Adventures in Belize, Central America

Written in the 80's regarding my trip to Belize.

I was terminated from a job delivering sod with a flatbed trailer and forklift for not showing up on Saturdays.  I had some money saved so I looked around for someplace to go, I decided on the country of Belize.  Belize is a small nation of about 200,000 people lying on the Caribbean just south of Mexico and to the east of Guatemala. Its population is roughly 50% Black, 20% Creole with the remainder made up of Hispanics, Indians and Europeans with a few Arabs and Chinese thrown in for good measure.  It has a large number of islands and the worlds second largest barrier reef; 180 miles long and about 60 miles wide at its widest it was a British colony until 1982 when it achieved its independence.  Guatemala has from time to time claimed the country and English troops are stationed there to deter and invasion.

I took a plane to Miami and caught a flight to Belize.  The plane landed in the morning, I passed on the Army truck hauling people into town and took a cab, the driver telling me about the country and Belize City on the way in.  I asked him about where to find a cheap hotel room so he dropped me in the area.  I checked out one hotel but didn't like it and took the second. 

It was on North Front Street near the swing bridge, an upstairs hotel entered through a weed covered courtyard.  Chain link fence ran along part of the porch and there was a board with nails sticking through it along the perimeter of the roof to deter burglars from dropping down onto the porch.

I was shown a room by a an older Hispanic man who I later found was a former land owner from Cuba who had left at the time of Castro.  He deeply hated the Communists.  The room was small, you could only lay one way in it and fit, the door cleared the bed rail by a couple of inches.  There was a small chest of drawers and one window that looked out onto the porch.  Not much but it was the right price; $35BZ per week, $17.50US, I went an extra $2.50BZ per week for a small electric fan.     

 I stashed my gear and crossed the swing bridge and wandered around the town.  Within an hour I had been approached by several of the street procurers who offered me just about anything you can think of.  They would find you a hotel room, show you around town, show you the bars, get you a good looking girl, one even said a virgin, get you drugs or whatever you wanted.  The cab driver had told me about them saying that some were good and some were not so good and would tell their friends where you were staying and if you had anything valuable. 

I ate an afternoon meal of french fries in a restaurant owned by an older woman, an American expatriate, and watched a procession of afternoon visitors in "Mama B's".  I asked someone about the nearest bar and it was just across the street.  It was an upstairs bar in a wood frame building with a L shaped bar and a few booths and tables.  I was the only white man in the bar and someone said,

"No white men allowed." 

The bartender  motioned me to come on in and told me to ignore him.  He said I could drink there without bother unless I was looking for trouble, I assured him I was not.  He mentioned that it might be best if I didn't come in on Friday night and I took his advice. 

I struck up a conversation with a black guy next to me.  He offered to tell me about the city if I would buy him a drink.  I bought a couple of rounds and he answered my questions and offered to take me to a few bars that night if I would buy the drinks.  He said he was a good bodyguard as he had trained as a boxer, the bartender laughed and said something about his drinking being better than his boxing. 

When he went to the bathroom I asked about him and the bartender shrugged and said he was alright and had been around for a while. When he returned I made a deal to meet me that night to go drinking. 

That night we took off into the side streets to a club that he usually didn't drink in but as I was buying we were there.  It had a dance floor, a band and the drinks were fairly expensive.  We stayed for two rounds and I told him to find a less expensive place where I bought drinks for him and a friend of his at the bar.  We started towards another bar but we were getting into a rougher area and my bodyguard and I were fairly well inebriated. 

I decided to return to the hotel, the boxer took offense that I wouldn't drink with him at the next bar and I left him standing in the street.  I got slightly lost for a while but found the hotel and fell into a deep sleep. 

The next morning I was awakened by a commotion outside my room,  the Cuban Exile was there and down from the attic came a wiry young black who worked for him.  The Cuban said that in the night someone had come across the roof and had gotten into the attic and dropped down just outside my room leaving by the front door.  His employee had run them off and he noted that I had left my door unlocked.  I quickly checked to make sure my camera was there and it was. 

Even though it was a tiny hook and eye latch we agreed that at least they would have to make some noise to get into the room.  He introduced me to the black, who I later learned was originally from  Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  He was thin, muscular and very black but had the facial features of a caucasian.

He and I became friends and would sometimes sit on the porch and have a drink after he had finished with the days work.  He had married a black girl with much lighter skin and he told me of the problem he had with her parents not wanting her to marry him because of it and his running around.  She was considered partially white there though she would be considered black here. 

