By Bret Devies & Tera Williams
Let me start by saying that it was more than a year before we actually went on the trip, from the time we won it. The initial excitement had worn off over the first three or so months, with occasional frenzied conversation telling people about how amazing it would be. It was exciting in the first place, because for us, as with everybody we know, winning vacations, or cruises, or possibilities to see exotic, far-away lands felt more fairy tale than reality. The winners always lived far away from us, and nobody we knew a cousin of the best friend of the winner’s aunt. It was another world to us. Almost as entirely foreign as the countries we dreamily thought about during high school geography, or browsing photos online, or whatever it may have been.
So, at the airport on day zero, carrying spontaneously packed luggage in a backpack, it was feeling like a reality. And I’m not saying I didn’t expect it to happen, exactly, but just that it didn’t feel like reality to me. When my wife (fiancee, at the time) told me we won, I was happily surprised. However, it still just felt like words. It felt like maybe there were stipulations we had not yet met, and it could be taken back at any moment. A year passed. We still planned on going, and Chaa Creek seemed more excited than me. We were wed, and my wife set up an exact date.
However, as the date arrived, it began to feel like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. I was nervous more than excited, not wanting to get my hopes up and have them dashed. The date got so close, though, that we were packing for the trip by the time I started to let my guard down. The night before, I still felt hesitant. This just isn’t the type of event that happens in my life. The day of was insane though- our plane didn’t depart until 11:55 pm on the fifteenth, departing from SeaTac Airport, whereupon it would take a few hours to make a 3-hour layover in Houston, Texas. Henceforth it would take a few more hours to arrive in Belize City. From there, it was a couple of hours by van until we truly arrived at Chaa Creek. If you’ll let me though, I’d like to go back a bit.
My wife had work the day we left, and we were up by around seven in the morning. After she left, I did a lot of last-minute packing and double-, triple-, and quadruple-checking to make sure everything was in order. All of that delay hit me like a pillowcase of bricks. This was going to happen. This was real life. I was going more than twice as far from home as I’d ever been, and it hadn’t dawned on me until I had breakfast at eight in the morning on the day we left. I was meeting my wife at eleven am, where she went from work to more work. After leaving the middle school she tutors at she had to go to a meeting with her coworkers and bosses, and family was invited. That’s when the day really got caught in a maelstrom. I was meeting all of her coworkers- most for the second time, some for the first. I was tired but completely alert because of the adrenaline slowly leaking into my bloodstream every time I realized what I was doing. Afterward we drove around with Tera’s aunt and grandmother. We went to buy a new camera for the trip. We got one that I haven’t put down since (it is, in fact, sitting in my lap). We’ve taken about 1,400 pictures with it. The airport, as many of you know, is hectic and crowded and you can’t set anything down without having to check on it every eleven seconds, and overall it’s a combination of feeling claustrophobic, agoraphobic, paranoid, and stressed. We had arrived about 5 hours before departure time because Tera’s mother was a nervous wreck and wanted to get rid of us so that she didn’t have to worry about our imminent death surrounded by the savages of Belize. The highlight was my wife getting a pedicure and me getting to experiment with the new camera in the meantime. Eventually we got sick of walking around and went to wait for our plane at the appropriate terminal. Boarding was slowly called, and it felt akin to lining up like cows to a slaughter. The seats were cramped and there was no legroom. But as I looked out the window and saw the plane take off, I was giddy with excitement because we were actually going to Chaa Creek. And not to spoil the surprise, but it’s been everything we expected and more.