Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Howler monkeys

Even tho' we've lived here for six years full-time, I'm still blown away by the sights and sounds of the bush.  We hear the howler monkeys to the SW of us as they move from Xunantunich, down the river and into the hills.  There are also a couple of troops to the east of us, but they've always been in the distance.  About a week ago we were startled to hear the roar really close.  It came from the tall trees just behind our guest house.  During the day they were quiet and I assumed they had moved on, but then, just before dawn, the roaring resumed.  When Rene came to work I followed him as he cut thru the bush, allowing me to get a very restricted view of our visitors.  They reside in the tops of the very tallest trees and ours are so close together, it was nearly impossible to get a clear view.  I was able to get a couple of photos, but in the camera they just looked like a small, black blob in the trees.  When I was able to zoom in, I could see this was a family.  A male, female and below her, hugging her tail was a baby.  Wow!  A couple of days later I heard them again and tried to get a video of them.  I tracked them again and was able to record their sounds, but couldn't actually see them.  So frustrating to not be able to get the sights and sounds together.  At least tho', I have the memories to remind myself of this astounding place. 

I've been trying to upload my photos of the Howler's, but not having any luck.  They've now been here for several weeks, moving between our place and the neighbors.  What a gift to have had this experience.  Our place is a blessing and a comfort every day. 


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Getting sick in Belize

As I wrote the last post, I decided to share what's been going on with me.  I'm always apologizing for not posting more often, but this time there's a reason.  Kidney stones.  The thing that's frightened me the most is getting sick down here.  There is medical care here, but the hospitals are pathetic giving you a less than confident view of how you'll be treated.

A few nights ago I was awakened by a pain in my back.  It wasn't a sharp pain, more liked I'd been punched and bruised.  Of course my mind conjured up all sorts of possibilities to set my worry gene into hyper drive.   Whatever, I had to get up and headed for the old glider that used to be my Mom's.  The pain subsided and was mostly gone the next day, only to be repeated when I tried to lie down the next night.  After another day and night of this I decided to go see Dr. Sanchez.  He's a lovely man who is from Cuba and has a really busy family practice.  Some years back he saw Art and diagnosed his blood clot and sent him to an internist.  We so appreciated his professionalism.  Anyway, thankfully it was raining that day so his office was basically empty.  I've been in there when it's so full you can't get in the door.  After giving me a checkup he sent me for some lab tests and then to get an ultrasound.  Right there as little blips in my kidneys were some stones.  Well darn!  One was trying to pass and another on it's heals.  I also had one in the other kidney.  I also found that I had a raging infection.  Whew!

Dr. gave me some do's and don'ts and some pills to help me get past this.  Now I've heard intense stories of people and their pain, so I wasn't sure how much to expect.  I'm trying not to get to complacent about the whole thing, but I feel so fortunate, at least up to now.  I've had to sleep sitting in my faithful chair (thanks Mom), but during the day I've been basically pain free.  Trying to lie down was a whole other issue.  After three nights/days of this, the pain seems to have disappeared, hopefully meaning the little devils found their way to freedom.   I'm still tired, but so thankful to be doing so well.

I still feel that if I had a major problem, I'd get on the first plane I could to the US and our health insurance, but I feel that there are caring Drs. here (thank you Dr. Sanchez) who will do their best to make you well. 

Rain in the jungle

Sorry US.  I know that so much of the US is struggling under oppressive heat right now.  Our family in Oregon and Washington have told us that the temps today will reach 100 and higher.  We've just gone thru that and now - wow, the rain is really hitting.  I just checked the satellite and we're in the path of a huge front.  Lots of lightning and thunder and RAIN.  You haven't experienced rain until you've been soaked in the jungle.  Actually, that's probably not true.  Lots of places get intense rain, but right now, this is pretty intense.  The consolation here is that it's still warm.  Don't know how we'd handle it if it was cold.  Temps here will still hover in the high 70's and 80's until the rain subsides.   Our big old Bailey is afraid of the thunder and always stays close to us for reassurance.  The pups are a little more blasé, altho' when the last big clap of thunder hit, we had all three in the house.  We're so pleased with our little place as the veranda all the way around is a haven for the dogs and us and keeps the house from being pummeled by the weather.  From the looks of the satellite, we can expect this to go on for quite some time as we're right in the middle of the path.  We'll be curious about the river when we finally go down.  Once again, we're so blessed to be us where we can enjoy the river, but don't have the flooding worry.  Can't convince the Gringo's of that, but once you  live here reality can hit.  We're waiting right now for a break to let Bailey out.  We don't wear boots, just Crocks to slog thru this.  Weird!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The dry season is hopefully over