There were some Scandinavians staying at the hotel part-time.  They had come to the Americas and bought a sailboat and planned to sail around the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.  The four of them spent part of their time living aboard the boat and part in the hotel. 

Two shaggy guys and two girls they were always very casually dressed, shorts and sandals with some type of shirt for the girls was about the most you would see them in. The shorter of the guys had a proclivity for smoking refer, sometimes smoking two joints before breakfast and quite a few during the day.  He rolled me a joint once and the bag he pulled out must have had at least a quarter pound in it. 

I spent quite a bit of time in Belize City drinking in the Belview, the Ft George and a bar called Zorba the Greeks in a wood frame hotel on the beach.  I cashed my last unemployment check there when it was forwarded. 

It was at Zorbas that I met the Californian who had taken a job as bartender there for a short while.  He had travelled extensively in Central and South America and spoke Spanish fluently.  Working in California he had saved enough money for another trip and had driven his car down through Mexico and sold it in Belize.  He did not get as much as expected and had to go to work sooner than he thought. 

Zorba, though that was not his real name, was a big man and had a young wife who took a liking to the Californian, he was quite friendly with her.  Word travelled that Zorba was keeping his eye on the Californian and they later had a conversation, the Greek being reassured that nothing was going on.

The Californian had been talking to a local businessman who offered to tell him about a local Witch Doctor and I was invited to have dinner with them one night.  We drove to a small restaurant towards the edge of town in the early evening, single light outside, concrete floor, cheap wooden tables and chairs, living quarters in the back.  We had a dinner of beef steak and beer with the businessman and talked about Belize, Central America and the world. 

The Belizian finally began to talk about the Witch Doctor telling us we could believe what we liked.  The Witch Doctor had a machine that would turn a $1BZ note into a $5BZ note, the one dollar bill was inserted into a tray, pushed into the machine, a handle was turned, the tray was opened and there lay a five dollar note.  It was not a trick that was performed often, said the Belizian, but only for special customers.  The Witch Doctor usually told fortunes and occasionally cast spells and cured the sick.  He was quite well respected by many members of the community and only took donations for his services.  Some of the Hispanics believed in him and called him Brujo (Sorcerer).  We debated the value of the machine in maintaining the Witch Doctors social position for some time.

The Belizian had said he might take us to see the Witch Doctor but in enjoying the meal and conversation the time had slipped by.  He dropped us back in the main part of the city and the Californian insisted on going to see the Brujo that night, I decided it couldn't hurt to pay him a visit.

We took off walking and found the street in the darkness.  The shack that he lived in was in a lot near some houses and was made of different types of wood nailed to four posts with a wooden roof and door that appeared to be locked from the inside with a chain and padlock.  We knocked just in case, but the Witch Doctor wasn't home.  We planned to go back another night but never got around to it. 

The Honduran had told me that the Brujo sometimes got in trouble with the police when he would stand on the corner and speak in tongues or dance along the girders of the bridge over the Belize river.

I saw the Witch Doctor in action once.  It was at the major intersection by the swing bridge, the Brujo was walking, eating a piece of watermelon.  He moved out into the street and several people stopped to watch and see what he was about to do. 

A Land Rover was about to turn the corner and the Witch Doctor watched it for a moment then threw the watermelon just as the driver was shifting gears, hitting the door.  The Land Rover stalled and the Brujo walked off into the crowd.  Those that had stopped to watch went on about their business and the Land Rover started up and drove off into town. 

I told the Honduran about it and he laughed.   He said there would be those who believed the Witch Doctor timed his throw to the changing of gears and there would be those who believed he stopped it with his spirit.  He told me that the Witch Doctor hated cars and thought them to possess the spirit of the devil, that people in cars had to accept that the Brujo sometimes did this although the police tried to keep it to a minimum.  Everyone was entitled to their beliefs.     


The Cuban Exile had two Guatemalan maids whose parents had sent them to Belize to escape the civil war between the government and leftist insurgents that has gone on for a decade and a half.      The older one, not yet in her 20's, had married a local who turned out to be a homosexual, called poofs on the street, for which she took a good deal of kidding. Her sister said she had sometimes come home past the point of tears.  He had tried to change and couldn't but she was determined that love would conquer.     The younger was still single, the better looking of the two and a little flirtatious.  We tried but couldn't get her to tell us if she was still a virgin.

I was drinking on the porch talking to the Honduran on his lunch break one day when a devil wind came upon us.  The maids had occasionally been coming outside to chat and for some reason we began to kid them about why they had come to Belize. 

