Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa in Belize

It’s difficult to get my head around the fact that we are actually spending Christmas away from family and friends, in Belize! Luckily, we have some new friends to lessen the loneliness. Coming from the mountains of central Oregon, where already this winter the temperature has dropped to -20, to Central America where today’s temp hit 90, is taking some adjustment. Of course, getting away from the snow was one of the incentives for making the move. Art is pleased that he’s traded a snow blower for a rototiller. That’s another wonderful difference. It’s Christmas and we’re actually planting a garden. There are two growing seasons here. In Bend, it seemed a joke when they told us that we had a one month growing season. We found it to actually be the truth. We could have a nightly freeze almost any time of the year, leaving only August. Here in Belize cold is 50 degrees. It actually feels very cold at that temp, but the plants seem to love it. The lack of cold weather will keep us from growing many of the veggies that we’re used to, but we’ll adapt. At this point tho’ we can’t see ourselves living on hard corn and beans, which are what most folks are planting. I’m hoping for lettuce, onions & sweet corn.
A week ago I planted a border of zineas and some sunflowers and they’re up already. Wow! How rewarding is that. We had a dumping rain and they actually loved it. The trick to most of this will be to keep the bugs and birds at bay. Hoping the mylar tape will scare the birds and send them to other farms. Projects, projects, projects!
We’ve been invited to have Christmas dinner with some wonderful new friends, the Robersons. Just a small group of 40 for a sit-down dinner and then more folks for dessert. How lovely to be included. I’ve just finished baking two apple pies as our contribution. Beth was excited when I suggested them. I had seen apples in the market and found that they appear to be Granny Smith’s, but when I asked the lady in the stall what they were, she said “Mexican”. So much decent produce seems to come from there. The local produce is pretty scrappy. I hope ours will be better. We’re going to attempt to be as “organic” as possible.

What does Santa do when he makes the decision to move to the tropics. He brings down his suit and visits the kids, of course. Art has had a wonderful time bringing Santa to so many of the children in the area. For those of you not familiar with my wonderful husband, he has been a professional mall Santa for 9 years. This year he decided to forego the grueling 6 weeks and just visit the local kids here in Cayo.
He started at a party for the Anglican School in San Ignacio, which has a large population of AIDS affected children. The party was held at a club called Hodies where he saw about 100 children. Two days later he visited the Catholic school in Bullet Tree with 350 students. What a surprise at the size. We almost didn’t agree to going to the RC school because the principal kept asking “what will Santa be bringing for all the kids?” Of course, we all know that ALL gringos are wealthy. Ha! I made the initial visit to the school so that Santa wouldn’t be seen wandering in regular clothes. We agreed that we just didn’t have the funds to bring bags of goodies for 350 kids. One of the teachers phoned and begged him to visit. We did agree to buy some little sweets. As it turned out, most of the teachers had candy for him to hand out. The other school in the village is Adventist.
Last Saturday, our friend, Bill, who owns a little restaurant called “Mom’s” held a free party for kids. He furnished hot dogs and juice, a bag of fruit and a present for each child. About 45 folks donated gifts to the cause, but sweet Bill footed the rest from his own pocket. He doesn’t have a family and was so pleased to be able to do this for the children. In four hours, Santa (Art) saw over 600 children. Most were the local kids who had never seen Santa. They were in awe and so excited. When we got there at 2pm they were already lining up. Some of them waited in line for4 hours, just for the chance to touch Santa. Art was frustrated that he didn’t have the time to actually visit with them, but the crush of little ones dictated that he move them thru rapidly. A wonderful photographer, also named Art, took photos. All-in-all it was a fantastic day. Everyone was exhausted, but exhilarated to have had the opportunity to make a special day for the kids.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


This is in answer to a question asked by several folks. We brought down 8 Concorde 6v AGM batteries (they're sealed, don't put out a gas so venting is not required and they can be shipped without a hazardous permit), 6 Solarworld 175 watt solar panels and all the stuff that goes with the system. This system cost us $13k US in March, 09. We also brought down a Sundanzer frig and Sundanzer freezer, Grundfos pump for the cistern and 7 DC ceiling fans. Of course, on top of that was shipping. We are extremely conservative with our consumption, but we couldn't be more thrilled with our system's performance. We're still going thru some adjustments, such as getting our marginally powered generator reconfigured to work as a backup. It's surprising tho' that we have been able to find folks who can help us get this all working.

This photo is showing our little setup, which is located in the bodega, just inside the door. We did have vent blocks installed at the top of the bodega walls to provide air flow.
My suggestion to anyone contemplating doing this is, buy as much wire, as many breakers (DC breakers are IMPOSSIBLE to find here) and any other bits and pieces you might need, in the US. Shopping here can be very frustrating and solar is still a new thing here. Lots of things not available and they can't answer many of your questions.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interior in transition

Hope you'll all be impressed by our fancy house. Actually, for us, it's perfect. We made a choice to not finish the inside of the exterior walls. To us, that would just become a haven for bugs and little critters. We don't have glass windows like we would have in the States and we don't like the louvered glass windows so popular in Belize. We opted instead to have double screened openings with wood shutters which we only close when we'll be gone for a prolonged period of time. The screens the boys built are definitely not elegant and have proven to be quite bulky, but we like them anyway, at least for now. Even when the wind is blowing and the rain is pouring down, we remain dry inside and appreciate the free flow of air. The shutters give us a modicum of security when in use and were cheaper and better looking than the metal bars so much in use in town.

At this point, we don't have kitchen cupboards and we're still looking for wood to finish the wall between the livingroom and bedroom. We're getting there slowly.

A special thing for us was hanging the rug above the computer table. We purchased it on our way down at the Hubbell Trading Post in Arizona.


As you can see, we still have lots to do. We don't have places for everything yet, so stuff piled around. Oh well!

We're getting terrific results from our solar. It's now dropped down to about 17 degrees, which we've been told is the direction for Belize. Not sure if we'll have to change it in the summer months. The photo looking up at the house was taken from the cistern. We still haven't spent any time trying to get the little Kabota tractor running. That's for another day.

The guest house is a work in progress. The last two days we've spent putting boards up on the wall between the two rooms. We debated about leaving a door between the rooms, but decided that folks will just have to go out one door and in another. I'm sure whichever way we decided at some point we'll wish we'd done the other. Such is life!

When I find them, I'll post a photo of our solar setup.