Thursday, June 07, 2007

Belize

It has indeed been forever since I rapped at ya. There has been some amount of nothing happening. And I've been laid low by some of the things that have happened. But this last weekend, we checked off one of the final Central American destinations we had yet to visit, the erstwhile 22nd province of Guatemala.

Many think of Belize as a destination for lazing on the beach or snorkeling from one of its many Caribbean islands. Not your intrepid correspondent. One of our dear friends from the Embassy is being temporarily assigned to Belmopan, Belize for six weeks while they are desperately understaffed. Recognizing the islands as the primary attraction of the location, she was dedicated to driving so as to avoid being trapped and car-less in the jungle interior. This involves some amount of remote highway frequented by brigands and highwaymen. So we agreed to pile in the 1998 Chevy Lumina with her and trek down the mountains, across the desert, through the jungle, and on to Belize, seeing some of the Guatemalan countryside we had not yet enjoyed. The Lumina was a late scratch, and a gentleman friend of our colleague agreed to loan her his Jeep (for the whole six week assignment!). Slightly later than originally planned, we set off down the treacherous mountain. Hours of highway driving stretched on, and we eventually met the owner of the Jeep in the remote jungle lair where he was training with the Guatemalan equivalent of the Green Berets. (No, really. More on this later.)

After a day of not really that many hours on the road, we were nevertheless drained by the challenging road conditions upon our arrival in Flores, Peten. The travelling party was dedicated to enjoying our last evening together for six weeks, and so managed to drink a variety of tasty beverages while barely keeping our eyes open. The next morning, we met up with our police escort for the notorious final two hours to the border, crossed into Belize with just about the expected amount of hassle, bought Belizean car insurance, and pushed on for the capital city of Belmopan.

The exhausting weekend of driving was proved entirely worthwhile upon seeing Belmopan. The city was created in the middle of nowhere when the government grew weary of the capital, which was then located on the coast in Belize City, getting knocked over by every hurricane that passed by. As capitals go, you might say it is a little sleepy. There may be as many as 15,000 inhabitants, but I doubt it. There is a modest city center, a few blocks of small residential developments, and then a few blocks of scrubby undeveloped land split by dirt roads, and then one runs into the massive, thoroughly modern U.S. Embassy. Then, after a few more blocks of scrub and jungle and dump, one finds the U.S. Embassy employee housing complex, built half a mile away from the nearest development, surrounded by a 10-foot-high, bright yellow wall and containing 14 identical tract houses. Maybe we were just punchy from the drive, but we laughed and laughed. Such is the adventure of venturing off into the jungle for hours to reach the exotic post of assignment that could possibley

2 comments:

Doola! said...

Is this some sort of "Finnegans Wake" type experiment in stream of consciousness blogging?

Matt said...

Damn you, Blogger.

It ate my post.

Will try to fix it soon.