And we’re back in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

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Wide floating gobs of Sargassum have washed up on the shores of Ambergris Caye, adding a new color to the local palette.
Wide floating gobs of Sargassum have washed up on the shores of Ambergris Caye, adding a new color (and odor)  to the local palette.

And we’re back.

If one benefit of travel is to discover things about yourself, then one thing I discovered these past six weeks is that I don’t travel and blog very well.

In fact, you may have noticed, I barely blogged at all.

To those who saw this as a blessed relief which opened up space in your own summer opportunities (ie, less time on computer) I say, you are welcome.

A late breakfast at Estel's for Rose and me. Nothing made us feel quite like we're back home like eggs over easy and fryjacks.
A late breakfast at Estel’s for Rose and me. Nothing makes us feel quite like we’re back home like eggs over easy and fryjacks.

To those who felt that I skirted my implicit responsibility to keep you informed, entertained and distracted, I sincerely apologize.  Let the mischief be renewed in full. Let the time wasting begin!

And to those who say, “Wait. Hello? Who the hell are you and how did you get into my burgeoning queue of Internet distractions?” I can only say that my name is Bob Hawkins and I live in Belize. I (we, to include my wife, Rose Alcantara) came to the island of Ambergris Cay six months ago to live, quite possibly, for the rest of our lives.

This blog has been about that process.

Where have I been for the last six weeks?

In a word: Homesick.

Like a sailor on land or the first time in months, I was constantly off-balance.  At  Heathrow airport it occurred to me that more people pass through this circus in a day than live on Ambergris Caye at its fullest, High Season.

That didn’t help.

This is me after arriving in San Francisco. As you may notice, I don't really travel all that well. Too much eating, time zone shifting and bad airplane air had a debilitating effect on my usually youthful demeanor. I will get back into fighting shape, I promise.
This is me after arriving in San Francisco. As you may notice, I don’t really travel all that well. Too much eating, time zone shifting and bad airplane air had a debilitating effect on my usually youthful demeanor. I will get back into fighting shape, I promise.

I still managed to shoot scores of photos to show what a good time we had.

Now don’t panic. I’m not going to sit you down with the digital equivalent of 12 carousels of slides and numb you into oblivion with what we did on our vacation.

That will be a post for another day, a post which you will have the opportunity to ignore at your leisure.

Young guitarists perform at the graduation concert for San Pedro Summer Music Academy 2014 at SP High School on Friday.
Young guitarists perform at the graduation concert for San Pedro Summer Music Academy 2014 at SP High School on Friday.

Today I’ll stick to the blog theme “Bound for Belize” which I now interpret to mean that we, as strangers in a strange land, are in a perpetual state of discovery – to better-understand our new home country, its cultures and people and to better-understand ourselves and how we might fit in, so that we can be a positive presence in this great country.

We landed in Belize around noon on Tuesday.

More music on graduation day, San Pedro Summer Music Academy.
More music on graduation day, San Pedro Summer Music Academy.

First impression?

Holy crap, it is hot and humid.

I mean sure, it was hot and humid before. But it was a comfortable hot and humid. You know, like they say in Las Vegas and Phoenix, “Sure, it is 192.8 degrees out, but it is a dry heat.” What does that mean? When they find you prostrate on the sidewalk you’ll make a good beef jerky?

Oh, yeah: Hot and humid.

We asked around. This is normal for this time of year. The only thing missing is lots and lots of rain. So, I guess we can tell visitors: “Sure, it is hot and humid. But it is a dry hot and humid.”

It did rain late Wednesday night, great gushing buckets of rain for a short while. Nothing but a spritz since.

We came back to an island recovering from the Miss Costa Maya contest which brought lovely ladies from all over Latin America here to pose awkwardly and compete for a very large crown.  Already the town is gearing up for the Miss San Pedro contest. Rose and I watched the young ladies practice their poise, pivots and poses in an upstairs room at Fido’s restaurant while we dined on fish and chips below.

Size is no factor when it comes to learning how to play music. The steel drum performance on graduation day, San Pedro Summer Music Academy.
Size is no factor when it comes to learning how to play music. The steel drum performance on graduation day, San Pedro Summer Music Academy.