We started out asking them if they were sending any information back to their relatives in Guatemala that could be used against the country.  They, of course, vehemently denied it.  We asked why they were always walking around the city together, were they drawing maps and taking street names for the Guatemalan Army?    No!  They were not.

We were not sure.

We kept after them for some time and partially convinced them our suspicions were real.  When we finally had them  believing us for the most part we began to speculate on our duty to turn them in for questioning.  We got them to thinking about interrogation by  the Belize Defense Force, all those big, black, patriotic men trying to get information out of female spies.  Spies from the country that had threatened to invade.  What would they do?  They could do anything they wanted to SPIES.       

When the BDF was through with them they would be turned over to the British Army who would use chemicals to make them tell everything, even their sexual acts and fantasies, even the things they had done as children.   

The older one was in quite a state, with tears in her eyes, the younger one didn't completely believe us and argued that this couldn't happen, we replied where national security was at stake anything could happen.  The Honduran and I briefly joked about making the most out of our situation when they were inside, both of us chose the younger sister with grins on our faces.  

We would have eventually told them we were kidding but the Cuban Exile chose that unfortuinous moment to return.  The Honduran went like a flash into the hotel to calm the girls but it was too late.  The Cuban Exile heard their stories and called his employee for a conference.  The Honduran was informed, and told to inform me, that one more such incident and we would both be on the street.  The younger girl appeared and stood before us with a triumphant look on her face. 

By the next day they were talking to us again.


I took a hitchhiking trip to see a little bit of the country and had good luck with my first ride.  He was an Australian who was working as a foreman for a land clearing company and was going past the capitol, Belmopan, some 60 miles of gravel road away. 

He had gotten a job in Jamaica many years ago, lived there for quite some time and was temporarily working in Belize.  We checked a land clearing crew then stopped in the capitol, a town of about five thousand, for something to drink.  From there we moved on to a large experimental rice plantation where they would soon be doing work. 

After we checked the land that was to be cleared he dropped me back at Belmopan and headed back toward Belize City.  That afternoon I headed toward the border some thirty miles away and decided to take the cutoff to the town of Millionairo.  A few miles before the  cutoff I saw a short column of British light tanks enter the road ahead of me and disappear in the dust, I would have thumbed them if I had been in front of them.

Millionairo had been built by an American businessman who had planned to develop the area but it had never grown much and he had gone on to other things.  I investigated a side road that had been built so that it was protected against observation from the air.  A short ways into the jungle I saw military packs and heard British voices and decided to return to the cutoff and leave the soldiers to their work.  I thumbed the occasional vehicle and walked quite a ways on the cutoff which was also the road to the military camp, I passed a sentry but he didn't say anything so I didn't either.  By the middle of the afternoon there was so little traffic and the thought of spending the night in the jungle so unappealing that I returned to the main road and hitched to San Ignacio, five miles from the Guatemalan border.

At San Ignacio there is a British built one lane bridge over the Belize River narrow enough that tanks won't fit on it, I walked across in the late afternoon and began looking for a hotel.  There was a tourist hotel with a generator near the bridge  but I stayed at a cheaper hotel for locals in the city which had no electricity.  I bought some food from a store and ate quickly just as the light died, slicing myself slightly with my knife. 

The next day I hitchhiked back to the capitol and then to Belize City where I still had my hotel room, a journey of some 80 miles.   In the mornings there was little to do but eat breakfast and wander around the town.  The bar at the Belview didn't open until the afternoon and there were very few people there until late in the day. 

A German businessman had moved in, he had a steady income and spent most of his time travelling, staying in cheap hotels when business was bad and good hotels when business was good.  I occasionally sat and traded stories with the Honduran and him.         The Honduran told us about the time he took a bus trip into Mexico and went into a dimly lit bar.  A good looking girl came and invited him into a booth and it wasn't long before they were snuggling up.  He slipped his hand between her legs and got the surprise of his life.  He came out of the booth like a rocket, started to hit the guy, tried to figure out if all the women there were men, then decided to head for the sunlight.  We tried to find out if they had kissed but he wouldn't say.

One day as the Honduran and I were sitting on the porch during lunch we heard a loud slap from the kitchen.  Words were spoken in Spanish and another slap followed.  The Honduran explained that the Cuban usually only beat his wife at night, I had listened to one or two of the beatings.  He usually beat her very slowly and did not beat her as much as he used to, the Honduran said.  We decided it was because of his advancing years.

