It has been a quiet week in San Pedro, my home town, where the coffee is strong, the barrier reef is good looking and the weather is above average.
My apologies to Garrison Keillor and “Prairie Home Companion.”
But it has been quiet and I think a thank you to the Government of Belize for its quick response to a bad situation might be due. When a drug related turf war flared up and innocent children were caught in the crossfire, enforcement came down on the island like a hammer.
I don’t know enough about the local players to comment but this seems significant.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow recently released a statement in which he ordered expanded enforcement support for Ambergris Caye, where loss of tourism could dig a deep hole in the country’s revenue base.
The prime minister noted the “ebb and flow” of gang-drug-related violence in Belize. All is quiet until someone is taken out and then the violence flares up again. While he expressed confidence on gaining control of the violence here he was brutally honest in addressing the nationwide problem: “The pattern is likely to continue. I don’t have the kind of answers that will see us tame this thing, but we will continue trying.”
Now that is discouraging.
The U.S. Embassy in Belmopan even sounds a bit more encouraging in its advisory to travelers, noting that Americans have not been specifically targeted in the violence — but also warning about spikes in robberies, hotel thefts, burglaries, purse-snatchings and petty theft. This spike also comes with High Season. Last year we heard about a few purse-snatchings, including some in which the victims chased the thieves down and recovered their goods. Not recommended. Better to hold your stuff close.
I don’t agree with all, like No.7 “Avoid public transportation.” On the mainland, that is the only way to go, short of leasing your own car. It is an experience which my friend Rebecca Coutant has written about in her blog San Pedro Scoop. In fact, it is about the only way she travels around the country. Do a Google search for “San Pedro Scoop, bus rides” and you’ll see what I mean.
The rest of the list is filled with common sense tips which means you — yes you over there rolling your eyes — should read and take note. Stuff like leave your flashy jewelry at home or in the hotel, dress to not stand out in the crowd, learn which areas to avoid and refuse offers to purchase drugs.
The last one has become second nature. If I sit in any one place for very long an offer to sell pot, cocaine or “anything else” is sure to arise. I’m a big fan of pot but until it is legal in this country I just say no. I mean, have you seen the prison in Ladyville? There should be a big panoramic shot of it in Immigration for tourists to look at as they await getting their passports stamped.
Crime in Belize is not all about gangs and drugs. We apparently have a more-sophisticated group that, according to the U.S. Security Exchange Commission, has made many millions of dollars off penny stocks that mysteriously soar, hover, get sold off and then plunge.
Check out this report from Bloomberg Business about the Cynk stink and the mysterious activity that seems to take place on the fourth floor of the Matalon Building in Belize City. Sounds like a sequel to “The Wolf of Wall Street” in the making.
CYNK trades at 3 cents a share now.
SEC claims that Belize-based Cynk Technology’s brief rise in value by 36,000 percent, before collapsing in its own bubble of weightless gas, made more then $75 million when operators quickly dumped shares at their peak. Not bad for an hour’s work.
How much in drugs does a gang have to push to clear that kind of profit?
Say what you want about stock fraud, nobody dies in a hail of gunfire and, if rumor has it right, some of the gains may have found their way into resort and condo construction here on Ambergris Caye.
Personally, I’d rather see the money come in the old fashioned way — from happy tourists who see a safe and clean country that safeguards its natural resources and wonders.
But that is just me.
Crime update: San Pedro Scoop reports that NBC Dateline is on the island to film a followup to its “groundbreaking investigative reports” on the congenial paranoid John McAfee … because soooooo much involving McAfee has happened here lately.
Can’t wait to see what they uncover. I’ll bet there will be a lot f B-roll of snorkeling at the reef, drinking at the Palapa Bar and college kids on Spring Break.
Having lived on Ambergris Caye for only a year, there are few building projects that we can say we were there at the birth. Building things here — even houses — takes a very long time — unless you are Ramon’s Village and you want our fire-ravaged resort to reopen by Christmas. In which case, yes, miracles do happen.
The boobie came out of nowhere.
First it landed on the stern of Ecologic Divers 50-foot catamaran Impromptu where it hung out briefly as if accessing the situation and finding it lacking in the proper handouts worthy of such an elegantly groomed and aloof bird.
So the boobie flew off. Read the rest of this entry »
I recently celebrated our first anniversary in Paradise by straddling a toilet seat, trying to loosen the rusted bolts that hold the tank on to the toilet. And I was failing miserably.
No amount of WD-40, muscle-straining leverage, cursing and sweat was going to dislodge those suckers.
At least the water was shut off and the floor was no longer flooded. Read the rest of this entry »
The thing is, I really didn’t think I could afford the hat.
I liked it. It felt cool and comforting on my head. It sat naturally on my crown with no fussing. The roll of the brim had a slightly rakish appeal that the rest of me certainly didn’t exude.
