Sunday, December 30, 2012

Guns in schools

I realize that this is outside my usual posting of things about our life in Belize, but I don't know how else to express my extreme sadness about the recent shootings in the US.  It was upsetting enough to hear of a gunman in Clackamas Town Center in our home state of Oregon, but I'm still having trouble trying to fathom the devastating  deaths of those sweet children in Connecticut.  There don't seem to be any real answers to one human thinking he has the right to destroy another, especially children.  

Now we get a solution from those deep thinkers in the NRA, stating that the answer is to put guns in the schools.  Right!  Can you imagine the fear that those guns will create?  What message will that send to our children?  Guns are the answer to everything?  How do you tell a child to run from someone with a gun, but trust the people in the halls with guns?  How do you know that the person guarding the school with a gun isn't the one who's going to go off and use it? 

This puts me in mind of a dilemma that my husband dealt with as a mall Santa for several years.  Parents would get so upset when their little one cried when forced to sit on Santa's lap.  A child just knows that they don't know this strange man and Mom & Dad have told them to be afraid of strangers.  Now Mom's upset that the child cries.  This is Santa for lands sake.  No he's not, he's a big stranger.   How about someone with a gun?

There isn't a perfect answer in this unperfect world , but it seems to me that locking the schools from the outside and monitoring who comes in would be a better answer.  Even years ago when I attended school, we had bar door openers that allowed children to go out, but were locked from the outside.  I'm not sure about the effectiveness of gun control, but  can't fathom any reasonable answer for anyone to have an assault rifle or machine gun.  Target shooting isn't enough justification.  What's the purpose?  They're just designed to kill people.   I sure don't have an answer, but I do know that we can't let our children grow up surrounded by guns.  Please don't destroy the rest of childhood from our children. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Yellow-jaw / fer de lance

We've cleared or underbrushed about three acres around our house as a deterrent to the snakes.  I've taken a somewhat cavalier attitude about this, since we've only seen one snake in that space and it was a rat snake, which was huge, but they're not a threat.  The parameters of that comfort zone just diminished a lot when Rene had a confrontation with a yellow-jaw.   Rene has worked in the bush for most of his life and has killed about 50 of these snakes, but the closeness of this call truly upset him.  

In the early part of the morning Rene was using a new machete down a row that had been cleared for mahogany's.  The new machete made a ringing sound as it hit.  We're assuming that this sound attracted the snake as it struck the machete as Rene swung to cut vines.  There's a mark on the blade about 8" from the handle where the fangs struck.  Thankfully Rene is familiar with their habits, so he threw the machete to detract the snake.  The yellow-jaw doesn't usually chase you and this one remained in place.  Rene then grabbed a large stick that he'd just cut and used it to kill the snake.  He came to the house to get some water as he was shaken and then went back and brought it up to the house to show us.  Wow! A couple of years ago he'd shown us a small snake, but this one seemed huge.  It was a male, about 5' long and as big around as my arm.  Ick, ick, ick!  I'm not one to go running and screaming, but this guy gave me the chills.  It wasn't so much the looks of the snake, but the fact that I'd just walked Bailey down those paths the day before, really gave me the creeps.  I'm usually busy talking to Bailey and daydreaming.  I do carry a small knife and walk with a good diamond willow stick, but I'm not nearly cautious enough.  The thing that really creeped me out was that the snake that we tho't was dead, moved.  Yuck!  Rene, bless his heart, killed the snake and then burned it to keep anything from coming in contact with the venom. 

I've learned a lot about the habits of these snakes from Rene, but anyone can be bitten.  He identified this snake as a male because the tail was short.  The female tail is long and whiplike.  He also told us that if you see one coiled, you follow the direction of the head and the other will be about 25' away on that line.  He looked for the second snake, but didn't find it.  A lot of our neighbors are clearing lots and lines so we suspect that this snake was moving.  Whatever, I'm not going to wander into the bush, but will stay to the road and our open, cleared areas.  Bailey isn't a help either because he's a hunter and has a nose to the ground, trailing anything and everything.  If he ran loose he'd probably be dead the first day as he isn't afraid of anything and doesn't know the ways of the bush. 
,


These confrontations are wake-up calls to all of us that there are dangers in the bush, but if you're vigilant there's fantastic beauty too. 



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The old Trooper

Life for most of us seems to be one step forward and two backwards.  Our current dilemma centered around our 1990 Trooper.  She's old, has nearly 300k miles on the odometer and looks like she's ready to collapse at any minute.  But the truth is that she's straight and just keeps trudging along.  (kindred spirit?)  Our road (which we're hoping will be repaired soon, Belize time) has taken it's toll on both of our cars.  The Trooper steering has become pretty loose and the front end sounds gave me the feeling that her parts were going to head in separate directions at any minute.  Also, the brakes would occasionally fade.  Not a good sign.  With a heavy heart we took her to Herman Peters in Santa Elena.  This was our first visit to Herman, but our good friend, Dave, has been taking cars there for years so we gave him a try. They pulled the front wheels off and gave the front end a tug.  Aha, everything was loose and rattled.  They started rattling off the parts that would be needed and I was getting a huge sense of doom.  These parts couldn't be used, had to be new.  More doom.  Art looked at me and shook his head.

We keep the Trooper as an extra vehicle, Rene uses it on the weekends for family errands and we like it to sit in the yard as evidence that someone is home, even when we're not.

The fellows phone around and priced parts.  We decided that we had to  go ahead and keep her running.  The incredible part is that Herman had all the repairs done the afternoon of the next day.  They replace most of the front end, the master cylinder and rear brake pads for, drum roll please, $660BZ.  Yes, that's $330US.   Can you imagine what it would have cost in the US? It was a sad hit to our limited bank account, but we're blessed that we had it.   The little champ trudged home minus lots of her rattles and brakes working great.  She may not be pretty, but she is a Trooper.    Blessings,   Gale

Monday, December 10, 2012

Retirement

I know I've said this before, but we've finished most of the projects we could manage and are now faced with TIME.  I've worked at a job, not a career, most of my life and am figuring out who I am.  You'd think by now I'd have it figured out.  I'd love to garden, but my attempts have been futile.  My brother sent down lots of flower seeds from the States and absolutely none of them germinated.  I really miss my trailing petunias, pansies and lobelia.  The only bedding flowers that seem to thrive here are zinnias and impatiens.  I am thrilled tho' with my hibiscus and bougainvillea.  Being from Oregon, these are so exotic. 

I'm also in a quandary about cooking.  I'm not a great or inventive cook and I really miss the foods that I knew.  We definitely have gringo tastes.  Strange that we don't get peas down here.  I finally found some frozen and won't make that mistake again.  The package was hard as a rock and when thawed the peas were grey and as ugly as canned.  Ick!  I've tried to grow a vegetable garden, but the bugs and critters defeated my efforts.  I'm going to see if I can cobble together some kind of a raised garden and give it another try on a very small scale.  

I think right now I'm just missing family and familiar things.  We have a few wonderful friends, but I think about how either of us will handle the farm if left alone.  Not a lovely tho't, but realistic.  I have also talked to our oldest grandson and he's graduating from high school a little early (January) and has enlisted in the Air Force.  He's such a treasure.  We spent several years with him and his brother with us much of the time and now he's grown up.  I know he'll do wonderfully in whatever he chooses, but we miss them all so much.  Be prepared, if you choose to move away from your family.  Emails are wonderful, as are phone calls, but they don't replace hugs, laughter and shared moments.   

