Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Weekend in Belize

From Good Friday to Easter Monday everything in Belize slows down or shuts down.  Few, if any buses run, and most people either go out to the beaches for a 4-day holiday, or stay at home.  This past Friday Diana, Jay T and I relaxed and did virtually nothing all day.  We were following the Belizean tradition for Good Friday of sitting quietly and meditatively until the late afternoon.  That is a very difficult thing for a 6-year-old boy to do.  As you might imagine, he wasn’t very happy about that.  But he managed to make it till the evening, when we had conch for dinner and relaxed some more. 

Holy Saturday is the day for a huge cycling race.  The race begins early in the morning in the eastern end of the country in Belize City and snakes across relatively flat terrain along with Western Highway to the far western end of Belize in San Ignacio, where the racers turn around and traverse the country back again to Belize City.  The length of the race is 140 miles, and all along the highway crowds of people come out to cheer on the cyclists.  We sat along the road in front of Diana’s parents’ house, with cousins, aunts and siblings.  I must explain that this “highway” is the width of two lanes, has no lines painted to indicate lanes, has no stop signs or stoplights.  The racers passed us around 8:30 and we shouted “keep gwain, bwai!” to bolster them.  We sat along the side of the highway till the racers made it out to San Ignacio, turned around, and passed us by again.  The rest of the race was experienced sitting beside the radio as the announcer narrated every inch of the race.  I was immersed in Kriol, and was understanding about 75% of what I was hearing, but could gather from the shouting and excited or disappointed faces what was happening.  Our celebration was enhanced with fresh coconut water just harvested from the trees beside Diana’s parents’ house, cut open with Vince’s machete.  Oh, and the coconut water tasted fantastic sweetened with Belize’s Caribbean Rum.  Lunch was a huge barbequed red snapper, cut and served on fresh, handmade corn tortillas, spiced with ripe tomato salsa.  

Unfortunately for Belize, this year’s cycling race winner was a Guatemalan, followed in second place by an American.  A native Belizean has not won this race for the last 6 years.  Diana tells me that the Belizeans do not have sponsors but work full-time jobs and thus do not have time to train as much as some of the other racers from other countries.  Nevertheless, Belizeans love cycling and this race is an important tradition for the Easter holiday.

In the late afternoon we took a short ride over to Spanish Lookout, a farming community mostly populated by Mennonites, where we went to enjoy an ice cream cone.  The Mennonites have the only diaries in the country.  We stayed to observe an auction that the Mennonite church had arranged as a fund raiser for one of their community who was diagnosed with cancer and needed to raise $75,000 BZ (or about $37,500 American).  There was a car wash, food (including Diana’s favorite, pirogues), and the auction.  Diana’s mother had her heart set on a little Holstein calf, but someone else out bid her.  

On Sunday Jay T was put on the bus to go to church with his little cousins.  They looked so cute all dressed up for Easter!  When Jay T returned we went to search for some plastic Easter eggs with jellybeans that I had hidden.  Then Diana’s aunt took us all to the river to swim and escape from the heat.  Swimming in the Belize River is a beautiful and refreshing experience.

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