Haven't heard much from anyone so am just touching base.  After struggling for over two months of 100 degree weather, the dry spell finally ended on schedule.  Go figure.  We got rain on June 1.  We're now getting rain late every afternoon.  What a blessing, altho' the humidity is high all the time.  It's still in the 90's every day and 70's at night, but loving the change. We felt so lucky, living on our hill as we have wonderful breezes which don't reach down by the river.  Rene likes to come up here to get away from the heat.  It's great to not have to be quite so conservative with our water, just have to check that we've had enough rays to get us thru the evening without running the generator.  Living off-grid there's always something.  We're lucky tho' as the folks in the village have to worry about the fact that there are countrywide power outages and the village has been without water more than they've had it.  Something about their pumps.  Anyway, we're blessed. 


We're both doing fine.  I'm trying to stay active, but the weather has made it hard.  Errands take up some of the time, but boring.  We're waiting to hear from our realtor as to whether we'll remain with her or try it on vour own again.  Nothing happening, altho' several places have sold near our village so maybe our turn will come. 


Our dogs continue to be a blessing.  The setters are so loving and loyal.  Their antics keep me laughing.  Shannon really describes the term "dogging".  Wherever I go, she's right there.  Bailey is much the same way, but at a distance.  He's looking good, but at 12 years he's showing his age.  For a 135# Akita he's doing great.  I don't want to think too much about it and for now he's doing well.  He continues to be a true friend and such a blessing.  We couldn't have made it here without him.  I hope we can get  him home again. 


Monday, March 23, 2015

Legal issues in the US

Watch out as I'm digressing big time.   Here, living in the bush, my news feed is the internet.  There's something really satisfying to be outside, looking in, but it's also very disturbing to read about the craziness that seems to be taking over our beloved country.  Living in Belize with a much more basic lifestyle and few laws dictating every breath we take, gives me an interesting comparison.  Some view Belize as a dangerous country as they hear murder statistics.  Yes, there is violence here, as there is everywhere in the world, but the greatest share is in the City.  I can't say with authority where and why, but I do know that we don't feel threatened here, but rather feel watched over by our village and neighbors. 

Today, the news was about a case before the Supreme Court in the US, deciding how the police are supposed to treat a mentally challenged person who is threatening others.  GIVE ME A BREAK!  If a person is a danger to others, who has the rights?  How do the police determine that a person has a mental issue?  Will every criminal with a rifle in hand holler, "I'm mentally challenged", and you have to treat them specially?  That's what's really insane.  More and more it seems that the criminals have all the rights while everyone else is just a victim.  People want and expect the police and the laws to protect them and give them justice, but there the laws themselves seem to be the crime.  I can't imagine anyone, unless they have a death wish themselves, wanting to become a police officer.  They have to know and juggle so many laws while being diplomats, always in the view of the public with their cellphone cameras.  How many of us could survive that constant scrutiny?  Now they might be called upon to be psychologists or psychiatrists to be able to judge the person they're facing who doesn't really care.  Every criminal will be laughing at all of us, claiming a mental issue.  Heck, we're all a little crazy to put up with all this BS. 

We're hearing more and more from disenfranchised folks in the US and Canada saying that they want to get out.  They're confused, saddened and frustrated with the direction things are headed and the futility of it changing. 

