Friday, April 4, 2014
Belize - Only English speaking country in C. America -Full of ruins, crocadiles, FUN
Arrived Belize April 3 (2014) via the Cruise ship “Carnival Magic.” My last time in the city was in the late 80’s when I was on a mission to locate seafood sources for an American buyer. Much has changed, yet still stayed the same.
Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central and South America (it was fought over by the British and Spanish—Brits won this one.) The Queen is on their money but they drive on the right side of the road like Americans. They use the American standard of measurements not the English metric system. In Belize City, the port city of maybe 15,000 people there are only six or seven traffic lights! Lots of “roundabout” and speed bumps which they call “sleeping policemen.” Belize has a very LOW crime rate and a high literacy rate.
Gas costs nearly $6 a gallon and the roads were rough, but the people are intelligent, friendly and hard-working with a fun sense of humor. Laura and I took a bus to Altun Ha, the Mayan ruins they found in the jungle. They have uncovered only 13 of over 500 structures. The rest remain locked in the surrounding jungle, where toucans, iguanas, crocodiles (not alligators,) cougars and deadly snakes still reign. If you go there you will see why they have not tackled pulling the other 500 structures out of the surrounding jungle. This was a major trading center thousands of years ago.
On the top of three structures they found the remains of two men and one woman, obviously people of high importance. The presence of a woman suggests women held high status in the Mayan population. By the way, Columbus misnamed them. When he encountered the people he asked “Who are you?” The answer was “Maya” which in the local Indian language meant “I don’t understand you.” So miscommunication resulted in a wrong name. They are Indians and their remnants and their DNA are still here.
They guides said that it is untrue that the Mayans “disappeared.” They declined, and became a part of the other population, which included slaves brought to Belize by the British “back in the day” from a place named “Little Belize” or something like that. Because Creoles also came here, you can meet blue eyed black people who speak German. There are also a lot of Mennonites and Amish here. “Marlene” our guide said the first Indians came here from across the Bering Strait, when it was still a land bridge between the continents.
Then we rode a river boat down the Wallace River that becomes the Belize River that runs into the sea. Along the way we saw huge storks, little crocs sunning on tree stumps, iguanas sitting at the tops of trees -- even dolphins in the bay when we left the river. I took from video of the fast turns and spray the uncovered boat made in the 21 miles we went (miles, not kilometers – remember, the Belize folks use our measurement system.) When something of interest popped up they would slow down to float past an animal of interest.
Belize English is so good that the country is a call center for American countries. 88% literacy. They make sure kids get at least through high school even when the student needs a government grant to pay for a key test. Average wage is about $1.50 an hour. No one needs health insurance because the copays are so low at the medical center (America remains about the only country in the world that does not provide medical care to its citizens.) Meanwhile I see American kids that can’t even spell and a government in Texas that doesn’t invest in our next generation.
At a resort called “The Black Orchid” we had the national dish of red beans and rice which is cooked with a seasoning mix in coconut milk, along with chicken. It was incredibly good. The local beer was also nice, but I confess that in my travels to over 50 countries I have never found a country beer to be bad (and they each seem to have one.)
My one mistake was not having a hat because the sun was a microwave after I spent hours in it. First thing I did when getting to the dock was to buy one!
Other tourists went snorkeling or tubing through the caves, which we hear was amazing.
I encourage you to check it out. When you do it as part of a cruise you don’t have to worry about a thing – and the guides really give you a lot of details about their system while you are riding to the destination. They answered everyone’s questions. They even said that, unlike America, if you want to go jog with the President of the country, you can do that also in Belize.
Americans need to know the world if we are to lead it. We still have people who think that it is the color of your skin that makes a difference when in fact it is the level of education that will determine the winners of the future. Americans who can’t fill the 2 million available high-tech jobs will not win the future by having kids and flipping burgers. When folks in Belize or China or India take those jobs, they become the winners of the 21st century. Get out there and see for yourself why Americans have to upgrade our skills and our education system to get back to No. 1 again.
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