This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, November 20, 2007 was originally posted on November 22, 2007.

DAY 1:  Perhaps it is fitting that this latest trip — which by popular demand is titled, “The Central American Eviction Tour” — starts not in New York City (where I got evicted from my apartment), but in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Ann Arbor is actually the sister city to the destination I would land in after eight hours of airline transit: Belize City, Belize.  How or why these two cities are related I do not know, but according to the Sister Cities International website that informed me of their sibling status, Ann and Belize were paired together to learn from each other, in terms of development, economics, and politics — although really, I think the reason is because who else will tease Ann over her crush on that cute new boy city in school?

To make a long story short, I had spent the week with Stephanie at her house in Ann Arbor near the University of Michigan campus, living the life of a college student (yet again), hanging out with Steph, playing Guitar Hero 3, and even shooting 9mm handguns at a shooting range for the first time.  Over the weekend, I made a quick trip to Colorado for a friends’ wedding and a quick snow board trip at Breckenridge.  While this was a weekend trip was brief, it came in handy; it was at the wedding reception that a friend of the bride and groom came up with the phrase, “The Central American Eviction Tour.”

I landed back in Michigan after the long weekend, to settle things and run errands for a day in Ann Arbor, and the following day, I bid farewell to Stephanie as she dropped me off at the airport — but only until we met again at a later rendezvous point on this trip.

THREE HOURS LATER, I found myself in Miami Airport for a layover in the secure still-under-construction zone, with terminals linked together by long, white tunnels reminiscent of the ones in the rebel base of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.  I found a latin snack bar with cuban sandwiches, where I figured I’d practigo mi español por el viaje.

“Un cubano,” I said, ordering a cuban sandwich in Spanish.

“Cubano,” she answered. “Y por tomar?”

“Uh, diet coke.”

“No hay diet coke.  Hay Sprite…”

“Uh, Sprite,” I said with a latino accent that sounded like “spr-eyee…”

But then I noticed they served beer, and I fumbled my Spanish trying to switch my order.  “No, wait.  I’ll have a beer.”

So much for practice, I thought.  But it was better than the portly Indian guy across the way — an Indian version of Wayne Knight (Newman from Seinfeld) — who thanked an employee with “merci.”

Not that having to know Spanish or French to go to Belize was needed; Belize was a former British commonwealth where English is still the primary language.  Belize is to Central America as the Philippines is to Southeast Asia:  culturally out of sync with its neighbors.  Once a resource for rich mahogany, Belize became a settlement for British slave traders in the 18th century.  A British colony for almost a hundred years, Belize finally went independent in 1981, but the language stuck and fused with the Creole-esque dialogues spoken by the locals. 

A TWO-HOUR FLIGHT LATER, I landed in Belize’s capital city, the eponymous Belize City, sister of Ann Arbor.  As soon as I stepped off the plane and into the balmy, tropical weather with blue skies and 80 degree weather, I knew exactly who was the hotter sister.  (Ann Arbor shouldn’t feel so bad, she’s got a great personality!)  Slipping back into my landing routine was second nature:  passport check, baggage claim, customs, ATM machine.  Belizean Dollars in hand, I decide to take a cab to the marine ferry terminal as suggested by my Let’s Go book, which was no big deal with the designated taxi desk.  In fact, contrary to what I had thought, there were no touts in sight.

The cab was an old, boxy station wagon from the early 80s, with plush maroon interior, wood paneling on the dashboard, and a power window that didn’t work 100%.

“You have to pull it,” the cabbie said when it got stuck in the upwards motion.  “Pull it hard.”

I respectfully refrained myself from saying, “That’s what she said.”

“How are you doing?” I asked instead, to the cabbie, a dark Caribbean man with a soft voice.


“Do you live in Belize City?”

“No, I live [in a village] about ten minutes north from the airport,” he answered with his Caribbean accent.  “And you?  Where are you from?”

“New York.”

“Ah, the city that never sleeps.”

Belize City was no where as big, or as crowded, as the Big Apple; in fact, it was like a small suburban town by American standards with a city center that would have fit inside the quad of the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus.  My guidebook made it sound like an awful dive of a city, playing up the it’s reputation of one of the biggest drug trafficking cities of the world, but I witnessed otherwise: kids in uniform walking home from school, townies just running errands and getting through day-to-day life.  Reggae and hip-hop touched my ears with some of the cars passing by.  And I saw that the Belizeans were a very diverse people, with faces looking Hispanic, Chinese, African, Indian, and all the interracial blends in between.  I could fit right in here, I thought. 

The Marine Ferry Terminal was small, especially since I’d initially thought it’d be a big one, like the one in Naples.  It was just a room next to a pier, with a couple of concession and ticket stands, wooden benches, all topped by a corrugated steel roof.  A man with dreads ate peanuts and got shells all over his shirt while a little girl in school uniform scoped the bin next to me for recyclables to take.  There were a handful of obvious-looking gringo tourists.

The 4:00 water taxi/ferry bound for Caye Caulker, my island destination for the next couple of days, didn’t depart until 4:20 (no pun intended for those who get that).  The 40-ft. boat held passengers, mostly commuting island locals, and their boxes of cargo.  I heard Caribbean accents, which were probably not translated in the text messages going through the air. 

The ride aboard the speeding ferry was only about 45 minutes with a stop en route at Caye Chapel to pick up a few more passengers, as the sun set behind its palm trees (picture above).  Soon enough, I was in Caye Caulker, a place also void of the constant touts I’d expected, Belize’s budget-conscious, tranquil island not exclusively for the backpacker set with its beachfront suites available.  I checked into Tina’s Backpacker Hostel Guesthouse, a thumbs up in my guidebook, with hammocks in a garden and free wifi, all on the beach.

