Monday, April 9, 2007

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.

No comments: