Don a gown, dance disco, devour BBQ — there’s a San Pedro fundraiser soon to suit you

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sagaThe fund raiser is a way of life when you live on a tropical island that is marked by severe poverty and great wealth, and a government that has limited ability to help its own people.

Here on Ambergris Caye it is a common sight to see locals in the street with money buckets, collecting coins and dollars for fire victims, cancer victims, accident victims. Last year a tour guide whose boat was torn up on the reef as he attempted to rescue some tourists was the beneficiary of a fund raiser to get him back on his feet. It is the island form of insurance, which otherwise does not exist or is out of the reach of ordinary residents.

There are monthly fund raisers for Saga, our version of the Humane Society, as well as fundraisers for the local food bank, athletic teams and individual competitors, AIDS groups, self-improvement groups, and, most certainly, our schools. It is at events like these where Belizeans and expats come together, mingle, share in the fun and camaraderie and make new friendships.  Read the rest of this entry »

A legacy of the rainy season on Ambergris Caye yields an avian wonderland

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Our little rain pond is especially busy this morning. There are a half-dozen voracious roseate spoonbills, a peripatetic snowy egret and what looks like one very stoic wood stork. A few other waders off camera, stilts, perhaps. What ever is in the pond must be good eating.There is a grazing frenzy going on.
Our little rain pond is especially busy this morning. There are a half-dozen voracious roseate spoonbills, a peripatetic snowy egret and what looks like one very stoic wood stork. A few other waders off camera, stilts, perhaps. What ever is in the pond must be good eating.There is a grazing frenzy going on.

When the rains came, starting in November, they filled the front lawn of our condo complex with water that has never gone away.

As with any standing water it quickly became an aquatic microcosm. Algae, larvae, little tiny fish all exploded on the “pond.” Not far behind were the mosquitoes and little frogs that sprang from the various larvae and they were soon followed by the birds.

They all feed on each other.

A feeding frenzy this morning in the small pond of rainwater in front of our home in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
A feeding frenzy this morning in the small pond of rainwater in front of our home in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

The rains have abated and the pond has begun to shrink, though it doesn’t look like it will entirely go away.

As you pedal north, the amount of standing water beside the road is really noticeable. Stagnant pools of dark orange-reddish water are everywhere. Over-saturated vegetation is dying and the oxygen starved ponds are eutrophicating.

I suspect the new concrete road has something to do with all this. It is elementary physics that water finds its own level. Before the road, water drained into the lagoons or into densely vegetated areas where it was absorbed. To water, the elevated road is a wall that can not be traversed. In time, much of it will evaporate and much will sink into the ground as this sponge on which we live begins to dry out a bit.

Meanwhile, ponds like ours have proven to be a feast for the birds.

Grand varieties of egrets, ibises, herons, stilts and  pipers, wood storks and roseate spoonbills among them have taken seats at this banquet.

This morning I received a text from Rose as she arrived at her studio, “A dozen spoonbills on the other side of Feliz.” Feliz is the neighborhood bar that sits beside our pond.

By the time I got out there the number of spoonbills had been reduced to six, but there were other characters feeding at the trough. There was what looks to me like a wood stork standing sentinel over the menagerie, barely moving but alert to every movement in the area. The stork stood apart from the bulk of the feeders, aloof and alert.

One  snowy egret was careening around the pond like it was on fire. Dart left, jab the water. Dart right, jab the water. Streak across the water with half flapping wings, halt suddenly and, yes, jab the water. More orderly were a few stilts, and probably more productive, grazing out a whole section before moving on, as if working an invisible grid. Even tinier bids of unknown species (to me) seemed to fill in the gaps, like puppies retrieving the scraps from the table.

Sometimes a spoonbill would wander too close to the road and the sputter-putt of a passing motorcycle would send if flapping back toward the relative safety of the other side of this little patch of water.

They are all entirely too suspicious of people. Get close to the pond on foot and they freeze, slyly checking  you out from the corner of their eyes. Advance one more step and the whole pack will skitter to the opposite shore and try to wait out your intrusion.

Admittedly this is a small sampling of the bird population. A slow bicycle ride north is like taking a tram through an aviary. Birds abound, and less developed the area, naturally, the more you see. But you really have to slow down to spot them.

In one little stretch of lagoon up north,  the same blue heron and  great egret always seem to be locked in some sort of territorial dance. Like a chess game, they track each other around the little inlet, one muscling the other off small patches of grass and fallen branches, claiming this or that corner as home turf. I’ve stopped and watched them any number of times and it always seems to be the same game in play.

