Sunday, November 18, 2012

Three and One Half Weeks


Time is moving right along, as it does.  Our weather has been quite nice, allowing us to do some outside clean up in relative comfort.  I say “us”, but really it has been Dennis who has cut up the fallen tree and moved the wood into the woods to rot, drained the garden hoses and put them away, etc.  I managed to bring a little pottery birdbath inside to clean up and put away.  My big accomplishment has been to sort all my clothes into 4 categories:  clothes that I need for work until December 12 and that I will need again in March when I return to Minnesota, clothes that go to Belize with me for immediate use, clothes that will be shipped later, and clothes that will go to Salvation Army.

I have also been working on selling some of our furniture.  It just doesn’t make sense to take it all to Belize with us.  We will have a much simpler lifestyle there that won’t require as much “stuff” as we have here.  What a relief that will be.

We will celebrate our last Thanksgiving in the U.S. this coming week.   Part of the day will likely be spent at the storage unit where we have the boxes stored that we will ship to Belize early next year.  We need to squeeze a few more things in order to make room at our house for the house sitters.  And we also need to pull out the things that we will ship down right away.  We are hoping that the shipping company that is handling the car will let us pack the car full of boxes.  But back to Thanksgiving – we will have a non-traditional dinner of scallops and fish with cranberry/orange sauce, Brussels sprouts, salad, and cheese blintzes with ginger syrup for dessert.  A nice sparkling almond-flavored wine will accompany the dessert.

So what is worth all this effort, anxiety, and turmoil?  Is it the fresh fruit we can grow? 


Fresh guava from our own tree.  It makes an incredibly refreshing drink when macerated and mixed with fresh, sweetened lime juice (also from own tree).

Is it the wildlife (including fabulous insects) that also make their home in Belize?
Lovely red dragonfly.  I haven't keyed it out yet; that is part of the satisfaction I am looking forward to. 
Is it the back-to basics cabana and associated lifestyle?
This what our cabana looked like in 2008.  Since then Richard enclosed the part below with a cane screen to hide the black water vats and poured the concrete slabs.  The coconut trees are now taller than the cabana. 
Is it the tranquility?
This is my favorite sight in all the world - coming home to our beachfront cabana where life is sweet and simple.

Is it the snorkeling off our front veranda?
Our veranda that overlooks the ocean.  I keep my snorkel gear (in the blue and yellow bag hanging on the wall) handy so I can snorkel at  moment's notice right off our dock.  Or what about relaxing in the hammocks?  Maybe a cold coke will hit the spot while keying out the fish that I spotted while in the water will do the trick. 

Or is it sharing all this with all the other oddballs who found their true home in Belize?
Dennis with Sam, Martha, Chris, and Sue.  We know why we are here in Belize.
It is all of those things and more.  Come visit Belize and see for yourself.
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Another Week Closer to Belize



On Friday, we celebrated Dennis’ last birthday in Minnesota; his next birthday will be in Belize. The countdown widget on the righthand side of the blog, shows that Dennis’ retirement is only 18 days away from today.  I am more excited than he is. 

I was sorting through my old photos and pulled these from our third trip to Belize.  The first is some land we were looking at before we found  what we wound up with.  This was 10 acres plus another 40 if interested on the west coast of the Northern Lagoon.  It was beautiful, even in the rainy season, nestled into the Peccary Hills.
 George, a local guide, took us by boat from Gales' Point in the Southern Lagoon, to the property.  We saw big, fresh jaguar prints in the muddy track.
George slogs valiantly along the flooded road with me close behind.  Less than 2 weeks before this trip, Dennis had arthroscopic knee surgery, so he elected to stay on dry ground rather than risk injury or infection of his still healing knee.  Good call on Dennis' part; the water got mid-thigh deep on me in one place. 

Also on this trip we went to the Maya ruins called "Xunantunich".  To get there we had to cross the Macal River on a hand-cranked car ferry.  Below is a view of the river from the ferry.
And above is a shot of the ferry after we got off.  It can hold 2 or 3 cars at a time.
The ruins are quite impressive.  The shot above is of the largest structure there, but there were many more. Dennis was able to hike up to the top (and, more importantly, down again) in spite of his recent knee surgery.
The carvings are intricate and detailed.  I hope we can go back soon and get more photos now that I have a better camera and more lenses.

Back to the present - Craig sent photos of the completed concrete work.  We are very pleased with it and can hardly wait to see it for ourselves.
It will be so much easier to keep things clean and dry.  This area is about 600 sq.ft. of space.  Later on, once we get the water vats moved to the foundation for the bedroom expansion, we will do the remaining 300 sq.ft. 
In front of the back wall, you can see a small, white appliance that in Belize passes for a clothes washing machine.  It is quite simple, but does do the heavy work of washing.  It doesn't really spin dry, though.

