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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our journey continues....

Well the time has come to finish our packing. We leave tomorrow for a one month stay on Caye Caulker!

We have rented an apartment in an area of town that we have not stayed in before. We hope to really get a good feel for what life in Belize will be like. We will cook most of our own meals on a two burner hotplate and a microwave oven. We intend to purchase our own bikes for transportation while there. We will be taking a kayak tour with the high school students discovering the off shore marine life from the perspective of a local student. We have been invited for dinner with friends we met on our earlier visits. We are bringing 21 Spanish text books for the high school and Christmas presents for the children of a family we met during our last stay. This weekend there will be the annual Christmas parade. Golf carts are transformed into "floats". They parade around town and gather with Santa afterward to receive prizes for the best float. We hope to attend our first chicken drop...a game of chance in which tickets are sold for squares on a board. A live chicken is placed on the board. I expect the crowd gets really rowdy. The excited chicken runs around until it poops on one of the squares. The winner is the person who purchased that square!

In spite of the anxiety of being away from our rental business for one month, my turning down paying work to accommodate our schedule, and Barb not being around for month end closing, we hope to really enjoy our stay. It is kind of like a test run to see if we can actually make it there. I will keep you posted on our activities throughout our stay.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Our plans are coming together!

Barb and I have decided we need some relaxation time from what has been one of the most stressful times of our lives. During the past year we have endured family stress, a tornado, an earthquake, a hurricane, and most recently a 12 inch snowstorm. All of these issues have caused damage, some you can see, some you can't, some you can fix, and some that cannot be fixed.  We must learn to live with the things we are given.

Our prescription for this stress is to take a month off from life and return to Caye Caulker. The stress will not go away, but for that period we will be able to relax on a carribean island and forget about it. We have rented an apartment for a month and we are making plans to settle in. Renting an apartment will give us an idea of what retiring there will be like. Unlike renting a vacation home where our every need is supplied, we have to arrange for items such as bikes and cookware you know every day items.  This may not seem like a relaxing vacation to most. It will be for us. We want to get a true idea of what daily living on a remote island in central america will be like. Some have warned us that even three months is not enough to get a true idea, but this is all we can swing for now.

These plans come sooner than expected, but everything is lining up to make it a possibility...we have some savings...Barb can get the time off from work...I found a relatively cheap apartment that the owner is willing to rent for just one month. There are some adjustments we have to make in order for the plans to materialize. For instance, Barb is willing to not spend the holidays with her family in NJ (something she has not been able to do in many years)...I have never spent holiday time away from my family. We have apartments that need constant attention here, so we must plan for that and let go. Thankfully our plans coincide with a slow period in Barb's work. Most of our rentals are for students, so the apartments will likely be unoccupied during the majority of the time we are away. Holy Cow...the stress of de-stressing!

We are excited about our plans and I will keep you informed while we are away.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Which came first...the chicken or the egg?

I have a couple of anecdotes that illustrate cultural difference. This is something to be keenly aware of when considering a move to a foreign country, or even just visiting one. This one is from a blog written by a woman who was born on Caye Caulker and lived there, moved away, came back to run a backpacker's hotel, and is now in semi-retirement (I suspect she will be starting something new soon). Tina has these words of wisdom on her blog:


"My friend was telling me about the neighbors Rooster which starts crowing long before the sun intends to rise. He couldn't sleep many a nights and went to talk to the neighbor about getting rid of the Rooster. 

The neighbor is offended, says in the old days that families not only had Roosters, Chickens, Pigs & Deer; but an assorted selection of animals was normal as food for the family and he will not get rid of the Rooster until it is time for him to go into the oven.

My friend contemplated shooting the Rooster dead. He contemplated ringing its neck, making a stew, but he knew the neighbor would be suspicious of him if the Rooster disappeared. 

My friend concocted another scheme to get rid of the Rooster. He asked another friend to go to the neighbor and express deep interest in buying the Rooster, he even offered way more than the Rooster is worth; a full $50.00 bz. The neighbor sold my friends friend the Rooster and he thought all was well until..........

A few days later the neighbor returned from Belize City where he had spent the $50.00 wisely by investing in another 10 small Roosters. My friend is now considering moving from the neighborhood.

Music to my ears.....

I found a song that tells it all about why I love Belize. I want to buy tickets to get back now! Barb and I are planning to return for a month next year so that we can get a better idea of what island life will be like.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Finding an adopted family

During our visit in February Barb and I befriended a taxi driver named Nick. Remember...the town is very small and the taxis are golf carts. 


