There is always a plaza in these old historical centers, full of people and things to see and do.
People who run the country work inside offices that surround the plaza, eat in restaurants on the corner, attend civic functions in the square, make business and romantic deals on these same benches we tourists use to take a breather.
This plaza is jumping today with a sound stage, live music, speeches, booths with information on stopping domestic violence and helping police help the public more effectively. There is a news crew moving about and men with big cameras are getting big pictures for the evening news. The female news anchor is properly curvy and young and we will like watching the news tonight even if we don’t like what is being said.
Pigeons in the square look for handouts and aren’t disappointed. They remind me of Sebastian Park in Cuenca and the street pigeons in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua.
When the kids run at them, the birds take flight, but soon, they drop back to the ground and fight for whatever has been offered to them.
The plaza has been here since the 1500’s, when the first Cathedral in the New World was finished and Christianity was brought to pagans who were subdued by swords and better technology.
I imagine kids were chasing pigeons, even in the 1500’s, and these benches were still occupied by tourists come to listen to Sunday Mass from the courtyard as Cathedral hymns flowed out the heavy iron doors like melodic waves.
This pier is at the end of the Perla Escondita Condos. With tomorrows departure looming, I find my Yo Yo, a bag of frozen shrimp, hooks and swivels and weights.
It takes a minute to figure out how to cast. You unravel your line in little loops on the deck, gently pick up the weights in your right hand while holding the Yo Yo in your left. Then, you cast the weights as far as you can and move the Yo Yo in the direction of your cast so the line doesn’t snap and whip the bait off. The heavy sinkers take the bait to the bottom.
I am not catching today but one of the ladies picked up by a tour boat, on this pier, snaps my picture.
Posts remind me of dipping a spoon into the sea and scooping up a teardrop of wiggling, squiggling, quivering, life.
When and where you decide to dip your spoon is up too you, but you are living life. planning for tomorrow, and tucking memories safely away for the road .
Later, your best memories can be brought out and relished like the fine pearls that they are.
The San Pedro Catholic Church fronts the Caribbean Sea in town, just like every other bar, restaurant, and lodging.
As you walk the length of the beach you can look over a fence that separates church grounds from the beach and see cement seats and a statue of Virgin Mary.
Entering the church, in the front, is an inscription from Matthew ll:28, a Confessional, a Donation Box, and a clear view of a simple Sancristy. You enter and leave the church through Market Square that is filled with vendors selling trinkets, drunks sleeping off night’s excesses, tourists taking pictures, hangers on with no work and no prospects.
This is a quiet place to collect thoughts, remember those gone, rest weary feet .There is no one here to tell you you can’t be here, and, it doesn’t cost anything.
Along the top of the wall at the back of the church is wire left exposed with jagged edges.
The only way to come into this church is by the front door.
We start on a clear day, end in a driving rain, complete a two hour guided tour of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve,
The fish are many, the coral reef is intact, and there have to be more snorkelers in this reserve than fish. I start my snorkel with ten fingers and ten toes and end with the same.
Underwater, a manta ray glides past me, like an alien space ship with a long tail, passing past like I am a slow farm machine in the right hand lane.
Hol Chan is the most frequented reef locale on Ambergris Caye and it saves lives that tourists meet nature in this safe place with guides. On the other side of the reef, sea currents can sweep you out and potentially turn you into shark bait. This trip, including park fee and a guide who swims you through the reef ecosystem, is fifty dollars U.S. a person.
Ambergris Caye would be nothing but a bald head on the ocean without the reef. A visit to Belize without getting wet is a sacrilege.
I don’t see sharks but I know they are close and pray they haven’t been drinking.
I don’t want to be another animal’s bar snack.
This morning Jose scampers up a coconut tree on the Island Academy grounds and separates coconuts from their necks.
They fall with a thud to the sand where he collects them, uses his machete to scalp them, then pours coconut water into plastic jugs that he sells for a couple of bucks a gallon. Under the authority of the Queen of England, the beaches, whatever washes up on the beaches, and whatever grows on them is fair game for the public. All he has to do is climb and get them. A competitor uses a twenty foot extension ladder to harvest nature’s crop but Jose climbs the old fashioned way.
When Jose climbs for his prize, he digs his feet into the coconut tree trunk and bows his legs. Then he extends his arms, holds on to the trunk, and pulls his legs up to his waist where he clamps them on the trunk again, extends his arms and hands, and repeats the process. His machete hangs on a rope tied to his belt loop. When he gets to the top of the tree he quickly cuts coconuts from their bunch with his machete.
