Dec 9, 2007

Then and Now

We've been getting nagged about not blogging for a while so we'll begin with excuses and then get on with the blog. Firstly, Colette was away for ten days in October. This threw us out of kilter a bit but she had a really good time with her family in Georgia. When she came back we finally went ahead with our plans and our house is finally being built. Oh, had we mentioned we'd bought some land? Since she has come back, we've been just a little bit busy. So now that things are relaxing again, here we are to update you with all of our antics.
So, off Colette goes and abandons Maya to hang out with her Mum and her family in Georgia in the USA. Colette spent much of her childhood in Georgia and so it brings back fond memories. The first place they stayed was at the country house called Long Pond. It really is something out of a movie. It belongs to the family of Colette's Mum's Husband and we both love staying there. You feel like you are stepping back in time when you are there. Meanwhile, Maya finished one of her wonderful paddles.

Longpond is an amazing pre civil war house

Look at the size of those Oak trees in Georgia

Colette did some shopping for us as some things are quite difficult to get in Belize. Egg cups. She had a really hard time getting egg cups so that we can eat our boiled eggs and soldiers in the morning, but that was one of her little successes on this trip. The biggest one though was buying Maya a brand new fishing rod. You see, Colette organised a visit with her lovely friends Bill and Becky. They met at the amazing Bass Pro shop in Savannah, Georgia. Bill and Becky came all the way down from South Carolina for this excursion and much fun was had by all. Bill is such a sweetheart, he offered to bring the rod down on his next visit as a big surprise for Maya. He even bought an extra large rod carrier. It is very difficult at this stage, not to make rude jokes about rods, so we'll leave that to your imagination. We must also mention that Colette now knows she does not like Bison burgers.

Colette wonders where the batteries go

Bill and Maya's Big Rod (Special thanks to this special man for bringing this and many of his own gifts - We love ya!)

Colette really enjoyed picking her Mum's brain (actually, you have to wonder if this was an exchange of ideas or just an excuse to drink excessive amounts of wine) about ideas for our house as we had just bought some land before Colette left. Colette's Mum has just finished building her own house and understands the stress involved with the experience (time for more wine). They spent a night on St. Simon's Island at the family's beach house and Colette always says this brings back memories of her childhood. St. Simon's Island is very beautiful and very memorable.

The amazing Live Oak streets on St. Simon's Island could inspire memories even if you didn't have any

Upon Colette's return we proceeded with building. We are extremely lucky to be working with some excellent people on this project and everything so far has gone very smoothly. We will update the blog with pictures of the build as it goes along, but just to give you some ideas here is the build up to today.

Our lot before we started major clearing

Major progress with clearing

A gate appears in our massive fence

These are the pilings being made that will hold up our house

And this is a piling after it has been put in the ground

This is our septic tank for our poop

These are the foundations for our downstairs office

This is what the lot looks like now. Don't worry we are already growing new plants
We've also been doing little projects here and there. The first you might like to look at is The Cave Diver. This is a promo trailer for a programme that will be submitted to National Geographic. Maya directed it and Colette did the voice over. . We worked with some really lovely people on this and it is just another reason why we are sure we have made the right decision. We have so many friends who are still in the rat race and not enjoying it. Get out! Get out now! There is so much out there to do and see and live. Don't waste your lives being miserable, doing the same thing week in and week out. Follow your dreams.

Another project that we've worked on are posters for World Aids Day. The local Aids Commission asked us to put together a couple of posters based on their ideas.

On top of all that, we brought out a set of Christmas Postcards for San Pedro. They've been very popular and are now being used by the Town Council as their official Christmas card.

We are often asked what we miss in San Pedro. What do we miss from our previous lives? We don't miss much. Probably a bit of culture would be nice. We only have live music on the island and there is not much variety. No comedy or theatre or anything else like that, well unless you enjoy laughing at sunburnt tourists and drunk local gringos. But to be honest, our lives are so full, rewarding and fun why would we look back. Obviously we miss our old friends and extended family, but not enough to go back. Just for your sakes, we have and here is a quick photographic look at our previous life. Enjoy looking at it. In the meantime, think about us as we are just off to go on a sunset cruise with a bunch of friends.

Our house in London and Colette's old 4x4, which lovingly is still in the 'family'

Our Ikea kitchen, which was lovely but nothing like the custom hardwood kitchen we will have soon.

Evey single day we saw our local shopkeepers. We'd buy our morning papers here on the way to work

Every morning we would take the Tube to work. This is our local station, Blackhorse Road.

This is Knightsbridge in Central London. Busy and grey

In the evening, we would buy our papers from the news stand. It is different going from two papers a day to once a week.

