Mayan

Two dozen questions on living in Belize — and not one is answered just ‘yes’ or ‘no’

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Old-fashioned manpower is pulling fiber optic cable through the streets of San Pedro, Belize, during a very hot summer day recently.

 

The e-mail said, we have a few questions about living an expat life that we would like you to answer. And it shouldn’t take more than five minutes . . . that’s when I knew the e-mail was from an editor. No writing should take anyone more than five minutes to complete, according to every editor for which I’ve ever worked. That’s how editors think. That’s their job.

So, three hours later, this is what I came up with.

I’ve said it before, I like these questionnaires. They are lazy work for the person who sends them out, but they can prove enlightening for the person who must reach down inside and come up with some answers — about 24 of them in this case.

So, here’s the deal. I’ve been living on a tropical island for nearly four years now. It is probably about time I ask myself “Why?” Will I be here for the rest of my life? Am I slowly going insane from all the rampant beauty that surrounds me? Where can I find a cheap meal? Am I getting enough exercise? Am I drinking too much local rum? Does anyone out there know or care where I am? Hello? Hello? Knock, knock . . Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Criminal Minds’ in Belize? After screening, even worse than we imagined

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Here's the proof! FBI agents on Ambergris Caye are dwarfed by the barren hillsides of the island in a scene from the "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders" episode "Love Interrupted."
Here’s the proof! FBI agents on Ambergris Caye are dwarfed by the barren hillsides of the island in a scene from the “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” episode “Love Interrupted.”

On a balmy Friday night a couple dozen expats gathered beside the lagoon here on Ambergris Caye for an outdoors screening of this week’s episode of the spin-off CBS show “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.”

Since its original TV airing on Wednesday, expats and Belizeans all over this tiny country have been convulsed in paroxysms of laughter. To be honest, some have been convulsed in paroxysms of rage.

This week, the elite FBI team lead by a heavily botoxed Gary Sinese drops into Belize to find a young American honeymoon couple who have gone two days without posting anything on social media, thus raising suspicions of foul play.

Let me say this: We all know Hollywood makes stuff up. That is what they do. That is their job and we mostly appreciate it.

But, seriously? Read the rest of this entry »

Counting iguanas? ‘Not in Kansas anymore’

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Full disclosure: I was not running when I took this picture of an iguana ... but, it is representative of many of the Ambergris Caye iguanas that I encounter each day on my runs. And, anyway, think about it: Would you really want to stop running just to take pictures of iguanas?
Full disclosure: I was not running when I took this picture of an iguana … but, it is representative of many of the Ambergris Caye iguanas that I encounter each day on my runs. And, anyway, think about it: Would you really want to stop running just to take pictures of iguanas?

I have picked up a small obsession during my daily morning runs here on Ambergris Caye in Belize.

I count iguanas

At first it was just the novelty of it all. Running in San Diego most of my adult life I encountered plenty of rattlesnakes, small lizards, coyotes, dog poop, dollar bills, drug syringes, homeless people and tourists. None of these were in quantities worth noting on a daily basis. Read the rest of this entry »

Mark. Set. Paddle! Some really different strokes in Belize

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Dig in: Competitive paddlers go all out during the four-day, 170-mile La Ruta Maya River Challenge in Belize. Photo from the Ka'ana Resort in San Ignacio.
Dig in: Competitive paddlers go all out during the four-day, 170-mile La Ruta Maya River Challenge in Belize. (Photo from the Ka’ana Resort in San Ignacio.)

The Belize equivalent to the Tour de France is currently underway: The annual Belikin La Ruta Maya River Challenge.

No bicycles here.

This is a four-day, 170-mile canoe race on the Macal and Belize rivers, starting in western-most San Ignacioat the towering Hawksworth Bridge and ending in Belize City at the Swing Bridge. Read the rest of this entry »

Seven more reasons to like Belize

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OK, so I lied (sort of).

I did (sort of) promise that the next post would begin to answer the question “Why Belize?” and I will get to that more directly in the next post, when I publish an exclusive interview with Rose Alcantara that I conducted today during lunch at the Athenian Grill in Suisun, California.

Meantime, here are some little bits that indirectly answer the big “why” question.

Seven more reasons to fall in love with Belize:

  1. The tallest building in all of Belize is an ancient  Mayan structure
  2. There are more than 900 Mayan sites in a country barely the size of Massachusetts. That’s more Mayan sites than Starbucks in Los Angeles.
  3. Belmopan, is the smallest capital city in the world.
  4. The country’s entire population fits somewhere in size between that of Riverside, California and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  5. There are around 450 islands off the coast of Belize. Can you imagine how long it would take to explore each one — allowing time in between for fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving? (One island is currently for sale for $450,000 and includes boats, a scientific research center and a dock. It is .86 of an acre and is 8 miles from shore. You should check it out. It is called Wee Wee Caye.
  6. Nowhere in Belize will you find McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King or Starbucks. You will find small cafes and lots of open markets with fresh food.
  7. It seems like there is a festival almost every day in Belize celebrating something, somewhere.

Primary Source: ReefCI

Stand by for the exclusive interview with Rose Alcantara!

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.