Thursday, September 30, 2010

What else? More rain

This may sound boring, but is the reality that we deal with here in the jungle. We've just experienced about a week of almost steady rain. We'd get a little letup, which would make me excited that we could finally get something done and then it would start up again. The gods of thunder were sure working overtime. We could tell that Guatemala was getting more than it's share of rain, which for us, means that the Mopan River would overflow. The road from Bullet Tree Village towards our place is Paslow Falls Rd. It's about 2 miles to where we turn up the hill. About half way there's a spot where the river is right beside the road. Monday it spilled over for a while. With all this rain, we hesitate driving down our road as it's muddy and slippery, so I walked down the hill and back to the spot where the road floods. By the time I got there, I was really sweaty and tired and the river had receded, so no flood. So much for photos of our dilemma.

We just had a few light showers last evening and this am we woke up to sunshine. Wanted to give the road a chance to firm up a little and then were going to head down to visit some friends and do a little shopping. Just about ready to leave when it DUMPED rain again. We're up on top of a hill, so the flooding doesn't affect us except for our ability to drive up our hill. Frustrating, but not a threat to our place. I just have a severe case of cabin fever. It's only been three days, but there's something about knowing that you CAN'T go down, that makes me obsess about wanting to go down.

An aside to all this is that we can practically watch the vegetation grow. We're going to have to beat it back again. The weedeater and Rene's machete are going to be very busy.

These photos don't begin to show the power of our flooding river, but they're the best my limited photo prowess can produce. The photo of the road with puddles is where about 4 hours earlier, the water was up to your knees. This was confirmed by our neighbor who had to keep her little boy home from school because they couldn't get to the village.

The photo of a track up the hill is exactly that. It's about 1/4 of a mile of mud, up the hill to our place.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Apple bananas - Yum

Yes they're called apple bananas by the local folks. I'm sure they have an official name, but who cares. All I know is that they're 100 times better than any banana that you'll find in a US grocery store. They're only about 4" long with a slightly tart taste. After you've tried these, all other bananas are just sweet, with little real flavor.

About three years ago, Rene bro't us a few plants and put them behind the house and fairly near the road. He told me that that was the best soil for them. We now have robust plants and more bananas than we can possibly eat.

These photos show a new bunch starting from the bloom, which is that strange long purple thing. You can see the bunch starting above it. I'm sure that most folks know that bananas grow "up" as you can see in the closeup of a bunch. In the photo of the plants themselves you might be able to see three bunches, very close to cutting. Then you see the bunch sitting on our veranda. Rene cut it about four days ago and they were all very green. They actually turned yellow yesterday. Yes, it happens that fast. Once they turn, they ripen really fast. Because these are so yummy and small, we each eat about three each time, but you do get a little tired of them after about three days of eating as many as you can. By then they're starting to approach overripe and you have to fight off the bugs. I suspect that most of the ones ripening now (there are 8 bunches right now) will go to friends, altho' most folks have their own.

An interesting thing about these plants is that they're much like raspberries. The fruit grows on an old stalk. The stalks look a lot like a tree, but they're not. One bunch grows on each stalk, so they cut the stalk off at about 4'to collect the bunch. The plants are constantly putting out new shoots which will then grow more fruit. You can also dig up the small new shoots and transplant for more bananas (which you'll have to try to give away).

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Woke up this am to Bailey's frantic barking. Could tell it was a dog or something in the yard. He rarely barks, so always means something. We've had to encourage him to bark at folks coming up the road. Don't want them to realize that he's actually a sweetheart. But at 120# he's intimidating until you know him. Anyway, this am it was a darned horse wandering thru my devastated garden. We finally have our whole perimeter fenced with the driveway the only entrance. Of course the poor thing found that. The horses here are very sad. Most folks can't afford supplemental feed and probably wouldn't care anyway. Animals subsist solely on the grass. Most of the horses owned by the local people have bad backs and are skin and bones. They ride or pack them anyway. This horse was an older, rangy. bay that has been wandering the area for a few days. I almost think someone just let it loose in the hopes that it would be taken in by someone else. Horses and dogs are only kept here for their usefulness. Most don't seem to acknowledge the companionship and love you get back from these loving creatures.

