San Pedro surf’s up: March Blow becomes April’s huff and puff

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April winds and high surf beyond the reef are keeping the water level high around Ambergris Caye. There's even an occasional crashing wave on shore, like this one in the Boca del Rio neighborhood.
April winds and high surf beyond the reef are keeping the water level high around Ambergris Caye. There’s even an occasional crashing wave on shore, like this one in the Boca del Rio neighborhood.

 

Running along the shore of Ambergris Caye this morning required some dexterity. Waves weren’t only lapping upon the beach. In some spots they’d swallowed the beach and coast trail entirely.

After trying to run between waves, skip over the top of them and a little backtracking I gave up and took a sharp right to the road.

The weather locally is called the March Blow although it is now blowing into April. It is just a strong but steady wind from the northeast that passes through like a slow moving freight train, blowing all the bugs into Belize City and the dust and sand off the roofs. Read the rest of this entry »

The gift of silence on a Sunday morning

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With no electricity, Sunday morning becomes a journey back into the senses and sounds and imagination as I gaze out over the still lagoon waters.
With no electricity, Sunday morning becomes a journey back into the senses and sounds and imagination as I gaze out over the still lagoon waters.

I woke early this morning, around 4:30. And then again about an hour later, as the first rays of sunlight we’re beginning to push back the black. A pinkish-peach glow was beginning to unveil the gauzy outlines of buildings and the lagoon shore.

I remember thinking how much I love to wake up at this time of the morning. Wake up. Not get up.

When I woke for the final time, the bright Caribbean sun had claimed the morning as its own but something was different. Something was wrong.

Birds. The sounds of birds, different kinds. Everywhere. And the rustle of palms and the winds that were exciting them. Those, too. Everywhere.

Why was I hearing so much?

Ah. Because of the silence.

There were no overhead fans spinning. There were no grinding air conditioners from other condos. There were no whining waterpumps.

Simple: There was no electricity.

Just the way I once had imagined Paradise to be.

I walked out to the porch and sat down to listen to the birds, closed my eyes and opened my ears to the call and responses from around the lagoon. It felt like the closing environmental segment on “CBS Sunday Morning,”  when the camera is fixed and the narrative is stripped down to the raw sounds of nature.

Call and response.

No air conditioners grinding out their metallic mating call. No hum and thrum from refrigerators.  No music blaring from Omar’s bar on the island. No neighboring TV tuned to the European football match of the week.

There was the faint cry of a baby, from one of the houses on stilts far, far across the lagoon. And here and there the disagreeable but distant bark of a dog.

Out on the lagoon, the mad slap of a leaping fish’s inevitable nod to gravity was more noticeable than I can ever recall. Had they always been airborne so often? I imagine so, if bugs are a big part of their diet.

I sat straight up in my chair, posited my feet flat on the ground and my hands in my lap with thumbs hooked  to pinkies (my cue for welcoming those slow rolling Delta waves) as I drifted backward deep into meditation.

Three … Exhale … Three … Exhale … Three …Exhale. Pause. Two … Exhale …Two … Exhale … Two …Exhale. Pause. One … Exhale … One … Exhale … One….Exhale.

Welcome, mindfulness.

 And there we are: Safely ensconced in a subcutaneous mental layer, a slow river of firing neurons. Safely there in font of  my “imaginary retreat,” built in a mental exercise in 1970:  the two-story library room with its dark wood accents, hunter green walls, brass fixtures and twin sweeping spiral staircases to the main floor. That’s where you can find my plush, soft leather thinking chair and the large blank screen on which has been solved so many a conundrum.

It is a room that I haven’t visited as often as I should in recent years. But then, I’ve rarely experienced the peacefulness to which I awoke today. You need a centered calm to float down to the river of Delta waves that leads to the room.

If I were to get fanciful, I would say that the room needs a good dusting; the brass a good polishing; and the storehouse of knowledge, ideas and imagination a good updating.

There’s much mental work to do. Another day, perhaps.

It is time to step back into the light.

For now, the Sunday morning calm brought on by an island-wide shutdown of the electrical grid is gift enough.

Because all too soon, reality will be restored.

Omar will crank up Jimmy Cliff tunes in his island bar. Air conditioners will begin their rhythmic grinding out of the artificial chill. Refrigerators and fans will add to the ambient, throbbing hum.

And the birds will be muted.

And the leaping fish will seem like a pantomime.

And the winds and rustling palms will have to exert their voices to be heard above the techno chatter.

For now, it is enough to take measure of the many different greens of Ambergris Caye foliage before me; and the seemingly endless shades of blue-green-gray water in the lagoon; and the constant, brilliant blue sky above – all drenched in this bright Sunday morning sun.

This bright Sunday morning sun and this gift of silence.

 

 

Putting on pants for a real night out in Ambergris Caye

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Sunset on Friday from the lagoon-side patio of the Hotel in the Tres Cocos section of San Pedro Town, Belize.
Sunset on Friday from the lagoon-side patio of the Hotel in the Tres Cocos section of San Pedro Town, Belize.

