Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Missing family at Christmas

Coming from the Northwest, it's very strange to be in the tropics during the holidays.  I know our family thinks it's great that we're having sun and warm weather now, but for us it brings home the fact that we're not "home" for the holidays.  We have a wonderful card on the wall from my brother and sister-in-law of their dogs in the snow and I so wish I could be there to share the fun.  If we ever are able to go back we'll have to put coats on our Setters as their hair is thin and they crave the heat. 

In the States we've all moaned the fact that Christmas starts so early with decorations and music popping up on the heals of Thanksgiving.  It does seem to be overly commercial, but when you're away from it all you realize that you miss the color, the music and the joy of Christmas.  I miss having people wish a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays with a smile .  The small things like putting what you can in the Salvation Army container and seeing the kids so excited.  Here it's almost a non-event.  There are a few decorations around, but none of the warmth and joy of Christmas.  No one says "merry Christmas" or even felize navidad (?) ( I still don't speak Spanish).  

We are blessed with wonderful friends down here and will share in Christmas dinner with a large group.  We always have a good time and share terrific food when we get together. 

Of course, the main thing we miss so much is to be able to share hugs and the beauty of the holidays with our family.  Both our kids are having huge struggles and I wish we could give them our love in person and had the means to alleviate some of their trials.   Christmas isn't just about jingle bells and red ribbons, it's about love and goodwill and the story of Christmas.  I just wish the whole world had more of it in their hearts now and all year long.  Anyway,    MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR to anyone who happens to stumble upon my ramblings.      Blessings

Computer problems

It seems the only things I have to write about are problems and that's not really what Belize is all about.  It's beautiful here with wonderful people, but our reality right now is dealing with problems.  I haven't been posting for a couple of reasons.  First, I hate to be negative all the time, but the real reason is the computer.  In the 5+ years that we've lived here full-time, I've lost three laptops.  The first was a Dell, which I bo't especially to have here with it's 17" screen and lots of bells and whistles.  In less than a year it died and I got absolutely no help from Dell because I had the nerve to take it out of the US.  My wonderful cousin then shipped me a new ASUS.  I did get a couple of years out of that one, but it also failed.  Last May, when we went to Oregon I bo't a refurbished HP.  It gave up the first of November.  The humidity here is killer on electronics.  I cover the computer every night with a thick towel to try to help and have it on a tray for air circulation, but to no avail.  The problem with all of them is that if one part fails it takes the whole system with it.  The Dell had a design flaw with the webcam, but it was all necessary for the initializing process.  They all have one large circuit board inside, so the problem area can't be bypassed or replaced.  Pooh!

My dear friend, Diane, is in Florida right now, but she is letting me use an old Dell that has been in her closet for a bit.  It's so old it actually had Vista as an operating system.  I've had a lot of trouble with it too (maybe it's really just me).  It took it to Sergio, who has a place in San Ignacio and is terrific with computers.  He's the one who tried to resurrect my HP.  Besides being so slow and unable to connect, the keyboard went wonky and started typing on it's own.  Freaky!  He literally stripped it down, took off Vista and installed Windows 7 and disabled the keyboard.  I bo't a USB keyboard and am limping along.  I suspect my router is also giving up the ghost.  When I want to use the computer I plug it directly into the repeater.  When I want to use the Kindle, I plug in the repeater.  Go figure!  I'm definitely technologically challenged, but am making it work.

I'm really missing the DVD drive on the computer as our little stereo also quit working, so I can't play Christmas music.  There are definitely some disadvantages to living in the bush on limited funds.  

With all our car repairs and limited funds, I've been searching for a new computer.  Sergio suggested an ACER, as they're the only ones that seem to be effectively sealed against the humidity.  He hasn't had one in his repair shop for these problems.  I looked at Amazon and BestBuy and checked the reviews.  For every great review, I'd see someone saying that they got their new computer home and it didn't work, right out of the box.  Living in this tiny country, where it can take months to get something here, that wasn't very reassuring.  I ended up taking a huge chance.  I went on eBay and found exactly what I was looking for a about 1/3 of the price I would pay for a one new.  Actually this one has more storage and speed than I needed.  It's from a pawn shop in Detroit.  Scarey!  I ran it by Sergio and his comment was that they don't lend on a computer that doesn't work, so I put in my bid and won.  I had it sent to a friend in Colorado who is coming down in January.  She isn't any more adept at computers than I am, but she said she plugged it in and it connected to the internet just fine, so I'm crossing my fingers that in January, I'll be good to go again. 

I suspect that my problems aren't all the fault of the computer.  This repeater is less than reliable, so may have to reactivate the satellite and probably get a new router.  My internet connection is as important as food as I couldn't stand being so far away and not be able to connect with family and friends. 

