Monday, December 17, 2007

Belize Letter 16

The other day, Diane called to me from the porch announcing “we have visitors”. I asked “who is it”, she replied “come take a look”. I took a quick look out the kitchen window and saw three horses having lunch on the lawn. I have some pictures at…….

I haven’t taken pictures of the property lately, so even though I used the zoom on the camera, you can get a decent look at some of the land.

Satellite internet service is up. I was down for almost two months. I had to order parts in the states and have my brother ship them to Belize. I even have a spare receiver and spare modem. During this time that our internet service was down, I had to drive to Belmopan and get on the net at an internet café.

I have been working on getting my site visible to potential home buyers. This is a fun task. I also changed the site somewhat so visitors would know that the place is for sale. I also added a index of real estate agents in Belize along with links to their websites. Since hurricane season is over, Real estate selling season has begun and we are getting visits from potential buyers.

Diane and I have been averaging two to three games of scrabble a day. It getting pretty competitive but Diane usually squeaks out a win. It is amazing how much spell checkers can diminish a person’s spelling capability. Scrabble tends to reverse that effect.

About a week ago, while showing the creek path to the visitors, we saw a howler monkey scamper further up a tree and disappear into the foliage. Diane and I hear howlers quite frequently, but that is the first time I saw one on the property.

Belizeans are getting ready for Christmas, we hear firecrackers every evening. I still haven’t found out why fire crackers are set off at Christmas. I guess it is just their way of celebrating. Diane and I will have Christmas in Belize for the second year in a row. For us, it just doesn’t seem like Christmas without the cold weather. We will have a great meal (prepared by Diane) and watch movies.

Our weather has been absolutely beautiful the last few weeks. Temperatures are in the low sixties at night and are in the low to mid eighties in the afternoon. It is quite a contrast to what our friends are experiencing in our home town of Reading, PA.


Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays.

John and Diane Madeira

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Belize Letter 15

After some serious thought, Diane and I have decided to sell our home Belize and move to the Southwest US. We put the house up for sale and will relocate when our house is sold. It was not an easy decision. We had originally planned to live in the Southwest US prior to finding Belize. Both locations have some ideal qualities that both Diane and I value. In the twenty years that Diane and I have been together, we have lived in 10 homes, two states and one foreign country. So perhaps the overriding motivation for the decision is the desire for change.

Since selling our house is of prime importance, we listed our house with a Belize Real Estate company (Emerald Futures). In Belize, there are no multi-listing services. This hampers the selling process, the buying process, and success of the Real Estate business in general. Each Real Estate agency tries to sell only the houses that they have contracted to sell with the owners. Some of the agencies work with other agencies and may get a small finders fee for bringing a buyer to the agency with the contract. On the buying side, the person looking for a home or property in Belize can check a real estate agency web site but they will only see the houses or property that agency has contracts to sell. There could be a property available that met the buyer’s requirement but just wasn’t found by the buyer. I am trying to find some index of properties for sale in Belize and pay, if necessary, to have the house listed.

With the discovery of oil in Spanish Lookout, Belize, there apparently has been a heightened interest on the part of oil exploration companies to start oil exploration in Belize. It was just announced that the government of Belize has licensed ten of these companies to begin exploration. Belize has been listed as one of the better places to retire for some time. There are an ever increasing number of baby boomers seeking a retirement haven. All these things will help increase the number of buyers. The only question is how to get these buyers knowledgeable about my property. If anyone has any ideas let me know. The active time for real estate transactions is October through March. We have had two house showings and expect more as we exit hurricane season.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I went to Caves Branch Jungle camp for breakfast. I had learned that they had just installed a wireless system for their guests. I wondered who would bring a notebook computer to a jungle camp. On the seven trips I took to Belize prior to moving here, I never took a notebook or cell phone. Since my internet service at our house is still down, I took my notebook with me to breakfast. I was not the only person using a notebook at the breakfast table! One other person, who was oblivious to everything but his notebook screen, sat pecking away. Another person I guess opted out of breakfast to get some time on the internet as he chose to sit alone at the bar with his notebook.

I am extremely happy that the trail along the creek has been opened up. I walk it quite a bit. I have been looking for animal tracks. I saw some Puma (mountain lion) tracks. I verified this with Mario the guide. He told me what sounds they make and what their habits were as we walked the trail together. I also get a good view of how much water is flowing. After several days of rain, the creek was so high and fast moving that one could not cross it. Directly west of our house, the creek is about thirty foot wide and about four or five foot deep and very turbid. I need not worry about a flood as it will overflow on the other side of the creek and not on the house side. I have heard on the news that other Central American countries are experiencing torrential rains and associated flooding and mud slides. I heard some rivers were very high in western Belize but for the most part there is no flooding in Belize.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Belize Letter 14

New Project

I started a new project. There is a 150 to 200 foot wide strip of jungle between land that I have cleared and St. Margaret’s Creek. This creek forms the western boundary of our property. It is a very beautiful creek with rain forest on each side. I have two paths that allow viewing the creek for only a few feet in either direction. Since we can only hear the rushing of the water in the creek from our porch, I thought it would be good to have better access to the creek. I started clearing a trail that will run parallel to the entire length of creek on our property which is slightly over 1200 feet or 4 football fields. This path, when completed, will be an excellent trail not only to observe the creek but also to observe the many birds that are in that area. It will also be a good place to see the plant life in the rain forest. Maintaining this trail will add to the growing list of maintenance items but it will be worth it. As the cutting is well under way, it is nice to walk this path. I have taken some pictures and they are available here.

I even have a video that provide a glimpse of the magnificent beauty and utter tranquility of the stream. (just picture of creek with sound - not much action)

Dog issues

The main living area of our home is twelve feet above ground level. We are always going up and down these stairs. Our dog goes down in order to get to the yard and then back up to get to the main living area. A week ago he stopped going up the stairs. We tried pulling him up with a leash but he would not budge. We tried luring him up with cookies but he still would not climb the stairs and he remained on the lower level. So, for one whole week I carried the dog up the stairs. Carrying a squirming, sixty pound dog that sometimes is soaking wet, up the stairs is not a pleasant task! I decided to close in the stairs. Now he can’t see or fall through the stairs and he is back to making the round trip to the yard by himself.

Property speculation in Belize

There has been some talk on the local FM station about needing to do something about all the real estate speculation in Belize that is driving prices up. They state that this speculation may be good for land owners but some of the poor local people are now not able to afford land and houses. Nearly seventy percent of the land in Belize is set aside as reserves. Building is not allowed on reserves. What will happen is a definite question. However, one should note that all the law makers own property.


