Monday, January 26, 2015

Tourist Behavior We Just Can't Stand

I'm fully aware that I was "just a tourist" when I first started coming here, but I promise you, I did not do any of the following things:

1- Being Stingy with the Tip (or not tipping at all)
Ok, I haven't done any extensive traveling - I've only been to five countries outside of the U.S, but every time I've gone somewhere new I make sure to find out what the tipping situation is like. 
If I don't go and seek the easily accessible information online, I make sure to ask someone who lives in whichever country I'm, I'll tell you right now, no matter which country you are from, WE TIP IN BELIZE. 

photo credit

Right before coming home and starting this post (two weeks ago) I was at my local beach bar/ restaurant ordering food to-go and having a drink. 
An American family of six showed up, ordered two beers and a Panty Rippa, (after asking the bartender - What's the WiFi passowrd? What's in a Michelada? What's in a Pany Rippa? Can you make a Strawberry Daiquiri?...) then proceeded to make themselves comfortable - turning their own music on over the music already playing at the bar, handing the bartender their garbage, and then playing a few rounds of volleyball. 
They came back to the bar to pay, handed the bartender exact change - and held on to the extra $5 Belize dollar bill that they had left. 
There was a tip jar sitting right on the bar in front of them, and they still walked away without leaving anything

Even if you think $2.50us is too generous of a tip to leave after having three drinks and a lovely spot to hang out with your family for almost an hour, wouldn't you at least ask for change and leave a dollar or two?

The answer to the question is YES, if you're not an ass, you WILL leave a tip. 

The general "rule" here is, tip as you would do in the States - pay attention here, Europeans and Canadians:
For sit down restaurant service- if you're a 15-20% tipper there, be a 15-20% tipper here. 
If you're only having drinks - the general "rule" is to tip $1.00 for every simple drink you order - Rum and Coke, Vodka Cran, Jack and Ginger, beer, etc. (one Belize dollar is acceptable)
If you prefer the frozen drinks- the PiƱa Coladas, Daiquiris, Dirty Bananas, etc, it's nice to bump that tip up a bit, because you're now taking up more of the bartender's time, and giving them more stuff to clean up.

I, personally, have experienced the absolute worst tippers AND, some of the best. Some people will leave their bartender $20us for just a few beers, and we love them. We couldn't get by without them, really - they help even things out. We also tend to remember them and make serving them a priority over people whom we remember to stiff us.

Don't forget your to tip your tour guides! 
I hang out with a lot of tour guides here in San Pedro and the consensus is the same - people don't tip like they used to.
They tell stories of working 7-10 years ago and getting tipped $100-$500us each! Now, the crew is lucky if they get $100bz to split between all of them. 

I've asked a few of them, "What would be a good tip?" but no one has given me a number. The answer is usually something like, "Anything they leave is a nice surprise at the end," so I'm just telling you what I think is fair enough, and if any local guide would like to chime in and correct me, that would be helpful.
I figure $10us per person makes sense.... So a group of 10 people would tip $100us. 
When I've gone on tours, I've generally tipped between $10-$20us to each guide - some people may think that's a bit too generous, but, since I've been in the service industry myself for so long, I try to take care of "my people."

Oh, and Coconut Leo! Don't forget to tip Coconut Leo!

2. Wearing Bathing Suits to Eat or Go Shopping
Whether it's a bikini or a Speedo, it's just inappropriate to wear your bathing suit into the super market, while browsing the gift shops, having lunch on middle street, drinking at an indoor bar, driving around in a golf cart, while in line at the bank, or - and I know this one is disappointing, but even when going for a stroll on the beach.

Honestly, how hard is it to slip on a pair of shorts or a swimsuit cover-up? 

Granted, you don't see a lot of  the same "business attire" that you're used to, but you do see people here dressed for work. You see kids in school uniforms. You see people dressed for church. You see people who live here wearing clothes everywhere they go.

The only places it is acceptable to be in your bathing suit are: Lounging around the pool at a resort, lounging on the beach chairs outside of your resort, at a swim-up bar, on a boat, or in the water. 

You want to "do as the locals do?"
Put your clothes on.

*This is not just my opinion, and it isn't only a San Pedro "problem."
Reference - - "Out of the Mouths of Tourists."

