Saturday, April 28, 2012

Progress on the house (Part 3)

A lot of things that we're working on here have nothing to do with the house itself, and everything to do with getting ready for the rainy season.

The car port we decided to build has a little to do with both - it's attached to the house, and in the rainy season we'll have a dry spot to work on the trucks. (Clearly when I say "we," I really mean, "the boys.")

Its made with leaves from the Cohune Palm tree that weren't cut on the full moon, so it won't last more than a year before it needs to be replaced (if that) but I love this thing, I think it looks so cool:

Inside the house, we finally have paint on the walls and the beginnings of a kitchen and bathroom. You have NO idea how happy I'll be when I can report to you about having indoor plumbing... but this is a nice start.

Hmm... not good lighting, but here's the green living room

Same green in kitchen. Still need tile for the countertops.

Purple bathroom

Don't look at the floor, we're re-rocking it because we didn't like the way it was done the first time. I created a new way to do it, too, and it's looking awesome.

We went through some boxes and dug out some things to start making this house feel more homey:


African mask and Pennsylvania Dutch Hex

Bought this in a thrift store in Dangriga, I love it.

I guess those are all the updates for this post.... we still need to finish the bathroom floor and the floor in the living room and kitchen area, and we need two more solar panels and running water, counter tops, custom furniture and closets... and that's pretty much it as far as big jobs on the house. Yay!

My solo trip to Belmopan, lessons learned. (Long post!)

It's almost time for me to apply for my Belizean residency, so I bussed it to Belmopan yesterday to pick up my paperwork.

I had run into *Bolo's mom the day before and told her my plan, so she offered to go with me and was down there waiting when I got to the bus stop at 7:30.

There were kids from the village waiting for their bus to school, and a woman named Consuela who was waiting for the bus to Dangriga with her grandson. Everyone was talking about the Belize Agriculture and Trade Show that they aren't going to this year because of the gang threats. (Two gang leaders were killed by police recently, and now the gangs are threatening to show up at the fair grounds this weekend to retaliate. The place is packed with security, though, and they have police checkpoints on all the roads leading to the fair, so hopefully all goes well.)

The 8 o'clock bus to Belmopan came.... and kept going.
Lesson one - getting a bus on a Friday morning can take some time.

Bolo's mom decided that she didn't want to wait another hour for the next one, so she ditched me and hopped on a bus headed for Dangriga, in the other direction. (She did invite me to tag along, but I was on a mission.)

The 9 o'clock bus didn't show up or drive passed me.
Lesson two - there is not always a bus every hour.

I've definitely gained some patience by living here. You need it in order to not go crazy sometimes.

Around 9:20, Bolo showed up, riding on the front of some other guys bicycle, so he stopped to say hi and asked what I was doing. I told him the whole story and he just laughed, looked at his watch, and told me to come with him. Again, since I regularly say yes to things without asking any questions,(The Fish Thing in Caye Caulker) I followed him - first to his moms house, and then to a bar called *Yesenia's that is between Alta Vista and Steadfast on the Hummingbird Highway, where he bought me a couple of beers while we waited. After a few minutes, I heard the bus in the distance. (It's so quiet here that you can distinguish what kind of vehicle is headed your way before you actually see it.)

We walked to the end of Yesenias driveway and Bolo told me to put down my beer, and then he waved the bus down to stop for me. It was 10:15am.
Lesson three - a bus will not stop for you if you have beer in your hand.

I'd like to add here that I totally got gringoed. Bolo's mom told me it would be $4 from Alta Vista, and Bolo told me it would be $3 from Steadfast. When the conductor came up to me and I asked him how much, he charged me $5. Jerk.
Lesson four - find out the cost from a local ahead of time, and then just hand the conductor exact change so you don't get ripped off.

Most of the busses here are old school busses that have been brought down from the States, and I noticed that the one I was on came from Fort Valley, Georgia. I just plopped down in the first seat next to a man with a very deep, froggy voice and enjoyed my slight, early morning beer buzz.