MIKE AND NICK


On our return visit Nick invited us to his 5 year old gandaughter Nellie's birthday party. We expected to be among many at the party but to our surprise we were the only non-family members invited. Being central America of course nothing is on time. After waiting an hour to be picked up (grampa runs a cab), we figured it was not going to happen, so with great disappointment we rode our bikes into town. There we found Nick and his kids hurrying to pick us up! Nick had been busy preparing the BBQ chicken and lost track of time. Losing your sense of time is easy to do on Caye Caulker and one of the many things that endear us to the island. This is also one of the cultural differences which Americans must learn to cope with in order to fully enjoy living in Belize. 


BARB AND NELLIE


The party was a great celebration of youth and endeared us to Nick's family. We enjoyed their home cooking and bountiful hospitality. Sundown was near when we arrived which is time for the mosquitos to come out. Nick invited us into his home to get away from the bugs. A typical Belizian home is simple and quite inadequate by American standards (another adjustment we must make in order to be happy in Belize). The kitchen, which doubles as dining room and living room is small. I would guess it was about 10X12. In it was a refrigerator and stove and a small pantry cupboard, and a shelf with a stereo and tv. The kitchen sink is outside. We moved some tables and plastic lawn chairs into the room so that everyone could gather to eat. As guests Barb and I were seated centrally, given the only silverware, the best plastic chairs, and served first (before the birthday girl)! Dinner was delicious with BBQ chicken, beans served cold out of the can, cole slaw, and flour tortillas. Everyone else ate their meal with their hands. That worked fine for them, but thankfully we were given the opportunity to use silverware. Dessert was chocolate birthday cake.


After dinner we sat and watched WWE wrestling on tv. It was funny to watch them root for their favorite wrestler. They were shocked to hear that the whole show was put-on and the program is actually produced in a town near us in CT. It seemed we had just told them that there was no Santa, but that didn't spoil their fun!


Front: ROSIE, NELLIE, BRIAN
Rear: GABBY, CONSUELLA, NICK, BASS 


On several occasions throughout the remainder of our stay we spent much time with the girls just relaxing in the ocean on hot days, simply enjoying fruit on our porch, or picking the local "coco plums", a sport reserved for children and birds. Several days were spent in the water at an establishment named the lazy lizard at "the split". A local man was observing our activity. When i engaged him in conversation he was wondering what we were doing there. I explained the girls belonged to a friend of ours (he knew exactly who) and we were entertaining them for the day. You have to love a small town where everyone is watching out for each other.


GABBY PICKING COCO PLUMS

NELLIE, BARB, and GABBY enjoying a snack

We spent the week taking time to be with the girls doing things that their parents are too busy to do because they are constantly working to support their family. The family loved our interest in them. We have been invited to visit their hometown of Toledo next summer to meet the rest of the clan. On our last day Nick, Nellie, Gabby and Brian saw us off to the airport where hugs and tears were shared. We will miss you!

What an unusual vacation that only came about by taking the time to be kids again! This was a very enjoyable experience for us. As our plans for retirement progress we will return to this little island to discover more of what life here in Belize has to offer. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our second Belezian experience.

We have just returned from our second journey to Belize. We decided to re-visit the island of Caye Caulker and stayed there for 11 days. Even though the airlines only allowed us one checked bag each, we were able to bring much needed items to the island. These included reading glasses (which are expensive there), books for a woman who will be instructing a course at the high school, and a bunch of binders for Ocean Academy students. The goal of our trip was to get a feel for what life in Belize would be like, but we came away with so much more!

We flew to the island from the international airport in order to maximize our time on the island. Here is a shot of our approach to the small airstrip on Caye Caulker.


Since it was really really hot we spent a lot of time at our cottage. Most homes on the island are small and built of wood. Ours had one bedroom and one bath and would be considered spacious by the locals. We stayed in the gringo section. During our last visit that area was of the most interest to us.



During summer there are fewer tourists, however there seemed to be much more golf cart and truck traffic. Perhaps it was the street we stayed on, which is on the way to the airport and dump as well as the major route to the southern and western areas of the island.


We quickly found that a second floor porch facing the east is the coolest place to be during a hot summer day. We often had lizards and hummingbirds visit us while relaxing on the porch.



