Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lazy days of summer

Here in Belize that phrase has a different meaning for me than it did up in Oregon. Up there it seemed that the weather is still warm, but the nights are getting a little cooler and you should just sit back and enjoy the slow, winding down. Here, it's just too hot to do much else. I feel guilty as lots of the local folks (Rene for one) keep working all day, heat and all. It just wipes me out. It will rain for a while one day and then be hot for the next few. Today dawned cloudy, but didn't feel like rain, so I quickly did a couple of loads of laundry. I'm probably repeating myself again, but I do laundry the Belizean way. I either haul water or use the hose to till a washer that agitates, then I move the clothes to a tub on the side, which spins the clothes. It's reminiscent of the wringer washer system my grandmother used. Anyway, I hung the clothes on the line, ate a bite of breakfast and then had to head to town to get the Trooper licensed. This wonderful event is once-a-year, as is the insurance, and a pain in the "neck" (insert your own body part of choice). We always have to wait our turn, which can mean a long time unless we assert the fact that we were there ahead of others. Then they may or may not inspect the car. Now we're talking here about a 1990 Trooper with 280k miles. We checked all the lights before leaving home and they all worked. We just had the emergency brake fixed, so we felt in pretty good shape. Well this happened to be one of the times that he wanted to check the car. The left headlight is held in place by a piece of wire and always heads a little bit off to the left. He pointed out that it was not very bright. Was he refering to me or the car? Of course the sun was blinding us and boiling my brains out, but I couldn't argue with him. Luckily, Art popped up about then and whispered to him that this car is not driven at night and is only our security system. Hi smiled and let the rest of the check go. Way to go Art! Of course then there is another fellow to double check the paperwork and then you go to the cashier. Here we had to wait in line behind a couple relicensing a taxi. They were shuffling with the money an bro't out a wad that looked like hundreds of dollars. Turned out to be his fares, so was two's (yes in Belize they use paper twos that are blue) and fives along with a bunch of US ones. The clerk had to sort it all, turn the buills around, shuffle, shuffle. I was ready to jump the counter and do it for them, but they finally agreed on the amount and it was our turn to hand over $200 and wait for the poor girl to hand write all the papers. My little voice has to keep say, "this is a 3rd world country, it's an emerging nation, it will be over soon!" Miraculously it was. The weird thing is that here, rather than getting license tabs, you get a sticker for your windshield. We always put the sticker on the passenger side. Now, they're demanding that the stickers go on the driver's side. It's to make it more convenient for the transportation inspector to check when he stands in the middle of the road at a checkpoint. Of course, you might hit him as your vision will be impaired because of the stickers, but ours is not to reason why. (Little voice says, "get a grip Gale, you'll be out of there soon). Oh joy, I get to do this again next month when the license for the pickup expires.

After we left there it was off to Three Flags (market) and the bank. The line at the bank can be long and take forever, so we stopped and got a coke before heading home. We had a bite of lunch and then, our energy flagged and it's an afternoon of reading and just gentle chores. I'm seeing the practicality of the mid-day siesta. My trouble is that it's stretching out longer and longer. Wow, looks as tho' I may be retired!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

cacao problems

This probably isn't of interest to anyone but us, but I want to record some of it here for my own memories. We were so excited because our root stock has been doing so well. We've had a good success ratio and had lots of small plants for grafting. Our only source of buds for us to graft has been at Marco's place in San Ignacio. It's exciting to see his trees, full of flowers and tiny pods. We select buds from the strongest trees with the most pods. Marco hasn't labeled his trees, but we know that his are grafted and a mix, so that's going to have to be good enough. Rene and I have collected buds 3 different times and returned home and grafted them the same day. We've been extremely careful with our grafts, but the end result after all this time is that we've had almost no success. We haven't been able to coordinate with Marco for help, so have been struggling on our own. Art & Rene have been extremely disappointed and wanted to give up, but I just can't. If they can do it in Toledo then, by darn, we can do it here in Cayo. It's just hard to have lost so much time and money with our experiments, but we're NOT giving up.

