After being in Belize for a year, my husband and I recently returned to the U.S. for a trip back “home.” Here are some of my observations:
1. Everything is air-conditioned and freezing.
I have always had a low tolerance for cold, but the AC found in almost every car, restaurant and home seem over the top to one who has been living in a place that is tropical, and therefore hot all the time. People get by without the electricity-gobbling AC by having more outdoor space, and honestly, by being okay with a little (or a lot of) sweat. Granted, many structures are built to allow more air flow, and people rely more on fans to keep the air moving. But their is a lot more tolerance for the natural course of hot weather. It’s just a part of life.
The first time we went to a restaurant to watch one of the World Cup games (the heartbreaking Germany vs. Brazil), I forgot to bring a sweater. I also forgot my snow suit, winter hat, and gloves, all of which could have proved useful. I ended up close to tears, and so angry at the U.S. and everyone around me who seemed to be doing just fine in their summer clothes in the frigid room (reverse culture shock, anyone?).
2. The roads are very smooth, and there are lines dividing directions of traffic. And so many traffic lights!
I know, I know, we complain about potholes in Pennsylvania, but Belize is a whole ‘nother story when it comes to the roads. Surprisingly, I’ve gotten quite used to driving on dirt roads or swerving to miss potholes. I’ve even learned to drive standard shift, and after getting used to that, I found my left foot and my right hand got very bored while driving automatic. I also realized that I was a little rusty on the whole “following traffic laws” thing (I think I’ve only seen one traffic light in Belize, so I was a little unsure what to do when the light turned yellow).
3. My, how quickly I succumb to American consumerism.
When I first arrived in Belize, a fellow expat said to me, “You can’t find everything in Belize, but you find out that you don’t really need anything you can’t find.” I have found that to be true- you adapt and realize you don’t need all the stuff that you thought you did. They don’t have huge malls or shopping centers in Belize, and that is okay with me. I don’t miss them. But coming back to the States, I was both apprehensive and intrigued to see all the stuff they had to offer in a Target or a supermarket. It proved to be overwhelming, and kinda like driving past a car accident that you can’t help staring at. You know it’s not healthy, but something inside you still wants to look. So many things that you never even knew you needed- and it’s all new! I still walked away with a few items, feeling a little guilty in the process, and knowing it will probably all just get moldy in the rainy season anyway.
A side note: Now, I do admit that there are a few things I cannot get in Belize that I really do miss, and I have been (thankfully!) spoiled by friends and family who sent me quality, sustainable/fair-trade whole bean coffee and loose tea. Thanks to all those who have contributed 🙂
4. We feel loved.
It’s not that we don’t feel loved in Belize, it’s just that we’ve spent lots more time being present in relationships in PA, NJ and DC. But we have been showered with love, support, and generosity. People have made time for us in the midst of busy schedules, paid for meal, lent us their cars, given us the keys to their house, let us take over their living room for a week, and thrown parties for us. While we love Belize, we are reminded of the roots we have in the U.S., and are so thankful!