As a city known for its history of multi-flag reign, New Orleans can share their transitional spirit with Belize.

When the Big Easy starts to feel the biting cold of a wet winter it’s time to look south. There’s nothing like time spent in a tropical paradise where the water is crystal clear turquoise, the food is delicious, and the people friendly. As a New Orleanian you can transplant yourself into Central America very easily

True, we are already "the northernmost part of the Caribbean” but Belize is “Mother Nature's Best-Kept Secret”. Take the time to visit this often flown-over country to see the similarities and differences between us and them. That is after all, why we travel.

The People

First, let’s start with the people because, after all, they are the flavor of any destination.

Historically, slavery kickstarted it all after the decimation and mistrust the Spanish and French brought to the native people of the Yucatan. Colonialists shipped in African slaves for the lumber industry to this string of land in the middle of beautiful scenery. Belize is “built off the backs of the Creole people” as one put it. Creoles are now one of the most represented groups in Belize with their language (Creole) being officially recognized and their dishes (rice and beans, stewed chicken, etc) being national Belizean dishes. They were brought over to start the logging industry, and then married into the French, Spanish, and British populations. Many are still loyal to their heritage, the Crown, and their place in Belize.

Creole in Belize

When interviewing Franz Vernon (whose mother was a famous Creole activist and Belizean music icon) he mentioned how his mom, LeeLaa, is famous for saying “Who sey Creole no gat noh culture!” In proper English, “Who says Creole’s don’t have any culture!” The Creoles of New Orleans and Belize both have movements to represent their history and future in the midst of numerous cultural heritages.

In modern day Belize there is a mash-up of cultural groups, but primarily, Garifuna, Kriole (Creole), Mayan (descended mainly from the larger classifications of Kekchi, Yucatec, and Mopan Maya), East Indians, Mennonites, Asian, etc.

Much like New Orleans you get an eclectic viewpoint of the world from Belize. The country is built on a changing landscape of cultural history and a trip in the country reveals of lot of heart and soul of the Yucatan.

The Food

If rice and beans, fried chicken or fish, and fresh fruit is your thing then look no further than Belize. With a variety of flavors mixing up the staples (Mayan vs Creole versions of beans and rice, salsa, etc.) eating the same meal over and over again never gets old.

The Creole-influence is heavy in Belize as it is in New Orleans. “Stewed beans” are red kidney beans and white rice. Sound familiar? They serve them more than just on Mondays and they are delicious.

Belize Lunch

We may be known for our beignets, but Fry-Jacks need to migrate up to New Orleans. These are flour dough shaped into a triangle, fried so it puffs up, and then stuffed with breakfast ingredients such as: ham, eggs, and hot sauce or honey and fruit. They are delicious for an on-the go meal or as you watch the sunrise over the Caribbean Sea.

The coffee is surprisingly underwhelming for a country around so many well-known coffee regions, but again, you’re in a post-British colony heavily influenced by the crown. New Orleans, for all the delicious flavors we produce chicory does not fit the bill. Belize and New Orleans are once again a lot more similar than different.

The Scenery

Punta Gorda

When you go to Belize don’t spend the entire time drunk on the beach (maybe just 75% of your time). Take the time to travel throughout the seven regions (central coast, Northern Belize, North Islands, Belize Reef, Southeast Coast, Southern Belize, Western Belize) and experience mountains, jungles, marine life, open water beauty, etc.

The Mayan sites are not as well known as those in Mexico, but they do not disappoint. Many are secluded down gravel and dirt roads which add to the mystique of visiting places where people not only survived, but thrived 1000s of years ago.

Out in the jungle you can hear howler monkeys waking up to the day, but watch out for the big cats, they are out there. The reef on the islands in the Caribbean Sea are said to be some of the best in the world. Whether scuba diving or snorkeling you can see marine life like never before.

So, why travel to a place that is similar to where you live? Because even when two things seem similar they are worlds apart. New Orleans and Belize may be bred along the same lines, but a visit to this wonderful country reveals much more about the world, and how it influences your city.

And for goodness sakes only go to Guatemala if you’re into getting rowdy, or hiding from the police.
 


Local logistics provided by Julian Monroe Fisher, owner of Jacinto Creek Belize.

Written originally for Where Y'at. 

Year-Over-Year

My toes have not even moved before my mind races as I wake up. I am a light-sleeper and a morning person so I know as soon as I open my eyes my day has started.

I normally take about five minutes to visualize my day in my head just so I know what I'm about to get into. It helps since my days vary dramatically.

Today, I woke up with a typical feeling of "What day is it? What do I have to do?", but I also have a feeling of appreciation greater than yesterday. 


This past year (2017) has taught me to follow my natural curiosities in search of answers to the larger questions. Life, careers, family, essentially everything is murky, but I'll always keep moving, keep exploring. 

I cannot join the club of 2017-haters since this was a great year for accomplishing major changes in my life. I helped myself through helping others.

That's a practice I am focused on continuing.

I came across a quote from Bruce Lee that sums up a lot of opinions about our progression as a people and the technology that we use. 

Where some people have a self, most people have a void, because they are too busy in wasting their vital creative energy to project themselves as this or that, dedicating their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like rather than actualizing their potentiality as a human being, a sort of “being” vs. having — that is, we do not “have” mind, we are simply mind. We are what we are.
— Bruce Lee

A lot of people waste away, spinning their tires in a permanent residence of despair over how they see themselves and how they assume others see them.

