Monday, September 26, 2011

Funeral of George Price

Last Monday, the primary founding father of Belize, George Price, passed away at the age of 92.  Although I knew George Price was the "George Washington of Belize", I had never really looked into the history.  According to one of the local papers, Price became active in politics in the 1950s following a devaluation of the currency.  In 1956, he was elected mayor of Belize City.  In 1961, he was mayor when Hurricane Hattie devastated Belize City.  George Price was the first to advocate for moving the capital to the center of the country, what we now call Belmopan.

Price was one of the founders of the People United Party, which was the driving force behind independence and is currently the opposition party to the United Democratic Party.  Price and other independence minded individuals began calling the country Belize (as opposed to British Honduras) in the 1970s.  Although the British did not appear to oppose independence for Belize, the main opposition came from Guatemala, which maintains a territorial claim over the country.  In 1981, the British formally agreed to a defense guarantee and independence was granted on September 21, 1981.  Price served as the first Prime Minister until 1984, when the PUP lost to the UDP in the elections.  Price was not done, however, as he was elected to serve as Prime Minister again from 1989 to 1994.

Price never married and had no children.  I've heard and read that he was never known to have a romantic partner.  Price was a strong believer in Catholicism and even attended seminary as a young man.  He never owned a car or had a regular driver and was known to walk everywhere even late into his life.

The accomplishment that I personally find the most amazing is one that is hardly written about.  In the history of colonialism, it is often easy to keep the people united when they are fighting for a common goal.  What is infinitely more difficult is to keep those factions united once independence begins.  Few who have never lived in Belize would realize how multi-cultural this country is.  In a country with only 300,000 people, there are significant Creole (Kriol), Mestizo, Mayan, Menonite, Garifuna, Chinese, and Caucasian, as well as other ethnic groups.  Yet this country remained united throughout its history and there is little dissension today.  That is truly remarkable and is a testament to the leadership of George Price and others.

Today was declared a national holiday for the state funeral.  I am watching the funeral from home and I am struck by two things.  First, I know and recognize a lot of people appearing on TV.  I often forget how prominent my friends and acquaintances are in Belize.  Second, there is way more white in the crowd than I would usually see at a funeral in the U.S.  Many of the women are wearing black, but most of the men and some of the women are wearing white shirts with black pants.  I think this is due to the weather more than anything.  It is hot out there and anyone wearing a suit jacket has got to be suffering in the heat.  So, instead of seeing black jackets, we are seeing the white shirt.  I should also note that men often wear a white guayabera in formal situations in Belize.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New People and other stuff

Lots of new people have arrived at the Embassy in the past month.  All told, I think close to half of all the Americans at Post have arrived within the last month.  Lots of new kids too.  Hard to remember who belongs to who, but I am starting to figure it out.

September is a very holiday-friendly month in Belize.  For Labor Day, I went up to Cancun.  Then, for the Battle of St. George's Caye, I went to Hopkins.  Then Wednesday, September 21, was the 30th anniversary of Belize Independence.

Sadly, George Price, the first Prime Minister of Belize and one of the driving forces behind Belize independence died on Sunday.  On Monday, Belize is having a state funeral - the first in its history.  They declared the day to be a national holiday, which means I will get one more day off this month.

On Thursday, I will be going back on national TV and radio to promote to Diversity Visa Lottery.  Last year, it was possible to listen over the internet.  I will try to post a link and time later this week if I can.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Sam, Betsy and Kris in high school
If it seems like I have disappeared for most of the month, it's because one of my best friends from high school has spent the past two weeks hanging out here.  Sam and I have known each other since junior high and became good friends in high school when he started working at my Dad's restaurant.  He had a pool table in a detachable garage and many of my high school memories take place in that garage.  Despite the fact that almost all of my friends from high school live in different places, we have remained close. So, a few months back, I started talking to Sam about visiting me here in Belize and he managed to get two weeks off work and a cheap flight to Cancun.

My original plan was to drive to Chetumal on Friday, stay overnight, and then drive the rest of the way to Cancun on Saturday.  On Thursday, however, I got a call from my sister Shelley.  She had been scheduled for her first ever overnight trip to Cancun (she is flight attendant) for Friday.  So, I decided to drive all the way up on Friday and stay with Shelley.  It was great to see Shelley, even though she got in late at night and had to leave early the next morning.

