Small terns strutted ahead anxiously, never taking flight, as they were not quite sure of our intentions. The day was awesome -- the air still, with no humidity -- the sea, a shimmering blue. My daughter, Sarah, and I walked along the beautiful, debris covered beach of Hopkins, Belize, Central America. We studied the fresh array of unmatched shoes, coconuts, plastic bottles, brown clusters of seaweed, copious amounts of green sea grass, shattered unidentifiable pieces of plastic, neatly sliced halves of oranges with their gut sucked clean, the severed head of a pineapple . . . All of which had found their way onto the shoreline of Belize.
As we walked, Sarah suddenly declared that she wanted a coconut. I said, “Take one. They’re everywhere.” She found this beautiful large green monster of a coconut. We walked on awhile with it before we came across a rare, but hard, rock thrusting out from the edge of the surf. This rock was next to a pier and a group of small Garifuna children were playing and splashing in the water under the end of the pier. Sarah, who isn’t all that large, started throwing the coconut against the rock in an attempt to break its thick green covering and get to the good stuff. I began to help her. We took turns thrusting this thing against this rock and the children -- five boys and one girl -- the oldest no more than seven -- came splashing out of the water and grabbed this massive nut.
We stepped back in surprise, and then amusement, as they took their own turns throwing the nut against the rock. They got down on their knees in the surf, the Caribbean waters glistening and slipping off their bodies, and held it in their hands and banged it against the rock. They stood up again and threw it some more. Sarah and I just stood there, smiling and watching. I threw in a, “Wow,” here and there, but the children weren’t talking to us -- they were strictly concentrating on the task at hand. Finally, after a good ten minutes, the thing started to give up and split apart, and then these boys got their little hands, and their feet, and their fingers in there, sitting in the surf and having a tug of war. This involved more banging and more pulling.
Another ten minutes went by. We were still standing there watching and smiling, the hot Belizean sun beating down on us. The green husk was gone at this point. All that was left was a fuzzy round ball about the size of a small cantaloupe, and these boys were tugging on the whitish fiber that covered the inner stone, throwing the strands of fibers about their heads and flinging it into the sea, until, at last, a perfect light tan globe was revealed.
The oldest, and most hard working of the boys, after a half hour of work, stood up, dripping from the sea and proudly handed the coconut to Sarah. She bowed slightly, smiled and said, “Thank you! Let me shake your hand.” And then she shook all the children’s hands, and then they ran, without a word, back out and into the sea. And that, is one of many reasons, why I love Belize . . .