International Living

I want to move to Belize, what do I need to know . . .

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Life in "paradise" isn't always sunshine and blue water. Sometimes, like last week, a storm hovers around the edges and the water takes on  a spectacular emerald sheen. And the rain, when it comes, is life quenching.
Life in “paradise” isn’t always sunshine and blue water. Sometimes, like last week, a storm hovers around the edges and the water takes on a spectacular emerald sheen. And the rain, when it comes, is life quenching.

Found this question on a Belize expat site to be absolutely adorable: “I am seriously wanting to make the move by the end of the year…what do I need to know?…”

It took me back to those very early days when we crossed that invisible line, too. “We’re going to make the move. My, god, I don’t know a thing about Belize!”

What do you need to know? Read the rest of this entry »

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Welcome to Belize: Slow down, simplify, stay healthy

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One of the many joys of having family and friends visit is having them bring me The Sunday New York Times and recent copies of the New Yorker magazine. Reading them online is of course easily done, but to hold printed sheets in your hands .... sweet.
One of the many joys of having family and friends visit is having them bring me The Sunday New York Times and recent copies of the New Yorker magazine. Reading them online is of course easily done, but to hold printed sheets in your hands …. sweet.

The following is an expansion on a recent “postcard” that I wrote for International Living, one of the biggest players in the ex-pat game. Actually it combines part of my first version with the final version that was published by IL right here. A very astute editor pointed out that I was getting a little too inside for the casual reader.

You, my friends, are not casual readers — not if you have been slogging through my stuff for any length of time! 

So you get to read more about our new road, which now goes right past our driveway. I’ll leave it at that. Thanks for reading … and writing!

— Bob Hawkins

     * * * * *      * * * * *      * * * * *     * * * * *     * * * * *

I sit on our deck and gaze out toward the Belize Barrier Reef, not 300 yards away, in the Caribbean Sea. The postcard-perfect, white sand and the green palm trees quickly give way to shimmering strips of blue and green—colors of the sea determined by a brilliant sun, azure sky, and sea grass and sand on the ocean floor.

There is one other color that catches my eye: the dry gray mud that spackles my legs and feet.

“Here I am, at 64 years old,” I think, “and every day I get to pedal my bicycle through mud puddles.”

I can’t begin to tell you how happy that makes me feel. Read the rest of this entry »

What you need to know about Belize in 33 insightful minutes

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A little San Pedroean watches a parade pass by her home on Pescador (Middle) Street.
A little San Pedroan watches a parade pass by her home on Pescador (Middle) Street.

Thinking about moving to Belize? You’ve got a friend in Ann Kuffner.

Well, we have a friend in Ann — and her husband, Mike. But you should get to know them, too.

Blogger’s note: The status of the video referred to in this post has since been changed to private. My apologies. You can still find Ann Kuffner’s writings on the International Living website and in their magazine. Some of her other videos on Belize are available by searching YouTube.

Read the rest of this entry »

Speed bumps on the road of life got nothing on the roads of Belize

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A rare sight in Belize: an actual stop light. This intersection is in the town of Orange Walk, in northern Belize.
A rare sight in Belize: an actual stop light. This intersection is in the town of Orange Walk, in northern Belize.

Is there a difference between a “speed bump” and a “speed hump”?

Apparently there is. I just answered my own question here.

I got to thinking about speed bumps (for brevity’s we’ll just call them all “bumps”) because I nailed one the other day and it knocked me right back to Belize.

There are thousands of speed bumps in Belize.

Thousands. Read the rest of this entry »

In a rootless world, seeking a home in Belize

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I came across an interesting term today, “serial relocators.”

The fellow who used the term is Dan Prescher, a correspondent for International Living, a magazine/website/enterprise rather breathlessly devoted to convincing people that they can have a hell of a lot more fun living somewhere else in the world — somewhere other than wherever the heck it is  they are now.

Under our current circumstances, Rose and I mostly agree with the contention.  There are better options than trying to live out our lives in California. We love California. We just can’t afford California. Not the way we’d like to live anyway.

According to Prescher, during the last 12 years he and his wife “have called seven locations in four different countries home.”

My first thought was “Wow. Get restless much?”

But to be fair, Prescher essentially works as a foreign correspondent for International Living, so a certain amount of mobility comes with the territory. Prescher acknowledges as much in a recent IL essay: “We’ve gotten used to moving every few years to different places and writing about them…places that offer something special to expats seeking new opportunities and adventures abroad.”

So, he’s just a guy chasing a story, trying to stay current with the latest ex-pat trends.

In truth, there are all sorts of “serial relocators.” Some, like Prescher are chasing employment. Others are chasing a dream. Others are running away from something. Others are nourishing an appetite for change. Some might be trying to reconcile a failed ex-pat fantasy. Some are making a calculated financial move. Others are just restless, for whatever reason.  Regardless of the motivation, mobility seems easy, almost too easy, as many Second and Third World countries discover that First World retirees can be a useful revenue stream and employment generator.

On the one hand I admire that kind of mobility. In today’s wired in world you can have mobility and connectivity simultaneously. Parachute into a new country for a couple of years, soak up the culture and camaraderie and then jet pack out to the Next Big Thing — all the while  hanging on to your newly found friends by Skype, e-mail, blogging, Facebook … friends and family are only as far away as your next WiFi connection.

When my stepson, Jon, and his partner, Quinn, were developing their project lifeoutofthebox.com in Nicaragua, many were the night that Rose would talk with them face-to-face on Skype. Seriously it is the next best thing to being there.

It may sound paradoxical but one of the reasons Rose and I look forward to living in Belize is so we can travel more frequently. Our hope is that this move will bring our living expenses so far below our income that we will have something most of us have not seen since the 1980’s – a surplus. And that surplus could translate into travel for us.

Our intent is to move to Belize and throw ourselves into our new life there for six months to a year … and only then stop to figure out whether we have found a true home or not. Key to this, as another Belize blogger once wrote, is to approach the country as a potential immigrant, not a potential ex-pat. Make the emotional commitment.

I suspect it will take a lot to convince me to seek happiness elsewhere. I tend to stay put where ever I plant my roots — until nature, need or necessity forces me to move on. I’m the guy, after all, who spent 30 years in San Diego working for the same company.

If I were really honest with myself I’d point out – to myself – that I lived in 10 different places over those 30 years and held at least a half-dozen uniquely different positions with the newspaper company. So, it is not like there wasn’t variety during my San Diego tenure.

One of the attractions of Belize is the marvelous puzzle that it presents when trying to figure out just where to call home. There is so much variety, all within a nation no bigger than Massachusetts. (You see that comparison in virtually every story written about Belize. And Massachusetts, by the way, is not exactly tiny, says the guy who lived for many years in Rhode Island.)

Right now, we’re trying to get past all the easy stereotypes that are generated in the tourism and travel book descriptions of the myriad Belizean geo/cultural regions.  That’s something we won’t be able to honestly do until we’ve spent three weeks roaming around the country, sampling the fare.

Without even stepping into the country I’ve conjured up impressions and prejudices about various regions. Those are the main things that I don’t intend to pack when we travel to Belize later this month. I want to look at everything with an open mind, an open heart and an objective sensitivity.

Rose and I both expect that upon our return we’ll be able to pretty definitively answer the question “Where will you be living in Belize?” But, will we be living there for the rest of our lives? That’s going to take a lot longer to answer — and researching that answer will be just the adventure we are seeking.

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.