Rose Alcantara

Three things you should do as quickly as possible once you move to San Pedro

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Watching the sun rise over Lake Bacalar on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. They say every morning the colors are different because of the unique reflective qualities of the pristine lake waters.

The three best things you can do once you move to Ambergris Caye in Belize involve getting off the island. One means getting out of the country. None of them includes the Blue Hole or the “Chicken Drop.”

This sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

I mean, here you are, newly landed on one of the great expat destinations in the world, and this guy who is moving away shortly is telling you to get off the island for your own sake.

Hang in there. I in no way intend to burn Ambergris Caye, a place I love above all others on this planet. Follow my steps through these three adventures and I promise you’ll return to Ambergris Caye with a deepened love for the island and a profound appreciation for the beauty that surrounds it. The real estate won’t expand, but your world will grow bigger.

Welcome to San Pedro, now go and explore the rest of Belize

Read the rest of this entry »

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You can fool a Moppit some of the time but you can’t fool a Moppit all of the time

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Moppit gets a bath after a recent dip in the sargassum, followed by a full-body roll in the sand and decaying beach algae. Look at that face. Of course, she loved it. Me, not so much.

Yes, we are still here. In Belize, until Thursday.

Getting to San Miguel de Allende with a little dog and six formidable suitcases in tow (still an estimate) will be quite a coup from my perspective.  I turn out to be very good at perspective, while Rose is, in fact, even better at actually scheduling things like planes (2) transport vans (2), and hotels (1).

Meanwhile, I have been studying YouTube videos on how to lovingly coax your little dog into an even littler carrier. I just finished a 9-minute video in which the rather attractive woman spent seven of those minutes telling us, me, how lovely and obedient her own little Muffie is.

“There you are Muffie, you beautiful, beautiful little angel! Who’s mama’s little angel!?” And, you know? She had that way of drawing out the word “angel” into several extra syllables, covering three octaves in the upper register.

Muffie is an over-achieving little princess, in my book. My Moppit, former street dog and reality TV star of “Survivor for Dogs,” would whip her furry little ass. Read the rest of this entry »

Forever, it turns out, is a slippery concept: Goodbye, Belize

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My own opportunities to understand Belize are running out because I will be leaving the country shortly, probably forever.”

A “60 Minutes” piece from 1985 in which Morley Safer travels to Belize is cruising around the Internet. Like any 15-minute television essay on an entire country, it packs a little truth around a basket of cliches and misses more than half the story.

Tootling up and down the Belize River in a panga, Safer looks rather rakish in his rumpled white linen suit and black shirt — in a faded “Miami Vice” sort of way. He pronounces the country corruption-free, poor but not direly poor, filled with cheerful people from many backgrounds, a country comfortable with itself, a country ripe for exploitation, and on the cusp of great change.

Great change, from television.

He got that one right. Read the rest of this entry »

Ramming speed: One way to barge in on Ambergris Caye, Belize

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Backing up for a full-throttle run through the shallows and s bludgeoning impact with the landing site. That’s just how you get things done.

The early morning stillness crumbled beneath the blatting, wheezing, rumbling, cries of frustration from diesel engines as the tug helplessly shouldered the sand-banked barge laden with building supplies.

It wouldn’t budge, not one inch toward the Tabony lot landing.

Shallow waters and low tide conspired to thwart the mission. This was no storybook “I think I can” tale. This big muscular engine couldn’t. Let’s face it, rail traction is so much better than water. Read the rest of this entry »

Belize Q and A: And now, a few words with Moppit, the island wonderdog

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Three images of Moppit, all of them pretty weak. Two things at work here: 1. I’ve yet to take a good picture of Moppit. 2. She hardly cooperates. Moppit is the most camera-shy dog I have ever met. I will keep trying! Plus, she needs a little grooming, and that is scheduled for Thursday at Pampered Paws.

Quite a few people have asked me recently about Moppit.

For example, when a crazy-ass San Pedro taxi driver with a “Pretty chicks only” decal on the back window of his dust-encrusted van knocked me off my bike and I was laid flat out in the street, a number of friends rushed up to me.

“How’s Moppit been?” one asked.

“Is Moppit adjusting to you OK? If not, I’d be glad to have her,” said another.

“Any time you want to go somewhere, I’ll babysit Moppit for you,” offered a third.

And so it goes. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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 »