I have been having trouble sourcing a DW6000 satellite modem to replace the one that suffered an electrical surge during a thunder storm. This time it’s not a Belize problem, it’s an EBay or Pay pal problem. For some reason, after deciding on one of several DW6000’s available, I placed the order. The address on the final order that was sent to the seller was not the one intended; it was two address changes previous to my present address. This address was no longer in my personal data on EBay or Pay pal, so I have no idea how it ended up on the order.
My credit card worked ok because my credit card was charged. So apparently they don’t do address verification of credit cards. I will be ordering another one and hopefully it will ship correctly. I have gotten all types of programmed emails regarding what I need to do to solve the problem. I think this will take a long time to be resolved seeing as now my emails are scanned and a form email is sent back to me. Humans are not available. I guess they are busy creating more programmed responses. On my next trip to the internet Café, I will have to spend quite a bit of time with EBay and Pay pal, if I want to resolve it. I call the use of automated customer service messages customer disservice! It would be better to do nothing. Both of these companies are probably betting that I will give up due to total frustration.

Belize Independence Day

Tomorrow, 9/21/07 Belize will turn twenty six. It was only in 1981 that Belize obtained its independence from Great Britain. The people have been celebrating all week with parades, sport events, pageants, and the State of the Union address by the Prime Minister. These celebrations will continue throughout the weekend. Independence day is taken very seriously down here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Belize Letter 13

Some leftovers from Hurricane Dean
A few days after Hurricane Dean passed through the very northern part of Belize, we experienced several very severe thunder storms. These storms had lots of lightning strikes. The accompanying thunder sounded like explosions very close to the ground and seemed to be right outside our window. The worst storm hit around three AM. During this storm our satellite system must have taken a surge. The surge protector on our satellite modem and the surge protector on our wireless router both were destroyed. I had a microwave oven plugged in at the time. The oven was not on; just plugged in. The oven no longer works. I have sourced another satellite modem in the states and will have it shipped down along with another wireless router. So until these parts get down here, I have no internet at my house. We happen to hear a public service announcement from our electric company that everyone should unplug all appliances during a thunder storm. I guess we will do that from now on.

Hurricane Felix approaches
On Friday, August 31st, we visited the internet café in Belmopan, to check our email. We saw on some of the news sites that a hurricane was headed for Belize. That day we went home a little worried. We decided to go into Belmopan again Saturday to check the status of the approaching hurricane Felix. On Sunday our local FM station started full time coverage of the storm. Belize was under a hurricane watch and all projections indicated a hit near the center of Belize.

Sunday night we went to bed thinking that the storm was going to hit Belize. We awoke Monday morning and the news was the same. We decided to go to Belmopan again to fill the truck with diesel fuel and get the latest update from the web at the Internet café. All day long and into the night, the news on the radio was the same. Early Tuesday morning I awoke and immediately turned on the radio. To my delight the broadcasters were indicating that the latest report from the hurricane center had the storm not hitting Belize. The storm had continued to head west and would make landfall in Nicaragua and continue on a westerly route to the Pacific Ocean. Although this turned out to be nothing to fret over, during the warning stages, a lot of thoughts go through one’s mind. On the day the hurricane had been projected to hit Belize, we experienced some light winds and torrential rains that lasted until late evening. Thursday turned out to be a beautiful day with plenty of sun and light breezes.

Love FM, the radio station we listen to during hurricane warnings, is great. It gives us detailed up-to-date information on the storm. There are very few commercials during these broadcasts. I wrote about it in my last post and I must say it again; this station is great during emergencies. There is nothing like it in the states. It also is available over the internet.

During a hurricane watch, prices can not be increased. However, stores can reduce prices or give discounts. When the warning first is announced employees must help their employer secure the place of business, then they must be allowed to go home to secure their own homes. We noticed another thing during this Hurricane warning. In Belize liquor is sold in grocery stores. While Belize is under a hurricane watch, no liquor is sold. The shelves that contain the liquor were covered with a large tarp. I don’t know how this would go over in the states. I remember when snow storms were forecasted, one could rest assured that liquor stores would be packed with customers!

Banana Harvest
We harvested the bananas when they were somewhat green. However, within a week they turned bright yellow. They are a type of banana that only gets about five inches in length and they have a peculiar taste. The texture is the same as regular bananas I was use to in the states, but the flavor definitely has an apple like taste. They are called “apple bananas”. The natives prefer apple bananas over what I call “regular bananas”.

Belize has two holidays in September. On September 10, Belizeans celebrate the battle of St. George which kept the Belizeans from coming under Spanish control in the 1798. On September 21, Belizeans celebrate Independence Day. On this date in 1981 Belize was granted independence from Great Britain.

Grapefruit Tree Surgery
I have completed pruning 4 large grapefruit trees. They may have been around twenty five feet tall when I started, but now they are six feet tall. I cut all major braches very short. All the small branches that are entangled with both dead and living vines are hauled off to the compost pile. Within a year these trees will have full foliage and will begin to produce fruit again. Tree ripened grapefruit are great!

Spare time
Without internet, I managed to read “The Age of Spiritual Machines” by Ray Kurzweil. This book is dated (2000), but it is a good read and the author certainly understands how to hold the reader’s attention. I also decided to reread “Snow Crash” by Neil Stephenson. Diane and I also play more gin since the internet is down. When the internet is up again, Diane will return to her favorite game of video poker.

Belize has lots of sports. A lot are televised. Their big sport is soccer. Cycling, canoing, track and field, marathons, triathlons, and some basketball are also reported on in the press. Soccer is televised but it just doesn’t compare to the NFL or the NCAA football games that I enjoyed in the states.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hurricane Dean Arrives

Diane and I decided, perhaps foolishly, to weather the impending Hurricane Dean in our house in Belize. Our house is constructed with steel reinforced concrete so I thought we were safe. The closer the storm came to Belize, the larger it looked on the satellite images that Diane and I were continually monitoring on the Accuweather web site. On the same site, I could see the projected path of the storm and it definitely appeared as if it was moving in a West-Northwest direction toward Southern Mexico. The storm was projected to hit land very early in the morning on Tuesday August 21, 2007. Everything appeared safe for us.

Around 2:30PM on Monday August 20th, we lost electric power and access to the internet. I was concerned about power surges when the power went back on after the storm so I shut off the main circuit breakers.

Diane and I were sitting on our porch as we noticed large dark clouds in the eastern sky. The winds started to gust and the large trees close to our house swayed and creaked. The sky darkened quickly. Thoughts of the satellite image of a storm larger than the whole Yucatan Peninsula ran through my mind. I thought maybe I needed to board up my windows! Then I looked at the two large palm trees within 100 feet of our house with large coconuts dangling in the wind. I thought to myself, in a strong wind they may behave as cannon balls! About that time, Diane had located our portable FM/Shortwave radio.

We were happy to find that the local FM radio station was still broadcasting. This radio station provided an outstanding service. It was taking calls from citizens all over Belize. Important announcements, evacuation instructions, up to the minute storm information, storm preparation instructions and messages. These messages were from all over the world. Some were general messages wishing the country of Belize good luck. Some were messages to individuals from a distant family member in another country. The announcers did an amazing job. We even heard the head of NEMO (National Emergency Management Organization) and the Prime Minister addressing the people. This was one station that apparently everyone was tuned to throughout the night.