3. Being Distasteful and Obnoxious
I don't know how tourists behave when they stay on Caye Caulker, down in Placencia, or in other parts of Belize, but I've done an extensive amount of people watching in San Pedro over the years, and I'm sure that anyone else who has done late night bartending here can confirm that we've all seen some shit.
(Side Note - it is not only tourists who act this way)

Some examples of distasteful and obnoxious behavior:

A woman in her 30's had sex with a different local guy out on the dock in front of Big Daddy's every night for a week. (It was pointed out to me every night when I was walking home from work.) Not even an attempt to go somewhere private - just right there on the dock.

The night I accidentally became a pimp - a married Canadian guy (who lives here now) wouldn't stop hitting on me and making inappropriate suggestions, so I excused myself to go hide in the bathroom for a bit after introducing him to one of my local friends, who I had NO idea made her money by sleeping with white dudes.
As I walked back out to the bar, she thanked me for hooking her up and told me she owed me $50. I saw them heading towards her house together on my way home an hour later.
(I've probably told this story before)

Some random, drunk woman stopped me on the beach one night to ask me to help her find one of the well known, good looking tour guides that she had been out on a tour with, along with her husband, earlier that day. Her husband was passed out in the hotel and his wife was feeling frisky.
I saw her again two nights later, and she was on the same mission.

People yelling and screaming all night - this only bothered me when I lived close to town. Again, people LIVE HERE, in your vacation destination. They get up early for work and school. Have a liiiiitle bit of respect when you're near homes.

Couples getting hammered and fighting in public. This happens way too often.

The Walker Stalkers (fans of Jerry Jeff Walker).... Oooh, you guys. So loud. So obnoxious. (From what I hear, though, also very generous)

4. Being Unoriginal
Those of us who live here are sick of the following phrases:
-That's unBELIZEable!
-Can you BELIZE it?!
-I BELIZE I'll have another drink!
-Don't stop BELIZEing!
-BELIZE it or not!

Just buy yourself a T-shirt or a beer koozie and let it go.

photo cred -

Surviving 5 Days in the Karl Huesner Memorial Hospital

Hello there! My name is Keith and I am writing on Carrie’s blog to let you all know about my fantastic time of going to the public hospital in Belize City, and may be give you an idea of what to expect and bring. 

I sing and play here on the Island for about 4 years. On my 4th anniversary here I was dealing with a high fever and what turned out to be an infection on my leg. I probably don’t need to tell you that the original injury was due to a pole dancing accident on my birthday so we won’t go into those details. The injury turned into infection and on New Year’s Day  I was told that I either go to the hospital or lose my leg. 

After little consideration I decided I was not yet ready for a peg leg and pirate life. I notified my various gigs and told Amy, my complicated but lovely significant other, packed up and headed for the boat to take us to Belize City. I received the News at about 11 and by 3 we were on our way to the City.

Not really knowing what to expect (except that my stay could be as long as a week) we packed one suitcase with about 5 changes of clothes each, soap, toilet paper, our phones and chargers, my nook Ereader, a couple of paperbacks, deodorant, toothbrushes and paste, and plenty of money. We had never been to the public hospital before, but knew we couldn't afford more than a couple of nights at a private hospital (which we heard could be $800 BZ a night, after a large deposit).

Reaching the Karl Huesner Memorial Hospital was pretty simple. We knew we wanted to reach it early to start treatment quickly. We were dropped off in the front and asked (as I was directed by my local doctor) for the emergency room. They directed us toward the back and twisting through the hallways we found the emergency room.

After speaking to some nurses at a desk we were directed to the Triage Nurse who asked a few basic questions, took my weight and temp, and directed us to the waiting room. After about 90 minutes wait we were called inside, where we waited about a half hour more, before seeing the doctor. The doctor was pleasant  and asked about the original injury and when infection set in.
Then were taken to  a room where she could see my wound.

