Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A good day!

I've been somewhat stressed lately. Part of why we decided to move to Belize was to, finally, relax and enjoy being retired. It's not very original, but all I've have felt is "tired". I do love the physical work and am so happy with what we're creating here, but stress still finds it's way into our lives.

Our lovely, new Sundanzer freezer died a painful death and to order the parts in Belize was absolutely ASTRONOMICAL. I contacted Sundanzer in the US and, bless them, after I gave them a report on how it acted and what happened, they agreed to send a new compressor and all the extra parts as a warrantee replacement. They shipped at an absolutely astronomical expense to them. Wonderful, but then, in jumps Belize customs. Even tho' we'd paid duty on the initial shipment and have since been accepted under the QRP (don't ask) they wanted duty on the part and the shipping costs and then they charge GST (sales tax) on the duty. SCREAM! Isn't that a tax on a tax? These things find you no matter what country you live in. Anyway, after days of wrangling, we hired a customs broker and he arranged to pay the duty and bro't the package to San Ignacio. Voile! His fee was about what the gas to make the trip would have cost and it saved my sanity. Next step will be to get Mr. Padilla up here to install the parts. Then we can retrieve our food from our friends freezer and HAVE ICE CUBES! That's what a freezer is all about down here.

Today we put the final boards on our wall. This should have been fairly easy, but after all, this is Belize where nothing turns out to be easy. The wall isn't perfect, but it's up. Tomorrow I'll put a coat of verithane on it and move on!

Also, yesterday we put up our first upper cabinet in our "kitchen". What a coup for us. I'll take a photo when we get the next cabinet finished.

The best part of the day tho' was a phone call from my brother and sister-in-law. My brother had surgery yesterday and is home today and doing great. I only tell this part because it's the most difficult part of living so far away. Even the small things grow to gigantic proportions when you're far from those you love. Thank goodness for cell phones and internet.

This old girl is tired so I'll close for now, but I'm heading to bed with a smile as it's been a good day!

Sunday, January 24, 2010


I've had a question about my "garden" and is it too hot for the onions. Actually, this is all a great experiment for me. I tho't that the Walla Walla onions would do great here because it's also quite hot in the summer in eastern Washington (that's Walla Walla country to you in other parts of the world). We used to live near there and it can get really hot, so not sure about that part. I do know tho' that most of the seeds we bro't down aren't germinating. I bo't most from a southern seed company, hoping that would be more acceptable to the seeds. I talk to them, lately I've been telling them that I'm disappointed in them. We have long chats, but to no avail. This was mostly a test of our recently cleared, virgin soil. I guess the test results are that we need to do more than Miracle Grow. I'm not giving up on this planting yet, but am looking to buy some chicken fertilizer and some special mulch sold by the Belize Botanic Garden. Maybe we'll get improved results. This is all taking me back to my childhood when I'd help my beloved Grandmother with her garden. It was small but prolific. I think most of it was because she was such a wonderful, gentle soul that plants just wanted to please her. She would hum or gently whistle hymns as she worked. It's been so awfully many years ago, but I still miss her so much. She probably wouldn't understand Belize, but she would understand my garden.

During the heat of the day, we're using the verandas as a work space to try to knock out a couple of upper cabinets for our kitchen. This would sound easy in the US, but here it's much harder. First, we're lamenting that our table saw is sitting in the garage in the US and we're using hand tools. We're definitely not carpenters, so this is challenge number one.

Challenge number two is the lumber. We can buy plywood here, but in the states it would be garbage. It's all blows and really ugly. No such thing as a nice finish. Thus, we're using what should be preferable. That's a hardwood called Santa Maria. It's somewhat reddish, similar to mahogany. We bo't it rough cut (& I do mean rough) and then took it to be planed. Now struggling to figure out how to build with narrower pieces, which are quite heavy, and be able to hang it on the wall and not fall apart or fall off. I know this sounds ridiculous, but as I said, we're not carpenters. Bumbling along, we'll make it work somehow.

The other challenge is that Art is left handed and I'm right handed. That's why, over many years of wedded bliss, we usually don't work on the same project at the same time. We do everything the opposite from each other. It's a wonder that we don't kill each other, either by turning the opposite way with a board, or just out of general principles. When finished I'll post a photo, but we're concerned that the house is going to sink when we finally hang these things up. It will be wonderful tho' to have a place for dishes and glasses. Hard to imagine being a little more organized.

I have lots more to share, but will save for another time. It's hot sitting here and those cabinets are beckoning. Ich! Gale

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another day in paradise

I can't say that anything very exciting has been happening here. Just grinding along, trying to finish some projects around the place. My garden project isn't going very well, but I'm not one to give up that easily. Might have some peas, altho' they're not very happy with the current hot spell, some beans, green that is, and garlic. Frustrated that my Walla Walla onions are pouting about coming south and aren't showing up. Was hoping to show what wonderful produce we grow up north, but not to be.

After a couple of weeks of cold weather, it's turned quite hot. Been about 90 F afternoons. Sure different than what's happening in the U.S. We're managing fine, but our sweet Bailey would much prefer the cold. We did finally get all our veranda's screened and a gate put up so that he can be loose there. Wish he could go out with us in the yard, but he wanders and could run into a snake or spider. Also, everyone here is afraid of him, but would like to own him as a watchdog.

