Today while chillaxing with a Pilsen, my named iPod (Mark VII) poolside, I noticed an iguana sunning itself on the sidewalk in the 90+ degree weather of Costa Rica. Reminded me of the You Better Belize It; Bamboo Chicken story …
Marriage Is A Beach
I turn back the clock to June 2003. This is actually a sub-story to a larger tapestry of adventure, but I’ll focus for the betterment of story telling. It was my honeymoon with my then-wife, Charlene. We were married on famous Miami’s South Beach, then departed on the Carnival Paradise, at the time the only non-smoking cruise ship for our exotic Western Caribbean cruise.
One of ports of call was Belize City, Belize. We elected to buy an extensive shore excursion of cave exploring and lunch.
All the cruisers piled on the bus. Another couple we were seated with at the dinner table was Lauren and Sean from Connecticut, so it was comforting to have a friendly face on the tour while we were away from the ship.
The tour guide advises of the itinerary, and explains at the end of the tour he’ll have a “special treat for all of us” at Cheers with a Tropical Twist Bar. There was an immediately and collective buy-in – seemed cool enough.
After an extensive drive through the countryside, we arrived to the start of the tour. We were guided to select a ginormous rubber inner tube, so that we can ride on it through the cave river. So we marched up a footpath to start the tour while clad in mining hats, light, and swimming clothes. The mouth of the cave and “river” was ample enough of 40 plus folks. I placed mine in front of me, and laid chest down. Realizing quickly this position was uncomfortable, I attempted to adjust whilst on the tube.
And then, SPLASH.
Before I know it, I’m swimming like a 40lb anvil in a 12-foot deep swimming hole. Racing through my mind are the words of warning that some spots in the river were up to 25 feet deep, and that I couldn’t swim to save my life. Thankfully, Charlene’s grasp finds my T-shirt and skin through the darkness of the water probably because my headlamp was on. Her arm drags me to the surface of the water, and like a breaching whale, crashes my body onto the inner tube.
She screams, “Three days of marriage, and you’re already checking out on me?!”[NOTE: 10 years after our divorce, I should’ve said yes]
I whimper, “I’m uncomfortable.”
She barks, “Just sit there!”
The rest of the cave tubing continues without further incident. It was amazing to say the least! Let’s fast forward to lunch at Cheers with a Tropical Twist. The tour guide said it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet for lunch: You Better Belize It; Bamboo Chicken, fruit salad, and dinner rolls.
We plated up with Lauren and Sean, and sat down together. Charlene didn’t eat anything off the bone in public so she had fruit salad only. And only to discover there was a dead centipede in her portion. She subtly showed me after not taking a single bite, but stopped me from causing a ruckus citing she really wasn’t hungry.
Frankly I was starving after hiking, tubing, and a near-death experience, so I plated up once again. This bamboo chicken is delicious. Sean was not to be outdone by Seattle ‘los so he did too. Then we repeated it for a third. I know my Spanish was rusty at the time, but I could’ve sworn the two ladies exchanging worried looks mentioned that these two white boys are crazy for killing off the rest of the bamboo chicken.
The tour bus drove us back to the pier so we can board the water tender and return to the ship. We just missed the tender so there was gonna be short wait. To keep us entertained there were shops to look in. Charlene found a one-person shack to explore so the shopkeeper came out to allow that. I didn’t want anything to do with that. I retrieved my camera to photograph the area. I located a grassy courtyard with dozens of iguanas sunbathing in the Caribbean sun. As I was clicking away, the shopkeeper approached me. He lit up a cigarette, and asked, “You like iguanas?”
I shrugged, “I suppose. Just something to look at while the wife shops.”
He grumbles, “I don’t.”
“Oh?” I mention. “We have two iguanas as pets back home.”
“Really, amigo? Around here they’re a nuisance,” he complains.
“Why?” I ask.
He continues to explains, “Too many of them, really. Look at all of those.” He points to the courtyard. “We serve them up as a local delicacy to tourists.”
I grew concerned, “How so?”
“They are so many they hang off the bamboo. We call it Bamboo Chicken.” With that comment, we share a laugh.
Charlene appears from the shack with the words, “Honey, I bought you a shirt.” It was emblazoned with the words: You Better Belize It. I smirked, and thought, no shit. She observed the Cheshire grin on my face and questioned me, “What’s so funny?”
Eventually we are all back on-board the ship, and seated at dinner in the dining room. I was the self-elected table captain – You Better Belize It; Bamboo Chicken – The previous nights, I would share our adventures or excursions with the table then systematically ask all the other newlyweds to share theirs. Tonight was such a treat that I deferred to the couple from Philadelphia to start. The table thought that was odd as they seemed to like my storytelling abilities. Regardless they complied. Eventually, Lauren and Sean were asked, but since I deferred they deferred as well. Finally! It was my turn. I was smiling like a child with a new swear word wanting to unleash in grand fashion on the world.
I recount the story up until the shop owner part. Then talking out loud but directly to Sean because I know he’ll blow a gasket, I finish the story. Sean is all sorts of riled up and upset. He defends himself, “But there was the skin flap, like a chicken.” He folds his arm into a chicken wing then flaps it.
I raise my voice a bit, “DUDE! Did you see you any chick coops in Belize as we rode in the bus? No, we didn’t. You and I ate IGUANAS!” I burst out laughing. He reacted poorly by knocking over his chair, thus exiting the dining room. His wife, Lauren, hot on his heels. The table gets quiet again.
Then ‘Pennsylvania’ turns to me and asks, “So? Does it taste like chicken?”
“Sure did!” I exclaim.