Journey to Belize: The Immigration Office

The Civic Center in Belmopan, Belize.

This post continues the retelling of my 2017 trip to Belize: participating in an archaeology field school and learning about jaguars. It concerns the first portion of the most fortuitous day of my journey.

June 21, 2018 was an eventful day. As such, I will not be able to cram it into one post.

I was up bright and early that day, in order to catch the 7 am express bus to Belmopan. The ride was supposed to take 30 minutes, but it felt like it took at least an hour. 

My first priority on the 21st was to renew my visa. Like all of the archaeology students, I had not received the proper four-week extension when I returned from Guatemala. My visa was set to expire a few days before I left Belize, and I wanted to get that taken care of ASAP.

As such, I began searching for the immigration office as soon as I got off the bus. I had looked up directions before leaving for Belmopan, and had also asked a local woman how to get to the immigration office from the bus stop. Despite this, I still became horribly lost. It took me over an hour to find the location, but I did eventually get there.

As you will see, I am more of a Marcus Brody than an Indiana Jones. Image found on TheBeardedTrio.com.

The waiting area at the immigration office consisted of a gravel lot with several rows of chairs. It was still early, but already many people were in line. We all sat there, hoping to be called into the shaded interior of the immigration office.

I waited patiently in the tropical heat for two hours. At this point a young man with blonde hair and blue eyes took the seat next to me. His name was Jonathan, and it turned out that he was from Germany. He was currently living in a Mennonite community in the town of Spanish Lookout, where his father served as a pastor.

Jonathan and I started talking about fútbol/soccer: that most universal of languages outside the United States. Before long our conversation turned to jaguars. Jonathan informed me that the Mennonites in Southern Belize maintain a nature reserve; part of which is used for agriculture, while the other portion is strictly protected – even for jaguars.

This took me completely by surprise. I had repeatedly been told that the Mennonites in Belize are particularly hostile towards jaguars, and fairly unsupportive of conservation in general. Jonathan’s account contradicted the single story I had been given. But that is the problem with single stories: they are never entirely accurate.

Jonathan also told me that it might be too early for me to renew my visa. I checked with a guard at the immigration office, and he confirmed that I could not renew my visa until the day before it expired. I had just wasted two hours of my day.

Feeling hungry, tired, and more than a little frustrated, I began searching for food. I wandered aimlessly around town, and eventually found myself standing outside of Everest Indian Restaurant.

Everest Indian Restaurant: one of the best restaurants in Belize.

This in itself was remarkable. I love Indian food, and had been missing it ever since I moved to an isolated community in Northern California. I had now managed to find, completely by accident, the only Indian restaurant that appeared to be open in Belmopan. I try not to be (publicly) superstitious, but this felt intentional. Fortunately, the synchronicities for June 21 were just getting started.

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