After achieving some type of contact with the outside world, a lot of my apprehension concerning our safety vanished. The wind started to die down around 5:00PM. We continued to listen to the station until we were satisfied that the storm would not hit near us and then went to bed. Throughout the night we heard the wind gusting. The gusting would continue for only a few minutes and then it would die down. We awoke unscathed! We experienced no property damage. We also received very little rain considering the size of the storm.

The many emails my wife and I received from concerned friends and family were certainly heart warming and very much appreciated.

Luckily for us, this storm was uneventful. There are some people on the islands and in northern Belize that did not make out so well. There has been a lot of property damage in these areas. There are also problems with water, sewage, and electric service. Hopefully, all of these problems will soon be corrected and everyone will be able to get back to life as usual in Belize. According to the latest report, not a single person was killed or severely injured as a result of this storm.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hurricane Dean Approaches - Last post before storm

In addition to browsing the internet, I have been listening to local radio in order to gain up to the minute news on Hurricane Dean. I just heard that there are very long lines of customers at the gas stations hoping they can fill up prior to the storm. They also said that grocery stores are jammed. I am glad that Dane and I took care of these things on Friday.

At 1:30PM they announced that the electric could be shut off at 2:00PM today. I will lose all communications at that time.

Right now the sun is shining and there is no indication at all that tomorrow at 8:00AM a category five hurricane will be striking land just above the northern border of Belize.

When I get electric or when I get to an Internet café that has electric, I will make another post.

Hurricane Dean Approaches

I received quite a few emails regarding Hurricane Dean and questions about our safety.

We were certainly apprehensive about the early news reports. It appears, that our area of Belize will not receive the brunt of the storm. In fact, Our area of Belize is not under any storm watches or warnings at the present time. We live in the center of Belize in the hills. The eye of the storm is about 450 miles east of us and is heading west northwest. The strongest winds are on the west and north side of the storm.

Diane and I are staying put. We live in one of the best built homes in the country.

Sometimes we think about living on the islands or on the coast but the threat of storms is too great. There are not that many but when they hit, they can be devastating.

I do have a concern about those people that have opted to remain on the islands to ride out the storm. I just got an email from a blogger who lives on Ambergris. She is staying and is looking for rain boots.

I think we have a good chance of being affected by the storm mainly due to electric service problems. Last week we lost power for seven hours one day and the weather was great! We managed without electric before and we will manage again.

We have a good supply of bottled drinking water. We also have plenty of canned food. We filled the fuel tank in the truck and we have plenty of butane.

The storm is predicted to hit landfall by 8:00 AM Tuesday morning.

I will make another post before the storm hits if something changes and I have an internet connection.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Belize Letter 12

I decided to get back to projects and stay off the internet for awhile. I wanted to get the top half (about 400 foot) of our drive way leveled and then add stone. I first had to get rid of some of the dead trees, vines, stumps etc. that seemed to be encroaching on the driveway. To accomplish this I hired a D7 Bulldozer (and operator). In addition, I wanted to widen the driveway and line it with Madre De Cacao trees. As I explained in an earlier post Madre De Cacao is an amazing plant. All one has to do is chop some branches off existing trees (they are everywhere down here) and plant it about 12 to 16 inched deep. That is all there is to it! In a few months a tree will be growing. I have planted some branches that were five inches thick! This is like sticking a log in the ground and having it grow into a tree. It is also called the living fence post because wire can be strung between the trees and it would make an excellent fence. I placed some pictures on the web at the link at the bottom of this post.

Diane and I found some ceiling fans for the porch and I mounted and wired them. In between these tasks I have been cutting grass and putting stone around the fence and around the sides of the house. I will get some pictures uploaded soon either to Picasa or too the website on these projects.

We found a great Italian restaurant in San Ignacio on a recent trip. We had pasta bolognaise (with homemade pasta) and it was outstanding! We also ate some of the best tasting bread in Belize. We will definitely return and I will write down the restaurant’s name.

There are lots of neat things to be seen on a daily basis. The bugs are incredible down here. I have a picture of a six inch grasshopper that decided to spend some time on the wall of our deck. This bug is not only big but the undersides of his wings are red! I also have a shot of a tiny bird that made a nest in one of Diane’s plants. We have been seeing a tiger heron walking around are land. I haven’t been able to get a good picture because I have no telephoto lens. This is a very big bird! But really blends in well with the landscape.

We have bananas! Two of our banana trees are producing fruit! See pictures. Did you ever see a banana blossom?

St Margaret’s creek forms the western border of our property. This is a very unusual creek. In the rainy season it can be 3ft deep and 30 ft wide. In the dry season, about 3 months in duration, just before the southern end of our property, the creek flows into a small whole in the bottom of the creek (entrance to an underground cave). No water flows past our property during these months. In the rainy season, however, the water flow is too great for the opening and flows down past our property. In the rainy season it can be 3ft deep and 30 ft wide! What is also peculiar is that there are lots of fingerlings in the shallow pools at our property. About one mile downstream (to the north on the way to Five Blues Lake) there is a very similar opening in the creek bed which is the entrance to another underground cave.

Pictures mentioned in this post are here:

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Cave Exploration in Belize

On Wednesday morning my friend Mario Perez and I started on our Cave exploring adventure. Mario is a cave and jungle guide in Belize. Mario had told me the day before that he had just found a cave about two miles from my house. Throughout this part of Belize there are numerous lime stone bluffs that contain caves. New caves are being found all the time. It seems the Mayans have been in most of them. From Five Blues Lake road, we only had to cross a wide but shallow creek and walk about half a mile to the entrance of the cave at the bottom of the bluff. We could see by the sand at the entrance that when the creek rose, water would enter the cave. Mario had helmets with lights on them that we each put on prior to entering the Cave. The opening was rather large as we only had to stoop a little to walk in. Once through the opening we switched on our lights as the cave was dark. We also could walk upright as the ceiling in this part of the cave was about six or seven feet. We did notice debris on the ceiling indicating that this part of the cave would fill completely when the creek flooded! We walked for about 30 yards and had to crawl through a small orifice between two large rocks to get to the next chamber of the cave. I felt a little apprehensive crawling through this orifice as I had no idea what was on the other side as it was very dark. Once inside, we found the cave to be magnificent! All kinds of stalactites (from the top) and stalagmites (from the ground) glistened with crystals of calcium salts. We had to climb large rocks, with stalagmites jutting upwards from them. It was a very strenuous activity as sometimes we had to pull our selves up to a secure position with just one hand and poor footing. We stopped quite a bit to catch our breath and also to just look in awe at the interior of the cave. I usually took pictures at these stops. (I have a link to pictures I took on the web.) When we were about 45 minutes into the cave, we stopped for a break. We turned our lights off and the cave was totally dark. It was good to just sit in the silence in the dark. The only thing we could hear was the drips of water coming from the stalactites. While exploring, I had to repel down over some large rocks. Mario, setup the rope and fed the rope so that I could lower myself over the face of the large rock down to the floor of the cave. We saw pools of water in the cave that we didn’t think came from the creek. We also found some cracked Mayan pottery. We were in the cave almost three hours and we only saw a small portion of this cave. I learned from this experience that a person with mountain climbing skills would do well in a cave and may thoroughly enjoy the experience. I have a better understanding now why the Mayans could have liked the caves. It is the spiritual or magical environment created by the reflection of light, the shadows, the shapes and almost cathedral like quality of the cave. Taking pictures in a cave with no light requires great skill. I have trouble with taking pictures in daylight so pardon the picture quality. The pictures really say it all. Click on the following link to view pictures.

