Updated: Where were you when the lights went out?

Posted on Updated on

Editor’s note: Updates on June 17 include new information on our electricity situation, the removal of some huge crocodiles and the launch of a new internet radio station in San Pedro, called “The Breeze.” How is that for newsy?

Now on to our story …..

Always lead with your moment of Zen, and here it is.
Always lead with your moment of Zen, and here it is.


Day three with no electricity.

I grow disoriented. Energy levels have dipped dangerously low. Isolation drops like a black curtain around me. There is no communication with the outside world. No stove, no microwave, no air conditioners, no WiFi, no TV — and as of today, no hot water.

I don’t know how much longer we can last. This may be the final message you receive from me, as it feels as if our oxygen supply has been cut off. Certainly the Internet has been cut off.

I … see … in the distance … a brilliant … white …. I …

No, wait. Never mind.

This is a picture of me in my living room, late in the evening, with the power out. I guess I should have used a flash.
This is a picture of me in my living room, late in the evening, with the power out. I guess I should have used a flash.

That is the sun shining on the waves crashing over the Great Belize Barrier Reef. And, gosh, they do look especially brilliant today.

Let’s start this all over again, shall we?

Day three with no electricity.

And we’re getting along just fine.

The power went out Sunday morning around 8:30 a.m. and that usually means that Belize Electric Ltd. is making local improvements: swapping out transformers, hooking up new areas to the grid. It happens from time to time.

For about two hours on a Sunday morning there is peace and quiet — and no TV or Internet.

Then the power is restored.

Sometimes the outages are well publicized. Sometimes we are taken by surprise. Rarely are they a bother. You just go outside and do something else.

Strange though, I didn’t pick up a warning notice on Facebook on this one, as I usually do.

Some days you feel like this, some days you don't.
Some days you feel like this, some days you don’t.


Around noon I began to grow concerned.

A random survey of  my neighbors yielded a startling discover: In this condo complex, they all had electricity.

Except me.

Some asked me if there was a red tag on my meter — a sign that I’d failed to pay my electric bill. Some looked at me with the sad wizened eyes of experience, nodded their heads sagely and said with a touch of concerned, “Looks like it is your turn.”

I knew what they were talking about. I’d heard the stories from my elders, around the bar at Feliz Bar & Grill.

The Outage.

It strikes when you least expect it. Sometimes the power comes back on all by itself, but mark my words, this ain’t over. In another day, a week, a month — it will go out again. Sometimes once it is gone, it is lost until your unit is rewired.

It seems that when this complex was built, trenches were cut from the power source to the buildings and wiring was laid. Unprotected aluminum wiring. Wiring that corrodes in the salty air of Ambergris Caye, Belize.

So, one by one, units have lost power and wires have been replaced, now inside protective PVC conduit.

I’m told that when the power line was replaced to the unit next to mine, last year, a pipe big enough to service the entire building was installed.  So, it shouldn’t be that big  deal to feed another line through and hook us up.

Except that for the past two days the electrician has been either ill or unreachable.

And so … Inconvenient? Yes. But not the end of the world.

Sure, we’ve had guests visiting and by last night the warm water had run out. But they left this morning, for the beautiful Pooks Hill eco-resort on the mainland where I’m sure the conveniences will be better.

Our neighbors Anthony and Wendy knew intimately about our plight, having spent a year with on-and-off power.  Anthony ran a 60-foot extension cord from their unit into ours so we were able to quickly re-power the refrigerator, as well as various computers, iPhones, Kindles and battery packs. (Interesting, the priorities.) Yesterday, Wendy helped our guests run a couple of loads of wash so they could make a fairly clean getaway this morning.

Owners of Feliz Bar, Mike and Wendy, passed on their WiFi password so we could stay connected — at least from the front of the house, closest to their bar.

Neighbors Doug and Gail let Rose plug in a crock pot the other day so we would have a nice soup for lunch after a morning snorkeling on the reef.

Chris Summers from American Crocodile Education Sanctuary prepares to relocate a wayward croc into a more friendly environment.
Chris Summers from American Crocodile Education Sanctuary prepares to relocate a wayward croc into a more friendly environment.

On Sunday evening we grabbed burritos and sandwiches at Ak’Bol Yoga Retreat after an invigorating guided meditation and Dharma talk by our guest John Salerno-White, then scurried over to The Office, a popular palapa bar on the lagoon side of town,  to meet up with American Crocodile Education Sanctuary  (ACES) croc wrangler Chris Summers for a night-time crocodile expedition.

While waiting for darkness to fall we learned that Belize had beaten Dominican Republic a second time, in a World Cup qualifier in Belmopan. That was the talk of the neighborhood, and pretty thrilling news for Belize football fans.

That night, we “helped” Chris and his crew, Mike and Danni,  release a problematic 5’4” croc named Padme into the quiet refuge of the thick mangroves surrounding the lagoon on the west side of the island. There it could seek out fish, rather than small pet dogs, and would probably remain quite contentedly, as long as nobody decides to “rescue” the lagoon by building a resort on it, or something. (Thinking about you, Leo.)