Well enough of this sitting here on a lovely day and feeling blue. I have to take the old Trooper in for repairs and then back home and maybe dig in the dirt.   We are blessed, I just have to remember it.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holidays

One of the strange things about living outside our home country is that the holidays are different.  We struggle to realize that everything will be shut down for Garifuna Day, St. Georges Caye Day, Pan American Day & National Heroes and Benefactors Day (what an unfortunate name) to mention a few and have no one mention the 4th of July or Thanksgiving.  I'm sure it's the same for expats from every country.  I think it's getting much easier each year tho' as we can get turkeys and some of the traditional foods, even in the Chinese stores.  My favorite Taiwanese store, Huang's, will try to get specialty items we request.  This Thanksgiving, we were invited to share the day with several friends at Betty & Robin James's home.  Great food and wonderful conversations.  Heard lots about  Ecuador from friends who are visiting here for a bit.  There are so many beautiful and interesting places all over the world. 

Belizeans do very little that's visible to prepare for Christmas.  It's probably just not as commercial, but I have to admit that I miss the music and all the lights.  We left most of our Christmas decorations in the States and don't put up lights because of the solar system.  I always went overboard to decorate, but now just bring out a couple of small treasures and that's it.  Our weather here has been unbeatable lately, but I guess I'm a little crazy, as I miss the snow and the craziness and warmth of Christmas in Oregon. 

Wherever you might be, dear friends, I hope your holidays are special and safe.  Blessings,  Gale

Friday, November 16, 2012

Paintings

I've never been good at sharing my artwork.  I'm definitely not a salesperson (note the politically correct term!).  My Dad could sell anything to anyone, but I tend to babble and end up giving things away.  My artwork makes me even worse.  If I've created it, I apologize for everything and want to go hide.  My friends here are so good for me.  They push and push and don't let me get away with anything.  They helped me get enough nerve up to approach a gallery in San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye, and they now have several of my watercolors.  Now that I've made the plunge I hope a couple sell.  See how quickly I turn?  It's ok as long as I'm not the salesperson. 

Belize isn't a very artistic country and no one else is doing watercolors.  I'm enjoying them a lot, but see why they're not popular.  The humidity is a real problem.  In order to get a painting dry to keep colors from bleeding together, my hair dryer has become one of my favorite tools.  It works, but coming from a dry climate, I've had to change the way I work.  I also have to fight mildew.  The paint will mold and I've had paper mildew.  I work really hard covering my materials and when I complete a painting I dry it well with the hair dryer, mat it and immediately get it into a plastic envelope to hopefully keep out the humidity.  At least for now, it's working.  There's no where in the country, that I can find. that sells good painting supplies.  I order everything from the States.  This works great, but sometimes it's hard to wait for an order to go to Houston and then slowly travel to Belize.  Patience, patience, patience.



Anyway, if anyone is interested, I'm going to post some of my recent work. Some are in the Belizean Arts Gallery in San Pedro and some are here at home.  I love the faces of Belize, as you can tell, especially the children..







Blessings,   Gale

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Catching up

It's hard to believe it's been over a month since I update the blog.  Things have settled down for us since we completed the projects we could handle, here at Dreamer Farm.  Of course, there's lots more we could do, but budget constraints dictate that we enjoy what we have.

Art's doing much better.  He rides his stationary bike every day.  He's much more disciplined than I'll ever be.  I've really enjoyed painting, but have trouble managing to find the time.  We did make a short trip to Springfield, which is a little Mennonite village down the Hummingbird Highway past Belmopan.  There's a wonderful fruit tree nursery there where we discovered raspberries, strawberries and mulberries.  How fun!  I have to buy bags of river soil to build a bed for the strawberries, but since I only bo't 6 plants it doesn't have to be very big.




I've been really excited about my little hibiscus plants.  They're still very small, but valiantly blooming.   This bottom one is the Sunset.  The blooms are almost as big as a dinner plate.  All these blooms only last one day, but are spectacular while they last.  My tiny little plant produced 4 blooms in a row.

We're also starting to see some of the migrating winter birds show up from north of here.    We've missed them.   I must try to be more diligent so the few of you who read this know we're still here and hanging in there.    Blessings,    Gale


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A great tractor story

I guess we're weird because it gave us both a tug to finally sell our little tractor.  I know, it's just a thing, but we seem to get attached.  Art really got a kick out of driving it, but without the flail, it lost it's usefulness to us.  It did give us one final "tractor story" as a farewell.  We had a terrific rainstorm today, which always does lovely things to the bottom of our road and it turned out that today is the day the new owner wanted to pick it up.  We were waiting for him when I got a call that he was stuck at the bottom of the road, in heavy mud, with his full-sized pickup and trailer.  What to do???  Well, Art drove the little tractor down and they hooked it up to the truck and she pulled it out.  Took some back & forth, but finally got them turned around and she pulled them back down to Paslow Falls Road (ick!) where we finalized our deal and off they went.  She may be little and old, but she's tough.  We'll miss her, but maybe the money can help us fix some of the road.  I am a dreamer!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Kubota diesel tractor for sale

Before moving to Belize we purchased our small, older Kubota tractor from a neighbor.  Dennis is a tinkerer and had totally gone thru the tractor, replacing parts and putting her back to nearly new shape.  We shipped it, the blade and an old flail that we purchased separately, to Belize and paid the duty.  We paid $4k US for the tractor & blade & $500US for the flail.  
The tractor is a B6100D (yes it's old, but in beautiful condition), diesel, 4 wheel drive with a 3point hitch & PTO.  The flail is even older and since we're not mechanically inclined, it's been a struggle to keep it functioning, even tho' it's a fairly straightforward and simple machine.  We have all new blades and connectors for it.





We're asking $5k BZ for the tractor and we'll throw in the flail.  I must say that the flail does a fantastic job of mowing, with the loose blades.  It just needs some TLC.   Contact:   gahubbe@aol.com    or Belize 636-4403.

Bullet Tree Falls land for sale

Yes, we're back in Belize and it's HOT.  This is usually the time of year that we get rain as the storms pass on their way north.  So far this year, not much relief.  It's hard for me to adjust to the change from the heat of the NW, which is very dry, to this hot and very humid.  I can barely put one foot in front of the other.  

We returned to find all well here at Dreamer Farm.  Rene did a wonderful job of watching out for our place and taking care of Bailey.  He was very worried when we first left as Bailey wouldn't eat, but he finally won him over by adding eggs to his food.  We did get a warm welcome from our big boy, but now he's just lying around, panting and wondering why we don't take him to a cooler climate.  Poor woolly bear.

I've been meaning to put in a note here about a beautiful piece of land that Rene has for sale on the fringes of Bullet Tree.  It 23 acres and is titled land.  There is a road to the property, but it is off the grid.  Thru the years Rene has planted various fruit trees and there are several large timber trees on the land.  The pieces around him have mostly been sold and seem to be to folks who want year-round homes.  He's asking $80k US, but I know there's room for negotiation.  Rene is an extremely honest, hard working Belizean, who is looking forward to being able to retire before too many years.  He can be reached at (Belize 501) 661-1840 or thru my email of     gahubbe@aol.com.  We are only doing this because we love Rene and want to help him.  We don't get anything from the sale.
Blessings,    Gale

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ready to return home

We've had an extremely hectic couple of weeks, running from Dr. to lab to my brother's and back again.  Got lots of answers, some good, some not so good, but we're doing ok.  Weren't able to get everything done, but decided to head home anyway.  We've been staying with my brother and sister-in-law in their wonderful home in Sisters, Or.   Great to have a place to stay while we dash around, but two weeks is a long time to have someone invade your home - even family. Was great to spend a little time with our two grandsons here, see our daughter and now will head up to Washington to spend a couple of days with our son & kids and then head for home. 


