Belize City!

We woke at 4 .30am thinking it was 5.30! It feels good to be able to have time together after such a busy period, to be having this adventure together. Relationship is up – we were looking at the lovely card of a couple of kids walking up the lane that Gemma and Eddie gave us.

Between us we thoroughly cleaned the fridge. Felt much healthier. Not sure if it’s cold enough…We went back to Brodies again and exchanged the posh “UK standard” expensive mop for a swishy-swashy local one that will keep the dust down. Came back and mopped the floor and felt ready to go and explore.

The swing bridge was our first stop….manually revolved at least once a day to allow marine access up and down the river to the sea. It also marks the distinction between the commercial – where we are – and posh sides of town. On the northern side, huge wooden colonial places abound – some immaculate, some falling to pieces. Roads that are metalled, not just a broken concrete dust bath. And always the sea. A ghost town of a ‘tourist village’, and moorings awaiting their winter visitors. Now is the rainy season, and not fit for cruise liners.

We rounded the corner, noting the water taxi place for Caye Caulker – we planned to have time at the sea tomorrow, and there’s no way you will go into the sea here round Belize City. Passed the Image Place – a local initiative, with some interesting books by local folk and a few art works. I picked one up. I have the feeling we will get to know them, and that Conor’s new book about Belize will be sold there…

Suddenly we saw some interesting birds and as we did the ‘what are they?’ whilst staring intently, this Creole guy wandered up saying “What are you seeing that we Belizeans don’t see any more?” And thus we got talking to a fascinating man. Trickster, performer, fleecer of tourists…but nevertheless an informed and informing human who loves his country and his heritage. They were frigate birds, by the way!

He told us a tale – or spun us a yarn – about the origins of the word Belize. He also in passing told us that Belizeans have never had a war on their soil – apart from the British fighting the Spanish about its sovereignty. He told us that there is a huge tolerance for cultural difference. And he also told us the mythology that moved him to tears, and later made us realise that it is a land myth, and cultural myth, that will help when approaching the issues around violence between folk that we will be meeting.

Belkini is a Mayan goddess from the pre-classical period. She was an extremely beautiful woman, and the local folk wanted to honour her. Their land was called Belitza and they changed it to Belkini. She told them that when the man saw the woman in the morning, and praised her beauty, he would have fifty years of life, with bread on his plate and some left over to give to others.

(This is a myth for the relationship between men and women and also about human beings’ relationship to mother earth. When adored and appreciated she is abundant.)

Belikin – the local beer – and Belakin and Belkini are the same root word for Belize.

In central Mexico and the NE Yucatan, lived the Olmec Mayans. Some of them were black skinned too. The word – phonetically – ‘kin-iiii-oh-oh’ meant wonderful woman, beautiful woman, or wonderful baby. ‘Kiniohoh’ was shortened to ‘Kini’. The French used their word for beautiful ‘belle’ and added it to Kini. Thus, it was an amplification of the original – beautiful beautiful…woman…land…. Belkini – Belize.

Our new friend also told us about the Shieba tree which was magical and mythical to the Mayans. It has deep wide roots, a strong trunk and up-spreading branches. The roots go down to the underworld, and the branches reach to the heavens. When ???? dies, he goes down to face nine devils in the underworld, and if he survives he emerges on earth as a jaguar, before climbing the upturned branches to the heavens.