We’ve been in Belize one month today! Time has flown by – mostly because we’ve had so many new things to learn and experience for the first time. Besides the off-the-grid education we’ve been getting, and the local explorations we’ve made, here’s some things we’ve either been adjusting to and/or been surprised by.
* Remembering how to use a ‘stupid’ phone Not so easy after finally getting used to using iPhones (which are only good as cameras or to text other iPhone users, here)
* Understanding dialects Some folks here speaks versions of English that I’ve never heard. The other day we were standing behind two Mennonites at the Immigration office (to get our first 30-day visa stamp), and I think they were speaking English, but they could have been speaking German or Greek or Transylvanian. Kriol (Creole) here is fun, too (only overhearing it, not trying to understand it or speak it).
* Trash In a weeks’ time, we may end up here with what used to be one day’s worth out of our kitchen back home. It would be even less if we always separated out compost and burn pile items. The worst offenders here might be the ubiquitous plastic shopping bags; a close second could be the equally ubiquitous small plastic retail bags which are generally used to divide bulk dry goods into smaller resale amounts.
See example at right: Cat food, or what we presume is cat food, since we bought it at one of the Chinese grocery stores in Corozal where they didn’t speak English, and she may have said “cat” (refer to Dialects, above). Anyway, the cat eats it.
* Traffic rules We’ve talked about this before. There aren’t any, except maybe “he who hesitates doesn’t get to go” (always, in Corozal). And on our back road, the correct side of the street to drive on is dependent upon road conditions at the time – hence, games of chicken are common, as is swerving unexpectedly in the general direction of oncoming traffic. You know how in normal driving conditions, you react almost reflexively to any subtle changes in another’s driving, particularly at intersections? Ray says he no longer even notices any of that, as he’s too busy watching which ruts the oncoming vehicle is riding in, so he’ll know where he should drive after they go by.
* Bureaucratic rules Not that everything in America is so efficient, but it does strike us (and others) as a little unusual that to renew your visa, you have to show up at the Immigration Office where they examine your passport and give you a piece of paper saying what you owe, which you need to deliver to the Treasury (co-housed with the Post Office, several blocks away) to pay a fee and receive a receipt, which you then take back to the Immigration Office so your passport can be stamped. Well, it beats having to make a trip over the border to Mexico once a month, which is how we originally thought things worked.
* Glass bottle soda pop The norm here is to purchase a case of Coke, Coke Light (a version of diet Coke which does not taste like Diet Coke to me – and often is not available, anyway, in our experience), Sprite, or Fanta beverages (orange, red, grape, ginger ale) in glass bottles, then return the empties when ready for new ones. This cuts down on trash (see bullet above) and the drinks taste a lot better. So on the plus side, I seem to have lost my diet Coke addiction; on the other hand, I am drinking more sugary stuff here than before (so it’s sugar vs aspartame – can’t win, huh?).
* Meat In a word, all of it is delicious here! I don’t know if it’s because it’s so fresh (right off the carcass at butcher shops in town), or if something is injected into it (ie, Caribbean Chicken’s motto is ‘the secret is in the taste’?), or because of what the animals here eat before they’re killed or who knows – but EVERYTHING tastes really good, and it’s so cheap (ie, 2 huge rib-eyes and 2 thick ham steaks cost us $11 USD). Ray thinks that we should have rib eyes for breakfast.
* Schizophrenic radio The local radio station we usually listen to in the truck has an infrequent DJ who speaks accented English; it broadcasts mostly variations of Spanish-language songs (which we’ve playfully dubbed Mexican-polka, Mexican-Cajun, Mexican-rap, etc) – strangely, I recognize some of them from Zumba classes back home – also some reggae and the occasional American pop tune. Or we can listen to the Patsy Cline CD left in the console. When we’re at home, we have Sirius radio, though and listen to that a lot.
* Schizophrenic television TV, meanwhile, has been an ongoing puzzle. Though we have a hook-up and receiver, we originally we thought we’d do without satellite TV since we brought along our ROKU system, with a Netflix subscription. I figured we could add a Hulu Plus subscription thru ROKU and/or just access the American network’s web sites to watch recent episodes of our favorite shows. Well, no, in fact, we can get Netflix through Roku, but other networks like Pandora, Hulu Plus, and the main networks apparently pick up our IP address here and give us pleasant error messages about not being available in this country.
After some fussing, we said screw it and opted to re-activate the Canadian TV receiver that’s here. It works but it’s still a bit of a crap shoot knowing what shows may be on when (because we have both Seattle and Detroit feeds, each on daylight savings when we’re not). Also the American networks have a bad habit of just going off-air randomly. We are actually doing better to watch the Canadian feeds of American shows, which tend to be more reliable. On the plus side, we do have both HGTV and DIY.
Maybe more than you cared to know (certainly more than I thought I was going to write about today). Anyway, I am not complaining about any of this – just making observations…:)