I love Oregon and it's diversity.  We raised out kids in Astoria, which is at the mouth of the Columbia River, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean.  From the ocean you travel over the Coast Range, to the Willamette Valley, which is a very fertile, beautiful, busy area.  Then there's the Cascade Range.  If you haven't seen them, they're spectacular.  When traveling from our son's, south to Bend (which is in the center of the state) you get a view of several snow-capped from a single viewpoint.  What's left of Mt. St. Helens, Mt Adams, both in Washington state, Mt. Hood, Mt Jefferson, Black Butte, Three Fingered Jack, Mt Washington, The Three Sisters (three spectacular peaks just south of Sisters Oregon, Broken Top and Mt. Bachelor.  Wow!  The center of the state is known as the high desert, where they grow lots of hay and cattle.  So much to do and see and remember.

Both, heading south into Oregon and back to Washington, I wasn't able to take photos of the mtns. as there were forest fires on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and at Mt. Jefferson, covering most of the mts. in a layer of choking smoke. 

Will be comforting to get back into our rut on our little place in Belize.   Sure have missed our Bailey.  So thankful that Rene could take care of him and our place while we're gone. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We made it to Oregon

I've been dreading this trip to Oregon, but Art's health has necessitated it and this time I feel I needed to go with him.  All the long walking in the airports had me worried for him.  We ended up hiring a shuttle for the trip to Ladyville as no one was going on the same day as us.  We have to start coordinating our trips to save money.  One neighbor left on Tues., two left on Wed., we traveled on Thurs. and another left on Friday.  I'm hoping on our return on Sept. 6th we'll be able to ride-share.  We flew United (the old Continental) and had a fairly successful trip, by today's minimal standards.  By that I mean that they don't even offer free snacks any more.  Pay please.  We flew to Houston/ San Francisco/Pasco, Wa..  I arranged for a wheelchair to get Art thru the terminals.  He really objected and felt he could handle it, but the reality of Houston made him agree.  We were awfully glad.  He was treated with great kindness and courtesy and we were freed from waiting in long lines.  The glich that gave us a lot of concern was that we only had a 50 minute turn around in S.F.  The flight from Belize was  smooth and we arrived about 20 minutes ahead of schedule, but then our next flight, to S.F. was delayed as they had to wait for the flight crew, which was coming in on a flight from the east coast.  Ouch!  We were delayed over 1/2 hours, which really caused me a lot of stress.  Even tho' this wasn't an international flight, we still had to navigate the terminal.  The flight attendant requested that passengers remain seated so that all of us with tight connections could get off first.  Didn't work!  I plunged my way thru the aisle and dashed to the desk as I could manage and, hallelujah, the next plane was also delayed, waiting for a flight crew.  Art followed me with his faithful wheelchair and we actually had time to sit and catch our breaths before our next flight.  I felt badly as our son was waiting for us in Pasco and we ended up one hour late, arriving at 11:30pm.  He had to go to work early the next morning.  It's wonderful to see him and his three kids, Rex, 15, Charley, 13, and Jessie, 10.  We're visiting here for 3 days and then head for Oregon to my brother's and the VA visits.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What storm?

Ernesto was heading towards Belize so we all buttoned up our places, businesses closed and the farmers worried and prayed for their corn crops.  We didn't close the shutters on our house because it would get too warm.  Tho't we'd jump up and close them when the wind started.  Before heading to bed we had a couple of very short rain showers, but little wind.  We were so surprised to wake up and realize that something must have worked because the storm veered to the north and then west again and totally missed Cayo.  Ernesto wasn't interested in us and passed us by.    The Mopan river is muddy, but hasn't risen much, which means that Guatemala didn't get much rain either.  Rene was here today and all smiles.  He said their prayers were answered and they're now hoping the corn will continue to grow towards harvest.  We appreciate our blessings. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ernesto-tropical storm or hurricane

I'm so pleased that we made our trip to San Pedro last week.  What luck!  The previous week Betty hadn't felt well and this week, well, here comes Ernesto.  We've had sunny and fairly mild weather, for Belize, but starting last evening, we're starting to get clouds and occasional rain.  We've all been watching the progress of this tropical storm, either via radio or internet.  It's really helpful to be able to track storms thru the National Hurricane Center or several weather sites.   A few days ago it looked as tho' Ernesto was heading NW and would take the usual course of hitting the Yucatan and Cuba.  As of yesterday it's changed to a westerly direction which puts Belize at the edge of it's path.  By the time it leaves Honduras it is expected to reach hurricane status. 

There isn't a lot we can do and we hope that the projection of 65mph winds holds true.  If so, we'll be fine.  The real worry is the rain.  The edge of hurricanes brings about 12 inches of rain in a short time.  If this continues to Guatemala, then the Mopan River will rise to flood level.  Most gringos want to have river property.  It's an obsession.  For us, we wouldn't trade our hill for riverfront.  Our main concern will be Paslow Falls Rd.  The government hasn't seen fit to work on it and it fronts on the river in a couple of places.  That could mean the road will wash out.  As a precaution, we sent the old Trooper (car) home with Rene.  If we can't drive out, we can walk over the hill and have a car to get to the store.  We closed the shutters on all the window in the guest house and will close the ones in our house tonight or whenever the wind starts blowing.  Right now it's calm and very muggy.  

Most businesses have closed or will close at noon.  All government offices closed until the storm has passed.

For us a storm can be an adventure or a worry, if strong, but for the Belizeans, it's heartbreaking.  Their diet consists mostly of carbohydrates in the form of rice and corn.  The corn crop right now is nearing harvest, with cobs just starting to fill.  This storm will wipe most or all of it out.  Corn isn't strong and the wind will knock it over and the rain will rot it.  I asked Rene when they can replant and he said probably in early November for a Jan. or Feb harvest.  In the meantime, they'll have to pay dearly for imported corn.  We'll see what happens. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Trip to San Pedro

I've drawn and painted some, most of my life, but never really allowed myself to give it much energy.  Mostly out of fear and being a chicken has caused me to keep it to myself.  I've finally quit finding excuses and am having a ball just dabbling away.  Once you get started it gets a little addictive.  I love the children and the "faces" of Belize and am trying to capture them on paper with watercolor.  It's a tricky medium here in the tropics because of the humidity, but what fun I'm having.  

Art's been encouraging me to try to sell some, but it's daunting to decide how, where and how much.   I decided to take some where the prospects seemed the best, which is San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.  I asked two of my dear friends to go with me as I hate going to Belize City and don't know my way around.  I read that the water taxi's dock is by the swing bridge, which I'd never seen.  Turns out it's next to the route we take to make our annual trek to the Tourist Board to renew our retirement status, so now I know.  The funny thing is that in six years, neither Betty, Peggy or I had ever been to San Pedro, so we were off on our adventure. 

