Good Friday, Great Curry
Trip Start Apr 20, 2011
10Trip End Jun 01, 2011
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But hey, Corozal is a sleepy town on a normal day. On Good Friday the atmosphere is practically coma-inducing. The dusty streets are quiet, and everything is closed. The occasional locals ride by the hotel slowly on their bikes, but other than that the place seems practically devoid of life.
Guinn had warned us about all stores and restaurants being closed, so the night before Good Friday we bought some groceries from the corner store. Actually, groceries may be a bit of a strong word. Turns out that Belize, thanks to it's position as a former British colony, has an obsession with imported tinned meats and condensed milk. That's right, a country with access to the freshest tropical fruits and seafood has a love-affair with Spam.
The Chinese migrant family who owned the corner store (I'm told all the grocers here come from China) watched with clear amusement as we tried to figure out how we were going make a meal out of white bread, 'Happy Cow Cheese' (which, judging by the writing on the label, comes from somewhere where Hindi is spoken), and condensed milk. In the end we settled on all three plus some canned soup. And we stocked up on Belize's very good Belikin beer.
I spent Good Friday reading up on Belize (in between swims in the beautiful and surprisingly shallow bay). Officially Belize is the only English-speaking country in the region, and likes to think of itself as a Caribbean nation. With a population of just over 300,000 (about the pop. of the city of Buffalo!), it is also the smallest. But Belize is far from culturally homogeneous; more than a dozen ethnic groups call this place home, as the variation of spoken languages clearly shows. Near to the Mexican and Guatemalan borders most people speak Spanish and Yucatec or Kaqchikel Mayan dialects as well as both English and Belizean Creole. In the south the proud Garifuna culture, descendants of native peoples and African slaves deported from the Dutch West Indies, speak 2 different dialects of Garifuna.. Belize also hosts a sizeable population of migrants from China and India, and they throw Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, etc., into the mix. There are numerous Mennonite groups scattered throughout Belize who speak their own version of German, and last but not least, a bunch of English and European language-speaking expats and missionaries from North America and Europe. Melting pot much?
Belize still has official ties with Britain, but that connection only manifests itself in a military base inland where the British army runs their jungle training. Aside from that, Belizean culture is a mix of Mayan, Creole, and Garifuna traditions, among others. But does everyone get along? I'll have to find out while I'm here.
I spent the rest of my afternoon playing cards/drinking beer/swimming with the two other hotel guests at the Sea Breeze. After a few aggressive games of Uno and Asshole we headed out to eat (business is allowed to re-open at 6pm). We ended up at a small roadside eatery that serves up what was hands-down the BEST Indian food I have ever tasted in my life. Last thing I expected to find in Central America! The owner and chef, Venky, hails from Bangalore, India. His one-table eatery serves up fresh, hand-chopped, slow-cooked Indian deliciousness that has yet to meet it's match. So if you want to try the best Indian food outside of India, head to Corozal, Belize and ask for Venky.