I woke up an hour ago, sweating. It wasn’t from a bad dream but rather from the sheer fact that the sun came up again this morning. It’s damn hot here in Belize and even on a cloudy day like this one (so far), the sun lets you know her lingering presence. I certainly can’t forget it because I crave fans, AC and cold drinks on a daily basis. Nevertheless, I get up, take a shower, get dress properly and prepare myself to sweat it out. And maybe that’s ok…at least for now. For me, extreme heat and cold let me know that I am fully alive. I’m either sweating buckets or shivering my ass off but at least I know I can’t fake it. The reality cuts me to the core.
I’m sitting in front of a fan right now and looking out the window of the second story apartment that I’m staying in. The view is quite majestic if you consider everyday life something spectacular like I do. There are palm trees in between homes, greenery all around and a calm stillness that blankets this place. The roof of each house is covered with red tin that has been weathered by hurricanes and seasonal downpours. Even in the dead heat of the day birds won’t perch on the top, but today there are a few I can see. I can also see three yellow butterflies dancing in the backyard of our neighbor. The dance seems playful and as they round the bend towards the purple flowered tree, one might begin to think that this is paradise. A puppy barks in the distance and consequently a cat meows back (note: some cats have a strange meow here). There are men working on the roof of a high cement house on the next block and I’m sure from their height they can see the Caribbean, which is really just a block away from where I am now. Here in Belize City, the Caribbean is never too far away. And as the city itself sinks further below sea level that reminder is all too present. Homes flood every year during the rainy season, but like the sun coming up in the morning, it’s a reality not to be escaped…especially for the poor.
As much as I am surrounded by the everyday beauty of this place I still find it quite difficult to deny the raw counterpart of suffering amidst the backdrop of vulnerability. Poverty is insidious here just like any other place I’ve been but the global voice deems Belize to be fairing not too badly in comparison to her regional neighbors. And so, the global community can breathe a sigh of relief and neglect the everyday visions of children playing on the roadside, homes washed away by a flooded river, or meals that never quite make it to the table because the money was never there n the first place. “Oh, Belize might be developing but they aren’t as bad as _______.”
Apparently beauty comes at a price and that’s what I’ve been thinking about these past few days. I’ve been thinking about the face of a typical Belizean, the reality that they live in compared with the song and dance show that tourists see. I’ve driven past the tourist village, eaten as some of the typical tourist restaurants and even gone to some of the attractions. And I wonder if the bus drives cover the windows when they drive through the villages. I wonder how they can hide the vulnerability that is so very present. But then again I wonder, how people in places of power, in the government, can actively negate the poverty here or even chose to be blindfolded when deciding where to allocate funds. I wonder…
Granted, I am really just a tourist myself. And it’s easy for me to be critical of my own government and that of Belize. But I do spend a lot of time these days driving around, looking out the window and wondering. I’ve chosen not to be sheltered or barricaded up in the Radisson compound. Instead, I appreciate the sweat I wake up to, the sound of the birds in the palm trees, the men hammering outside my window at god awful hours and even the daily reminders that I receive to show me that my notion of paradise is a little more complicated by reality. Either way, something here still cuts me to the core.