What is amazing, to me, is that a mere  20 yards east of our little pond, there is a whole other avian pageantry going on of pelicans, frigate birds, ospreys, cormorants, plovers, terns and gulls on the Caribbean Sea.

And the dense jungles, fields and forests of the Belize mainland?  That is another whole story, isn’t it?

It is good to step back sometimes in the midst of High Season, with all its compressed touristical ya-hooery and loud gaiety, and realize that we are blessed with a wealth of these little pockets of breathless beauty — ours for the taking, if we only stop to watch and listen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a whole lot of great people showing some #islandlove today

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The First Friday Roadside Cleanup crew is about to begin --- redubbed the Second Friday crew because, seriously, who would have wanted to pick up trash on the mornng after New Year's Eve?
The First Friday Roadside Cleanup crew is about to begin — re-dubbed the Second Friday crew because, seriously, who would have wanted to pick up trash on the morning after New Year’s Eve? Above, Sue Blair (left) addresses the troops before some head north, some head to the shore and the rest start at the bridge (background) and work our way up the road.

Road trip: It is crazy wonderful how many people showed up this morning to pick up roadside and beach trash north of the bridge on Ambergris Caye today! Certainly our hard-core regulars were out in force. And so many folks were here for the first time.

Including the drone.

That’s right. We had a drone filming us as we picked up trash! Read the rest of this entry »

Househunters International makes stuff up? Shocked, shocked, shocked.

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house-hunters-internationalWell here’s a shocker: The popular HGTV program “Househunters International” makes stuff up.

Whoa.

Didn’t see that one coming . . .  until about three years ago.

No, it is true. Read the rest of this entry »

And the Belize wise men said, ‘Behold we bring you gifts, from Dunkin’ Donuts’

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The things you find on a tropical island in Belize . . .
The things you can find on a tropical island in Belize . . .

So I was in downtown San Pedro on my bicycle, running around doing errands when all of a sudden . . .  I got hungry.

And wouldn’t you know that Estel’s was closed for repairs.

I was thinking of pedaling down south to the Coconut Cafe, mainly because I haven’t been there since they moved to Exotic Caye Beach Resort and I always liked the owners — and their food.

But as I pedaled down Middle Street, the Lord took control of my bicycle and steered me to Pupuseria Salvadoreno.

Good choice, Lord. But, why? I wondered.

As the good Lord was guiding my hands to chain up my bicycle to a power pole the answer hit me like Paul on the road to Damascus: I love their four beef pupusas for $15 BZD.

With an orange Fanta, the Lord reminded me.

My eyes had no sooner adjusted to the darkness inside than the true answer revealed itself.

Holy, cripes! That’s a Dunkin’ Donuts dozen box!

“Salvadorean donuts,” said one woman proudly with a big smile.

“Ah Salvadorean donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts,” I replied, a bit stupidly as I look back upon the conversation.

Like she didn’t already know that.

You must understand, we have no franchise or fast food outlets in Belize. Thankfully! Well, not fast food in the terms that Americans think of fast food.

Just so you know . . .  seeing Jesus on a piece of burnt toast is more common than a Dunkin’ Donuts box on a tropical island in Belize — with donuts still inside.

Apparently some lucky guy’s girlfriend loves him very much because she brought the donuts in fresh this morning when she flew into Belize from  El Salvador.

I guess the moral of this story is that anything is possible, if you crave something bad enough, on a small tropical island off the coast of Central America. Hey, people regularly bring me the Sunday New York Times now. On Sunday!

Did I want one of those donuts? You bet your sweet bippy I did.

Did I have the nerve to ask for one?  Especially that delicate chocolate glaze tucked shyly in the back corner of the box. Ohhhhh, I bet it was so light and fluffy . . .

Seriously?

What do you think I am?

This was someone else’s treat, even if they hadn’t quite finished the box by 1 p.m. (I could have finished that whole box of mix donuts in under an hour with two cups of black coffee to boot.

Just saying.

And the pupusas, as always, were delicious.

The Central American yogurt oracle has some bad news, Charger fans

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It is a sign from above . . .
It is a sign from above . . . above the cheese and butter section at Super Buy market in San Pedro, Belize.

I have to walk into my local supermarket in San Pedro, Belize, to find the answer to a question that is tearing up my friends back in San Diego: Will the Chargers be moving to Los Angeles?

