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.

Around-the-island Eco-challenge race begins

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kayak8The 10th Annual Lagoon Reef Eco-challenge took off this morning at 7:30 from El Embarcadero, on the lagoon side of Ambergris Caye and by my frantic count as they rounded the first set of mangrove trees there were about 20 two-person boats in the race.

Some time today, the kayakers will pull into  the Basil Jones Area in Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve at the very north end of this island. Tomorrow starting around 9 a.m. they “sprint” down the reef side of the island and into Central Park in downtown San Pedro Town.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Read the rest of this entry »

Read any good books inspired by Belize lately?

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Who says a hair salon has to be just a hair salon -- or a bookstore just a bookstore?
Who says a hair salon has to be just a hair salon — or a bookstore just a bookstore?

I think the questions about whether e-books, like Kindle, are the salvation or death of  books have been pretty much answered.

The death of bookstores? Maybe.

The death of books? Far from it.

Any questions surrounding their utility and propriety were answered for me, not in some futuristic scenario, but in the dusty streets of this tropical Caribbean island.

Rose and I could live without TV, although we don’t.

Cable TV has a limited number of channels here but it hits all the important bases, including around eight international football channels in numerous languages and accents and two Al Jazeera news channels.

We also get network channels from Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. (So many San Pedranos are Chicago Cubs fans, I’m told, because the Cubs channel, WGN, was among the first and few to be transmitted on cable in its early years.) 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:



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.