There are a lot of speed bumps here in Belize, and at one in Steadfast, in particular, there are always people sitting there with a cooler, waiting to sell passers by cold coconut water or warm corn on the cob when they slow down. Our bus driver and conductor, along with the man next to me, all bought some corn when we had to slow for the bump.

I couldn't keep myself from smiling during the hour long bus ride - I felt like I was on a roller coaster. I don't know how fast we were actually going, but it felt like we were speeding down the highway, up and down hills and around bends where, I swear, the bus driver had to use his whole body to control the steering wheel.
Lesson five - the bus will drop you off or pick you up wherever you are, if they have room for you. You just have to flag them down or tell them where you want them to stop, and you got it.

When we got to the bus station in Belmopan, I met up with my friend Bob and he walked with me to the immigration office, where I picked up my paperwork, and then we walked through the park (which I didn't know existed) and went to this great little restaurant called Formosa.

Finally - pictures for this long post!

Nice horse, chillin in the park

Really good chicken salad sandwich with fries and a chocolate shake @ Formosa

Seriously - yum.

After lunch came complimentary dessert, probably because Bob is such a loyal customer...

Fresh fruit with mango yogurt

When we finished at Formosa, we walked back through the park, stopped at the police station so I could find out what I need to have with me for my police interview (one picture of myself and an ID) and then stopped at the market so I could pick up some veggies before heading back home.

Getting on the bus at the Belmopan bus station is an interesting experience. The line I wanted, for the bus heading back to Dangriga, is all the way at the back of the building, next to the concession stand area, where people are selling food and drinks. One lady was behind the stand singing:

"I've got... water water water, if you.... want it want it want. I've got.... ju ju juice, if you.... want it want it want it. I've got, burgers, I've got, chocolate cake, I've got, whatever you want, just... step step step on up...."

She had a really nice voice, it was cute.

When our bus showed up (we're inside the building, behind a closed door/gate that faces the parking lot) the lady announced, "Your bus is here! On your mark.... get set..." and once the door was open, "GO!"

She was right, it was like a race to get through the door and onto the bus. People were shoving their way through the crowd and bumping people out of line, determined to get on. (They have a sign for 84 passenger capacity, but I think more were crammed in there)

I made it on and got a seat near the back next to a guy who was apparently sleeping, even though he had sat down literally 30 seconds before me. Applying my knowledge from lesson number four, when the conductor came around to collect money from me, I told him I was going to Alta Vista and handed him $4. 

I made it back to the village bus stop around 3:30, I think. I waited for Robert to come down the hill in the truck, and then we went to run some errands before heading back up.

When I got home I really started looking at all the paperwork for the permanent residency. Next week I have to get a medical exam and HIV test, have passport photos taken, get a police report filled out, find a Justice of the Peace to notarize my application, make copies of every page in my passport and of all the paperwork, and then get back to Belmopan to hand everything and ask, for the 5th time, if it's ok for me to leave the country for a few more days. When I get back to Belize, I should be able to get an appointment for a formal police interview and an interview with an immigration officer.... and after that, it's just more waiting. (The wait can be from 2-9 months, from what I've heard)

*Bolo's mom - That's what I've been calling her since I met her, 3 months ago. I found out yesterday what her real name is, but she told me that no one in the village knows what it is, so I'm keeping the secret.

*Yesenia's bar - It isn't a bar at all. It's the owners house, they just sell drinks and snacks out of one of their windows. There are a lot of "bars" like this in Belize.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Snowflakes in Belize

No no no, you crazy kids, it isn't snowing in Belize.