This is about it for today's post.  The day started out cool and rainy and will end cold and perhaps snowy.  A good day to work on packing for the big move next month.  

Hope you stay warm and dry. 
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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Big Changes Up Ahead


It has been more than 3 months since I posted a new entry on this blog.  The death of my mother back in May simply took the wind out of my sails.  I had originally started writing this blog for her so she could keep up with me even when I was traveling.  One of the last things she said to me was “Have you written more on your blog?  I am tired of looking at that ugly turkey!”  Sadly, I didn't get another entry written before she died, but I’m ready now to continue with greater frequency.  And although I hope to meet Mother’s high standards for blog-worthiness, I make no promises regarding ugly birds!  ;-)

Dennis retires in 4 weeks!  We are in the last days of living here in Rochester.  Our house has not sold yet.  But we are fortunate in that a colleague at work will be "between houses", so to speak, starting in December.  So he will house sit for us until May.  It is not a good idea to leave a house unoccupied during a Minnesota winter; that is an invitation for some sort of disaster like a furnace malfunction that leads to burst water pipes or worse.  I will be working halftime and telecommuting until March, when I will return to Rochester until I retire at the end of June.  I hope the house will have sold by then; we shall see.

It has been a while since I described our place in Belize.  In the Google Earth shot below you can see a small village of about 200 people labeled "Monkey River Town".  The photo is rotated so that north is to the right.  Just of north of Monkey River Village (MRV) (it is now too small to be classified as a town) is the Monkey River.  The monkeys of reference are black howler monkeys that live in the surrounding jungle.  To the north of both the river and the village is the Monkey River Road (MRR), a ~15 mile long dirt road cut through the jungle that connects the village with the nicely paved Southern Highway.  Notice that MRR ends on the north side of the river; there is no bridge or other road that goes into MRV, so the few cars owned by village residents are parked at the end of the road and residents and visitors cross the river by boat.  There are many more boats owned by MRV residents than there are cars.

 
Farther north of the river is a creek called Black Creek.  The dark color is due to the tannins extracted from the leaves of the mangrove trees that line the edges and fill the surrounding marsh.  Our place is at the south end of a mile stretch of beach called Englishtown.  In the photo below from 2005, there is no sign of our place yet, but you can see Steppingstones, a small fishing resort owned by our neighbors Sue and Chris Harris.  That little spec of white jutting out into the sea in the middle third of Englishtown is their dock.  Our newest neighbor in Englishtown, Craig Pearlman, is at the north end of of the beach.  They are opening a bar and micro-resort called Bare Bones Beach Bar.
 
I took the shot below with my 300mm lens while standing on our dock and facing north.  You can just see the edge of our dock in the foreground, then the palapa at the end of Steppingstones dock, and in the distance the sign for Bare Bones Beach Bar.  Check out the link to Bare Bones.
 
A similar viewpoint but a little closer to shore, using a normal lens shows our lovely beach in the foreground (below) with the palapa at Steppingstones a speck in the distance.  Look how clear the water is.  The darker patches are where seagrasses are growing.
 
Back the end of our dock gives a nice perspective of our place.  That is our cabana with the red roof.
 
The cabana is on 12 ft tall concrete piers to keep it above storm surges and get us higher than the worst of the insects.  The footprint of the cabana is 33x30ft and 10ft of the width is the screened in veranda, leaving us with interior living space of only 20x33ft.  The area below the cabana is screened by canes.  We did that originally to hide the ugly black plastic water vats that store rainwater as our sole water supply.
 
We were pleasantly surprised at how much the cane defined the space below the cabana. We use it for all kinds of things.  We decided to pour a floating slab of concrete to make the space even more useful - for example to store our belongings that will shipped down early next year.  We will add an extension of a nice bedroom suite to the cabana, but until that happens, we don't have enough room for the furniture we are bringing down.  Below you can see Joe, who lives at Craig's place in North Englishtown putting the broom finish on one section of the slab.  The slab will be poured in 9 independent sections that won't adversely affect the earthquake minimizing nature of the matrix foundation that I described in a previous post.  Thanks for sending the photos of the progress, Craig.
 
In the shot below you can see a slab in mid-pour.  The sea is about 30 feet away on the other side of the red hibiscus.
 
In the meantime back in Rochester, we are packing things up, getting vaccinations and a health certificate for the cat, getting things like a cell phone signal booster that we can't get in Belize, filling prescriptions, servicing the car, etc.  Max (the cat) and I will fly to Belize December 13.  Dennis will drive our car, pulling a trailer holding 2 pallets of gear, to the Alabama gulf coast where our shipping agent is.  That trip will take about 3 or 4 days.  He will leave the car and pallets with the agent and then rent a car to drive to Atlanta.  He will fly from Atlanta to Belize somewhere around December 18.  The shipped items will get there sometime in January of February.  That's the plan, Stan.  Stay tuned to see how far off track reality takes us!
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