On Ambergris Caye, life begins at the end of the pier

Posted on Updated on

FullSizeRender (23)

 

Now, I’m not saying that sitting at the end of a dock for an hour every day will cure everything that ails you.

Well, yes, maybe I am.

It certainly makes possible a beneficial attitude adjustment that will carry you through your day. Problems look so much smaller when you are gazing out at the sea. Life seems less in your control and more a microscopic part of the greater cosmos.

Gazing out from the end of a dock isn’t exactly like an astronaut gazing out into space. But I bet it is really close. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicken Drop epiphany: So, this is what it is like to raise a daughter . . . . .

Posted on Updated on

This bird's for you, Chicken Drop fans!
This bird’s for you, Chicken Drop fans!

Take a cab home. I forgot to tell Caira to take a cab home.

Oh, god, I hope she knows enough not to try to walk home from downtown San Pedro in the middle of the night.

I’m on the couch. It is Thursday night — no, crap — it is after midnight, Friday morning already. Where could she be? Read the rest of this entry »

Heart takes a licking and keeps on a ticking, an update from Belize

Posted on

Back in November, as many of you now know, I had chest and arm pains, shortness of breath and other symptoms that sounded like warning signs for a heart attack or stroke.

It was such a big deal (to me) that I wrote about it twice:

The real point of all this was to shed some light on medical care in Belize, through my personal experiences.

I have partnered with an excellent cardiologist in Belize City, Dr. John Gough, and together (with Rose, of course as team captain!) we are tackling this whole business. Since the questions keep coming — and I can’t begin to say how touched and humbled I am by so many of you and the concern you have shown — maybe it is time for a short update.

So here’s what’s happened since the last blog posting.

Two weeks ago I returned to Dr. John Gough’s Buttonwood Bay Medical Center for the exploratory phase of angioplasty. With another doctor beside him ans several nurses in attendance, Dr. Gough maneuvered the catheter to the coronary arteries where a dark dye was discharged. X-rays showed how the arteries and the heart chambers were functioning.

He found a significantly blocked coronary artery in one heart chamber and another that is almost completely blocked in the other chamber. Some time right after New Years he plans on inserting a stent into the first one. The second is more problematic. It appears to be a very old closure and one that has not affected my quality of life, according to John and some colleagues in Guadalajara with whom he consulted in real time. That artery has expanded significantly however and has resulted in an unusual blood flow pattern.

It may require a stent, a bypass or, given its age, nothing at all.

The head of cardiology at the Guadalajara medical school/hospital where John took his training is coming to Belize to visit for the New Year — so I’ll have both of them in on the procedure.

Meanwhile, my stay at the clinic (two nights, with meals — an odd case of timing and living on a distant island) ended up with a bill that is less than most deductibles insured people pay in the States. It should be about $4,500 USD when it is all done.

Meanwhile, I am on a steady regimen of drugs to keep the blood flowing, the pressure down and the cholesterol away. That includes no drinking alcohol and no bacon, as well as no heavy lifting, no exertion, no athletic endeavors …. ugh.  My life at the moment is sedentary and boring.

But I’m being a good boy. Not complaining and keeping my eye on the future. I want to live, be healthy and enjoy my life to the fullest with Rose for a bunch more years. This will help me get there. I’m certain.

     * * * * *      * * * * *       * * * * *

Postscript: Anyone who has lived on Ambergris Caye for a while ends up with a favorite cab driver or two in Belize City. Before you head over, you call one of your favorites and ask them to pick you up. The best will stay with you as you shop (or pick you up again at a set time) and get you back to the water taxi or Municipal airport in time for your ride back to San Pedro.

A while back, our neighbors Doug and Gail were kind enough to give us the number for their favorite driver, Tony, and I have had the pleasure of his company on several occasions, most recently when I went into the clinic for the angioplasty. Tony is my age. He is extremely well-read, thoughtful, funny and knowledgeable about the history and politics of Belize. A ride with him is always enlightening.

Yesterday we got a call from Tony in Belize City. He just wanted to know how the angioplasty went and how I was doing.

And that is just another reason why I love Belize so much.

‘Best little zoo in the world’? Belize it.

Posted on Updated on

Toucan at the Belize Zoo.
Toucan at the Belize Zoo.

Look, I’m a zoo snob, OK?

I can’t help it. I’m from San Diego, home of one of the greatest zoos in the world — The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. The zoo is so big it has outdoor escalators, overhead trams and regular bus service. On its webcams I have my choice of killing time at work watching pandas, elephants, orangutans, condors or polar bears.

I used to volunteer for one of the zoo’s biggest animal research fundraisers of the year.  Couldn’t get enough of the place — starting with frequent visits when my kids were very young. Read the rest of this entry »

Pook’s Hill defines eco-tourism in Belize

Posted on Updated on

On the road to Pook's Hill, an eco-resort in the Cayo District.
On the road to Pook’s Hill, an eco-resort in the Cayo District.

I think I’m becoming a birdwatcher. I’ll let you know for sure if I ever drop a bundle on high-end binoculars, a camera with a telephoto lens, a light-weight bush jacket with pockets for my bird guides, notebooks, pens, spare glasses, mosquito repellent and granola bars.

Then I’ll know for sure.

Meanwhile, I just spent a very productive morning with Mario, a guide at Pook’s Hill Lodge, spotting birds.

Man, did we see birds. Read the rest of this entry »

Fifteen questions about living in Belize — with answers!

