Rose Alcantara

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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You can skip the story and go for the moral: Wear sunscreen and use your noodle

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A visual aid for my little story. The yellow and green things in this picture are called “noodles,” for obvious reasons. They are not the only kind of noodles, apparently. Always ask when someone asks you to fetch noodles.

This is an absolutely nothing story and if you want to move on with your life, that’s OK by me.

It is just that I need to put it down on paper to see if it all really happened the way I think it did.

It started on Sunday with a pool party down the road, next to Coco Loco’s Beach Bar. The party was actually a continuation of a birthday party from the day before which included a glorious day aboard the No Rush catamaran with snorkeling and good food, plenty of rum punch, great friendship and a brilliant sun over head.

I’m pretty sure it was the last one that did me in. Rookie mistake, going the whole day without sunscreen. My face looked like a two-tone bowling ball: Pale white where the bandana sat and an awful shade of burgundy from my forehead south. (Right now it looks like a badly peeling bowling ball … .) Read the rest of this entry »

This is Belize: Nature serves up a spectacle this morning and gratitude runs amuck

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Sunrise this morning on Ambergris Caye , Belize was so worth getting up for this morning. Well, nearly every morning.

The breeze, steady as ever through the night, picked up urgency around 5:30 this morning. The time is a guess. The first water taxi hadn’t yet sped up the coast. The bell-curve thump-and-rumble of that boat is like a  morning cock’s crow to mainlanders.  Only more pleasant.

It was still too black out to see, but my wind gauge was beginning to go off the charts.

I use the rustle of the coconuts and palms posted outside my bedroom window as a reliable source of wind information. Slightly breezy and they sound like waves lapping against the beach.

In fact, I’ve learned to distinguish the lapping of waves against the rustle of fronds.  It is an art that takes time to train a keen ear. It often requires lying very still in bed, listening closely to the sounds and then opening one eye, ever so slightly, to observe the weather outside and measure it against the assumptions. Read the rest of this entry »

The diversion factory called Truck Stop has come up with a corker

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Amy Knox of Wild Mango’s bites into her finisher medal at last Saturday’s “Amazing Race: San Pedro Edition.”

If you can imagine this, lots of people who live on tropical islands complain about the lack of diversion in their lives.

You hear things like:

“There are only so many spectacular sunsets that I’m going to sit through.” and “Sunrises? Do you really think I’m going to get up that early?”

“Oh look. Another flock of gloriously pink and retro roseate spoonbills feeding in the marsh. Which reminds me, what are we doing for lunch?” Read the rest of this entry »

Screw you, Earl, the Palapa Bar is back and better than ever

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Panorama of the new Palapa Bar from the west side, facing east.
Panorama of the new Palapa Bar from the west side, facing east.

Hurricane Earl destroyed a lot of livelihoods when it ran down the coast of Ambergris Caye, here in Belize, tearing out piers like stubble on the end of a razor.

At least temporarily.

So many docks have been rebuilt, so many businesses were quickly up and running again within days of the terrible storm.

But none has been more anticipated and welcomed back from its watery grave than the Palapa Bar & Grill on Boca del Rio.

That happened on Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »

Cheap flights? Southwest proves to be no bargain once you land in Houston

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Airline inconveniences fade away when you are with the most important thing in your life -- family. Clockwise from upper left: Ryand and fiance Larisa; grandson Brody with his helicopter; Brody and me, mugging for the camera; bottom, from left: Brendan & Cami, Chris & Katie, Brody & Grizzly.
Airline inconveniences fade away when you are with the most important thing in your life — family. Clockwise from upper left: Ryan and his fiance, Larisa; grandson Brody with his helicopter; Brody and me, mugging for the camera; bottom, from left: Brendan & Cami, Chris & Katie, Brody & Grizzly in Truckee.

When is a bargain not a bargain?

Probably when it is a low-priced, round-trip, Southwest Airlines ticket from Belize to Houston.

