Thursday, May 10, 2007

Living Like We Do

I've been using the bus lately to come and go up the road to our house in the bush. We've been experiencing car troubles and the machine has been into the mechanic for a couple of weeks. The prognosis was not good. We need a new engine. I could go on for several paragraphs about trying to find a good engine for a 1996 Izuzu Rodeo, the calls to aMerica, the calls to Canada, and at the end of the day one was found right in Belmopan in a mashed up car. So, Bigness's next best friend has become the mechanic and the car engine change has become his new career.Enough said.

I'm fine with the bus. Bigness has to have wheels (that he controls) under his butt, so in the interim we bought a medium size scooter. I rode on the back once when he picked me up from the bus stop, but since I don't have a death wish, that's probably the last time that will happen. I've ridden it myself a couple of times, but there's something unsettling at the pit of my stomach about going at that speed bare armed, bare legged, sandal footed. I'm wearing the bottoms of my sandals out forgetting where the brakes are. I put it in to the same category as bungee jumping, parachuting, water sliding and breaking my leg.

The busses in Belize run amazingly regular without having a set schedule. When the main bus company went into bankruptcy and then subsequently went into receivership and then shut down, lots of little operators picked up old school busses in aMerica, drove them down through Mexico and dozens of bus companies started up to fill the need. The service isn't bad. If the bus is full, just wait for another one coming along shortly. When I need to leave from Belize City, I go to the bus station and jump on any bus heading west, as we only have one highway heading west, the task is easy. When I want to head back to the city I walk out the access road from our area to the highway, stand on the side of the road and the first bus around the corner catches me. There is a legend that a first class air conditioned express bus leaves from Belize City and goes to San Ignacio every day at 10 a.m., but so far as I've seen, its still a legend.

I don't mind no air conditioning, as the windows are all down, the breeze keeps you cool, or at least keeps the sweat dried offThis trip I was the last one on the bus, or so I thought, catching it just as it was pulling from the station. I hopped up the stairs, thanking the driver for waiting. I waded down the aisle into the only empty aisle seat. There were other seats empty, but they were on the window side and Belizean women usually won't scoot over, which is a phenomenon I find strange. The same holds true for the water taxi. A Belizean woman will get into the boat and sit herself down where she wants, no matter how inconvenient it is for the 50 people trying to board behind her. I don't understand it, but hey, if that's my only complaint, then I should just shut up.

Back to the bus. People are content, children don't misbehave. The bus rolls forward a few feet and I plop down into my seat half way down the aisle next to a little Spanish girl and it lurches to another stop as a blind man gets on the bus, led by his daughter. He needs to sit down and if the bus driver would give him 15 seconds to do this, he would stop lurching and flopping. I'm afraid he will fall. If the lady with the baby right next to him would scoot over, he could slide in, but he's blind and can't see this. The little old Jehovah's witness lady saves the day. She's on the window seat in front of them and moves out into the aisle, makes the Spanish man that was next to her scoot over, slides the blind man onto the seat, then sidles over the lady with the baby (who could have just scooted over) and sits down. All the while the driver hasn't missed a bump or pothole. I am amazed. He stops 2 blocks later and has the attendant put $50 in gas into the tank. A few miles down the road the steward side steps down the aisle asking where you are stopping and telling you the appropriate fare. Its 2.50 bzd from Belize City to my stop which is 31 miles up the road, a great value considering that when we drive our own car its 35 bzd to come and go. We talk all the time about economizing and using the bus system more but at the end of the day what is true is that we are lazy to do it. Shame on us.

I see it before I smell it, the great white plumes of smoke. Nervously I check for the mile marker on the side of the highway and we're more than 10 miles from home. I shouldn't be nervous anyway, Bigness has told me that if its a house on fire the smoke is black, if the hills are on fire the smoke is white. 3 miles later we can smell the sweet burn, the hills are on fire, and its burning right up to the road. Closer and closer we get, until you can't hardly see the road. I watch the driver's eyes in the rearview mirror and he doesn't look nervous at all although he glances up to see where his people are from time to time. He never hesitates as we enter the gauntlet. The road is on fire on both sides, bus windows slap into the up position, I can hear the crackling flames and fire, the heat is intense. The driver presses on, we have no idea how long this will be and in a few seconds we are through it, everyone breathes a sigh, the windows slap down, the breeze starts clean again and I realize that he's playing an old Kenny Roger's CD, The Gambler.

A tap on my might shoulder and the little Spanish girl sitting next to me asks, "Please Miss Lady could you pass this to my sister?" she points across the aisle and I pass the plate of rice-n-beans and stewed chicken to her. A tap on my left shoulder and a baby is handed to me, "Please Miss Lady could you pass this to my sister?" and I pass the little chubby boy on down the line. I noticed that Tropical Storm Andrea is in the Atlantic, which is the start of rainy season. It couldn't come too soon. We've been experiencing dry tides with our well on Caye Caulker which means that during certain times of the day, the well actually runs dry, the fresh water vats are nearly empty. We've experienced a much more dry year this year than last. The rains should come soon, June is nearly here.


Mai said...

This is my first time to visit your blog.

My husband wants to move to Belize from Seattle; he says it's less evil than America.

I have one question. Are there any Sikhs in Belize?

Please accept this invitation to visit my personal blog at


Alexandra said...

sounds so relaxing, aren't you glad you're there instead of the midwest!

Hayden said...

wow, driving through the fire would scare me far worse than riding a scooter! That is really frightening.

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StarFox said...

Hi there, I've been following your blog for some time. I am coming to Caye Caulker for part of my honeymoon in a couple weeks. How's the weather? Do you have any advice? We'll be staying with Jessie at The Real Macaw.

You can write me at I look forward to seeing your shop.

Caribbean Colors said...

Mia - I have no idea if there are any Sikhs in Belize, its a small country, there may be one or two.
Ale - every day I thank my lucky stars that I escaped from aMerica
Hayden - Yes it was, but he just plowed on through
Starfox - bring spf 50, its really hot and sunny right now! DeReal Macaw is a nice little place, clean, right on the beach and the owner (Jesse) is a friend of mine.