Posted on Updated on

The view from a recent Tropic Air flight from Belize City Municipal Airport to our home, San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Belize has more than 200 islands, atolls and cayes.
The view from a recent Tropic Air flight from Belize City Municipal Airport to our home, San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Belize has more than 200 islands, atolls and cayes.

This list of questions was submitted to me by a website called http://www.expatfinder.com/ which is positioning itself as a go-to site for information on services and products that every would-be ex-pat needs to make the big move. The information is tailored to the specifics for scores of countries on topics like banking, health, shipping, real estate, education, and jobs.

They may or may not use these answers. Which is fine. Their idea of compensation is a promise to maybe promote the link to my blog. I didn’t have the heart to tell the woman that I don’t make a living from my blog and so promoting it means little. Nor did I tell her that if you want good writers, pay them good money. Doing stuff for free for money-making internet enterprises is so 2009.

But that’s OK. I enjoyed the challenge and coming up with honest answers was helpful for me too! Win-win. And if you like it, triple win!

– Bob Hawkins

Expatfinder Interview Questions

1) Where are you originally from?

California, nearly 30 years in San Diego and two in the Bay Area. Rose is a native San Franciscan.

  1. What made you move out of your home country?

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to Belize: Slow down, simplify, stay healthy

Posted on Updated on

One of the many joys of having family and friends visit is having them bring me The Sunday New York Times and recent copies of the New Yorker magazine. Reading them online is of course easily done, but to hold printed sheets in your hands .... sweet.
One of the many joys of having family and friends visit is having them bring me The Sunday New York Times and recent copies of the New Yorker magazine. Reading them online is of course easily done, but to hold printed sheets in your hands …. sweet.

The following is an expansion on a recent “postcard” that I wrote for International Living, one of the biggest players in the ex-pat game. Actually it combines part of my first version with the final version that was published by IL right here. A very astute editor pointed out that I was getting a little too inside for the casual reader.

You, my friends, are not casual readers — not if you have been slogging through my stuff for any length of time! 

So you get to read more about our new road, which now goes right past our driveway. I’ll leave it at that. Thanks for reading … and writing!

— Bob Hawkins

     * * * * *      * * * * *      * * * * *     * * * * *     * * * * *

I sit on our deck and gaze out toward the Belize Barrier Reef, not 300 yards away, in the Caribbean Sea. The postcard-perfect, white sand and the green palm trees quickly give way to shimmering strips of blue and green—colors of the sea determined by a brilliant sun, azure sky, and sea grass and sand on the ocean floor.

There is one other color that catches my eye: the dry gray mud that spackles my legs and feet.

“Here I am, at 64 years old,” I think, “and every day I get to pedal my bicycle through mud puddles.”

I can’t begin to tell you how happy that makes me feel. Read the rest of this entry »

This is just me with my head in the clouds over Belize

Posted on

The clouds have been especially beautiful lately. The sky here is such a broad canvas, only the most robust of clouds can make an impress up there. Of course, they usually bring rain.
The clouds have been especially beautiful lately. The sky here is such a broad canvas, only the most robust of clouds can make an impress up there. Of course, they usually bring rain.

Recently I was approached to do a little writing about our life in Belize by some publications  dedicated to turning ordinary developed country citizens into ex-pats. That is a pretty big business, you know.

I guess after living nine months on an island off the coast of Belize, I have gained some sort of credibility as an “expert ex-pat.” I don’t feel it, personally. To me, every day is still an enigma to be solved, a challenge to be embraced, a mystery to be exposed — albeit, joyfully.

If confusion is the first step toward enlightenment, I’ve barely put my first sandal into the sand. Read the rest of this entry »

So, I didn’t have a heart attack after all, Part II

Posted on

Water taxis to Caye Caulker and Belize City at the ready in San Pedro, Belize.
Water taxis to Caye Caulker and Belize City at the ready in San Pedro, Belize. Those seats on top? The best when the weather is good.

The San Pedro Belize Express water taxi pulled out on time Wednesday, 11 a.m., and pointed its bow toward Belize City — with a stop, of course, at Caye Caulker on the way.

This one had forward facing seats, rather than benches.  Much preferred for the 90 minute ride. Up top on the bridge in the open air would have been even better. Except that on this day a two-person kayak occupied that space.

Last week, when  we took the water taxi, the captain did a U-turn at sea  to pick up some fresh lobsters from a boatman, then dropped off a guy on  Caye Chapel. He was late for his foursome at the country’s only golf course. You never know.

Rose read her Kindle. I did my best to meditate.

Thoughts kept intruding. Read the rest of this entry »

So, I didn’t have a heart attack after all, but I still did something about it Part 1

Posted on Updated on

So, imagine this building in the Boca del Rio area of San Pedro is your heart. And those three very pissed off creatures inside it are the weird sensations you are feeling when you least expect it ....  Got it? Good. Because I haven't the slightest idea where to go with that except that if those dogs felt like jumping off the second floor, a heart attack would have been the least of my problems.
So, imagine this building in the Boca del Rio area of San Pedro is your heart. And those three very pissed off creatures inside it are the weird sensations you are feeling when you least expect it …. Got it? Good. Because I haven’t the slightest idea where to go with that except that if those dogs felt like jumping off the second floor, a heart attack would have been the least of my problems.

The pain started somewhere low in my throat. My breathing became shallow as the pain slowly oozed like black molasses across my chest and down my left arm.

My first thought was: “OK, this isn’t in our Belize Playbook.” Read the rest of this entry »