As the saying goes, "You can have anything, but you can't have everything."

Moving forward

I will work to have restful nights knowing that my contributions in work and the community were heard, understood, and beneficial.

I will work to finally write the book I've thought about for years to tell the stories of others.

I will work to be the best provider, care-giver, supporter, cook, handy-woman, and social butterfly for my partner. 

Thank you to everyone who has helped me with kind words, introductions, financially, with training, etc. this past year. Hopefully, this year I will give everything back. 

 

Summertime Cocktails

Some hate it, some love it, others tolerate the lazy heat waves that bounce off of every object from April-October. However, summertime is the time for “GO”. Whether it is achieving new feats in your hobbies (since work tends to inevitably slow down) or simply getting out of town and exploring. There is no better time for New Orleanians to sip savory cocktails and relish in the heat.

Personally, I love the heat, but it can slow you down. My adventures naturally steer towards water environments where a quick cooling swim is only a few feet away. Camping can get tricky with the obscene amount of rude mosquitos so traveling to other destinations may be on the agenda. If that’s not in the budget (as summer tends to be a high-travel season) then relaxing “stay-cations” happen more frequently than not. A little hotel pool action followed by a night in a cold movie theater? Yes, yes please.

So, summertime provides a multitude of adventures. Whether outside or in, a cocktail can make the most unbearable dog days a bit more manageable. With all the choices what should you drink?

A few key notes to consider. Even more so than any other season summer time is tricky. Here is what to watch out for:

  1. Too much sugar: It attracts every insect known to man and will leave the worst of headaches.

  2. Not hydrating enough: Yes, this is something you should always be mindful of, but when the weather is oppressive and you’re still knocking back ice cold ones to stay cool consider how your body will feel like beef jerky in 8 hours.

  3. Three ingredients max: For the adventures make sure your drink is portable. Recipes with 4 pieces of fruit, a liquor, a vermouth, and ice are all fun to make for your backyard extravaganza, but they are completely impractical and stressful if you are on the go.

My top cocktails for summertime adventures:

Gingeroo

Old New Orleans Rum let me test drive the newest batch of Gingeroo and the special ____ oz bottles. Although heavier than a more practical container for hiking this is perfect for floating down rivers, car camping, tailgating, or brunches. Gingeroo is also my go-to hangover cure. The ginger extract pops right out of the bottles and kick starts your metabolism again. It’s made with ONOR’s crystal rum and has an ABV of 10%. It’s so easy to stockpile multiple bottles of this and have a refreshing cocktail with zero effort. It’s basically everything I’m about.

 

Recipe for Extra Dark and Stormy

1 ¼ oz of dark rum

4 oz of Gingeroo

½ oz of lime juice

Crushed Ice

Combine all ingredients into a cup of your choice and enjoy.

OR, put Gingeroo on ice. Seriously, it’s that delicious.
 

Gin and Tonic

Although we now rarely worry about malaria (thank you Zika and dengue fever) but the de facto medicinal distribution methods from the likes of Burmese Days hold a commemorative place in the summer cocktail list.

It’s a classic for all the right reasons. Light enough to sip casually while perspiring long after the sun has set, but sturdy enough to get the job done. True tonic has more sugar than I sometimes need in the heat so I can substitute for soda water or diet tonic. It’s not the same however. So belly up to the seasoned drinker side of the bar and order your first with true tonic and lime.

Recipe for The Perfect Gin and Tonic

1 ¼ oz of Beefeater Gin

Tonic water

Lemon and lime wedge

Cubed ice and Collins glass

Pour gin into glass and top with tonic. Enjoy!

 

Tequila

My dear sweet friend, tequila: silver, gold, anejo, reposado, even Mezcal. The options are limitless. It’s a more discernable base than most people are used to, but honestly you can mix this just about any way you want it. When it gets a little cooler I make a tequila Manhattan with anejo. While camping or hiking I bring a flask of Mezcal straight up because it needs no other flavors. Tequila is a perfect vessel for my third rule: when in doubt add lime, a sugar base, and sip contently.

Recipe for a Paloma

2 oz of Tres Agaves silver tequila

½ oz of grapefruit juice

slice of lime

Combine all ingredients into a highball and enjoy.


 

Low-proof cocktails

Because no one needs to be asleep all afternoon. Try as I might to seem capable of consuming any liquor a quote from my aunt is always present, “It’s cool to drink. It’s not cool to get drunk.” Right or wrong, I love her sentiments. Drinking high-proof cocktails while battling heat and fatigue is a sure fire way of losing your cool or debilitating your body for a couple of days.  Stick with a few of these and you can keep up with the best of us at all day cook-outs and also get up in the morning. My favorites are the Americano: Campari, sweet vermouth, soda water; “mimosa” (you know why I’m putting it in quotes you bottomless brunch-lover); and a Rose Spritzer (now commandeered by the Frose, but that has too much sugar for me to drink all day).

You may not be out exploring the side trails of national parks (or maybe you are!) but remember to keep summertime cocktails easy enough to take with you anywhere. It’s summertime so keep it simple.

Recipe for an Americano, of course!

1 ¼ oz of Campari

4 oz of sweet vermouth

Club soda

Garnish with grapefruit peel

Combine Campari and sweet vermouth into a Collins glass and enjoy.

 

 

Originally written for Where Y'at.