This is Belize

Forever, it turns out, is a slippery concept: Goodbye, Belize

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My own opportunities to understand Belize are running out because I will be leaving the country shortly, probably forever.”

A “60 Minutes” piece from 1985 in which Morley Safer travels to Belize is cruising around the Internet. Like any 15-minute television essay on an entire country, it packs a little truth around a basket of cliches and misses more than half the story.

Tootling up and down the Belize River in a panga, Safer looks rather rakish in his rumpled white linen suit and black shirt — in a faded “Miami Vice” sort of way. He pronounces the country corruption-free, poor but not direly poor, filled with cheerful people from many backgrounds, a country comfortable with itself, a country ripe for exploitation, and on the cusp of great change.

Great change, from television.

He got that one right. Read the rest of this entry »

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This is Belize: When good golf carts go bad

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We were nearly at the crest of the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge this morning when something started going awfully wrong with Moncho 59.

More exactly, the golf cart started going left and right.

On its own.

The steering wheel seemed to suddenly lose all interest in doing its job. Which is a simple one: Keep the front tires going in the right direction.

I eased Monch 59 down the bridge toward San Pedro Town, looking a bit like a tourist after that first stop at the Palapa Bar.

Pulling over at the base of the bridge, a quick inspection showed everything seemed to be in order. The tires were pointed in the right direction. They were adequately inflated. Nothing was dragging on the ground beneath the engine.

Still, the best the old girl could do was wobble past the toll booth and the adjacent hardware store. A tiny piece of real estate between Boca del Rio Hardware and Erica’s produce stand became a safe haven from the traffic.

By now the right front wheel looked — what’s the technical term? — off.

As in almost falling off.

I looked behind the wheel with fresh eyes, that laser-like scrutiny that says “I can fix this if I stare at it long enough and hard enough.”

There was a pivot bolt missing between the two — oh, I can’t lie. I haven’t the slightest idea what they are called. But any idiot, like me, could see the gaping hole that once held something that held it all together.

And it was gone.

Fortunately, Ruben’s mechanic shop was barely a block up the street.

Over the years, Ruben’s guys have rescued me numerous times when tires went flat or essential engine parts went kaflooie.

En route to Ruben’s, I dropped to one knee.

I’m not a terribly religious man. But there was a neatly folded $5 bill in the gutter. (Hey, I’m not proud. I thought it was a $2 bill.)

“Maybe this will work out OK after all,” I told myself.

I’m big on good and bad omens.

After a hearty greeting and an explanation, Ruben pulled Fabiano off the motorcycle he was disassembling and sent him with me.

With a quick look, Fabiano walked four steps into the hardware store, grabbed a couple of different length bolts and secured the two steering rod pieces with a few taps of his wrench on the head of the bolt.

Back in the hardware store, finding a proper nut and washer proved the toughest part of this project.

“Pay him,” said Fabiano.

“Four dollars,” said the store owner.

By the time I got outside, Fabiano had the bolt secure and was tightening several others.

“Twenty five dollars,” said Fabiano as he packed up his tools.

He smiled, shook my hand, and walked the 100 yards back to the shop where the partially disassembled motorcycle and more-interesting challenges awaited him.

Meanwhile, Rose had finished her produce shopping and ad hoc Spanish lesson at Erica’s.

So we headed off for Estel’s and breakfast, barely 20 minutes off our original time. And a mere $15 USD lighter in the pocketbook.

If something has to go bad, I’d recommend it happening just like this.

Yes, we had no tsunami, we had no tsunami last night

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I updated a t-shirt from previous near-miss disasters. It still isn’t selling.

Well, Ambergris Caye dodged another disaster.

In 2017, two major hurricanes bypassed us for richer pickings in the rest of the Caribbean, coastal US, and Houston.

Last night, it was the threat of a tsunami, following an offshore 7.6 earthquake.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tropic island survival kit essentials, part 2: a dog, of course

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Moppit, the philosopher wonder dog, out for a romp this morning in the Tres Cocos neighborhood on Ambergris Caye. Moppit has the uncanny ability to remember every spot where she has received a free handout, a found chicken bone or remains of bait fish, or bacon and with laser-like determination returns to each on our walk. Naturally, a walk requires much zig-zagging and sniffing and depositing of pee-mail on coconuts and tree trunks.

 

Yesterday,  I half-seriously compiled a tropical island survival kit — OK, maybe less than half-serious — and made a very obvious omission that was brought to my attention this morning while I was walking Moppit, our dog.

“A dog,” said our friend Cheryl Taylor Bowen. “You should include a dog in your survival kit.”

I looked down at Moppit.