There were some places to get peace and solitude in London and the Serpentine was one of them.

But our favourite little oasis in London was our wonderful garden.

Oct 7, 2007

Flags and Flags - You work it out

After the hurricanes and then moving back into our house, we have been recovering. It has been a very hectic month for us, but a very quiet time for San Pedro. We have two seasons here – high season and low season. These are determined by the number of tourists that visit and the number of tourists that visit can be severely affected by the number of hurricanes that visit us. Whether or not the weather is nice, low season is very low here. We love it, but we don’t have a business to keep running. Every year at this time, most of the businesses close. Restaurants and hotels shut up shop and their staff gets time off. Some places shut for the whole of the season. This time of year is a struggle for everyone who depends on tourism. The beaches are empty, the streets quieter than normal and crime goes up. We don’t have a lot of crime here, but desperate times call for desperate measures. That said, two women we know have been victims of crime in the last month or so. One of them scared the burglar so badly with a butter knife he ran away and left his bicycle behind. The other one grabbed the mugger’s hair until he had to bite her to get her to let go. He got caught of course and her stuff was returned. So, advice to all of the bad guys – us girls on San Pedro are tough. Don’t mess!

Speaking of messing….once we moved in, Maya had to face the dreaded bodega. A bodega is a name for a storage shed. This shed had been used for storage for a long time without having ever been cleaned. Rats had been living in it as well as a 3 foot long iguana. Colette removed a dead rat, nearly threw up into her hand and refused to set foot into it again, so it was left to Maya and she was truly heroic. We now have a clean a fully functioning bodega for all of the junk we have collected in our short time in Belize.

Even though it is quiet season, we all find plenty to keep ourselves occupied. There have been a number of parties, including our own. We had a combined birthday party with about 8 other people. We’d all had our birthdays ruined by the storms and decided to have one big birthday bash. This was on a Monday night at the Roadkill Bar. For those of you who haven’t been to San Pedro, the Roadkill Bar sits on a road junction. It is outside of a nightclub called the Barefoot Iguana. It consists of a bar, an 8 foot gap, and a fence to keep you from falling into the road. On Monday nights, they play bluegrass music. Our lovely friend Drummer Dan was recovering from a gallbladder operation – more on that later – and a local accountant (who really does look like an accountant) took his place. We were all a bit stunned to see him setting up the drums and he did a damned good job as well. San Pedro is like that, people surprise you all the time. Drummer Dan did turn up to show his face and his belly to all and sundry. Here are a few pictures of one of the fundraisers – this was a yard sale, which in San Pedro tends to involve the recycling of junk like the stuff in our bodega – that ensured that Dan was able to pay for his surgery. Just another reason why we love living here.

Of course we don’t have pictures of our party because we were too busy having a good time. And while we were having a good time a golf cart full of stunning women went by. By stunning, I mean they were dressed up like glamour goddesses, made up like drag queens (maybe that should have been a giveaway) and they received plenty of hoots and hollers as they putted by. Given that this was the most rocking place in San Pedro that night, they turned around, came into the party, danced, posed for pictures and disappeared into the night. When they left, many men had smiles on their faces as women here don’t often dress up in sequence, high heels and mini skirts. We found it amusing that most of these guys didn’t notice (or did they choose not to notice?) that this was a group of women who averaged about 6’6” in height. Still not getting it?

Ok, we’ll have to crack and get to the point. 150 gay, lesbian and transgendered divers spent a week in San Pedro. They were from all over the world. Aussies, Brits, USA ‘ers, Dutch etc. They belong to a group called Diving for Life that does a big dive trip annually to raise money for HIV and AIDs charities. So far they’ve raised over half a million dollars just by organising dive trips and having a bloody good time. They made a substantial donation to the local Aids charity, spent a lot of money on the island, tipped (from what we hear) extremely generously and generally brightened up low season on San Pedro to no end.

On their last night, they held a costume party and of course, we were invited. Now some of these guys and gals brought a whole suitcase just to hold their costume. So, we were certainly not disappointed. We have to admit, our birthday bash was great, but this party was fantabulistic.

We mustn’t forget that during September is Belize’s Independence Day. Everyone is very patriotic and flags fly from every golf cart and house. We examined some of the flags and found them to be rather odd. Belize’s flag is the only flag in the world with human images on it. So that makes it kind of unique. The two human forms are supposed to represent a Mestizo person and a Garifuna person, but the flags that arrived from wherever they were making them cheap and in bulk, made it look like they were both Chinese, just one coloured brown and one coloured yellow. We did some research into the flag of Belize and discovered that the Latin phrase, sub umbra floreo, on the flag means ‘in the shade we flourish’, which is very apt we think. Have a look at some of the flags we saw and if you really want a giggle, log onto the Belize Government’s home page and note that the flag is backwards for some reason. Obviously, we wouldn’t want to comment on the politics of our host country or make any comment on the backwardness of the flag on the Government website, which by the way is .

