Learning to do with out some of the basics — like water and cable TV

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We are living in a time of scarcity, here on Ambergris Caye.

For one, we are running out of water. This is a seasonal thing. We have just come through the dry season. June 1 marked the beginning of the rainy season but, as with all man-made criteria, Nature has its own schedule.

Oh, we’ve had a few showers, mostly in the evening, but none of the torrential rains we are expecting.

Meanwhile, one cistern in our condo complex ran dry last week — at around 10 p.m. These are fed from rainwater rolling off the roof. The residents had to make do until staff could run a hose from one of the buildings with a greater supply. Each building has its own rainwater entrapment system, but occupancy varies. The one that ran dry feeds the local bar and recently housed a large family in the penthouse (with Jacuzzi , I’m told).

So, yeah, their cistern ran out first.

A restaurant up the road had a load of water trucked in yesterday, as a precautionary measure. It wouldn’t do to run dry with dirty dishes in the sink and customers clamoring for food!

These days you see plenty of huge water containers on the back of trucks and in slow moving open boats, usually heading north to resorts or houses with a thirsty need.  This, I’m told, is a pretty expensive way to slake your thirst.

There is a municipal water system but it technically stops at the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge, sort of a utility dividing line for North Ambergris Caye and South Ambergris Caye.  All of San Pedro is on the municipal water system, and I believe most of the south end of the island, where development started much later and infrastructure lessons were learned early. (They still don’t have a paved road, but it is coming.)

So we do what all intelligent people with finite resources do — we conserve. Short showers, quick turns at the dishes, full loads of laundry only, no car washing. Ha! Caught you. We don’t have a car. But we have a golf cart and old Moncho 59 looks mighty dusty these days.

So we stave off the slurping sound of a pump in an empty cistern and pray for rain — some rain. Just enough to fill the cisterns. Then it can pass.

And since it is hurricane season, we can only hope for the continued trend of — well — of NO hurricane season. Yes, we have been very very lucky in Belize.

Another shortage reared up last week. This one we have no control over. (At least you can order municipal water for your cisterns and buy 5-gallon containers of fresh drinking water.)

I’m talking about cable television.

One day last week, it mostly went away. The cable provider’s obtuse response has been “We’re working on it.”

Gone were the nine premium movie channels and dozens of specialty channels. Gone to were the “local” network affiliated channels from New York and Los Angeles. In their place are Detroit’s local network affiliates. (For me this mostly means the end to all the Broadway show advertisements carried by New York channels — and the end of decent local news reports. Detroit is definitely second-tier.

In the programming vacuum, many reasons are being tossed about.

My favorite is that local cable has simply been pirating signals from the U.S. and finally got caught. Some clues lying about  tend to back this up. For one, cable service is uniform and incredibly cheap — like $15 a month, including the array of premium movie channels. Also, in the absence of programming, each channel has been replaced with a bouncing Direct-TV logo.


If we lose programming permanently I will be curious to see what it does to the “quality of life.”

Will more people go out for walks? Form book clubs? Amateur acting troupes? Hold more dinner parties? Become kinder people due to the lack of divisive cable news channels? More snorkeling on the reef? More boat trips to the outter islands? Will local kids abandon gangster apparel when they can no longer see what MTV rappers are wearing?

Ironically I am reading a sci-fi novel titled “The Lead Cloak” about a future in which the world is addicted to a massively intrusive thing called The Trellis, through which you can access virtually all known knowledge and all human experiences. You can travel back in time, explore the universe, watch your neighbors make love in real time, and on and on. Naturally some people think the world would be so much better without so much universal access to virtually everything. I’m inclined to agree.

I’ll be honest: I don’t miss the cable service.

Partially because we have Netflix with its vastly superior programming — better than most movies, too. But mostly because there is so little on that we care to watch. I hate myself when I spend useless hours channel surfing before bedtime. Netflix or a good book works for me. Oh, and we have an easy access to a supply of pirated first-run movies available on DVD.

Besides, once the rainy season finally arrives it tends to kill the cable TV broadcast during its densest downpours. It seems cable and rain can’t co-exist in this universe.

Now, if the Internet should suffer a similar demise, watch for a massive exodus of expats.

At least until the crisis is over.


16 thoughts on “Learning to do with out some of the basics — like water and cable TV

    SPmQQse said:
    June 13, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    well….i actually enjoyed that read.


    johnhenryeast said:
    June 14, 2016 at 5:02 am

    Bob, do you really get cable for 15$ (presume you were quoting US$) a month ?


    robertjhawkins1 responded:
    June 14, 2016 at 5:48 am

    Hi John! My landlord pays for it and, yes, I do think he was quoting $USD! The fee is paid to the HOA so they must farm out the signal to each unit and divide by the number of owners connected.