Soon, I was placed in another examination room which would have to serve as my room for the time being. They were extremely busy and part of the surgical ward was undergoing some construction. They started me on IV’s of saline solution and soon as was placed on antibiotics. The nurses were pretty pleasant and friendly. I think it is important to remember that they are professionals and not customer service representatives. My advice is don’t be demanding if you need something just ask but just remember as bad off as you may be in the hospital there’s always someone who needs more attention. The next morning I was brought to a room with six beds and four other patients in the room. This is likely the standard experience for most going to the hospital and this room was where I stayed the next four days.

So there’s the basic story, now let me tell you what you need and what to expect on a stay at the Hospital here in Belize:

Soap: There is no soap in the bathrooms. There is hand sanitizer but that can run out.

Toilet Paper: There’s generally toilet paper in the bathroom but if not it is not the nurses job to resupply it.  Have your own ready and you won’t have to wait.

Towel: "Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There's a frood who really knows where his towel is." Bring a towel. You’ll figure it out.

Underwear: You may not need a change of clothes but if nothing is being worked on “down there” there is no reason to not wear some underoos beneath your hospital gown.

Entertainment: There is no TV or movie night, many patients aren’t in the mood of meeting new people, and the nurses don’t have time for conversation. If you have a smart phone I suggest Candy Crush, Two Dots, and Super Monsters Ate My Condo. Bring a book or two if you can’t just read one. Generally you want something to do with one hand because the other may get irritated with the IV needle in it. Also there is no WIFI at the hospital.

Credit: If you’re local and have a phone you’ll want plenty of credit to let people know how you’re doing and get any needed supplies.

A Good Friend: You should probably already have a couple of these, but you will definitely want someone who can visit you and bring you things like water and food. The hospital will give you water in the form of saline solution in an IV or if you can get up and drink from a fountain then go for it. Otherwise you are probably going to want to drink bottled water the old fashioned way. They can also bring you food. The hospital will feed you, yes, but trust me on this, if you don’t have a specific diet need they are addressing then you will want somebody to bring you food from someplace else.

Keith and Amy
Money: Yes I know you know that you’ll probably need money or something really good to barter with. My 5 night stay cost merely $211.25 BZD. That’s $25 a night and $10 a day for drugs and the rest was tests and fees. Not bad. If you have a friend they can stay at a Hostel across the street for $10 BZD a night, or there are some hotel starting at about $50 BZD that we found. The hostel locks its door at 10pm no exceptions. We ended up spending most of the money on food and…

Something Warm: Being on the island all the time we forgot how cold being in AC all day felt, so we bought some hoodies.

That’s pretty much the basic survival guide to your trip to a hospital. Try and have a good attitude about it and you should do fine. If you can pay for a private hospital you can probably forget all this stuff and just bring money. The wound is doing much better and I will be singing and playing again soon! Adios.

SO Gross!!


Thanks, Keith!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Gorgeous Skies in Belize

I have a serious question for photographers and other bloggers - I know I can't call myself a "photographer" since I haven't taken a photography class since high school, I don't own a fancy camera, and I don't know much about composition - and it is not hard to take beautiful pictures when you live in a post card-esque place like Belize, BUT, I really like some of the ones that I take.... So my question is, Should I be worried about people out there in Internet land stealing my "work?"

Readers have suggested a watermark for my pics - I just want to know if that's really something I should be doing....

Anyway, I'd say that the sky is my "most photographed subject," and these are my favorites so far for this year:

           Sunset, January 1 2015

         Afternoon, January 2 2015

            Sunset, January 5 2015

         Afternoon, January 6 2015

           Sunrise, January 11 2015

           Sunrise, January 11 2015

          Sunrise, January 11 2015

          Sunset, January 11 2015

          Sunset, January 14 2015

          Sunrise, January 15 2015

         Sunrise, January 15 2015

          Sunrise, January 15 2015

           Sunset, January 15 2015

           Sunset, January 15 2015

           Sunset, January 17 2015

           Sunset, January 17 2015

          Sunset, January 17 2015

      Early morning, January 18 2015

      Late afternoon, January 18 2015

            Sunset, January 18 2015

            Sunset, January 19 2015

            Sunset, January 19 2015

           Sunset, January 19 2015

          Sunset, January 19 2015 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Yay, Ow, and WTF

I've gotta say, I've been pretty damn lucky when it comes to recovering things that I've either lost or had stolen in the past year or so:
I found one out of two missing cats, the wallet with my passport and debit cards and all that important stuff, and now - my bike! 


was in town on Sunday night and my friend wanted to go grab some take out from Cindy's fast food, so we walked over and - BOOM - there was my bike, just sitting outside! 
Of course, no one manned up and claimed the bike as theirs, since I loudly stated, "THIS IS MY BIKE," as soon as I saw it, so I took it back. 
It's now safely back at home, locked up.