I've been looking at the grafts that we've lost and it seems that they're really wet, with some even having mold on them. We've had them under the trees, but not really under cover. We've had some serious rain lately at times, so that I'm pretty sure that that's our problem. It's not so much our grafting techniques as much as too much water. Marco had already told us that cacao doesn't want to have their feet wet all the time. This time we pulled out all the stops. Our friend Jane gave us a screened house that we'd hesitated to put up as it's not real heavy and we were afraid that the wind and rain would destroy it, but we need it, so up it went.

Fourth batch - Rene and I experimented with different kinds of grafts too with this batch. We left some buds long and not covered and used plastic wrap rather than the parafilm on most of the side grafts. We had already tried 2 unsuccessful grafts on several of the plants, so Rene cut the top off of them and tried a top graft. We put all of these in the screened house right away. We're hoping that in a couple of weeks we'll see an improved result. At that point we cut the tape off and expose the graft to the air. It's hard to work with your fingers crossed!

We've arranged with Marco to come up on Monday to review our problems and give us some advice. Rene feels badly that he didn't ask all the questions we have when he was in Toledo, but heck, he was really only there for one day and we think he learned a lot in a very short time. It's frustrating to learn by the "hunt and peck" system, but we'll get there. We also remind ourselves that the folks in Toledo were given everything by grants. They have concrete floor buildings, were given seed and unlimited help with growing, grafting and pruning. We're outsiders by being in Cayo as well as being gringos. It's just a fact of life here that we can't let make us angry. It seemed to us when we were actually living in the US that the immigrants got most of the assistance and priorities, but here in Belize it's just the opposite. Unless you're a wealthy gringo, you just shut your mouth and plug along trying not to make waves. We knew that coming in, so we try to make it work. The part that makes it acceptable is that we have friends in the same boat. It's easy to feel sorry for ourselves until we look at the plight of the local families and then we realize that we're doing ok. At least we have a great place to live and food. Many of them have next to nothing. That's for another posting. I can really get angry for them. My glass is still half full.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Stormy weather

Yes, I talk a lot about the weather, but it dictates so much of our lives here that we all talk about it a lot. "Wow, isn't it hot today?" "We had a little rain today at our place, but not down the road 1/2 mile." Yesterday was really sticky. We had been told that a storm was on it's way and would hit Belize on Saturday. Ahead of it was hot, humid air. I watch the NOAH satellite info as well as the weatherbug site which shows the weather for San Ignacio. We try to touch base with friends to be sure that everyone's aware and prepared. I headed to town to buy a few groceries so that we could survive if it rained a lot and Paslow Falls Rd flooded. It doesn't happen often, but when it does we're cut off unless we choose to walk over the hill to the village. It's easier to have a few supplies and ride it out here. We also have to be sure to have gasoline for the generator.

Today we've seen the beginnings of this little tropical storm called "Harvey." That was my Dad's name, so I'm expecting a little disruption, just to keep us all guessing, but no real damage. Most of the afternoon it's been raining and it looked like twilight out at 2pm. We've had a couple of spurts of hard rain, but most of the time it's just dribbling. Probably most of this will hit during the night. Right now the winds are predicted to top out at 50mph, which isn't particularly disturbing. As I've said before, when we lived on the northern Oregon coast we often experienced winds up to 100mps and we rode them out in our 1893 Victorian house. Those storms didn't even warrent a name. I'm not pooh-poohing these storms, we just don't get hysterical worrying about them. If it does get severe, we button up the shutters and (sadistic things that we are) we enjoy the sounds of the storm. I did take advantage of the water to wash the truck. Besides the rain falling, I knew that the cistern was filling faster than I could use it. I also took the opportunity to dig some of the grass that's grown in our driveway and use for plugs in some of our areas of weeds. Go grass!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Update on Art

We've had notes from folks inquiring about Art's medical progress. I'm delighted to say that he's doing really well. He wasn't to go back to the Dr. for three weeks, but we were concerned about the Warfrin and if it was working propertly. He visited our family Dr. and then had blood tests. Yippee! He's doing great. He's been determined to try to get out and continue weedeating, etc., but his leg does bother him when he overdoes (duh!) and it's once again HOT outside. Weather shows that we should have thunderstorms and rain, but all is passing us by to the south and we're just getting the hot and hear some thunder. Thankfully we also get the breezes, which keep it somewhat comfortable. The thermometer that's in the sun showed 118 this am, but is now in the 90's. All in all we're doing ok. Thanks for all the good tho'ts.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Medical care

One of our big concerns about living in Belize has been, "what if one of us gets sick?" Many of us have had this conversation, along with upsetting stories of previous care. We pay insurance premiums in the States, but they don't transfer to Belize. We're on our own down here. Well, out of the blue, a problem caught us unawares and had us having to use the Belize system.

