14 March, 2009

working on the cabana

Preface --The entries below were written as they are dated and posted all together when I got internet access. The photos I refer to show up just to the right of this posting at the top of the page. If you double click on any image, the entire album will open. You can play it as a slide show and see the captions.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 -- We just did make it out of Minnesota yesterday. Our original flight from Rochester to Chicago was canceled due to fog. But American rebooked us on the next flight and also on the flight from Chicago to Miami. We got to Miami only a couple of hours later than we had planned. From the airport weather report we saw earlier today, it looks like Chicago and Minneapolis airports are pretty much shut down for at least this morning. Our flight this morning left Miami for Belize right on time, 10:50. I’m writing this on the plane while looking down at the Florida Keys passing below us. When we checked in at the Rochester airport (my favorite small airport in the whole world, but that is a sidebar for another time) we had 5 bags to check, each of which weighed between 45 and 48 pounds (good job, Dennis!). Unfortunately they were not able to check them through all the way to Belize since we had an overnight stop in Miami. We were not looking forward to having to schlep those 5 heavy bags along with our 4 carryon bags from the Miami airport to the hotel and back again. Fortunately, there is a conveniently located luggage storage place at the airport. We paid $45 to store the bags, and then just schlepped the bags 50 feet to the check in counter this morning.
Chris had asked us to pick a cheap watch for him, no leather or metal for the strap. Starting at gate D29, where the security line enters the concourse, we walked along past 2 or 3 shops that had watches, but they were all fake bling, not Belize worthy in the least. Finally, all the way past gate 50D at the end wall of the concourse was the perfect store, the $10 Store. They had $10 watches with jelly-type bands. I found a masculine looking black and red number for Chris and just happened to buy a petite turquoise one for myself, too. ;-) And because we just didn’t have quite enough stuff with us, we stopped at the dutyfree store to pick up a bottle of Schtolliznia (for Chris again) and Tanqueray Rangpur (for me).
I recently got a new cell phone, the Blackberry Bold with service through AT&T. I got it mostly for work, because I can directly access my work email program and get my emails via the 3G coverage. That turns out to be much faster than logging into my laptop and finding wireless at airports or hotels or anywhere, for that matter. It has a nice sized qwerty keyboard that works well for typing with middle-aged thumbs. I got international coverage and am told it will work in Belize for phone calls and for data, including email. I’m not 100% convinced that it will work, but we’ll see. If it does, life will be much easier for us on our twice-a-year trips to Belize. I have my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 -- I am writing this from the screened in veranda of our cabana. It is 7:40 pm and a gorgeous full moon has risen over the ocean. We have been here not quite 30 hours. I was delighted when we arrived at the Phillip Goldson International Airport to find that my Blackberry does work in Belize – hurray!!! I was able to send an email from it to Sue letting her know that we had arrived on schedule. And I received her surprised reply (not surprised that we had gotten her on schedule, but that I was able to send her an email from the airport.). While we waited to pull our bags off the carousel, we discovered the new duty free shop at the airport. We got 4 bottles of various spirits for $28 US. Fast forward to dinner tonight and we found that the brandy was more firewater in nature than smooth; but for $6 it is hard to complain. Here’s hoping the wines and champagne are a little better.
We were the last people from our flight through customs. Dennis wound up having to pay $187 BZ on import duty, the most we have had to pay yet. Bailey provided excellent help getting all our bags from customs to the Maya Island Air check in counter and Victor made sure that everything got safely on board our flight to Placencia, even personally handing me the bag with booze as I boarded the plane. Remembering people and greeting them by name goes a long way toward making everything happen smoothly, and a nice tip also helps.
Chris, Richard, and Jason, met us at the Placencia Airstrip in Jason’s boat. Words can’t do justice to the experience of being met by boat at that airstrip. From there we boated around to the Placencia dock area and did a little grocery shopping before the 50 min ride to Englishtown. The sea was high and fairly rough, so we docked at Chris and Sue’s -- our dock gets even rougher water than theirs, making it dangerous to offload such large bags. It took a while to offload everything and haul it down the beach to S. Englishtown, but several wheelbarrow loads took care of most of it. Sue prepared a lovely dinner (locally farmed shrimp in red sauce over rice) so we could just relax our first evening. Nothing could be better – good friends, good conversation, good food, good wine to close a busy day of travel to paradise.
One of the most fun things we like to do when we arrive is to walk around the property with Richard (our caretaker) and his wife joy while they show us how the plants have grown and the various improvements to the property that they have made since we were here last. This time we saw how much better the cabana looks since Richard has begun installing a sort of visual screen of dried river cane as a barrier along the perimeter of the cabana between the ground and the floor. Again, photos will show that better than I can describe it.
Today, Dennis and I worked on the layout for the tile we will install on the kitchen walls. We did all the measurements and placements of the decorative tiles and figured out how much tile cutting needs to be done. Part of the $187 of import duty was for a good quality tile cutter, thinset trowels, tile nippers, etc. We will start the installation tomorrow.
Tonight we made a sort of “gourmet” take on tuna casserole using 2 medium onions, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 cho cho (chayote), and part of sweet pepper sautéed together, a can of tuna packed in water, Cracker Barrel sharp cheddar cheese, evaporated milk, and whole wheat penne pasta baked for about 45 minutes. This was our first time to use the oven (it was installed just as we were leaving the last time we were here). It worked just fine once we figured out how to light it. We didn’t even explode anything. ;-)

Friday, March 13, 2009 – We were so busy with the tile yesterday that I was not able to find time to write for the blog. We got off to a very slow and uneven start with the tile. We didn’t have spacers, so the first part is uneven. And a part in the tile cutter had jostled loose, so the tile was breaking unevenly at one end until Dennis figured that out. Good thing we got plenty of extra tiles. Once we got that straightened out, it went a lot quicker. I’m very happy with how most of it looks. We are only about 1/3 done, so we have a lot to do today.

Saturday, March 14, 2009 – the tile work is going much faster. We will finish it tomorrow by doing the areas under the 3 windows that require a lot of cutting. The 3 main walls are all tiled. This morning Richard got someone from Monkey River Village to come help with a water vat delivery and also to do major trimming on the blackberry tree. The blackberry tree, which gets its name from its large, edible, black fruits that are about the size of an olive, is huge and is growing just behind the cabana. It drops fruit into the rain gutter (part of our water collection system) and also onto the back veranda. The fruits are very juicy and stain everything purple. We needed to trim it away from the veranda because it makes such a mess and we also plan to site a solar water heater on that end of the cabana. The tree would have shaded the heater during the late afternoon hours. Tiger came to help Richard with the trimming. He climbed a ladder to get into the tree branches, carrying his machete with him. He used the machete to trim branches up to 6 inches in diameter while balancing on tree branches. He made very short work of the trimming job and now the tree looks better and won’t be a problem for another couple of years. Quite a few little blackberry trees have taken root under the big tree. When the rainy season starts, Joy and Richard will transplant some of those to better locations for big trees.
Tonight we will grill some snook fillets that have been marinating in lime, onion, and sweet pepper. Richard is the grill master. I made some cole slaw and will cook some brown jasmine rice. Joy and Richard will join us for dinner. I think Joy is preparing wild green papayas by pealing and seeding them. Then she will cook them in brown sugar and cinnamon. That will be a great dessert.

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