Tuesday wasn't a very lucky day, in comparison. 
I woke up later than I had wanted to, I missed the water taxi that I planned on taking to get me to see Cheech, aaaaand I stepped on a friggin "killer bee" on the beach. What the hell was a killer bee doing lounging on the beach?? 

I guess I can consider it "lucky" that there was only one of them - in a swarm, those things can easily take down and kill a dog, or even a horse, as my friend Tanya sadly found out a few years ago. 

So the sting itself didn't really hurt - I thought I had just stepped on a piece of glass or something at first, but when I looked at it, the bee was still attached.
It kind of burned for a few minutes, but by the time I was finished my This-day-sucks pity beer, it was fine. 
Screw the water taxi, I had my bike back, so I rode to town instead and ran some errands before trying to see Cheech - which didn't happen, but we're fast forwarding to Wednesday because none of that is super important.

So, Wednesday- I took care of some things at home in the morning (have you booked your massage with me yet??) then I rode down to town, saw a few people, did a few things, and finally got to see Cheech. 
We went for a jog on the beach - first to Crazy Canucks so I could try to convince my friend Ken to adopt him (stop being stubborn, Ken!!!) and then the other direction to Ramones. We went to the end of one of the docks before I had to get him back to Saga and I gave him the bacon egg and cheese Johnny cake and bottle of water I brought for him. 
It wasn't a very long date, but I think it was a good one. 

Anyway - the point of this is that through all of this stuff - the 10-20 miles of riding my bike back and forth to town, the jog on the beach with Cheech, the miscellaneous walking around here and there - through all of it, I had absolutely no problem with my foot.
It wasn't until I was home for the night and I took a shower that this bee sting started to start giving me shit. 

   I usually have cute feet - this is gross 

A day and a half after the sting, my foot is now swollen up to the ankle, bruised near the big toe, red and hot - 

The black stuff you see in the picture is Ishthammol, or black drawing salve.
My "Wtf?!" moment of this post is this spelling error on the bottle.... 

You see it, right? 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Disappointing End of 2014 (Updated)

It was pretty disappointing to find out that my bike was stolen from right outside my house - which is in a fenced in area with four other house - and the screen to my bathroom window was cut while I was working on New Years Eve

It was dumb of me to leave my bike unlocked, yes, but crime is getting worse here on the island - like, really bad, and  no one seems to be talking about it. 
(Gotta keep raking in those tourist dollars, I know)

Someone also tried to break into a house at Rojo yesterday afternoon - possibly right before my bike was taken. 
A house near Indigo was broken in to. 
Guest rooms at Matachica were robbed a few weeks ago while the people were out at dinner.
There have definitely been gun shots heard. 
A woman picked up a guy who asked her for a ride and he held a knife to her throat and stole her purse when they were in a secluded area. 

Those are just a few of the things I've heard about  in the past few weeks... I'm sure there's even more going on. 

I highly suggest that you adopt a good guard dog (CHEECH) and be extra careful - even though I live less than 200 steps away from where I'm working right now, I'm still getting walked home tonight. 
Whoever cut my screen has most likey been paying attention to when we're all in and out of our houses - who knows if it's someone crazy enough to try to grab my wallet or something if I'm by myself. 

  Adopt your loyal guard dog from Saga

I'm updating this post with some crime info from the Belize Police Department that I saw the day after I wrote this - here's the Belize Police Department registers increase in crime-2014

And I'm also adding the fact that there's someone who's a shit talker and tells my landlord things I say/write, but they get the info wrong when they speak to him. (like telling him I hate it here and I want to move - SO UNTRUE)
To the shit talker - if you read into this enough you SHOULD be able to see that this entire post isn't really about me being upset that my bike was taken or that my screen was cut.... it's a sneaky way to pimp out Cheech again ;)