We were picked up at the airport by Lenny of the Aguada. We drove via the Western Highway to Santa Elena. Just watching the road was fascinating for an outsider. There were lots of trucks with building materials -- this made me think that the country must be experiencing a lot of development currently. I also saw large shipments of fruit being transported, and presumably workers sitting in the back of pickup trucks. I noted with interest the speedbumps that slow down drivers rather than police. Lenny told us about the terrible accident which had occurred the day before, and how the limestone roads became quite slippery in the rain. Soon, Belize may require traffic police. Already, there is a campaign to prevent drinking and driving -- a common behaviour.
I also saw a lot of cement shells for future homes. Driving in, I thought these were the remains of homes destroyed by hurricanes. Come to find out, these are homes in progress. Often, they are right next to another house and it turns out, people will build the concrete structure first, and then save up money to finish it off.
Local and national elections were currently going on, and Lenny was telling us about local politics. The election signage is often in the local creole dialect and we found the signs very interesting. I actually learned much fascinating gossip from Lenny, in particular about the Belize Zoo and the different political parties. However, I do not feel it is appropriate to repeat here. I will say I was beginning to feel like Robert Kaplan, discussing politics with a local.
As I drive, I see so many potential National Geographic pictures. A beautiful dark-skinned girl wearing a yellow sundress is hanging out her laundry on the front lawn of her pastel pink house on stilts. A little dog runs along the road along our vehicle. The architecture is so fascinating -- lots of porches and exterior staircases, and everything done up in bright or pastel colors. There is this one graying shack with a brightly painted blue front door. I love that -- a spot of color that shows that people care.
It's not so different from the American rural south, and I'm not experiencing the usual culture shock when I visit a new country. The people look like people I'd know in America, particularly as we reach the part of the country inhabited by Spanish-speakers. The smells (fresh and green), the sounds (roosters, dogs, the music), the colors (brilliant greens, pinks, and reds -- worn both by the plants and the people). Belize is definitely intense as much as it is relaxing. Throughout my vacation, I reflect that such beauty always has its price.