7-year-old asked.
“No, Zack, he’s just sleeping,” my husband said as we walked around the body.
Those were good times. The tiny resort was called Paradise and it was torn down when a concrete resort—The Phoenix—rose up in its place. True.
January 2019. Day 1. An island off the coast of Belize.
After a successful morning of writing, I took a brief walk around the resort to see what was new. Not many people around for high season.
I decided to walk south under the clouds for two miles on the beach and then inland to The Truck Stop, and a rare place that sells ice cream cones. Sea Salt Caramel. Set out north again, on the road this time, through brief showers that fell between the patches of tropical sun. Being Sunday, it turned out to be very busy with local families ripping by on golf carts overflowing with babies and children, mamas at the wheel. (There are few cars here.) I returned to the beach via the path to El Pescador after stopping at a groceria for orange juice, pita bread, a couple of Belikin Lites—and some frozen bacon to keep the beer cold on the return trip.
Remember Jeff Goldblum traveling with his dehydrated food to Ecuador in Vibes? That’s me, filling up my suitcase to 49 lb (50 lb allowed) with granola, coffee, canned clams, flour, Himalayan pink salt, spices, probiotics, vitamins and more. It’s always worth it. As a woman traveling alone, I prefer to cook in my unit most of the time with fresh seafood and bring what I can from home to supplement. It’s a continuation of the frugality that was so necessary in my childhood.
After unpacking my grocery bag and cracking open a beer, I had a successful session of writing and editing, and granted myself the guilty pleasure of reading a culinary mystery after dinner. Fell asleep around 8 or 9 PM. Re-awakened at 1 or 2 AM, wrote for an hour or two, then tried to get back to sleep with no luck.
I have a lot on my mind. Even meditation methods didn’t work. I kept tearing off my sleep mask to take notes on the thoughts that kept popping up. I know from experience that middle-of-the-night messages will be forgotten if I don’t write them down.
Took an antihistamine and when that also failed to send me to sleep, I decided to catch up with news online. Nevermind Trump. I’m leaving him to Nancy Pelosi. I just wanted to know if Green Book won at Golden Globes. It did! And Mershahala Ali won best Supporting Actor. Yay.
At 5 AM, I put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign and went back to sleep pretty much instantly.
At 9:30 AM, I was awakened from a deep sleep (…and a nightmare: Christopher Walken approaching my home, leading a Pitchfork Brigade, all carrying flaming torches.). There was a persistent banging on my door. I tried to ignore it. No luck. It was the housekeeper saying that my door sign had blown off during the night. Which way had I hung the sign? Did I want “Do Not Disturb” or “Please Make Up Room”?
“Do Not Disturb”, I said.