We live outside the US for economic reasons.  We can afford to live our little life here on our social security.  We do return to the US once a year for medical reasons.  More and more as we're in the downward end of our lives, we're questioning whether to return to the US or remain in our peaceful, simple life here in the bush. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Trooper - AGAIN

Boy, this is really getting to be almost too much.  We keep the old Trooper as a backup vehicle and to have a car here, even when the truck is gone.  It's also part of Rene's pay that he can take it every-other weekend so they can do their errands and shopping.  He had to take his wife, Bonita to Melchor, Guat. to see the Dr. on Saturday.  He took the car to Benque and they walked across the border and took a taxi to the clinic.  I had a call from him that the clutch went out on the Trooper-AGAIN.  This could make this old girl (me) get even older really fast.  I quickly phoned Chindo and asked for his help.  He sent one of his fellows with me to get the car going.  I told him I could go by myself, but all I could do would be look at the darned thing, kick it and maybe swear.  Actually, I can't even swear as Rene is quite religious and I don't want to offend him.  We stopped in San Ignacio to get a clutch slave cylinder and then off we went to Benque. 

I digress here as we all get quite frustrated when we have to go to Benque as it is quite close to us here, but there isn't a road south of Bullet Tree that crosses the river.  We have to travel back east to San Ignacio and then back west on the Western Hiway to thru Succotz to Benque on the border.  The whole trip was probably 20 miles.  The mechanic bro't a large piece of cardboard, slid under the car and made the repair.  It didn't take much more than 15 minutes.  Bonita and I chatted while the fellows took charge of the repairs.  Once running again, I told Rene we'd follow him home to be sure that nothing else happened.  We left the Trooper at the shop as they discovered some missing bolts on the transmission.  They even delivered the car up to our place the next day.  It's such a blessing to me as Art no longer drives, so this car shuttling gets tricky.  Now for the good part.  I was gone from home a total of two hours, most of which I was accompanied by the mechanic and our labor bill was $30bz.  The cylinder was $70bz, so we got off exceedingly cheaply.  Thank goodness as I have to license the old thing this month too to the tune of $200bz for a year.  Here's hoping all the lights etc. work in case they inspect her. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Car repairs

I guess the powers that be got tired of hearing me whine about our transportation problems because we now have both cars sitting in our parking area, raring to go.  After a couple of false starts, the Trooper clutch seems to be cooperating.  Smooth!  After thinking he had a new valve body for the Tundra pickup, Chindo found another used one somewhere, and fixed it just for the price of the parts.  Sure can't complain about that.  We'd already dropped a chunk of change with him for the initial work on the transmission, so this sure made us happy.  After over a month of dinking around with not being able to trust the truck, it's great to have it back. 

I have to say that living here can be a challenge to our patience, but the other side of that coin is that we've also met lots of really nice people. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

I'm back with a new (to me) computer)

I've been so frustrated since my previous computer died.  This makes three in five years.  The humidity is a killer.  I was so fortunate that my dear friend, Diane, had an old Dell laptop that she wasn't using.  I had to have some work done on it, but was able to limp along.  I just checked an realize that I already regaled everyone with my computer issues.  Anyway, I'm now in possession of my slightly used Acer, which was carried down by another dear friend.  When you buy on eBay, from a pawn shop, I was worried I'd be disappointed.  I'm so excited that it's even better than I hoped.  The price was great and it's in terrific shape.  I just wish my signal was as good, but when you live on the fringes, you take what you can get. 

We're still struggling with car problems.  After spending a bunch on the Tundra transmission, it's worse than ever.  There's only one shop in Cayo that works on transmissions, and he's frustrated about getting the parts.  He now thinks it needs a "valve body".  He located a used one in Crooked Tree, which is north of Belize City and had it bro't down.  Wouldn't you know, it was for the smaller Tundra.  Pooh!  Now our truck is up on a hoist and it may never come down.  I was almost in tears when the clutch gave up at the same time on our old Trooper.  It now has a new main cylinder, but, it just locked up on me again.  Can you hear me screaming up there in the States?  I managed to get it back to the shop where they bled the brakes (???) put in more fluid and it's working for now.  I just had to attach a hanging bit on the bumper with a zip tie, but I'm not complaining about it's looks or dependability.  With 300k really hard miles on it, you have to love the poor old thing.  We're all getting old and worn, but we just keep trudging along. 

