expats

Three things you should do as quickly as possible once you move to San Pedro

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Watching the sun rise over Lake Bacalar on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. They say every morning the colors are different because of the unique reflective qualities of the pristine lake waters.

The three best things you can do once you move to Ambergris Caye in Belize involve getting off the island. One means getting out of the country. None of them includes the Blue Hole or the “Chicken Drop.”

This sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

I mean, here you are, newly landed on one of the great expat destinations in the world, and this guy who is moving away shortly is telling you to get off the island for your own sake.

Hang in there. I in no way intend to burn Ambergris Caye, a place I love above all others on this planet. Follow my steps through these three adventures and I promise you’ll return to Ambergris Caye with a deepened love for the island and a profound appreciation for the beauty that surrounds it. The real estate won’t expand, but your world will grow bigger.

Welcome to San Pedro, now go and explore the rest of Belize

Read the rest of this entry »

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You can fool a Moppit some of the time but you can’t fool a Moppit all of the time

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Moppit gets a bath after a recent dip in the sargassum, followed by a full-body roll in the sand and decaying beach algae. Look at that face. Of course, she loved it. Me, not so much.

Yes, we are still here. In Belize, until Thursday.

Getting to San Miguel de Allende with a little dog and six formidable suitcases in tow (still an estimate) will be quite a coup from my perspective.  I turn out to be very good at perspective, while Rose is, in fact, even better at actually scheduling things like planes (2) transport vans (2), and hotels (1).

Meanwhile, I have been studying YouTube videos on how to lovingly coax your little dog into an even littler carrier. I just finished a 9-minute video in which the rather attractive woman spent seven of those minutes telling us, me, how lovely and obedient her own little Muffie is.

“There you are Muffie, you beautiful, beautiful little angel! Who’s mama’s little angel!?” And, you know? She had that way of drawing out the word “angel” into several extra syllables, covering three octaves in the upper register.

Muffie is an over-achieving little princess, in my book. My Moppit, former street dog and reality TV star of “Survivor for Dogs,” would whip her furry little ass. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Template for the whirlwind two-day tour of mainland Belize

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My brother Jim and I below El Costillo at Xunantunich, the top Maya archeology site in Belize.

My brother Jim wanted to close out his recent visit with an experience on the mainland of Belize. We had two days left and the “tour” had to end up at the international airport for his flight home.

We put together a whirlwind tour. And if I don’t mind saying, this could well be the template for The Two-day Whirlwind Tour of the Mainland.

Two Maya archeological sites, the Belize Zoo, visits to Spanish Lookout and San Ignacio with one great dinner and one decent breakfast that included fryjacks — and of course the thrill of navigating through Belize City and risking life and limb on 70 miles worth of the George Price and Great Western highways, bisecting the entire country. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Dusk and Dawn in Belize: Characters in a tropical romance novel of our own

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Belize’s beautiful bookends: Sunset, and then, sunrise.

The calm is with us, the uncharacteristic coolness adds depth to our shadows.

The soft breezes from the north and west carry fresh artisanal air — richly scrubbed by mainland jungle and infused with savanna magic and minerals from salty bay waters.

Breathe in with your lungs and eyes, simultaneously.

The moment feels like one you can live inside forever.

But it is only a moment, a brief story arc dependent wholly on the sun breaking the horizon.

Dusk and Dawn are two characters in a tropical romance novel, only they are real and now and ours to embrace.

Every night, every morning, it is a short story written anew.

Not to be missed, toes dug deep in the sand.

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 »

On the 15th anniversary, Flor puts the divine in Wine de Vine

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The newly expanded Wine de Vine interior, the day before the 15th anniversary party.

If you only think of Wine de Vine as just this very nice place to pick up a really good bottle of wine for dinner, well, you’re really missing the big picture.

It is so much more than that.

Although, if it is only wine you want, you would be well-served. Read the rest of this entry »