I was worried about leaving my truck overnight in Belize City.  There's a parking lot across the street from the taxi, but when I told them we'd be staying overnight, I was told they would take my truck to a secure lot.  It was the owner of the taxi service, so I took a chance and agreed.  Good choice as it was at his house and surrounded by a concrete wall.  I'm tired of being hesitant about things, so am trying to plunge ahead.  Hey, we moved to Belize, didn't we?  Get a grip girl and GO!  The water taxi is a small jet ferry that can probably seat about 40 to 50 people.  We headed out to sea with a short stop in Caye Caulker and then on to San Pedro.  This is where most of the tourist money goes.  It's funky, touristy, but fun.  There's water, sand, snorkeling, fishing and diving to attract the energetic.  We found Ruby's which is a reasonably priced, clean hotel, on the beach with a room that would accommodate the three of us.

 I had researched galleries and decided on one that sounded promising.  I wanted to walk around without my portfolio to check things out.  So glad I did, as I didn't like the gallery I intended to visit at all; neither the look or the philosophy.  How disappointing.  Continuing on, we did discover a beautiful gallery which looked professional and perfect.  The owner was out of the country, but I showed the sales fellow photos of my work and he encouraged me to bring my paintings in the next day.  Cutting to the chase, I did and ended up leaving a few.  Prices won't be good, but it's a start.  I'm hoping that others will enjoy my faces of Belize so that I can afford to buy more supplies.  


Getting this settled, we had a blast visiting most of the small shops, ogling the beautiful things that we don't see in Cayo.  We all agreed that those shops probably wouldn't prosper in San Ignacio as we're more a destination for trekkers and the hiking boot set.  We ate seafood and had expensive, but fantastic ice cream and had a ball.  I forgot to mention that there are very few cars in San Pedro.  The streets are narrow, but golf carts are everywhere.  There is definitely "traffic" it's just smaller vehicles.  We walked and savored everything.  


When we got back, we had to take a taxi to get the truck, but it was safe and sound.  We headed back for home with a short stop for lunch.  The trip really flew by with continued conversation and laughing.  We had such a great time.  I can't imagine better companions for my quest.  Besides having so much fun together, they were so supportive of my work and pushed me to jump in and approach the galleries.  These two ladies, along with our friend, Diane, who is in the States, are the core of my friendship family here in Belize.  We all agreed that we'd hate to live on the Caye, but it sure was fun to visit.  


Now it's back to painting.  (Just a note - I've decided not to post photos of my work until I can figure out how to do it in such a way that they won't be copied.  I've learned from experience that you can put so much of yourself into a work to have it stolen.  It seems to get easier every day).











Monday, July 30, 2012

Jobs for Belize


When we moved to Belize we were told that, as retired folks, we can't work or volunteer our services, but were to just live and of course, bring down US dollars.  By US standards we're quite poor, but to Belizeans I know it appears we may not be rich, but we have more than most of them.  We see that most of our neighbors don't have work, or if they do, it's only day work, usually building a little house or working with a machette.  There is almost no industry here outside tourism.  We hear about funds being donated to Belize by various countries, for varying reasons, but note that there's usually no noticeable sign of where the money went because it usually ends up being siphoned off into political pockets.   How foolish is it to send money to a backwards country like Belize without demanding accounting and proof that it's being spent generally as specified?  Twice in my working life I was responsible for US government grant reporting and would expect at least that same level of responsibility to accompany third world grants.  


 There are a few wealthy, generous, thinking folks in the world, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, who give so much to the poor of the world.  My view tho' is that giving computers to people with nothing is worse than nothing.  I see parents and children struggling here to pay for schooling beyond the primary grades.  Some who pay for and complete "college", which is the US equivalent of high school, go on to Galen University or the University of Belize.  They sacrifice so much, but just like in the US, there aren't many jobs waiting for any of them when they finish.  The computers and cell phones give them a hint of what is out in the world, but has very little to do to with helping them survive right here.  


What they really need (and I think this probably applies to the rest of the world too) are jobs.  Belize needs industry.  They've lived with promises, but the machette is still their best survival tool.  They're definitely not lazy, just have little hope of a better tomorrow.  In so many ways they're barely into the 20th century.  I pray that the outside world will help Belize to develop and help her to survive as a beacon of hard work in an environmentally sane direction.  


Friday, July 20, 2012

Wall of rain

We were just changing into our work shoes when I went out on the front veranda.  It has been somewhat overcast, but some sun and comfortably warm all morning.  There's a phenomenon here that I had never heard in Oregon.  Off to the east it sounded as tho' a freight train was heading for us.  No wind, just sound.  I'm getting somewhat used to it, but it's still interesting.  It was a wall of rain coming thru the bush right at us.  When it arrived we were hit with an instant downpour and wind.  I looked out at the open area across the drive and could see occasional hail bouncing.  This took about 5 minutes and now it's stopped.  We can hear thunder off in the distance, but only getting the rain dripping from the trees.  We'll wait for a bit to head back outside where I want to chop at a haleconia that is taking over the front and under the house.  Art's doing what he can to try to help and it's wonderful to be able to do things together.   

Friday, July 6, 2012

slow motion

It's frustrating that, when there's illness in the home that things seem to move in slow motion.  I don't get nearly as much done and time and dates seem to lose their importance.  I just try to keep things going by doing the basics.  It's actually good to have tasks to occupy my mind and hands.  Art's vertigo keeps him from being able to do much that's physical.  He is able to take Bailey for his short walks, which is wonderful for all of us.  I've pretty much given up on any gardening, except for a few new hibiscus and bougainvillea.  I'm additionally frustrated right now as the heavy rains that come periodically have beaten off the new little blooms on my hibiscus.  It's probably better for the plant, but I'm so anxious to see the blooms.  I've planted two Sunsets, which are a large singe bloom of bright red with splashes of bright yellow.  I did get to see one before it fell.  Actually, the blooms only last a day anyway.  I also planted a double yellow and a double orange. 

We just had a wonderful gift of a visit by one of my nephews from Oregon.  He went to Cancun for an intensive week of studying Spanish and then took the ADO (Mexican bus) down to Belize City and then the local bus to San Ignacio.  He was only here for a few days, but we had such a lovely time.  His wife and younger daughter went to Colorado to help his brother move and their older daughter was on a school trip to Spain (isn't that cool?).  We visited some of the ruins and he took a cave trip to Jaguar Paw.  Time passed way to quickly, but the family hugs did more good than any medicine.  It was hard to drop him off at the local bus depot (what a hilarious term for a muddy parking lot).  As I told him, my family worry gene kicks in and I'm not totally comfortable until I know that everyone is safely in place.  He emailed that he arrived back in Mexico safely, so I relaxed again.  

I hope that some day our daughter and son & families can come down, but the economy has made it very difficult for all of us.  Our two family guest rooms sit vacant, waiting to welcome them whenever they can come.  

I'll try to be more diligent about posting.  I enjoy this connection with family & friends.         Blessings,    Gale

Friday, June 8, 2012

Moving forward

It's so frustrating that when you get sick you can be fine one day and in the hospital the next, but the road to recovery is very slow.  That's the problem for Art, but I'm pleased to say that he is slowly getting stronger.  It seems that age comes up and slaps you in the face and says, "hey, you can't do all the things you used to, so you have to adapt."   It isn't easy, but its wonderful to see him with color in his face and walking around. 

