I published my last post on June 26th and then I fell silent for a few reasons. First off, I had nothing good to say, and trying to make sense of continual changes and conflicting information was wearing me out. So I decided to take a long break.
I was gearing up to tell you about my special news back when it happened in September, and this post was 3/4 written, but I could not find the inspiration to write in my happily depressed state of mind.
Thankfully I snapped myself back to finish what I started.
My Big News
After waiting five years after my residency to apply, and two years of my application being in process, I was accepted and became a Belizean citizen on September 9th, 2020.
I knew I should be prepared to hustle after my citizenship shoes had been sworn in with my friend Jenna not long before, she only had a few day’s notice to prepare. Not everyone has “official clothing” here and it is not uncommon for people to get a friend’s help to dress a bit more formally (sleeves and closed-toe shoes) when the occasion requires.
As for my turn, it came up even faster, and it proves as much as we joke around about Belize time, there are definitely moments when you have to move lightning fast. I got the email at 3:21 pm on my 53rd birthday that they were holding a swearing-in at 11:00 am the next day along with an apology for the short notice.
What a great birthday present.
I took 20 seconds to decide if it was doable and wrote Ms. Shadel Young back with a yes. She is the woman at Nationality in Belmopan that did a great job of handling my file and guiding me to completion.
The fact that Jenna also went first helped me decide on how I was going to travel. She opted for a water taxi from Ambergris Caye to Belize City and made the $250 (Belize currency) drive to Belmopan with a hired car. Her husband Herman went along for the ride.
Not wanting a long trip on an over crowed boat during COVID, I quickly booked Tropic Air flights from San Pedro to Municipal and return. Also not wanting to spend $250 on a private transfer, I planned on taking the slightly more populated $6 BZ bus option. Somedays you just have to navigate people and being too close.
Once in Belize City, I decided to get a cab on the fly. It worked perfectly and my driver John advised me that due to COVID travel passenger limits, I should go to Novello Bus station, instead of taking the Cemetery Road bus stop shortcut.
I emailed Ms. Shadel that the 8:45 am bus was full and that I was close to first in line for the 9:15. You can bet I barely moved a step from my spot. I was getting on that bus. She sent me an instant reply that all was good, and I should make it just in time for the ceremony. That put my mind at ease so I could sit back and enjoy the ride.
I also put my imaginary forcefield up as there was a big lack of social distancing happening while we were waiting and boarding. At that time the busses were sprayed before boarding began, operating at the full seat capacity but there was no standing allowed.
I made it to the Belmopan bus terminal just in time and easily caught a cab to get me to the Immigration/Nationality building. It was completely empty inside and they had everyone waiting out front for their appointments.
After a short while, we were called to our big moment and led around the back of the building. Due to protocol, there were only a few of us getting sworn in, I was lucky number 8. (Refer to Swearing-in the picture near the top of the page.)
Sometimes I go shopping after visiting the government offices to add to the joy of my accomplishment. I like to check out the bigger grocery store, health food store, and Belmopan market. That day, I was tired of wearing a mask for hours on end, so I did not bother to hang around afterward and booked it to the bus station. Thankfully I was able to wait by myself outside.
I scored a nice colorful ride home. As you can see in the picture below, my personal space disappeared close to boarding time. Our country is just not practiced enough to get a gold medal in social distancing. I do see the irony of it, though. It happened on the plane too. As you can see in my featured image above, they had seats blocked out at the airport while waiting for the plane to give each other space. After a stop at Caye Caulker, a third passenger was added to the back seat, so there was instantly no space.
Almost back at Municipal Airport, feeling excited and grateful. I was ready to set foot through my front door for the first time as a Belizean Citizen, take off my mask, and celebrate. This moment had been 14 years in the making.
Pictures for this post were inspired by my friend Magistrate Adolph Lucas. Knowing what I was doing, aside from delaying an errand to the Town Council for him, Adolph asked me for a visual version of my day and made me feel like I had a road trip buddy. Our mutual friend Aimee was going to come too, however, not enough advanced notice put the kibosh on that.
The COVID Crippling
Of course, it has not all been blue skies and smooth sailing, like my trip above. The second reason I have not written in a while is the state of my business crash due to COVID had me putting all my energy into trying to feel better. Doing so is not always an easy task when you are in what feels like an endless freefall of uncertainty.
COVID life has been continuously disorienting and life-changing for many businesses, including mine. There are signs of unasked for change as grocery stores shift their stock around, and many now have empty fridge space. I see friends work on reinventing their tourism-based businesses and adapting to a big income slowdown, new rules, and travellers’ lack.
Our Belizean economy has been badly crippled. Some estimate it will be a good 2-4 years before we get anywhere near to a new normal. At the rate this slow-motion trainwreck is going worldwide, I sadly agree.
Personally, being faced without a monthly paycheck since March has been tough. Add the uncertainty of the airlines and the removal of commission potential as they change their ways to survive, and my income has been left in the dust.
I feel like a leaf blowing in the wind, and in my case, the winds of change blew in more ways than one. I was faced with a COVID move and having to find a new place to live in.
Not only was it an unplanned move during a pandemic, but it also lined up with the last two hurricanes. The old saying “when it rains it pours” was applicable. My old apartment suffered water tank flooding during both storms. Because I was rained out from going there for days, each time, I had no idea there was a pool of standing water covering a large portion of my apartment – ugh.
A Brighter Future
We just have to work on knowing we will have a brighter (and in my case dryer) tomorrow and keep making it happen day by day until we finally gain some sort of smoother direction forward and return on our tourism economy.
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