“Where is the office?” I asked the group of people sitting on the porch.

“She is the office,” said an American accent, referring to the jovial Belizean woman at the table. 

“Are you Amy?”

“Amy, yes.”

“Hi.  Erik.  I spoke to you yesterday.”

She led me to my bed in the loft dorm, with its view of the beach and of the nearby basketball court, the last spot left in the popular accommodation.  Luckily I had made a reservation. 

IT WAS DUSK BY THE TIME I head out to explore the town and find a dive shop to take me diving on Thanksgiving, the next day.  “This is Caulker, man.  Nothing is far away!” said Simeon, a local dive shop guide giving me directions to another shop planning a trip to the famous Blue Hole.  The town was small, only about ten blocks long and two wide in the walkable area, with bars, cafes, and groceries stores run by Chinese people.  (Coincidentally, I found two Chinese restaurants.)  Stray dogs walked around, making me homesick for Steph’s dog Zoey, while people got around on foot, on bike, or on a golf cart taxi — the only vehicle allowed on the island since there are no cars or trucks. 

Having woken up at stupid o’clock that morning in Ann Arbor, I kept the night events light.  I casually strolled around that evening — the first dry evening in a while after the rains of the past 3 days — and eventually booked a dive trip for the following day.  I found myself having dinner not at one of the built restaurants along the main strip, but at Fran’s Grill, literally a grill on the beach operated by a local woman named Fran, situated by three picnic tables and a little hovel that she used to keep cooking supplies and a refrigerator.  “Are you Fran?” I asked.


“Do you have any actual food for your grill here?”  It was empty. 

“What were you looking for?”

“Lobster,” I answered.  It was one of Caye Caulker’s specialties and the must-have dish.  Oh well, when in Belize…

“I have it in garlic butter or in a coconut cream,” she said in her Caribbean accent.  “Come wit’ t’ree side dishes and a drink… Twenty five Belize Dollars.”  ($12.50 US)

“That sounds good.  I’ll take it.  Yes.”

While waiting for my deal of a meal (it came with two lobster tails), I sat and chat with the only other woman sitting at the picnic table with me, who I assumed was Fran’s sister.

“I’m Fran’s friend,” she told me.  “Vanessa.”

“Erik.”  We chat for a bit; she was on the island on “working holiday” for some power company on Ambergis Caye, the larger resorty island thirty minutes north.  Friends for ten years, the two sister types brimming with personality sat around while my food was cooking, waving at all their local friends passing by.

“Heyyy! Da Cubaann!  Wit de grannsonnn!”

Soon the greetings to locals was replaced by calls for business.  “Would you like a good meal, ladies?”  Eventually all the picnic tables were full and I befriended two young German doctors from Munich who swapped travel tips with me.  We were joined by an old retiree-looking Bavarian couple, three anti-social Spaniards, and four Danes who kept to themselves and quoted lines of the Swedish Chef muppet to each other.  (At least that’s what I heard.)

We dined on lobster, and drank beers and complimentary rum punch drinks until I tired out and called it an early night — it was a long day that started at 4:30 that morning in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I ended things off reading in a hammock at the hostel garden, overlooking the shore as the moonlight shined from above and the ocean breeze kept me cool and satisfied.

This is a long way from Ann Arbor, I thought to myself, sitting in the Belizean paradise.  But at least Ann still has a great personality.

Next entry: Thanksdiving

Previous entry: Lemons Into Lemonade

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Comments for “Sisters”

  • TADA… the first entry is up… More to come…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/22  at  04:47 PM

  • complimentary rum punch drinks - Fran’s Grill don’t play around….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/22  at  05:49 PM

  • no lobsters at jolly rogers?

    (i’m 1/2 jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/22  at  07:12 PM

  • Did you get to choose your lobster from the tank like Homer?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/22  at  08:35 PM

  • Up to my eyeballs in leftover turkey, but now I’m craving lobster in coconut sauce with a side of TGT BLOG!

    Safe travels… bork bork bork!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/22  at  09:27 PM

  • alright…back to good old fashion LOL material…

    rum punch for all!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/22  at  09:27 PM

  • yum. lobster for turkey day!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/22  at  11:10 PM

  • AWESOME!! Happy Day After Turkey! I am now in dire need of some Caribbean weather. Boo… hope you ahve fun diving.
    I heard on NPR the other day that Belize is a stopover for smuggled Chinese - so that may explain the Chinese population on the island!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/23  at  12:25 AM

  • Good to see you out again Erik, Can’t wait to read more.

    watch those windows at night in Caye Caulker though… Had a fellow let himself in on me last April at 5 am!

    Posted by Rob  on  11/23  at  05:30 AM

  • 80 degrees eh?  When we were standing in line outside Circuit city yesterday morning at 4:45am it was about 60 degrees colder here in Ann Arbor than where you are!  So much for great personality!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/23  at  10:21 AM

  • Ann Arbor is OK - but I went to Michigan State so we like to pick on her.

    I can’t wait to go to warm Central America!  One more month..

    Posted by sara  on  11/25  at  03:16 PM

  • lobsters and beer by the beach for thanksgiving..perfect!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/25  at  03:57 PM

  • were the lobsters dressed like pilgrims?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  05:56 PM

  • Very amusing

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This blog post is one of thirty-nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: The Central American Eviction Tour* (*with jaunt to Colombia)," which chronicled a six-week journey through Central America, with a jaunt to Bogota, Colombia.

Next entry:

Previous entry:
Lemons Into Lemonade


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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