I looked up at Cheryl. Read the rest of this entry »

Island life: A curated exhibition of nature’s early-morning artistry in Belize

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Pearls from the nightly rain still linger in the loving crevasses and folds of satiated leaves. No sun will rise to vaporize these crystalline gems on this early morn. All around us, clouds struggle to organize as shifting breezes thwart their mission — but the rain is inevitable and due in abundance.

It isn’t every morning that I get up early to walk the little Moppit, but when I do, I am always rewarded with stunning sunrises, a blissful calm, a symphony of bird calls rising to a cacophony on occasion, the occasional pod of dolphins just offshore, the blustery hustle of storm clouds moving into position, the egrets and herons vigilant in the shallows.

There is always something.

If I weren’t so lazy, I suppose, there would be even more.  Read the rest of this entry »

Ramming speed: One way to barge in on Ambergris Caye, Belize

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Backing up for a full-throttle run through the shallows and s bludgeoning impact with the landing site. That’s just how you get things done.

The early morning stillness crumbled beneath the blatting, wheezing, rumbling, cries of frustration from diesel engines as the tug helplessly shouldered the sand-banked barge laden with building supplies.

It wouldn’t budge, not one inch toward the Tabony lot landing.

Shallow waters and low tide conspired to thwart the mission. This was no storybook “I think I can” tale. This big muscular engine couldn’t. Let’s face it, rail traction is so much better than water. Read the rest of this entry »

Sometimes words fail when trying to describe Paradise in Belize but a picture will do

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Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how Paradise and Belize fit together. I have pages and pages of failed writing attempts. Sometimes, words aren’t what is called for. This morning, it took only one photograph with my humble iPod to make all those words moot. I will say, Paradise lasted but a moment and it felt eternal. Taken from the beach at Tres Cocos Resort in North Ambergris Caye, Belize. I’ll just step out of the picture now. Have a wonderful day.

Two dozen questions on living in Belize — and not one is answered just ‘yes’ or ‘no’

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Old-fashioned manpower is pulling fiber optic cable through the streets of San Pedro, Belize, during a very hot summer day recently.

 

The e-mail said, we have a few questions about living an expat life that we would like you to answer. And it shouldn’t take more than five minutes . . . that’s when I knew the e-mail was from an editor. No writing should take anyone more than five minutes to complete, according to every editor for which I’ve ever worked. That’s how editors think. That’s their job.

So, three hours later, this is what I came up with.

I’ve said it before, I like these questionnaires. They are lazy work for the person who sends them out, but they can prove enlightening for the person who must reach down inside and come up with some answers — about 24 of them in this case.

So, here’s the deal. I’ve been living on a tropical island for nearly four years now. It is probably about time I ask myself “Why?” Will I be here for the rest of my life? Am I slowly going insane from all the rampant beauty that surrounds me? Where can I find a cheap meal? Am I getting enough exercise? Am I drinking too much local rum? Does anyone out there know or care where I am? Hello? Hello? Knock, knock . . Read the rest of this entry »

Belize, 36 years old and still partying like a youngster

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Belize Independence Day Parade in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Celebrating 36 years of freedom.

“Our determination to keep things stable and our country free must never falter. And it is in that context that I endorse this September’s thematic call for us to ceaselessly renew our nation-building resolve. But let our patriotism be year-round, and not just a seasonal thing. Let it be a wellspring for inexhaustible optimism, for never seeing through a glass, darkly. And let it ensure that the inevitable disagreements within a democracy on the move, never become so dissonant as to upset our ultimate oneness and indivisibility. As it is on this day, on this venerated hill, so let it be always: that red and white and blue and white in the end merge to become red, blue and white.”

— Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize, Independence Day 2017

Here’s some more about the prime minister’s speech.

As expected, this morning’s 10 a.m. Independence Day jump-up parade in San Pedro, Belize, began right on time: about 12:30 p.m.

Read the rest of this entry »

You can skip the story and go for the moral: Wear sunscreen and use your noodle

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A visual aid for my little story. The yellow and green things in this picture are called “noodles,” for obvious reasons. They are not the only kind of noodles, apparently. Always ask when someone asks you to fetch noodles.

This is an absolutely nothing story and if you want to move on with your life, that’s OK by me.

It is just that I need to put it down on paper to see if it all really happened the way I think it did.

It started on Sunday with a pool party down the road, next to Coco Loco’s Beach Bar. The party was actually a continuation of a birthday party from the day before which included a glorious day aboard the No Rush catamaran with snorkeling and good food, plenty of rum punch, great friendship and a brilliant sun over head.

I’m pretty sure it was the last one that did me in. Rookie mistake, going the whole day without sunscreen. My face looked like a two-tone bowling ball: Pale white where the bandana sat and an awful shade of burgundy from my forehead south. (Right now it looks like a badly peeling bowling ball … .) Read the rest of this entry »