Our weather has gone from dry and hot to muggy and hot.  The temps aren't as high, but the humidity makes the "feels like" temp pretty tough.  My friends and I all carry cloths to wipe our faces and forget the bit about ladies don't sweat, they glow.  Ha!  We just plain SWEAT!  I try to get up fairly early to take Bailey for his longest walk before it gets too hot.  I feel so put upon having to take him out, but I enjoy it when I finally get going.  He's so undemanding and will patiently wait until I decide to go.  The walks are all tough since we're on the top of a hill, the beginning is downhill while the end (after I'm pooped) is uphill.  Since we can't let him roam on his own, I try to let him sniff and investigate a little along the way.  He has an incredible nose and I know the scents give him visions of traipsing thru the bush after some interesting creature.  After he's sniffed and marked every twig and bush, we slog our way back, both of us panting. 

Since the solar provides so much power during the day, we're able to keep a box fan going all the time on the floor of the veranda so that Bailey can always have access to a nice breezeI've been enjoying doing some drawing and painting again.  Bailey and I share the space in front of the fan and keep each other company.  This is the part of retirement that I really enjoy. '

Through all of our troubling times, we've been blessed with good friends who keep checking on us and are ready to help if needed.  What a blessing.  

Speaking of blessings, we're excited that my nephew will be able to visit us for a few days at the end of this month.  Dreamer Farm isn't fancy, but it's a lovely, comfortable spot and it gives us such joy to be able to have family share it with us, even for a short time.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A tough decision

I haven't posted anything this time about Art being sick again.  It's been tough, but, thankfully he's doing much better.  Still not sure where the problem lies, but hope to get some answers soon.  He's getting some help here, but if test prove that he needs more help, we'll have to get him back up to Oregon to the VA.  This has prompted us to face the fact that Dreamer Farm is getting to be too much for us because of our ages, Art's health and our limited resources to have outside help.  We've had a website created and have put the property up for sale.  Of course we're not holding our breathes, thinking that it will sell immediately, but we need to acknowledge our situation and be practical.  If we do sell, we're not sure if we'll return permanently to the U.S. or find a smaller place here.  We can definitely live in Belize much cheaper than in the U.S., but, as with so many seniors, we have health insurance up there.  A tough decision! ! 


Our website is   www.belizerealestatebullettreefalls.com


Until things change, we're going to continue to love Dreamer Farm, planting flowers and enjoying all it's wonders.     Blessings,    Gale



Saturday, May 12, 2012

Honey

Not sure if I posted about this before, but when we first moved in we had an old cooler that didn't work well.  It sat on the veranda as we sorted out our stuff.  When I got around to moving it I noticed a little wax tunnel going into the drain.  Some very tiny honey bees had taken up residence.  It took a bit of maneuvering to get the cooler off the porch to under the house.  If we went too far, they'd not find it and start over somewhere else.  They swarmed around a bit and I have to mention that they don't sting, and eventually found their home again.  Last year we got a large bottle of honey from them, but we just opened it up and found that one side had gotten too hot from the sun and had scorched a large area.  We only got about 1 1/2 cups this time.  

This has been so interesting to me as the honey bees in the N.W. are the large, yellow and black, bumble bees.  They deposit their honey in combs.  These little buys create little beads, the size of a small marble to store their honey.  Rene helped me remove the beads, which I squeezed and set to drain on a rack.  Not hard, just messy.  



These photos aren't very clear, but the surprising thing to us was that it appears that there are two different groups using the same cooler as there was a queen at the bottom and a second one at the top.  She's ensconced in a circular bit of tiny comb, behind the waxy leaf shapes.  Rene told me the leaflike material is insulation.  I'm learning more fascinating things.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Rene & the Gillie hat

I was sitting at the table on the veranda when I looked out at Rene, working in the yard.  He's a wonderful Mayan/Mestizo man who's helped us out here for six years.  He's done 99% of the work on the grounds here and has also become a dear friend.  

Anyway, I couldn't see Rene's head as he was working.  I watched him for a bit and then had to laugh out loud.  I realized that, because it's really hot right now, he had bushes on his head.  Who really invented the gillie suit?  The locals of every land know so much more than we do.  With just his machete he can survive in the bush.  



I showed the photos to my friend, Diane, and she said, "why didn't you wait until he moved out from under that branch?"  Then we both had a giggle when I explained that that was the point.  He was the branch.  Love it and both of them.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Answering questions about Belize

The best way to find answers about moving and living in Belize is to make one or more trips down to determine where you'd like to live and what things you'll need to make your life comfortable.  Even tho' the country is small, it has diverse areas offering very different life styles.  

Land  Unlike many Central American countries, foreigners can own property here without having a Belizean partner.

 Most of Belize is for sale.  You can scope out areas with a realtor if you're most comfortable that way, but your best bet for the best price is to get to know folks and ask if they know of land.  Prices are all over the place.  Prices are usually quoted in US dollars.  That's because Belize dollars aren't recognized outside Belize and it makes the price more understood.  

 One huge thing to watch for is that you only purchase Titled landCitizens are allowed to lease land and will often try to sell it.  Don't buy leased land with the idea that they will transfer it to titled land for you.  This can take years, can be very expensive and often just doesn't work.  

Crime The main area of concern is Belize City.  We don't travel there any more than we have to, but find it relatively safe during the day.  It isn't recommended that you travel outside at night.  Some of the best shops are in Belize City, so some trips are inevitable.  

In other areas, theft is an issue.  Lots of folks in the towns have burglar bars.   Dogs are a definite help as most Belizeans are afraid of big dogs.  Gringo's are targets, so we just try to look as tho' we don't have much money, which isn't a stretch for us. 

The smart  is to not leave your house unattended for long stretches of time.  There isn't a lot of work here for folks and many feel that if you're not using something right now, they can make better use of it (steal it / sell it). 

Shopping - We do miss shopping at Costco.  We can find almost anything we want here, we just have to look several places.  There are good hardware stores in Spanish Lookout (Mennonite) and a couple of lovely stores in Belize City for Home Depot type shopping.  We rarely find it necessary to go there.  For a few troublesome things, we can either have a store order them from the US, or I go on the internet and order, having them shipped to a freight forwarder in Houston and they bring them here to Cayo.  Takes time, but it does work.  

 We do our regular grocery shopping at the Taiwanese grocery stores and our fruits and veggies from the outdoor market in San Ignacio.  Some are grown in Belize and lots are imported from Mexico and Guatemala.  
 
Snakes and spiders and other creepy crawlies -  We really don't worry a lot about them, altho' we do try to stay aware.  Frankly, tarantulas are not a concern.  We see holes where they live, but we rarely see one.  They are extremely shy and afraid, so stay in their holes until night.  

Basically the same with snakes, which are more of a concern.  We don't travel in the deep bush without our friend, Rene.  We had the underbrush cleared in a large area around the buildings, which discourages the snakes.  The only deadly snakes we've seen are ones that Rene has killed and brought to show us.  Icky, but helpful.  We did have a large, non-deadly snake go thru the yard, but it's the kind that eats bad snakes so we cheered it on it's way.  The most wonderful thing for us has been our friend Rene.  He has worked for us for 6 years and is of Mayan ancestry.  He knows so much and tries to educate us and keeps the place cleaned and safe.  

Gardening - Lots of folks have gardens here.  We haven't had great success because we wanted to go organic and the bugs defeated us.  You don't notice them, but they do eat the tiny starts. Also, our place was hacked out of the bush and we are slowly amending the soil for better results.  

Weather -   If visiting, don't come down in late April or May.  It can really get hot.  From June thru October or November would be hurricane season.  Hurricane's rarely make land in Belize.  If they do, it is mostly in the Toledo area or around Corozol.  In the seven years that we've owned our place only one small hurricane came our way.  That was Richard, which came from the east.  We lived for many years on the Oregon coast and the winds got harder there than those that hit us with Richard.  


