Nothing brings into sharp relief how different the English are from the Americans than a vacation. There is a certain kind of American who immediately, upon traveling to someplace new, wants to get immersed into the culture, no matter how messy or inconvenient. I am that American. Our first trip to Belize was spent mostly in an Eco-Lodge (the fabulous Lodge at Chaa Creek) high in the Mayan Highlands — visiting Mayan ruins, taking horseback trips through the jungle and listening to nature lectures. Or as Andy describes it: that time I made him spend his vacation hacking through the jungle with a machete.
Then there is the style of travel perfected by a certain kind of Englishman. These are the Englishmen that succeeded in colonizing most of the known world by introducing trains, Parliamentary government and a good gin and tonic served at all civilized hours of the day. Andy is that kind of Englishman. This sort of English traveler has only two vacation fears: a) that they may be forced to rub shoulders too closely with Johnny Foreigner and b) that Germans will appear in the early hours of the morning at any seaside resort and reserve all the good deck chairs by throwing their towels over them. Andy is that kind of Englishman.
This Belize trip is Andy’s kind of trip. We’re parked at Victoria House, the best resort on Ambergris Caye and the main activity is diving, including one of the best diving spots in the world, according to Jacques Cousteau, the famed Blue Hole. Still, I couldn’t resist looking out for a little local color. So we rented a golf cart (the only vehicle allowed on the island) and headed to San Pedro, the only town.
Did I mention there is another characteristic of a certain kind of Englishman? That is the desire to seek out rare species of animal, marvel at them and remove parts of their bodies to decorate the country house.
So while I was in a little art gallery contemplating whether to buy a Guatemalan painting or a mask carved out of a cocoanut husk, Andy found a street vendor selling necklaces made of Jaguar teeth.
Me: “You can’t buy that. Jaguars are endangered. And they are protected in Belize. You would be encouraging poaching.”
Andy: “No, the vendor says this Jaguar was roadkill. Probably run over by a ranger in the forest reserve.”
Me: “A likely story. The best we can hope for is that it’s a fake.”
Andy: “It also has decorations of shark’s vertebrae.”
Me: “Great, so it’s an Endangered Species Two-Fer.”
Andy: “Look, I’m supporting the indigenous culture. Mayan priests wore Jaguar’s teeth necklaces. Why can’t I?”
(You have to give up at this point. And based on the price, I’m sure the tooth is a fake.)
But I was hypervigilant when Andy started eying any other wildlife. The amazing Frigate Birds were hovering over the resort, hanging completely motionless in the air. When Andy remarked how easy they would be to shoot, I quickly told him that any murdered Frigate Bird would be instantly tied around his neck like in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Nothing like referencing an epic poem by an English opium smoker to shut down a Brit’s hunting instincts.
And speaking of the intersection of Englishmen and wildlife, there is another kind of Englishman. One who sees all vacations as an opportunity to drink as much and behave as badly as possible. Andy is not that kind of Englishman. But as we finished dinner at Fido’s under one of the largest thatched roofs in the Caribbean, a posse of drunk English people came in and started screaming.
The local band, which was just warming up, was clearly experienced in dealing with such invasions. As the rest of the band continued setting up, the guitarist launched into an accoustic version of Oasis’s “Champagne Supernova”. Which immediately got the crowd maudlin and crying. Nothing like the oikiest song of the most loutish of English bands to pacify wild herds of Englishmen.
Just when we thought it was safe, the crowd started screaming for Folsom Prison Blues.
Even for this mixed marriage, that’s just too much of a culture clash. We escaped into the night before the singer could finish:
“I hear that train a comin'”
Photos of Day Two here.