Link to pictures

John Madeira

Belize, Central America

Monday, July 9, 2007

Belize Letter 11

We went to Hamanasi Resort on the Caribbean for a swim and lunch. After lunch we did some more swimming and sun bathing. They have a very nice pool that overlooks the beach. The weather was perfect! The sun was shining and there was a very nice breeze. Lunch at Hamanasi is always a treat. The food is always good. Diane and I had Belizean Bouillabaisse. This consisted of big chunks of red fish fillet and shrimp in a spicy tomato broth. Shrimp are farm raised in Belize. They are always fresh and never frozen. This is an excellent way to spend a day.

I made a post on July 1 about Five Blues Lake. This is a lake that is 4 miles from our property. Last year at this time, the lake made headlines by losing all its water. I have some links in that post to a few pictures.

We had cleaned 4 guava trees on our property. Two weeks ago they started to bear fruit. Ripe guava’s are yellow in color somewhat pear shaped. Inside they have pinkish red flesh that contains very small hard seeds. The fruit tastes similar to a strawberry. The fruit is also very fragrant. Due to the seeds, it is not too good for eating as is. However, when the hired cutters were working in that area, they sampled quite a bit of fruit. If the fruit could be processed through a Foley food mill or similar device, it would make an excellent sauce. I tried guava ice cream and it tastes very much like strawberry.

The other week I had to take my truck for routine service work. The auto dealer where we purchased the truck is about five or so miles outside of Belize. It usually is about a 3 or 4 hour wait no matter what you have done. The dealer offers rides to Belize city for the people having their cars serviced. I decided to take the trip into Belize. The way it works is that you tell the driver where you want to go and he will drop you off and give you a time he will pick you up. One couple was dropped of at a supermarket and he said he would pick them up in an hour and a half. I told him I was just along for the ride but I did need to go to a pharmacy store. Well he too had lots of errands including bank, post office, etc. I got to ride all over Belize City. What a tour! One thing nice about the service is that when your car is returned it is exceptionally clean because it has been hand washed.

The rains have returned! Rain in Central America can be very hard at times. I never saw so much water coming down! During these hard rains, the satellite Internet either slows to a crawl or stops completely. Everything is growing rapidly and changing to a very lush, dark green. My grass cutting is a never ending almost daily task. Mid to late June our pump returned to action. I believe it may have been a clog as when it began working, quite a bit of mud and grit was caught in the filter.

I have some pictures uploaded for public view at the following link:

I will be changing a few things soon. Most importantly, I will be adding a lot of short single subject topics instead of the multi-topic letter form I have been using. I will keep you updated.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Five Blues Lake

Yesterday, my friend Mario, a jungle guide who lives near me in St. Margaret’s Village, informed me that the lake had returned to its previous state. I could not believe it. Today, during a rain storm, I made the trip to the lake. Since the lake is only 4 miles from my house, it was an easy trip. I was able to get the truck to the Five Blues Lake pavilion and then walk the ½ mile to the shore of the lake. As I turned the corner and had a view of the lake, I could not believe my eyes! Five Blues Lake was back to normal! Just a month ago I had seen it as a mud puddle. In case you are wondering, On July 6, 2006, Five Blues Lake was reported to be empty due to a collapse of the Lake floor. See The news of the disappearing lake drew quite a few visitors. Will the news of the reappearing lake draw an equal number of visitors?

I will be putting a few pictures on Picasa very soon for public view.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Belize Letter 10

New experience

It finally happened. I had been putting it off for a long, long time. In mid may I finally decided to get it done. I had gone 6 months without a haircut! My hair (what little I have) was hanging on my neck and was very uncomfortable at times. I went to an outdoors Belizean barber shop! Believe it or not, the haircut I received was quite good. They barber cuts hair the same way as an American barber except for the shaving part. In the states, a barber will go around the ears, and back or the neck with a straight razor. In Belize, they use a machete! No, I am just kidding! They use a single edge razor blade. The barber holds it in his hand and does a really good job. In case you are wondering, he uses a new blade for each customer. The guy before me had his whole head shaved in this manner.

San Ignacio trip

The other Saturday Diane and I drove into the town of San Ignacio to meet a few fellow Americans. We met at an Indian restaurant. I thought it rather strange for an Indian restaurant to be in Belize but then I remembered that India and Belize have something in common. They were both under British rule for sometime. In addition to the Americans living in Belize, there were two visiting professors who had been in Belize for 5 months. The conversation was good but it will take quite a few visits until we get to know everyone. While there we had some spiced ice tea which was extraordinarily good.


I have been trying several varieties of fruit since I have been here. I eat lots of Bananas. At five cents apiece, who wouldn’t! I also have been eating quite a bit of Papaya. I tasted papaya in the states and it always reminded me of pumpkin. Down here, the tree ripened papaya is bright red inside and incredibly sweet. It happens to be quite nutritious and aids digestion as well. Another fruit that I tried is on one of the trees that I had the cutters save. It is called mamey. This fruit looks something like a cantaloupe. However, the inside is dark orange with 1 large purple seed in the center. I tasted it and it tastes like an incredibly sweet, sweet potato. It is pretty fibrous but soft, unlike a sweet potato which is crunchy. I also tried locally grown watermelons and found them to be very good. I tried guava also. I found this to be a fruit that lacked flavor and sweetness. I am waiting for the mangoes to ripen. I have eaten these before. However, I have never eaten one that was tree ripened. Another fruit that appears to be ripening is the cashew fruit. They look like golden apples. I haven’t tasted this yet because I can’t tell if it is ripe.

Belize protests

There have been some pretty good protests down here. Today, all the stores in Belmopan were closed. It seems that the party in power wants to guarantee a loan for a private corporation that is building a hospital. The private corporation, which was formed by high ranking members of the party in power, is apparently having financial problems. There are other issues but this just seems like normal everyday politics that occurred everyday in the US. See


I decided to take a few days vacation from the door refinishing project I started. I needed to do something other than work on the house. I came up with the idea to put together a website in addition to the blog site and publish information there. I will be able to incorporate images and maybe even videos. I will continue with the letters but they will be linked to the website. So far I have managed to get a domain registered and have a hosting company. I started work on the pages and I should have the site completed by month end.

Last minute note on this; phase one is completed.