Our house has screens for windows and wooden shutters that we close with the weather.  


Friends and family - We have a satellite dish for internet service to allow us to keep in contact with family and friends in the US.  

We enjoy our Belizean neighbors, but find that there is a language difference (most only speak a little English) and much different lifestyle.  There are lots of expats here, so, with a little effort, you can make friends.  Here in Cayo we have a once-a-month women's luncheon at different restaurants.  Usually between 20 and 30 women attend.  It's informal and just to get acquainted.  There are quite a few expats here in the Bullet Tree area also.


Medical care - This is the tricky one.  There are physicians here, who have been trained in the U.S., Cuba, Guatemala or Mexico.  For general things, the care is good, caring and immediate.  The hospitals are definitely third world.  There is a new hospital in San Ignacio that was supposed to be state of the art and was going to function as a model for the rest of the country.  Is suspect that it does, but it has no equipment and all the fixtures look as tho' they came from a very sad garage sale.  The problem that we're facing right now is that Art is having some serious issues, so to get better diagnostics and care, we'll probably have to return to the U.S.  


I know that there are lots of other questions, but for now, these might help.  I try to tell things as they really are, but am afraid that it portrays Belize in an excessively bad light.  It is definitely an adjustment to live in a third world country, but there are so many lovely things to appreciate.  We just tell folks that you have to able to accept life here, "warts and all."     Blessings,    Gale

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Bush (Jungle)

It's lovely to sit on our veranda and listen to the birds.  The heat has also encouraged the hatching of crickets and cicadas.  Sometimes the sounds are almost overwhelming.  It's early morning and the Chachalakas are announcing their locations to each other and the world.  Its a goofy, but wonderful chorus.  

A sadness to me is that more and more of these sounds are joined by those of chainsaws.  Everyone in Belize seems to be obsessed with cutting down the bush.  It gives me a small hint of what must be happening in the Amazon jungles.  Belizeans are obsessed with cutting down every tree, setting fire to what they've cut and planting corn.  The diet here revolves around the maize or hard corn.  They can't seem to tolerate a tall tree.  Traveling to Spanish Lookout, where the Mennonites raise crops and cattle, the land has been totally cleared and it resembles the Midwestern U.S.  The gringos are so afraid of bugs and snakes that they clear the land, forgetting why they came here in the first place. 

When we first started clearing for our buildings, we allowed the boys to cut everything.  We finally realized that wasn't right and had them leave the trees and just clear the underbrush.  This keeps the snakes away from the house, but lets us enjoy the shade of the trees and the residing birds and animals.  The cleared area is to the east of us, which is the direction most hurricanes would come, so we hope to spare the buildings from falling trees.  

The cleared area is probably only three to four acres.  We plan to leave the remaining eight or nine acres in bush as an island of refuge for wildlife.  It's small, but the best we can do.  

It's so wonderful up here on our hill, with the almost constant breezes and the beauty of the bush.  What a blessing.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hard to be sick when it's HOT!

It's been a trying couple of weeks.  I had a really uncomfortable case of stomach flu which lasted for several days, made worse by the heat.  As I've said in earlier posts, there are basically two seasons in Belize - wet and dry.  This year the dry season has arrived a little early.  Our last rain was in mid March and it's gotten steadily warmer since then.  The past week it's reached 100 every day.  Ick!  I have to admit that I don't handle these high temps very well, but I am over my flu.  It's hard to have much energy to do anything outside.  We get up early and take dear Bailey for a walk before it gets too hot.  Not sure if his heavy coat makes him hotter or serves as insulation against the heat.  He's such a gentle giant and I feel so helpless that we can't offer him more relief.  

Our solar is performing beautifully now, so we are able to keep fans going, which offers a lot of help, along with the wonderful breezes that seem to find us here on our hill.  A technician from ProSolar came by and installed a Trimetric meter that will tell us charge in the batteries and he lowered the panels to be at a better angle to the sun.  It's exciting to see the meter read batteries 100% charged. 

 This is the Easter weekend, which is causing a lot of frustration for many of us.  Our observation is that Belize isn't a particularly religious country, but the government declares every possible day as a holiday.  Easter is a 4 day holiday, starting with Good Friday thru Monday.  They've now passed a law that even the Chinese stores must close, which doesn't make any sense.  Why should the non-Christian religions shut down for every Christian holiday?  The government in this tiny country of some 300k folks, seems to want to divorce itself from it's British foundation and passes many laws without much tho't or discussion.  It's sad to sit back and watch them flounder with stupid things, while the infrastructure is in such sad shape.  Wow, I didn't plan to say any of this, it just spilled out.  

It's great to feel better and at least be able to talk to and see friends.   We're doing a lot of reading and I've actually picked up a paintbrush to do a couple of watercolors.  I guess the heat is the nudge that I finally needed.  Feels good!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

water pump

Ok, UNCLE, UNCLE - We've had so many repair expenses lately that we've both become somewhat numb.  The less money we have, the more that's needed.  We have been trying to recover from having to buy a new generator and then it was new solar batteries with accompanying expenses.  This last week has been heaven, with enough sun to give us lots of power so we haven't really been worrying about the utilities.  WELL, last night, out of the blue, we lost our water.  We have a 10,000 gallon, in ground, cistern with a 1/2 hp well pump and a pressure tank to supply our water.  The pressure switch showed zero pounds.  OK, now what.  We'd recently had the pump reset and rewired.  I was too upset to even be upset, just numb.  Besides the injustice of it, it was Friday night.  I sent out a call for help with a text message to our electrician/pump guy.  Of course, no answer.  Nothing we could do but start hauling buckets of water up from our plastic tank and worry!  I was so tired this afternoon that I took a short nap (something I never do).  I woke to a sound like the pump running.  Art came in and told me that he decided to poke around and took the cap off the pressure valve.  Inside was a bee and a small nest.  As soon as he removed the bee the pressure gauge jumped to 32 lbs, and WE HAD WATER AGAIN.  What a relief.  I'm so proud of him and we're both so relieved that, at least for today, we won't have another huge expense.  You might be able to hear our collective sigh and see our smiles.  I'm working on making my glass half full again.   Blessings

I know it's not exciting, but I decided to add a photo of the tank for info.  The pressure valve is the little grey box with the two wires extending up.  Such a little thing to cause to much trouble.  G. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

The charm of Belize

My last post sounded somewhat negative and I feel badly about that.  It's true that the roads in Belize are horrible, but that's just one piece of this place we now call home.  There are so many lovely bits to focus on that make it wonderful.  This morning I went to the market in San Ignacio with my dear friend, Diane.  Now when you're a tourist, it's fun to go to the market on Saturday to see all the mosh of people and things.  It's probably not the most colorful market in Central America, but there's lots to see and great produce to buy.  Besides the food stalls that are there every single day of the year, small farmers bring their produce in, along with some Mennonites.  You'll find clothing, plastic, videos, food booths, fresh fish and sometimes farmers selling live animals.  If I want to just shop for produce, it's nicer to go on Tuesday or Friday when the regular vendors get their produce deliveries and things are freshest.   Diane and I like to do our shopping and then stop at Lucy's little place for a cold drink and $2 panada's.  Yum and just a lite snack to get us back home. 

