August 23, 2017
Day three in Belize I find my way to adventures in snorkeling. It’s exactly what I want. For me, snorkeling is about the best vacation activity there is. Snorkeling combines nature, water, wild life, beauty, athleticism, and exploration. Pause as I comb through faded Key West memories from long ago. I get picked up at the front of the hotel by a company called Ocean Motion and driven to the pier in Placencia village. My good spirited driver recounts a story from this past weekend, driving with his friends from Belize City to Placencia. The three hour drive is dangerous he tells me, so whatever you do, don’t stop. I complete my sign up in a hot, free standing, tiny office. I try on different masks and flippers. Before I know it, I’m out at sea. In about 30 minutes I am on Silke Cayes. It’s a tiny island, and a marine conservation site. I’m in the clear bath water that passes for ocean in no time and swimming over coral reefs. I see so many variety of electric, impossibly colored fish. I dive down every chance I get, worrying my guide, since I keep drifting far from the group. I’m less interested in what he has to say today. Right now, I am chasing my bliss. I feel alive, relaxed, at peace, in love. I haven’t been this happy since filming wrapped. We snorkel in a circle around the island. It takes about an hour but feels like seconds. When the guide signals it’s lunch time, I’m slow to come in. As we make our way out of the water, we’re greeted with fresh slices of pineapple.
We have lunch; chicken with coconut rice. It’s not much of an island; 30 ft x 10 ft of sand, a picnic table, a few trees and an outhouse. My meal enjoyed, I lay in a hammock under two palm trees. This day everyday please. I think of Grandpa and hearing him tell me how much he loved sleeping in hammocks during his Navy days. I wonder what it would be like to spend a night on this. I tell myself one day I really need to try. My fellow guests are selfie-ing up a storm. After an hour we are back in the boat, heading out to our second dive spot, where sharks, turtles and sting rays are promised. My companions are a Japanese Mom and her angsty, teenage son, a young Austrian couple and a chubby couple, her white and him originally from here. His tattoos, clothing and demeanor would have had me guessing he’s Mexicans from East LA. His wife keeps bringing up how this is his first time back to Belize. He looks unhappy. Soon the boat stops and the sharks swarm. One by one we lower ourselves into the water. I remember a photo from one Christmas Eve where my sister and I look to be pulsating with excitement. I feel like that now before it’s my turn. I get in the water, dive down and swim with sharks and turtles and sting rays. Before long I notice that only I remain in the water. The guide calls to me from the boat “are you okay?” I respond, “Am I?” There must be 30 sharks around. No man eaters, but we were warned they will bite if we bump them, so be careful. He says I am okay. Everyone else is tired or uncomfortable. I take the remaining 20 minutes solo with the creatures of the sea. No fatigue in me. It’s too exhilarating. I have to be told to get out of the water when it’s time. On the boat ride in… finally, relaxation. I drift blissfully; salt on my skin, sun on my face, to the rocking of the tide. I look over the edge and see the ripples cause by the boat. I remember being a kid on Uncle Joe’s boat, “Hot Pursuit”, riding a small plastic boat tied with a string off the side in the waves. The whole ride to Fire Island I’d hold that string and watch my boat race.
That night, on the advice of Jamie, my regular breakfast server, (whom I refer to in my head as Yoenis Cespides’ illegitimate son), I venture down the road to try Bistro. A restaurant on the water side of Maya Beach Hotel, I’m told it’s the best restaurant in Placencia. It’s certainly the gold standard of views for outdoor dining. And it has a nice wine list. A 50 something ladies dinner is happening at the table in front of me. Through heavy inebriation, “We’re your girls and this week we are taking care of you for once!” is the chant followed by the clink of glasses. I savor my first course of prosciutto wrapped grouper with pineapple jalapeño sauce. I stare out at the sea, enjoying my tropical paradise dinner for one. I notice they use the same crappy computer system I work on at my restaurant job in LA. I try to imagine how it might play out if I applied for a position. As my main course arrives, grilled Placencia shrimp with Caribbean cous-cous, cucumber sauce and crispy peanuts, the couple behind me is in a heated Game of Thrones debate. Theories of Jon Snow’s true origin abound. Another glass of wine. Bistro lives up to the billing. The meal is exceptional. I decide immediately I’ll be back again before I leave. I walk home, about a half mile down the road in the pitch dark. No cars pass me, nor people. It’s still so hot an humid. I ignore the small noises and hint of movement from the bushes. There are as many stars in the sky as I have ever seen.