The dry weather continues. As a matter of fact, our well seems to have gone dry. We switched to community water for washing, etc. and are using bottled water again. The rainy season is moving in. We had some rains and I suspect that soon there will be plenty of water and the well will be back to normal. Another sign of the impending wet season is something that Diane experienced when she first moved down last May. Late yesterday afternoon we had a shower. At the end of the shower, I had heard Diane say “there back”. I looked up at the windows she was pointing at and saw millions of winged insects flying around the windows and the roof on the East and South side of the house. I do mean millions! She told me that the bad part is that they crawl through the screens. I didn’t believe it but she was right. As they crawled through, they lost their wings and soon died. They kept fluttering around the two sides of the house until it was almost dark, then disappeared as quickly as they appeared. I wondered where the birds were. This was a mayfly hatch. These flies will not bite they are merely on a mission to mate. In this stage of their life they only have minutes or maybe hours to live. Overall this wasn’t too bad. We had some cleanup to do but overall, no harm done. My only fear was the statement Diane made as she was sweeping up the dead insects. “Wait till the beetles arrive!”

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Belize Letter 9


The bathroom’s major modifications are completed and I finished painting that room last week. We are waiting for a custom mahogany cabinet which I will have to mount when it arrives.

I got the new pressurized water system working along with the on-demand butane hot water heater. Now we have well water piped to all faucets with plenty of pressure.

If the electricity goes off I can open a few valves and community water will be diverted into the system. We prefer not to drink the community water because there is no purification and it is just piped through the village from a mountain stream. When we were on community water, we drank bottled water. Well water is potable so I hope the electric stays on. I did notice that the pressure of the community water is lower now that the dry season has arrived.

Speaking of electricity, I must say the service has been acceptable. We have had service since January 18th and it has been down a half dozen times. Some of these were announced, scheduled, maintenance shutdowns for a set number of hours. The longest the electric has been down has been four hours and that incident was scheduled. Since we were without electricity for sometime, these minor outages are not a problem. One curious thing is that we have not received an electric bill as of this writing. I have emailed the electric company and made a visit to their office. I was told that I should start receiving these bills “soon”!
I am back on painting projects. I have to paint the spare bedroom's ceiling and walls. After that I have to paint the porch ceiling. I should finish by week end. Painting isn’t too bad as one can think of other things while applying paint. It certainly is not physically challenging! The agonizing part is preparation and cleanup.

Since a lot of the major modifications have been completed, we can hang pictures. Hanging pictures on cement walls requires a hammer drill. A hole has to be drilled and then either a lead or plastic anchor must be inserted in the hole. A screw can then be turned in. I also found that I can put a piece of wood in the hole and then hammer in a small nail. Items on the walls certainly make the place look better. I installed a wireless router. I now can access the internet from anywhere in the house or outside as well. One never knows when he will have to answer an urgent email in the shower!


Weather is still great. It got warm for about four or five days then it got back to a daily range of high sixties to low eighties. Even though we are in the dry season, we had showers the other night and the following morning was cloudy and very cool (65). Warm weather is approaching, however. There are lots of signs. The fans will be welcome! We have the capability for air conditioning but really have not needed it yet. As the rainy season approaches and humidity climbs along with temperature we may reconsider.

Americans in Belize

I have located a group of Americans in Corozal that meet monthly for lunch. Corozal, located near the Mexican border, is nearly a three hour drive from our house so it could be a long day.

ID Cards

We finally got to Belize City to pick up our resident ID cards. On the trip we visited one of the new supermarkets. It was not nearly as large as the ones in the states but it was quite a bit bigger than what we have been accustomed to in Belmopan.

Community elections in Belize

Elections to elect a new leader for the various villages and cities were held on Sunday April 15. In the village near us, the existing party (Peoples United Party) was defeated. The UDP (United Democratic Party), the conservative group won the election. People take these elections very seriously and come to vote in their "Sunday best". National elections for the prime minister and parliament will be held in 2008.

Before and after photos

I mentioned in my last letter that before and after photos would be posted. I had the posted here for awhile but my new project is to build a true website. Therefore, I removed the link. The web site should be finished soon (US version of this word) and a lot more pictures will be there.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Belize Letter 8


Even though it is suppose to be the dry season, we still experience rain showers. Around the spring equinox, we experienced an all night shower (downpour) that must have exceeded six inches as it took a day or two for the standing water to disappear. The days have been in the high seventies and low eighties and the nights continue to be in the high sixties. Air conditioning or heat has not been required so far.


One of the things that Diane does extremely well is bake cakes. I have never eaten so much cake. We have chocolate cakes, vanilla cakes, white cakes, yellow cakes, and spice cakes all with a variety of icings. Occasionally she bakes a pineapple upside down cake. I always tended to be on diets, watching my weight, watching carbohydrate intake and fat intake. I think that was a bunch of crap! Down here I eat what I want and I have been losing weight! Staying active is the key.

I just started saving trees. In the forest, vines rapidly envelop trees. They do this, not only with the small trees but also with the large trees. It is a battle for light. Leafy vines grow very fast and block out a considerable amount of light that was destined for the tree and the tree starts to weaken and eventually dies. One of the cutters and I have been walking around the thick bush looking for trees that are covered with vines, that are not too far gone and are worthwhile saving. There are a lot of junk trees in the forest that are havens for all types of pests. We don’t save these! There are also good trees. Trees that flower, hard wood trees, fruit trees, and as the cutter says in broken English “pretty trees” are all worth saving! The cutter that I take with me is very knowledgeable about the trees. I constantly ask “what kind of tree is this?” He only knows the Spanish name for the trees or fruit. When we find a good tree we clean it. (Cut all vines that are on the tree and around it.) We have saved a very large breadfruit tree as well as several young ones. In addition, we have saved numerous varieties of palms, various hardwoods, and multiple flowering trees.


When Diane and I purchased the house and land we knew that it would be a challenge to get everything the way we envisioned it could be. We had numerous discussions on all the things that needed to be done prior to arriving here. Our thoughts and dreams about the house tended to center around the envisioned house and land, not the actual! Once here, however, reality set in! We realized that we were in for a monumental task. To make matters worse, building material as well as skilled workmen were not readily available. In addition, we had no electricity, poor phone service, and no Internet.

We created prioritized task lists and went to work. We are always adding items to the task list that we feel need improvement. When an item is completed we remove it from the list. Therefore we are constantly looking at literally a lifetime of work!

We found out that by constantly looking at what had to be done instead of what has been accomplished, we were overwhelmed. However, if we occasionally took time to review our accomplishments, we got mentally refreshed and were motivated to achieve more. Diane and I are assembling before and after pictures of our land and house. When we look at these pictures, we gain extreme confidence that sooner or later, be it 2020 or later, we will be finished! I will be posting these pictures on the web and will email the link with an upcoming letter.

John and Diane Madeira

PO Box 577, Belmopan

Belize, Central America

Belize Letter 7


Cloudless skies, cool nights, spectacular lunar eclipse, no rain, high sixties at night, mid eighties during the day was the weather the first week of March. The second week of March, the rains returned in the form of heavy, short duration showers (about ½ hour each).