View from Shelley's hotel.
Cancun is awesome.  Really, really, awesome.  The beach is utterly fantastic.  The hotels are gorgeous, the food was fabulous.  The clubs were rocking.  I loved Cancun.  The main tourist area is called the hotel zone and it is a long thin stretch of land, shaped like a 7, that juts off the mainland.  The Caribbean is open on one side and a lagoon is enclosed on the other side.  Luxury resorts line the Caribbean side for miles.  The lagoon side tends to feature restaurants, malls, shops, clubs, etc.

People kept asking me how Cancun compares to Belize.  The simple answer is that it doesn't.  Some of the resorts in San Pedro are nice, but nothing compares to the luxury of Cancun.  The beaches are nicer in Cancun, the ocean is nicer (I like having some waves).  The food is better.  The shopping is way better (although I didn't buy much).

Sam and Yiselle (she had just changed after shift)
After spending Saturday morning at the beach, I drove to the airport to pick up Sam.  Given that it was the first day of college football, we then went to lunch at Hooters.  This way, I could watch the Nebraska game and Sam could watch the Hooters girls.  We sat by the kitchen so we I could watch the game we I wanted.  This had the added bonus of being where the waitresses hung out when they weren't serving their tables.  One of the waitresses, Yiselle (pronounced Giselle) decided to hang out and flirt with us.  Her English was limited to the Hooters menu and our Spanish was limited to four years of high school Spanish over a decade ago (officially, I am 0+).  But, we Sam made do.  The hardest part was that she asked us to translate the Hooters slogan on the back of every t-shirt, "Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined."  We were not successful.

We made our way back to the hotel to enjoy the beach and pool before it got dark.  Unfortunately, Sam decided to leave his glasses on when he went into the sea.  The Caribbean did not like his decision and decided to take them off for him.  So, surrounded by beautiful scenery and beautiful women, Sam can't see anything more than three feet in front of his face.  He spent the rest of the weekend surreptitiously asking me if a nearby girl was as hot as her blurry figure made him think she was.

We had a fantastic night out on Saturday.  We started at Senor Frogs, a restaurant bar, where the food is okay, the drinks are overpriced, but the atmosphere is fantastic.  This place is what Margaritaville would like to be, if it weren't a corporate chain worried about of offending customers.  They even have a water slide that goes into the lagoon.
Sam, the Vegas inspired club area

After dinner, we headed to the club area.  We ended up getting free cover to this one club.  We hadn't planned to stay too long, but two girls were seated by us and we ended up spending the evening talking to them.  As the night wore on, the place filled up pretty quickly.  The people watching opportunities were fantastic.  The people watching was fantastic and the music was great (over the last two years, I have noticed that I have started to like club music.  Not sure if this is due to a change in club music or a change in my tastes).

Me, Sam (no glasses) and Elyce
At one point in the night, I had mentioned that every time I stayed in Mexico, I had gone to a Mexican Strip Club.  Moreover, Sam and I had talked about finding a club until he lost his glasses.  The girls we were talking with thought going to a club was a fantastic idea.  So, around 2 am, we hopped into a cab and he took us to the shady part of town.  This club was much nicer than either of the ones I had gone to in Chetumal.  It was very much an American-style strip club.  A lot more dancers, better looking dancers, but a lot more expensive too.  We eventually made our way back to our hotels around 530 in the morning.

Obligatory shot of my feet at the pool
On Sunday, we woke up late, ate some lunch and then spent the afternoon at the beach and pool.  I got a bit burnt by the pool.  Sam halfheartedly combed the beach for his lost glasses.  It was a beautiful and relaxed afternoon.  This is why Cancun exists.  We ate delicious tacos at a relaxed Mexican restaurant off the main strip.  There was a mariachi band.  We made it an early night as we were getting up early to drive back to Belize.

I had so much fun in Cancun, that I have decided to celebrate my 30th birthday there next spring.  I've invited friends and family from Belize and the US to join me for a long weekend there.  Should be fun.