Verfasst von: rbontour | September 6, 2010

Belizean Culture – Our Overall Impression

We Still Have No Clue: How Do Belizean People Look Like?

Our trip starts off in Belize – a former British colony and the only English speaking country in Central America. After exploring the coast and the mainland for several weeks, it may sound funny, but we claim that “we still have no clue how a true Belizean looks like”. Belize is a cultural melting pot. It was astounding to see so many different cultures in one tiny country.

Belize - a cultural melting pot... with the most patient children we have ever seen.

According to one of our tour guides, Belize actually means “muddy waters” in old Mayan language. Obviously they needed to come up with a new name as tourism would have never developed with a name like that. Culturally we could recognize a bit of everything – a mix of:

  • Creole… which is still spoken and sounds like “lower Bavarian” [= Niederbaoarisch] only with funny English-sounding words in-between.
  • African… in some neighborhoods it was like traveling through Africa; we would say the majority of people we saw were of African heritage.
  • European… many Mennonites migrated to the region. Mennonite is a religion we had never heard of before; these guys don’t wear “zippers” in their pants as back in the 1800s “zipper technology” was non-existent. Aha! And not to forget: the hardcore followers only use carriages with horses whereas carriages may ONLY be equipped with steel wheels instead of rubber wheels.
  • Chinese… those smart dudes really reign over most of the country’s supermarkets. We couldn’t believe it at first, but it looks like they have the say over food and consumer goods retailing in Belize. After a quick google search we found out that in the last few years, over 15,000 Chinese have settled there. Well, that’s why!
  • Mestizos… these are the people from Spanish speaking neighbor countries (and actually, ALL Belizeans speak three languages – English, Creole and Spanish) such as Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala (another topic in itself… but more on it later).
  • and Caribbean-Rastafarians… they are not only typical Bob Marley-worshippers – they also wear dreadlocks as a sacrament, they are very laid back and friendly! One guy sat in front of us in the bus – his locks were so long that Brigitte couldn’t resist touching them –an unforgettable experienceJ.

Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Belize – it was a fantastic mix of enjoying the tiny cayes (islands) and experiencing adventurous jungle expeditions near the Guatemalan border. When we signed up for our first snorkeling tour, we didn’t believe the underwater world could be any better than in Thailand, Mexico or Aruba, where we have been a few years ago. BUT it was even more fascinating. We saw giant turtles, nurse sharks, manatees, lobsters and sting-rays!

We compared our stay a lot to a previous backpacker vacation in Mexico as the coastal area is a bit similar in Belize (maybe we shouldn’t have compared things, but that’s human nature… it just happens), but the beaches in Yucatan/Mexico are definitely much wider with a finer sand.

Seafood on Caye Caulker or Tobacco Caye is delicious. Tobacco is the tiniest island we’ve ever seen! We could circle the idyllic paradise on a barrier reef off the coast in less than 5 minutes (you can see more pics in our photo gallery).

We learned how to prepare crabs for lunch. Actually quite disgusting, but our crab soup was still delicious!!

On Tobacco our hosts from Reef’s End Lodges caught Barracudas or Groupers during the day to grill it for us for dinner (we were the only guests at this time… low season). We even learned from them, how to prepare crabs. Well, this wasn’t a particular “attractive” thing to see (just click on the picture), but the taste was extraordinary!

People are friendly everywhere, whereas Belize City is creepy and we wouldn’t want to be there during the night. A 25 minute walk from the water taxi to the bus terminal was enough and after we arrived we realized that we really should have taken a taxi. It must have looked as if two sweaty and uneducated European backpackers didn’t study their traveler’s guide well enough! In any event, it was a walk through the ghetto… and we will certainly remember it.

Waiting on the Mexican/Belize border for hours...

Belize is not as developed as Mexico and strangely it was more expensive. However, we mostly stayed in backpacker accommodations and we only traveled by bus as it was the cheapest way to get around. Bus rides can get a bit bumpy – roads are a catastrophe in Belize and locals often complain about it, but as one guy explained us, due to the nation’s huge household deficit, there is no way the infrastructure will experience a vast improvement in the near future. The “chicken buses” we took are always packed. There is no AC, but all windows are wide open so it feels like sitting in a convertible. When we think back now we realize how special these bus rides were! It is truly astonishing how many things you can discover in only one bus ride… On one side you can enjoy the succulent green jungle and the Caribbean turquoise waters. On the other side you can study all these different cultures, their looks and behaviors. We were especially impressed by the incredibly patient children. The kids or babies sit for hours and hours in their mother’s labs – either laughing or sleeping, but hardly crying or whining (a thing which you would hardly see in Germany). BTW: Our longest bus ride was 15 hours… hey, we had good books and lots to see!

What We Didn’t Like About Belize
We really disliked the amount of garbage all over. Growing up in Germany… we admit that we might be a little spoiled. We know from Mexico or Thailand that recycling is a ‘never heard of’ thing and garbage is always a problem in developing countries. Nevertheless, in Belize it was very extreme.

Tobacco Caye - a paradise island with a little drawback...

On our tiny paradise island – Tobacco Caye – we found it even annoying. It’s just not pleasant when you look down on paradise and see all the empty coke bottles or chips bags on the pure white sand between the beautiful palm trees. We certainly understand WHY this is a problem in developing countries… no question. And obviously we can’t rescue the world, but I (Brigitte) could not shut my mouth when the owner of our lodge asked us for some marketing advice. Besides other things, I laid out a simple strategy how all the five lodge owners could help together to keep this beautiful place clean – it just needs a very easy weekly schedule and some discipline. This would enable them to generate more buzz about Tobacco – they could publish online PR and promote their place as “Belize’s true hidden gem” or “Belize’s tiniest and cleanest island”. Well, maybe this was another one of Brigitte’s typical utopian thoughts, but hey, it’s a tiny island and maybe it works out for them. (BTW: Saint, the owner, actually offered us to stay 2 weeks free of charge including fresh seafood everyday, if we would show him how he can improve the design and content on his website and become number one in peoples Google search :-). Well, it was a cool offer, but too early to start working at this point of our journey).

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