Blue Hole

This is Belize: ‘Curiouser and curiouser!’

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This video about tacos makes the point that while Belize has "fast food" you won't find a Taco Bell, McDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken in the country. No franchises, mon!
This video about tacos (See it below.) makes the point that while Belize has “fast food” you won’t find a Taco Bell, McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken in the country. No franchises, mon!

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice.

Only this time, her Wonderland turns out to be Belize.

Belize is a magical rabbit hole. Once you slide down into it, you almost never want to leave.  I don’t and it has now been 2.5 years, one hurricane, three rainy seasons, two bicycles, scores of trips to the reef, more beautiful days than the imagination can grasp and more smiles from passing strangers than I ever thought possible. Read the rest of this entry »

Two very different pictures of the Great Blue Hole of Belize

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OK, picture yourself on a much awaited scuba diving tour to the bottom of the famous Blue Hole in Belize -- and then this guy shows up. More than likely spoiling your whole vacation. Crazy, huh?
OK, picture yourself on a much-anticipated  scuba diving tour to the bottom of the famous Blue Hole in Belize — and then this guy shows up. More than likely spoiling your whole vacation. Crazy, huh?

I was chased by a 14-foot shark off the coast of Cape Cod in 1975, about a month before I had a chance to see that summer’s blockbuster movie, “Jaws.”

I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I was to be behind the curve culturally. My head was clear of Hollywood nonsense and I was able to think calmly and rationally. And I got out of a sticky situation it with  decent story to tell.

I felt the same sense of gratitude wash over me the other night as I watched “Poseidon Rex” on Coral Cable’s Channel 18, where it seems to be running in a perpetual loop.

I’ll explain this particular form of gratitude in a minute. Read the rest of this entry »

No! Not that trip to Belize

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Open letter from Belize Tourism Board to the cast of "Breaking Bad."
Open letter from Belize Tourism Board to the cast of “Breaking Bad.”

Our friends are now sorted into two camps: Those who watch “Breaking Bad” and those who don’t.

Before the recent season-opening episode news that we are planning to move to Belize was met by a whole range of reactions – mostly curious, supportive. Some nod wistfully and wish they could be moving there too. Some cautiously ask, “Have you really thought this through?” (We have.) Those who have been to Belize are unreserved in their praise for the little coastal country. Best. Vacation. Ever.

Lighten up people! Yeah, the cast of "Breaking Bad" definitely needs a vacation to Belize ... and maybe some cargo shorts, t-shirts, sandals and suntans, too.
Lighten up people! Yeah, the cast of “Breaking Bad” definitely needs a vacation to Belize … and maybe some cargo shorts, t-shirts, sandals and suntans, too.

But ever since Saul suggested that meth kingpin/school teacher Walt should send his brother-in-law/DEA agent Hank on a trip to Belize the reaction to our upcoming, well, “trip to Belize” has been kind of interesting.

Those who watch the show understand all too well that Saul was employing a dual-edged linguistic dig into Walt’s ribs. It is a nifty sounding metaphor for offing Hank and maybe burying him in a shallow desert grave. On the other, Hank has apparently been claiming that another inconvenient character had fled to Belize, something apparently nobody believes — and I think Saul is kind of letting him know that.

I say “apparently” and “I think” because I’ve never seen “Breaking Bad.” Nor has Rose, although this week she watched the first half-hour of the very first episode on Netflix, just because so many friends are now associating our move to Belize with the show. She thinks she could get into it.

Me, I’m still not certain I want to invest the time.

But thanks to the recent episode, I’m now aware of how many people do watch “Breaking Bad.” I’d say, scientifically, it is a hell of a lot.

In a weird way I feel like a Level C celebrity, now that “Breaking Bad” has invested Belize with a cache of lethal coolness. I mean, we were talking about Belize long before “Breaking Bad” was, dude.

I think that — cooler than the “Breaking Bad” reference – is the way the Belize Tourism Board has responded to the suddenly – if fleetingly – hip expression. First, they get that it is a TV show. Second, they get that any publicity on television is worth a thousand tourism trade shows and a million newspaper stories.