Bailey update.  For those who know and love our dear old dog, I want to let you know that he's made a huge improvement.  I was preparing myself to have to say goodbye to him, but he's responded even better than we expected to the treatments.  He's actually more like he was when he was a lot younger.  He's ragging on the pups, chasing his tail (what's left of it) and being much more active.  He's still losing dead hair, but I can tell it's because the new hair is coming in.  A month on an antibiotic, vitamin C and a daily dose of Cod Liver Oil seems to be the answer to his immune system failure.  Whatever, we're so thankful.  It's going to take a few months for him to have his beautiful coat back, but he's beautiful to us.  Blessings

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Missing family at Christmas

Coming from the Northwest, it's very strange to be in the tropics during the holidays.  I know our family thinks it's great that we're having sun and warm weather now, but for us it brings home the fact that we're not "home" for the holidays.  We have a wonderful card on the wall from my brother and sister-in-law of their dogs in the snow and I so wish I could be there to share the fun.  If we ever are able to go back we'll have to put coats on our Setters as their hair is thin and they crave the heat. 

In the States we've all moaned the fact that Christmas starts so early with decorations and music popping up on the heals of Thanksgiving.  It does seem to be overly commercial, but when you're away from it all you realize that you miss the color, the music and the joy of Christmas.  I miss having people wish a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays with a smile .  The small things like putting what you can in the Salvation Army container and seeing the kids so excited.  Here it's almost a non-event.  There are a few decorations around, but none of the warmth and joy of Christmas.  No one says "merry Christmas" or even felize navidad (?) ( I still don't speak Spanish).  

We are blessed with wonderful friends down here and will share in Christmas dinner with a large group.  We always have a good time and share terrific food when we get together. 

Of course, the main thing we miss so much is to be able to share hugs and the beauty of the holidays with our family.  Both our kids are having huge struggles and I wish we could give them our love in person and had the means to alleviate some of their trials.   Christmas isn't just about jingle bells and red ribbons, it's about love and goodwill and the story of Christmas.  I just wish the whole world had more of it in their hearts now and all year long.  Anyway,    MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR to anyone who happens to stumble upon my ramblings.      Blessings

Computer problems

It seems the only things I have to write about are problems and that's not really what Belize is all about.  It's beautiful here with wonderful people, but our reality right now is dealing with problems.  I haven't been posting for a couple of reasons.  First, I hate to be negative all the time, but the real reason is the computer.  In the 5+ years that we've lived here full-time, I've lost three laptops.  The first was a Dell, which I bo't especially to have here with it's 17" screen and lots of bells and whistles.  In less than a year it died and I got absolutely no help from Dell because I had the nerve to take it out of the US.  My wonderful cousin then shipped me a new ASUS.  I did get a couple of years out of that one, but it also failed.  Last May, when we went to Oregon I bo't a refurbished HP.  It gave up the first of November.  The humidity here is killer on electronics.  I cover the computer every night with a thick towel to try to help and have it on a tray for air circulation, but to no avail.  The problem with all of them is that if one part fails it takes the whole system with it.  The Dell had a design flaw with the webcam, but it was all necessary for the initializing process.  They all have one large circuit board inside, so the problem area can't be bypassed or replaced.  Pooh!

My dear friend, Diane, is in Florida right now, but she is letting me use an old Dell that has been in her closet for a bit.  It's so old it actually had Vista as an operating system.  I've had a lot of trouble with it too (maybe it's really just me).  It took it to Sergio, who has a place in San Ignacio and is terrific with computers.  He's the one who tried to resurrect my HP.  Besides being so slow and unable to connect, the keyboard went wonky and started typing on it's own.  Freaky!  He literally stripped it down, took off Vista and installed Windows 7 and disabled the keyboard.  I bo't a USB keyboard and am limping along.  I suspect my router is also giving up the ghost.  When I want to use the computer I plug it directly into the repeater.  When I want to use the Kindle, I plug in the repeater.  Go figure!  I'm definitely technologically challenged, but am making it work.

