Heaven

This is a series of posts about Belize that starts here.

The gang returned from watching Scarlet Macaws.  None had been exsanguinated by crocodile syndrome.  That was good.  Much as some of them irritated me, I wouldn’t want anyone to go that way.

I was sitting in the lodge having a beer when they pulled up in the van.

“Hey there, good lookin’!” shouted Mike.  This was how he was.  From the first day when he sat next to me in the van and read every sign out loud, he had touched my arm, or nudged me, and said things like, “Lucky me, I get to sit next to a pretty lady!” and “Look at that bird, baby!”

I had chosen to ignore him rather than say anything.  Joan, his wife, rolled her eyes at me when he said these things.

He wasn’t a creeper, he was just a clueless, harmless dork.

They ordered drinks and sat around talking about their day.  They had seen lots of birds, including Scarlet Macaws.  The sun set and it was time to head to a local restaurant for dinner.  Mark drove the van while most of us walked so we wouldn’t have our digestive systems jostled.

The restaurant was called Innie’s.  Innie, the proprietor, was what we used to call a “full-figured” woman.  She was around 65, and she explained, “I’ve got seven daughters, and they’ve all got names that rhyme with mine—Ginnie, Winnie, Minnie, Vinnie—for Vincenza—and they all run businesses.  Ginnie’s got herself a hair salon, Minnie does taxes, Skinnie rents scooters, two of them run another restaurant.”

The specialty of the house was hudutu, a fish stew made with coconut milk which sounded delicious but which took an hour to appear and had so many bones you couldn’t really appreciate it.   It was served with the bread that came with every meal—something like Native American fry bread.  It was okay.

Walking back to Jungle Jeanie’s, Mike pointed at a grove of tall slender plants and wondered what they were.

“I think it’s sugar cane,” I said.

“No, it’s not, he said.

Ugh.  Whatever.

We returned to our respective huts.  In ours, a twin bed had appeared in the middle of the room on the first level.

“I don’t care who gets it,” said Liz.

I wasn’t going to play the “I don’t care but I really do” game.

“Good!”  I said, “then I will.”

Snorkeling was the agenda for the whole Day Six.  I wasn’t really up for it; I get claustrophobic and I don’t know how to swim.  I seriously considered having another day of nothing on the beach.

But I went, and it was the best day yet.  Maybe the best day of my life.

Our guide suggested I wear a life preserver around my waist so I wouldn’t have to even think about staying afloat.  I had no pride around that; it was a great idea.  I donned the snorkel and mask, sat on the sand in the shallow water, and tried to put my face underwater.  Once, twice, three times—I couldn’t do it.

This felt like a matter of pride.  I was going to at least get my face underwater once.  I finally did, and was instantly hooked.

How to describe it?  I floated near the water’s surface and gazed at hundreds of species of fish and coral.  All colors, all shapes, large and small.  The water was warm and clear as air.  It was like flying, like flying in a dream.  I couldn’t help exclaiming, “Wow! I see a clown fish!” except it sounded like “Waaaahhhh, aslubbba blabba blish!”  Then I laughed, which also sounded funny and made me laugh more.  No one could hear me.  It was one of the rare times in my life that I felt childlike wonder and playful joy.

We snorkeled for hours, then they rounded us up for lunch on a small island with million dollar homes.  We sat on the beach and munched on our pulled pork sandwiches.  Emily, being married to a Muslim, didn’t eat pork either, so the guides gave us their BBQ chicken sandwiches and we were all happy.

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