Anyway, I'm delighted to be able to get and receive emails and even Skype with this old computer, so my holiday spirit is surviving.   Blessings and Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bailey's problem

Our poor, lovely old Akita, Bailey, is really suffering.  His hair is so thick with a very dense undercoat.  This has always worried us, but it seemed to serve as an insulation.  He's now either 11 or 12 years old, so is fairly old for such a large dog.  I think I mentioned in a previous post that he lost a patch of hair on his back, which I attributed to fleas.  We've fought that problem with all three dogs.  We finally got my order of Stronghold from the UK, which seems to have alleviated the flea problem for this month.  We had a vet out to our farm and after he took skin scrapings and had them analyzed, they determined that it's actually a fungus.  Not surprising as we've had a lot of rain periodically, followed by heat.  We're not alone in this fight, but that fact doesn't help our poor old guy.  The vet gave us medicine to make a spray, which helped the first spot, where the hair is regrowing, but his hair is now falling out in huge clumps and he has black patches on his usually pink skin.  I use a ferminator to strip out the dead hair and I fear that he'll soon be bald.  Actually the vet suggested that we shave him down, but we've had such cold nights that we don't want to as we're afraid he'll get too cold. 

Rene looked at Bailey when he was working and suggested we prepare a bath for him of Ix-canon (Red head polly).  It's a common plant here that grows in cleared areas.  I checked it out in "100 Rainforest Remedies" and they determined that it has antibacterial and antifungal properties.  I collected the leaves and tore them into little pieces, trying to crush as much as possible.  By adding water, it made a tea type bath.  We have a large, shallow watering trough that I bo't especially to bathe the dogs.  In the book they suggest you actually boil it for tea, but we needed too much, so he told me to make it a day ahead and then pour it over Bailey, and even leave some of the leaf material on the sore spots.  Mayan medicine often uses the term "one-in-one-out" meaning every other day, so that is what I'm trying to do.  This seems to give him the most relief.  The vet, Eduardo, is local and he agreed that the Ix-canon is a good remedy. 

The vet now feels that Bailey's immune system is shutting down as his body seems to almost be shooting the hair off.  We're supplementing his food with vitamin C and cod liver oil and he's been given antibiotic shots.  Today he actually seems to have lots more energy, but he's starting to look old.  Our poor daughter just had to have her beloved dog, Shadow, put down and we fear that if Bailey can't fight this off, we'll have to follow suite.  This is a really tough climate for dogs, but especially for double coated dogs.  I hope after the holidays we'll have good news to report as we're sure not giving up on our wonderful friend and family member.  Blessings and keep your fingers crossed. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Life in the tropics

In so many ways, Belize is paradise.  Right now, it's sunny, but relatively cool.  At night we sometimes have to add a light blanket to ward off the cold.  During the day it usually hovers around 80 F.  We could actually use some rain, but we're not complaining.  The big down side here is the humidity.  We have a couple of issues that are causing us concern.

We're fighting an almost impossible battle with fleas.  We had a few tiny showers and now sunshine and high humidity make dogs a petrie dish for fleas.  Everyone we talk to is dealing with the same battle and no one, including the vets, has an answer.  We've tried everything from Frontline to Revolution and several in between, with negligible results.  I've ordered Stronghold from the UK, which is Revolution over there.  It's been two months since I ordered and the shipping is delayed so still not here.  SCREAM!  I'm spraying the dogs with Adams, giving them flea baths and we're spraying the yard.  All we can do is repeat every few days and hope we finally give them some relief.  Poor Bailey, of course, is the worst.  I was brushing him to try to pull out some of the undercoat, when a huge patch of hair started pulling lose from his back.  It turned out to be a flea nest.  He's literally covered with fleas.  It's a wonder he hasn't gone crazy, poor old dear.  Being an 11 year old Akita in Belize, isn't easy.  

An additional frustrating problem for us right now is repairs on everything.  A few days ago we had one of those days you hope doesn't come along very often.  The transmission went out in the truck, the cross or u-joint went out in the Trooper, our big weedeater had an issue and the word is that my computer is trash.  I handled this depressing news by getting most of my hair cut off and Art and I went to lunch to talk about how to handle all of this.  All we can do is to trudge ahead and hope for the best.  The good thing is that, here in Belize, car repairs are handled quickly and MUCH cheaper than in the U.S.  Perfecto only charged $40bz to change the u-joint and then we need all new bushings in the back.  Each shop here specializes in certain repairs so the truck is in a different shop.  I know the news won't be as generous there.  We keep the old Trooper as backup, but hard when they die at the same time.  Anyway, we're handling things and not letting them get us down.  I find that using my KIndle for email is really SLOW, but I'm grateful that I have it.  To replace the clutches in the transmission and repairing a motor in the 4x4 cost $2k bz.  Ouch!  We can blame these car problems, mostly on the horrible roads.  There is a small light in the rough road tunnel, in that the government finally sent a grader and roller to smooth out some of the holes in Paslow Falls Rd.,  We're still waiting for the truckloads of gravel that were promised, but we imagine it will be several years before they appear.  Promises here are liket the wind, made and blown away.  