Still, $3,200 pesos? Taxes are coming up. So is rent. And a trip or two back to the States for both Rose and me. Really, I wasn’t even sure that we should have been taking this mini-vacation to the beautiful colonial city of Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula. Read the rest of this entry »
Here on Ambergris Caye in Belize, “Mind the gap” gained special relevance over the past weekend when the landlord of the Palapa Bar & Grill removed 10 planks in the pier used to reach the iconic bar.
The man, who recently bought the property — a diminutive and abrasive Texan, kind of a very bald Yosemite Sam — claims the longtime leaseholders, Scott and Jodi Harnish, were behind in their rent.
Not so. Read the rest of this entry »
Carnaval 2015 begins in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize. On Sunday, Front Street, the beach and Central Park were given over to paint wars by kids. They descended on the park with bottles filled with washable paints (hopefully) and even some raw eggs.
Often banding together in teams, they waged battles on other groups, gleefully smearing each other from head to toe. They get to do it again after school tomorrow and Tuesday, starting at 3 p.m. The adults get to join in too. Read the rest of this entry »
Southwest Airlines is looking for a few good reasons to visit Belize.
The U.S. airline will begin daily flights to Belize in October, from Houston. And anyone who knows Southwest knows this airline doesn’t do anything unless it is fun. If you’ve ever had the good fortune to land on a Southwest flight when the safety speech is given by a budding stand-up comic you’ll know what I mean.
Southwest likes creative employees. Heck, it simply likes its employees (and I think they are called team members, or something like that). My friend and neighbor in San Diego for many years was a Southwest flight attendant who rose through the ranks to become a recruiter and trainer among other duties for the airline. Wayne Toups loved the airline and loved going to work every day.
Like the famous Cajun singer Wayne Toups, he was from Louisiana and he had a ball with their common name. Believe it or not, passengers would ask Wayne, handing out drinks and peanuts while clad in the khaki shorts and polo shirt uniform of Southwest, if he was the singer!
When Southwest began as a regional airline at Love Field in Dallas, the big boys — both the major airlines and their friends in Congress — did their damnedest to drive it into the ground — including a major congressman from their own state! Southwest not allowed to make direct flights to cities in other states. They had to do something weird like make a stop in another Texas city first — or something like that. They were sometimes forced to use secondary airports and land in lower tier cities.
Ultimately whatever the challenge, Southwest turned it into an advantage. And opened up the door for other short-haul carriers. It truly is the aspirational and inspirational airline.
That’s why I think they will make it in Belize.
It is the perfect pairing of two scrappy underdogs.
Does Southwest really need our help coming up with ways to lure visitors to Belize?
Probably not. It has a long history of brilliant marketing.
Just the same, reaching out and asking (a form of marketing in itself), is classic Southwest. Just as every employee of the airline is empowered to be brilliant and inventive, so is every community that it serves. Southwest employees are encouraged to come up with ideas to make the airline better. Of course, the key is to listen to those ideas and act on them. I got the impression from Wayne that that is exactly what Southwest does. It listens.
So, the airline has sent a talent scout of sorts to Belize to hunt for fresh ideas. His name is Brad Hawkins and to the best of my knowledge, no relation. Our friend (and yours) Rebecca Coutant of San Pedro Scoop met with Hawkins the other day, as did other local media.
Rebecca is taking a page from Southwest’s gameplan and turning around and asking you, the experts on Belize, for your ideas. I think you should read her post and send her your best shots.
There is one challenge. Everyone has been flogging the same 10 to 30 reasons to visit Belize for years. Basically it is blueholemayanruinscavetubingecoadventuressandybeachesreefsnorkelinggarifunadrummingjerkchickendrop. And then some.
And they are all legit.
And for people who have never heard of Belize — and they are many — those are fresh ideas. The thing is, how do you present them in a fresh new way? Southwest-Belize adventure package deals? A Belize scavenger hunt — getting stamps in your Southwest-Belize Adventure Passport gets you valuable upgrades and free trips?
A variation on the Southwest “Gotta get away?” campaign would suit Belize nicely.
Let’s face it: Cancun or Disneyland is a vacation; Belize is “getting away.”
Here are some other related posts:
The fourth annual BBQ Cookoff at Estel’s Dine by the Sea is history and 120 rib-loving customers have spoken: Rick Saager of Oregon — a frequent visitor to Ambergris Caye — is the People’s Choice among the six talented barbecue chefs.
For those of you keeping score, Rick’s ribs were the ones with the orange stick in them. There were six chefs in all. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m flat on my back in water that is just deep enough to cover my ears and muffle the sounds of friends who are happily chatting just a few feet way.
The water is a gloriously comfortable temperature. The sky above is a radiant blue with just enough fluffy bits of cloud to add interest but my eyes are closed, letting the gentle heat of the sun sink deep into the frontal lobe and warm it up like bacon.
Two thoughts are floating through my brain:
1. This is a Monday afternoon. Incredible.
2. If I stay like this long enough, can I grow gills through my ears and never have to get up? Read the rest of this entry »