09 January, 2013

What does it take to get a signal here, anyway?

Part of the reason I can be here in Belize now is because I am still working, although only part-time.  I have a fair amount of writing to do for work and am dependent on good Internet and phone connections to make that happen.  With my AT&T international plan no longer covering data, we had to move on to plan B (and C and D).  The long-range plan (plan D) is to connect through a satellite dish.  This will take some time to have installed in the remote area where we are; not sure yet when we will get it because we haven’t settled on the specific dish or the service plan yet.  Plan C is to use the signal booster for the cell phone and then use a dongle on the computer to pull in the signal.  I expect this will be pretty slow, but it might do in a pinch.  Plan B, which is currently in play, is to go to an Internet café in one of the nearby villages.  There is a nice business center in Placencia that caters to the tourists and expats.  It has excellent highspeed connections at a very reasonable hourly rate.  In the village of Independence, there is another business center that caters to the local population.  The owner is quite helpful with computer issues, but I haven’t tried making a connection there yet.  The problem with both of these is that they are about 45 minutes away and that takes about $60 dollars of gas to make a round trip.

We did make headway with a local phone.  We bought a “house” phone; basically a desktop cell phone tethered to a mounted antenna.  Without the antenna, we have no signal at our cabana.  In Rochester to get an antenna mounted, we would have called the phone company or an electrician to do the job.  It is a little different here.  First, Richard and Dennis took the boat up the Monkey River about a mile to a stand of bamboo.  They cut a piece that was about 30ft long and brought it back on the 26ft boat.  Then they secured it to the side of the cabana right at the ridgeline.  In the meantime, we had misplaced the U-bolt that came with the antenna, so we purchased another one on New Year’s Eve while in Placencia.  Oh – and the brief instructions on the side of the antenna box are only in Spanish.  Of course the U-bolt was a little bit different from the original one and Dennis had to enlarge the holes for the bolt to fit through using a metal bit on his drill.  Before mounting the antenna on the bamboo pole, Dennis drilled a hole through the wall for the cable to come in through: a layer of bead board on the inside and clapboards on the outside.  Tropical yellow pine is very tough wood, particularly after it has weathered 6 plus years.  No wonder it is termite resistant.  It had been easier to enlarge the holes in the metal for the U-bolt.  After some time drilling (and swearing), the holes were made.  Now, Richard could get on top of the cabana with the antenna and mount it on the bamboo pole.  A little shaping of the bamboo with a hacksaw and the antenna is on.  Yea!  Now to get the cable through the wall two holes in the wall; piece of cake.  Really. Yes, really.  Secure it to the back of the phone and, unbelievably we have 5 bars! Now if we just had a phone book so we could look up the numbers we need …

Richard (on the roof) and Dennis with their bamboo antenna pole.
The drill bit is sticking out of the side of the house where the coaxial antenna cable will enter.
Richard secures the antenna to the pole.
Positioning the antenna against the cabana.
The cable is threaded through the hole into the cabana.
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  1. Heath and Robinson would have been proud Wilma.{:)))

    1. I'm kind of proud of us, too! But then again i am easily impressed. ;-) Thanks for visiting, Roy.

  2. Hi Wilma,

    I've been enjoying reading about the big move. All the best for 2013 and your new life in Belize.

    1. Thanks, Karen. It's great to be here and still be in touch with the rest of the world. Looking forward to your posts in 2013.


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