Living dangerously

"In History, stagnant waters, whether they be stagnant waters of custom or those of despotism, harbour no life; life is dependent on the ripples created by a few eccentric individuals.  In homage to that life & vitality... One must live dangerously if one wants to live at all."
-- Herbert Read

The first two weeks after I booked my trip to Belize, I spent most evenings laboring over an ever-changing itinerary.  I took particular care when I planned Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday's activities, as these were also the days cruise ships scheduled excursions in the country. Unlike Puerto Rico, email was the quickest & easiest way to secure accommodations, but be warned: internet is shoddy in Belize (the general rule seemed to be I would receive a response anywhere from one to three days).  

Like Puerto Rico, some tours & businesses were impossible to track down.  For example, Carlos Alaya – publicized owner of Carlos Tours – did not have a website, email address nor phone number (I refused to dial/pay for an international call).  I messaged a fellow TripAdvisor member & asked how to find this guy?!  Ann C’s response was outrageous: “The way to book is to go to the office the day before and write your name on the paper on the door.” Um, what if it rained? What if the paper blew away or ripped off?  What if another traveler wanted to go & erased my name?  I’m all for simplicity but this was a caveman’s protocol. Yet, I assumed la sistema a.k.a. the system worked for Ann C & a multitude of other travelers, so I let my worries – at least about snorkeling – temporarily dissolve. 

Other worries materialized too, like staying within a pre-set budget. Two months away, the best lodging on Caye Caulker, sadly, was already booked.  Based on my experience, any lodging on any of Belize’s numerous cayes, filled up seasons in advance since they were gateways to many SCUBA sites.  Via email I finally found an affordable place & with relevant amenities (air-conditioning; free kayaks; porch) but was bummed to learn that Caye Caulker Rentals charged an extra $10 USD per day, per person – therefore, pushing the price over the amount I was willing to pay. However, I learned the art of heckling from my father during our three trips to Mexico and insisted that Caye Caulker Rentals waive the extra person fee.  Case in point, the rental company accepted my proposal!

It never dawned on me that I would need vaccinations & other preventative medicine because Belize was geographically closer than Washington state. Luckily, I stumbled upon the information while I mulled around the U.S.A.’s travel security website.  La mapa of Belize was painted fire truck red (except for a pocket around Belize City colored yellow), that indicated the widespread cases of malaria – one of the world’s deadliest diseases.  I vacationed in Mexico on three separate occasions, and never heard a peep about the illness, but that was Mexico/North America.  Even though Belize abutted Mexico to the north & northwest, it was considered Central America.  How different could the nations’ communicable diseases be when they laid adjacent to each other on a map?

The condition of Belize’s water was worrisome too.  Some of my favorite things were discouraged due to their possible contamination: raw tropical fruit (I could live off fruit alone), ice (the perfect complement to any alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage) and washing one’s face in the shower.  Like an athlete trains for a marathon, I began conditioning for vacation, but have you ever tried to take a shower without 1) washing your face and 2) getting a single droplet of water on your lips?  Both proved challenging – especially with my long hair.  Countless times I bent over in the shower only to have water rush down my neck, into my mouth; I stopped keeping track of how many times I accidentally wiped my face with my wet hands.

I paid a visit to my general practitioner for a joint Hepatitis A and B immunization.  Plus, I was laden with new travel questions, as this was my first trip to a progressive nation. Dr. V forewarned me about the unsanitary water then added “…and I assume you’re staying on a resort [like I was when I contracted diarrhea] so be careful.”  I did not have the heart to correct her.  The truth was, I planned on gallivanting around the islands, northern lowlands and western jungle.  When I rattled off my multitude of questions: should or shouldn’t I tan to avoid sun-poisoning? It’s dry season, but should I still take an anti-malarial medicine? Is there anything stronger than Dramamine for motion sickness? What if I get sick in Belize? Can you refill my anti-nausea medication, just in case? What are the symptoms of having drank contaminated water? Will my Hepatitis B vaccine work since I don’t yet have the entire series?  These were all valid concerns in my mind.  Stone-faced, Dr. V looked at me and asked, “Why are you going again?”  Dr. V had revealed her true colors.  “It’s okay that you don’t understand” I thought to myself & tried not to get irritated by her judgmental question.  This woman – in her years of education – had not yet grasped the allure of traveling… and I doubted she ever would.  I empathized with her. Yes, Belize sounded risky, but why couldn’t she empathize with me? I didn’t label her all-inclusive, gorge-yourself-at-a-buffet-every-night resort a cop out for traveling.

Dr. V had me spooked though.  I started wondering what I had gotten myself into?  If I puke more than twice, I almost always end up in an emergency room/intensive care unit for two days with vomiting fits every 10 minutes.  However, the flights were booked & I was going.  I prayed every night for health abroad, not only for my personal comfort but because I fully intended to make Dr. V eat her words.