I’d like to think I am a reasonably intelligent woman, however I have to confess that I suffer from a serious mental deficiency when its comes to two things in life – One is filling out forms and the other is understanding politics; actually make that three because I can’t for the life of me understand cricket either!
At the sight of a form to be filled out or an expectation to participate in a conversation about politics my mind freezes and my body breaks out into a cold sweat! I can almost feel a panic attack coming on (not that I suffer from them) and I quickly try and find a way to deflect the situation away from my deficiency.
Cricket, thankfully doesn’t quite affect me that way, but I really would rather watch paint dry than watch a game.
Over the years I’ve developed the knack of surreptitiously enlisting my friends or colleagues to help me complete forms without bringing too much attention to myself, and we all know its not polite to talk about politics. So I’ve managed to get this far in life without exposing my political deficiency too much either!
My brother Bob, on the other hand, is knowledgeable and passionate about politics and so was my late Mother. Despite their best efforts to educate me they both agreed a long time ago that I am indeed a political retard.
So it is both intriguing and perplexing that I find myself travelling through America just after the “Trump” and “Brexit” elections.
Already I’ve met two lots of Americans who have made it very clear that they are apposed to Trump; my new friends at the Super Bowl and the lovely lady sitting next to me on my flight down to Belize. In both conversations, after collectively shaking our heads at the outrage of the “Trump” fiasco, they have then moved on to say rather expectantly…. “And you’ve got Brexit!” …….(Cue for mind freeze and body sweats!) .”Yeh! Imagine that!” I’ve replied on both occasions, before dragging our attention back to the Super Bowl or the low flying plane about to clip our wing!
Phew!! Another political conversation deflected!
As soon as I land in Belize I just know I’m going to love it!
Immigration and luggage collection are painless and friendly and outside the taxis are ready to take us new arrivals to our destinations.
Lloyd, my taxi driver confirms that there are indeed crocodiles in the mangrove river which runs parallel to the main road from the airport and that there are of course bad people in Belize City, but to just be careful. He takes me through “down town” Belize; a collection of rickety old streets with higgledy piggledy shops and buildings. He points out the main strip and gives me his card in case I want to go on any trips, as he drops me off at The Coningsby Inn.
As soon as I arrive I am made to feel very welcome by the ladies running the hotel. My room is adequate for the cost and breakfast is included. While they don’t have a restaurant in the traditional sense they do offer preordered evening meals, which sound like a sensible and safe option and I choose the fish with rice and beans.
I’v read time and time again that Belize City is dangerous and should be avoided, but when I enquire about buying some wine the ladies direct me to the local supermarket only a few blocks away and assure me I will be fine.
So I take my first venture out into big bad Belize and am pleasantly surprised to find that not only do I not feel intimidated, nor am I being hassled, but people are actually saying hello to me as I pass by.
I dare say there are dangerous and bad areas in Belize, but writing this retrospectively, I wonder if the dangers are bad relative to the normal friendly, easy going, passive and gentle Belizean culture that I have so far experienced, or relative to the harsher Western world that the rest of us are used to? Nonetheless I haven’t entered jungle country yet so perhaps I should reserve judgement until the end of my trip!
Returning to the Inn with my bottle of wine, both of us safe and intact, I settle on the balcony to finally relax after several days of travelling, and to watch this new world go by.
Immediately, two slightly elderly American chaps, also sitting on the balcony playing cribbage start talking with me.
They are interested to know about my where, why and for how long trip, but more so I find their story extremely fascinating.
One of them is a Minister and had journeyed to Belize in 2001 to help a small village called Monkey River Town, near Placencia, rebuild after it had been devastated by hurricane Iris. According to Wikipedia, Monkey River is one of the last purely Creole settlements in Belize and my new friends told me that you can only get to it by boat.
I am fascinated to discover that the Minister and his friends, about ten on this trip, have been returning each year since 2001 for a week or so each time, to continue helping the 200 or so village occupants. Often the Minister will bring new people along with the group but everyone brings a skill to contribute to the ongoing maintenance and sustainability of the village and its occupants. The area is also famous for its Howler Monkeys and upon “googling” it I find its history includes banana plantations and logging. I’ve now added this to my list of places to visit.
We all sit together for dinner and I am introduced to Bob, Doug, Pers, Royce and everyone else with similar good American names. They are all around my age and the conversation flows comfortably.
I tell Doug about my Super Bowl experience and he laughs kindly at my referral to the “White Team” and the “Red Team.”
He explains that the “”White Team” are the New England “Patriots” and the “Red Team” are the Atlanta “Falcons.”
The group are returning home and the following morning, while the Minister and some of the others have already left to catch early flights, the rest of us sit together for breakfast.
Over breakfast conversation turns to politics and namely “Trump.” It seems that while Trump might be planning to build physical walls, he’s certainly broken down that “don’t talk about politics wall!”
I am fascinated to listen quietly while the guys all talk about and debate over the merits of College Votes and the racist states and the Republican states etc, etc and all agree that it is all about Immigration at the end of the day. I wish my brother Bob were here for he would be loving this!
And then it happens! There, sitting at the table with seven men and nowhere to escape to Doug suddenly turns around and says”Anyway, enough about Trump, we want to hear all about Brexit, Ann” and there I am caught in the headlights like a rabbit! The whole room goes quiet as everyone turns to look at me and wait expectantly for my answer! “Erm, yeh, well it’s the same…it’s all about immigration” I manage to stutter rather meekly before falling silent, my face turning bright red as I break into a body sweat and my brain freezes. Where is my brother when I need him?
Realising my discomfort and breaking the ensuing silence Doug adeptly deflects my situation by saying “anyway, enough of politics, why don’t you tell everyone about your Super Bowl experience Ann”…..Now I am back on comfortable ground, being a new Super Bowl expert and I’m happy to relay the story yet again, in a suddenly confident and animated voice.
It appears that everyone at the table are “Patriot” fans, so I learn through the ensuing and very lively conversation that Tom Brady is their favourite Quarter Back and he had to miss the first few games due to some problem with the weight of his balls??? and much more importantly……….someone has stolen his shirt!!!!