I spent some time wandering around the city one day taking pictures.  I took a few shots of the jail and the Consulates and then headed to the British military base near the airport.  I asked if I could come on the base and take a shot of a Harrier jet fighter.  The guard gave someone my passport and they came back later and said no.  Back to Belize City.  There were several good shots I missed later when I didn't have my camera but I got one good one of a young boy who had lost a finger sitting against a tree staring off into the distance.

It was about this time that I made the acquaintance of Crazy Sally who stayed at another of the Cuban Exile's hotels.  A Hispanic girl who sometimes did work for the Exile, she wasn't bad looking and I asked the Honduran about her.  He had told me about her in a run down waterfront bar on North Front Street and said she was called Crazy Sally because she didn't put up with men she didn't like putting the make on her or harassing her in any way.  She  had pulled a knife on one or two, Belizian men can sometimes be quite persistent towards a woman who takes their fancy.

The Honduran had introduced me to her once and we talked about her later.  She had said she wouldn't mind if I stopped by but I wasn't too sure about someone whose first name was Crazy.  Even a nickname.

One night I was sitting on the porch drinking and thinking and I decided to go see Crazy Sally.  I had a few more drinks and headed over to her hotel by a circular route as the first part of her street was not a good place to walk after dark.

I went up the stairs to her room, concrete floor and block walls, a bed and a chest of drawers, a much larger room than mine.  She invited me in and we talked for a while listening to the sounds along the river, as a slow, steady, drizzle fell out of the sky.  She told me I could stay the night as it was raining and I could sleep in the bed but couldn't have sex.  We laid down on the bed but soon I tried to make a play for her.  She rebuffed me and I waited a while and tried again.  She reached in her pocket and out came a switchblade knife which she laid on the bed beside her unopened. 

This was not my idea of an evening out and after a minute I decided to leave.  She told me I could stay but I had to keep my hands to myself.  I decided to walk home in the rain.  I headed straight down the street with my hand near a small lock blade knife I carried.  Fortunately the rain and the late hour had driven the usual residents inside.  I returned to my hotel and told the Honduran about my experience the next day, we both got a laugh out of it.

The bar at the Belview hotel was the best you could find on the mainland; the watering hole for tourists, businessmen and expatriates, it was there that I met John Cooper.  He was a large, hard drinking, brash man with a loud voice who spent a great deal of time talking, mainly about himself.  

When he found out that I had a camera he asked me to take a few pictures of him and his girl at Zorba the Greeks.  I showed up and took the pictures for which I was paid a small sum.  John Cooper ran a water well drilling crew for the government and I asked him about getting a job.  He said he would think about it and took me with him to visit the crew in the pickup.  He drove as his chauffeur, a Hispanic, had family matters to attend to.  

They were drilling near Belmopan and we stopped at a palm roofed outdoor tavern with picnic tables, for a drink.  It was run by an American with a Belizian wife who kept trying to get him to run electricity to their dwelling further back in the jungle.

We stopped and visited the crew and I rode with him on a few errands.  He later told me he had decided to hire me but it was only for a short time as I didn't have a work permit and if the Government found out and complained, I would be fired.

The pay was about 80 or 90 cents per hour US, but it would give me a chance to see the country and meet the people.  I accepted.  John thought for a moment and said he wasn't going to call me by my name and decided he would call me `Photographer', I had no problem with that and generally that is what he called me.

The crew consisted of a black named Boodo who was the boss when John wasn't there and two young men of mixed ancestry, mostly black, whose names I can't remember.  Two workers had just quit.

I took home about $75-90BZ the first two weeks and about $110BZ the third.  We all stayed in Belize City while we worked near the capital and would make the hour long drive every day.  I learned quite a bit about John Cooper from conversations with him around the job site, on the rides and in the bar at the Belview where the Government had a room for him.

He had left England when a warrant had been issued for his arrest on assault and battery charges after he had come home one day and found his wife in bed with another woman.  He had beaten both of them fairly badly and kicked them out.  From that time on he never saw her or his daughter again. 

After leaving he worked construction in the Middle East for a while and then acquired this job through contacts he had in the government.  He usually kept the exact location he worked a little bit vague and left the impression that he had left a job or two rather quickly.  He would sometimes start telling you about some of his experiences and then decide that you didn't really need to know about it, that it might come back to haunt him.  There was an aura of possible danger about him though some said it was more created than real. 

He was always trying to get something on someone no matter how friendly he might seem, he kept a running tally of what he had on who and who was under his thumb.

Exiting the Belview one night when one of the locals was sitting on the sea wall expounding to whoever would listen, John had taken offence thinking he was complaining about the British.