I just think it's funny how many things you can buy here that have a snowflake pattern on it... and even funnier that none of the Belizeans that I've asked about it know what they are. Like this plastic cup that Robert bought, for example:

Snowflake cup

When I asked him if he knew what these little white things on the cup are, he stared at it for a minute and then said no, he had no idea what they were.
The same thing happened last week when I went into one of the little bodegas in Dangriga and asked for a nail file - the girl handed me one of those boring, plain, brown emery boards and this blue one with the snowflake pattern:

Snowflake nail file

I told her I'd take the one with the snowflakes and she just gave me a confused look, so I picked it up and asked her if she knew what the pattern on it is. She took it from me, looked it over, then handed it back and said no, she had never seen that pattern before. When I told her that they're snowflakes, she got a big smile on her face and took it back to look at it more closely. She brought it over to another girl working there and told her about the snowflakes and they both giggled.

I promise you, if it ever starts snowing in Belize, I'll start looking for somewhere else to live.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quick Sugar Fix - Fried Coconut

Quickest post ever-
All you need to do is grind up some coconut meat and fry it up with a little bit of coconut oil and some sugar until it gets brown and slightly crunchy looking.

Fried Coconut

It tastes like coconut cotton candy. SO good.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

FAQ's I get about moving to Belize

1. Are you crazy? - Maybe a little.

2. Why Belize? - Why not Belize? It's beautiful, I speak the language, people are friendly, the cost of living is cheaper, eating here is healthier, fresh air, sunshine, Caribbean Sea.... come on, why NOT Belize?

3. You live on an island? - I did, for the first 9 months. San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.
Now I live in the jungle, but, eventually, I'm going to try to work out spending 3-4 days on the island to work, and 3-4 days back home in the jungle.

4. Do you miss anything from back home? - Other than friends, family, beer options, and Philly cheesesteaks, not really. I don't miss Walmart or Target or malls. Definitely don't miss traffic and the cost of any car repairs. I didn't eat any fast food when I lived in the States (other than a Chik-Fil-A chocolate milkshake *yum*) so I don't miss McDonald's or Burger King or Taco Bell. I might miss Dunkin Donuts coffee.... but I still get good coffee here.

5. So, you just showed up in Belize and got a job? No. For the first month I just hung out. When it was time to get a job, I needed to buy a work permit. If you search online about how to get one of those here, it looks complicated (
Luckily, the guy I was going to be working for just told me to give him some money, I went and got my picture taken, and I had my permit 6 hours later and worked that night. I definitely overpaid, but it was worth not having to wait up to 3 months to get it. - Side note - the work permit is only valid for one year and mine runs out in June, BUT, I get to apply for my residency on May1st and once that's approved, I can work again.

6. What kind of work did you find? Same stuff I did in PA, bartending and massage.

7. What are the people like? It's pretty hard to generalize the people here since there are so many different cultures - Garifuna, Maya, Kriol, Mestizo, Mennonites, Chinese, Lebanese, - but they're all nice. Everyone says hello (unless they're working, for some reason. Customer service is not big here) Something else I've noticed - almost everyone, once they consider you a friend, will invite you to come see the village that they're from and meet their mother.

8. What do you do all day? When I lived in San Pedro I slept a lot, napped in the sunshine alot, watched tv, wandered around the beach, and worked. Here in the jungle, I read and write, go on lots of errand runs to town (Dangriga, 40 minutes east) and try to stay out of everyone's why while they're working on the house. I admit that I get bored up here, but once my Jeep gets shipped down and I can go out and explore when I want to, it'll be cool. And I'll look for an island job again in a few months, that'll keep me busy.

9. What did you do with all your stuff when you moved? I obviously tried to sell as much as I could, and I gave away a buttload of other things. I still have a storage unit, but I have no idea what's in it and that's awesome - it means I don't miss any of it and can go empty it out when I'm back next month. I just want some books and some sentimental knick-knacks, but the rest will get donated or yard sale-d.

10. What did you bring with you when you moved? I brought too many clothes, too many lotions, soaps, hair products, and not enough books. I'm pretty sure that's it, other than cash and my debit card.

11. Do you think you'll ever move back? Right now I have no desire to live in the States again, but who knows what'll happen down the line. I'm open to everything.