Anyway, we made an effort to catch the horse, but he wouldn't let us anywhere near, so we guided him to the gateway and off he went down the hill. I would love to have a horse or two again, but not ready to take on the added expense and responsibility. I hate it that age is guiding me to eliminate some experiences in my life, but have to be practical once in a while. Bailey's probably as close as we'll get to a horse in our lives. He's almost as big as some of the miniature horses we used to own, but his manners are much better and he's easier to take in the car. LOL!


I love comments. So much fun to exchange ideas and to know that there are folks out there interested in our little piece of the world.

Batfish just shared the idea of supplementing our solar with wind. Right now seems like a good idea as it's been heavy overcast for three days, lots of rain and very little solar collection. Thank goodness for the generator. A neat side affect of the wind is that it's pruning the dead cohune fronds and other branches. We'll have tidying up to do when this settles down, but so glad for the pruning help.

Anyway, we've tho't about wind power, but right now we don't have the funds for any more improvements. If we did we'd probably start by putting up at least two more 165 watt solar panels. Even tho' we are on a hill, we monitored the wind and it's very sporadic so not sure if it would warrant the investment. A couple of gallons of gas and we're charged back up, so doing fine, as long as things don't break!

I have read about so many innovations they're making with solar and wind. A friend told us about an article he read about a small turbine wind generator that was very cheap. Maybe something like that will be in our future.

Right now my name has more than one meaning (or maybe it's all the same. lol)

Love to all, Gale

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rain - again!

This probably seems like a repetitious subject, but right now, it's what's on our minds. Tropical storm Lisa is showing off by dumping heavy and nearly constant rain on little Belize and much of Central America. It's ugly to check out the satellite photos and see that huge orange weather system heading right for us.

I've lived in the northwest most of my life, so am used to rain, but this is totally different. It can be calm and then you can hear the rain coming, sounding like a freight train in the distance, heading right for you. Then boom, it's dumping. Yesterday it was clouding with periodic rain, all day, so our solar intake was minimal. We had to run the generator for nearly 2 hours last evening and expect to do the same until this weather lets up. The forecast is for this to continue until next Tuesday. Ick! Cisterns overflowing and laundry piling up.

Actually, the laundry is piling up because my Belize washing machine (made in China) which is only about 9 mos. old, gave up the ghost. We tried to get it fixed in Spanish Lookout, where we bo't it, but problem beyond their capabilities. After three trips back and forth, we went to San Ignacio yesterday and bo't a new Dae Woo yesterday. Can you believe that a South Korean brand is top of the line here. I just want clean clothes.

Can't really blame all our troubles on living in Belize. My Dell computer has met the same fate as my washing machine. I should probably write a whole posting on that mess. Anyway, between Best Buy and Dell, my computer died at 9 mos. and there's not help there for us. The SOB's finally won and I've given up!

Anyway, dear whoever's out there, all is not gloom and doom. This icky weather is making me face spare time and I'm tired of reading the same books over again, so will try to do some sketching. My cup is still half full (but with this rain it's going to be running over and down the hill).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Laundry, weather & crime

We've gone from about a three week dry spell to rain. Tropical storm Karl went by giving us some precipitation. With a few exceptions, that's what usually happens when storms or hurricanes head up the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. Belize is in what they call here a "bight". That's a bay or inlet. When you look on a map you can see that Honduras sticks out below us and the Yucatan is protruding north of us. Corozol in the north of Belize did get more rain and winds at about 40mph, but here in Cayo we just got some rain. So far, it's been a pretty gentle year, but it's not over until the end of November. Hope our luck holds.

My frustration is that my washing machine was broken and we just got it back. Laundry piled up and it's raining. Tough on my solar dryer! Since it's so cloudy, we'll probably run the generator and then I have a couple of lines on the veranda where I can hope things will eventually dry.

Also, have to run to town today to run errands as this is the big holiday weekend. Independence day. I would have done more shopping yesterday, but most shops closed as a statement about crime. Last Sunday there were four murders in Belize City, one of which was a little 8 year old girl who was asleep in her bed. Someone shot at the house and killed her. The other three sound like random killings of men. The business community is banding together with their quiet protest by closing their shops. This form of protest was started by the Chinese shop owners as they have been targets in Belize City. It's sad how often the shops are closed. Sure brings it home to all of us who don't keep up on the news.

