An Iffy First Impression of Belize

Dec 11, 2018     Belize     My Adventures
After an odd start, I was wondering if I liked Belize at all. But thankfully we stuck it out and go to know and like Belize a lot better.
Arriving from Mexico over land, the Belizean people were helpful and friendly as far as getting through immigration and finding the bus. There was even that funny guard who called us by Cynthia's first name when we started to go the wrong way and then offered to change money in the casino for us. That was a bit weird but we all had a good laugh about it and apologized that we were unable to guess his name.

Visually it seemed like most other 3rd world countries but all the signs were in English. I kept forgetting to NOT speak Spanish! Although a lot of people in the North do seem to speak some Spanish, it just came off as inappropriate. I was sure happy to be back on a chicken bus. That's the way I like to travel. :) But after that, my impression went downhill and we were both wondering if it was even worth staying in the country for the rest of our trip.
Apparently I am a rich asshole
During our first wander around Orange Walk town, many people (mostly men) will say something to you on the street whether it's "hello", "nice weather, huh?", "welcome to my country", or "rich assholes." Yes, a guy rode by on his bike and called us rich assholes. Wow, really? Then a guy in the market small-talked Cynthia for a while before asking her for money. And the stares! We were dressed conservatively enough so I don't know why were got the stare-down everywhere we went.

Then to top it off, the banana and yogurt I had in the morning had worn off. I was hot and starving and I could not find one goddamn restaurant open at 4pm. Finally there was ONE place with Chinese food which I don't like. Wilting terribly, I ended up with some crackers and local cheese from the mini-mart. Yay. But such is traveling. As it turns out, the local food places all close down at 2pm leaving only the choices of Chinese restaurants or food from the over-priced, poorly-stocked Chinese supermarkets.

I was left very confused as to what to think about this country and it's strange vibe.
My sad first lunch in Orange Walk. I was so hungry and nothing was open other than the poorly-stocked mini-marts.
My sad first lunch in Orange Walk. I was so hungry and nothing was open other than the poorly-stocked mini-marts.
I soon realized these were genuinely nice people
Next stop, touristy San Ignacio where the average price of a day tour is $95 US! What?! I was not expecting much from this town and was surprised that it changed my mind about Belize.

We certainly had to sidestep our way around the over-priced restaurants, and we bought our groceries from the same crappy Chinese markets, but I got a much better look into the people and the general attitude of this super ethnically diverse country.

Locals offered for us to share their table when the restaurant was full. A man who heard me asking for bananas in the supermarket directed me to a shop that had them. It went in and on. Almost everyone you walk by say "hello" or "good morning". Although I was a bit skeptical at first because of our rough welcome in Orange Walk, I soon realized these were genuinely nice people.

Visiting the ruins, you really got the feeling that they care about their country, its history, and its future. Then we went over to Caye Caulker which definitely had a groovy feel. Even our stops in Belize City which we were really wary of, turned out to be fine and we met some helpful people there, too.

I'm still not even sure why it felt so strange our first few days. Writing this, it sounds like I didn't like it because it wasn't a town that caters to tourists. But that's not the case. I normally prefer that in a town! It really just didn't feel welcoming or friendly and we had too many encounters with negativity. Anyway, I'm so glad we weren't dissuaded and stuck it out. I'm already looking forward to going back and spending more time exploring the other areas of the country.
San Ignacio - full of friendly people, rum & coke, tours, and street-side offers of marijuana (no, I don't smoke).
San Ignacio - full of friendly people, rum & coke, tours, and street-side offers of marijuana (no, I don't smoke).


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