I awoke from a short nap on the bus ride from Chetumal, Mexico to find that the passengers looked drastically different from just a half an hour ago. The classic Mexican features were now replaced with mixed Africans (Caribe) and Spanish descendants and were quietly getting on and off the bus, a lot more reserved than their neighbors. Mothers with babies clinging tightly to their arms; Young Africans with sagging pants trying to imitate their favorite singers; Women in colorful head dresses. The only sound in the bus came from the small video screen at the front of the bus playing songs by Ludacris, Rihanna, among many local singers. Scenes of flashy cars, jewelry, women dressed in scanty designer clothes, almost taunting the poverty that most of the passengers are living in.
Belize is an anomaly in Central America. Once ruled by the British, English is the most common language here. Queen Elizabeth still sits proudly on all the Belizean dollar notes. Other languages spoken are Spanish and Creole. Garifuna is also spoken by a few and unfortunately it’s quickly dying out.
The bus reaches Belize City just in time to catch the last ferry to Caye Caulker, a small island about 45 minutes away by water taxi. After a 12-hour travel day, we’re welcomed by golf-cart taxis looking for passengers, there are absolutely no cars on the island. The main mode of transportation is bicycling and your own two feet, which is not a problem since the full island can be walked in about two hours. Food comes fresh at a leisurely pace and no one will bring you the bill until you specifically ask for it. One end of the island was split by a hurricane a few years ago. They did what any red-blooded Caye Caulken would do -- they put up a shack lounge calling it, “the Split” where people hang out until late night with Reggae and Punta Rock playing in the background.
It’s the most laid-back place that I’ve ever been to in my life. Time is not a hot commodity. Kids named Malik will want to teach you how to "climb the tree like an Iguana." Alfred, an old man with a grey beard, dreadlocks, and clear eyes from the “Go Slow” art gallery reminds you that the motto here is to slow down. Everyone has time to chat, no one’s in a hurry to get anywhere. And if you try to walk too fast, you might just walk yourself off the Island.