I'm really missing the DVD drive on the computer as our little stereo also quit working, so I can't play Christmas music.  There are definitely some disadvantages to living in the bush on limited funds.  

With all our car repairs and limited funds, I've been searching for a new computer.  Sergio suggested an ACER, as they're the only ones that seem to be effectively sealed against the humidity.  He hasn't had one in his repair shop for these problems.  I looked at Amazon and BestBuy and checked the reviews.  For every great review, I'd see someone saying that they got their new computer home and it didn't work, right out of the box.  Living in this tiny country, where it can take months to get something here, that wasn't very reassuring.  I ended up taking a huge chance.  I went on eBay and found exactly what I was looking for a about 1/3 of the price I would pay for a one new.  Actually this one has more storage and speed than I needed.  It's from a pawn shop in Detroit.  Scarey!  I ran it by Sergio and his comment was that they don't lend on a computer that doesn't work, so I put in my bid and won.  I had it sent to a friend in Colorado who is coming down in January.  She isn't any more adept at computers than I am, but she said she plugged it in and it connected to the internet just fine, so I'm crossing my fingers that in January, I'll be good to go again. 

I suspect that my problems aren't all the fault of the computer.  This repeater is less than reliable, so may have to reactivate the satellite and probably get a new router.  My internet connection is as important as food as I couldn't stand being so far away and not be able to connect with family and friends. 

Anyway, I'm delighted to be able to get and receive emails and even Skype with this old computer, so my holiday spirit is surviving.   Blessings and Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bailey's problem

Our poor, lovely old Akita, Bailey, is really suffering.  His hair is so thick with a very dense undercoat.  This has always worried us, but it seemed to serve as an insulation.  He's now either 11 or 12 years old, so is fairly old for such a large dog.  I think I mentioned in a previous post that he lost a patch of hair on his back, which I attributed to fleas.  We've fought that problem with all three dogs.  We finally got my order of Stronghold from the UK, which seems to have alleviated the flea problem for this month.  We had a vet out to our farm and after he took skin scrapings and had them analyzed, they determined that it's actually a fungus.  Not surprising as we've had a lot of rain periodically, followed by heat.  We're not alone in this fight, but that fact doesn't help our poor old guy.  The vet gave us medicine to make a spray, which helped the first spot, where the hair is regrowing, but his hair is now falling out in huge clumps and he has black patches on his usually pink skin.  I use a ferminator to strip out the dead hair and I fear that he'll soon be bald.  Actually the vet suggested that we shave him down, but we've had such cold nights that we don't want to as we're afraid he'll get too cold. 

Rene looked at Bailey when he was working and suggested we prepare a bath for him of Ix-canon (Red head polly).  It's a common plant here that grows in cleared areas.  I checked it out in "100 Rainforest Remedies" and they determined that it has antibacterial and antifungal properties.  I collected the leaves and tore them into little pieces, trying to crush as much as possible.  By adding water, it made a tea type bath.  We have a large, shallow watering trough that I bo't especially to bathe the dogs.  In the book they suggest you actually boil it for tea, but we needed too much, so he told me to make it a day ahead and then pour it over Bailey, and even leave some of the leaf material on the sore spots.  Mayan medicine often uses the term "one-in-one-out" meaning every other day, so that is what I'm trying to do.  This seems to give him the most relief.  The vet, Eduardo, is local and he agreed that the Ix-canon is a good remedy. 

