moving to Belize

‘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 »

Why we are not on the plane to Belize today

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Belize beach chair, I know you are calling my name -- and I hear you. Next week, I primise.
Belize beach chair, I know you are calling my name — and I hear you. Next week, I primise.

I have just finished what is probably my most brilliant and entertaining post to date, explaining why we have postponed our move to San Pedro, Belize, from today to Monday, Feb. 17. It was a post filled with wit, charm, clever turns of phrase, some bona fide insights into the human condition and much self-deprecating humor.

Then Microsoft shut down my computer so it could update its lame-ass Windows operating system.

It is 6 a.m. and I no longer have the will nor the  fortitude to try to reclaim all that prose.

Thanks, Microsoft. I can’t wait for my new Chromebook to arrive so I’ll never have to deal with you again. (And don’t begin to think that the discrete little countdown message in the lower right hand corner is enough of a warning when a writer is in The Zone.)

Anyhow.

Here’s what’s up.

We have two ways of looking at this. One, Rose and I are still way ahead of our original schedule which had us leaving for Belize on March 1. In a fit of giddy optimism, and not a little naiveté, we reset the clock for Feb. 1. Then reset it again for Feb. 7 and recently decided that the departure date would be Feb. 12, our second wedding anniversary.

So, now it is to be Monday.

The second way of looking at this is that we are being extremely responsible in making sure that we leave with our American house in order, so to speak – both literally and figuratively.

In fact, we have both spent an enormous amount of time putting our house in order, as we make it rental-ready. Here is the short list of what I have done in recent days (and trust me, Rose has done much more):

Love the mulch. Be the mulch. Just get it spread out before the rain returns! Which I did.
Love the mulch. Be the mulch. Just get it spread out before the rain returns! Which I did.

1. Spread one cubic yard of rain-sodden black mulch around trees and plantings to beautify the yard.

2. Expend two boxes of Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponges removing scratches, splotches, scrapes, smudges and mysterious stuff from all walls, doors and woodwork. (These sponges are brilliant.)

3. Help super-handyman Victor remove old window-frame lumber from the backyard.

4. Paint walls in upstairs office.

5. Rebuild screens for two downstairs windows.

6. Install five smoke detectors and two carbon monoxide detectors.

7. Install three new toilet seats.

8. Replace six broken handles on a built-in desk.

9. Install clothing rack in a bedroom closet.

10. Replace sliding door handle and lock.

11. Patch holes in walls

12. Spackle dog-mauled front door in preparation for painting.

13. Paint front door.

14. Replace failing fluorescent lights in garage.

This stuff is amazing. The sponges remove almost every scrape and mark and crayon drawings that your family can post to your walls and woodwork.
This stuff is amazing. The sponges remove almost every scrape and mark and crayon drawings that your family can post to your walls and woodwork.

15. Replace air filters in ventilation ducts.

16. Install metal transition strip between hallway carpet and bedroom tile floor.

17. Sell and help remove a washer and dryer.

18. Sell and help remove two couches.

19. Move two bookcases to the buyer’s house.

20. Post a Ford SUV on Craigslist for sale.

21. Haul SUV-load of bagged trash to landfill.

22. Cap the gas pipe in the laundry room.

23. Sort through two dozen old paint cans for what’s salvageable, recyclable and disposable.

24. Number, inventory and stash 15 20-gallon plastic bins of possessions into storage.

25. Gather toxic household products for disposal.

26. Remove picture hanging nails from walls in all rooms. Spackle in holes.

26. With the help of our friend Tom, and a borrowed truck, we moved a five-piece desk set to its new owner’s house; moved a heavy metal sculpture to a local winery; and brought two truckloads of household goods and clothing to a local social services agency.

This hardly exhausts the list and doesn’t even include the massive amount of work that Rose has been doing — including painting; packing and sorting out of home goods for disposal or storage; tax document preparation; and arranging for the property manager to rent the house. We’ve also both been working on setting up banking for ease of operation from overseas. And both Rose and I have worked on the sale of her property in Lake Tahoe.

So, for the time being, our life has been more “Love It Or List It” than “House Hunters International,” but these things must be done.

And to think that the original conversation a year ago went something like this:

“Let’s move to Belize.”

“OK. When?”

“How about March 1?”

“OK.”

How naïve we were back then!

Now we’re also watching the Mother of All Winter Storms moving into the South, threatening to grind airplane traffic to a halt between Texas and Miami, the two gateways to Belize.

So, Monday is looking good. Real good.

Tonight we’ll celebrate our wedding anniversary here, maybe with a picnic on a blanket in an empty house, rather than on an airplane bound for Belize.

A little disappointed. A little frustrated. Yes. But we’re long past the point of no return and I can almost taste that first Belikin beer.