"Shut your bloody yap you foking wog." said John.  Some were afraid to walk with him because of his outspoken ways.  Later I informed him that if he started trouble he could count on moral support only from yours truly.  He didn't like that too much.

He always had a interesting story about himself or some of the characters he knew, the stories about himself predominated.  We discussed the world situation and he sometimes complained about the way America had treated England concerning her colonies though he was grateful about our assistance in the World Wars saying we had pulled their chestnuts out of the fire for certain in WWII.

He spoke of how he had gotten even with a few enemies and a few had gotten him in the small town he was from.  He even talked about the Change of Life for a while but I understood nothing of what he said.  He told me a little about the Premier whom he dealt with on occasion and the Deputy Premier who he mistrusted greatly.

I was invited by John to a British military ceremony  called Beat the Retreat that was held on the miliary base.  I told John about my attempt to get on the base and he told me I had earned a place in the computers of British intelligence forever.

We watched the military ceremony and he got a little emotional about it saying it might be the last time the British flag flew here as independence was coming.  We went to the reception afterwards although as I lacked the proper attire and social graces I associated mainly with the buffet.

When we had finished the well the government sent us to the south of the country and John, the chauffeur and I took off early one morning from Belize City for the 210 mile journey to Punta Gorda.  Past the capitol, the road wound through the mountains and John told the chauffeur several times to slow down as it wasn't helping his hangover.  He almost took over the driving and made the Hispanic ride in the back, along a narrow stretch of road that ran along a gorge, just before the Stan Creek Valley.

We crossed a wooden bridge that was several inches underwater from the rains with John speculating that we would never get across the Monkey River.  When we arrived at the river the ferry had been moved because of the current and the river was swollen far out of its normal banks with the occasional tree floating by.  We watched the Monkey River for a while and then turned and retraced the 90 or so miles to Belize City stopping to tell the crew we would be working in the north.  He dropped me at the new hotel I was staying at, another 2nd story hotel that the Cuban was letting the Honduran manage.

The next day when we left the city we took a circular route around the it to avoid traffic and crossed a river on a hand cranked wire ferry.  It was another long ride.  The crew had gone on ahead with the truck and it was afternoon before we arrived and met them. 

We went to the government rest house in a village on the main highway. It was outside a small government compound for repairing vehicles just off the main road.  The rest house was wood frame set on wooden supports with enough room to walk upright underneath it.  There was a entrance room and two bed rooms with wire cots and thin mattresses.  The crew immediately began searching for the best mattresses. 

The house had holes in the screens which were patched with paper, no electricity, and the only running water was from a faucet outside.  The bathroom was a palm frond covered outhouse with palm frond privacy wall behind the house next door.

Our meals were to be provided by the old black woman who lived there with her niece, a girl of about 11 whose mother couldn't take care of her.  The normal meal was rice and beans with a little meat at times.  The government paid the woman on a per head basis and there was some complaining that she wasn't providing enough food.

While we were working in the north near Corozal Town John hired a Hispanic who was a devout Christian.  The rest of the crew would either call him `Christian' or `Spanish', I called him by his real name, which I can't remember, and he seemed to appreciate it.      Sometimes the others would kid him about making love to one of the girls in town.  They asked him if he was going to go with them when they went to Sailors Bar, one of the whorehouse in Corozal Town and this seemed to upset him somewhat.  Boodo would sometimes call a halt to it, John had once gotten on to Boodo about allowing too much kidding of Spanish, at times Boodo participated.

The work wasn't that strenuous but it does get hot in Central America and when there wasn't much to do we would rotate shifts resting underneath the truck.  We drilled three wells in the north, one on a hill near the Rum distillery which some fantasized about raiding; one near a stone house where we lost a bit in the ground.  We tried to dig down to retrieve it, taking turns at the bottom of the hole, hauling the dirt up in a bucket, but it was too deep.  John finally decided it would cost too much time and we left it.  Two of the crew kept slipping off into the woods to smoke a joint, something Boodo and John didn't allow but they weren't there all of the time.  I didn't smoke during working hours.

The last well we put in was next to a field by a palm frond house where a pot bellied man lived with his two women and two children he had by one of the women.  Back at the rest house we would come in at the end of the day and rinse off at the faucet and wait around in the shade underneath the building for the old woman to call us for dinner.  On occasion there was a little reefer. 

Her house was wood frame set on blocks with a tin roof and no electricity, just a kerosene lantern, so we tried to eat before dark.  One of the crew, irate at the portions, suggested a barrage of the tin roof but was overruled.  I and one or two others noted that in our youth had thrown a few oranges at tin roofs but I didn't relate my circumstances. 