I put on pants yesterday.

For the first time since we arrived in Belize, I set aside the daily uniform of shorts, sandals and T-shirt for a pair of khaki slacks, Hawaiian print shirt, Padres baseball cap and oh yeah, sandals.

The occasion? Read the rest of this entry »

Just a little off the top: Things you see, bicycling to yoga

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Manuel cleans and buffs the bust of John E. Greif II in front of the eponymously named airport in San Pedro Town, Belize. According to the plaque on the front Greif is the father of aviation and tourism in San Pedro.
Just a little off the ears: Manuel cleans and buffs the bust of John E. Greif II in front of the eponymous airport in San Pedro Town, Belize. According to the plaque on the front Greif is the father of aviation and tourism in San Pedro.
According to the plaque, Kentucky-born Greif was a WWII aviator and engineer. He died in San Pedro in November 2005.
Massage therapy: According to the plaque, Kentucky-born Greif was a WWII aviator and engineer. He died in San Pedro in November 2005.

 

This is Fred. Every day he sweeps the only bridge in San Pedro Town. I think he does a heck of a job and every day that I cycle over the bridge and he is there I make a point to say hello and thank you.
Clean sweep: This is Fred. Every day he sweeps the only bridge in San Pedro Town. I think he does a heck of a job and every day that I cycle over the bridge and he is there I make a point to say hello and thank you.

 

Where would Bowen & Bowen be without John Deere tractors to haul Belikin beer, Crystal water and juices and Coca Cola around San Pedro Town? Worse, where would we be without our water and beer? I suspect that the tractors are as much tradition as a very practical way to get round the town's narrower streets.
Squeeze play: Where would Bowen & Bowen be without John Deere tractors to haul Belikin beer, Crystal water and juices and Coca Cola around San Pedro Town? Worse, where would we be without our water and beer? I suspect that the tractors are as much tradition as a very practical way to get round the town’s narrower streets.

 

We have China to thank for our garbage pick-up in San Pedro Town! To the local culture, the U.S. has added mud wrestling, chicken drops and Jerry Jeff Walker. Let's call it even for now.
International goodwill: We have the Republic of China(Taiwan) to thank for our garbage pick-up in San Pedro Town! To the local culture, the U.S. has added mud wrestling, chicken drops and Jerry Jeff Walker. Let’s call it even for now. Taiwan also supplies almost all the bicycles ridden here so maybe they do have the edge.

A Belize day-in-the-life: Sapotes, yoga, good food and friends

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Mayem Sapotes share the bowl with a couple of limes, bananas, tomatoes .... just another shopping day, with lots of yoga.
Mamey Sapotes share the bowl with a couple of limes, bananas, ginger, tomatoes …. just another shopping day, with lots of yoga.

So much for that laid-back island vibe.

Rose took three yoga classes  yesterday –and a hyper-energy dance class at Zen Arcade.

So, what’s a guy to do if he wants to see his wife? I took two of the yoga classes, too.

And that, my friends, constitutes a busy day here on Ambergris Caye. Well, with a bunch of other stuff thrown in between the classes.  It kind of feels like this video, (which was posted by Rebecca of San Pedro Scoop)  — a jittery GoPro bicycle tour up and down the same streets we cycle, filmed by Nicolai Hebert. Read the rest of this entry »

We got mail! File it under: Be careful what you wish for . . .

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It took five weeks, but our first forwarded mail from the U.S. has arrived. Guess who the first piece of mail was from?
It took five weeks, but our first forwarded mail from the U.S. has arrived. Guess who the first piece of mail was from?

Be careful what you wish for …

Our first bundle of forwarded mail arrived last week.  It had been about five weeks since we set up a forwarding address and, so far, the one piece of mail that had arrived was a letter from Spain from Rose’s daughter, Caira.

I was getting kind of anxious.

Caira’s letter was sent directly to our new address in Miami, not forwarded. So we knew that part of the system worked. But what about all those utility bills and bank statements and political mailings from California? Where were they?

Before leaving the States, we’d set up a forwarding account with Rob Henke at San Pedro’s Mail Boxes Etc. This gives us a U.S. address in Miami — actually, a PO box and a street address, which I thought would come in handy for online purchases. The account also gives us an address in San Pedro, at Rob’s business, to which all our Miami mail is sent on Thursdays.

Don’t look so startled.

I like the idea of once-a-week mail delivery. It is so “African Queen” meets “Island in the Sun” meets “Only Angels Have Wings.” Now, if I could winnow Facebook and e-mail down to only once a week. OK, once a day ….

Poor Rob. Even though he promises to e-mail you when you get mail, my sad disappointed face that kept showing up to open the empty mailbox must have got to him. He promised to run a check on our mail.

Rob, like a patient bartender, kept saying “It sometimes takes a while for the mail to start flowing in. But after the first mail arrives, you’ll be deluged. You’ll see.”

