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Wild Mango’s chef-owner is back in Victoria House kitchen

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Victoria House, one of the most beautiful resorts on Ambergris Caye.
Victoria House, one of the most beautiful resorts on Ambergris Caye.

Why is Amy Knox of the popular San Pedro restaurant  Wild Mango’s walking around in a Victoria House T-shirt you ask?

It is more than sentimentality.

Amy first made her mark on Ambergris Caye as chef at Victoria House with a celebrated cuisine that drew fans to what then seemed like the southern extreme of civilization. And like any inventive chef she eventually struck out on her own with the downtown San Pedro bistro, Wild Mango’s. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cheap flights? Southwest proves to be no bargain once you land in Houston

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Airline inconveniences fade away when you are with the most important thing in your life -- family. Clockwise from upper left: Ryand and fiance Larisa; grandson Brody with his helicopter; Brody and me, mugging for the camera; bottom, from left: Brendan & Cami, Chris & Katie, Brody & Grizzly.
Airline inconveniences fade away when you are with the most important thing in your life — family. Clockwise from upper left: Ryan and his fiance, Larisa; grandson Brody with his helicopter; Brody and me, mugging for the camera; bottom, from left: Brendan & Cami, Chris & Katie, Brody & Grizzly in Truckee.

When is a bargain not a bargain?

Probably when it is a low-priced, round-trip, Southwest Airlines ticket from Belize to Houston.

We’ve all seen them since Southwest began flying into Belize a year ago. I was among the cheerleaders since Southwest’s aggressive pricing (initially, at least) often forces the big carriers to drop prices. Win-win!

My wife, Rose, recently snagged a too-good-to-be-true ticket to Houston. She has a son in Oklahoma whom she hadn’t seen since we moved to Belize nearly three years ago. She also has a daughter in Arizona and, not coincidentally, a friend had organized a weeklong yoga retreat in Sedona for early October.

So she jumped on the Southwest sale. And offered to get me one, too. Read the rest of this entry »

This is Belize: Earl is beginning to make some waves

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The view from our dock. We're on the second floor and feel relatively comfortable even if we are only about 40 feet west of the action ....
The view from our dock. We’re on the second floor and feel relatively comfortable even if we are only about 40 feet west of the action ….

Still a few hours before the serious side of Earl begins to show himself but already he’s making himself known.

Already some planks on our dock are showing an independent streak. There will be some gaps before this night is done.

Mostly it has been intermittent drenchings and bigger than normal waves. Already our little retaining wall is proving no match for the waves, and fairly modest waves at that. The sky is a somber gray but the light still projects an eerie brightness, as if the air itself is burning phosphorescence. That, and the constant rumbling as the Caribbean’s massive waves trip over the barrier reef. Read the rest of this entry »

This is Belize: When all goes right, the life you save may be that of a cell phone

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rain-cell

Somewhere in the dark and the rain along the rugged main road south from San Pedro Town, my friend Clive Brewster’s phone tumbled out of his pocket and skittered away in the blackness.

He didn’t even notice.

He was pretty busy steering his golf cart rumbling, stumbling, and trumbling, and sloshing in, around, and through ruts and bumps and deep rocky valleys in the road, in the rain.

The South Ambergris Caye road is so bad, I always feel a special appreciation when I see South island friends in town or up north at Marbucks  for a Thursday night Wine Down.

It isn’t just a journey. It’s a commitment.

But the next morning, when he realized the phone was gone, a sense of what might of happened began to dawn, as he sat watching the sun was rising over the barrier reef in front of him.

A logical and methodical man — and by nature an extremely optimistic one — Clive drew up a plan for finding his phone.

He would walk back up the road, scanning from side to side. It was early yet. There was still hope that it would be lying by the wayside somewhere.

The first thing he encountered were the puddles, enormous deep murky brown puddles,  as many as two and three, side-by-side, cratering the road. In some stretches during the rainy season, there is more  deep water than road. So, Clive borrowed his wife Janet’s phone.

Every time he reached a cluster of puddles he called himself.

If indeed it still worked, Clive reasoned, the phone would send up vibrations from the murky depths and the vibrations would morph into ripples and the ripples would alert Clive to the presence of his rat-drowned phone. Kind of like finding the black box on a downed aircraft. With about as much hope, too.

So Clive slowly worked his way up the road, retracing his path left and right, pausing periodically to call himself and scanning the puddles for signs of life.

At some point in this northbound exercise Clive noticed a familiar face, a man walking in the opposite direction. David Thompson was someone Clive would often encounter with a smile and a wave as he bicycled north to his daily workout at the Train Station gymnasium. And normally, David was also on a bicycle.

Clive hailed him. “By any chance did you find a phone this morning?”

David pulled off his knapsack and pulled out a tightly wrapped towel.

“As a matter of fact, I did.”

David explained: “Just a few minutes ago I was passing this puddle, and the water started to vibrate. I reached in and found this!”

It was Clive’s phone.

