When the hospital looks like a jailhouse, you don’t want to get sick – and for God’s sake you don’t want to get arrested.
– by Lola Carlisle
So this is the story about two trips to Bequia – but I’ll focus more on the second trip.
Due to a lucky bid at a school auction, my husband and I found ourselves on a Caribbean cruise on Richard Wright’s (of Pink Floyd fame) 65 ft. Swan sailboat. There we were, skipping all over the Caribbean with captain and crew… and that’s how we found out about this amazing little island – Bequia. On the backside of the island there’s a little community, literally carved out of the peninsula, built from poured concrete and stone. Our schedules made landing a side trip impossible (and the word trespassing may have come up), but as we sailed by, we promised each other that if we ever made it back to Moonhole – yes, Moonhole, we’d make it ashore.
The story of Moonhole is that a Chicago ad man and his wife, Tom Johnston and Gladdie, fell in love with Bequia in the late 50’s and decided to retire there. They bought a chunk of the island and started building their home stone by stone near the Moonhole arch at the end of a peninsula. Tom built around the trees and natural landscape which created an organic, open style. Though he had no formal training as an architect, his creative vision served him well. Over time more homes were built for friends of Tom and Gladdie, and the Moonhole residents became an integral part of the Bequia community – in the process providing jobs, education and healthcare to those that worked there. After they passed, Tom and Gladdie bequeathed their land to Moonhole Conservation Trust as a final gesture to protect the unique community.
So, fast-forward five years to Bequia trip #2. My husband, daughter and I decided to return to Bequia and make our stay at Moonhole. Our very dear friends the Pietersens came along for the adventure. Skipped the sails on this go round, instead hopping a charter from neighboring St. Lucia. Up close and personal, Moonhole was even more dramatic – and a little frightening with sheer drops off balconies all over the house. The place was – and is – totally open. You shower and use toilets that are completely exposed facing the water. Bedrooms are completely open to the ocean views (you need mosquito nets) and iguanas and birds often call your bedroom their bedroom as well. And, there is no electricity.
So about getting arrested…
When we booked our trip, we selected one of the homes at Moonhole that seemed to be the right size, and the right price. We arrived and all seemed just fine. We checked in with the owners (who also lived in the home) and got settled in for a 6-night stay. On night number two, a contingency from the neighborhood knocked on our door… and immediately proceeded to tell us to leave. They said that the house we were in was not allowed to be rented because the owners were not abiding by the Moonhole Conservation Trust rules (among other alleged infractions with “Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil” type intrigue). The leader of the “Get Out of Moonhole Contingency” was a crusty old geezer with a wife 1/3 his age. Add to the general creepiness an air of eccentric elitism, a commune aura and out-and-out rudeness, and you can guess what follows. I did what I do – gave him a piece of my mind and told him we weren’t leaving.
So, Mr. Creep said we’d be arrested – exactly the type of threat you ignore in a small, remote country while on vacation, right? The owners – on the other hand – told us this was a long-term feud with no basis in fact and we should not be concerned about the crusty old dude. He’s all bark and no bite. He thinks he’s the “mayor,” and he’s not. So, we continued to enjoy our house and Bequia – including a sort of Independence Day celebration. After the festivities, Mr. Crusty returned to tell us the only reason we hadn’t already been arrested to date was… everyone was off drinking for Independence Day. There was much promise of a return in the morning once hangovers had been slept off per island custom.
That’s when we all took a moment to think long and hard about our surroundings. Particularly the look of the hospital we’d all seen – and had all thanked our lucky stars that we’d never have to visit after a close call between my daughter Carli and a mesh-covered open sewer running alongside a back road. We reasoned that if the hospital looked that bad, we wanted no part of jail. So we packed up, headed out and found another place to finish out our vacation. All in all, we left with mosquito bites, newfound friends, some great stories… and this tacky little magnet. Now that I think on it, that’s not the only vacation with an unwarranted arrest scare – but that’s another story.
What the hell is a Tapir?
– By Greg Abel?