The old woman kept her niece dressed nicely and usually had her hair in pigtails.  The girl had decided that since I was the first white man to ever eat in the house it was her duty to watch for me most mornings and evenings and run to the house and announce,

"The white man cometh."

She apologized  for not coming to meet me if she missed a day.

  The first weekend in the north only Boodo went into town, the rest of us staying at the rest house. After supper we drank by the kerosine lantern with the old woman, she became somewhat drunk and kept playing her battery powered record player over and over, the same record; The Battle of New Orleans.  She hated the British.

We must have heard it close to a dozen times. 

For your edification here it is:

  In 1814 we took a little trip,

  Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Misisip.

  We took a little bacon and we took a little beans,

  And we caught the bloody British at the town of New Orleans.

 (Refrain)  Well, We...... fired our guns and the British kept a    coming, there wasn't high as many as there was a while ago,

  We fired once more and they began to running, on down the          Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

We looked down the river and we seen the British come, and         there must have been a hundred of them beating on their drums,

  They stepped so high and they made their bugles ring, We sat beside our cotton bales and didn't say a thing.


  Old Hickory said we could take them by surprise, if we didn't      fire our muskets till we looked them in the eyes,

  We held our fire till we seen their faces well, then we opened     up our squirrel guns and really gave them .........


  Well they ran through the briars and they ran through the          brambles and they ran through the bushes where a rabbit            couldn't go,

  They ran so fast that the hounds they couldn't catch them, on      down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

  We fired our cannon till the barrel melted down, so we grabbed     an alligator and we poured another round,

  We filled his head with cannonball and powdered his behind, and    when we set the powder off the gator lost his mind.


  Well the ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles....

  (Written by Jimmy Driftwood, Warden Music inc.  Best seller, 1959 by Johnny Horton, Columbia Records.  based on a story by folklorist Oscar Brandt, sung to the 1815 fiddle tune, "The Eighth of January" composed to celebrate the battle of New Orleans.)

She kept trying to memorize the song but could get only a small part of it.  She said continually and loudly that the British didn't treat Belize and Belizians right and they should leave, that they should be kicked out.

We tried to explain to her that the British Army was there to protect from a Guatemalan invasion but it is often difficult to discuss political/military affairs with a drunken woman who is listening to her favorite music.

Boodo returned later, very drunk and angry at the way John had been treating him.  He had acquired a starter pistol which fired blanks and was telling all the things he would do to John Cooper.  Boodo fired a shot outside and someone went out to calm him down.  It made the rest of us quite nervous.    When he came inside he told me that I had nothing to worry about as I didn't run people down and I was a working man but I took the first opportunity and went back to the rest house.  One of the crew eventually got the gun away from him and he went to sleep.  I was asked about the events by John but I told him that nothing serious went on.

John Cooper took the crew across the border into Chetumal, Mexico for a meal in a nice restaurant one night.  He had a girl from a nice family up to visit him and had rented her a hotel room.  He told me that he treated her with courtesy and had never laid a hand on her except for a little kissing and a hand on her tit.

Back in Corozal Town he once had the girl out to dinner, first visiting a whore he had brought up from Belize city and put in a nearby hotel room, then went to Sailor's Bar after dinner to visit his regular whore.  All of them were within two hundred yards of each other.

When this, or life in general, got a bit hectic John Cooper would raise his arms to heaven and ask,

  "Why me?" then break into a grin and ask, "Why not?"

It was either that or,

"Bloody hell, Bloody hell, Bloody hell!"

We went to Sailors Bar the second week we were in the north.  John took his briefcase in to a table and paid each of us his share.  Some were broke by Monday. 

It was a simple bar with concrete floor and wooden tables, entered by a small, unkept courtyard.  Patrons sometimes urinated there though management tried to discourage it.  The girls had their own table and would sit around gossiping until a customer took a liking to them.  They would disappear to the upstairs bedrooms for a while and then return. 

Boodo had a liking for women, booze and reefer and would get drunk and take as many girls as he wanted on weekends while his money held out.  He would sometimes borrow money from the crew during the week which John complained about since he said he was trying to train him to be a boss. 

The crew would sometimes kid Boodo about all the children he had fathered.  On some he couldn't be sure whether they were his or not and the crew would try and figure it out.  One would think a child looked like Boodo, one would think he didn't, the Christian didn't want to talk about it, the chauffeur thought it was funny and John Cooper didn't give a shit.