The true beauty of Belize has to be her people.  I'm not talking about the ones in the government offices, or the banks where the slowness and inefficiency can drive you wild.  I'm talking about the gentle souls you see walking along the street or riding their bicycle.  Yes, they can make you crazy when you're driving your car, but when you actually look at any of these folks, making eye contact and smile, you'll be rewarded with a big smile in return.  If we ever leave here we'll miss the fact that almost everyone along our road will wave and smile.  We don't really "know" them, but we give folks a ride to the village in the back of the truck when we can.  We still don't speak Spanish and many folks don't speak much English, but as long as we're friendly and make an effort, up here in Cayo, we find almost everyone will help. 

Yes, even tho' almost everyone has a cell phone and some can use a computer, the houses are simpler and so are most of the people.  It's not uncommon to see a man riding to town on his horse and of course there are the Mennonite wagons.   In most ways, Belize is about 50 years behind the West, but that's not all bad.  Yes, we miss some of the shopping and conveniences of the US, but in many ways, we've been transported back to our childhood when many things were simpler. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

airport trip - Belize roads!

A good friend of ours has really been struggling with debilitating health problems for a couple of years.  His wife was finally able to arrange for his care, his appointments in the US and got him ticketed to Florida.  They had planned to take a taxi in, but I decided to drive them instead.  It costs about half as much, now that we have butane in the truck and I could be there for Diane.  She's so worried that she's making herself sick.  Anyway, we drove into Ladyville to the airport and saw David safely onto the plane.  She'd arranged for wheelchair assistance and they were extremely helpful.  He's now safely in the hospital, getting lots of attention and tests.  We're all praying he can finally get some relief.

I haven't checked the mileage, but it's about 90 miles from Bullet Tree to the airport.  It's a two hour drive.  In the US, that would be not more than a trip to town, but here it's a serious thing.  If you haven't driven in Belize before, you are in for a real surprise.  First, the roads are TERRIBLE.  We all complain that the government wastes so much money, it seems mostly on graft, but nothing on the roads.  There's always talk, talk, talk, but they don't do anything.  It's embarrassing to pick up visitors and have their first impression be Ladyville.  It's definitely a third world country.  We always go north out of the airport and take the Burrell Boom cutoff, rather than going thru Belize City, which takes us past the scenic view of the Hattyville Prison, Ick!  The cutoff road is not pretty, but the road is one of the best.  At the end is a round-about (what a stupid idea) and then we head west on the Western Highway.  At first, the road seems fairly decent.  Two lanes, but driveable.  Thank goodness because the scenery here is depressing.  It's savanna and nothing productive will grow there.  I understand folks have tried to raise lots of different things here, but failed.  I keep stressing to visitors that this isn't the Belize that we know and love.  Just "shut your eyes and wait until we get to Cayo District.  (I have to add the "district" because locals refer to the San Ignacio/Santa Elena towns as "Cayo.")  Once you go past the zoo at milepost 26 (or so) the scenery slowly starts to change.  You start slowly climbing and you see bits of jungle.

On this part of the trip until you pass Belmopan, there are only two villages, Hattyville and St. Matthews.  These would go unnoticed, except that every village has at least one speed bump and/or passenger crossing bump.  These may, or may not be marked.  If you don't slow down to about 15mph, these can be real shock busters.

Belmopan is a couple of miles off the road and not worth taking the side trip.  You cross the bridge over Roaring Creek and then the fun begins.  You would think that since this is the only road east and west and the main road to Guatemala, as well as the way that most inland tourists travel, that this would be the best highway.  FORGET IT!  You travel through at least eight villages, with accompanying sleeping policemen (speed bumps) and the road deteriorates.  Rather than repair, they dump dirt in the holes, which down here is marl, which the rain rapidly washes away.  Sometimes they'll throw a little blacktop patch in the holes, which then becomse a bump.  There aren't lines painted, which makes sense because the edges of the road are broken and they don't put gravel on the sides, so you can flip your car if you drift to the side as the drop can be several inches.  I imagine that Prince Harry was impressed by our lovely roads during his recent visit.  I wish the politicians would quit bribing folks for their vote and spend the money on roads, but I don't see them changing in the near future. 

The additional hazards make the trip very scarey.  We left from Cayo very early so that we would miss the schoolchildren on the road.  They're so sweet, trudging to school in their uniforms with their backpacks, but they're all over the road.  Folks here treat the road like a pathway.  The bicyclists are even worse.  No reflectors, they wear dark clothes and wander all over.  If you should hit someone, not only would you be devastated, but as a gringo, driving, it's your fault.  You pay forever.

The second huge hazard is the Belize drivers.  As David said, it's a blessing that Belize drivers have x-ray vision, because they always pass at a hill or around a corner.  It must be true because, even on these hideous roads, they drive 70 - 80mph.  I just drive my drive, putting along at 60mph as they fly past.

We usually stop at Cheers restaurant to take a break after all this.  Then to Amigo's next door where they raise fantastic hydroponic lettuce.  I usually have to buy some for at least 6 other folks.  Then we toddle home.  After this trip, Diane and I were whipped.  It had been raining for a couple of days, so, of course, I had to worry about the trip up our lovely road.  As it turned out, it was a little dicey, but I made it just fine.  What a  blessing to be back on our little hill, with Art and Bailey and to just relax.

I love Belize, but her roads are not her proudest accomplishment.  We love Belize, warts and all, but sometimes the roads can seem like a pretty bit wart.  Especially when Guatemala and Mexico have decent highways.

Monday, March 5, 2012

weather

One minute we're complaining about it being too hot.  It reached 100 F. on our veranda, in the shade, two days ago.  We were thinking that the dry season had come early.  Now it's raining like crazy and cold.  It's down to the high 50's right now, but the problem down here is that we don't have a way to get heat.  It's usually not necessary.  All we can do is bundle up.  Not easy when your wardrobe is mostly tank tops and lightweight clothes.  It's definitely "weird" weather right now.  Thankfully tho', not as devastating as in the midwest in the US. 

We are so lucky!  We had a barbecue on Sunday (yesterday) afternoon, with 11 friends and ourselves. There were some clouds, which kept it from being too hot.  We had an absolutely wonderful time.  We are so blessed with great friends, both old and new.  Our back veranda is only 8' wide, but it handled everyone just fine and our new tiki torches along with the bug coils kept us bug free.   Good food and great conversations made for a  nice time. Our little house isn't fancy, but it's so comfortable and makes  entertaining small groups a pleasure.  It was as tho' we were being watched because everyone left just before dark and about 10 minutes after the last car pulled out of the drive, it started to rain.  What a blessing.  It's actually been raining ever since.

There's still a little work to do to fine tune our solar system, but it's working!  We have a lot to be grateful for. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pro Solar Engineering

It's hard to believe that our electrical problems might be over.  Marco, of Pro Solar, and one of his technicians spent the morning here, installing our new batteries and going thru our system.  One problem they found right away was that one of our DC breakers was broken, thus cutting down the actual amount of power coming down from the panels.  Duh!  Not sure why no one else discovered this.   Some of our wiring was confusing and they changed that and then spent a lot of time monitoring the system and adjusting the settings on the inverter and the charge controller to the limits dictated by our temperatures here in Belize.  Within a couple of hours, these changes had already doubled our input over all of yesterday.  There were several components that hadn't been installed that will help us monitor our usage.  He'll send technicians back in a week or so to check the wiring of our panels, wire in a battery monitor and redo our racks to allow us to raise and lower the panels to better track the changing sun during the year. 