We had a delightful surprise today, when a friend, whom I'd only met on the Belize Forum, dropped in with his wife, They were on a couple of wonderful 4-wheelers, which they'd just bro't in and were out exploring. They just happened to find our road and recognized Art (aka Santa) from this blog. How incredible. We have a lovely, but short visit. Hope to meet Bart & Nicolle again soon.

Oh, have to report on our Toyota. Incredible as it sounds, Beto did a fantastic job and she looks almost like new. We're always surprised at how many very capable and interesting people we keep meeting here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Our poor truck

We've grown to love our Toyota Tundra pickup. It's a 2000, but was in lovely shape. It was our comfortable home for 5000 miles and a month on our way from Oregon to Belize and has been a true helpmate with many of our projects. I'm setting this up to sound much worse than it is, but as you might guess, she's not as pretty any more.
In San Ignacio, the streets are quite narrow so most are one-way. To make parking fairer to the merchants, they have a unique solution. The first thru the 15th you park on the right side of the street. The 16th thru the end of the month, you park on the left. OK, on with the story. The end of November I was driving on Burns Avenue (the main street) and a taxi was parked on the left or wrong side of the street. His passenger opened her door just as I was driving by and wham, her door mashed in the front fender and continue to dent and scratch the full length of the truck. We ended up spending most of the day in the police station and insurance company office. What a pain. Things move very slowly here. Luckily, the driver admitted that the taxi was at fault, and we were not responsible. That seemed pretty straight forward, but turns out that everyone groaned when we told them which insurance company was liable because they're the worst. We found a "body shop" and had to pay for a repair quote. I put it in quotes because you'd never believe that they could repair anything. Most have junk sitting around and do their work right out in the open. Anyway, we got the quote and took it to the insurance co. Because of the amount, we were told that someone would have to come from Belize City in three weeks to do his own appraisal. That would make it Christmas! Frustrating. After Christmas Art checked with their office and was told that the person had decided it wasn't necessary to make the trip and that they were just sending a check. Voille! Art took this on as his task and relentlessly visited their office, looking for the check. Supposedly, the check was sent a couple of times, but got lost. Finally, after 2 weeks, we got a call that it was here. Patience is the only way to survive in Belize. Our tough little truck had joined the ranks of "Belize trucks", but we prefer her to stay as nice as possible, for as long as possible. Anyway, she's now in the hands of "Bado", who has what he calls a body shop ??? and he swears he can make her "better than new". Crossing our fingers. Thank goodness for our trusty old Trooper, who just keeps rattling along, to help us navigate our hill while the truck is gone.


Ok, we’ve moved to the tropics, right? It can get really hot and, of course, humid. Actually, the humidity hasn’t really gotten to us. It’s now winter in the States. In Oregon, where we still have a house, it’s been down to -23 F. Now that’s cold! Most of the States are having extremely cold weather this January. I’ve even heard that Mexico, El Salvadore and Nicaragua have had a little snow. It’s never happened before. Well, little Belize has been spared the snow, but it has been really cold. Now you’ll laugh when I tell you that it’s been down to 40, but until you’ve experienced that temp in the tropics, you can’t imagine how cold that is. For one thing, we don’t have windows, just screens. We do have shutters for strong winds and security when we’re gone. Well, we’ve been closing the shutters and doing anything we can to keep it warm. Of course, there’s no such thing as heating down here because it’s never been needed. The other problem is that most visitors, including ourselves, at first, bring down tank tops, light pants & sandals. When we made the move, we made sure to include warm jackets, sweatshirts and lots of blankets. This cold won’t last for a long time, but it’s really making an impression on everyone. The local folks tell us that this is the coldest they can remember. The difference is, that no one here is really prepared for the cold. Up north we have snuggly clothes, down quilts and a lovely stove or fireplace to back up to. Here, we just wrap up in a blanket and complain.
I also think I made a Gringo mistake by planting my garden now. Most folks had theirs in already. Hey, I have to give it a try. Not sure if it’s the cold or the seed we bro’t down, but not have a resounding success. I’m not giving up, just not patting myself on the back that we’ll be able to survive on the produce. Thank goodness for the market!

Yesterday I traveled to Ladyville to pick up our wonderful friend, Jane Beard, from the airport. She'd been in England for 3 weeks visiting her son and her gorgeous new grandson, Finn. She
told me that Great Britain was struggling under the worst snow and cold in 30 years. She had a series of awful flights to get here. From uncomfortable seating companions, to freezing cold with no blankets, to a 12 hr layover in Houston. What kept her spirits up was the tho't of finally being warm when she reached Belize. You can imagine her disappointment when she reach the door of the plane, took a deep breath and found it was horribly cold. Poor Jane & poor Belize. This is the first time I've had to turn the heat on in a car here.

The one who is truly enjoying this cold is Bailey. (If you haven't read my whole blog you may not know that Bailey is a 110# Akita, who came down here with us). He's actually wooled up a little, again and is feeling young and mischievous again.

We're keeping busy, building walls and keeping an eye on the solar. So far, all is well!