    Liked by 1 person

    johnhenryeast said:
    June 14, 2016 at 6:32 am

    You’ve got a great deal Bob. We’ve always paid direct and it’s been US$22.50 since we got here.

    Liked by 1 person

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      June 14, 2016 at 6:43 am

      Especially good since the landlord kindly pays the cable bill! I think the volume connection must affect the cost as the complex pays only one bill to Coral for all units. Bars with their own satellite feed must be doing great business right now!


    johnhenryeast said:
    June 14, 2016 at 7:03 am

    Volume usually has a bearing on price, so why not. As to the bars, I do know that the Runway was ‘banged out’ for the Cavs v GSW game last night. And I’m sure it will be again on Thursday.


      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      June 14, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Lola’s was too, although much of the crowd was there to see the debut of yet another San Pedro show on Househunters International. Thursday’s game should be a killer — and I hope with a Golden State victory at the end!


        johnhenryeast said:
        June 14, 2016 at 11:09 am

        Was aware of the Househunters’ viewing but not my ‘thing’. I’m probably getting a bit cynical but the Cavs winning last night was just what the broadcasters (and bars for that matter) wanted.


    Frank J said:
    June 14, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Excuse my ignorance but I’ve thought on my visits that when its referred to as ‘cable’ it means DirecTV satellite distributed over cable lines?


      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      June 14, 2016 at 10:53 am

      Exactly right, Frank. All cable TV transmission begins as a digital signal from either satellite or tower to tower relays. The very first cable system, in Pennsylvania I believe, was a guy who built an antenna atop a mountain and then fed the channels down into a valley by cable to individual households. Technology has certainly improved but the idea is still the same.


    Phil and Tess said:
    June 14, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Reported originally as “technical difficulties”, then theories about a Dish being out and needing replacement. The best clue as to cable channel disappearance was offered during a follow up query by CCV. We quote: “it’s affecting every cable company in Belize (not just San Pedro Town)”. If true, then that is one serious technical difficulty. We wonder if the eventual rationalization of channel pricing will be offset by a similar competitive normalization of ISP pricing? Well, we can dream anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      June 14, 2016 at 10:49 am

      Good information, Phil and Tess! Do you think they were all slurping from the same programming trough? Like, a whole nation of pirated satellite signals? Yikes! You are suggesting something that may have been a long time coming — a maturation of the entire media/telecomm/Internet universe in Belize — a shaking out of the public/private mix?


        Phil and Tess said:
        June 15, 2016 at 9:13 am

        Hola Robert.
        Belize was historically a proud nest for buccaneers. But no, we are not inferring actual piracy.
        We know that DirecTV can and does broadcast to the Caribbean and South America through the affiliate DirecTV-Latin America LLC. The signals are encrypted and the program rights for commercial versus residential use are controlled through their subsidiaries and Sky (Mexico, PanAmericana and Brazil). Those subsidiaries broadcast to multiple countries in the region. Belize is conspicuously absent from that list. So legally, you and I couldn’t bring our residential license and dish down here, target the proper elevation/coordinates and enjoy our HBO. However, they rarely enforce what they call “campers” usage. They do get excited about residential licenses being used commercially. We would guess that any deal between one of our cable providers here would be through one of those subsidiaries. Did the subsidiary get slapped for lack of program rights control? Is the contract expired?
        Then again, maybe it is just a big dish failure.
        Here, I’m afraid, it would be beyond Woodward and Bernstein to find out.

        Liked by 1 person

    Joan said:
    June 14, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Robert, other than cable (which I can’t bring with me) do you need anything from stateside? We will be there Sunday for Lobsterfest. Let me know. Let me know where we can meet for a beer and give you and Rose your Lobster beads (we are bring a lot more this year … we ran out way to early last year! See you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      June 14, 2016 at 10:43 am

      Hi Joan! The lobster beads! That was great fun! Have a great trip down. I think were good for stateside stuff — Rose just got back from a trip to the states. Thank you. (But if you happen to see a fresh Sunday New York Times in the airport ……) Depending on where you are staying (I forgot, sorry) we could meet at The Truck Stop north of the bridge or the new Palapa Bar at the end of Boco del Rio some time. Both are great places. See you soon!


        Joan said:
        June 15, 2016 at 4:09 pm

        We are staying at the Yacht Club this time. I think I can manage a NY Times!!! And, I have been wanting to hit both places since reading about them right here!!!


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