Thanks to all who entered Beloved Belize writing contest. Miss Lydia won first place hands down and after sleeping on it the judge chose second and third place. In addition to the prizes below all winners will be printed in San Pedro Sun and Ambergris Daily.
First place Winner – Lydia Langston – 6 months subscription to San Pedro Sun
My Beautiful Belize
My eighth time to Belize in a period of two years and still I never tire of its beauty. Flying into Belize City I take note of the Ying/Yang of the land and sea. The dark green of the forest melting into the blue/green sea is separated only by a thin sliver of sand. After landing and making my way through customs, I am greeted by several familiar faces that are always welcoming and warm, like the country they inhabit. A customs agent asks me if this is my first time to Belize, I tell him no, this is my eighth time. “Welcome back” he says with genuine enthusiasm. I smile, say thank you and think, it’s more like welcome home.
Rounding the corner to the departure lounge, I am greeted by a landmark that is only slightly-lesser known than the Mayan ruins. “Rum punch, the best in Belize” he chatters. An institution in the Belize City airport, Jet has only missed one day of work since he took over Jets Bar somewhere in the early ‘60’s, due to a heart attack. A man of slight stature at just over four foot something he more than makes up for it with charisma and charm. He hawks his rum punch and hot dogs like a vendor at a Sox game, working the crowd and getting his “hugs” from all the ladies. (who said four foot something was a bad thing?) So the next time that you are in the Belize City airport, when you hear a voice that neither booms nor shouts, look through the crowd for a diminutive man with a lot of charm, wearing his trademark guayabera shirt hawking “Rum punch, best in Belize” and tell him I sent you.
Although there are many sights to admire and mesmerize, the one sight that I carry in my memory is the one in which we take the puddle jumper from Belize City to San Pedro. Flying low over the reef, I catch a glimpse of several rays, dark shadows gliding over an emerald green reef. Waters turning from emerald green to turquoise to a dark shade of indigo, only divided by the waves that break over the reef looking like a strand of pearls that had been laid out by Neptune himself. The hum of the plane’s engines drown out any thought except for the one of me landing soon in San Pedro, my second home.
Although I own no condo, nor parcel of land, I feel that Isla Bonita has come to own me. I fell in love with its charm and its magic from the first day I set foot upon its sandy beaches. Sitting in a well worn hammock, as I take in the view of the reef, I begin to take note of one reason San Pedro has such an allure for me. It is the warmth of the people and the friendliness in which they greet you. It is even reflected in the children that you see on their way to school or later in the evening playing on the beaches. Their smiles, grins and laughter are pure joy that hold some of San Pedro’s magic. But there are other things entwined within this island that draw me back to it time and time again. From the sights of the reef, to the smell of the vendors cooking their ware, to the music that resonates throughout the island, they all form a tapestry of joy and magic that can only be San Pedro.
I find it funny how one sight can render such joy and also such heartache. Flying over the reef can bring such elation when flying into San Pedro, but bring a heavy heart when heading home to the states.
As I dream and plan my next flight to San Pedro, I will keep the reef’s view in my memory. However, I will still be waiting to hear those words “Welcome Back.”
You mean, “Welcome Home.”
Second Place Winner – Colin Gage – Large Pedro’s Pizza
THE WHITE DOG
“What a beautiful dog!”
I reluctantly looked up from my Belikin, newly delivered by Ernie, and saw what Laura was referring to. The dog, which appeared to be a shepherd/husky mix, was snow-white, with a blue bandanna around her neck. In the bright San Pedro afternoon sun, she seemed to glow. She strolled up the steps from the beach and sat down at the base of our stools and gazed up as if to say “I haven’t seen you two around here before.” And she hadn’t . .
We were down for our second trip; it was November of 2007. We had decided to visit again just to make sure that our previous trip the year before had not been a dream. This was our first full day back on the island and we had spent it rediscovering and grinning a lot. We had already reconnected with friends: drummers and pirates, bartenders and beachdogs. But we had certainly not met this dog. We would have remembered.
This was not her first visit to BC’s apparently. I heard folks saying “Hey, Charlie!!” about three times before I realized they were greeting the dog. I like joints where people know your name. With all those friends about, we were honored that she seemed to want to spend some time with us. When we got up to leave as the sun was setting, she followed us onto the beach. We stopped and tried to tell her not to follow. She responded by rolling in the sand a couple of times and then looking at us as if to say “So, where we going now?” So off we went, down the beach toward Coral Bay.
It was a beautiful night on our veranda . . . .quiet and relaxing, the only sound the wind rustling the palms. And Charlie seemed content to just lay on the cool tile and chill with us. When we went in to bed, we both figured that she would head home to whoever was lucky enough to own her. But a beautiful morning dawned to find Charlie curled up where we had left her, apparently awaiting breakfast. Which she got, after I made a quick trip to Marina’s. The last we saw of Charlie that trip was when she walked with us to the end of the pier as we boarded El Gato for a snorkeling sail. As we motored away, she sat and watched until she decided to go see what other new mysteries that day held for her.
In our subsequent visits (three more since), we have been adopted by other potlickers and an exceptionally loud cat named Jane. We consider it an honor to be welcomed to Ambergris Caye by all the resident life-forms, including the loud, Arsenal-loving publican who we subsequently discovered owned the white dog (if such a dog can truly be owned). I have spent more than a few chaotic hours in his establishment now, where Charlie works the door and works the crowd for pizza crusts. I reserve judgment on whether this man (they call him Pedro, among other things) deserves such a fine dog . . . I do know that nice things seem to happen a lot in Belize. And so we return . . . . .
Third Place Winner Sandy Azancot – Medium Pirates Pizza
I did not come to Belize, Belize first came to me in a dream.
That sounds far-fetched, but I awoke one morning several years ago with the word “Belize” emblazoned in my mind. I had no idea about Belize, no one had ever talked to me about it, so I do not know where the word was subconsciously introduced to me. I immediately had to research Belize! I didn’t even know where it was or what kind of people lived there. After lots of internet prowling and bookstore sleuthing, the decision was made to go to Belize.
To use an old cliché, it was “love at first sight”. I had no pre-conceived notion formed by brochures and commercials; my mind was completely open to what Belize could be. I stepped off the plane and took in my first breath of Belizean air: moist, planty, salt air. Being born near the sea and having always loved the ocean this air was comforting to me.
However, the sapphire and turquoise sea is just one beautiful facet in the Jewel that is Belize. The first time I drove down the Hummingbird Highway, the beauty was so consuming it made my throat catch; I still get that feeling each time I drive it to this day. I am inspired by the emerald majesty of the Mayan Mountains and feel serenity when I am in the jungle. When in the presence of the Mayan ruins, I feel the low hum of the thousands of souls that inhabited those ancient cities and feel a special aura when I am in the caves that were host to their religious rites. The people of Belize make it special with their easy smiles and engaging attitudes. The cadence of Kriol and the staccato of Spanish are easy-going rhythms that are music to my ears.
I knew that I wanted to be part of Belize, and Belize to be a part of me; I felt it was meant to be. So it is now, my house by the sea, in view of my beloved Maya Mountains, where the air sometimes blows a heady tropical scent down from their emerald slopes.
Belize will always be Beloved to me.
Photos by Sandy Azancot