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Sunday, May 30, 2004

Don't Stop the Carnival

We've decided that Sweet G will be the only one traveling down to Belize in the next week or so. Our decision is partly economic, and partly because he is the one who needs to reassure himself that this is the direction we proceed in. He wants to revisit the property and stop in at the various Ministries to determine the best way to relocate our belongings without paying huge duties. This is less a function of legislature, and more of the clerk's mood that day.

I once spent three days in Belize City, a rather rough place that all guide books suggest you leave as quickly as possible on your way to anywhere else, waiting to receive a pickup truck that we had shipped down from Miami. The first day was occupied with a customs expediter, a man hired to negotiate and speed through the ridiculous process. I had taken the bus into town that morning, and my plan to drive home that evening in time for dinner was dashed when the close of business came before the paperwork could be submitted, leaving me to find a place to stay, with nothing but the clothes on my back, one credit card, and $3,000 cash for duty fees.

Day two, same clothes, no truck. Business there operates like an old mule: push, and it pushes back; push harder and it comes to a complete halt.

Patience is a virtue, but too much can hurt you, so on the third day when I burst into the customs office at 9:00:01 AM, and was told that my now approved paperwork had been misplaced, I resorted to tears. They quickly located my forms. Racing between three more offices for final release stamps, and an examination of the truck's tire treads by the agricultural officer for any contamination -- which amounted to him bending over and saying, "OK" -- I was surprised to see our farm manager, who had traveled into town in search of me, worried that I must surely have been murdered by then, but bringing a change of clothes in case I wasn't.

I was one of the lucky ones.

Anyone who's had any business dealings in the Caribbean understands the absurdity of it all. For those of you who haven't, I recommend reading Herman Wouk's Don't Stop the Carnival, a funny story about a former Broadway press agent, who pursues his dream of running a hotel in the tropics.

Coincidentally, this is Jimmy Buffett's favorite book, and one which he and Herman Wouk collaborated on to produce a musical, with Wouk writing the book, and Buffett, the music and lyrics. This production was being tried out off-Broadway, at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, just as I was taking my early retirement from a job as a public relations rep for a touring Broadway producer in Miami. Mr. Buffett was also the keynote speaker at our annual marketing conference that year, but unfortunately for me, I had already left for Belize.

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