Packing for Belize

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My stuff so far. Really, how many button down  stripped shirts can you wear in Belize?
My stuff so far. Really, how many button down stripped shirts can you wear in Belize?

Rose is already packed, even though we now won’t be leaving for San Pedro, Belize, until Feb. 12. Her allotted two suitcases are by the front door. She has also packed two different winter bags to be left with various friends for our brief return to the states around Christmas time. And she has a bag of stuff to wear between now and Feb. 12.

I’m a bit behind, to put it politely. What I have is various piles – clothes to donate, clothes for Belize, clothes for next winter, clothes that I don’t know what to do with.

The most coherent pile of clothes is the one for Belize. This is what I have so far and, honestly, I’m not sure it will all fit in my self-allotted one military-surplus dufflebag.

When I said I won’t be bringing a second bag, Rose said she would add it to her luggage set and fill it with shoes. Too late I remembered the words I heard as a child from my life mentor: “Never criticize the number of pairs of shoes a woman wishes to bring to a foreign posting. Never. Not ever. Not even in jest or sarcasm.”

I’ll let you know how that one works out.

Read the rest of this entry »

Close ties between Murphy bed and Murphy’s Law

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The warning signs are all over the instructions for disassembling a Murphy bed. The trick is, you have to read them.
The warning signs are all over the instructions for disassembling a Murphy bed. The trick is, you have to read them.

“So,” said my friend and fellow blogger Greg Gross, as I finished my sad and tragic tale of stupidity, carelessness and, well, stupidity about covers it, “there really is a correlation between Murphy beds and Murphy’s Law.”

Greg is a former colleague, veteran San Diego newsman and travel blogger (“I’m Black and I Trave!l”). He was always quick with pithy and witty headlines.

I let go of my remorse long enough to slump to the floor and let out a badly needed laugh. My god, was I in need of a good laugh.

Read the rest of this entry »

Forget that ‘sign from God’ thing I was talking about

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Rose (above) and I fell in love with Ambergris Caye while pedaling around on a pair of rented bikes. We both see this as our primry mode of transportation as we make the move to the island in less than two weeks.
Rose (above) and I fell in love with Ambergris Caye while pedaling around on a pair of rented bikes. We both see this as our primry mode of transportation as we make the move to the island in less than two weeks.

That “sign from God” thing I mentioned in my last post?

You know, when my beloved 1981 Trek mountain bike with the urban tires was almost completely ignored at our garage sale, and I said it was a sign from god that I should keep it?

Well, not completely ignored. This one cranky old guy spent a ridiculous amount of time pointing out the dings and scratches and scars on the frame and kept saying, “Well, you know this will have to be refinished …”

Me: “Well, no, not really …”  and  “Oh, sure, it has marks but …” and so on. Read the rest of this entry »

Moving sale? Not the hell it could have been … not totally

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My arty garage sale signs, which mostly fell apart in the dark of night as I pounded them into the ground. Once again, duct tape saves Fumbling Man.
My arty garage sale signs, which mostly fell apart in the dark of night, as I pounded them into the ground. Once again, duct tape saves Fumbling Man.

Behind the dark bug-eye sunglasses lurked a face, young or old, I don’t know.  But there was a deep world-weary sigh every time she heard the price of a lamp or a pan or a book at the yard sale.

It was if life itself had betrayed her once more. “How? How? How could this lamp I so desire be $15?” her sigh seemed to say.

“Would you take seven?” is what she actually said. Read the rest of this entry »

Inside San Ignacio with Preston Wright

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Iconic steps leading to Preston Wright's Kumquat Cottage in San Ignacio.
Iconic steps leading to Preston Wright’s Kumquat Cottage in San Ignacio.

Preston Wright of Minnesota  has owned Kumquat Cottage in San Ignacio for more than a decade. He recently added a seven-acre coconut grove to his holdings. Still working in the States and visiting when he can, Preston longs for the day when he can live in San Ignacio full time.  As our “guest columnist” today, Preston Wright had this to say about San Ignacio in the western Cayo District in a couple of e-mails: Hello, came across your blog about moving to Belize, and San Ignacio in particular.  I have owned land and a house for 10 years there, but currently work for a media company in the US. Read the rest of this entry »

News to me … and thanks!

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You have to love how information travels these days.

My friend John East in San Pedro saw a post on the AmbergrisCaye.com Forum about a wellness centre opening in San Pedro. He thought it would be of interest to my wife, Rose, as the owners are seeking yoga and Pilates teachers.

As it turns out, it is!

Rose already knows the women who started the Zen Arcade Wellness Centre from our visit in September-October, and is talking with them about picking up some classes after we move there next month. Read the rest of this entry »