© 2012 Margaret Sands

Thank You America!!

In keeping with our habit of taking weekends off-island to “get away from it all” (which really means get back to civilization and remind ourselves what it’s like to be in a place where you need shoes), Anna and I decided to venture to Hopkins for the weekend. Several of the islanders had suggested we go since Saturday was Hopkins Day and was supposed to be big doings.  A few friends from the island were also planning to go with us but had to back out at the last minute when they found out they had a big group coming for the weekend, stinking tourists.  So Anna and I ventured to town then to the bus station to catch a bus to Hopkins.  Hopkins is less than 45 minutes from Dangriga yet there are only two buses daily, one at 10:30 am and one at 5:30 pm, this scheduling oddity had thwarted our attempts to go the previous weekend.  This time the bus was way overcrowded due to the festivities and they stopped letting people on, insisting there would be another one.  This we found out meant that you could catch the bus to Placencia which would drop you at “the junction” and you could hitch hike the remaining 4 miles into town, not my cup of tea.  So we paired up with another American we met in the bus station and split a $70 BZ cab there ($35US).  Ten minutes in…

POW, our front tire blows out one minute after we pass “the stinking place” (the landfill outside town where we sent our beach sweep trash).  Darrel, our driver gets out and curses the tire which he’d bought two days before.  Of course he had lent his spare to his friend the night before and was out of credit on his phone so he couldn’t call anyone for help.  Enter Captain America!!

Ok so maybe he wasn’t really an American superhero but he was an intern at the American Embassy in Belmopan who had received a phone for his job.  It was a Razor (remember when those were cool?) but it had enough credit for an SOS call.  After about 45 minutes Darrel’s friend showed up with a beat up spare for Darrel and a ride to Hopkins for the three of us.  When we turned at the Junction we suddenly realized why Hopkins is so hard to get to despite the short distance.  The road is some terrible mix between dirt, gravel and a few misplaced chunks of asphalts.  In a sedan we could only go about 10 MPH while people hitch hiking in the backs of trucks passed us at 15 MPH but arrived coated in road dust.  Despite the obstacles we finally made it to Hopkins and eventually to Hopkins Day.  It turned out to be on the opposite end of town from the Drumming Center where we were staying which we learned after walking for 45 minutes in some serious heat without coming across any food source.  We were about to resort to cannibalism when we finally stumbled upon a restaurant, Frogs Point.  A couple of blocks later we found the festival.

Hopkins day was pretty big and very well populated, but very different from Lobsterfest.  The focus seemed to be mostly on local groups and organizations fundraising and spreading awareness which was cool but I kind of missed all the yummy food options.  There were also way fewer tourists (we saw maybe 5 others the whole day) which was refreshing but also meant we got a lot of attention.  This was much more of a community event where families went, established a beach-head, and greeted everyone they knew as they milled about.  At first we felt sort of out of place there since this wasn’t our community but after a few minutes we ran into someone we knew.  Margot, a friend from the island was there with some of her friends so we stayed and chatted with her for a bit before going to check out the activities by the water.  Once there we ran into yet another island acquaintance and his posse.  We hung with them for most of the day then went back for naps.  We went out around 10pm to enjoy the nighttime festivities but were disappointed to see everyone walking the opposite direction.  We figured this meant that we had already missed the party until we ran into our friend again who informed us that things hadn’t started yet but people were just going to change from their day to night outfits.  We walked into King Cassava following the sound of a Garifuna drum performance and there was another friend, Omar, playing the turtle shells.  By this time we were feeling very cool and local and thinking that we had just about earned our Belizean citizenship.  Unfortunately I think we lost it when we realized at 1 AM that the party was just about to start at “The Court” (a basketball court in a park turned club for the night) and we had to admit that living on an island whose only bar usually closes by 10 PM had taken its toll.  We called it quits for the night but were still proud of our insider glimpse into true local life.

Another reason I will never be a true Belizean is the phenomenon depicted here, one we’ve also seen in Caye Caulker and Dangriga.  I just don’t get it.  So you get up you get dressed and you go to a festival with hundreds of people where you’re guaranteed to run into nearly everyone you know, WHY THE HAIR ROLLERS???  Who or what can she possibly be preparing for that’s bigger than this?  Running to the store in the afternoon with rollers in when you’ve got a party that night I understand, I am from the South after all.  Even dropping the kids off at school or something and just staying in the car and hoping no one notices ok.  But neglecting to remove or at least cover the rollers for the single biggest celebration this town has all year, completely eludes me.  But hey maybe I’m just behind on the trends and by this time next year we’ll all be walking around sporting rollers at major social events.  Until then, or until I find out that this lady was really just stopping by Hopkins day on her way to the Belizean Grammys, I will remain baffled by one of the many great mysteries of Belize.


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