Since the electric has been installed, I completed installing ceiling fans in all rooms inside the house. I still have two fans to install on the screened in porch. I have a lot of varnishing to complete as well as painting on the screened in porch. I have been searching for a hammock but haven’t found any. I will be switching from community water to well water. During the dry season, the community water sometimes stops. However, we always have water available from the well. Now that we have electric, I am installing a pressure tank, and pressure switch, to provide the house with water.

Satellite connection

I decided to go with a Mennonite firm in Spanish lookout to help with the satellite hookup. A group of technical Mennonites??? Anyway, they speak English and appear honest. They came on Thursday March 8th. They were very skilled in getting the satellite connection established. They work on a fixed fee basis and come prepared for everything. Now that I have internet connectivity, I can do research on a lot of other things. For instance, VOIP connections via satellite are not the best for long conversations due to latency, but people are running them. I brought my equipment from the US that I used for VOIP in the US and it should work here.

Belize expressions dealing with time

When I ask when something I ordered will be delivered, be it a service or a product, the answer I get is “soon.” I have learned that this can mean anything from two weeks to they have no idea when the delivery will take place. If they say “in a few days”, this is meaningless also because a few days could mean months. They also use the expression “the other day” when speaking about things that occurred in the past. This also does not indicate a specific span of time. They person could be referring to something that occurred two or more years ago! This would drive me up the wall when I first came down, but now I am getting use to it. Interestingly, I catch myself using “soon” when Diane asks me about when I will get one of my tasks finished!

Tree color

With the weather change to the dry season, quite a few of the trees in the area are experiencing a color change. There leaves are changing from dark green to a brilliant yellow. I have even seen a few that are changing to a brilliant orange. This causes the mountains to take on a fall-like appearance. I have been told that these leaves will drop and be replaced by green leaves before the weather changes to the rainy season.


In addition to orange and grapefruit trees, we have breadfruit trees, guava trees, a lime tree, cashew trees, banana trees, and mango trees. In the “bush”, rain forest that hasn’t been cleared or cultivated, we have all types of leafy trees and quite a few varieties of palms including coconut. There are several large trees whose leafy branches come within several feet of our porch. These trees get cottony blossoms several times during the year and produce a string bean like fruit or vegetable which is not eaten by the locals. However, the birds of all varieties love the blossoms and fill these trees with amazing color and sounds through out the year. Another interesting tree is what the locals refer to as “iron tree”. This is the tallest tree on our property at 100 feet or more, and is one of the trees whose leaves change to a brilliant yellow. One of the locals who we hire to chop the bush with his machete exclaimed that this tree is so hard that sparks fly when being sawed. I guess there are exaggerators in every culture!


It is hard for me to believe that I have been living in Belize for four and a half months. It is equally as hard for me to believe that Diane will hit the one year mark at the end of April!

John and Diane Madeira

PO Box 577, Belmopan

Belize, Central America

Belize Letter 6


As the month changed from January to February, the weather changed as well. For most of the first week of February, the skies were cloudless, the temperatures ranged from high sixties at night to the mid eighties during the afternoon. Everything is extraordinarily green and growing rapidly. We have heard that it is extremely cold in Pennsylvania. I am glad I am in Belize and can continue to wear shorts and t-shirts.


I am still working on various house projects; however I did manage to get a good walk in to Five Blues Lake. Diane and I have also been eating at a local restaurant called “Over the Top.” I usually choose the favorite local fare, rice and beans, along with whatever meat of fish they have. The meal, which also includes a small salad, costs about $3.50 US or $7.00 Belize.

House projects

For the last two weeks, including weekends, we had up to eight contractors at our house each day. In addition, I was working on setting up the electric circuits for interior rooms and exterior lighting as well. Keeping track of the various projects, materials, and people is an arduous task. Since my brother will be visiting this week, we will halt all projects for a week of relaxation.

Satellite connection

The longer I am away from being connected, the less I feel I need it. However, my friends and brother feel it is a necessity. Therefore, I will relent and pursue connectivity. I will be focusing on connecting to a satellite service for internet at first, then perhaps TV. Also, while at the Hamanasi Resort, on the Caribbean, my brother spotted a satellite radio receiver. I checked to see how they placed there antenna, but could not see it. I will be contacting Hamanasi management to see if they can provide more information. My brother also said he would send me a registered XM radio receiver to try.

Property values

Property values in Belize are increasing rapidly, In Belmopan, due to the new American Embassy, housing has increased drastically. Also, at the coast, beachfront houses that were selling in the high three hundred thousand (US) range two years ago are now seven hundred fifty thousand. With the increase in property values, rental rates are up also. Tourism is up as well as immigration. This tends to increase property values as well.


It is great being retired. Although I have been working on the house pretty much, it is great not to be on a schedule. There are still some schedules that have to be maintained. US Federal Income Tax, PA State income Tax as well as Local Income Tax need to be filed. I went to the US Embassy in Belmopan and learned that I need to fill out a simple form and I will not have to file or pay anything owed until October 15, 2007. I knew people could always apply for an extension, but any money owed needed to be paid prior to April 15. The Embassy offers lots of services to US citizens living abroad. I may as well take advantage of these services. Speaking of taxes, we paid our annual property tax on our 20 acres and house. Since we paid in full as well as early, our entire tax bill was $19.84! That is Belize dollars which equals 9.92 US dollars.

Information system business

The information system business in Belize is similar to what it was in the US during the late eighties and early nineties. One of the largest tool and hardware stores in Belmopan is just now converting to a computerized business system. Most small businesses do not even have computers, let alone a business system. Even the Government runs mostly with hand written forms. There are information system companies, mostly very small, that take advantage of a customer base that has relatively little knowledge of computer systems or how a good system could help their business. Service prices are very high and markup on hardware is greater than 100%! I have been looking for a company that will help me with satellite radio licensing. The companies that represent the various satellite internet service companies are very bias about their respective service. There seems to be no one that can provide an independent view of this business segment. People locate companies by asking their friends who know nothing as well. While at the US Embassy, I learned that if I was interested in starting a company in Belize I could have use of their systems to help gather information. I don’t know if this will provide the information I seek but it is worth a try. Getting back to my point, the state of the information system business in Belize lacks true service oriented service providers. This could be an opportunity for a geek that didn’t mind living with Howler Monkeys!