We’ve all seen them since Southwest began flying into Belize a year ago. I was among the cheerleaders since Southwest’s aggressive pricing (initially, at least) often forces the big carriers to drop prices. Win-win!

My wife, Rose, recently snagged a too-good-to-be-true ticket to Houston. She has a son in Oklahoma whom she hadn’t seen since we moved to Belize nearly three years ago. She also has a daughter in Arizona and, not coincidentally, a friend had organized a weeklong yoga retreat in Sedona for early October.

So she jumped on the Southwest sale. And offered to get me one, too. Read the rest of this entry »

After Earl: This was the Palapa Bar

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Our friend Ben Popik took this drone shot of the Palapa Bar, or what remains of it in the Boca del Rio section of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Our friend Ben Popik took this drone shot of the Palapa Bar, or what remains of it in the Boca del Rio section of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Ben Popik, owner of the popular Truck Stop and Island Films, took a number of drone shots on Thursday of what remains of the once-thriving San Pedro coast line. You can see more of his images here.

This coast was, until, Wednesday night, jammed with piers and boats and businesses. Not a single dock, commercial or private, on the 24-miles island escaped Hurricane Earl unscathed.

Photos from various numerous island sources and residents:

From Ak’Bol to Caribbean Villas, Ambergris Caye coast nearly stripped of piers

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The "honeymoon cabin" survived. Ak'Bol Yoga Resort's palapa just behind it, did not. All that is left is part of the pier.
The “honeymoon cabin” survived. Ak’Bol Yoga Resort’s palapa just behind it, did not. All that is left is part of the pier.

What’s up dock?

This morning I found the owners of Ak’Bol Yoga Retreat down shore, retrieving canvas curtains and polls from their lovely palapa studio. Which no longer exists. Later some friends told me that the top to the gazebo that once crowned our own dock was down shore and intact on a beach.

“It still has its light fixture.”

A dive shop owner told me he was able to find his compressors underwater and about half of his 60 air tanks.

Everywhere you looked today, people were off in search of their docks, their gear, some remnant of their life that blew away in the Category 1 hurricane Earl last night. Read the rest of this entry »

On Caye Caulker, “Go slow” is beginning to sound like a plea rather than a way of life

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Leaving San Pedro for Caye Caulker. I can't help it but there is an emotional tug every time I leave the shore of Ambergris Caye -- even if I am heading off on a fun adventure, like Monday's.
Leaving San Pedro for Caye Caulker. I can’t help it but there is an emotional tug every time I leave the shore of Ambergris Caye — even if I am heading off on a fun adventure, like Monday’s.  It is not just that I’m leaving home.

 

So Monday was a national holiday — Labor Day. Lots of our favorite places are closed for the day, and some, like The Truck Stop and Casa Picasso for the entire week. And there is family in town.

So, naturally that calls for a water taxi ride to Caye Caulker.

Shockingly, neither Rose nor I have been to that island since last year’s Lobster Festival. And “shockingly” doesn’t begin to sum up the changes that have taken place. The island mantra — Go slow — now feels more like an admonition. Read the rest of this entry »

San Pedro Sunday morning: Covering ground for a good cause

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Some of the runners and walkers begin to mingle around the starting line for Sunday morning's Autism Awareness 5K in San Pedro, Belize.
Some of the runners and walkers begin to mingle around the starting line for Sunday morning’s Autism Awareness 5K in San Pedro, Belize. That is Miss Rose in a yellow top, already pumped from the 7K run she did earlier to warm up for the 5K walk with me.

This morning was the second annual Autism Awareness 5K Walk/Run in San Pedro.

Rose and I chose the walk option off the menu, out of deference for me being completely out of shape thanks to back-to-back surgeries in the past year or so. So Rose prepared for the 5K by rising early and running a 7K. I prepared by looking for my ancient running shoes, which I searched thoroughly for scorpions, lizards, spiders and other creatures who seek shelter in musty, dark places in the back of closets.

The good news is, I found none of the above.

But the shoes. Oh, the shoes! Read the rest of this entry »