My computer is another problem.  The screen died and I was told that it can't be replaced as it's imbedded in the whole machine.  They heated the chip (?) and it worked for a couple of days and then quit again.  This time I was told it's a lost cause.  The humidity did it again.  Well darn.  This is my third computer in 5 years.  A Dell (never again), an ASUS, and now an HP.  I got to thinking about the humidity issue and decided I had nothing to lose, so set the laptop upside down on the railing, in the sun.  When I picked it up a few hours later, it was almost hot enough to burn my hands.  Voile!  It worked.  I've had to do it a couple of times with mixed results.  I also put it under a bed pillow at night to keep it from absorbing more moisture.  We don't really have windows, just screens, so we have no control over the humidity.  This isn't a problem for us, just for electronics.  Time will tell how much continued success I'll have with my solution, but for today, it's working.  

I guess wherever you are there are good things and bad.  We would like to be able to sell and return to the US for medical reasons and to spend time with family, but that doesn't seem to be on our horizon.  We'll just sit on our veranda and watch the birds, listen to the howler monkeys and thank the Lord that we're both still able to function.  Blessings. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Belize's social conscience?

I've been pondering several situations here that are disturbing and have had me questioning people's motives.  To live in a country other than where you've grown up you have to agree to accept that things aren't going to look or feel the same as what you've known.  We agreed when we moved down full-time that this isn't the US, nor would we really want it to be.  Some of the lovely simpler ways appealed so much to our beaten up psyche's.  We were looking for and found a quieter, simpler way to live.  

I appreciate so many of the villagers, their warm smiles and "hello miss," greetings.  Actually I'm also called "mommy" which is a sign of respect to an older woman.  Gosh it's hard to be that old, but reality and the mirror let me know it's the truth.  I feel safe here and do feel that many keep a watch out for us, knowing that we're alone on our hill.  Stepping back tho', now that I have more time for contemplation, I find I have to turn my back on so many things in order to continue surviving in our insulated environment. 

We have friends who live in the village and are under huge stress because of the insensitivity of others.  Our friend, David, is extremely ill and several neighbors know, but are uncaring about his illness.  They play extremely loud music all day and into the night.  To most Belizeans, music must be played at the loudest volume that their speaker will stand.  When asked to keep it a little lower,  one neighbor responded with "but it's my music and I like it loud."  This is actually a recurring response everywhere here.  Loud music seems to be the norm and even tho' there are supposedly laws to at least force them to shut down at night, they are regularly ignored.  You can often hear the boom, boom of the base all thru the night.  

A huge frustration, here in Bullet Tree, is the relentless noise of the stream of Guatemalan trucks traveling from the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout through the village and up Calla Creek road to Guatemala carrying the precious commodities that should be here for the betterment of Belizeans.  This route lets them bypass the customs checks at the Benque border.  There is a checkpoint here in the village that supposedly checks cattle for disease or ??, but we see envelopes changing hands and have heard that this is with Minister's approval.  Of course that means greasing palms and it's OK.  These trucks are noisy, with most not realizing or caring that they can and should turn off their Jake brakes on the flat in the village, so their speed and noise can keep having face to face conversations come to a halt until they pass.  The dust created by their speed, coats everything.  Up here on our hill the sound is faint as they are passing on the other side of the river, but I still resent how this is destroying the comfort of so many in order to line the pockets of a few.

Besides the noise, the road through the village is constantly eroding, making a trip of even 10 mph seem horribly uncomfortable.  The Mennonites don't feel at all responsible and the village is lucky if the government agrees to grade the dirt road more that once every couple of years.  

The examples of the uncaring attitude of the "haves" for the "havenots" is so extreme here and goes on and on.  From the hollow promises of government workers and officials who will promise to make things better in exchange for a vote, to the supposed pastors who exhort the poor folks to give to support the church and to find that all the money collected here and from outside the country to help the poor, just goes to let the pastor drive a new vehicle or have a nice house, but the struggles of the parishioners go unheeded.  