Belize Letter 5


On New Years Eve morning, Diane and I decided to walk to our British friend’s house. I thought it was going to be about two and one half miles. We walked down Five Blues lake road to the Dry Creek crossing. From there we figured we would have about two miles to Bernard’s house. I couldn’t quite remember whether Bernard told me his house was two miles down the road or a few miles down the road. We had to wade through one foot of water crossing Dry Creek to get to the road on which Bernard lives. The road was bordered on each side by rain forest. It was somewhat warm that day but the forest’s canopy provided cooling shade. The forest was incredibly thick and appeared almost impenetrable; however, we did see a few paths that appeared to be used by large animals. The hardwood trees are very tall and thick and tower over the many softer wood trees and huge plants. We walked and walked. I thought for sure we had gone more than two miles. There was no site of Bernard’s house. We kept saying “let’s just go around the next bend” or let’s just go over the next hill”. Soon we had to stop as we realized that Bernard must have said a few miles and that could mean ten miles! We turned around as rain was imminent. We hiked back over dry creek and were somewhat disappointed that we weren’t able to find Bernard’s house but happy that we saw this road and that part of the forest. On Sunday, January 7th, we decided to go to Bernard’s house by truck. We hadn’t had much rain and Dry Creek would be low. Crossing the Dry Creek was no problem and when we reached Bernard’s house we realized that we were within a few100 yards of his house on the previous week’s walk. We were showed around their house and then we talked for an hour or so.


We finally have it! It took quite a bit of encouragement, contributions, and daily phone calls. I have been busy testing and hooking up existing circuits as well as running new circuits. Running new circuits in a cement house is a challenge. We included a brand new electric refrigerator in our initial shipment and that is running fine. I will be installing ceiling fans which will be welcome in summer. Now the weather is sixties at night and seventies during the day. We keep all the windows wide open all the time. Since the electric is in I was able to setup the video system. Everything worked great.

Madre De Cacao

Due to the electric install, we had to clear a path for a few poles. Now that the electric is in, I have planted quite a bit of Madre De Cacao. This is unbelievable stuff. All you have to do is get a branch from an exiting tree. And stick it into the ground and a new tree will grow. It grows at a rate of 15 to 20 feet a year. It has foliage similar to a mimosa tree but has pinkish-purplish flowers. With the help of two village people, 175 branches, some 4 inches in diameter, were planted. . This Madre De Cacao forest will more than cover the 20 foot wide path I cleared.

Belize City

Diane and I traveled to Belize City to pickup tile to complete the kitchen. The hardware stores in our area do not carry the selection that is available in the Belize City stores. In sections of the city, close to the Caribbean, they have ver narrow side streets. On either side of the streets are 18 inch deep cement trenches for storm water I presume. This makes driving a nightmare as the streets are also full of very deep potholes. One can’t swerve too wide to miss a pothole or he may end up with a wheel in the trench. While on the way to the tile store we did see a water taxi depot. We plan to take water taxi trips to the islands very soon.


It seems that I am doing more physical work down here than I did while I lived in the US. I work long days and weekends similar to when I lived in the US. The only real difference is that I don’t get paid down here.

There are still quite a few challenges that Diane and I need to address. Now that we have electric, I will mount the satellite dish for internet service. Fighting back the rain forest remains a constant challenge.


Both December and January have been incredibly rainy months. We are having exactly the kind of weather one would expect in a rainforest! We are getting reports that due to La Nena effect on Pacific Ocean temperatures we can expect very dry conditions for the next few months. Some positive aspects of the bad weather is that I can get the inside electrical work done and the Madre De Cacao will get off to a good start.

Belize Letter 4

Christmas in Belize

Christmas arrived early in Belize. On Thursday December 21, the Belize Electric Company started installing new poles in the village. A total of 10 high tension poles and a transformer will be installed. Some smaller poles will have to be installed also. This means that our electric power is on the way. On Friday, December 22, the cabinet people showed up with our new kitchen cabinets and installation began. The cabinets are natural mahogany, a Belizean wood. The third gift was that December 20th and 21st were the first two rainless days in December. Christmas day finally arrived and we opened our presents that we received from relatives in the states. Each of several Christmases prior to this one, Diane and I always talked about spending Christmas out of the country. Now we are finally experiencing it.

Diane and I went to Caves Branch for a turkey and ham dinner on Christmas night. In addition to close to ninety guests, they had a mariachi band. On both Christmas and the following day, Boxer’s Day, everything is shut down. Stores, banks and gas stations are closed. The village has been extremely quite on these two days.

Christmas Cookies

Diane baked cookies using all local ingredients. The sugar is courser and a little on the tan side. The flour is also on the tan side, not bleached like the US produced flour. The cookies turned out spectacular. As usual, Diane hid the bulk of them for fear that I would eat them all before Christmas.

Our British Friends

The other day while in Belmopan, I met up Bernard who I had given a ride to a week or so ago. When I asked how his car was, he responded that the part he needed was not in yet so he was still walking. He introduced me to his wife, Janet, and the three of us talked for awhile. I offered another ride to them but I needed to run a few errands first. We decided to meet in the market place in about an hour. After I finished my errands, I searched through market square for signs of them. Bernard, with beer in hand was easy to spot. On the way back to St. Margaret’s village and Dry Creek or the “river” as they call it, we talked quite a bit. They too are scrabble players. I told them to stop at our house anytime and that I would drop by their house very soon. Late Christmas Eve morning, the dogs started barking and we looked to see if anyone was coming up our driveway. To our amazement and delight Bernard and Janet were driving up. We invited them in and had a great time listening to the times they had during their fifteen plus years in Belize. Bernard occasionally writes editorials for one of the Belize City newspapers.

Electric Update

On December 27th, the electric company showed up and started surveying and marking where our poles would be located. On Saturday December 29th, all the poles were installed. Two poles needed to be installed in un-cleared areas of our land so a wide path had to be cut for the installers. This was done by our cutters. Two huge bees’ nests were encountered during the clearing. One of these nests was about 3 foot in diameter! One curious thing is that the cutters have very little fear of bees; however, if I bring the dogs out, they go into a state of panic! We may have electricity in a week or two! That would certainly lead to a Happy New Year!

Kitchen Cabinets

On December 27th, the cabinet people returned to finish. The hand made cabinets that need to be installed onto concrete walls takes time. It reminds me of several of past IT projects that we were involved with that seemed to never end.

Milk Man Returns

Today we heard a motorcycle coming down our driveway. It was Wilmer, the milkman! Wilmer, who is originally from York, PA, has a small dairy farm nearby. He packs a cooler he has strapped to the back of a dirt bike with fresh whole milk and chocolate milk packed in plastic bags. He is building a new home about a mile from us and he too is having difficulty procuring electric service. According to Diane, he recently went back to the states and this has been the first time he has made an appearance for quite a few months.

New Year

Diane and I spent New Years Eve at home this year. We could here lots of fire crackers in the distance. We spoke a little about the changes and achievements we made during last year. It was an amazing year! We also spoke of this year’s items we wanted to accomplish. We both would like to continue on getting the house where it needs to be but also on visiting lots of places in Belize and Mexico.