12. So is life, like, magically perfect in Belize? Of course not. Your own personal problems will follow you wherever you go, and every country, Im sure, has it's issues. Crime here is bad - my apartment in San Pedro was robbed while I was sleeping, for example. Walking around by yourself at night isn't safe in San Pedro, I know plenty of people who have been mugged on the way back to their hotel or home. On the mainland there are armed home invasions, burglary, murder, machete attacks, cops that will extort you... Even though I live up on a hill, away from everyone, I still lock my doors at night and have ordered myself a pair of guard dogs.

13. Do you still talk to people from home much? Not really. If it wasn't for facebook I don't think I would've heard from anyone other than my parents this entire year.

14. Did you save up a lot of money before you moved? Hahahaaa. I tried. I had $10,000 in my bank account and then, 2 months before I moved, I went and got myself a DUI. That cost me almost $5,000. Then my work permit was $2,500. Take a guess how much I have left!

I think that's most of the - if you have any other questions, just ask :)


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

More Belizean Superstitions

This post is a follow up from Weird superstitions I heard about last night

Belizeans believe that having sex in your car is bad luck. If you do have sex in your vehicle, you have to sell it because it will get into a bad accident. (The Ranger that we bought here keeps getting messed up... someone must've banged in it.)

Fishermen used to (maybe they still do?) throw their baby son's navel scar out past the reef, into the deep blue sea, so that they boy would grow up to be a good seaman/fishermen and not get seasick. Whenever a young man got seasick, other men would say, "Your father didn't cast your "tuch" (navel scar) in the sea."

In order to get some wind on very calm days, fishermen would throw money - a penny, nickel or dime, into the sea and ask to buy some wind. They would never throw a half dollar because that was a lot of money, and it might buy you a hurricane.

Belizean natives will not swim in the lakes or sea during the Good Friday-Easter Weekend - they believe that if they do, they will have bad luck. (Im still trying to get a better reason than this, I might have to check with the elders....) This must be a very old superstition that didnt carry on, because I saw a bunch of people swimming in the Caves Branch River over Easter weekend.

There is some kind of legend about a 3 foot dwarf with no thumbs that lives in the jungle,  it's referred to locally as el duende, and he looks for kids who are trying to kill the local wildlife and punishes them. Again, no one that I know is afraid of killing wildlife here - gibnut, skwash, pregnant iguana, and now this turtle.....

That's all I have so far, but Robert is always telling me interesting things about Belizeans and their beliefs.

Something I thought was odd - they also believe that it's bad luck to have a black cat cross your path, but breaking a mirror means nothing to them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Fish Thing in Caye Caulker

A Sunny Place for Shady People

Lisa and I were hanging out at the Lazy Lizard on Saturday, munchin on their really good, really large order of chicken nachos and sipping on some Lizard Juice.

Lizard Juice

A lady, who I've seen there before, came up to me and asked me if I could help her out with something...
Since I often agree to things before I fully know what's up, I said sure, and she handed me a fish.
The fish

I waited at the bar, with my dead fish, while she went around and got more girls to take more fish from her, and then she had us all line up in front of the water and start waving our new, dead friends in the air.

Waving fish in the air

After a few minutes of doing this and probably looking like bikini clad idiots, the birds finally started paying attention and came over for their snacks.

Girl in pink bottoms, first to bail out.

Im so surprised that I've never seen this done before, since I've been here so many times. Apparently it's a regular thing at the Split.

Here, birdy birdy

Also on the beach this weekend - some dude doing tight rope tricks.
Have I mentioned how much I love Caye Caulker?

Butt balance, very impressive

He seemed to have been giving lessons to anyone else who wanted to jump on, too. 
(Not me - I already know my balance is questionable)

                                      Just another great weekend in Caye Caulker...........

Gettin home only 2 days late

Caye Caulker sunset

I was originally planning on leaving Caye Caulker at 8:30 on Sunday morning, when my sister headed back to the States.

The Flyers/Penguins game was on at 1 o'clock Sunday afternoon, though.... and I haven't seen a hockey game in so long... and it's playoff season.... so I decided to stay one extra night and watched the game at the Barrier Reef Sports Bar. (Flyers won)

One extra night turned into two, and if I had more clothes with me than just a skirt, a shirt, a dress and a bikini, or if I had more than a couple hundred dollars in my bank account, two extra nights could've easily turned into an extra month. I don't think I'd want to live there full time, but I always have such a hard time leaving. I don't feel that way about San Pedro or Tobacco Caye... only Caye Caulker.

Reluctantly, I packed up my things this morning and headed to Belize City on the 10:30 water taxi.
I usually love the water taxi - I find any kind of boat ride relaxing and I generally just zone out and enjoy the ride. Today, though, the ride sucked.

First - it was crowded. I guess I've been super lucky while traveling to and from the Cayes these last few years to never have been stuck on the water taxi when it's carrying close to it's full passenger capacity. As an introvert, just seeing that many people crammed together made me uncomfortable.

Too many people!

I, surprisingly, found a comfortable enough spot on one of the outer benches that run along the wall of the inside of the boat. I even had a few inches of personal space... but about 2 minutes into the ride, I found out why no one else had snatched up the seat before me. The guy to my right was sea-sick.

Hearing him hurl twice was enough for me - I had to move before I started joining him and would have to ask him to share his vomit bag.

I found a spot on the inside bench, down away from Mr Pukey, and squeezed myself in between a sun burnt American kid and a woman who's purse was taking up more space than I was.

Behind me was an overweight Belizean woman in booty shorts and her three children, all under age 6. While she was busy on the phone, her children were moving around under and on top of the seats... basically on my shoulders. My hair was getting pulled from all their climbing little sticky fingers and I kept getting elbowed in the back of the head. Eventually I turned and sat sideways and rested my arm up on the back of the bench and ruined all their fun.

When we finally got to the city I immediately went to the first empty bar and ordered Salbutes and a Lighthouse. Just a few minutes of space and quite made me feel much better.

Salbutes - yum! ($2.50BZ for 3 at whatever bar I was in)

I was going to get a taxi to the bus station and take the 4 hour ride to Dangriga, then take a 40 minute taxi ride to get home... but after my boat experience, I opted to just hop on a plane instead.
I got to Tropic Air 15 minutes before the next flight to Dangriga, AND.....

I had the plane to myself for the first 5 minute flight to the International airport!

Only 4 other passengers got on at the international, so it was still pretty sweet, and when we landed I met a really nice taxi driver named Manuel who took me to pick up my laundry and was able to drive all the way up my mile long driveway in his little 2 wheel drive Toyota.

If you're in Dangriga and need a ride, get ahold of him and he'll come get you: 605-2360 or 667-0494. Tell him the tattooed girl that lives on top of the mountain sent you.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Traveling Baby Chicken (Part 2)

On Wednesday we decided to take Lisa to Antelope Falls, located in the 7,000 acre Mayflower Bocawina National Forest on the Southern Highway. This place is pretty awesome and deserves it's own blog, but right now I'm trying to stay awake and focus on the chicken story.

Camilla at the Mayflower National Park Welcome center

Heading towards Antelope Falls

45 minute walk. Pffft.

Camilla was being really good this day - unlike right now, when she keeps jumping on my keyboard and messing me up.
I don't know how far up we made it, but, unfortunately, none of us made it to the top. Lisa gave up once the rock climbing began, and Trip and I turned around when I realized that I'm incapable of hoisting myself up boulders while gripping onto a rope in one hand and holding a chicken in the other.
I'm still a bit bummed about it, but determined to go again soon and get all the way up there.

Not kidding about the direction

Takin a breather

Part of Camilla's rock climbing experience

As close as we got to swimming in the falls

After our failed attempt to conquer the falls, we had lunch at MamaNook's, the cute little jungle lodge place in the park, and then stopped at the Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce Factory on our way home.

