More adventures from Belize
Small terns strutted ahead anxiously, never taking flight, as they were not quite sure of our intentions. The day was awesome -- the air still, with no humidity -- the sea, a shimmering blue. My daughter, Sarah, and I walked along the beautiful, debris covered beach of Hopkins, Belize, Central America. We studied the fresh array of unmatched shoes, coconuts, plastic bottles, brown clusters of seaweed, copious amounts of green sea grass, shattered unidentifiable pieces of plastic, neatly sliced halves of oranges with their gut sucked clean, the severed head of a pineapple . . . All of which had found their way onto the shoreline of Belize.
My husband and I discovered this wonderful country in the late nineties and built a house near Hopkins two years ago. Unlike the frenzied golf cart-overrun pace of Ambergris Caye, or the bustling commerce of Dangriga, or the touristy flair of Placencia; Hopkins is a quiet, laid-back Garifuna village along the southern coast. It is located in the Stann Creek district of Belize, near the Cockscomb Basin, and consists of about one thousand souls. The Garifuna people are known for their warmth and welcoming attitude, so that there is also a rich blend of Maya and Guatemalan workers, red-eyed Rastafarians, Creole peoples, Chinese restaurant and grocery store owners, retired expats, fortune seeking and displaced foreigners, transient hikers and tourists -- all who roam the pot-holed streets and beaches of this small coastal village. Although it’s not yet possible for us to live there fulltime, we spend as much time there as we can. Sarah had decided to spend two months of her summer break from college in Belize and I deemed it necessary to accompany her. I stayed there a week before leaving her to her own devices and flying back to my home in Central New York State.
As we walked, Sarah suddenly declared that she wanted a coconut. I said, “Take one. They’re everywhere.” She found this beautiful large green monster of a coconut. We walked on awhile with it before we came across a rare, but hard, rock thrusting out from the edge of the surf. This rock was next to a pier and a group of small Garifuna children were playing and splashing in the water under the end of the pier. Sarah, who isn’t all that large, started throwing the coconut against the rock in an attempt to break its thick green covering and get to the good stuff. I began to help her. We took turns thrusting this thing against this rock and the children -- five boys and one girl -- the oldest no more than seven -- came splashing out of the water and grabbed this massive nut.
We stepped back in surprise, and then amusement, as they took their own turns throwing the nut against the rock. They got down on their knees in the surf and held it in their hands and banged it against the rock. They stood up again and threw it some more. Sarah and I just stood there, smiling and watching. I threw in a, “Wow,” here and there, but the children weren’t talking to us -- they were strictly concentrating on the task at hand. Finally, after a good ten minutes, the thing started to give up and split apart, and then these boys got their little hands, and their feet, and their fingers in there, sitting in the surf and having a tug of war. This involved more banging and more pulling.
Another ten minutes went by. We were still standing there watching and smiling, the hot Belizean sun beating down on us. The green husk was gone at this point. All that was left was a fuzzy round ball about the size of a small cantaloupe, and these boys were tugging on the whitish fiber that covered the inner stone, throwing the strands of fibers about their heads and flinging it into the sea, until, at last, a perfect light tan globe was revealed.
The oldest, and most hard working of the boys, after a half hour of work, stood up, dripping from the sea and proudly handed the coconut to Sarah, who bowed slightly, smiled and said, “Thank you! Let me shake your hand.” And then she shook all the children’s hands and then they ran, without a word, back out and into the sea. And that, is one of many reasons, why I love Belize . . .