House Hunters International

A Scoop exclusive! My favorite San Pedro blogger peeks inside island’s hottest homes

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Our friends’ house is the first to be highlighted on a new feature on the popular San Pedro Scoop blog! (Photo by Mark Schafer)

What a delightful surprise this morning to open the latest post on San Pedro Scoop and find out it is all about my friends Mark and Deb Schaffer. Well, specifically, about the beautiful home they have built on the shore of North Ambergris Caye.

Rebecca “Scoop” Coutant is launching a new feature on her ever-expanding blog: a peek inside Ambergris Caye homes that are for sale by owner. Not quite “Househunters International” — how about “House Peekers San Pedro”? Something for the voyeur in all of us!

I’m going to jump right in and say that Scoop picked a cool one for her debut. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Criminal Minds” episode in Belize? It was just criminal

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"De Los Inocentes" (Left-right) Clara Seger (Alana De La Garza),Mae Jarvis (Annie Funke) and Matt Simmons (Daniel Henney), Unit Chief Jack Garrett (Gary Sinise), comprise the International Response Unit, the FBI division at the heart of the upcoming drama series, CRIMINAL MINDS: BEYOND BORDERS, which premieres Wednesday, March 16 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. The IRT is tasked with solving crimes and coming to the rescue of Americans who find themselves in danger while abroad.
“Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” team in action:  (Left-right) Clara Seger (Alana De La Garza), Mae Jarvis (Annie Funke) and Matt Simmons (Daniel Henney), Unit Chief Jack Garrett (Gary Sinise). They are called the  FBI International Response Unit and they prefer running around in big black SUV’s while operating discretely in foreign countries. Driving golf carts on Ambergris Caye probably would not have worked for them in last night’s non-Belize-based episode.

My first inkling that the CBS series “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” dabbles in geographic bullshit was the network press release last week that touted Wednesday’s episode “Love Interrupted” taking place on the island of Belize.

It seems an American couple honeymooning on this mythical island is abducted and the FBI’s highly specialized foreign troubleshooting and extraction team drives to Ambergris Caye from the International Airport to rescue them.

Yeah, you read that right.

Drives to Ambergris Caye. Read the rest of this entry »

Househunters International makes stuff up? Shocked, shocked, shocked.

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house-hunters-internationalWell here’s a shocker: The popular HGTV program “Househunters International” makes stuff up.

Whoa.

Didn’t see that one coming . . .  until about three years ago.

No, it is true. Read the rest of this entry »

Fifteen questions about living in Belize — with answers!

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The view from a recent Tropic Air flight from Belize City Municipal Airport to our home, San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Belize has more than 200 islands, atolls and cayes.
The view from a recent Tropic Air flight from Belize City Municipal Airport to our home, San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Belize has more than 200 islands, atolls and cayes.

This list of questions was submitted to me by a website called http://www.expatfinder.com/ which is positioning itself as a go-to site for information on services and products that every would-be ex-pat needs to make the big move. The information is tailored to the specifics for scores of countries on topics like banking, health, shipping, real estate, education, and jobs.

They may or may not use these answers. Which is fine. Their idea of compensation is a promise to maybe promote the link to my blog. I didn’t have the heart to tell the woman that I don’t make a living from my blog and so promoting it means little. Nor did I tell her that if you want good writers, pay them good money. Doing stuff for free for money-making internet enterprises is so 2009.

But that’s OK. I enjoyed the challenge and coming up with honest answers was helpful for me too! Win-win. And if you like it, triple win!

— Bob Hawkins

Expatfinder Interview Questions

1) Where are you originally from?

California, nearly 30 years in San Diego and two in the Bay Area. Rose is a native San Franciscan.

  1. What made you move out of your home country?

Read the rest of this entry »

Four months in Belize: We’re got some answers, Part 1

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Sunsets from our porch can be quite distracting. This one was going on as I was trying to write this blog post.
Sunsets from our porch can be quite distracting. This one was going on as I was trying to write this blog post.

My old friend Dave Dennis from San Diego sent me an e-mail yesterday that was filled with questions about our life here in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Belize. Dave’s questions echo many that we have received, from other friends and readers of the blog.

Since today marks the start of our fifth month here in Belize, now would be a good time to try and answer these questions.

For my benefit as much as yours. Read the rest of this entry »

Give us this day our daily run on the shore of Ambergris Caye

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Welcome to the neighborhood, just north of the San Pedro Town bridge. Today we're going to take a short jog through the area ... so strap on those Nikes and put some sun screen on. No need to stretch. We won't be breaking any speed records, nor climbing any hills. This is a fun run. Really.
Welcome to the neighborhood, just north of the San Pedro Town bridge. Today we’re going to take a short jog through the area … so strap on those Nikes and put some sun screen on. No need to stretch. We won’t be breaking any speed records, nor climbing any hills. This is a fun run. Really.