It makes me cry to hear about how much hate and ugliness there is in the world. I don't like to include this here, but these are the realities that we all have to face wherever we are.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ferry to Spanish Lookout

We've lived in Oregon and Washington most of our lives and have taken lots of ferries. The Washington State Ferry system is wonderful. Beautiful big car ferries in the Sound that take 50 or more cars and of course the scenery is spectacular.

Of course, little Belize doesn't have the money or need for large ferries, but my first views of a Belize ferry had me uncertain if I'd complete my journey on the bottom of the river. So far I've been on three very similar ferries. The first was near Orange Walk, there's one going to Xunantunich and the one we use the most, going to Spanish Lookout.

We have three options to get to Spanish Lookout from Bullet Tree. The direct way thru Santa Familia and Billy White is absolutely awful most of the time. Talk about rough road. It's actually best when it's wet as it's less harsh. We don't drive it much over 15 mph. The long way is east on the western highway almost to Belmopan where there is a new bridge over the Belize River. This road is paved and well maintained by the Mennonites. It's about 30 miles from our home, but takes about the same amount of time as the direct way because we can travel at normal speeds. The way we take the most often, when it's an option, is to take the ferry from near Central Farm. This way has a short span of rough road (almost every road in Belize is rough), but is fairly direct.

The ferry is open at the whims of the Belize River. If the water is too high or the wind is too strong, the ferry ties up. Driving in Belize is so much a matter of faith. You look at a bad road or a wooden bridge or a ferry, most of which are literally falling apart, and have to say to yourself, "Those folks made it across, so I guess it will handle us." Faith! The ramps onto the ferry take a beating and are not repaired until they are ready to fall off. It holds three cars at a time. It can be a little scary when all the vehicles are pickups. I've been the last one on and had to have the backend of the truck half on the ramp. My fear can almost put me in tears, but, hey, I'm a grownup. I moved to Belize! I can handle this! After about 100 trips, I no longer panic, just trudge forth like I had good sense. You come to the realization that they don't have much faith in the safety either as passenger's must walk on to the ferry with only the driver in the vehicle. I guess that's so that only one will go down with the car????

The ferries are powered by cables stretched across the river with a fellow turning a crank. Backwards and forward, all day long. There isn't a toll, so imagine that they're paid by the government. Can you imagine turning that darned crank for hours on end? I'm always happy to drive off and get on to S.L. to take care of business.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Labor Day just past in the US. It seems weird that our holidays slip by unnoticed down here, but of course, why should they?

September is a crazy month in Belize. Fewer tourists, but lots of festivities. The red, white and blue of the Belize flag is everywhere. This is a month to celebrate independence in a big way. The first holiday is St. George's Caye Day which celebrates the battle of St. George's Caye in 1798. The British defeated the Spanish which led to the creation of British Honduras. A tiny English speaking foothold, surrounded by the Spanish. For 212 years this has been the big celebration, countrywide.

Since 1981 when they became Independent and British Honduras became Belize, September 21st is the second huge celebration. Everyone breaks loose and enjoys parades, fireworks and fun.

We'll try to stay out of the craziness up here on our hill, but have to head to town today to be sure that we're stocked up for the weekend as lots of places will be closed.

Happy holiday Belize!

Monday, September 6, 2010


Art & I were sitting on the swing on our back veranda, enjoying an early cup of coffee, when he found an ant under his shirt. OK, we've been living here a year so we don't freak out about a little ant. A couple of minutes later Art yelled, "Oh my gosh" and I looked up to see the deck alive with MILLIONS of black ants. They were all moving in one direction towards where we were sitting. Ick, ick! It hadn't been more than 15 minutes since I'd swept the veranda. I dashed in the house to get bug spray and started attacking the moving horde. Art took a can and headed under the house. If you've read much of my blog you know that we built a single wall, wooden house on concrete pillars. Ants were marching up the pillars by the thousands. We hollered for Rene, who was working just below the house, for his help. He's so calm and cool. At first he tho't they were wee wee ants, which eat the plants down to nothing, but after he watched them he realized that they were Army ants, also known as Cleaner ants. We were going thru cans of bug spray like crazy when Rene said it was much cheaper and easier to mix up a batch of Dersban and spray the whole underneath of the house.