Art has been having problems with dizziness and then developed a pain in his leg, along with swelling. He tho't he had a charley horse or pulled muscle. When this didn't get better, but continued to get worse, I nagged him into seeing a Dr. I'd seen Dr. Sanchez in San Ignacio previously for a couple of very minor issues. He's a lovely, caring man, trained in Cuba. He's a family practioner. He sent us to Belmopan to the Imaging Clinic for an ultrasound as he feels they do a better, more professional job. We had to dashed there, get the ultrasound and then get back to San Ignacio before 3pm, when Dr. Sanchez closes until evening hours. As he suspected, Art had a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) in the back of his leg. There was a lot of hassle finding an internist available who could admit him to the hospital, but the Dr. found Dr. Manzanero was actually at Loma Luz hospital right then. We dashed up there (it was now 7pm) where Art was examined and admitted. Now we had heard scary stories about how expensive Loma Luz was, but hey, this wasn't any time to quibble. We needed help. They immediately started him on a blood thinner and pain killers.

I hated to leave Art in the hospital, but it was really late, we'd had pouring rains and we hadn't been prepared for him to enter the hospital. I dashed home, in the dark, and I have to tell you, when it's dark here it's really DARK! The road up to our place was about a 1/2 mile of slippery, gooey, muck. It was the worst I had ever seen and I was alone and it was pitch dark out. Hey, I'm a tough old, ex truck driving, broad, so I plunged up the hill. I made a real mess of the road, but our trusty Toyota truck got me thru again. I was home and able to take care of Bailey and get ready to head back to the hospital the next day.

Tuesday was long and tiring. It rained gently all night, which is worse than a driving rain because it just creates goo instead of washing it away down to the base rock. I was able to get down the hill, going sideways at one point, but trudged on. I was worried that Paslow Falls Rd would be flooded, but thankfully, was just giant puddles.

I won't bore you with the details of our day, but will just say that it was really long. The nursing care at Loma Luz was terrific. The nurses were caring and cheerful. Art told me they took enough samples to drain half his blood, which meant that they were doing every test immaginable to get all his levels. I don't think he minds my saying he is also diabetic, which might be a causing factor for the clot. Art felt better than he had in days. The medications he was given seem to have an immediate effect, reversing most of his symptoms. The really difficult thing was that the Dr. doesn't come in until 6pm and it turned out that they had emergencies, so he didn't come in to see Art until about 9pm. By that time, I was about asleep and Art was ready to run screaming into the street. Finally the Dr. came in, gave us the reports, all of which were very encouraging, prescribed medication and sent us on our way. We went down to the pharmacy, which is part of the hospital, got the meds, at which time she presented us with the bill. Take a deep breath! This is where it gets scary and they have to admit me with a heart attack! We had to give them a $500bz deposit when he first checked in. Ok, give us the worst. What? We now owed a total of $7.89bz. My gosh. Are you sure? There was an amount there for the Dr. Do we owe that separately? No, that's included. That covered the stay, the Dr., the meds and the lab work. We could have cried tears of relief.

Our trip home, now at 10pm turned out to be even worse than mine the night before, but we made it! I made a huge mess of the road, just putting the peddle to the metal and grinding my way up, but who cares? It was so good to be home, together and know that, for now, we're ok.

We discussed having to fly back to Oregon to get medical help and still might have to resort to that for more serious concerns, but for now, we have much more faith in the Belize level of care. I guess that's the clue. We felt genuine care for Art's problem, how we were and what needed to be done. All along the way we only saw kindness and concern. I have to add that Loma Luz is by far the cleanest hospital in our part of Belize, but by U.S. standards, it would be horrible. Everything looked as tho' it was a garage sale find, but the walls were freshly painted and things seemed relatively clean. There isn't a lot of shiny stainless steel or machines going beep, but we did find compassion and knowledgeable help. It's not the U.S., but that's not all bad. Blessings.