"Da world, it needs mo' love, mon! Whatchu need, what we ALL need, is mo' love!"
The rasta dude with glistening ebony skin and an enormous, dazzling white smile was clearly selling something from the two plastic 5-gallon buckets strapped to the side of the rusty bike he was pushing along the thoroughfare, but I had absolutely no idea what it might be. Passersby didn't so much as glance up as he yelled out about the world's need for "mo' love, mon" and I watched as he made his way across San Ignacio's central green in my direction.
When he was a few feet from the bench where I sat munching my way through the epiphany of fried flour and mashed beans and stringy melted cheese that were my pupusas, our eyes met and I couldn't help but smile big at his mischievous expression.
"Ahhh, girlie," he exclaimed, "you look like you already got plenty o' love wit a smile like dat!" He grinned even wider and slapped my hand in a gregarious high-five as he passed and continued across the green and down a side street. I could hear his message of love long after I could spot his impressive dreadlocks or decaying bicycle or buckets of mystery substance.
I finished the last bites of my pupusas, licking every last bit of flavor from my fingers, and waved goodbye to the two Mennonite women at the cart whose talented hands had made my scrumptious lunch.
This was a first for me, this traveling in another country without companion or agenda. All of my past international experiences had included one or the other (usually both), but I had an entire week ahead of me in Belize before I was due in Caye Caulker to work. This combination of foreignness and freedom was both thrilling and intimidating and I was still making heads and tails of it, though my experience accidentally purchasing sixteen tacos at the market the day before was exactly the breakthrough idiocy I'd needed to begin to settle in.
With nothing but my personal whims and fancy as my guide, I decided to spend the day ahead simply wandering. I wandered a few miles up to the Mayan ruins at Cahal Pech, making sure that I knew the way so that I could explore them as the sun rose the next morning. I wandered past pastel homes built high on stilts with yards strewn with sleeping dogs and children's toys. I wandered into a cluttered convenience store to buy an ice cream from a freezer that sounded as though it were heaving its last as I scraped open its door to retrieve my treat. I sat on a bench in the center of a busy roundabout to eat a tamale next to a cracked fountain with no water in it and smiled at the man eating his lunch on the bench beside me as a grizzled old vaquero walked his horse through the traffic.
As I made my way back toward my guesthouse, I popped my head into Ajaw to see if there was room for me to join a demonstration in making chocolate in the Mayan tradition. As it turned out, I was lucky enough to get a private lesson in taking the humble cacao bean to sacred Mayan hot chocolate drink. Elida, my teacher, even scolded me on proper form as I ground the beans on the ancient stone metate that her great grandfather had unearthed on his farm decades before.
Feeling a bit like Juliette Binoche in Chocolat, I left the little shop and headed next door to my guesthouse where the adorable and very pregnant proprietor greeted me warmly. Setting my alarm for 4:00 a.m., I collapsed onto the bed thinking of all of the love that had touched my small world that day, smiling again at the thought of my rasta friend, and fell asleep already dreaming of the coming sunrise spent with Mayan gods.