We really appreciate Rene as he's basically a pacifist. Unlike most Belizeans, he believes in leaving things alone that aren't doing any harm. When Art was walking Bailey, earlier, he had seen some ants crossing the road. We now know that if we'd taken action we could have prevented them from coming into the house, but we didn't know it then. Anyway, Art & Rene tracked them back up to the road and Rene ceased spraying. The ants were turning back into the bush.

Rene told us that the colonies get large and a second queen will develop and then there'll be a war. One queen will leave, taking her followers with her to form a new colony. They can travel for several miles looking for a new home. He told Art to stop and watch and in the long line of ants came a large, black ant will yellowish wings. We were glad that we hadn't killed the queen.

If we had known more, we could have gotten ahead of this army of ants and put down a white rope and directed the ants around the house without having to kill them, but once they were up on the house we had to fight back.

Rene had already told us stories about the Army, or cleaner ants, but I still couldn't deal with them in my house. If they get in, many Belizeans will just move out for a day and let the ants go thru their house. These ants kill all other bugs and literally clean the house. Again, Ick, ick! When I was under the house, I did see a scorpion racing madly to get away. I didn't give it a chance. I sprayed it and squashed it!!! I really hate scorpions.

We are learning so much, but have so much more to learn. Rene just chuckles and reminds us that this is the jungle. That means bugs.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Our QRP status

QRP means Qualified Retired Persons. This is an act that allows persons over 45 to stay in Belize IF you pay a sizable fee and bring $24K US into the country every year. Yikes! It's administrated by the Belize Tourist Bureau, so is separate from any other government program. Well, we came in with high hopes, but being the frugal, stretch every dollar to it's maximum folks, we didn't play the game the way they dictated. If you bring funds in directly to a bank, they charge fees and just give $2/1 where other sources will give $2.05/1. Of course, I wanted that extra as this was money to continue building our house, so we bro't in the necessary funds over the course of the year, but not to the bank and in erratic bunches. That didn't make the BTB happy so we got an email that we would have to opt out of the program and stay as regular tourists, working towards Residency. Not great as we would have to jump thru lots of hoops, including leaving the country and coming back in and then travel to Belmopan each month, pay a fee to get a stamp to allow to stay for another month.

I was momentarily frustrated, both with myself and with the program until I realized that the U.S. makes it way more difficult for foreigners to stay. I slapped myself alongside the head and stated our case to the BTB. Romy answered in a couple of days that she had gotten approval from her superiors to allow us to stay another year under the QRP. What great news since we've already paid all the fees and under the program we don't have to keep going to Belmopan each month. We had to go to Belize City to visit the BTB, taking any documentation we had. This has been the kicker all along. I'm deathly afraid of going to Belize City. It has an extremely high crime rate, especially murder and we don't know our way around. Once again, slapped myself, pulled up my socks and acted like a grownup. We had nerve enough to drive thru Mexico (with a guide) and move to Belize, so get going and drive to B.C. We gassed up and made the trip on Thursday. It actually turned out to be quite easy, altho' we did get lost coming back. {The easy part is that it's surrounded by water on the better part of 3 sides, so we just kept heading away from the water. Voile, we made it}. Poor Romy, we really posed problems for her because we also hadn't gotten our cards, so were really starting from scratch. She was lovely tho'. After an eye roll or two, she agreed that we could continue with the program and that everything from here on could be handled by a mail service. To this coward, that was music to my ears.

I'm writing this as a memory for myself of this stage of our adventure, and, if anyone wants to take a chance on this program, we found that the BTB can be understanding and extremely courteous.

Since everything went so well, we stopped off at Cheers Restaurant for a great lunch and then toddled our way back to Cayo with one more problem off my extensive worry list. I know, I'm supposed to be retired, which translates to not so many worries, but hasn't worked for me. My worry gene is still functioning at full capacity.