8 September, Mexico to Belize
Travelling to Belize
Wednesday morning I headed off to the bus station around 8.30 am. Going to Central America does leave me feeling uneasy but that is because it is the unknown for me. I also am aware of the lawlessness in this part of the world but am trying not to focus on that. My inner feeling is that I must go to the sacred sites and that is what pulls me to go through Central and South America. I am not 100% with my luggage as it is big and I am not able to venture off the beaten track unless I have some help. It is heavy to lug around but I have chosen to bring my clown gear and still feel it is important. An inner peace journey is also about facing your own fears and I realise that is what I am here for. As I overcome fear the world overcomes fear, as each individual is intricately linked to the big picture. I also feel strongly I wish to see my world before it changes.
I found out my Egyptian trip was cancelled as the Institute of Peace didn’t want to spend money on my airfare and stay, they could have made that decision before confirming my trip. I was not impressed and really it was their loss, I am the only peace clown in the world and perhaps one of the few genuinely called to peace, but that is fine. As I learned really I don’t care if the work is picked up or not. I dreamed I was teaching peace but I trust whatever is the outcome. I don’t care if I return to Australia and go bush, I fully intend to learn sustainability and make peace with the earth itself as part of my personal commitment to peace. I do feel I have much to give children, but if it doesn’t happen so be it.
I got to the bus station bought the ticket for 256 pesos ($21 Aud), a 5 hour trip. I am aware I have nowhere to stay in Belize when I get there, have no idea what to expect. The bus is airconditioned with a toilet. I settle into the front seat. They then put on a violent DVD, I just put on my head phones and read about peace. I am not interested in the world of fear and I marvel at the fact there is no understanding of how spiritually disconnecting violence is. Anyway, I learn to accept that as part of this reality but think positively. I saw George Clooney on a billboard and remembered how I wrote to him as a UN peace ambassador, I received no response from his agent, when I sent my poetry book just as a means of letting go but giving something, it was returned to me by the agent. I guess he is swamped with mail, but my request was genuine, so I wonder if somehow he and I connect one day. I saw another sign ‘omni Which is my word for god, omnipresent, everywhere. That connected me to my experience at Chichen Itza when I felt overwhelmed and when I reflected on where else I felt the same feeling I remembered the airport and seeing a picture of Chichen Itza in a brochure. The spiritual side gives me confidence for this journey that I am on the right path, I have to focus there. I will keep open to life, expect the best.
Arrived at Chetumal (border) at 3.30 pm, found out the bus leaves at 5.45 pm. The ticket to Belize cost 160 pesos. I am expecting to travel for another 5 hours. I asked around to find out where I could eat. I went across the road to a little eating place. I had some Mexican pesos, so bought a coffee and an enchilada. The enchilada was nice with corn chips (real) and salad, tomato, cucumber and onion. It was so healthy. I also pulled out the Spanish book and wrote down key phrases, I will just have to absorb the language by osmosis. Thank goodness Central and South America are all Spanish, I can at least keep trying. I have thought about hiring a car to put my stuff in as there is only one highway all the way. I was in a few minds about it, it can be expensive and fuel costs, also am not sure about bandritry so I am thinking a bus may be better for the time being. I am restricted with backpack and large bag but that is the way it is. I don’t have someone to watch it or to look out for me or the other. So it is reliance on the universe that all will be well and watch for what shows up. This is the different thinking that must learn to trust in the unseen. That is why I am doing this trip.
First night in Belize
I arrived at Belize must have been around 8.15pm, 2 ½ hours. In Mexico I sent off a few emails at 1am to try and get a room. One of the places was the Belcove Hotel. It was US $27 per night which I felt was expensive but I was tired and just wanted a room, couldn’t get a couch surf there (free hosting by local). I caught a taxi for US$5 which was expensive given I was down town as was the bus. It took 10 minutes to get to the hotel. I just gave it with a positive mind and a smile. I checked in and met with Douche I think his name was. He looked like a African American, turns out he is Belizian. I had noticed that the people on the bus looked African and the city was full of Africans. I found out quickly that Belize was an ex-slave town and they had been enslaved by the Spanish. Most speak English as the Brits had a war with the Spaniards and kicked them out. I think around 1871 they received independence. When the people speak English they sound American to me. There is comfort in English but it also has a dark feeling about it. Although I do look on the bright side. I ended up sitting out the back of the hotel overlooking the river that feeds out into the ocean (Caribbean). It looked a bit like Venice with buildings right along the banks.