These and many more examples have made me try to fathom what is so different here.  As an outsider I feel that there is a huge difference here regarding our feeling of personal space and responsibility.  As Americans from the US, we're overly apologetic of what we have and our responsibility of trying to make the world a better place.  It's hard to "butt out."  Here I find that it's more every man for himself, even when it comes to family and friends.  There's a general selfishness that precludes everything, allowing family members to turn their backs on others if it means giving up their time or worse yet, their money, to assist. 

 It's hard to disagree with the young who want to move to the US for a "better life" but even when given education support to study abroad, almost none return to help their homeland survive.  

Belize is so proud of being independent now for 33 years, but I don't think that they see that they are slowly sinking into a hole from which I don't think they can recover.  They're abandoning their goal of being a "green" haven to siphoning off all the funds into the hands of a few politicians and rather than improving the infrastructure to allow for responsible growth, they go for the fastest under the table situation.  It's so sad as Belize is a beautiful country that could be a shining light throughout Central America and the Caribbean, but probably won't survive the greed and insensitivity of the culture. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dreamer farm retreat

As I sit on the veranda this morning I'm struck by the absolute silence. ( Not having neighbors in close proximity can be such a quiet blessing).  The air can be totally still and the birds get quiet.  The only sound I hear is the gentle ticking of the new clock telling me I should get busy.  Hush up!  Then I hear the quiet chirping of the small warblers and sparrows and so many others I have yet to be able to identify.  We'd have so many more birds near the house, but having  two Irish Setter pups, one of whom is obsessed with chasing the birds, has nearly cleared their one acre yard of some of our previous friends.

 It's approaching mid-morning, so the chachalaca's have gotten quiet as have the howler monkeys, whom we never see, but seem all around us.  Periodically a light breeze passes by keeping it from getting too hot.  I'm so happy that we made the choice to have our roof extend over the entire veranda, which protects the house and gives us cool spots during the day.

We had some lovely folks look at our place a couple of weeks ago.  We had no idea of their agenda as they came with a realtor.  I wish we had known they were looking for a retreat as we had designed so much of the land with that in mind, even knowing that it would always be beyond our resources.  We planted a circle in the middle of the open area to allow for a drive-around for three potential cabana sites.  Setting them with a back to the trees would block out sounds from the village.  We also had Rene punch a path thru the bush towards the east to access our coconut trees.  There would be a couple of great spots for additional cabanas which would be set in the trees.  The area to the west, behind the house has been cleared and Rene has planted some of the medicinal plants as well as various small palms.  There's a meandering path thru and with the placement of a couple of seats, it would be a lovely spot for contemplation. 

It's been and will continue to be a beautiful retreat for two old, very tired people, but we do feel that we need to get back to family while it's still an option.  As we've told ourselves so many times tho' if we have to be stuck someplace, there can't be a more wonderful place than Dreamer Farm.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Quit whining, it's been raining

I should have whined earlier and maybe we'd have seen more rain.  We still aren't getting the big rains that we usually see, but at least it has been raining a bit.  Good for the ground, the cistern and my disposition.  We were all starting to feel that there was a bubble over our area, making the clouds go around us, but maybe the bubble has broken.  Anyway, I'm trying to get my gumption going and start doing things.   Thank you our lovely rain. 

Cohune nuts & healthy eating

We've both become extremely lethargic since our projects have ceased and the weather has become extremely hot and humid.  I've never been much of a cook and now, with the heat, I have made only a minimum effort thinking about meals.  We've both come to the same conclusion that we need to lose some weight.  Or better yet, a lot of weight.  I've decided to make a positive step by eliminating processed foods from our diet.  Here it's probably easier to get clean organic foods as the farmers are less sophisticated, thank goodness, but our choices are definitely limited.  

One really easy change is to start using cohune or coconut oil.  Both can be found in the farmer's market and we now are enjoying a small bottle of cohune oil from Rene and Bonita.  We are so lucky to have a large group of healthy cohune palms on the west side of our property.  These fantastic trees are becoming more scarce with each burning season.  Many farmers consider the cohune a nuisance and intentionally burn them.  Others use burning as a method of clearing or cleaning and the cohunes, which burn easily, are lost in the process.  

The nuts are formed in huge bunches that hang down and take a year to mature.  When they're ripe they fall and can then be gathered.  It takes a lot of determination to break the hard outer shell to get to the nut.  A sledge or back of an axe are necessary if processing by hand.  The nut tastes a lot like a coconut.  Rene collects and bags the ripe nuts and takes them home for Bonita and family to process.  The lay them in a secure area to dry, then break them by hand.  One 100 lb bag of nuts will produce about 2 quarts of nuts.  The shells are set aside and when fully died they'll use them as fire starters.  I've also been told that they infuse a wonderful coconut smell to the fire.  