So the government agency did the only possible thing it could do: It got on board with the show and invited the cast to get in bed with Belize. They turned “Breaking Bad” into “Breaking Good” for Belize.

The tourism folks, who claim to be fans of the show, have invited the cast on an actual trip to Belize once the show ends.

“We figure you will all need a little time to relax after a riveting season and, if you ask us, there’s no better place to relax than Belize,” writes the tourism board in an open letter to “Breaking Bad.”

They also have cleverly provided some vacation suggestions, keyed to the nature of each character: “… we have the Blue Hole for Walt, purple fish for Marie, geology for Hank, great music and friendly people for Jesse, delicious breakfast cuisine for Walt Jr., several nice locations to swim for Skylar, colorful clothing for Saul …”

The invite has gone crazy on media around the world, maybe even crazier than the show itself.

Hey, look at me, I’m writing about it and I’ve never even seen a commercial for “Breaking Bad.” Although if the cast does show up in Belize sometime in the future I’ll be the first to buy them a round of Belikin beers at Crazy Canucks or a Pantiripa at the Rum Cigar & Coffee House.

We should be right at home by then.

Well, that was easy …

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Deciding to move to a foreign country was a lot easier a decision to make than either Rose or I had imagined.

It began sort of like this.

Rose: “Life shouldn’t be this hard. Let’s move somewhere that we can live well and not struggle to meet all these bills.”

Me: “OK.”

Mind you, some sort of decision has been in the works for some time.

It probably started in February 2012 when Rose and I got married in the Baja coastal village Los Barriles, which has its own growing ex-pat community. We have good friends who live there in a fabulously beautiful stone, glass and open air aerie atop a small mountain.

They’re happy. They’re part of a community of people who have time for each other. They do the sort of things we talk about. They live life on their own terms and don’t seem to be missing much.

Their life is more about “Guess what I did today!” and less about “Guess what I bought today!”

We could do this, we said, before turning back to the demanding business of being newly married and combining our separate lives into one.

But, one by one, lines that tethered us to this land fell away. Both my parents died in recent years. My career as a newspaper editor/writer died, too. Rose’s mom died. My three grown sons were out on their own, all with excellent jobs and two married. Rose’s daughter had begun college in Arizona.

Then Rose’s son, Jon, and his partner, Quinn, moved to Nicaragua to start a socially conscious business called Life Out of the Box. One night they showed up on cable channel HGTV’s “House Hunters International”  which followed them around the coastal town of San Juan Del Sur as they hunted for a cheap place to live while starting their business.

Everyone who has watched the show has gone away shaking their heads in disbelief. Jon and Quinn were shown three properties, as is the show’s inflexible format, and asked to decide on one. The first was a very inexpensive but sketchy apartment downtown with no hot water and a kitchen/common area shared with … whomever happened to be in the other bedrooms. The second was a brand new, but tiny, efficiency with a swimming pool.

And the third one.  Ah, yes, the third one. A little bit out of town, it was a spacious two-bedroom cottage with all-wood cathedral ceilings, fully furnished, a huge kitchen. Landscaping that just screamed “Welcome to Paradise!” All utilities and WiFi included.

The cost? A comfortably close to budget $700 a month.

Did I mention that it was a five minute walk to the beach?

Well, it was so obvious which one Jon and Quinn would choose. (Cue the tension driven “decision music” – Dunh … da da … dunh … da da … dunh dunh.)  Apartment Number one.

What? No. Wait. Jon? Quinn? What about No. 3 with the WiFi and hot water???? And CHEAP?

Well, they had their reasons.

But it occurred to us that with my pension and Social Security alone — if I chose to retire — we could afford way more than $700 a month, even though that dreamy Nicaraguan house was way more than adequate.

So, we started thinking … and looking.

Next: Yeah, but why Belize?

Pop Quiz on Belize

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I woke up at 5 a.m. and started putting together a quiz on our future homeland, Belize. I have no idea why. It just sort of came to me and I went with it, sort of like the idea of moving to Belize.

