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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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We woke at 3:45 on Saturday to take our car service to LGA. The Russian driving the car drank from a one gallon jug of iced tea the whole way there. I don’t know how his bladder could handle it. Most of the ride was well north of 100 mph, which is always a little terrifying. Our trip from LGA to MIA was uneventful, save a lady getting checked through security that refused to remove her cat from the carrier, citing that the cat would run wild through the airport. Having a cat of the same inclination, I was thinking much the same thing. This then required a physical search of the carrier and its cat; we left before hearing the end of that story. A few observations, and subsequent rules based on the first flight’s experience:

  • Do not take the middle seat in a lounge area at an airport when alone, this blocks many more seats than if you took an end seat, when people are traveling in groups larger than one.
  • If you are not in first class, stay the fuck away from the line while boarding. If your group is not boarding, stay the hell away from the line. All you can do is slow things down and crowd people by being there.
  • Once on the plane during boarding, do not elect this time to be the time to take a piss on the aircraft. This delays boarding, and your departure. Either piss before getting on the plane, or wait until airborne. Either way will expedite departure.
  • Carry whatever you’ll need for the first 60 minutes of your flight in a plastic baggy and keep this at your feet. That way you’re not reaching into the overhead and grabbing for shit while waiting for departure, delaying the boarding.

Once in MIA, I struggled to find a place to eat. As I mentioned earlier, the design of MIA is terrible, and there are several areas where you can walk endlessly without being able to eat anything, whereas other terminals are stuffed with eateries of all kinds. I was in the former, but managed to locate a Brazilian meat pie stand, which made a terrible bone-laden beef pie that held me over until dinner. Until then, I’d no idea there were meat pies to be had in domestic airports.

Once we arrived in Belize City, we went to our connecting gate, and waited for our Cessna C206 private charter to the northern cay on lighthouse reef, the home of our resort (and nothing else). We flew in over the reefs and atolls, and saw our island, void of anything save a sliver of resort buildings on one corner of the thing. We landed on the short concrete runway and proceeded to within a meter of falling into the ocean before the pilot turned the plane around to head to the “terminal.” I put that in quotes because it’s a little shack a few hundred feet from the rest of the resort with no walls. I thought Little Cayman was backwoods, but this is downright isolated. The resort is tiny, surrounded by jungle, swamp (where the crocodiles live) and ocean. There are no permanent residents, the staff is small (maybe eight people there), and there were only a few guests (7 in total). We had:

  • E, the Brigadier General in Army on leave
  • I, the raw goods trader who travels the world and is full of stories
  • K, above’s brother and pharmacy owner
  • H, K’s housewife and former hairstylist
  • R, religion and philosophy professor from IU

All seem rather conservative, and we avoided all political conversation as much as possible, as we were in the minority by far. All were friendly, and most had interesting conversation to share. This comes as a nice change from Little Cayman, where we felt alienated and isolated.

So that’s it, that’s the whole group on the island. Us, the crocs, and the bugs. The place is dead quiet. It startles you how quiet it is. Only the din of the broken-down air conditioners and the ocean provide ambient noise. There’s no light pollution; the moon is the only thing that blocks one’s view of the Southern Cross in all of its glory. Satellites and planets are easy naked-eye spots.

It’s beautiful. Beach a few feet from the porch of our large suite, and any of the other cabanas or buildings. Two docks, one for scuba, one for fishing, though we use the fishing dock the whole week due to the aforementioned issues with the lack of a proper dive boat. Ocean is beautiful, reefs are beautiful, my wife is beautiful, and the place is paradise. Secluded, quiet, perfect paradise. The bugs came out that night in force, so we quickly learned to fall in love with DEET, only having issues when they invaded our bed late one night and made a snack of my upper body and certain unmentionables. It sucks more than you can imagine.

We had to sit through half an hour of aforementioned manager blabbering on about resort policies and diving orientation. This wasn’t great, but it was a nice day, so it worked out. Dinner that night was fine, but generally food was decent, if a bit unexciting. Throughout the week I fell in love with their super-hot habanero salsa, flour tortillas fresh off the grill, and various local things such as the fried plantains and stuffed Cho Cho squash.

I should now digress and mention something about Belize. Pringles seem to be the national currency. The only thing one notices in the airport are millions of cans of Pringles, invading every inch of the resort. One can’t even see the duty-free liquor and cigarettes for all of the damn chips in a can. I don’t get it. In our mini-bar there were more Pringles.

Another digression, never to return — they had 356 mL bottles of coke (these are larger than the American novelty size — they are proper bottles of coke) and sprite, and they were the most wonderful $1.50 spent throughout the vacation. If only we could ditch that terrible plastic and return to the day when this stuff was everywhere. Coke just tastes better in a glass bottle, and there is nothing better in the afternoon after a day on a boat.

Our room was on par with a shady hotel. Cracked tiles, cobwebs, dust under the furniture, dilapidated shower, noisy and malfunctioning air conditioning were on par with a seedy by-the-hour place, though the room was large and we were able to pull two couches together to make a bit of a sitting area, which was nice enough.

The shore is full of many more fish than we would see in Cayman, likely due to the much smaller population dipping into the water and attacking the beachfront. Jacks, starfish, rays, damsels, chromis, etc. were always around within a foot or two of the dock or shore, and crabs of all varieties were everywhere.