- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)


Sign Panama's Guestbook


Belize City, January 25, 2007 - -
It is Thursday.

Last week, Joe Bageant, that force of
nature, and I were waiting for a package.
When it didn't arrive as scheduled we took
the school bus to Dangriga, the
second-largest town in Belize, and from
there negotiated a taxi ride to Hopkins.

After a false turn or two we hove up to the
house of Marzy and Luke, Joe's "second
family".  It was an unanticipated arrival,
as we hadn't had time to phone ahead.  They
had expected us two days later.  It was
Saturday, all the kids except the oldest,
John, who lives with his grandpa Charlie,
were there, ecstatic to see and hanging off
Uncle Joey.  They are beautiful children:
Kirk, Dennis, Ebony, Lian and LJ (Luke
Junior).  Their parents, and maybe the
weather, have instilled in them not only
love but a genuine liking for each other;
it is a sparkling thing to behold.

A year or so ago Joe had provided funds for
them to build a cabana for his use when
he's there and to rent out to tourists when
he's not.  Dure to our unannounced arrival
the cabana was, for every night except my
last, rented out to a couple of Canadian
babes.  So Luke and Marzy insisted we take
their room.
[You can rent Luke and Marzy's
cabana for $44Bz ($22 US) per night.]

There is in Hopkins an internet bar, called
Windschief (www.windschief.com) owned by a
young German named Oliver(Ollie) and his
ravishing Belizean wife Pamela, for whom no
parenthetical statements will suffice.

Windschief is the best internet bar I've
encountered here.  Because the salt air
plays havoc with the computers, Ollie has
them set up in an air-conditioned,
air-filtered room, which Bageant refers to
a "the meat locker", due to their
[Internet rates are $10Bz/hr for
occasional users, but regular users get a
break of half that...I became a regular
user just by asking Ollie.  Ollie and Pam
also have a couple of cabana apartments,
large for $80Bz/night and the small for

Oliver also rents out windsurfing gear and
sailboats and the Windschief bar is the
most popular watering hole I found in

There is a sizeable expatriate population
in Hopkins, mostly USians; I didn't get the
exact figures but 100-200 seems about
right.  Most are, like Oliver and Pam, in
one way or another engaged in the tourism
game.  I did meet what could have only been
several remittance men as well, I'm sure.

At each end of the village, which, though a
mile or so long is two streets and a beach
wide, new developments, called "the
American Projects" by the locals, are going
up.  What this bodes for Hopkins may be
good or bad, but probably is a mixture of
the two.
One good thing it will do is to improve
their streets as the new Belizeans from the
north will want to get about  smoother,
faster.  One bad thing it will do is
improve the streets so that in getting
about smoother, faster, a few chickens and
perhaps a native adult or shild will be run
over by one of the SUVs that, yes, here,
too, seem to be the vehicles of choice.

One good thing it will do is to create job
opportunities for the locals associated
with the new residents.  One bad thing it
will do is make wage-slaves of many of them
and present them with a grand opportunity
to get in over their heads in debt; a
rational discussion of debt makes them
dizzy and the concept of interest makes no
sense to them.  I am speaking neither ill
nor well of the economic future of Hopkins,
but while I can see the advantages I fear
the danger.  Paradise lost is rarely found
again.  But why worry, mon?

                         Eldon Mike Cruz
"Why worry, when God is near?
Why worry when he is your friend?
Why worry, when God is near (and he is
Why worry when he is your friend.

In this life and in this time we're living
They always say of us we know nothing


But I know that one day God will come on
into my life
So that I can share the positive thing


And the things that you say and do show if
your heart is pure and true
Never give way for Satan to rule over you


And if you pray, every day God will always
pave your way
And that is why we must give thanks and
praise to his name.


Copyright 2007 in trust for Eldon Cruz by
Panalama Music (BMI)

  The song above was written by a young
Garifuna man named Eldon Mike Cruz.  He
taught it to me and we played and sang
amd recorded it.  His friend Noel Oliver
sang and played drums.  It is a variation
of a type of music here called Punta, after
Punta Gorda, the town to the south of the

[The Garifuna are, for want of a lengthier,
more detailed description, descendents of
Caribbean blacks who came ashore three
hundred years or so ago and in Belize,
Honduras and Nicaragua intermarried with
Arawak women.  The Garifuna language and
culture, recognized as a world treasure by
the United Nations, was also originally a
blend of the two, but the Garifuna, being a
matriarchal society, eventually became
comprised mostly of the language of the
Arawak women.  It is, therefore, an
important repository of the Arawak tongue.]

The recording is the first I've done with
Mr Cooper's Zoom studio-in-a-box, and I
downloaded it so that Eldon and Noel could
have a CD of our performance.  There is
also some more traditional Punta music on
the recording.  It will soon be available
on this site and others.

Finally Bageant learned of the impending
arrival of his package here in Belize City
and we came back north.  This morning Joe
lit a shuck for Hopkins with his galleys
under his arm, set for five or six days of
intense author stuff to which I would be a

I awoke today wondering where else I would
go on my own, having been under Joe's wing
the whole time down here.  Where to go?
What to see?  I finally made some decisions
and checked into the cheaper dormitory room
here, which was empty, to wait for
tomorrow, when I will slant toward
Along about three o'clock a couple of
backpacker babes came up the street and
checked into the dorm also.  I'll keep you

NEXT:  Every tourist's nightmare, that of a
broken fanny pack buckle, happens to
Panama.  Will he have to cancel the whole
trip or will he win through, making a
friend in the process? 


[EDITOR'S NOTE:  If you'd like to keep
Panama moving around Central America a
while longer, and who wouldn't?, just send
money (any amount) via Paypal to:
Thanks, Muchas Gracias, and Jah Mon]