The giant of a man could barely fit through the isle down the center of the old dilapidated American school bus. But he navigated between the bench seats, carrying his large beat up tupperware container of delights with the deft of one who had been doing so every day since he was a boy. His booming voice filled the packed cabin: “Coconut tarts…lemon tarts…get your sweets…get your treats”. The bus had stopped for a few minutes at the Belmopan station before the next leg. A long dusty ride on the uncomfortable plastic seats of a bus designed to fit children, but packed full of adults, certainly makes one crave a nice juicy sweet pastry…and the man knew it!
I’ve spent the last couple days at the Belize Zoo, staying in a rustic cabana in the jungle at the Tropical Education Center. The TEC, as it’s known, is affiliated with the zoo, and a place for students and scientists to stay when studying the animals. There are two ladies, practically permanent residents here, who are studying the behaviors of the Howler Monkey. Otherwise, I had the entire place to myself. A large group had just left and no other guests were expected until Monday. Quiet and serene, with many trails through the forest, it was a perfect spot for a lone traveler to collect his thoughts from the hectic pace of the previous days since arriving in this beautiful country!
The Belize Zoo is nothing like what we Americans think of a “zoo”. It’s more of a rehabilitation and education center for all creatures indigenous to Belize. They don’t import elephants from India. They just find abandoned and injured animals that need a home where they can return to good health and live out their days in some semblance of dignity. The enclosures are spacious and designed for each occupant with its natural habitat in mind.
The large man, finishing his sales, worked his way back off the tight fit of the bus. Kirsten, the kind and quiet-spoken 10th-grader sitting next to me that had befriended me on the first leg, and I, sat back and enjoyed the coconut tarts I had bought for us as the bus pulled away from the station. It was a welcome treat!
Next stop, San Ignacio…