It’s sort of like a hog+cow+anteater combination. But that’s beside the point. The real point is here is the relative awesomeness of Belize…one of the few countries where you can see a calcified skeleton in the depths of an ancient Mayan cave (ATM Cave near Ignacio) on Monday, dive with nurse sharks and stingrays (Shark-Ray Alley off Ambergris) on Tuesday, fly fish for bonefish on Wednesday, and then play a communal bingo game on Thursday called a “chicken drop” (Spindrift Pier, Ambergris) where winners are crowned based on where the chicken, “drops”. Plus, on Ambergris Caye, you may not ride in a car for 3 days. You’ll be drinking Belikin Beer and speaking English (though the island creole is pretty cool if you can understand it in the least). Must hits: BJs for Sunday football (the bartender is a Falcons fan, go figure), Jambel for Wednesday night reggae and Jamaican food and the Palapa Bar, pretty much anytime, for great views, cheap beer and the possibility of a tourist falling from the second story bar into the Caribbean (happened on Thanksgiving 2011). Did I mention inner-tubes in the water set up with full waiter service? Yeah, they have that. And on your sad, lonely departure back to the States, have a beer at Jet’s “bar” in the airport he may be 4’ tall (or so) but the little guy has spunk…and some grope-y hands, so I’ve heard (I survived the experience sans groping).
PS, the one place you will probably skip but shouldn’t – the Belize Zoo. Seriously worth it if for nothing more than the jaguar (behind electrified chicken wire) and the Harpie Eagles (famous for adorning neighboring Costa Rica’s national beer, Imperial).
– by Suzanne Harkness
We landed in Barcelona and hit La Rambla first thing.
Palm trees, mimes, live birds and fish and lizards, ethereal music wafting through the air that reminded me of native American sounds. All bathed in the most incredible light. Top that off with the best tapas and wine I’ve ever had and I was in heaven.
“All aboard the Chicken Bus!” (and when we say “all” we mean “all)
– by José Estrada
Have you ever wondered what happens to the retired school buses that no longer transport children in the US (and shouldn’t transport anything else for that matter — hence the “retired”)? They get sold at an auction, driven down through Mexico and finally end up in Guatemala where they get “refurbished” (barely) to start a colorful second life.
Each “camioneta” gets decked out with colorful murals, stripes, bumper stickers with praises to Jesus and the driver’s latest love crush. Bumping the latest reggaeton/salsa/merengue tune, the driver and the helper cram in as many people, bags, livestock and produce as possible while street vendors and traveling salesmen squeeze up and down the aisle, selling all kinds of snacks and the latest elixir/cream that cures cancer and makes you loose weight.
Once you’re settled, (whether standing inside, hanging outside the front door — or if you are lucky enough—sitting next to the mother nursing her baby) and all sense of personal space has been lost, the journey begins with a cloud of exhaust smoke coming through the window and a liquid “something” sliding down the aisle.
– Camille Wolf
Jade’s Grandmother-in-law has a condo in Panama City that was open last weekend, so Jade wanted to take George to the beach for a quick little getaway so he could have fun on the beach. Sooo.. her Mother-in-law, Sharon, Jade, George and myself decided to go for it. Then we got the weather report that it would be raining. Still, we decided to go. My Mother fell and bruised herself up a good bit on Wednesday but was otherwise fine. I checked on her to be sure, and still, we decided to go. My car broke down Friday morning and still, we decided to go. I needed to leave by 3 to run some errands to get to Peachtree City by 5, but due to car breakage, Jade had to pick me up and couldn’t be here until 4. After all the errands and grabbing supper we didn’t get to Peachtree City until 7:00. After packing the car and discussing the late hour of departure that would put us arriving by 2:00 am, well…still, we decided to go. We get to Panama City without too much incident and grabbed a cart to take all of our stuff to the room. Sharon and I loaded the cart and one of the items she put on there was an umbrella. Instead of placing it along the cart, she put it across the cart. As she was walking around said cart, she tripped on the umbrella, fell down and yep, broke her arm. We called 911 and got her loaded into the ambulance, got the stuff up to the room, got George settled and asleep. Then Jade left to go to the hospital with Sharon. That was about 3:30am. They didn’t get back to the condo until 9:00 that morning. Since it was getting ready to storm, Jade and I quickly got George ready to take down to the beach for a few minutes. Sharon decided to stay in the room on major pain meds and sleep. Now keep in mind that we did all this because we all wanted George to be able to get a little fun play time on the beach and take cute “George on the beach” pictures. Jade and I were excited to finally get down there for a few minutes, anticipating all the fun George would have and well…he hated it! He did not get what the hell that sand crap was doing there and why he had to be in it at all. I just laughed. Jade said “perfect, that’s just perfect!” Anyway, like I said, I don’t have magnets, but I have pics. It seems in these pictures he’s thinking “You want me to do what with WHAT?” and “WHO decided THIS would be fun?!”
Ps…Sharon has to have surgery on Friday to set her arm again with a plate and pins!!
Pss…At least he did like the “big water” and we did get some cute “George on the beach” pictures, so, that was a plus…
Psss…Sorry for showing a little bra strap, at least you know I had one on and THAT’s a major plus, just sayin.