We had plenty of time to "hang out" at some of the local establishments :-)



Some days the rain came down. One day we were on our way to lunch and we felt a few drops. We decided to make a stop at Syd's restaurant instead of our original destination. As soon as we parked our bikes the rain was incredibly hard. One of the aspects I love about Belize is the ease at which your plans can change. We enjoyed ourselves in spite of the storm which had ended by the time we finished lunch. While eating I saw an acquaintance bike by, I called out to her and she returned to the door to exchange a quick hello. That never happens in the USA.

Storms are brief and only last a few minutes. Afterward the streets look like this...



We also did a one day trip to nearby San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Although we liked the town, it is much busier and really caters to tourism with a lot of condo's and resorts. If you are going on vacation...this is the place to go, however our agenda is much different and we prefer the small town feel of Caye Caulker. While on Ambergris we saw some different sights! Nice place to visit, don't want to live there.



We were fortunate enough to encounter Nick the taxi driver on our last venture to CC. We found him there again, still smiling and happy to provide superior service. Nick and his family made our visit very special this time. I will write another blog about those experiences...certainly not a tourist like thing to do, but definitely the most memorable and special vacation I have ever had! THANK YOU NICK.


This trip has affirmed our initial thoughts that Belize and Caye Caulker in particular are a good match for what we are looking for in a retirement destination. We learned much more about the little island and its people. With any luck we may one day call Caye Caulker our home.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Preparing for our second trip to Caye Caulker

Barb is all packed. I am a perpetual packing procrastinator :-) Yesterday I received a package of school supplies that I will be transporting to the new high school on the island (Ocean Academy). I also have a care package for a lady who recently moved there and took over a business. Last night Barb was re-packing her stuff to try to ensure we could fit everything in, but I assured here that there would be enough room without doing that, I don't think she believes me??? Barb is bringing reading glasses to distribute. You see, things like these are very expensive there, as are any items that are imported into the country. These seemingly small favors are very meaningful in a small town like Caye Caulker. During our last visit we brought school supplies for the elementary school.

I remember living in a small town where "everybody knew your name". Caye Caulker is still like that. The little things we do mean a lot, before you know it everyone on the island will know we care enough to go above and beyond to help. Caye Caulker is the kind of place I hope to reside in one day. This trip will help us discover whether or not "Cay Caulker is the place for us".

While we are there we will be very busy. We will be looking at property, mingling with residents and engaging them in conversations about everyday life on the island, venturing to nearby Ambergris Caye, but perhaps most importantly finding out what the summer weather is like there. The temps average in the mid 80's. During the summer the breeze is less and the evenings are not cool, in fact the temps remain in the 80's at night. Most gringo expats decide to leave by August through October in order to avoid the hottest weather that is followed by a wet season. I understand the mosquitos are exceptionally bad this year, so we will be bringing plenty of deet.

Wish us luck...I will update you with the details when we return.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pics from our February trip


This is the water taxi...pretty full this day! Barb had to sit at the other end.


The beautiful Barb at sunset....I don't know which way to look!



Barb loved relaxing on the porch.


Barb learned to windsurf, almost!


A croc we saw while on our way back from a remote area of the island.
Some natives were feeding it chicken. Reminded me of Betty White!


Scuba Mike hits the water.


This was our home away from home...wish it were home.


I did get to use the hammock once.


And I think I can actually learn to windsurf too.


The view from our front door.


This is what the good roads are like in a more remote area of the island.


Ahhh sunset. I was almost attacked by a dog to get this shot.


My favorite activity was having a Belikin at the split.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Here is the video that started my love affair with Caye Caulker.

My first blog day:

blogdate07152011

For a little over a year I have been looking at the possibility of retiring abroad. I did extensive research on places in central and south america. I looked at Cost Rica, Ecuador, and Belize in great detail, and several other places in less detail. Last February my wife Barb and I ventured to Caye Caulker, Belize. This is a carribean island just off the coast of Belize. Caye Caulker sits just one mile from the second largest coral reef in the world. There are about 1200 inhabitants and was historically a fishing village that now relies primarily on tourism. The village is quaint and simple with streets of sand and brightly colored buildings. The only tar on the island is the runway at the airport. We fell in love on our first visit and will be returning this August to explore some more.

Last fall I produced a video for the newly formed high school in hopes to win a $10,000 cash prize to benefit Ocean academy from Ford. The video did not win, but I made several friends in the process that I looked up during our last visit. Dane even tried to teach me and Barb how to windsurf! We thought the place felt like home for us. The folks are friendly and the pace of life is VERY relaxed. We cannot wait to visit again!