Bonita uses a huge, very old cabbage bark log which had the center burned out to a depth of about 1 1/2 feet.  The nut meat is put in this hole and she takes an iron bar and crushes the nuts.  These are then placed in a large pot with water and they're boiled an entire day.  At night they put out the fire and in the morning the oil has risen to the top and they scoop it off.  She boils the nuts the second day and repeats the process.  The second day produces most of the oil.  They later throw the nuts into the fire for heat and the lovely smell.  They boil the oil slowly to get rid of the remaining water and get the pure oil. 

I wish we had the money to buy a press that would crack the nuts to encourage the locals to bring their cohune nuts to be more easily broken to try to preserve this precious product.  With jobs so scarce it would also be a small way for some to earn a little extra.  Too bad we're not the "rich gringos".

To me the overriding value tho' is their beauty.  To sit on the veranda and watch them gracefully sway in the breeze and realize their worth to this tiny country makes me realize that, to me, they are Belize.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August weather

We've been having some unusual weather that has just about put any activity on my part to a halt.  We've been expecting some rain as we've been having occasional clouds, lightning and thunder.  Darn, only a few drops have come down and have contributed to the humidity and heat.  It's been in the high 90's for all of August and my chubby body hasn't been responding well to the heat.  Sweating profusely isn't particularly attractive or comfortable.  This hot spell has also contributed to a water shortage.  Thankfully we can rely on Michael Waite of Snooty Fox to bring us 3000 gallons of water at a reasonable price.  Tonight, as my whining reached a crescendo level, we've gotten about an hour of drizzle.   So lovely.  Now my Kindle reading marathon will need to come to an end as my excuse for my laziness will have cooled off. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Belize customs (duty) revisited

Wow, when I mentioned my frustration with the customs practices during a recent get-together I found out so much more.  Belize is struggling with poverty vs graft vs foolishly devised laws.  More friends had distressing tales of people in the US trying to help, but being stymied by customs.  I was told about a lady who collected a huge supply of books to bring down for the kids.  She found she would have to pay a substantial duty besides her shipping, so wasn't able to follow through. 

A Belizian friend has worked closely with a group from Pittsburgh through his church.   In past years they've come down to bring things to the villages and have been accompanied by Drs. who volunteer their services and bring medicines.  They can no longer afford to take their time, pay for their tickets to come and then be charged duty on all the supplies that they bring in.  This conversation included a concurrence from a member of Rotary who said that they've encountered the same situation.  They've been encouraging doctors and dentists to volunteer their time and services here in Belize, but find that they are discouraged and charged duty on anything they bring in.  They even had to pay duty on a container of wheelchairs that were donated.  

It makes me proud that Americans are opening their hearts to help this little country, but the message seems to be to just SEND MONEY.  Phooey on that.  It will just find it's way into someone's pocket rather than help the villagers who could so use the services and supplies.   

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Belize customs (duty)

Ok, I'm going to rant.  When we entered Belize five years ago, we sucked it up and paid duty on all our possessions.  Even tho' we came in under the QRP (qualified retirement program) we wanted to expedite things.  Since our goods were part of a larger container we paid our part and moved on.  Belize has so few sources of income, they view expats as a rich well and draw as much as they can from it. 

Two of our friends have just found that the customs well has just gotten more greedy.  One person had several items shipped in with an invoice value of approximately $300 US.  Customs reviewed the order and charged over $1400 BZ. Part of that was a fee of approx. $400 as a punishment for not purchasing in Belize.  The fact that the items aren't produced or available in Belize had no bearing.  

Another acquaintance bro't in a container of used furniture and an old truck.  He'd paid $2,000 for the truck.  Customs assessed a duty of $6,000 on the truck.  He is being charged $12,000 duty on the shipment and $200/day storage at the port, even tho' the original agreement was to have the container bro't to San Ignacio accompanied by a Customs officer and opened here.  We seem to have almost no control on anything, least of all our checkbooks.  In an earlier discussion with a person in the Customs office, it was confirmed that there is an approved list of what charges should be, but it was admitted that we're at the whims of the particular officer on duty. 

The inconsistencies seem to prove that "Gringo's" are only viewed as a source of income, both for the Customs agency and/or the officer himself.  

My recommendation is to keep importation to a minimum and buy local furnishings.  

Ir's also been suggested to me that you get a more reasonable treatment at the southern port of Big Creek. 

Disclaimer - I have to admit that I didn't see the paperwork on the container brought in, but am going on what was described to me by another party.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Trip to Oregon

We need to return to Oregon once a year for Art's checkups with the VA.  The trips are a little expensive, but the care he's received from the Bend VA has been incredible.  We don't want to turn our backs on their continued attention.  

