Independence Day II: Chalk! Chalk! Chalk!

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My favorite photo of the day. Who is this woman who walks into the heart of the chalk fling thing in a white dress and pearls. She is so serene, so of and yet not of the mayhem around her. Who is this woman?
My favorite photo of the day. Who is this woman who walks into the heart of the chalk fling thing in a white dress and pearls. She is so serene, so of and yet not of the mayhem around her. Who is this woman?

Last year, the San Pedro Town Council raised the bar on Independence Day with the introduction of the Flying Pinata — a candy drop from a hovering helicopter — and the chalk fling thing.

The chalk fling thing is a variation on the paint thing that marks the Carnival time leading up to Lent. Kids run around Central Park and specific blocks of downtown smearing each other with water soluble paints (hopefully washable). Adults even get a chance to join in because — well, it’s fun. Why leave all the fun stuff up to the kids???

You can see remnants of the paint days all over town in the form of handprints and paint smears on walls.

With chalk, you get the bright colors and frenzied rush that  comes with dusting up everyone around you in electric pink and green and yellow clouds. Staffers toss the packets of chalk into the crowd and you basically become the color of the person next to you who opens the packet and flings it into the air. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Birthday, Belize! Only 35 and still celebrating like a youngster!

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Belize Independence Day Parade, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize, celebrating the 35th year as an independent nation.
Belize Independence Day Parade, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize, celebrating the 35th year as an independent nation.

To me this picture says everything you need to know about Belize on Independence Day. The country is young, vibrant, ambitious — you’d have to be to wear a rig this bountiful on a day this hot!  It is no accident that this costume reflects the natural blues and greens of the foliage and Caribbean Sea in the background.

San Pedro’s Jump Up parade completely lacks the gravitas of nations with long histories of war and loss. The country’s one significant battle for independence is celebrated on Sept. 10, The Battle for St. George’s Caye, and even that seems to be receding into the realm of legend.

The 21st is given over to celebrating the people of Belize with sensuous dance, loud music, outrageously stunning costumes and a joviality that just shouts “Damn! It is good to be in Belize!” Read the rest of this entry »

Rescuing the wildlife of Belize, one animal at a time

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These are all animals rescued by Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic. They need your help to grow their facilities and rescue more such animals.
These are all animals rescued by Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic. They need your help to grow their facilities and rescue more such animals.

One of the stories you hear about often in Belize is the steady advance of civilization into the jungles and forested lands and even the low scrub savannas, and the devastating impact this has on wildlife.

The assault on wildlife habitat comes from many sides: the voracious real estate appetite of big agriculture, the clumsy slash-and-burn of illegal farmers and lumber thieves from Guatemala, the steadily outward encroachment of suburban development or the devastating indifference of poachers. Read the rest of this entry »

Ambergris Caye: This rolled in this afternoon

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This cloud formation suddenly arose from the east, over downtown San Pedro this afternoon, Tuesday Aug. 30, 2016.
This cloud formation suddenly arose from the east, over downtown San Pedro this afternoon, Tuesday Aug. 30, 2016. There was a crazy splurge of color at the top of this cloud, reds, yellows and ambers, spurting out like lava from the top of the cone. Sadly, it didn’t show up in this picture…..

Today started out like many another day recently — no breeze and hot, hot, hot.

I know, because I was riding around on my bicycle this afternoon, searching for empty 100-pound flour and rice sacks to use as sandbags. Just a little post-Hurricane Earl recovery project at the Cloisters, where we live. Thank you, Island City. You came through!

I was drenched. And thirsty.

What better time to stop at the newly opened Island Tackle Bar and Grill for a refreshing beer before pedaling home. Island Tackle is the former Tacklebox, an over the water bar of some stature that had been closed down for two years. It was set for a grand opening, the day Earl landed its sucker punch.

It is open now and my longtime pal Rudy was behind the bar,

As I sat on the deck looking out to the reef, a remarkably chilly breeze swept in from behind me. I turned around and saw this. Read the rest of this entry »

This is Belize: ‘Curiouser and curiouser!’

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This video about tacos makes the point that while Belize has "fast food" you won't find a Taco Bell, McDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken in the country. No franchises, mon!
This video about tacos (See it below.) makes the point that while Belize has “fast food” you won’t find a Taco Bell, McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken in the country. No franchises, mon!

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice.

Only this time, her Wonderland turns out to be Belize.

Belize is a magical rabbit hole. Once you slide down into it, you almost never want to leave.  I don’t and it has now been 2.5 years, one hurricane, three rainy seasons, two bicycles, scores of trips to the reef, more beautiful days than the imagination can grasp and more smiles from passing strangers than I ever thought possible. Read the rest of this entry »

Scoop’s scoop: Simone Biles to bring Olympic Final Five to Belize, her ‘second home’

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Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and members of 2012's team and Gabby Douglas
Bound for Belize? Left to right: Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian, Laurie Hernandez, Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas

Scoop got the Scoop: U.S.gymnast superstar Simone Biles will be coming to Belize after the Olympics, and possibly bringing the rest of her Final Five teammates with her.