It is such a blessing to feel that we have finally gotten the help we desperately needed.   We are still thrilled with solar and our decision to live off-grid.  Even with our problems, we've had power when the folks using the electrical system haven't.  My main advice to anyone coming to Central America is to get help from a qualified solar engineer.  We've faced huge, unexpected expenditures because of well-meaning, but poorly trained installers.  We even found that the incorrect settings on the inverter could have damaged our new generator.  We're both sitting here breathing a cautious sigh of relief.  Thank you Marco.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Solar answers-finally

Yup, we're still fighting the losing battle with our solar system.  We've had technicians here to try to figure out what is happening, but no real answers.  Nothing they've tried has made a difference.  They've tried to reprogram the inverter to no avail.  Per recommendations from our solar provider in the US and the battery manufacturer, the default settings were appropriate.  Our batteries are nearly toast.  By watching our available volts and running the generator every evening, at least once, we've been able to keep enough power to allow us to continue at night and run our refrigerator and freezer (they're both Sundanzer DC).  We've finally given up the fight and are buying new batteries.

Thanks to the internet, I found another company in Belmopan who sells batteries, designs and installs systems.  We decided to visit their office and see what they have to offer.  We talked to Marco of Pro Solar Engineering and finally got some answers that make sense.  Marco has an engineering degree and additional advanced degrees.  He said that they hear stories similar to ours and offered some answers.  First off, our pump wasn't the total cause of our system failure.  If I'd been more knowledgeable I'd have recognized the fact that the inverter shut the AC down when the pump pushed it to dangerous limits.  Thus it was impossible for this to take the batteries totally down. Of course it didn't help, but wasn't the culprit.  His view of the advice offered by the other companies is that most companies in the US aren't considering our temperatures.  Here in Belize the average temp is 85 and most of the dry season it's much higher.  The charge controller, which was totally ignored by others has allowed the voltage to go too high to the inverter.  He recommends that it be programmed to keep it at 28v and below.  We regularly see the panels send 30+ volts to the charge controller . Marco says that over the two year life of our batteries, we've been frying them.  Well heck!

Also, something that I've noticed all along, but didn't have the knowledge to question it is that we were told when we initially bo't our system that it should generate 4.5 useable kilowatt hrs on a sunny day.  The highest we've seen has been 3kwhs and that was last year.  

We're buying new batteries and having Pro Solar come up and reconfigure our system.  I'll update this when we get things set up.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Family visit


What a lot of joy we got from the visit from my cousin Roger, his son Matt and Matt's partner Lenae.  The 10 days seem to whip by so fast and now they're gone.  Roger's goal was to relax, read and just enjoy Belize, which we hope he did.  There couldn't be a more comfortable guest than this dear man.  He's already talking about when he comes back.  Hope it's soon.

Matt and Lenae were great.  Matt is the same age as our son, Tim.  I have to tell you that their energy level is much greater than ours, but what a lot of fun we all had.  I had never been to Caracol, and that was one of the top things on Lenae's list, so Roger and I accompanied the kids on a tour.  I was so glad that we took a tour rather than drive our truck.  The road is long and rough, but the trip in the Maya Walk van was great.  Lots of terrific information.  The changes in the environment on the way up are startling and unexpected.  I hadn't seen the pine forests of the Mtn Pine Ridge area.  Of course they look rough because of recent fires, but having come from Oregon, I was disappointed in them.  We passed thru and reached the jungle of the mountains.  It was all incredible.  I'm always so overwhelmed by all I see and then have trouble describing it.  I'd make a terrible tour guide.  We passed a huge abandoned camp with lots of buildings.  Our guide told us that the government won't allow them to be occupied, moved or torn down.  What a waste!

Of course, Caracol was fantastic.  It's not a trip I'd want to make every day, but it's a trip I'm so very glad I made.  I can't begin to keep up with the younger, stronger legs of my younger cousins, but had fun just looking and absorbing the beauty of the place.  There are so many similarities with the Mayan sites and yet each is also different.  What an incredible history.

On the way back we stopped at the Rio Frio cave which was so surprising and interesting.  Then, down the road a bit were the Rio Frio pools.  Wow, at the end of a long trip, this is a must see and enjoy spot.  The pools are beautiful and the water so refreshing.  This body doesn't get out in a bathing suit in front of others, but I would still recommend jumping in to the water for most folks.  I felt I could just camp there (not allowed) for weeks and enjoy the cool and calm.

A couple of days later Matt & Lenae too a tour to the ATM Caves.  They were thrilled with the experience and enthusiastically tackled every part of the trip.  I have to state right here that Matt is a river guide on the Salmon River in Riggins, ID and Lenae works for the Idaho Fish & Game Dept., so this was all right up their alleys.

We let the kids use our old Trooper to explore around Cayo and then it was time for all to head home.  The sad thing is that it took them over 1 1/2 days to get back to Idaho and a long day for Roger to reach New York.  There lies the down side of living in Belize.

We were so happy to be able to share our little corner of the world with family and look forward to more visits.

I have to add that I lost a lot of my favorite photos.  I still don't know how to manage all the settings on my camera.  Darn!    Just have wonderful memories.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Secondhand Lions

We are having a wonderful visit with my cousin and his family.  The weather has cooperated and been lovely.  Some clouds, occasional rain and cool nights.  Can't beat that!  Belize has about 12 hours of daylight year round, so it's dark by 6:30 every evening.  We've watched a couple of videos.  We have quite a collection of those we bro't down from Oregon and the ones from the market in San Ignacio.  We always manage to watch The Secondhand Lions, as it's one of our favorites.  None of our family or friends had seen it.  If you haven't, you are missing a treat.  I can't figure why it didn't make a bigger splash when it was released, but it has to go down as a classic.  With Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, Haley Joel Osment and Kyra Sedgwick, how can you go wrong.  Please beg, borrow or steal a copy and watch it.  You won't regret it. 

We just have a couple more days with family and then it will be back to our normal schedule, which really isn't one.  We'll putter around the grounds, raking leaves for compost and will try to finish putting the ta-tai on the handrails.  I'll post a photo when I get done.  Nothing too strenuous, just keeping busy. 

I've had a couple of emails from new friends, asking questions about living here.  I'll try to answer very soon.  I love hearing from you and will do my best to give honest, answers.  I'm sending a hug to all of you.  That may sound corny, but you can never have too many hugs.      Gale

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Family visiting

We're now enjoying a visit from my cousin, Roger, his son, Matt and Lenae.  I'm feeling like a real goose as they came in yesterday and I had my days mixed up and had planned to pick them up today from the airport.  What a shock when I got a call from Roger asking me if I was almost there.  They ended up taking a shuttle, as it would have taken me 2 hours to get there.  They're fine with it, but I'll be beating myself up over that for months.  They're so lovely to have as guests.  We hadn't seen Matt since he was a tiny boy, so this is a wonderful reunion.  We love being able to share the bush and the wonders of Belize with family. 

We had two technicians here last Sunday to check on reprogramming  our solar batteries.  The news wasn't good.  They think our accident probably destroyed their recharging ability.   Next Sunday Elvis will bring up a battery charger capeable of charging the 24 volt system in order to bypass the restrictions of the inverter.  This will be our last hope.  We're getting enough energy during the day to handle our useage, but the batteries aren't able to store enough to get us thru the evening and night.  We'll then have to just use them until they're totally destroyed and hope then we'll be able to afford new ones.  How sad to only get two years use.  For now we're just focusing on enjoying our very welcome visit of family.  It's hard to complain when we're having scattered clouds and temps in the low 80's when the rest of the world is cold.  My glass is still half full.