"If you come here, you have to know how to handle yourself."
We went over the border relatively blind but it quickly occurred to us that Belize was perceivably, Eden. Familiar language, easy exchange rate, amazing food, and Caribbean everything. On top of that, we were here for their independence day. Which directly translated to rum, parades, and fireworks. All four of us were in awe of this new exciting country we had credulously stumbled into.
We found ourselves in the town of Hopkins during the country’s 33rd independence celebration and Joel and I were walking the city-wide party putting a dent in our rum bottle as we tried to keep up with the dancing locals. After hours of celebrating a holler from the nearby police station got our attention.
The older woman calling us over to sit with her simply asked if we were having fun in Hopkins and wanted to know where we were from. This woman turned out to be Ms. Beatrice, an off-duty deputy at the Hopkins police station.
We sat on the stairs with her and after hearing she was off duty, offered her a drink. As the bottle made its rounds the conversation grew more and more unfeigned. Every questions about Hopkins and Belize Joel and I could muster was answered with unwavering conviction and honesty. She helped us realize that Belize was just like any other country and like most other countries it came with a few substantial issues.
Ms. B told us about what she had experienced working at the police station in Hopkins. A stations that had only two employees, one computer and one Nissan Pathfinder for patrols, both bits of equipment were loaned to the station by Beatrice.
She talked, in severe detail, about Belize’s lack of treatment for the mentally ill, gang issues and current struggle with AIDS. She approached all of these issues with a gentle but passionate tone. It was clear, through the fervor of her voice that she had no intention of scaring us, but it was important to her that we understood the gravity of the state. She was painting a clear picture of her country, a picture I’m still struggling to comprehend the latitude of.
After a few hours, we hugged and said farewell, The empty rum bottle rolled across the floor. We had jumped to the conclusion that we found some sort of utopia a day after entering Belize, and you could tell she saw that place too, it was clear she never lost sight of it. She just knew how surface level that utopia was and how long the war would be to make it a reality.