It’s warm and humid in the mid afternoon as we begin the process of crossing from Mexico into Belize. As some would say, “we smell the barn”. Ahead of us lies the Rio Hondo River which divides Belize and Mexico, and begins in Guatemala. The crossing itself is a few miles out from the metropolitan city of Chetumal which is in the State of Yucatan. We must first process out of Mexico before entering into Belize. Forms are filled out, pesos are paid. All relatively easy and organized. Because we have a vehicle and belongings and we need to declare our final destination into Belize, we have planned to hire “a guide” to help us through the process. Before our tires even cross onto Belizean soil a young man steps forward and introduces himself as, John, a customs process guide. Of course, who else? John appears to be in his early 30’s, slender and quick as a whip darting here and there to gather the appropriate forms for us to fill out. He methodically explains the process to us, “no worries Mon, I will get you through”. Passports, signatures and the declarations of belongings are completed as he steers us towards the appropriate building. We groan as we see a long line of others before us. There will be a duty tax to pay after our boxed belongings are looked over and approved.
Surprisingly, our wait is not what we anticipated and we get processed easily through this phase. Our vehicle needs to be emptied and appraised by an agent who tallies up the value, looks over our processed papers from Mexico and with a flourish signs the needed paperwork and redirects us back into the same building to pay our tax. John is patiently waiting on the side of building as he for sure does not want to let us slip away. We pay our tax of $75 US and exit the coolness of the busy office. John has made his way over to our vehicle, standing guard. He asks if his services were beneficial and we shower him with praise but offer no other “tips” other then the steep price he requested at the start of the process. He tells us his day is finished and asks for a ride to the next main highway intersection which is 10 miles away; we agree. He’s a nonstop talker for the next 10 miles while sitting atop our boxes and luggage. He probably makes a decent living doing what he does and is able to support his family, whom he tells us all about. We drop him off at the appointed location and bid him farewell. He already has this thumb out, hitching a ride to the small village he lives in.
The day is quickly fading, as we are too. Gritty with dust and sand, we long for a cooling shower from the heat and humidity of this day. We have made it. We are here. Belize, the land of our thoughts and dreams for the past 5 years. Tomorrow we will make arrangements to have our goods shipped to the island and buy our one way ticket to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize Central America.
To my readers: These past 6 essays were constructed from a journal I kept during our travel adventure through Mexico to our destination of Belize. Bits and pieces were removed while others were shuffled and reorganized. All were true. Why the title of Be Careful What You Wish For? Because it was a Wish For Dream we chased but never caught. As hard as we tried for over 6 months, I came to realize I would never be able to shape my life to what I wished for. Perhaps it was a dream worthy of chasing and I don’t regret our attempt to make it happen. But wait…it gets even more exciting. I bet you can’t wait to read my journal, “Leaving Belize for Our Real Home”.
It is near dark by the time we reach Veracruz and we are immediately consumed by fast and heavy traffic and find ourselves totally in no mans land it seems. We find a fuel station and pull in, taking a brief respite to look at our map which of course is useless to us. This certainly was unexpected, but we continue on a main road looking for anything that offers lodging. We are crawling along at a snails pace and nearly get T-boned at an intersection. The offending driver gestures wildly at us using the international sign for ‘dumb shit’. Then miracoulsy as we are turning a corner, there sits our pot of gold, a relatively newer looking grouping of what looks to us to be storage units with windows. A brightly lit neon sign above states “Utohotel Villa Verde” and we don’t even bother asking the other “does this look okay?” as we whip into the bricked driveway. As we slowly pull up to a covered portico a young woman appears out of a small adjoining office and motions for us to follow her down the narrow drive for a short distance. We are feeling road weary and punchy and begin to laugh as to what this is all about. As she approaches an overhead garage door she pulls out an opener from her pocket and pushes the button. As the door begins to lift she motions for us to drive in. This is hysterical to me for some reason as we have no idea what to expect after we are parked. She smiles, nods her head and motions for us to get out of our vehicle and follow her into the interior side door. Bright white florescent lights are turned on as she shows us around an immaculate hotel room. She’s seeking our approval as she shows us the bedroom, bath and shower room. Of course we nod our heads rapidly with big smiles. We exchange pesos, approximately $50 US, for the room key but before she leaves she shows us the neatest thing ever. On the wall in the bedroom facing towards the driveway is a revolving lazy Susan type turnstile. She shows us a plastic covered menu for meals and drinks, both in English and Spanish and point to the telephone on the wall. Incredible! Wonderful! What a concept we have never experienced! It’s called Mexican Room Service and it worked very well!