So the dam broke last week.

Ironically three of the letters were from the U.S. Post Office to Rose, asking her to confirm that her forwarding address is correct. But the letter on top? The first one I saw when Rob handed me the packet?

From the IRS.

And it was kind of thick.

Oh, crap.

C’mon, TurboTax, what happened? You and me, buddy, we worked so well together this year. You with your constant reassurances and gentle prodding and me with my exhaustive research and documentation. You said we would get a refund! Not a thick, ominous (Is there any other kind?), letter from the IRS!

Thankfully, it was no biggie.

It took five pages to point out that a single 1099 form was missing from my filing. I don’t know how, since it was all-electronic. A quick photo copy and letter drop in the San Pedro post office and the form was on its way.

And I was back to riding my bike,  imagining myself as Cary Grant in a rickety mail plane flying through tropic storms to some  remote South American outpost where a world-weary Jean Arthur (as played by Rose Alcantara) anxiously waited for me.

By the way, our direct mailing address is:

Bob Hawkins or Rose Alcantara

c/o Mail Boxes Etc.

Suite 186

San Pedro Town

Ambergris Caye, Belize

 

Or, you can reach either of us by e-mail:

robertj.hawkins2012@gmail.com

rosealcantara@sbcglobal.net

I know that some day we are going to want a local phone but so far the need hasn’t been that great.

Our iPhones are on permanent airplane mode for now. We use them pretty much only as WiFi communication devices and cameras. WhatsApp is great for WiFi-based  texting, voice messages and even photos. Rose and I both have Viber for phone calls but I haven’t tried it yet. Rose uses that and iPhone FaceTime to keep in touch with her kids, Jon and Caira.

For a guy who spent more than a decade snorkeling in the deep end of the digital pool as a technology writer/editor and online news editor, well, I’ve become pretty ambivalent about it all.

Outside of this blog, writing weekly postcards to my three-year-old grandson, Brody, is state-of-the-art communications for me.

 

Bliss in Belize: Rose sums up her feelings after six weeks

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Bliss in Belize: Sunday's sunset from the deck of our home on Ambergris Cay, Belize.
Bliss in Belize: Sunday’s sunset from the deck of our home on Ambergris Cay, Belize.

Please welcome our guest blogger today, Rose Alcantara!

This is a letter Rose wrote the other day to some of her friends back in the States.  I would love to see her write more often, and not just because she says nice things about me! And besides, it is about time for a fresh voice and perspective here.

If you agree that Rose should write more often, encourage her. If she does write, I promise to take more yoga classes (and maybe cook occasionally … although that may not be much of a bargaining chip).

And now, a word from Miss Rose: Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating Sleep-in Sunday on Ambergris Caye

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This is the view from the Ak'bol resort's restaurant, where we had breakfast last Sunday. The palapa at the end of the pier is used for yoga. A great thing to watch as you eat coconut French toast.
This is the view from the Ak’bol resort’s restaurant, where we had breakfast last Sunday. The palapa at the end of the pier is used for yoga. A great thing to watch as you eat coconut French toast.

Welcome to Sleep-In Sunday!

It is nearly 10 a.m. and I am drinking only my first cup of coffee for the day.

Sleep-In Sunday is a variation on Exploration Sunday, during which Rose and I get on our bikes and discover new places and spaces here on Ambergris Caye.

There are mainly two options for exploration: Read the rest of this entry »

Counting iguanas? ‘Not in Kansas anymore’

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Full disclosure: I was not running when I took this picture of an iguana ... but, it is representative of many of the Ambergris Caye iguanas that I encounter each day on my runs. And, anyway, think about it: Would you really want to stop running just to take pictures of iguanas?
Full disclosure: I was not running when I took this picture of an iguana … but, it is representative of many of the Ambergris Caye iguanas that I encounter each day on my runs. And, anyway, think about it: Would you really want to stop running just to take pictures of iguanas?

I have picked up a small obsession during my daily morning runs here on Ambergris Caye in Belize.

I count iguanas

At first it was just the novelty of it all. Running in San Diego most of my adult life I encountered plenty of rattlesnakes, small lizards, coyotes, dog poop, dollar bills, drug syringes, homeless people and tourists. None of these were in quantities worth noting on a daily basis. Read the rest of this entry »

If Belize were a fantasy video game . . . .

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… once you arrived at this Magic Portal you would have to cross the short but treacherous waters to reach the entryway. They are infested with strange and vile creatures which grab your ankles and pull you under, unless you have the Magic Cube from Level 3 which will freeze the water for 60-seconds  ….

magic door

…but even so, did you pick up the Magic Key in Level 2? The one guarded by the troll-like creature with massive arms and a host of weapons? Or did you simply skulk around him? Sorry. You must fight your way back for the key…

Gosh, I love this little dock in the Boca del Rio section of San Pedro Town. The design, the framing, the waters beyond — they beckon you to explore further. They just draw you into the little scene and inflame the imagination.

Read the rest of this entry »