Many times, plans are meant to be changed—especially in Belize, where having plans is sort of a vain shout-out to an ideal world that may have existed a month or so ago.
Yesterday (which seems so far away), all thirteen of us hopped on a bus to Dangriga. This was filled with a lot of adrenaline because we weren’t so sure if we would be getting on the bus in one group, or at all, because of the heavy influx of people this weekend. Pushing aggressively as possible we boarded the painted Bluebird, and drove out of Belmopan at about 12:40. We were headed to the Garifuna festival, a yearly celebration of the Garifuna people’s settlement in Belize.
More like drinkabration, but we’ll get to that later.
Once we arrived in Dangriga, we found our hostel: Val’s Backpacking Hostel such and such. They were in the middle of constructing one of the rooms for eight of us to stay in, but we rolled with it. Kink in the plan number one: have a place to stay. However, the room was done in no time and the girls piled in. I was in the other room with three other Miamians, two Canadians, one Spanish woman, and a German. This sounds like it’s the beginning of a joke but there was nothing too comical about it. These people were very cool, easy to talk to, and interesting. It’s amazing how people from different nations, journeys, and destinations can end up in a little room with bunk beds.
Belizean parties don’t really have start times. There may be rumors of times, but it’s usually false. After hanging around the hostel for awhile, we walked to the main street where we assumed festivalization was going to happen. Again, planless. Wandering around for a good four hours was not the plan, but it happened. I did not plan for rain (stupidstupid) but it happened and then I bought an umbrella. Finally, around 10:30, drunk people began to emerge.
After hearing some drumming, watching some people dance, and conversing with a Mexican man about how he does not want to visit the U.S. because he’s afraid everyone will peg him as a migrant worker, I felt like I had soaked up all this party had to offer. I drank a rum and coke (in the most un-classy way: buy a bottle of coke, buy a mini bottle of rum. mix ’em.) and didn’t feel like getting smashed. I rarely do, so at least that was in the plan. (By the way, most of our drinking was done under the shelter of a supermarket. Open container laws begone!)
It sounds like I really didn’t have the greatest time, doesn’t it? It gets better!
While walking back to turn in for the night, we ran into a group of our people. And they looked pissed. They told us that they were just robbed at the stop sign about a hundred feet away from our hostel. Two purses with I.D.s, cash, credit cards, and a camera were snatched. After hearing that, I just wanted to get the freak out. I was done with the rain, with being tired, afraid of getting mugged, and with a night that I thought was supposed to be kind of a good time. I didn’t ever get to sleep in my hostel, and ‘woke up’ at 4:45 to go see the reenactment of the settlement by the Garifuna. I heard this was supposed to be cool, awesome, amazingness. After standing amongst many drunk people who had been drunk for quite some time (the Belizeans know how to party), that two hours was beginning to feel ridiculous. The anticipation for the reenactment was thick—we thought that since we had heard so many good things about it and waited so long, that it would be pretty awesome.
It turned out to be three row-boats of people playing instruments, wearing and swaying cassava (a plant) and singing joyous songs. They rowed around a bit, got on the land, and then began singing and dancing for a long time. At this point the audience dispersed, so we figured that was the end of the reenactment. I was confused because it was talked up so much!. I am in no way dissing the Garifuna people about this, I just had really high expectations (for some reason). The plan in my head was definitely different. Like last weekend when I thought The Battle of the Drums was akin to the movie Drumline.
After a lot of whining (both in my head and out loud), I decided that I would be coming back to Belmopan today and not staying another day/night in Dangriga. I planned on staying the night (even payed for it), but I just wasn’t feeling it. And now I’m here, at Formosa, drinking coffee by a Christmas tree and writing on two hours of sleep. Didn’t think the weekend would turn out like this. My takeaways from this weekend were way different than I thought they would be: I had some great conversations with some great people, but was rather indifferent about the event for which I travelled. The hostel experience opened me up to a community of travelers. I heard the story of a man who has escaped home to figure out what to do with his life, two recent graduates who are taking time to backpack it, and an intellectual Mexican man with love left behind in almost every country he’s lived. I’m realizing that having expectations and plans are sometimes irrelevant in determining the worth of a day spent.