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“You’ve liked Belize for a long time, I think. What is it that attracts you?”

We were enjoying dinner with friends at the much-heralded restaurant in Panama City’s Manrey Hotel. It’s an LA-style venue, a place to see and be seen in this city. The menu, the wine list, and the service are all international-standard. SUV’s and other over-sized vehicles line up down the block, awaiting their turn for valet parking. The woman at the front turns away anyone without a reservation…

“Yes, I’ve been writing about Belize since my first visit to that country more than 25 years ago,” I replied, “and I’m a die-hard Belize fan. But Belize isn’t for everyone.”

“Right,” Lief collaborated. “There’s nothing like this place in the whole country, for example. And there are probably more people in this central zone of Panama City than in all Belize.

“There are three highways in Belize. One goes north, one goes south, one goes west.”

“That’s one thing that separates Panama from all Central America, in fact,” I continued. “Infrastructure.”

“In other countries in this region, you hear promises of a new beach road, a new airport, a new bridge, etc. But you dismiss them, because you know, from experience, that the chances of the new infrastructure actually coming online…certainly of it coming online in the time frame initially proposed…are slim to zero.

“Costa Rica promised a new road for so long that maps were published showing it…before it existed! People believed it had been built. It must have been, I guess they figured. It’d been talked about for decades.

“The same is true in Nicaragua, where officials have promised for years to extend the beach road south to the Costa Rican border. They’re still promising, I guess…

“In Panama, though, when the powers that be stand up and proclaim, ‘We will build a new road, a new bridge, a new park, etc.’…it happens. If there’s one thing this country knows how to do, it’s to build things.”

“In Belize,” Lief added, “they don’t even promise to build things. In this way, Belize is almost Panama’s alter ego. While Panama is pushing hard toward recognized First World status, Belize is happy to remain virtually off the world map.

“So, again, I can’t help but wonder,” our friend interjected, “what is it about Belize that appeals to you?”

“I appreciate the comforts and amenities of life in Panama City,” I explained. “This is a great night out, for example, and, as Lief explained, you’d never find anything like this anywhere in Belize.

“What you do find in Belize is something that is harder and harder to find anywhere on earth. Privacy. Freedom…at a very personal level. Belize is about making your own way in a frontier land of wide-open spaces where your neighbors don’t bother you…you don’t bother them…and the government doesn’t much bother anybody.

“Everywhere is a trade-off,” I added. You don’t go to Belize for fine dining or big nights out. You go to Belize to escape all that…to appreciate life at a more basic level…”

“I notice that you’ve also been writing lately about Medellin, Colombia,” our friend remarked. “What attracts you to that city?”

To be continued…

Kathleen Peddicord

 

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