Last year my computer screen was damaged during the flight and I lost a strip on the left.  I learned to live with it, but was frustrating.  This year, when I got to our son's house, I turned it on and the screen looked like it was bleeding from the top and the bottom.  Then everything went haywire and I got fatal messages.  The end result was, it was fried.  I bo't a reconditioned HP and had them download my data.  The fellow told me there wasn't much to do since I didn't have any pictures!!!   WHAT?  I had files of photos.  He connected the hard drive to my new computer and he was right.  When it crashed it took all my photos with it.  Pooh!  It was too expensive for me to have him dig deeper into the hard drive to see if he could salvage some or all of them, so, with tears, I let them go.  Luckily, I have a lot of photos on my camera, but I know I've lost a lot.  The stupid thing is that I have a backup drive and I failed to back up before we left.  My fault.  

One of our big concerns is leaving our three dogs here.  We're lucky to have Rene, who works for us a couple of days a week, and he will stay here at night while we're gone, to take care of the dogs and watch our place.  I made up 10 gallon zip bags of dog food for the freezer and bo't sacks of dry dog food for the pups and Bailey.  I still call the Setters pups, even tho' they're now 1 1/2 years old.  Shannon is so small and thin that I want to give her every advantage that I can.  I know that Rene is fairly attentive to the dogs, but it's not the same as our care.  It was upsetting when we came home to find that Shannon ran from us and then was nearly catatonic.  Rusty was excited to see us and, of course, our Bailey was just fine.  We tried to bring Shannon out of her mood with lots of love and reassurance, but for two days we had almost no response.  She would finally eat if I held the food right under her nose.  I supplemented their food with a bowl of milk to give her a little boost.  Rusty had also lost weight.  I researched online about separation anxiety and realized that that wasn't our problem.  I then checked out depression and bingo.  She had all the symptoms.  One article said to NOT give her extra attention that seemed as tho' we were rewarding her behavior.   She would follow me around, looking at me with intense, searching eyes.  It nearly broke my heart.  She didn't want to go off the veranda, but would lie down on or near my feet.  Finally on the third day, I was treating her as tho' nothing was wrong and she started to respond.  We were so excited to see her go down to chase the doves and play with Rusty.  What a relief.  Now if we can just put some weight on her.  She's actually built just like her mother, so we try not to worry too much.  

Our dogs have been such a blessing, offering unconditional love and protection here on our hill.   

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dog health problems

Bringing dogs to Belize is a decision to not make lightly, especially if one is an Akita.  Our sweet Bailey has had to go thru some real adjustments to survive here.  The obvious issue is one of big bugs and snakes.  This hasn't been a problem for us because we've cleared a large area of our acreage, which discourages snakes and the tarantulas are so shy, they remain hidden most of the day.  We expected Bailey to shed most of his extremely heavy undercoat when the hot, dry season approached.  Actually, the reverse seems to have happened.  He will shed as the heat starts and then his coat thickens up again.  As I've probably already posted, this seems to be much like the Arabs in the desert with their heavy wool wraps.  This may serve as an insulation.  Not sure because, at 10 years of age, Bailey is becoming much more lethargic.  I can't really belittle him, as I'm the same way.  We both get more tired and lazy all the time.

Fleas.  I've tried several different products for fleas on all three dogs.  Bailey doesn't seem to have much of a problem, maybe because they have trouble finding his skin.  They have imported a couple of new products, one call Spot shot (or something like that), which is worthless, and Barricade, which is supposed to be like Frontline, but also didn't work. We're now back to Frontline, which is a little expensive, with three dogs, but it isn't fair to them if it doesn't work.  The poor pups (Irish Setter, littermates) have been plagued with fleas.  They have no undercoat and long fine hair and I can see fleas having a field day, running around their stomachs.  I've tried all the above products, as well as giving them a bath with a strong flea soap, leaving a little residue to continue the fight.  Lasted about 4 days.  Whoop-dee-do.  We've sprayed under the house, but it's difficult to spray the whole acre fenced area.

Shannon, at 44 lbs is much smaller than her brother, but she is so energetic, that she burns off everything she eats, right away.  Rusty, at 65 lbs is much more laid back.  I worry about him as he seems to favor his right shoulder.  I think it's because he's still so young, but heavy and his legs are really long and thin.  Too much weight, too soon.   Both pups seem healthy and happy, so will just keep doing what we're doing, for now.