So let’s go with it. No prizes. (Heck, I can’t even guarantee that the answers are correct. ) But in the end i think you’ll agree that for such a tiny place, Belize is an amazing country.

1.Belize is a country
A. In Coastal West Africa.
B. Near the Philippines.
C. In Central America, bordered by Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea.
D. Conceived in the imagination of Florida-centric author Carl Hiaasen.

2. The Blue Hole is
A. Form of depression that usually hits career professionals in their Thirties.
B. A Willie Nelson song.
C. One of the eight natural wonders of the world.
D. A popular regional beer.

3. Jamaica is to Belize as Red Stripe is to Belikin.  True or False?

 4. Which of these animals are found in Belize?
A. Manatee
B. Jaguar
C. Howler Monkey
D. Taipir
E. Crocodile
F. Toucan
G. All of the above.

5. A Garifuna is
A. A taller and busier species of Hobbit.
B. A geological depression in a valley.
C. A descendant of Caribbean natives and West African slaves.
D. A recently discovered planet in a nearby solar system.

6. Which of these cultures can be found in Belize?
A. Creoles
B. German-speaking Mennonites
C. Mayans.
D. Descendants of Confederate Civil War veterans
E. East Indians
F. Hispanics
G. All of the above, and many more.

 7. A “caye” is
A. Spice used in preparing barbecue sauce.
B. Tool used in boat building.
C. Creole for “All is cool, mon.”
D. An island. And it is pronounced “key.”

8. In Belize a “highway” can contain
A. Bumper to bumper traffic jams during rush hour.
B. European sports cars on Autobahn-like roadways.
C. Dirt surfaces with many ruts, bumps and washed out areas.
D. Adequate signage.

9. Before 1973, the one-time British colony of Belize was known as
A. West Indian Honduras
B. British Honduras
C. South Beach, Miami
D. Captain Morgan’s Retreat

10. To finance the national football team’s first-ever entry into the prestigious CONCAF Gold Cup tournament, Belizians
A. Held a barbecue fundraiser.
B. Took out a rather large loan from a British bank.
C. Collected quarters from school children all over the country.
D. Conspired with gamblers to fix their first game in return for a one-time payment.

11. To surface a road recently, a government contractor
A. Dredged gravel from the bottom of the Blue Hole.
B. Recycled roadside trash into a synthetic form of asphalt.
C. Ground up a big chunk of an ancient Mayan temple.
D. Collected and ground us seashells from coastal beaches.

12. Concerned Belizians say the greatest threat to the natural beauty of this country is
A. Oil drilling in the world’s second largest barrier reef.
B. Illegal clear-cutting of jungle trees for agriculture and lumber
C. Construction of a cruise ship island/terminal in largely pristine southern Belize.
D. All of the above.

13. In 2006, Belize musicians were nominated for a World music Grammy principally for their
A. Drumming
B. Singing
C. Broadway-style musicals
D. Conch shell renditions of classical music.

 And the answers are

1.C (Just south of the Yucatan Peninsula. Can’t miss it, though it is only the size of Massachusetts.)

2. C.

3. True: Belikin is the national beer of Belize.

4. G. There is an incredible diversity of animals in Belize, including more than 500 species of birds.

5. C.

6. G.

7. D.

8. C. Yes, the term highway is used rather loosely.

9. B. The English still retain a small contingent of soldiers in the country to train the Belize Defence Force which protects the country from a long anticipated invasion from Guatemala.

10. A. Incredible as it sounds, the team wasn’t sure it was playing until the day they left Belize. Several  players reported being approached by a game fixer with a monetary offer which they refused. On the other hand, Belize last all three games in its bracket and went home without scoring a single goal.

11. C. Archeologists seeking a silver lining noted that they now had a “cutaway” look at the inside of a Mayan structure.

12. D. Amazing that a country with so much natural beauty can be under siege from so many directions at once.

13. A. Garifuna drumming is a source of national pride.