At times in Sailors Bar it was comical to watch the proceedings, the men coming in and wanting a girl and sometimes the girl refused if they weren't in the mood or didn't like the guy.  At times the girls would walk the floor when they needed money for more drink  or owed the house money and sometimes the guys would turn them down as a payback for an earlier slight.

John had his own special girl and told the crew we could have any girl in the house except his, we'd be fired if we fucked his girl.  He once came down from a session with her and was quite impressed with the fact that she performed fellatio and didn't charge him anything extra.

She took a liking to me and whenever John wasn't there would kid with me and say,

"Arriba" pointing to the upstairs.  One of the girls later told me she said she would meet me somewhere away from the house if I wanted to but I declined.

John had a rather loud way about him and there were a few people who didn't like him.  He told me he had asked for a concealed weapons permit for a pistol from the government but they had refused.  He had gotten into an argument with two blacks in Sailors Bar one night and they had threatened him.  He had borrowed the hunting knife I kept in my pack the next day and kept it in his briefcase for protection.  He had gone back into the bar one night to show that they weren't going to run him off and had the knife in his jacket. 

I never got the whole story but as he was leaving two guys jumped him and one hit him in the head with a rock.  They tried to get his money but only got the knife and then took off.  He came to work the next day with a bandage on his head and promised to replace the knife which he eventually did with a much cheaper one.

I got John out of some trouble during the short time I worked for him.  Word began circulating that someone in the government had been asking questions and thought he had a piece of equipment that he was going to slip across the border into Mexico and sell.  

When we were working near the capitol I had been riding with him and he had taken a side trip into a scrub pine forest to see a British friend who lived in a small trailer.  He mentioned something about a piece of equipment.  John had said something about setting something aside for his retirement and had cautioned me not to tell anyone about the trip. 

I mentioned that there was a rumor circulating and he soon got what I had head out of me reminding me he had given me a job without a permit.  He looked at me and smiled and said he could fix me with the crew if he let them know I was telling him what was going on then laughed and said he wouldn't do a thing like that.  He said it as though he was trying to convince himself.  He was quick to gain the advantage in any situation if he could.  He was very interested in the information and didn't say much for a while.

We were paid a visit at the rest house several nights later by a carload of girls from the other house in town.  There was some type of problem with the police and they were spending the night out of town.  I had been there briefly one night but it was not as good a house as Sailors Bar.

One of them took a liking to me, or should I say to my money, but, aside from the dirty trick my unconscious would probably play on me on me, one of her front teeth was missing so I declined her affections.  One of the guys took one girl upstairs briefly and they left.

It wasn't long before John called me aside one day and said the Government had found out that I was working on the crew without a permit.  He said he had been caught with a ghost on the payroll some time before, he spoke quite highly of the ghost helping to pay his extensive bar tab, and would have to let me go soon though I didn't have to quit right that moment.  We talked about it for a minute and decided on two more days of work.


I said my "goodbys" and took a bus to the next town and began to hitchhike back to Belize City.  One of my rides dropped me in a small village with a resturant set among shade trees.  Concrete floor, ceiling fans and open windows with no screen, it was a welcome break from hitchhiking in the afternoon sun.  I chatted briefly with the owner while waiting for the food.  Just before my order came a policeman walked in and asked me if I had an ID which I showed him.  After he saw it he walked out. 

When I finished my meal I returned to the road and began hitchhiking and walking.  I finally got a ride that dropped me along a wooded strech of highway as it was getting dark.  As I was walking I began thinking about where aI was going to spend the night if there were no more rides.  I passed two peasant homes with thached roofs and considered asking for a place to stay as one of the crew had told me sometimes people would take you in. 

Fortunatly a car driven by two black men stopped and said they could give me a ride to the edge of Belize City.  It was a rattletrap car but it moved and after a bit of conversation I got over my initial apprehension.  They stopped along a dirt road on the outskirts Belize City and said that was as far as they were going.  There were intermittant street lights but no people and it didn't look like a good place for a proper white boy to be in the dead of the night.  I offered them several dollars to take me to the hotel and they agreed.  

I spent several days doing nothing, sitting on the porch drinking, smoking a little refer and watching the procession in the street.  

Thought for the Moment:   It is better to waste one's youth than to do nothing with it at all. 

Georges Courteline, La                                         Philosophie de                                                     Georges Courteline 1917     

Finally I made a deal with the Cuban to help the Honduran manage the hotel for a couple of weeks.  The hotel had two smaller rooms, a large room with a row of beds and a bathroom with a door made out of 2' by 8's.  There was a sink in the bathroom but the Cuban wanted us to get water from the wooden cistern outside that collected water from the roof.  He constantly complained about his bills.

