We stayed on San Pedro island off the mainland of Belize last week, a beautiful and laid-back place, where the people were, without exception, warm, helpful, and congenial. In every single interaction while we were there, we felt fully welcomed.
Getting out of New York was an adventure in itself, as our flight was delayed the first day, causing us to miss our connection in Miami. The airline rebooked us on a flight for the following day, but our bags having already been checked, flew on ahead of us, to be picked up by us once we arrived in Belize City on a different airline. Then it was onto a 14-seater to fly 13 minutes to San Pedro. That's me with some other passengers on the tiny plane above. I thought the flight would be scary, but the alternative was an hour and a half water taxi ride after traveling most of the day, and my cousins had taken the water taxi the day before we arrived, only to have it break down on the open water twice. The crew got it going again with a hammer and a screw driver, but the hour and a half ride took them three hours, so after hearing that report I booked us on the puddle jumper, figuring I could weather being scared for 13 minutes. But the plane, tiny and cramped as it was, flew steadily and calmly into San Pedro, gently kissing the ground as it landed. Definitely a good choice.
Half an hour later we ate dinner from a row of food shacks, where my husband got into a long and animated conversation with a fisherman who manned the chicken wing stand, while I turned my face into the sea breeze and tried to adjust to the fact that I had arrived. I felt disoriented, not yet fully inside myself. The place was pretty empty, even though it was reportedly at full capacity. I think guests were out doing excursions and generally social distancing.
That's my nephew on the right and the daughter of a family friend, who joined our vacation group. The two young ones were on board a catamaran snorkeling trip, when the wind whipped their hair in twin tornadoes. They're beautiful, these young people. They, and their parents, and my husband all swam on the reef, and then swam with sharks. This was the highlight of the whole trip for my man. Certainly the boat experience was calm compared to the previous day's heart-stopping adventure.
The WalkingEagle men, father and sons, were on one side of the table when we ate at Carambas in town, best seafood on the island, everyone said.
After getting our negative covid tests on Sunday, we said goodbye to the island yesterday morning, returning to the mainland as we came, on a tiny plane with spectacular views.
And then we were back in the netherworld that is America. The change in tone on our connecting flight from Miami to New York was so marked, the captain sounding surly and threatening as he warned passengers to keep their masks on and that if they didn't do exactly as the flight attendants said, they would be thrown off the flight.
To be fair, omicron exploded in New York City literally the day after we left. The town we have returned to has a completely different feel than six short days ago. It's like March 2020 again, perhaps worse, because now literally everyone knows multiple people who have tested positive for the super contagious variant. My son, starting today, will be living at the firehouse so as not to expose his live-in love who will be going to her parents in New Jersey for Christmas, and also because there simply aren't enough firefighters to man the houses, as so many have come down with covid. Our boy picked us up from the airport last night and told us that once he goes in to work this morning, he won't see us again until after Christmas, when he's had a chance to test again and know his status. He reflected that he fully expects to get covid at the firehouse this week, and we all expressed the hope that if he does, his symptoms will be mild, as anecdotal reports suggest omicron symptoms generally are. Everyone is praying this pattern holds.
Meanwhile our daughter, who is with us for the week, is freaking out this morning because a friend with whom she spent time last week called to say she has been exposed, and is awaiting test results. Another friend called moments later to say her partner, with whom she lives, has just tested positive. So now our daughter is off to stand in a line for hours so she can get tested, too. She is terrified she has exposed us, but I feel somewhat blase about it all. If she's positive, she'll spend Christmas with us, not a bad deal. As for us, we went to Belize, we returned with negative covid tests. What happens next is anyone's guess.