Rebecca Coutant of San Pedro Scoop reported this early today. 

Simone’s ties to Belize are gaining notice. In her Olympic biography she notes that Belize is her favorite getaway and she loves the fishing here. Her mother is Belizean and Simone holds a Belize passport.

The New York Times sent a writer from Rio to Belize City to watch Simone’s Gold medal performance with her family and first lady of Belize, Kim Simplis Barrow.

Simone Biles is no stranger to San Pedro!

Ambergris Today carries some great photos of Simone with staff at Ramone’s Resort, where she attended her brother’s wedding  in June 2015.

As Rebecca reports, the Belize Tourism Board offered to host the Final Five after the Olympics. Simone Tweeted back: “my second home. You betta Belize we’re coming.”

You can read all bout it at San Pedro Scoop.

Relief effort begins to rebuild San Mateo homes hit by Hurricane Earl

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Pictures of homes trashed by Hurricane Earl in San Mateo.
Pictures of homes trashed by Hurricane Earl in San Mateo.

San Mateo was hit harder than we imagined by Hurricane Earl.

According to San Pedro Food Bank co-founder Brittney O’Daniel, 49 familes are affected,  in leveled or “half-destroyed” homes.

The local social activist has set a goal of $20,000 BZD to fund the cost of plywood, zinc roofing, hammers, nails and other building supplies to rebuild the homes. Read the rest of this entry »

San Pedro town ‘fathers’ deliver stern lectures to fire victims before disbursing relief funds

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Einer Salazar lectures fire victims on the importance of keeping their mouths shut before dispensing fire relief funds. Ouch.
Eiden Salazar lectures fire victims on the importance of keeping their mouths shut before dispensing fire relief funds. Ouch.

Yesterday morning I answered the San Pedro Food Bank’s call for volunteers to help sort donated clothing for distribution to Hurricane Earl victims.

By the time I got to the Lion’s Den in San Pedro, shortly after 9 a.m., the sorting process was well under way.

This is a pretty experienced group. Only a bit more than a month ago, 88 San Pedranos, businesses and property owners were left homeless by a downtown fire and the local Red Cross, Lions Club and Food Bank seemed to click together in bringing relief to fire victims. Including clothing distribution.

Now they were doing it all over again.

Fortunately, the overwhelming response to the fire left the local service groups with plenty of boxes and bags of clothing donations that never got sorted and distributed — and frankly didn’t need to. They were ready and waiting for Hurricane Earl’s victims. Which is why the Food Bank was urging only donations of non-perishable food and bedding this time. (Still needed, by the way.)

The Food Bank’s Brittney O’Daniel is spearheading an effort to raise $20,000 for lumber, zinc (roofing), nails etc. to rebuild homes of 49 families in San Mateo “half-destroyed” by Hurricane Earl. Read about it here.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, as we sorted out clothing for hurricane victims — and the many fire victims who are still trying to recover — a second gathering was taking place in the Lion’s Den.

The funds raised for the Middle Street fire victims were about to be distributed by the Red Cross, Lions Club, National Emergency Management Organization and San Pedro officials.

But not without some drama. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Earl: No. 1, Not all disasters are alike

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Grand Caribe Resort on Sunday morning, Aug. 6, 2016.
A photographer stops to capture the sunrise and battered but still stately dock at Grand Caribe Resort on Sunday morning, Aug. 6, 2016.

When almost an entire block on Middle Street in San Pedro went up in flames in June — leaving 66 people homeless and a number of businesses crippled or wiped out — the whole world responded with unconditional generosity.

Certainly the whole of Ambergris Caye did.

Scores of volunteers stepped in to help clear away debris. They didn’t ask which rubble belonged to homes and which to businesses. The amount of clothing and food donated could be calculated in tonnage and by the size of the hearts of the people on Ambergris Caye.

The San Pedro Food Bank is looking for volunteers to help

sort and distribute clothing to Hurricane Earl victims!

Report to the Lions Den, downtown San Pedro,

at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

Barges and planes brought in even more aid from the mainland.

A significant amount of cash was raised in numerous and imaginative ways. Nobody designated their dollars to go to specific people or businesses.

People just gave — time, money, food, clothing, shelter.

Hurricane Earl is different.

Or it seems that way. Read the rest of this entry »

Video of flooding on Macal and Mopan rivers in San Ignacio

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Drone catches aerial view of flooding in San Ignacio Town, Bullet Tree and surrounding areas in the Cayo District from Hurricane Earl, posted by Victor Castillo.