I'm sipping coffee on the verandah outside our room at the Cocoa Beach resort in Belize. We're mostly packed to leave; the small boat picks us up at 10 to take us to the little airstrip in San Pedro Town. From there, a hop in a 12 seater airplane to Belize City where we transfer to the jet that will take us back home.
This was the week we needed to step out of our lives and simply be.
The place we stayed is quiet, simple. There is no nightlife, no casino or disco. Just palm trees and native bushes, iguanas, magpies, swallows, and frigate birds, the ocean, the reef, two pools nestled among the greenery. And the Belizean people--welcoming, friendly ambassadors of their beautiful country.
I will have to add photos to this post after we get back home. For now, you will have to trust me when I say this is a beautiful place.
I fear jaded western eyes would not see the Belize we see. By Western standards, this is not a rich nation. There is one main road in San Pedro Town. Much of the traffic consists of golf carts and bicycles, not cars. Most of the buildings are concrete, painted with colors fading in the sun. There are no chain stores or what we recognize as fast food. Shops close in the evening.
In the interior, many people live traditionally in the Maya way with thatched roof houses. We went on a tour to the rain forest with several other Americans. I could almost hear the thoughts of one couple; wherever they looked, they saw poverty and slums.
I saw a people proud of their land and their lives. I saw groups of children, happy, well cared for, and so clearly loved.
This is a young country; just 30 years old. When I was in grade school, Belize didn't exist--it was British Honduras. In 30 years, the Belizeans have accomplished an amazing amount: much of the rainforest and the coral reefs that protect the coastline are reserves. It is a crime to harm the mangroves. There is a commitment to ecoturism that keeps development from turning into a runaway train.
This is also a nation where many cultures mingle. Where many languages meld and evolve together. The West has a lot to learn from this tiny nation.
I am grateful that we have had the opportunity to travel outside the US. I am grateful that we have been able to show our children to see other countries and cultures with open eyes, not judging, not measuring by some arbitrary, impossible standard. I am grateful we have had even this small taste of Belize.