After school today, as a little boy (age 12, but small) named Wilford closed the metal blinds on my windows, I asked Gwen Usher, the St. Peter Claver teacher who's come to be our heavy, where I could go swimming. "Where can I go swimming?" I asked her. Belize is known for its beautiful, clear water, its incomparable diving, its rainbow-glittery snorkeling, but not for its beaches. It's the kind of country you boat out from.
It's true live at a particularly non-beachy part of the country. The silt run-off from jungle rivers pours down into the Gulf of Honduras, on which we're located (my roommate Annette tells me), and makes the local waters muddy, brown, tumbly, and great for fishing. (I actually don't know if that makes them great for fishing, but they are, apparently, great for fishing.) Apart from the color of the waters nearby, everything else about our cute town is island, coastal-rific.
Ms. Usher said, thinking about my question, "Hm, a good bathe. Where are you staying?" I told her Charlton's Inn, at the end of Main Street, and she said people usually go to a good spot about a mile up the road that lines the coast. Go up from our hotel, make a left at Texaco, and head on until you hit beach.
So, after work, we did. We taught our first 7:30-3:15 day today (with two 15-minute breaks and an hour and a half for lunch, as is the norm here), and that third period (the last period) was hard. Our feet are sore from too many teacher hours in flip-flops and Chacos. My voice was tired from saying again and again and again (teaching--teaching is a career that centers on repeating the same sentence 900,000 times at day): "There are TWO correct ways to write a date: MONTH SPACE DATE COMMA SPACE YEAR ORRRrrr DATE ORDINAL SPACE MONTH SPACE YEAR." (This is a small teacherly fiction I picked up from our school's principal; in English, it's so nice to teach rules that are hard and fast that I find myself pharisaically holding onto them). And we were ready to leave our apartment to do something other than scour the local, dimly lit, and dusty shops for cans of something something, small plastic bowls, and something to eat--anything--that was fresh and appetizing (chocolate milk is the closest we've come so far, but a fermented orange juice was a disappointing second), that we all wrapped up in beach wear and headed off down the highway.
It was rush hour, it was a highway, there were no sidewalks, and we spent most of our time dodging locals on bikes, who'd pass by with children or Honey Bunches of Oats or, in one instance, an electronic keyboard leaning on, hanging from, or strandling the handlebars of their bikes. We briefly considered hitchhiking.
The water was choppy and brown, but we found a wharf and a coast of rocks and put our feet in. It was so warm, sometimes I couldn't feel the water. But Annette and I were hoping for more than foot baths. We left Peter and Michelle sitting on the wharf and walked down to a corner of the beach where the sand turned into the water, and there was a little boy in boxers doing cartwheels. (His mother was watching.) The water was a little more than a foot deep, and I could lie down in it and be rocked towards the shore with only a waveish now and then on my face. Salty, dirty, and so nice.
Annette and I left the water when she began to be nibbled (we're thinking crab?), and we picked up Peter and Michelle and walked back into town (past two more of these mysterious and ubiquitous hand-painted signs: "This way to Earth Runnings"), where we ducked back into a little shop and bought a small can of salsa, another can of black beans, a can of stewed tomatoes, and, for the others, a 50 cent package of chocolate-flavored chocolate cookies. At home, we had two pounds of fresh corn tortillas we'd bought at lunch hour from the tortilla factory across the street. These all would be dinner.
As I'm writing this, we're two hours post-dinner, three hours post-swimming, and I can still feel the wet of my suit through my shorts and sweatshirt. My ears have dirt in them, and I have swimming hair. It's time to read my scriptures, time to watch The Office, maybe time to plan a lesson.
It's lovely here.
P.S. I'm going to send another email that will have a number of pictures attached to it, as I'm not sure I have time for Picasa before the Dreamlight closes. But you can delete it or not open it, if that would be helpful. Also, it might not go through. We'll see.