Clive’s plan had worked! It just required the assistance of another pedestrian — and a cascading confluence of unlikely circumstances — what we often call “luck,” I guess.

Clive thanked him, then added, “don’t you usually ride a bicycle?”

David did indeed bicycle to work, but this morning his tire was not only flat but rendered unfixable from tread worn as thin as the elbows on a tweed jacket.

So he was walking.

Which is why he found the phone.

Clive immediately offered to get new tires for his bike and by the next morning the two bicyclists David and Clive were again hailing each other with hearty waves and wide grins — perhaps heartier and wider than when they were strangers — as they flew by each other.

Kind of a post script

The phone, of course, stopped working as soon as Clive got it home.

It had, after all, been immersed in muck for hours. It was as if it had clung to life just long enough to be rescued at sea, only to die in the arms of a loved one from technological hypothermia.

But in another set of happy circumstances, a house guest of Clive and Janet’s was a big fan of resuscitating wet phones by immersing them in microwaved rice, hot and dry. Five one-hour immersions later, Clive’s phone sprang to life.

So, there is a phone god. And rice immersion, apparently, is not mythology.

And, this is Belize.

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Editor’s note: “This is Belize” is an occasional series within the “Bound for Belize” blog. It highlights the sometimes goofy, quirky, strange, frustrating, bewildering, heartwarming or sweet things that happen to us and which put a light on the Belizean outlook and spirit.
The title comes from a 20-year resident of Belize and long-time friend, Steve Thompson. When things happen here that are beyond Steve’s control or comprehension, he simply sighs and utters, mantra like, “This is Belize.” And he finds acceptance within, while warding off cynicism.
If you have experiences/stories that might leave you whispering “This is Belize,” send them to me so we can share! My e-mail is robertj.hawkins2012@gmail.com.)

Forget about living the dream as you travel, Charlie Guo, let the dream come to you

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Charlie Gou is a man on the go. He's a self-described nomad who sprints from adventure to adventure and in a recent essay he says all this chasing the dream has left him a bit empty. Don't hate Charlie. Give him credit for a little self-reflection.
Charlie Guo is a man on the go. He’s a self-described nomad who sprints from adventure to adventure and in a recent essay he says all this chasing the dream has left him a bit empty. Don’t hate Charlie. Give him credit for a little self-reflection. (All photos property of Charlie Guo)

Charlie Guo is a self-described nomad. For the past two years he has traveled the world, doing amazing stuff.

And his life sucks.

Wait. His life doesn’t suck. Charlie thinks it sucks. Read the rest of this entry »

When the power goes out on Ambergris Caye, the feet start walking

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Walking north through Tres Cocos, this property (a couple of residences, actually) is a real success story -- albeit an expensive one. A year ago, the water extended to the dock ramp and where you see sand now, there was a thick layer of stinky sargassum seaweed.  Tons of the stuff were pulled off the beach but keeping up with it was impossible. Now a stone wall and tons of fresh sand hold back the seaweed and keep it moving south with the current.
Walking north through Tres Cocos, this property (a couple of residences, actually) is a real success story — albeit an expensive one. A year ago, the water extended to the dock ramp and where you see sand now, there was a thick layer of stinky sargassum seaweed. Tons of the stuff were pulled off the beach but keeping up with it was impossible. Now a stone wall and tons of fresh sand hold back the seaweed and keep it moving south with the current.

True to its word, Belize Electric Ltd. (BEL) shut down the entire island’s electricity at 6 a.m. Saturday morning for some maintenance projects.

I suppose that sounds a little strange to you, my First World family and friends, but that is how things are done here. When something is taken off-line for repairs, the whole island goes black. I guess we just don’t have the redundancy systems that would allow them to bypass a transformer, feeder, substation or whatever.

By BEL does have a Facebook alert system and the utility posted warnings as early as Friday about the shutdown.

So, you adjust, roll with it and move on. Read the rest of this entry »

I mean, who gets a whole private island for their birthday? (Hint: You’re looking at him)

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Walking around Blackadore Caye on my birthday, enjoying the splendor of a deserted island -- with 20 of my best friends!
Walking around Blackadore Caye on my birthday, enjoying the splendor of a deserted island — with 20 of my best friends!

Your first thought when you step off the boat and on to Blackadore Caye is “This can not be real.”

It is like a Hollywood movie set for a tropical island adventure film.

The coconut trees seem too perfectly spaced to be real. The ground beneath them too perfectly swept clean. The sand too white. The water on either side of this long, narrow caye shimmers in variants of teal, turquoise and aquamarine. The dry, cool wind sweeps so sweetly upon the skin, not a drop of perspiration survives. The cloud-dappled sky is a dreamy blue — azure color #007FFF, if you are into replicating sky colors from an RGB color wheel. Read the rest of this entry »

Portraits: The story of San Pedro women in 62 powerful chapters

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San Pedro Photographer Karen Brodie and her mother-in-law May Lowe. Her monthlong exhibition, "Women of San Pedro" opens Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m. at the San Pedro House of Culture.
San Pedro Photographer Karen Brodie and her mother-in-law May Lowe. Her monthlong exhibition, “Celebrating the Women of San Pedro” opens Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m. at the San Pedro House of Culture. Karen’s own essay and insights on the exhibit can be read below. (All photos by Karen Brodie)

In the two-and-a-half years that photographer Karen Brodie has lived in San Pedro, Belize, she has taken a lot of pictures.