I was paid $15BZ a week and two meals a day, mostly rice and beans.  We worked in shifts, watching the place, giving rates and talking to tourists.  The Cuban wanted me to go into the streets and grab some of the Americans before the street guides got to them but I decided this probably was not a wise course of action.  This caused some friction between us and we terminated the agreement at the end of two weeks.

There were a few incidents of note that took place.  The Honduran had brought home to his wife what I shall euphemisticly call an infection but this and the doctor visit were soon forgotten when a few of the locals threatened to trash the hotel.  The Honduran and I felt it was just talk but he purchased a machete anyway.  We both checked the best escape route but it was as we expected, street talk.

I made the acquaintance of one of the crazier persons on the street.  He was called Toolooru or something to that effect.  The Honduran came in one day and said that he had heard Toolooru didn't like me for some reason, (white?) though we hadn't been formally introduced.   

The Honduran told me Toolooru had never known his parents and had grown up in various situations and became a street person, he wasn't even sure what his name was.  He called himself whatever he wanted.  It was said that in his younger days people would tease him and even send dogs after him until he developed the habit of throwing rocks at his problems.  As he got older and bigger people left him alone for the most part but he carried a grudge.  I asked the Honduran why he brought me this information and he told me he thought I ought to know.

I met Toolooru face to face one night coming home from the Belview.  It was late at night and few people were on the street, he rounded a corner ahead of me and I put my hand on a small container of mace I was carrying in my pocket.  As he passed all he said was "hello".  He seemed big enough that he might snort mace to clear his head and get going in the morning.

I told the Honduran and he said that Toolooru wouldn't bother you unless you bothered him.........generally.  While I thought the Honduran was just stirring up excitement I made it a point to avoid Toolooru if possible.

The second week ended and the Cuban and I didn't renew our financial relationship.  I rented a bed for another couple of nights and tried to stretch out my time as much as possible.


I was drinking with Reality in the Belview, paying for the drinks with my cab fare to the airport.  Reality and I often have had an adversarial relationship.  I had decided to take the Army truck to the airport but ran into John and asked if he could give me a ride, he told me he could and said to be ready when he and his driver showed up.  When he stopped by he said his driver was off on business and he had something that had to be done, he debated with himself for a moment about giving me a ride and I asked him for $20BZ to take a cab to the airport.

John Cooper thought for a moment and said something about the cheap knife.  He briefly reviewed our acquaintance to see if someone had got the better of the other, deciding we were square he gave me the 20BZ and said,

"Photographer, now don't tell me any bloody lies about you sending that money to me, I'm too old to believe that one." 

He briefly speculated on the people he had bettered and those that had gotten him.  John asked if we were all squared up.  I said we were.

"Well, I wish you the best of luck in whatever you do."he said, looking at me through bloodshot eyes. 

Hopping out, I grabbed my gear.  I liked John Cooper.  I would have lied to him if he had wanted me to. 


I arrived at the airport and inquired about the plane and was told there was a departure tax.  I didn't have any money.

Looking  around I heard an American couple talking and asked the man if he could spare some cash.  He looked at me, shaggy hair, blue jeans, unshaven and said he worked too hard for his money to be giving it away. 

I looked at his wife and gave her my best little lost puppy look and she reached in her purse and gave me enough for the departure tax with a little left over.  After paying the tax and getting my boarding pass there was enough left for a drink at the bar.  I don't think the guy was too pleased about that.

The plane landed about ten at night in Miami.  I hiked to the overpass near the airport where I planned to spend the night then changed my mind and began hitchhiking and walking.  No one stopped for a long time, a cop even passed me by and didn't stop to run me off the Interstate.  

It was one in the morning before I finally got a ride.  The guy was a musician who had left his job in a bar early for lack of business.  He told me two more exits up he wouldn't have stopped as it was one of the exits for Liberty City, the poor black area of Miami known for its riots.

The musician said I could sleep on his couch and get a fresh start in the morning.  I got a couple of hours sleep and headed up US 1 for a while then changed to the Turnpike.  The second ride was a long one that took me to Orlando.  He was a piano tuner and I learned everything I didn't need to know about the business.

I caught a ride into town and called an old friend, who had a house in Winter Park and he came and picked me up.  I stayed there for a couple of nights and they offered to rent me the spare bedroom which I accepted.  Started Over.