Belize Letter 3

Belize City

Diane and I traveled into Belize City today. Belize City has a population of 80,000. We are accustomed to going into Belmopan, the capital, which has a population of slightly over 8,000. The purpose of our visit was to talk with a distributor of solar power equipment. Most streets in Belize City are very narrow. Usually they are only wide enough for one car and are marked as one way streets. These streets are not only used by cars, but also by bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. The streets are very crowded and make driving very nerve racking. However, we found the stores carry not only a wider variety of goods, but their stock seems more current. I guess it is just due to increased number of shoppers. The prices seem lower also. A better selection of fresher food for a lower price mandates our shopping there in the future. We may not go every week, but a monthly run will definitely be made. While in Belize City, we stopped at “Old Belize”. This is a combination marina, tourist area, restaurant, and beach. We ate at the restaurant that had quite a good selection on the menu and was quite reasonable. We got a table over looking the Caribbean. The sun was bright and it was quite pleasant enjoying our lunch in the open air with the nice views. On the way back, we stopped in Belmopan and picked up a few items at the hardware store. Robert, Diane’s brother, informed us when we returned that it had rained all day in our area.


Today the sun is shining. There are still some rain clouds around, but after 5 straight days of hard rain in our area with no glimpse of the sun, the rays feel great!

The sun lasted for almost one day. It has now rained for another 4 days straight in our area. So much rain tends to get depressing. However I am getting the retirement spirit. During the first five days I didn’t get anything accomplished because of the rain. When we did get a nice day, I thought it was too nice to work. During the last 4 days, I haven’t accomplished much either.

One of the backup systems I need to work on is water. We get water from the community system and we also have a well. However, if the water from the community starts to get low due to lack of rain, our well may be low also for the same reason. I am considering building a cistern to save a few thousand gallons of water in the event there is a very bad dry spell. After having five days of downpours, I was wondering how I could save just the water coming off our roof! They sell one and two thousand gallon plastic tanks but I am looking at lower cost methods. I also need a closed system as I don’t want to be a breeding ground for mosquitoes and any of the other bugs that breed in water.

Electric Service

We just received the proposal from the electric company to install service to our house. The proposal is reasonable and is within our budget. Diane and I feel we will accept the proposal and use solar powered battery charging as a backup. We were promised high priority if we accepted.

Christmas in Belize

With Christmas coming in two weeks, people have their Christmas decorations up. Christmas Carols as well as many Christmas commercials are being broadcast by the local FM station. Down here we noticed that most people have there decorated trees outside. Even on some of the smallest of shanties in the village, strings of lights sparkle at night. Another custom in Belize is to set off firecrackers at night during the Christmas season. With our house in the construction finishing mode and also due to the lack of electricity, displaying decorations either inside or outside is impractical. However, I did notice more candles starting to be lit at night which adds warmth to our entire house. Diane said she will miss the shopping for presents, the wrapping of presents, the decorating of a tree, and lots of other seasonal activities. We haven’t decided how or where we will spend Christmas this year. I do know that Diane will be baking Christmas cookies.

Back to work

I can’t stand loafing for too long. We worked on extending the roof on both sides of the screened in porch. The wider roof will prevent rains from coming into the enclosed area. I coated the door and door frame for our new first floor storage area with urethane. In addition I built screens for the large windows at the top of our storage area. In the interim, I am checking on the cutters (low cost laborers with machetes) that are helping us “beat back the bush”. It is truly amazing how much land can be cleared in a day by a good cutter. With just sharpened machetes, they cut vines, plants and even trees up to eight inches in diameter.

Our Neighbor from Britain

About three weeks ago I met a Guy named Bernard from Great Britain who had come to Belize with his wife about 15 years ago. He was driving an old SUV. The other day coming home from Belmopan, I saw him walking on Five Blues Lake Road. He told me he had walked from his house to Hummingbird Highway. There he caught a bus to Belmopan (20 miles) and did some shopping. Then he caught a bus from Belmopan to Five Blues Lake Road and was going to walk the five miles to his house. He told me his car was not working and he was having trouble getting parts. I offered to drive him to the Dry Creek and he quickly accepted. On the way he told me about himself. He owns quite a bit of property and grows vegetables. He has no electric and doesn’t expect to get any. He has to ford the 100 foot wide Dry Creek going to and coming from his house. When we got to Dry Creek, it was deeper than one foot. I told him I couldn’t take the truck any further. He thanked me and told me to come for a visit. This week, if I get the chance, I will make the trip (walking) across the creek and the two miles to his house. There are quite a few immigrants in Belize. We are all doing without some things we were use to in our home countries. Giving a helping hand to someone in need is very common here. Probably because all of us are in need sometime!


More Rain

Today is December 19th. It is also the 19th consecutive day of rain. It is not as bad as is sounds. The last four days we have had long periods of sunshine and the night sky has been extremely clear. Everything is incredibly green. However, when the sun comes out after a rain, everything glistens. We even had two large colorful rainbows. Just think; this month is the start of the dry season!

Shopping Trips

We started to go to Belmopan (20 miles) for breakfast a little more often. Diane thought it would be interesting to see how many stops we make on a typical trip to Belmopan. First of all I drove through the village to see the person that has a bush hog and scheduled some cutting. Then we went two houses up the dirt road and paid our water bill for December. ($8 Belize for unlimited use) We then drove into Belmopan and stopped at the post office. Then we went to the Bullfrog Inn for breakfast. After that, we stopped at the Chinese market for soaps, paper towels, etc. We then stopped at the vegetable store for fruits and vegetables. Then we went to the grocery store for some can goods, and other packaged foods. Then we made a stop at the internet café, where we each checked our email. We stopped at Wood Depot for some wood I needed for one on my projects. We also had to stop at the hardware store for some screen molding and nails. On the way back, we stopped at a small local store (it is a stretch to call it a store, more like a stand) for the onions we forgot to buy. That is eleven stops!

Electric Service Update

I made a trip to Dangriga to Belize Electric Limited. I picked up the invoice for the installation of electric service and then drove to the bank to pay it. I returned the receipt I received from the bank to the electric company and spoke with one of the engineers on possible starts dates.

Highways in Belize

Each time I travel on the Hummingbird Highway, be it southeast to Dangriga or northwest to Belmopan, I can’t get over how beautiful the mountains and rivers are. With in about ten miles of Dangriga and the shore of the Caribbean, the terrain flattens. Dangriga is populated by very poor people and is not too attractive a location. The Southern Highway intersects with the Hummingbird Highway about 3 miles before entering Dangriga. Heading south on the Southern highway, takes one to some of the mainland resorts like Hamanazi and Jaguar Reef. It also goes by the Jaguar Reserve, a large area of rainforest that is set aside for the preservation of Jaguars as well as other endangered wildlife. It is a popular hiking area. By the way, the term highway is an exaggeration. Both the Hummingbird Highway and the Southern Highway are roads with one lane in both directions. The Southern highway was just paved from town of Hopkins south to Placencia and then ends in the Southern most town in Belize, Punta Gorda. From Belize City the Western Highway stretches past Belmopan to San Ignacio and ends at the Guatemalan border. From Belize City, the Northern Highway stretches through the towns of Orange Walk and Corazol to the Mexican boarder. These two highways are also paved roads with one lane in either direction. Diane and I will be exploring the northern highway when we travel to Chetumal, Mexico in late December or early January.