So, every morning I go for a run over brutal rugged rainforest terrain, up breathtakingly steep hills and down slippery slopes, sometimes narrowly leaping from the jaws of animals I have yet to identify and fending off attacks from angry macaws – or are they mosquitoes? Not bad for a 10-mile sprint.

Ha! Ha! Just kidding.

Would you still be reading if I said: “So, most mornings I go for a short run up the road, until I reach the Palapa Bar where I do not stop for a beer, no matter how tempting. I turn south and head back along the gentle beach trail past beautifully landscaped houses and resorts. Not bad for a two-mile jog.” Read the rest of this entry »

Following the road most-cycled on Ambergris Caye

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The evening light was beautiful on Saturday.
The evening light was beautiful on Saturday.

Very late on Saturday afternoon, Rose and I decided to head :30 p.m.)north on the bikes.

No destination. No agenda. No plan other than to ride into the night (which arrives around 5:30 p.m.) and then head for home.

There is one road when you head north from San Pedro. The condition varies from flat and dusty, to rocky and dusty, to very rocky and dusty, to very rocky and lumpy, to BMX-class track.

Perfect for a lazy Saturday evening excursion. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Big game’ house hunters in Belize, looking to bag a home asap

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With many apologies to Jimmy Buffett, I'd like to write a song titled "House Hunters in Paradise," where the cheeseburgers (at Legends)  and glorious weather and scenery are major distractions to finding a home in San Pedro. First things first, yes!
With many apologies to Jimmy Buffett, I’d like to write a song titled “House Hunters in Paradise,” where the cheeseburgers (at Legends) and glorious weather and scenery are major distractions to finding a home in San Pedro. First things first, yes!

Well, coming in we knew finding a place to live is going to be challenging in San Pedro, Belize. This is, after all, the meaty side of High Season and we’ve been told winter-weary northerners, Canadians especially are descending on the island in record numbers.

Bottom line: Space is tight.

So far, playing the House Hunters International game, we have looked at three properties.

Not the House Hunters International drinking game that I proposed ages ago. This is kind of like the real one, only no film cameras and if we don’t find a place to live we’re a little bit screwed … Read the rest of this entry »

Rounding the turn, headed for our new home: Belize

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San Pedro Town  is just on the horizon! We have a place to stay as we seek a new home -- anyone know of a nice single or two-bedroom rental on or very near the beach? Seeking a minimum six months to start!
San Pedro Town is just on the horizon! We have a place to stay as we seek a new home — anyone know of a nice single or two-bedroom rental on or very near the beach? Seeking a minimum six months to start!

We left the house in Fairfield, California, for the last time on Friday, around 2 p.m.

Rose caught a ride with her girlfriend Robin to Julie’s house while I loaded up the SUV with our bags and then in a final sweeping act of domesticity I … well … I swept.

I swept out the garage.

The garage had been our final staging area for the past few days. All the random bits and pieces that hadn’t been sold or given away or trashed found their way into the garage where they were assembled into piles, reassembled into other piles, merged, resorted and reassigned into still more piles.

One of the last items to go, to an auction for a non-profit art group, were two baseball caps –signed by Brooks Robinson, Bob Gibson and Rollie Fingers — Hall of Famers all. I’d been carrying these around since the 1990’s. One is autographed by “Baseball” documentary film-maker Ken Burns, too!

Breakfast on Saturday with my pal Walter Cook at Buck's on Woodside -- a great comfort food cafe with a quirky collection of memorabilia  hanging everywhere. Great food, great company and really weird stuff.
Breakfast on Saturday with my pal Walter Cook at Buck’s in Woodside — a great comfort food cafe with a quirky collection of memorabilia hanging everywhere. Great food, great company and really weird stuff.

Oddly enough, through all this sorting, things found their way into bags to be taken with us to Belize, bags to be left behind, bags of trash and bags for friends or nonprofits. Eventually everything had a bag and every bag had a destination.

The three bags we’d so proudly packed for Belize more than a week ago? We discovered that they conformed nicely to American Airlines flying requirements, each bag pressing right up against the 50 pounds maximum.

Then we discovered that the Belizean air taxis have a 33-pound bag maximum.

This required opening up a fourth bag and redistributing the contents to lighten the load in each. It worked, and magically, we now have four smaller and lighter bags than when we started out.

I see this as progress! Even though I am no longer sure what is in any one bag.

