From Bound for Belize to Bound for Brookville

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The Clarion River in front of Pine Run at dusk, when the mist rises too meet the rain.
The Clarion River in front of our 22-acre family camp, Pine Run, at dusk, when the mist rises too meet the rain.

I just finished a yoga class in Brookville, Pennsylvania, “the town that time forgot and age can not improve.”

Thank you, Garrison Keillor for the tag line.

Brookville was my Lake Wobegon when growing up. Read the rest of this entry »

It is just a high-end resort on an uninhabited island, Leo. You aren’t saving the world.

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An aerial of a part of the 104-acre Blackadore Caye which actor Leonardo DiCaprio and his partners plan on turning into a high-end resort. And save the world. They also want to save the world.
An aerial of a part of the 104-acre Blackadore Caye which actor Leonardo DiCaprio and his partners plan on turning into a high-end resort. And save the world. They also want to save the world.

Just west of Ambergris Caye in Belize is a long and narrow, 104 acre island called Blackadore Caye. If I had to guess, I would say that it has existed well protected on the leeward side of Ambergris at least since the days when buccaneers and privateers and pirates sought shelter inside the barrier reef.

It has existed unchanged for the decade or so since actor Leonardo DiCaprio bought it for a pittance.

But now, DiCaprio and his investors have decided the time has come to “rescue” this helpless piece of sand and mangroves from itself.

They will do so by building a super high-end resort that will require development of 55 percent of the land. Read the rest of this entry »

Taking a long walk to the airport makes me homesick for San Pedro — already

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(Editor’s note: I will post pictures to this later.   Seems to be an issue at Miami airport with my e-mail account and photos…..)

 

I went for a walk this morning. By midnight I should be in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This first leg was a modest one, from our home to the San Pedro airport. I suppose that I might have grabbed a cab, or a watertaxi or hitched a ride with a southbound friend. Sooner or later somebody I know would be driving down the road. It is the only road, after all, north to south.

But this was a beautiful, cool morning and I was still abuzz from a great day yesterday. Walking just seemed like the right thing to do.

I didn’t have to walk far, out to the main road, a distance of about 40 years where a guy named Steve in a big Pilot four-wheeler stopped and offered me a lift. Hey, just because I started walking doesn’t mean I had to walk.

He took me across the bridge and another block to the wheel repair shop on Laguna Drive.

In those few minutes we managed to have a decent discussion about the much improved quality of the road north. It is paved now, but mostly wasn’t at this time last year. Plus it was raining more so the road was a pot-holed mess.

No more. We were both pretty happy about that.

A few doors down from the repair shop is a little breakfast nook. One of my little students from Holy Cross sat at the entrance while her mother made tortillas. “Hi Mr. Bob!” she said with a shy wave. “Is there school today?”

I introduced myself to her mom and told her she has a very bright daughter and should be proud of her school accomplishments. Then I promised to stop in for breakfast after I return because, well, it smelled so damn good.

Sylvia, who works at Marbucks up north, passed by on her bicycle and waved, while flashing her lovely smile.

A little farther down, where Laguna becomes the one-way Middle Street, Jason cycled by and shouted a cheery morning greeting. Jason and his wife, Jen, own a great little restaurant called Boogie’s Belly. The little side street eatery serves a very in-demand meat pie — and a little lobster pie that they can not keep on the shelves.

Farther south, another of my students passed by and waved, cycling to Holy Cross for morning summer school.

I pass a parked golf cart with a bumper sticker I have not seen before, “Respect the locals.”

Good sticker; good idea.

On the balcony of the Labor Department offices sat Nilda, who comes to clean our house once a week, as she has been doing since we first got here. She is as close to family as we have in Belize.  I know that Nilda and another colleague are at the office to seek some sort of justice over a former employer of 10-plus years who handed them both a raw deal. (By the way, San Pedro residents, Nilda now has slots available for house cleaning if you want a kind, thorough and thoroughly honest woman  to help you out! Call me or Rose.)

I wished her good luck with the petition for redress. She is a good woman and does not deserve to be treated like this. Nobody does.

Respect the locals.

In front of the airport is a neighbor, Greg, there to see some friends off.

Except for some excruciating sunburn on my shoulder, where the bag strap dug in, this had to be one of the most pleasant walks I’ve taken in a long while.

I’m not surprised anymore that I will run into people I recognize. In fact, quite the opposite. I’d be disappointed if I didn’t see someone I knew.

How very different from a year and a half ago, when we first moved to San Pedro.

I can still recall the first time I walked up Laguna , across the bridge and on to Reef Village. It was so … foreign. I was, yes, very nervous and on high alert for all sorts of imagined dangers, being a stranger in a strange land.

So different. Now I point out which shops weren’t there when we first arrived. At there are a lot of them. San Pedro seems like a sleepy island town but it is incredibly dynamic. Shops open and close with surprising rapidity. Buildings are torn down or repainted. Concrete structures rise and floors are added all the time.

This is the hidden hustle and bustle. This is a village full of entrepreneurs and dreamers. Their big time may not look like your big time — but they want to hit it just the same.

Izzy is a great example. He’s opened up a smoothie shop on the busiest corner on the island. His edge is that every smoothie is made with only fresh ingredients and the portions are very generous. The other day Izzy talked about growing his business by developing relationships with the town’s crossfit studios, dive shops and tour boat operators and by distributing a customer loyalty card — 10th drink free; that sort of thing.