My big worry is still Bailey.  At 135 lbs and 10 years old, he's allowed to have some little problems.  We got him from the Humane Society in Bend, Oregon 5 years ago.  Shortly before we moved here he had a seizure, which was of short duration, but really scared us.  The vet there tho't it wasn't something to worry about, unless they continued.  After we moved here to the farm, he had another seizure.   I researched and found that a couple of preservatives that were in the dog food we were feeding were known to cause seizures.  We changed from Pedigree to  Alican,which is a Central American food and he's done really well until this week.  I was ready to holler at him as he was bumping into my printer table, when I look down and saw that he was seizing.  We talked to him and gave him loving and he slowly recovered.  Later in the day he seized again.  This has us concerned, but he seemed totally recovered the next day.  I know that there is anti-seizure medicine, but I hate to medicate him when he goes years without a problem.  The vets are unsure and say it could be canine epilepsy, but maybe not.  It's now been a couple of months since I started this posting and Bailey is doing well and seizure free, again. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

US tourists

Yesterday was Art's birthday, so today we decided to go to town and have an early dinner.  It's so hot right now that it was great to get into our air conditioned truck and just do something!  I have to say that the observation I'm about to make has been bothering me for quite some time.   We headed for one of our favorite places, Ko Ox Han Ah (Known to all of us as Hannah's).  There was a large group of young folks there who appeared to be either American or Canadian.  Altho' we were all there for some time and they all had to pass us as they left, not a one made eye contact or offered a smile.
I realize that we're both much older than most of the folks that we meet, so probably aren't on many folks' radar, but as we see Belizeans, we exchange smiles and usually some form of hello.  Over and over I find that when walking near U. S. tourists of almost any age, they look past or thru us and walk on.  I don't want anything from any of them, but this lack of friendliness and courtesy makes me sad.  I would love to be of help if needed, but feel that as "old" folks we're totally disregarded.  

I know I keep repeating this, but if we do sell here, I will truly miss the courtesy, kindness and genuine smiles of Belizeans.  So many want to be like Americans, but I pray that our lack of courtesy doesn't rub off on them.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

No sale, darn!

We're let down, but are pulling up our socks and continuing on.  We've been in negotiations with some folks who seemed a perfect fit for the farm.  With our one bedroom/one bath in the house, two bedrooms/one bath in the guest house and then the unfinished Mennonite house at the entrance and leaving the property turn key, we were excited about the prospect of going back to Oregon and spending time with family.  In the end, we couldn't agree on terms, so are starting over.  I'm sorry for them as they seem to think that building is going to be a breeze.  After all we've been thru and the ugly stories others have related, I can assure them it's not, but to each his own.  Anyway, we're still here, enjoying the beauty and comfort on our hill.  

Improved road

Nothing much going on right now at the farm.  Weather is great.  Cloudy, occasional light, very short rain.  This is a prelude to the hot, dry season ahead.  Just wanted to post a photo of a piece of the road improvement.  Doesn't look spectacular, unless you've spent time in Belize and have driven some of our roads.  Folks are calling it our "highway."  Wish all the roads were this solid.

You can see the improvements at the top.  The road is about 1/4 mile and took a lot of gravel and work.  We're just enjoying being able to go up and down with relative ease. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Road, again!

The road up our hill has been a problem for several years, but this rainy season was the final straw.  We found ourselves virtually trapped up here and when we did go down, the huge ruts along with the mountain of black muck the was pushed up in the middle, were destroying the bottom of our truck.  We quit trying to use the old Trooper as the 4 wheel drive went out on it.  We've tried to keep our Toyota truck from becoming a "Belize" truck, but the elements seem to be winning.  We were able to get up and down most of the time, but no one else could or would even attempt it.  We finally cried "uncle" and decided it was cheaper to fix the road than repair the truck

We attempted to contact Victor, who put in the top part of our road when we built.  It turned out that he was spending the rainy season in California, so we contacted Henry, who was doing work for several friends and he agreed to help us.  Normally, it's best to wait until things dry out before attempting to repair a road, but our dilemma  needed drastic attention. 

It's extremely frustrating that there are other families on this road, but no one will contribute, but they keep trying to drive in the goo and succeed in making it totally impassable.  A neighbor has sold a lot and contracted to build an upscale house on it, but has been waiting for dry weather to do anything about the mess.  Her crew just spin their wheels and dig huge trenches.  Ok, ENOUGH!  I know that the neighborhood will think that we're rich Americans because we are spending to get this fixed, but that has to be their problem.  Little do they know that this is the last of our little fund.  Priorities.

Henry decided to put some material he's digging from a hill in Santa Elena.  It's huge rocks with a minimum of dirt.  He's using a backhoe to dig out the black goo and dumping the rock on the road.  It's not pretty like some folks like, where they put down white rocks that look nice, but when the rains hit, they become buried in the mud.  We were impressed by his diligence by using the backhoe, instead of a grader, he was able to continually pile the rocks on the roadbed, rather than having them pushed to the side with a grader.  