It was much later on that we learned from another American traveler, the possible real gist behind such privacy of these commonly found hotels. They are used for private trysts between couples. Perhaps that explains the abundance of mirrors all around the bed as well as the ceiling and the abundance of packaged condoms in the ash trays.
Tomorrow our destination is for Villahermosa in the State of Tabasco. Border crossings have military check points that sometimes can be time consuming and a bit spooky; other times a simple nod and smile gets us through without too much questioning but we’ve been told the crossing into the State of Campeche could be the most difficult. And how right that turned out to be.
We continue on our way as today we need to reach Veracruz by nightfall. It will be a long, long day. We pass through Tampico and travel along the coast a bit before turning more inland. There are too many smaller villages to count, all with people, animals and what have you all over the place. Young children riding bikes or walking alone pay no heed to traffic passing by them. Horses, goats and pigs are tied to sagging fence lines, left out to graze for the day. Wash is hung out to dry on propped up long poles or sticks. Chickens pick and scratch at the ground in dirt yards, looking for a food source. As the day progresses we are getting into more winding roads which slow us down considerable. These are 2 lane roads and if we get behind a cargo truck it will be unsafe to pass even though the locals do it without fear. Such daring drivers!
By noon we have reached Posa Rica, a bustling much larger city. We spot a colorful open air dining spot to pull into for lunch. There is but one patron sitting at a small table so we hope this will be a quick meal. The tiniest little bird of a woman behind the open counter is beaming and welcomes us to her establishment with gestures of her hands and pointing to her sign and then to her chest. Ahhh, we understand, she is the proprietor of this little gem. She knows we don’t speak a lick of Spanish other than si and gracious which we use a lot of but a smile is universal anywhere. She indicates she will make us her house specialty. I’m guessing it will have something to do with eggs as I see through a side window, chickens in the tienda’s side yard. The music is loud despite minimal patrons. She brings us both a slightly warm Coke in glass bottles. Coca-Cola has a different flavor in Mexico, perhaps it’s the sugar cane they us. Within a few minutes she brings us plates of rice and beans accompanied with warm soft hand made tortilla’s with fluffy cooked eggs folded inside. We are famished and embarrassingly eat quickly between swigs of Coke. When finished she offers us the scribbled cost of our comfort meal on a napkin … it is a whopping $4.50 in our accustomed currency. As we prepare to leave after paying our charges we offer her a generous tip. Her eyes well up with tears and she hugs me tightly with a soft voice saying, “gracious, gracious” over and over.
We push onto Veracruz which is still 180 miles long. This can easily feel longer with the traffic and poor quality of road surface. We travel a distance along the coast admiring the gentle surf and beautiful homes here and there. We are just yards away from the sand in some areas and it’s tempting to stop and put our feet into the Gulf of Mexico and just b-r-e-a-t-h. We are scooting our way South, slowly but surely.
The dust settles around us and it grows quiet; I only can hear the ticking of the hot engine cooling down. “What did you just say?”, asks my husband. “You want to go back…forget all that we’ve wanted of this experience?”. I feel shameful and my face is flushed as I look at myself in the rearview mirror. “I can’t do this”, I whisper. More minutes slip by and he’s not uttered a sound. He’s thinking. I know him well. A deep sigh escapes his lips as he turns to me, taking my hand into his. ” Please” is all he says. A simple word that can be read so many ways. Again, I know this man so well. It is hard for him to put his feelings into flowery sentences, he typically finds other ways to say his wants. “Lets take it a day at a time. If at the end it’s not what we think it should be, we’ll return home”. I sit and ponder on this request. Up until now it seemed like such an enchanting plan yet in the moment we crossed over that hill and into the sight of that battered white sign proclaiming we were at the Tropic of Cancer, my balloon deflated. Anxiety and fear were knocking at my hearts door and a feeling of no return hit me hard. He is right and I know it. To make a U-turn right then and there would be the chicken way out. To never see what is on the downward side of the Tropic of Cancer would be cheating both of us of not ever knowing what could have been or would have been.
I look down at our entwined fingers and know the response I will give. I look over at him and give him a feeble smile. I still feel shaken but willing to go on ahead and take it a day at a time. “Ok, but you drive. I need to take a photograph of that sign back there”.
This story is patterned after a Journal I kept for 9 days while traveling through Mexico to our island destination of Ambergris Caye, Belize. A bit of fiction but a whole lot of truth is written here.