Rose Alcantara

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 »

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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 »

I mean, who gets a whole private island for their birthday? (Hint: You’re looking at him)

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Walking around Blackadore Caye on my birthday, enjoying the splendor of a deserted island -- with 20 of my best friends!
Walking around Blackadore Caye on my birthday, enjoying the splendor of a deserted island — with 20 of my best friends!

Your first thought when you step off the boat and on to Blackadore Caye is “This can not be real.”

It is like a Hollywood movie set for a tropical island adventure film.

The coconut trees seem too perfectly spaced to be real. The ground beneath them too perfectly swept clean. The sand too white. The water on either side of this long, narrow caye shimmers in variants of teal, turquoise and aquamarine. The dry, cool wind sweeps so sweetly upon the skin, not a drop of perspiration survives. The cloud-dappled sky is a dreamy blue — azure color #007FFF, if you are into replicating sky colors from an RGB color wheel. Read the rest of this entry »

This is how you end up sleeping through New Years Eve in Belize

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Katie and Rose hold up their barracuda, the last two caught for the day aboard the Lucky Devil in San Pedro, Belize.
Katie and Rose hold up their barracuda, the last two caught for the day aboard the Lucky Devil in San Pedro, Belize.

With the departure on New Years Eve day of my youngest son Chris and his wife, Katie, all three of my sons have now visited us on Ambergris Caye in Belize. Ryan was the first, back around Thanksgiving 2014. Brendan, Cami and Brody were here for two wonderful weeks this summer.

My work is done here.

Now all I need do is sit back and wait for each to reach the obvious conclusion: “Man that was fun. Let’s go to Belize again!”

It will happen. Read the rest of this entry »

The darkness draws us close: Merry Christmas

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Seriously, nothing to do with Christmas. But don't you love the festive color?
Seriously, nothing to do with Christmas. But don’t you love the festive color?

Some people say it is a holiday tradition, but for whatever reason, the power went out all over Ambergris Caye on Christmas Eve, around 6:30 p.m. I say it was that one last set of lights added to that one last house somewhere on the island that blew the circuits.

Anyhow, the island was blacked out.

Mostly.

Generators are very popular accessories. Even San Pedro Town has two giant trailer generators that kick in and keep the downtown lit.

Rose and I were up at Marbucks Coffee House which has its own generator. It kicked in quickly and the holiday cheer and goodwill went on undiminished.

I broke away from our gathering of friends and took a walk down to the old Palapa Bar, now dark and forlorn even when there is electricity. A walk out to the end of the pier confirmed that we were living on one dark island for the moment, save for that gloriously bright and round moon.

Maybe not such a terrible thing, I thought.

What’s the phrase? “Darkness draws us close.”

It strips away the shiny objects, the twinkling lights, the loud noise, the TV specials, the video games, the social media and for a couple of hours we are left with one thing only — those who are closest to us, the ones who mean the most … and that bright shiny moon.

In the darkness we reach out to each other, we hold tight and laugh and light some candles and realize there is nothing more to fear from the dark than a delayed dinner.

I understand that blinding snowstorms often achieve the same thing.

Well, for some Christmas — or other holiday — in the near future, I wish for you a region-wide two-hour power outage when the ones you love most are closest to you.

Merry Christmas from San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Lights! Cameras! Eatery! The Truck Stop in San Pedro, Belize, is ready for its closeup

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My friend Dion from the San Pedro Sun models a Truckstop cap. In the background is the Rasa restaurant and the ice cream shop.
My friend Dion Vansen from the San Pedro Sun models a Truck Stop cap. In the background is the Rasa restaurant and the ice cream shop.In the background is Chef Jeff Spiegel, formerly of Rojo, and in the black T-shirt is Nicolai Hebert, manager of Rasa and Arepa.

Adam and Jackie Feldman were talking hopefully about a “soft opening” this Saturday for their two newest restaurants — the Malaysian/Southeast Asian bistro Rasa and the Latin American cuisine Arepa — in The Truck Stop, the new freight container dining complex north of the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge.

Soft opening. Good luck with that. Read the rest of this entry »

Garifuna Settlement Day celebrates a beautiful culture and the spirit of endurance

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A ceremonial procession from Central Park to the municipal football field marks the beginning of Thursday's crowning of a new Miss Garifuna San Pedro ambassador. Three of the contestants and the outgoing Miss Garifuna lead a procession of drummers and palm-bearing followers.
A ceremonial procession from Central Park to the municipal football field marks the beginning of Thursday’s crowning of a new Miss Garifuna San Pedro ambassador. Three of the contestants and the outgoing Miss Garifuna lead a procession of drummers and palm-bearing followers.

The Garifuna people of San Pedro, Belize, have a new ambassador for 2015-16. She is Sheila Montero, sponsored by Victoria House. As Miss Garifuna, Sheila will help to tell the story of the rich history and culture of her ancestors to the schools and other groups on the island.

And it is an amazing — and heartbreaking — story to tell. Read the rest of this entry »