Belize - Tuesday 7 December 1999
With Wolfgang, I have breakfast at Popeye's. We have to be at Chocolate, a dive shop, by 9 am. Today, we're taking a boat trip to see the manatees (sea cows) and go snorkeling. Quite exciting.
It's mostly a lot of boating. First, an hour to the place where we can see the sea cows. Quite amusing, such a cumbersome animal underwater. Occasionally, its nose pops above water for a breath. We stay there for an hour. Quite long. Too long actually.
The boat also has the girl we encountered on the street yesterday, asking where we bought our chocolate bananas. Her name is Iseult, and she's from Ireland, or so she says. I still have the feeling she might actually be Dutch. She doesn't have the slightest Irish accent.
Quite amusing: it's quite simple to assume a different identity in a faraway country. I wonder if it really makes much of a difference. I don't think I would have treated her differently.
She's nice. She's studying philosophy and is taking a year off before graduating. She plans to celebrate New Year's on Cuba, traveling around until then. Over the past months, she earned money by working in a café in San Francisco.
Actually, she's a bit dull, and it's evident she doesn't want more than superficial conversation. Later, I hear that my fellow group members didn't find her appealing at all, "way too boring." But I think Liz and Laura are just jealous. Wolfgang calls her "boring but beautiful," and that might be the best description.
After the manatees, it's another three-quarters of an hour to a small tropical island. Three palm trees (well, it turns out to be ten) and a barbecue area. Here, we swim and have lunch.
Then, it's another half-hour to the snorkeling spot. Snorkeling turns out to be quite disappointing. The whole group swims off quickly as I'm about to enter the water. I don't want to be left alone, so I try to catch up. But with that diving mask and the suction tube, I can't manage. I also don't know exactly how to snorkel; the guide hasn't explained it. When the guide, Carlos, sees that I'm having trouble, he only says the group isn't going fast at all and that it's not that bad.
Liz helps me. She explains how to breathe calmly and move properly. That way, I can finally snorkel calmly.
When we return to the boat, Carlos acts as if nothing's wrong, but I let him know I'm disappointed. Forget it.
After snorkeling, we continue boating. On the way, we even see dolphins! They come slightly above the water. Later, we pass by an island full of houses, very tranquil. We take a leak and walk around a bit.
I'm quite disappointed that we snorkeled for such a short time, and I'm still quite angry with Carlos. So, I don't pay. The owner, Chocolate, had previously arranged: you pay afterward, and if you're not satisfied, you don't have to pay. I don't want lengthy discussions, but I do tell Chocolate why I'm dissatisfied. It feels good.
We have a farewell dinner with Maria. She's leaving tomorrow because a weekend flight would be much more expensive for her, and she can't stay beyond the weekend.
We've arranged to meet Gail at a restaurant. During dinner, it's very quiet. The atmosphere between us and Gail isn't getting any better. After dinner, Gail wishes us a pleasant evening and leaves. She's apparently given up hope as well. I think it's good that she can accept that. So be it.
As we leave the restaurant, Carlos approaches us. He was also eating there. He seems particularly interested in Maria. I treat the group to ice cream and beer with the money I didn't pay for snorkeling. Carlos has an idea of what's going on but doesn't bring it up.
We decide to spend the evening in Liz and Laura's room. We play the classic game where everyone writes a word on a piece of paper, and then we look at the sentence formed afterward. It leads to some surprising results.