If you have attended any local events — like Garifuna Settlement Day, the Mothers Day celebration, Seniors Appreciation Day at the Lions Club, the Costa Maya Festival — then you have seen her prowling the edges with her camera, snapping away.

More often than not, she is looking for interesting faces — proud faces, happy faces, strong faces, quiet faces, old faces, young faces — faces that tell a story without speaking a word. So, yes, she has quite a collection.

So, you’d think that when Mito Paz, director of the San Pedro House of Culture, asked Karen to produce a show of her portraits of local women to celebrate National Women’s Month, she would say something like, “Sure! Piece of cake!” or “Easy peasy!”

But that wouldn’t be Karen. Read the rest of this entry »

Blue Water Grill turns its charitable impulses toward the PolyClinic

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blue-water-grill
Blue Water Grill is one of San Pedro’s fine dining establishments and one of its most community conscious. Good food and good citizenship go hand in hand — a feature of some of the islands best restaurants.

Every month the Blue Water Grill, here in San Pedro, Belize, picks a different fund-raising project and matches a certain amount of the funds raised from their guests.

December through February, for example, were dedicated to raising funds to refurbish Boca del Rio Park’s playground equipment — and they collected $10,234 to make it happen. They recently raised funds similarly for playground equipment at Central Park in downtown San Pedro.

This month, the popular restaurant has set a goal of $8,000 to buy a new electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) diagnostic machine for the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro PolyClinic, our only public medical facility on the island. Blue Water will match the first $2,000 raised and plans to continue this program into April if the whole $8,000 isn’t raised this month.

This is huge.

ambassador1
This past Friday, Blue Water Grill hosted the U.S. Ambassador to Belize, Carlos R. Moreno and his Embassy staff for their annual meet-and-greet with island expats.

And personal.

I know heart trouble. A year ago, I had a stent inserted into an artery. Most recently, a very dear Belizean friend was airlifted to the mainland with a severe heart problem that might have been diagnosed right here with the proper equipment.

With heart problems, time is always of the essence.

I am thrilled that somebody is turning this community’s immense charitable impulses toward a project that will benefit all islanders. The PolyClinic is a government operated facility that was originally launched by the local Lions Club to fulfill a badly needed service on the island. The PolyClinic does not charge for its services  and it welcomes all — residents, expats, visitors.

Secondly, I am a huge fan of the PolyClinic staff. Since a recent operation in Merida, Mx., I have been making regular visits to the clinic. I find the staff professional, skilled and deeply caring under often demanding circumstances. Not long ago, the PolyClinic expanded into a 24/7 operation, augmenting staff and services to meet the needs of this growing community.

They, in turn,  need — and deserve to have — lots of badly needed modern medical equipment and medical supplies.

When I found out what Blue Water was up to, I immediately went to the cashier’s desk and dropped money in the donation box.

I urge you to do the same, if you are on the island! Even if you aren’t planning on enjoying dinner or a drink at the beachfront bistro, drop by, drop some bills in the box and drop a few compliments on the community-conscious staff!

If you are not here, but hold an affection for Ambergris Caye, why not contact Blue Water Grill and press the “donate” button to show some #islandlove?

My friends have heard me speak of this in the past: I would love to see a regular fund-raising campaign for the PolyClinic, in the spirit of our two biggest island projects — Saga Humane Society and the local Red Cross. Both fulfill strong needs here on the island with the help of regular fund-raising events.

How can we tap into this powerful charitable impulse for the benefit of our only public medical facility, which services everyone from the island’s poorest resident to the most advantaged?

Ideas?

Don a gown, dance disco, devour BBQ — there’s a San Pedro fundraiser soon to suit you

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sagaThe fund raiser is a way of life when you live on a tropical island that is marked by severe poverty and great wealth, and a government that has limited ability to help its own people.

Here on Ambergris Caye it is a common sight to see locals in the street with money buckets, collecting coins and dollars for fire victims, cancer victims, accident victims. Last year a tour guide whose boat was torn up on the reef as he attempted to rescue some tourists was the beneficiary of a fund raiser to get him back on his feet. It is the island form of insurance, which otherwise does not exist or is out of the reach of ordinary residents.

There are monthly fund raisers for Saga, our version of the Humane Society, as well as fundraisers for the local food bank, athletic teams and individual competitors, AIDS groups, self-improvement groups, and, most certainly, our schools. It is at events like these where Belizeans and expats come together, mingle, share in the fun and camaraderie and make new friendships.  Read the rest of this entry »