And there it was, the answer. Right in the dairy section.

Yogurt containers were screaming it out to me:”L.A.! L.A.!” — or, more like “LALA” — but you can see where this is headed.

Yogurt never lies.

The dairy section also confirmed the long-standing rumor that the Oakland Raiders will also moving back to Los Angeles and that the Raiders and Chargers will indeed be sharing a shelf . . . erm . . . a stadium.

Further, the expiration date on these containers is Feb. 16, 2016. I can only say, watch for a significant announcement on that day from the NFL.

Why is there a San Francisco 49ers yogurt container lurking on the edge of this oracle? I can only surmise that it is San Francisco’s compulsive need to be at the center of every discussion in California, whether its presence is relevant or not.

You can almost see the 49ers yogurt container with its flashy gold label screaming “Me! Me! This is a story about me!”

It isn’t 49ers Yogurt, so shut up.

Just the same. I bought the 49ers container.

Why?

Because I love my wife and she is a native San Franciscan and she loves the 49ers. (I’m not a complete fool.)

You may notice that the 49ers container is sweetened yogurt, which we never buy. But there is no way in hell that anything with a Raiders emblem on it is coming into my house — even if it is a  container full of sugar-free yogurt.

I know what your are thinking right now: Why is the Chargers container full of PEACH yogurt?

I can only say this: Did you watch them play this year?

Have fun in LALA, Chargers.

And Raiders.

Shut up, 49ers. No one is talking to you.

I want to move to Belize, what do I need to know . . .

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Life in "paradise" isn't always sunshine and blue water. Sometimes, like last week, a storm hovers around the edges and the water takes on  a spectacular emerald sheen. And the rain, when it comes, is life quenching.
Life in “paradise” isn’t always sunshine and blue water. Sometimes, like last week, a storm hovers around the edges and the water takes on a spectacular emerald sheen. And the rain, when it comes, is life quenching.

Found this question on a Belize expat site to be absolutely adorable: “I am seriously wanting to make the move by the end of the year…what do I need to know?…”

It took me back to those very early days when we crossed that invisible line, too. “We’re going to make the move. My, god, I don’t know a thing about Belize!”

What do you need to know? Read the rest of this entry »

Blackadore Caye environmental report: Airport is out, eco-friendly construction is in

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Blackadore Caye with the proposed "outrigger" pier, facing north. The pier with over-the-water hotel and a three-story "village" is on the western side of the island.
Blackadore Caye with the proposed “outrigger” pier, facing north. The pier with over-the-water hotel and a three-story “village” is on the western side of the island.

Spoiler alert: The new Environmental Impact Report for the high-profile Leonardo DiCaprio resort on Blackadore Caye contains no smoking gun.

At least, none that I could find  as I perused the 430-page report recently at the San Pedro Public Library.

A “public consultation” on the findings regarding the proposed high-end resort will be held Jan. 14 starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Lion’s Den on Front Street in San Pedro. Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s my wish from Belize for you in 2016

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magic-palm-tree

At some time in your life, when you need it most, may you gaze out from a comfortable chair upon a lone palm tree.

There are two types of palm trees that I like best. One is the solitary palm hugging close to the shore with its lapping waves, bent into the wind from a lifetime of resistance. These palms show the scars of battle and every twice records their resilience. They are inspirational.

And relaxing.

You just know that if you are string at a palm tree, you are already in a good place. Read the rest of this entry »

WordPress compiled my 2015 in review: Let’s go to the stats!

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WordPress has kindly sifted through all the stats for Bound for Belize in 2015 and come to the conclusion that if I were a painting in the Louvre, it would take three days for all of this year’s visitors to see it.

That’s kind of flattering. I think.

I’m not sure what sort of painting I would be or why the Louvre would ever be interested in showing it. Just the same, it is pretty cool to know that 75,000 times, people from 136 countries were interested in reading what I have written.

After a career of writing for newspapers and websites for a living, I can’t begin to tell you how god it feels to be read. Even by people who don’t like what I say.

So thank you.I’ll stick to my old — and mostly unkept — promise to write less more often . . . and add to that a promise to do my best to make sure that when you do stop by you won’t ever feel it has been a waste of your good time.

I’m still trying to understand this complicated, lovely creature Belize and always feel that the closer I get, the more elusive she becomes. That’s right. I am forever bound for Belize. Thanks for coming along.

Have a terrific 2016!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 75,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.