I could watch him make smoothies all day — squeezing fresh oranges, cutting up apples, pulling fresh kale and spinach from the fridge, chopping ginger, pouring coconut water ….. But mostly I love to hear him talk about his business. It won’t be easy. There are nearly as many smoothie shops as there are hardware stores and pharmacies on the island.

But he has an edge and I think he’ll use it.

I’m going back to the States for a family reunion. It is just for a week but, to be honest, I feel strange leaving Ambergris Caye. It has become home and I frankly don’t want to drive a car or negotiate through American malls and traffic.

And besides, I haven’t had on a pair of shoes in more than a year.

I don’t even think I packed long pants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of sand bars, secret beaches and soccer — life in Belize gets no better than this

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Have a seat: The Sanbar offers a variety of seating, from semi-dry sand to 5 inches of warm and soothing saltwater. Beverages are optional.
Have a seat: The Sandbar offers a variety of seating, from semi-dry sand to 5 inches of warm and soothing saltwater. Beverages are optional.

Sometimes all it takes is a boat full of friends, a spit of sand and a glorious day in Belize to make you feel all is right in the universe.

Adam and Jackie Feldman of Casa Picasso restaurant wanted to have a special welcome for their longtime friend and fellow restaurateur Hasni Ghazali. What better way to offer up a taste of the island than a daytrip with good friends to the backside and our favorite spot in all of Ambergris Caye — The Sandbar?

The Sandbar is just that: a spit of sand on the south side of a very small island just off the “back side” of Ambergris Caye. Read the rest of this entry »

Learning a thing or two as a teacher in summer school in Belize

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Some of the Holy Cross summer school students and volunteer teachers gathered for a group photo around mid-week.
Some of the Holy Cross summer school students and volunteer teachers gathered for a group photo around mid-week.

A diphthong is not a bikini designed for safe swimming.

Of course, you know that.

And I know that.

But honestly, if someone came up to you and said, “What’s a diphthong?” would you know? Read the rest of this entry »

Rock, lobsta! A day on Caye Caulker is like no other day . . . anywhere

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Adam and Scott organize a full on jump from the dock where the C-Monkey is tied up. We had a ball jumping into the water with the local kids.
Adam and Scott organize a full on jump from the dock where the C-Monkey is tied up. We had a ball jumping into the water with the local kids.

Right around Lobsterfest time you wait, and wait, for the call.

“We’ve got a boat. Are you in?”

And you are happy. And of course you are in.

There is no better way to experience the Caye Caulker Lobsterfest than on a boat full of friends, on a Sunday, under clear blue skies.

No better way. Read the rest of this entry »

Dude, where’s my cart? The answer will shock you

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I make fun, but at least they were acting ... and getting well paid to act stupid.
I make fun, but at least they were acting … and getting well-paid to act stupid.

Our golf cart, old Moncho’s 59, has been found.

Yes, the cart that went missing last Saturday night, during Lobsterfest, has reappeared.  A couple of blocks north of where it disappeared.

And, yes, it was locked.

With my lock. Read the rest of this entry »

A user’s manual for San Pedro’s new Internet radio station, The Breeze

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breezeSan Pedro’s newly launched Internet radio station, The Breeze, does not come with a user manual — but it could.

That’s because the station’s founder Danny Vega is a big fan of user-driven radio. He is hoping that listeners will ultimately take control of the station’s format and drive it to popularity based on what they most want to hear.

It could be something as simple as pushing the request button on the website and sending in the songs you want to hear to spbreezeradio@gmail.com. Danny can turn your e-mail into a nice personalized intro/dedication for your song, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Hey Paradise, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone

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Hail, hail, the gang's all here -- at Lobsterfest 2015 Block Party of course. This is what we were doing while our gold cart was getting stolen. I'd post pictures of the cart but I have none. Hey, it was kind of ugly. So I'll just keep posting Lobster fest images here.
Hail, hail, the gang’s all here — at Lobsterfest 2015 Block Party of course. This is what we were doing while our gold cart was getting stolen. I’d post pictures of the cart but I have none. Hey, it was kind of ugly. So I’ll just keep posting Lobster fest images here.

In answer to your first question — hey, it is everybody’s first question: Yes, I did lock the golf cart.

I always lock the golf cart.

Because I don’t want it to get stolen.

It was stolen Saturday night.

And, yes, it was locked. Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday in San Pedro: Summer Solstice, global yoga, a Mayan blessing and the hunt for a stolen golf cart

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Dancers participating in Seummer Solstace seremonies at the Marco Gonzalez Myan Site, on Ambergris Caye, Belize on Sunday, June 21, 2015.
Dancers participating in Summer Solstice ceremonies at the Marco Gonzalez Mayan Site, on Ambergris Caye, Belize on Sunday, June 21, 2015.

Sunday morning came early and I awoke with a 50-pound quandary sitting on my chest.

Should I take the 5:45 a.m. water taxi to Belize City with Rose and participate in the International Day of Yoga events, which would no doubt bring harmony and peace to my troubled mind?

Should I wait beside the road at 9:10 a.m. for my friend Nick Barton and travel south to the annual Summer Solstice ceremony at the Marco Gonzalez Mayan Site? Perhaps I could ask the Mayan priest Martin Choc to pray for the recovery of our golf cart.

Or, should I just go looking all over the island for the golf cart that was stolen on Saturday night while we partied at the annual Lobsterfest Block Party? Read the rest of this entry »