Playin around at lunchtime

Last stop

That's pretty much it for Camilla's adventures this week. Like I said, she wasn't invited to go cave tubing yesterday, and I convinced Trip that he should babysit her this weekend since he isn't coming to the Cayes with us, so she'll be staying home for a few days. I hope she doesn't get too bored.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Traveling Baby Chicken (Part 1)

My sister Lisa is down here for a week or so to visit me and to go on some adventures... little did she know, my broken-legged baby chicken, Camilla, would be joining us for most of them.

On Tuesday, Camilla went to Cafe casita de amor in Steadfast with us when we stopped for coffee, tagged along to the inland Blue Hole, had lunch in San Ignacio, walked around the ruins of Cahal Pech, and shopped at the Orange Gift Shop on the Western Highway.

Me and Camilla with Sybille at her Cafe

On her way to the Blue Hole

Lisa at the Blue Hole

Camilla at the Blue Hole

Lunch in San Ignacio

At the Cahal Pech Welcome/Info building

Chicken checkin out ruins

She wouldn't stay by herself, but this is where she was for previous pic

I have to admit, her constant chirping was starting to drive me insane. I mean I totally understand - she had to stay in the box while I drove and it was super hot out so she probably wasn't totally comfortable being toted around in the palm of my sweaty hand everywhere we went... but Wednesday was better (The Traveling Chicken Part 2, coming next) and I actually missed her today when Lisa and I went cave tubing.
Maybe I can figure out how to rig up some sort of baby chicken life preserver so she can tag along next time.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Weather, Botanical Garden, and Baby Chicken Update

It's Easter Sunday and we still haven't had any kind of crazy storm this weekend - no thunder, no lightning, only a light shower of rain at night. It must've stormed somewhere though - all night big, full, black clouds were rolling by, on their way to dump some rain in one of the valleys, maybe.

Yesterday was sunny and hot, and my birthday! I've been wanting to go to Ian Anderson's Caves Branch for so long (have you checked out their website yet?? Caves Branch)

I didn't realize that you usually need to be a guest in order to have a meal there, but luckily I had let Ian know ahead of time that I intended to have lunch at his place, and he graciously extended a real invitation to join him so I wouldn't get kicked out when I showed up :)

After lunch Ian and his wife, Ella, took time to show us around their amazing botanical garden... that alone is worth visiting Caves Branch for, I think, and it's open to non-guests to come check out. (I'd probably call or email ahead of time to let them know you're stopping by)

Here's the info for the garden, followed by some pics I took yesterday:

Caves Branch Botanical Gardens

I also got to meet these two BIG beautiful dogs that live at Caves Branch - I forget their names, but i LOVE them!!!

Biggest dog I've ever seen in person

I had to bring the broken baby chicken, Camilla, with me because I can't trust her mom not to step on her again. ( I had to remove her from the coop when she was 2 days old because she kept getting squashed, and I think she has a little broken leg or foot)

Camilla is possibly the first chicken to go into a dining room and come out alive. I'll have to ask about that.

Camilla at the bar, 5 days old

When we got home I had Trip try to make a suitable cast for her while I held her... I've never raised a healthy chicken, let alone a broken one, so we're just trying to figure this all out as we go along...

 It actually seemed to help, though - today she's able to stand up and balance on her good foot, and she seems to be trying to slowly put pressure on the hurt one. She's become quite the mama's girl, too - if she can't see me, she freaks out a bit.

Bouncin around on one foot

I'm starting to think she might survive! When she gets bigger, though, she might have to live with the pigs - I don't think the other chickens will accept her because she's gimpy.

She'll be getting to do a lot of things with me while she heals and gets stronger since I can't leave her alone. She'll be going to Pelican Beach in Dangriga tomorrow, to Xunantunich, San Ignacio, Cahal Pech and Spanish Lookout on Tuesday, Antelope Falls on Wednesday, and then to Caye Caulker for a few days. Lucky bird!