Returning home to darkness wasn’t that big a deal, not after watching the shimmering white-hot explosion of plankton on the lagoon surface. By the time we reached the condo, everyone was exhausted enough to simply hit the sack or relax in the soft white glow of a Kindle for a while.

Update: Our new friend Chris Summers has been very busy. This week he removed two 11-foot crocs from areas near resorts in North Ambergris Caye.

Check out this San Pedro Sun photo of Chris straddling one of the crocodiles:

Chris Summers from American Crocodile Education Sanctuary straddles one of two 11-foot crocs his agency had to relocate this week.
Crocodile wrangler Chris Summers from American Crocodile Education Sanctuary straddles one of two 11-foot crocs his agency had to relocate this week.

You can read the San Pedro Sun story here.

Sleep was good because Monday morning we were up and waiting on our dock for the Searious Adventures tour boat to take us to Hol Chan Reserve and Shark Ray Alley for a half-day of snorkeling — something every visitor to the island ought to do. Even when it is overcast and windy, like yesterday.

The snorkeling was surprisingly good for a blustery day and the aquatic  life along the reef was as thick as the boats filled with snorkelers and divers. Seriously, if this is the low season, it bodes well for the island. There seem to be a lot of visitors around.

Our friends John and Laurel are intrigued by the ladies making papusas at the entrance to the new Waruguma restaurant on Back Street.
Our friends John and Laurel are intrigued by the ladies making papusas at the entrance to the new Waruguma restaurant on Back Street.


Last night, we tried out the newly opened Waruguma restaurant on Back Street for dinner and gorged on smoothies, pupusas and vegetarian burritos until our eyes watered from pleasure. I think this might become a favorite stop with its bright white-and-green interior, wide-open construction, high ceiling and, yes, fabulous $2.50 pupusas and $5 smoothies. Again, once home, it was all we could do to grab our flashlights and trundle off to bed with  dreams of lobster pupusas, chicken pupusas, potato and pumpkin pupusas dancing in our heads.…..

As always, having guests is a mixture of pleasure and exhaustion and always a sadness when they go. Guests are a positive disruptive force in our lives. We love to show them the island we love so much and enjoy seeing and experiencing new things through their eyes.

Add the loss of electricity and it becomes a bit like camping out.

John and Laurel’s departure was softened a bit when we pulled into Maya Island Air. One of the young baggage handlers whom they met when they first arrived recognized them immediately and came over to greet them warmly and ask how their stay had been. Like family.

Totally unrelated to this blog, these
Totally unrelated to this blog, these “Breeze” ticklers have been showing up on telephone poles all over the island. I guess the objective is to generate interest and excitement around some new thing — a restaurant, a club, a newspaper, a drink? OK, curiosity is piqued. This better be good . .  . Update: Well, the answer came quickly on this one.

And that’s one thing about Ambergris Caye that really hit home this week: In good times and in adversity, the people around you become like family.

When you see friends on the road, when your power goes out, when you share an adventure with strangers — sooner or later, everyone becomes like family.

Ah, Herman Acosta, a local  electrician has just shown up and is taking measurements for the project. I called Herman on Sunday afternoon, on the recommendation of a neighbor, and he was here in 45 minutes — on a Sunday — to analyze the problem. The property manager gave him the job today. Looks like we’ll get power tomorrow.

And so I get to take Rose out for dinner one more time.

Life goes on. Life is good.

These are inconveniences, not problems. Not when those around you are like family, and the air is warm and breeze is blowing and the sun is shining and the Caribbean is once again showing off her dazzling array of greens and blues.

Electricity update: It looks like the power line will not be permanently replaced until tomorrow, Thursday June 18, in time for the start of the Ramadan Fast. (I don’t know why I tied this to Ramadan. I am not Muslim but I greatly admire the strength of character it takes to fast during sunlight hours for an entire month. Perhaps we should all try it once …)

Meanwhile, today Herman Acosta has sent his two sons over to dig the trench for the power line. They will install a temporary line so that we will have electricity tonight and tomorrow the permanent line will be installed.

Herman and his sons have had a very busy last couple of days and they are going above and beyond to make sure that we have electric power.

We are so very grateful for this.



5 thoughts on “Updated: Where were you when the lights went out?

    Tom wagner said:
    June 16, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    Where’s the Dharma guy?


      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      June 17, 2015 at 8:35 am

      Currently, “Dharma guy” John and Laurel are roaming around the Caracol Mayan site and tomorrow will be heading back to California.


    Susan Watts said:
    June 17, 2015 at 7:17 am

    I just love your outlook on life! Everything is so positive! Thanks!


    robertjhawkins1 responded:
    June 17, 2015 at 8:33 am

    Thanks, Susan. Up to a point, you need to roll with whatever this island throws at you. But now that I just learned we’ll possibly be a fifth day without power my sunny disposition is starting to cloud over ….


    lifeagain said:
    June 17, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Electricity is over rated…i have it at my house….no big deal if it ever goes out for a day or week or two……


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