He climbs down in reverse order, and, when he touches sand, he collects his coconuts and throws them over the fence onto the beach.
Business is brisk and a tourist from Ramon’s Village passes me with two gallon jugs, one in each hand. Coconut water is a health food favorite and reputed as some of the purest water on the planet.
Jose’s best scheme would be to train a monkey to do his job with a little knife in its mouth and a pirate bandana around his head.
All monkey’s should have to work for their coconuts.
The papusa is an El Salvadorean snack.
It is a grilled soft tortilla, much like a pancake, stuffed with chicken, pork, cheese, beef, cheese, and condiments. They are $1.25 U.S. at this El Salvadorean restaurant in downtown San Pedro Town.
Night in San Pedro Town has a different look than day. There are bright lights, new characters, corners look less defined, worn facades are obliterated by dark.
The papusa is working class food.
If you are on vacation and want to indulge you go to Elvie’s Kitchen for fantastic local food. If you want to budget, you check out little stands and street food.
El Savador has established a foothold here, along with Guatamalan’s selling woven products on the beach. Nicaraguan’s work with concrete and construction. European’s do banking. Belize natives fish, work for the government, or live off tourism..
Night is cool and pleasant, a welcome respite from day’s sun.
Night people have cat’s eye’s.
As quick as Thanksgiving goes, Christmas is nipping at its heels.
The girls at Crazy Canuck’s, on a Friday afternoon, have opened cardboard boxes and are decorating.
Stockings hang over the liquor shelves, tinsel is hung around the bar’s ceiling, an upside down Christmas tree with blue lights gives us an upside down perspective, peppermint sticks are just out of arm’s reach. On Thanksgiving we give thanks, but on Christmas we pay homage, say our prayers, and put ourselves in our proper place.
I am getting the Christmas spirit.
When I see Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, he will be in speedos, have sunglasses, and have a beach girl on each arm.
Why Rudolph’s nose is red is another bar story.
When I travel light I look for a laundry first thing.
Down the street ,from Chez Caribe ,is my dirty clothes salvation.
Kenny owns and operates the J and J Laundry with long hours- six days a week. You take your clothes, drop them off ,and Kenny, or one of his staff, wash, dry, put them in a plastic bag, and have them ready when you return to pick them up later in your vacation day.
Kenny has been up and running for a year and bought the business from a previous owner who was tired of doing dirty socks. Along with the laundry business came Karaoke equipment. This means Kenny takes care of your dirty clothes and your dirty singing.
This morning I pick up my clean clothes and go home feeling clean.
Belize is almost behind me and Ecuador is peeking its head around the bend in time’s river, moving its right forefinger and inviting me to visit.
My stay here has been wonderful. I am well suited for island life where there is no zoning and a million dollar beachfront home shares the same vista with a drunk fisherman sleeping under a rowboat.
Doing laundry is hardly newsworthy, but skip it and things start to smell bad.
Thanksgiving dinner falls into my lap.
In the middle of a Walkaholics ramble, our group is invited by the owner of the Sandbar to a free annual Thanksgiving dinner at her bar and grill. It is something she likes cooking for and an appreciation to loyal customers.
This is a full blown extravaganza with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing, salad. bread and desserts. The company is cordial and the mood is celebratory.
Last year my Thanksgiving was celebrated in Uruguay with a slice of pizza and a beer. It is hard at this moment to know where Thanksgiving will find me next year.
This week turkey’s have been in hiding.
Surviving dinner when you are the main course is a gift from God.
Alcoholics can’t walk by a bar without going in. Ministers can’t hear church bells without reaching for their Sermon. Firemen change clothes at the smell of smoke. Construction workers can’t avoid a construction zone.
This has been a year of house rehabilitation so it was impossible for me not to grab a paint brush and lend a hand.
The Legends Bar and Grill renovation, on the north side, is in progress. Opening day is December 1, 2015. Painting is the same down here as up north. You keep your eye on the edge, cut a straight line, don’t let paint drip, keep the brush moving, clean up if you make a mess.
The big push today is to prime wood trim upstairs in the bar, install galvanized metal sheets on the kitchen ceiling, and move a huge defunct cooler out of the kitchen, through two doorways, and onto the front porch where it will be picked up later and used in some way by the group of seven men who move it out.
When the group of men arrive there is much measuring, grunting, re- positioning, and evaluating. A few times the task looks impossible but if someone got it into the bar it can be taken out.
Jack’s sign is posted in the kitchen, beside a good cooler, and reminds him on a hot day, with both fans blowing and orders buzzing around his head like angry mosquitoes, that a craftsman is never far from his philosophy.