We want to dedicate this blog to John, Krista and Gerrard. They have gone back to the freezing, icy cold of Canada and left us here. John was Maya’s best fishing friend forever fishing buddy. We miss you guys!

Also, a big shout to Capt Jeff. Always a wonderful host and a great friend.

Sep 9, 2007

San Pedro's new roving reporter - Maya Meets

The storms are over and we have some lovely weather now here in San Pedro. We are all trying to recover from the whole post hurricane come down even though we still are wearing shoes because the beach is still not completely safe for bare feet. So yesterday we went to our friend's 'surprise' birthday party. Of course, surprises are pretty tricky to organise here and this was no different. It was a great day on the beach. There was pot luck, BBQ, some funky drumming and of course, the most important ingredient, a bunch of fun people. Check out Taco Girl's blog for pictures (it is on our links list). Because it had been a surprise, another party had been planned for later at Pedro's Inn. For those of you who don't know Pedro's Inn, it is the closest thing we have to a British style pub on the island. It has everything you would expect at a Brit pub - a pool table, low ceiling, dark smokey atmosphere, loud music of the rockish kind, excellent cold draft beer, lots of drunks behaving badly, an adorable bar maid and a grumpy landlord. It does have one unique difference - Walter. Walter is the our favourite rasta pizza chef and he has to have a big chef's hat to hold in all those dreads.

We had received an invitation earlier in the week to go along to Pedro's on the same evening to meet the new British High Commissioner for Belize. Britain doesn't have an embassy or Ambassador in Belize, they have a High Commission. So here is a picture of Maya meeting the new High Commissioner, John Yapp. He seems like a pleasant chap. Poor guy took up his post right in the middle of the hurricane chaos. The second picture is of Colette with our friend and neighbour, Jim Mohammed. He is the head of our local National Emergency Organisation and has proved, yet again, that his background, personality and training make him the best man for the job.

Since we've been here, we've known a local young man named Kenny. He was 18 when we first met him and we have seen him go through the normal frustrations that all young men experience at that age, but of course this is compounded by the fact that he is from a developing country, where a good education and hope for the future can be elusive. Earlier this year, he enlisted in the Belize Defence Force (the Belize Army), known as the BDF. He just got his first proper leave and came to find us. Bless his little cotton ones - he had heard it was our birthday and brought us this painting. We don't know where he got it or who the artist is, but it is a very nice Belizean painting and we were hugely touched. Thanks Kenners!

We get a lot of feedback about our blog from people all over the world and we wanted to get back to you on some of it. Firstly, the most hilarious feedback we have had recently: We bumped into a local businessman who was off of the island during Hurricane Dean. He thanked us for our blog and told us that he had noticed a picture of one of his properties that we had posted when we were showing how people were preparing for Dean. He noticed that things weren't as they should be and phoned his staff. He told them that he could see that some things needed to be tidied up. They asked how he knew, so he said that he could see everything they were doing on Google Earth. They believed him and freaked. We are still lauging about that one.

Better than that, two wonderful regular visitors to San Pedro brought us chocolate and champagne. What a treat. Chocolate that hasn't melted 25 times and isn't white on the outside. That is a novelty here. But these were spectacular, gourmet style chocolates. Thank you Leah Ann! We haven't drunk the champagne yet. Anyone who knew us in the UK knows that we are huge fans of champagne, but of course it is not too expensive in Europe. Over here, it is way too expensive to justify. We just haven't been able to bring ourselves to touch it yet. We just keep it in the fridge and look at it. Sandy and Ed, you guys are too sweet. These guys brought us the champagne at the very beginning of their holiday and then they had to evacuate for Hurricane Felix. Hurry back!

On one final note. We had a comment on a previous post asking why we didn't go somewhere safer? When a cat 5 hurricane is heading for Belize, we don't think there is anywhere safer than where we are unless we leave the country, which just isn't practical. To the person who posted - if you have a helicopter or private plane and contacts with immigration and the agriculture department in a 'safe' country so that we and our pets can get out, please come and pick us up the next time a hurricane comes our way, it would be greatly appreciated. Otherwise, we'll listen to our local experts. We trust their advice as they have been through a good few hurricanes here. Their advice is that if we have plenty of supplies and a strong concrete place to stay, staying put is probably the safest thing we can do.