Since returning we’ve been revisiting some old haunts – Estel’s for breakfast and to say hi to Sam and Shantee; DandE for ice cream cones (sour sop!) and a chat with Dan and Eileen who once owned the local San Pedro Sun; Lee’s Fast Food for cheap fried chicken dinners; Wet Willie’s for a fab view and mediocre lunch; Coco Loco’s to toast the 19th wedding anniversary of owners Steve and Sue and see great neighbors and friends; and Wine de Vine’s Friday fete for good wine and more great friends.

September is a big month for all of Belize, which gained its independence in 1981 from England. That’s right, there is a whole month of celebrations — parades, pageantry, singing, dancing, speeches, lectures, contests, drinking and national reflection. Take that USA, with your Fourth of July. A whole month!

We also just missed the dedication of the new police barracks, a badly needed and long awaited facility that will improve the lives of those charged with protecting our lives. Rose heard about the dedication minutes before it began and, sad to say, I lacked the energy to get up and go.

Thankfully our friend and fellow blogger, Rebecca Coutant of San Pedro Scoop, went and turned in a very heartfelt and inspiring account of the ceremony. Read about it here.

More good news: The construction of a concrete road north of the Barry Bowen Bridge has begun. There’s rebar in the road, my friends! And that means concrete and concrete means a hot, hard and flat  road and a road means crazy-ass taxi drivers speeding up and down it, and that means trouble, with a capital T, T-r-o-u-b-l-e, right here in River City! And …

Drums and percussions keep the beat on graduation day, San Pedro Summer Music Academy.
Drums and percussions keep the beat on graduation day, San Pedro Summer Music Academy.

Ooops. Sorry.

Channeling my inner-Robin Williams a lot this week.

Actually the road will present some challenges but overall, like the police barracks, it is badly needed and long overdue. Not far behind the road construction – and in the right-of-way beside it, will come the North island infrastructure for municipal water and sewage.

Another game changer, but, again, badly needed.

Another friend and blogger, John East of “Belize—Building a New Life” and his wife, Rose, took a ride north to check out the start of construction. Read about it here.

One of my first acts upon arriving home was to dust off, pump up and grease down our bicycles. Six weeks sitting in salt air can do crazy stuff to cheap Taiwanese bicycles. Rust is growing like lichen.

Even lubed and tubed they somehow feel harder to pedal. Might be the weather and almost complete absence of exercise in my life these past six weeks. Certainly isn’t my age …. No, sir.

We’ve done a good bit of food shopping, as you can imagine, although the produce tables were pretty thin on Tuesday.  We had a great time catching up with Maria and her son, Jose, on Wednesday at their stand south of town. Rose got to practice her Spanish with Maria and we cycled home with a full load of fruits and veggies, including a jug of fresh coconut water.

A young futball team practices on the open field across from our condo complex just north of the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge in San Pedro, Belize.
A young futball team holds an evening practice Thursday on the open field across from our condo complex, just north of the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge in San Pedro, Belize.

One event we did not miss this week was the graduation concert for the 2nd annual San Pedro Summer Music Academy, held in the R. Angel Nunez Auditorium of San Pedro High School on Friday. Kids have been learning guitar, keyboards, drums, percussions and steel drum techniques under the practiced hand and big heart of Carlos Perrote with Banda Cubana  Cubanos.

There is nothing more beautiful than the expression on the face of a child who is creating something – music, art, stories, poetry, theatre, sports … You see the fire behind the eyes for the first time and you know that child is on his or her way.

We saw that fire a lot yesterday – as it consumed the small terrors of performing for the first time before family and friends. It molded faces into huge smile followed by deep hugs from mothers, fathers, aunties and abuelas, friends and other young musicians. So many beaming faces, not the least of which was Carlos Perrote’s as he introduced his young students and coaxed performances from them.

Mayor Daniel Guerrero was there for the whole event and was clearly enjoying it all. In closing remarks, before helping to pass out certificates to each participant, the mayor said he’d like to keep Senor Perrote on the island forever and promised to help provide the musical instruments that the small academy so badly needs.

Friday night in Boca del Rio Park, a drum crew rehearses on the basketball court in front of an appreciative audience.
On Ambergris Caye, music is in the air, everywhere. Friday night in Boca del Rio Park, a drum crew rehearses on the basketball court in front of an appreciative audience.

You can’t fault his enthusiasm.

I thought about how wonderful it is that we have sailing clubs that ensure every island child who wants to learn to sail can do so. What if we were able to make the same promise for every child who wants to play a musical instrument?