The vet now feels that Bailey's immune system is shutting down as his body seems to almost be shooting the hair off.  We're supplementing his food with vitamin C and cod liver oil and he's been given antibiotic shots.  Today he actually seems to have lots more energy, but he's starting to look old.  Our poor daughter just had to have her beloved dog, Shadow, put down and we fear that if Bailey can't fight this off, we'll have to follow suite.  This is a really tough climate for dogs, but especially for double coated dogs.  I hope after the holidays we'll have good news to report as we're sure not giving up on our wonderful friend and family member.  Blessings and keep your fingers crossed. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Life in the tropics

In so many ways, Belize is paradise.  Right now, it's sunny, but relatively cool.  At night we sometimes have to add a light blanket to ward off the cold.  During the day it usually hovers around 80 F.  We could actually use some rain, but we're not complaining.  The big down side here is the humidity.  We have a couple of issues that are causing us concern.

We're fighting an almost impossible battle with fleas.  We had a few tiny showers and now sunshine and high humidity make dogs a petrie dish for fleas.  Everyone we talk to is dealing with the same battle and no one, including the vets, has an answer.  We've tried everything from Frontline to Revolution and several in between, with negligible results.  I've ordered Stronghold from the UK, which is Revolution over there.  It's been two months since I ordered and the shipping is delayed so still not here.  SCREAM!  I'm spraying the dogs with Adams, giving them flea baths and we're spraying the yard.  All we can do is repeat every few days and hope we finally give them some relief.  Poor Bailey, of course, is the worst.  I was brushing him to try to pull out some of the undercoat, when a huge patch of hair started pulling lose from his back.  It turned out to be a flea nest.  He's literally covered with fleas.  It's a wonder he hasn't gone crazy, poor old dear.  Being an 11 year old Akita in Belize, isn't easy.  

An additional frustrating problem for us right now is repairs on everything.  A few days ago we had one of those days you hope doesn't come along very often.  The transmission went out in the truck, the cross or u-joint went out in the Trooper, our big weedeater had an issue and the word is that my computer is trash.  I handled this depressing news by getting most of my hair cut off and Art and I went to lunch to talk about how to handle all of this.  All we can do is to trudge ahead and hope for the best.  The good thing is that, here in Belize, car repairs are handled quickly and MUCH cheaper than in the U.S.  Perfecto only charged $40bz to change the u-joint and then we need all new bushings in the back.  Each shop here specializes in certain repairs so the truck is in a different shop.  I know the news won't be as generous there.  We keep the old Trooper as backup, but hard when they die at the same time.  Anyway, we're handling things and not letting them get us down.  I find that using my KIndle for email is really SLOW, but I'm grateful that I have it.  To replace the clutches in the transmission and repairing a motor in the 4x4 cost $2k bz.  Ouch!  We can blame these car problems, mostly on the horrible roads.  There is a small light in the rough road tunnel, in that the government finally sent a grader and roller to smooth out some of the holes in Paslow Falls Rd.,  We're still waiting for the truckloads of gravel that were promised, but we imagine it will be several years before they appear.  Promises here are liket the wind, made and blown away.  

My computer is another problem.  The screen died and I was told that it can't be replaced as it's imbedded in the whole machine.  They heated the chip (?) and it worked for a couple of days and then quit again.  This time I was told it's a lost cause.  The humidity did it again.  Well darn.  This is my third computer in 5 years.  A Dell (never again), an ASUS, and now an HP.  I got to thinking about the humidity issue and decided I had nothing to lose, so set the laptop upside down on the railing, in the sun.  When I picked it up a few hours later, it was almost hot enough to burn my hands.  Voile!  It worked.  I've had to do it a couple of times with mixed results.  I also put it under a bed pillow at night to keep it from absorbing more moisture.  We don't really have windows, just screens, so we have no control over the humidity.  This isn't a problem for us, just for electronics.  Time will tell how much continued success I'll have with my solution, but for today, it's working.  

I guess wherever you are there are good things and bad.  We would like to be able to sell and return to the US for medical reasons and to spend time with family, but that doesn't seem to be on our horizon.  We'll just sit on our veranda and watch the birds, listen to the howler monkeys and thank the Lord that we're both still able to function.  Blessings.