Gang Violence in Belize City
Douche and I talked about life in Belize, he said there was a lot of gang violence where there are shootings, seems like every day. He was a street fighter himself and he told me about his childhood. He got tough love from his father who sounded very brutal, however the father wanted to prepare his sons for a tough life. They have to defend themselves. He said he hated his father for a long time. His mother apparently was very soft and sweet and he adored her. He told me how his father had a scar on his face where a man had stabbed him for not getting him a drink. Apparently the father’s father was also a brutal man. It seems this is what they are taught. Maybe there is a trauma from being enslaved from the slave trading days where they had no power at all and now they are teaching violence to ensure they do not take their power. Collective trauma is powerful. There were parallel with the American Afro American youth. He went on to tell me he had been in a lot of fights, he showed me the scars on his face and arms. He said he likes the challenge of fighting, feels the power. He says he and his brother only will defend if they are attacked and they are good fighters. He said he had developed a reputation for being tough. He told me of an incident where he was asked to intervene between two gangs. He approached both gang members and found out each story. He then went to the one who was out to get the other for disrespecting his girlfriend. He said respect is really important and you can show no fear. I realized how fear attracts fear and courage saves your life. Had he shown fear he could have been shot. Some kids just go out in the streets and start shooting at the others. It is the wild west here. He told me he was able to sort the misunderstanding, the other guy came and then the other gang leader just beat him up badly, he wanted respect. I thought about bikie gangs in Australia and their code of respect, when in truth they show no respect for each other. I considered their understanding of respect. Respect in values education is acceptance of others and differences and allowing people the right to live their own way (providing you are not hurting others). I find when I question people about the meaning of respect, many don’t know. We can demand respect but not give it. It seems to be it is forced but not earned through integrity or higher virtues. Douche told me he was respected as he was neutral, I reminded him that is real power as they respected his integrity. So those virtues do seem to be respected. He said that day he saved the guy’s life, he got beaten up, but he wasn’t shot. That was a great thing he did. I read in the paper the next day of a guy trying to mediate between gangs getting shot. So it doesn’t always work. The paper talked about the problem of gang violence and the murder rate was high. Very sad and as I walked past people the next day I am wondering how they live day to day with this, I am just passing through.
Culture of Violence
These young men come from cultures of violence where they know nothing different, they are not taught how to resolve conflict, just seek retribution and gain respect through fear. I was told the Chinese were hated here and there had been some terrible murders. The Chinese had to close their shops and protest the discrimination. Most of the violence appears street violence however there is a culture of violence in families. Douche and I talked about fear. I told him that many put on a bravado to show they are strong and keep others away by instilling fear (as control). I told him as a clown I have to be completely the opposite, vulnerable. I am showing love to everyone and deescalating fear so people feel safe. I explained that a smile is peacemaking. I said it also is authentic. Whereas in the street culture men have to pretend they are something they are not to keep up their credibility and to not be killed. Douche said they have to do that. They can’t relax and just pursue their talents and be themselves, they have to mirror the gang and look tough. Looking into their faces they do look tough. I understand there is a lot of domestic violence and Douche explained they called women prostitutes and demean them. I discussed with him the power of projection.
I also saw a documentary in Mexico of an American girl who was a sleep in a bunk bed with her friend below her. A man climbed in the window and using a knife cut the throat of the friend. He then went to leave and just took one last look and saw this little girl watching him. He quickly came back and did the same for her but she didn’t die. When he left she lay on the floor with her friend and heard her gasping. She said something inside her said get up and she was focused on getting help. She said all she could think of was the other farm house down the road. Her whole family was inside the house and she wasn’t sure if they were killed as well. She banged on the door, couldn’t speak. The neighbour opened it and he got help. It was extremely traumatic but she came through. She said later on they caught the guy. The police said he was cooperative, he said he was tired of killing, it turned out he was a serial killer. What was interesting about the story was the life lessons and outcome. The little girl showed much courage in court, she did break down recalling her friend, but she was able to hold it together and he was convicted. A tight group of journalist, police, family and friends became close through the experience, lifelong friendships. She said she had learned to value her life and she didn’t think about the friend or the man, too overwhelming. She had the most positive eyes. I thought about the yin/yang of life and to look into the outcomes of these complex situations. To not live in fear but to look for good out of tragedy. I think that helps you grow and embrace life. Unfortunately we live in a world that is just exposing people to more and more violence with no wisdom or strategies on how to deal with it. So we are not empowered, instead we are disempowered and this is why we feel the need to defend and punish. We haven’t deeply looked at what drives violence, what others are growing up with and how children are educated. When do we break the cycle and start to educate for peace and harmony.
Nonviolence, Clowning and Clumping
I talked to him about Gandhi and the power of nonviolence. The courage of not being violent towards another. In clowning you are just being loving from the heart, it is being myself and very freeing. You see the beauty in every face I told him. He was quite fascinated by my life. He said I am trying to imagine you as a clown. I said it would be great for street gangs to learn clowning. He then said there was the clowning in the US called clumping. Apparently they dress as clowns and dance. It was away of getting out frustration in a positive way. I had read about clumping but it is not the same as actually hugging people. I do realise it takes time to come to the open love and hugging stage and maybe the clumping is a stepping stone to living in the positive. I am a female so maybe I can get away with more as people don’t feel threatened. There is a difference between strong and strength, one is outer physical the other inner and more powerful. I see much power in women who have a quiet strength to raise children, try and have jobs (in Australia) and hold families together. It takes much sacrifice to be a mother. There are male attitudes that a man must prove himself and if he doesn’t retaliate he is weak, so they challenge each other to physical force to see who wins. It appears the idea of power in nonviolence is not at all understood, thus the concept of the power of love replacing the love of power and the outcome of peace, is an unknown reality.