Think about it for a while ….

* * *     * * *      * * *

While traveling around England and the States I occasionally joked about culture shock: Me, the little island boy, suddenly thrown into the noisy, crowded world of First World chaos.

OK. I wore that joke down like an old pair of stinky loafers. I guess I was playing to expectations.

In truth, San Pedro can be every bit as noisy, crowded and smelly as London or San Francisco. Bicycling through San Pedro can be just as hairy as navigating an English roundabout or trying to get on I-80 from North Beach.

The difference being that two or three blocks over from all the San Pedro chaos you will find sand, palm trees and the Caribbean Sea.

That’s where my mind is headed at the moment. Ready for a nice walk up the beach.

As soon as it cools down.

Gratuitous shot of my grandson, Brody, age 3. Rose and I spent a couple days with Bendan and Cami and Brody just west of Reno, where they live in a sapcious log cabin. Visiting with family and friends was both wonderful and a bit sad, not knowing when we shall see them next. Brody's parting words, "I love you, grandpa," on on my heart forever.
Gratuitous shot of my grandson, Brody, age 3. Rose and I spent a couple days with Bendan and Cami and Brody just west of Reno, where they live in a sapcious log cabin. Visiting with family and friends was both wonderful and a bit sad, not knowing when we shall see them next. Brody’s parting words, “I love you, grandpa,” on on my heart forever. I can’t wait for the day when he is old enough to come stay with Grandpa and Grandma Rose and maybe attend San Pedro Summer Music Academy!
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12 thoughts on “And we’re back in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

    sanpedroscoop said:
    August 17, 2014 at 5:41 am

    Ahhhh…playing to expectations. I know the feeling. Welcome back! And I am convinced this year is hotter and more humid. It’s almost ridiculous how much time I spend talking about it.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      August 17, 2014 at 9:41 am

      I hear ya, Rebecca! I think I’m starting to re-adapt though …..

      Like

    Jan B. said:
    August 17, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Welcome home! We have missed your tales of island life and goings on. Thankfully Rebecca has kept the blogosphere going while you were gone. Even John East has been slacking lately….LOL! (still love ya John). Look forward to seeing you and Rose next week….we arrive on Wednesday. Wine de Vine Friday eve? Cheers, Jan and Clive

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      August 17, 2014 at 9:40 am

      Are you back for good, Jan? Yes to WdeV. Looking forward to seeing you and Clive!I understand that Ziggy will sometimes hog John’s iPad and spend hours on the canine social media site Facebone looking at embarrassing pictures of cats …..And yes, Rebecca is relentless but with the opportunities she is presented to embrace Belize, can ya blame her?

      Like

    Jan B. said:
    August 17, 2014 at 11:50 am

    We are there for 2 weeks and then back for good in October! 🙂 the final countdown to relocating has begun!
    Yes, it seems that between the iPad and slaying dragons, Ziggy has been keeping the East’s busy. LOL!

    Like

    Audrey Hatten-Milholin said:
    August 18, 2014 at 1:02 am

    We are here on Ambergris Caye now (5th time here) I have come to the realization, it’s just a matter of time before we buy a little place here 🙂 I will never give up my San Francisco place, as I will always love the Pacific Ocean, but the waters here just call to me. Great blog!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      August 18, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      Thank you, Audrey. Welcome back!
      I know how you feel. We are blessed to have so many friends and family in the Bay Area (my son is sometimes called the Mayor of North Beach by his friends …) We just spent a bone-chilling summer week in the city. Rose, a San Francisco native, got to wear her Ugg boots one last time. We love it so much and will always look forward to going back.

      Like

    Megan said:
    August 18, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Gosh- Brody is cute! That hair! 🙂 He’d need gallons of sunblock to spend a summer in San Pedro

    Like

    Lorenzo Gonzalez said:
    August 19, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    You made me remember the humidity in Belize – I pictured people carrying their Lasko fans they just bought at the “Hindu.” On another note, those fryjacks look delicious!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      August 24, 2014 at 8:07 am

      Hi Lorenzo! With enough fryjacks in the belly, all humidity can be conquered! I’m going to look for some of those little fans!

      Like

    Miranda said:
    September 13, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    I just got back ,since I left in June. I found the weather much more tolerable this trip; a little cooler and a lot drier.it really did feel like coming home. Now I just need to get into the Zen of it!

    Like

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