After he had dumped 4 loads of rock and leveled it out, I had an irate call from the woman at the bottom of the hill.  Her boys had buried the front end of her big Ford diesel truck in the new road.  She was adamant that everything we did was horrible.  I finally went down in the pickup and saw what had happened.  These young fellows don't have a clue how to drive and he'd tried to drive thru a pile of the black goo and had buried the front end with the back up in the air.  I had a tow chain and pulled him out, telling him that he's much better off sticking to the new rock.  Duh!  A couple of days later I got a call from her, thanking me for pulling them out and telling me that the new road was looking great.  Wow!

Anyway, Henry took about a week to slowly dump 14 loads of rock at 14 years per load.  We had to call a halt to the work as the funds were running out, but boy did we get a lot for our money.  He had to put most of the work at the bottom of the hill, but was able to address the couple of muddy spots up closer to the farm.  Hopefully, before the next rainy season we can get Henry back up to do a little more work, but we now have one of the best local roads in the country.  Anyone should be able to get up without four-wheel drive and Henry was able to bring up a full load of chippings which we'll use to build walkable paths around the house.  

It doesn't seem right that this track up to our place is a 60' government road, but they don't do anything, even to the main roads.  It's all political here.  When an election is coming, they tell the folks that they'll fix the roads if they win.  Hah!  Then nothing substantial happens.  They might bring a grader in and then drop a few loads of marl on the road, but the first rain brings back all the potholes.  Our road, with it's solid base of large rocks, should stay passable during the worst of the rains. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Not much happening at the farm

I've been pretty quiet for a couple of reasons.  The first is that we've had rain almost constantly for over three months.  Coupled with unusually cold temperatures has made it really miserable.  Every year since we moved here, when the cool weather hits, I dig our warmer clothes out of the suitcase where they reside, under our bed most of the year.  We'd wear them for a few days and then I had to wash and pack them up again.  WELL, this year I've been wearing fleece vests and a jacket and a neck scarf for nearly three months.  When it rains here it doesn't usually mess around, It rains a lot and the ground literally gets like a sponge.  We step outside and the mush comes up to our ankles.  Once again, our road is a slippery, slide of  black goo.  It seems there's little we can do except read and pray that it lets up soon.

The second reason is that I've been under the weather with a really sore back and neck.  I had numb fingers and generally felt crumby.  What else to do when stuck up here but look on the internet for a diagnosis.  Dumb!  I really scared myself with everything from heart trouble to MS.  I've been so healthy all of my life, so had difficulty fathoming being ill.  I finally got my self to the Dr. and found that I'm so very lucky to be my age and have a very strong heart and lungs.  It's just an accumulation of not enough exercise and taking care of myself.  I went to a massage therapist who helped some, but then my sciatic acted up.  This has been a very painful, relentless problem, but I have been so lucky to find the most wonderful lady in Benque who does chiropractic massage.  Wow, what a blessing.  She trained as a chiropractor in Guatemala and has certificates in several different techniques as well. I have to thank dear Dona Alicia for relieving my sciatic distress and helping me to walk comfortably again. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy Holidays in Belize

This is the time of the year that I miss the US.  Living in the northwest, we often had snow for Christmas.  For the last ten years we lived in our beautiful log home in the mountains.  Art, as a professional Santa, would be gone from before Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas.  He'd try to leave Christmas morning to get home the next day.  It was about and 18 hour drive from Santa Monica to Central Oregon.  Anyway, I had a lovely time decorating our home both inside and outside.  I love the lights. 

When we came to Belize, we realized that, living off-grid, electricity would be at a premium, so we left all our decorations in storage at our son's house.  Oh how I miss them - the decorations and the family.  Christmas here is almost a non-event.  I guess in town some folks decorate, but here in the village and out where we are, it's just the same as every other day.  I know within their homes they make their special foods (boyos out of pigs heads or chicken with the bones and all.  Sorry, but ick).  Some of the Adventists even work on Christmas day. 

The thing that I find truly confusing and upsetting is that they play extremely loud music that has nothing to do with Christmas and shoot off fireworks for EVERY holiday.  We are so lucky to live a little more remotely so we're not impacted by all the noise.  Our friends, Diane and David haven't been able to sleep for several nights and weren't able to hear the dialogue on their TV during the New Year's programming due to the noise.  They live in the village and are both nervous wrecks right now.  They've lived here for several years, but now regret building near the river with locals around them because of the lack of consideration by the villagers.  This is definitely a recurring theme throughout the country from what I hear. 

Oh well, we're still blessed to have been together, in relatively good health to celebrate Christmas with friends and to face another new year.  I pray it's a wonderful year for all of us.  Blessings