Had to post this photo of a young Steve Jobs hanging on a wall in Buck's restaurant in Woodside, California, just down the coast from San Francisco. Walter Cook and I ate breakfast there on Saturday.
Had to post this photo of a young Steve Jobs hanging on a wall in Buck’s restaurant in Woodside, California, just down the coast from San Francisco. Walter Cook and I ate breakfast there on Saturday.

Since Friday we have been vagabonds, spending time  with our friends in the San Francisco area – a Friday afternoon visit with my favorite sister-in-law Kara in Marin, the mutual friend who introduced Rose and me to each other (and married us two years ago in Mexico); Friday night and Saturday were spent with gracious hosts and pals Pat and Walter in Woodside; Saturday night and Sunday in the city with Brian and Susan trying to power through the second season of “House of Cards”; Sunday night is saved for dinner in North Beach with my sons Ryan and Chris and daughter-in-law Katie.

Tonight, our last in the states, will be at the San Francisco Suites on Powell Street, dozing off fretfully to the melodic clank of the trolley passing out front. At 3 a.m. a taxi will drive us to San Francisco International Airport for a 5:55 a.m. flight. Our guiding angel on the wings, Julie, has already registered us for the flight, to Dallas, and we are at the top of the standby list.

The newly built home of John and Rose East, just north of the bridge in Pan Pedro. They have generously offered their first floor apartment to us for a few days as we settle in.
The newly built home of John and Rose East, just north of the bridge in Pan Pedro. They have generously offered their first floor apartment to us for a few days as we settle in.

Meanwhile, our angels in San Pedro, John and Rose East, have most generously offered up their first floor apartment for our first few days in San Pedro, as we seek a long-term condo/apartment/house rental of our own.

John rightly surmised that the uncertainty of our flight schedule left us pretty much uncovered at our destination. It is hard to book a room when you are uncertain when you are arriving. We could get bumped in SF, Dallas or even Belize. This is, after all, high season, the busiest time of year for tourism.

Just the same, we’re excited to begin our “House Hunters International” phase. I wonder if Rose and I can actually get the job done by looking at three properties, tossing out one and picking from the remaining two before embracing in a hug and kiss and strolling down the beach hand-in-hand?

Well, knowing we’ll have a place to stay, whenever we arrive, has lifted a huge weight from these shoulders! John, you guys have a week’s worth of breakfasts at Estel’s coming, on me! And I am so looking forward to helping you finish painting the fence!

I feel like we’ve turned the last big corner and are rounding toward home.

Our new home.

On the island of Ambergris Caye. In our new country, Belize.

Hope you can read this letter from Buck's restaurant's owner to the Kremlin expressing interest in buying Lenin's body so he could put it on display with all the other quirky stuff in his restaurant! On the right is a response from a Kremlin spokesman, asking the author to clarify his "six figure" offer and noting that there are many other artifacts for sale ...
Hope you can read this letter from Buck’s restaurant’s owner to the Kremlin expressing interest in buying Lenin’s body so he could put it on display with all the other quirky stuff in his restaurant! On the right is a response from a Kremlin spokesman, asking the author to clarify his “six figure” offer and noting that there are many other artifacts for sale …

Flying to Belize on Monday …with a little ‘maybe’ in the mix

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That's me on the left and Rose in red, living the Belizean expat dream ... or, to quote Jimmy Buffett: Down to the Banana Republics / Down to the tropical sun / Go the expatriated Americans  Hopin' to find some fun. "
That’s me on the left and Rose in red, living the Belizean expat dream … or, to quote our patron saint, Jimmy Buffett: “Down to the Banana Republics / Down to the tropical sun / Go the expatriated Americans / Hopin’ to find some fun. ” (See whole lyrics below.)

Game on. Game on. Game on.

It is really happening. On Monday at 5:55 a.m. we fly to Belize from San Francisco.

Well, there is one little “maybe” in that.

We’re flying standby which is a bit adventurous in that we may or may not be facing a plane full of people eager to make their way to Dallas at 6 a.m. As of today, there are 30 seats open and not a whole lot of clamoring to fill them.

So far.

The key phrase in this scenario is “You never know.” So we are prepared with lots of reading material, an extra change of clothes, WiFi access and a very positive outlook. Plus a deck of cards and a harmonica — which I have no idea how to play.

Hey, maybe we can make a commercial like the one for the car with incredible gas mileage, in which two gringos take language tapes on a road trip, and by the time they make their first stop for fuel they speak flawless Spanish. In my commercial, by the time we reach San Pedro Town I have become the finest blues harmonica player on the island and am in big demand as a guest performer with all the local bar bands. But who or what would the commercial be for? Certainly not an airline …  Read the rest of this entry »