Two years ago today, I was sitting in the Houston Airport with my three suitcases, waiting to board a plane for my relocation to Belize. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun. The beginning of my journey to Belize, however, didn’t start out as rosy as some of you may think.
I was telling this story to one of my clients recently, and I admitted that I had never blogged about it. This is unlike me, as most of you know I am an open book. I think it was because I didn’t start blogging until I’d lived in Belize about one month, and by then, I had quite literally forgot all about it. In any case, my client encouraged me to tell the story, since some of you may be able to relate, or you may think of it when you come here for the first time and could find comfort in it.
Upon landing in Belize for my first research trip, a couple of months prior to my actual move here, my ex-husband and I had lined up an “economical” rental car prior. The guy from the agency was right outside of customs, waiting for us, and drove us to an offsite location to do the paperwork and get the keys.
Right away I noticed how run down and ghetto looking Belize City was. Everything looked kind of dirty, lots of litter, stray dogs, and some of the people looked a little scary to me. When we arrived at the rental agency, it was in a very run down condition. I asked to use the bathroom and was informed they didn’t have one. This was my first introduction to the lack of public restrooms in Belize.
Finally we got our car, which brings me to another point – you definitely get what you pay for in Belize. I would have preferred to pay more and got a car that didn’t look like we were the 1000th customer, or that had a working radio! The agency guy did give us a good warning about not taking the Manatee Highway, as it is closed, so we headed on the Western Highway, then over to the Hummingbird, on our journey to Placencia.
We were starving though. So in Belmopan, the nation’s capitol, we stopped at the outdoor market to find food. We had hoped to find a nice sit down restaurant with a bar. No such luck – all we could find were outdoor food shacks, with people practically sitting on top of each other at picnic tables. We decided we’d move on and try to find another restaurant along the way.
Unfortunately, the Hummingbird Highway is mostly a scenic route, and while today I know of one or two places to stop and eat that are quite good and nice, that day, nothing looked either open to us or like it would serve healthy food. We were just so accustomed to how things are in the States, we let our first world sensibilities get in the way of experiencing the offerings in Belize. At least the scenery was looking better though.
We managed to scrounge up some potato chips at the Blue Hole National Park, but decided to drive straight through and find food in Placencia. Bad news for us. First, we were there in August, the slowest month of the year, and when many restaurant owners close down to take their annual vacation. Second, it was after 2:00 p.m., when even if a restaurant weren’t closed down for the season, they weren’t open anymore for lunch.
We walked aimlessly down the famous Placencia “sidewalk,” my stomach growling uncontrollably, my head pounding, and my attitude all but shot. I told my ex, “I hate this place. I’m never moving here. We might as well go home now.”
Finally, we found a German lady and her sandwich shop open. We devoured our lunch, and then much to our pleasant surprise, later that day, found the main road in Placencia, full of lots of nice restaurants and bars, most of which happened to be open during our visit.
In the long run, we got used to the country, put on our explorer hat more, and grew to appreciate all it had to offer. In fact, we even learned to like how uncommercialized it is, without a McDonalds at every third mile. Although, on that first day in Belize, I would have killed for one!
Do you have a funny first impression story of a foreign country? Did your view change?