If nothing else, I'm going to figure out my sleep number on this trip. You can imagine some of the beds are a bit suspect for nine bucks a night. As of this morning, I know it's not "100". The bed in this room is just a bit softer than concrete. Throwing my towel on the floor would have sufficed. I got up around 8:00 with a mind to find somewhere else to stay, as $30 a night for this place seemed like a punch to the groin. I took a shower, which was comical in itself: 2 foot by 3 foot stall + showerhead at my ribcage - any gymastic skills = ridiculousness at its best. I gathered my crap together and walked around for about 30 minutes before it started to rain. I checked a couple places for vacancy, and found nothing - and if i did, it was mor expensive. Mama Chin's Guesthouse, here I come again. They were happy to see me, and I guess having cable TV wasn't too bad. I did get a new room - but apparently they were having a special on steel-stuffed mattresses, as this bed was little better than the last. And it was still raining. Sweet. At least King Kong was on.
When it stopped raining, I went out to explore. Belize City isn¨t very big. About 55,000 or so with a transient cruise ship crowd. I went down to the Swing bridge, and walked around by the shoreline for a bit. I found a little café that had some pretty decent cinnamon rolls and a nice little terrace to eat on. However, about 15 minutes later it started raining again. Damn it! I got a taxi to the Bus station in hopes of buying a ticket out of here.
I think Belize City has some of the best taxi drivers in all my travels. Not because they are exceptionally good at driving or because their cars are nice (In fact, their driving sucks, and their cars wouldn't pass inspection in the states), but because of the conversation. I had a grand chat with the guy over to the station. He was pissed off at the government, the rain, and the roads (which, by the way were tremendously bad. There were potholes that damn near swallowed our car whole. Those of you who live in Missouri - be proud of your roads. If you'd seen these, you'd think I35 and Southwest Trafficway are glass).
Everyone talks in a very accented form of English. I've never been to Jamaica, but the dialect of folks in Belize City matches the internal audio I've mentally attached to Kingston. It's a lot of fun to listen to, and before long, you'll catch yourself trying to talk the same way. Anyway, as I got to the bus station, I asked a lady at the desk (and by desk I mean the information booth/snack counter/shoe shine) about how to get toe Guatemala City. She gave me a series of busses and taxis i had to write down. I was more than a little down at my chances of navigating those directions. However, it just so happened the taxi driver from last night was there and heard our conversation. He had it all figured out. There's actually a direct bus to Guatemala City which only takes about 5 hours to Flores, then switch to a night bus to Guatemala City. Sweet! Where do I sign up? Turns out the tickets are back by the swing bridge at the water taxi station. Of course they are. Why would bus tickets actually be at the bus station? And why would the bus to Guatemala City actually leave from the bus station and not the water taxi station? Whatever. George took me back to the other station in his POS taxi. We talked about his time in LA and how he used to work security for Xerox. When we got back to the bridge he hooked me up with a friend of his inside the station, who turned out to be an entrepreneurial little guy from Bangladesh.
Once I got my ticket, I walked around a little more. I was taking a picture when this very amiable elderly guy walked up to me and welcomed me to Belize City and thanked me for being there. He told me about a few ¨sights¨I shouldn¨t miss, like the church and a few other things. As we walked, he talked to me about The government, and how much he appreciated Americans being here and supporting the economy. He knew a lot about the area and was apparently born and raised here. His name was Frank. He even showed me his name tattooed on his arm just in case i didn¨t take his word for it. We walked around for about an hour and a half, checking out sights that were really pretty damn boring. Then he dropped it on me that this is how he makes his money and asked me for $40 US. Now, I realize that I'm gullible, and that part of this is a learning experience. He was a nice enough guy, and I ended up giving him $20 in USD and in Pesos. I know, I'm an a-hole. However, he didn't tell me anything about his "walking tour" services up front, and I'm pretty sure he probably just made that part up anyway. Ok. Lesson learned. Appearances aren't always what they seem to be. And, to be honest, in about 2 hours, you can see everything Belize City has to offer. I'm not impressed with it at all.
On my way back home, I went by the swing bridge one more time, and was met by 3 kids (probably 8 or 9 years old). I had just bought a coke, and the leader of the trio asked me for some. (I thought to myself ¨how would i give you ¨some¨? I¨m sure as hell not letting you drink out of my bottle, and i don¨t see a cup in your hands...¨) I politely said no, and then he asked me for some money. I again politely said no. He said: "We sometimes ask Americans for money. Sometimes they give us some. Sometimes they don't. Like you. Some people might call those people mean." Sweet.
I heard from someone later that the best thing about Belize City is leaving. I don't entirely disagree. Perhaps i just had a bad experience. Maybe it was the rain. Either way, I got up the next day around 8:00, not excited at the prospect of hanging out for another morning. I went to the café again, and had breakfast. An American sat down with me at the table and struck up a conversation. ¨Charlie¨ from Chicago. He was a short, animated little guy with a penchant for cussing. He was here on vacation, just checking it out. He was about as impressed with it as I was. We talked a little about my trip, and where I was headed over the next few months. He then started laying out details on his exploits in Europe, and specifically Amsterdam. Among his almost profuse (yet almost elegant) uses of the term "mother fucker" and repeated warnings against marriage, he talked about the irresistable allure of the red light district and about knowing the name of several of the "window girls" there.
Good Lord, can I leave yet?