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.

Sep 5, 2007

After Hurricane Felix

Because Belize was mentioned so frequently in the international news reports on Hurricane Felix, many of our friends and family were very concerned. Some had complained that we hadn't written of our survival on our blog, so we felt compelled to post this picture, taken last night, to prove that we are fine.

The picture below was taken by the Hunter Aircraft that flies into the eye of hurricanes to get important information to help us all know what is going to happen. The pilots that fly these planes really do risk life and limb and the trip into Hurricane Felix was reportedly a very frightening experience for them. Luckily they got out OK and took this spectacular picture of the moon rising over Felix's eye wall.

We are now so grateful for a lull in the hurricane threat, that we decided to post one more picture hat has nothing to with hurricanes. We are sick of hearing about them for a while. So, the picture below was taken outside of our bedroom window. Green iguanas can be hard to spot as they aren't common in our area. Green iguanas are known throughout Belize as 'Bamboo Chicken' and are hunted for their meat and eggs. It is not uncommon on mainland Belize to be driving along with young men standing on the side of the road holding up tethered green iguanas in the air for your inspection. They are now a protected species as they are endangered in Belize and there are iguana breeding programmes being spearheaded all over the country. Belize is such a beautiful and awe inspiring place to live.

Sep 3, 2007

Hurricane Felix Tests Us

Everyone we know is pretty drained and frazzled. We were all trying to get back to normal after Hurricane Dean. Despite all the reassurances that everything was fine here and the fortunate outcome that no one was seriously injured or killed, these storms take their toll.

Every day we still have constant reminders of how 'lucky' San Pedro was after Hurricane Dean. Most of the docks remain twisted and broken, with pieces of them floating and bobbing in the sea. The beaches are different and it is less tempting to walk barefoot on the sand because of the debris remaining. We also know, from our friends and neighbours who retreated to Orange Walk and Corozal that there was a lot more damage than anyone realised at first. The government reckons 100millionBZD of damage. Money that this country can ill afford. Many jobs have been lost in the fruit industry. So sad.

But it is more than the obvious and the structural. Preparing for hurricanes is emotionally draining. While everyone is buzzing on adrenaline, the side effect is that we are all more irritating and irritable. We work together to help eachother prepare and all strengthen our support networks at the same time, we are all worried for ourselves and eachother. With Dean there were definite moments of terror and we don't know anyone that didn't think that there was a risk of serious injury or death for just a moment when it was bearing down on us as a full Cat 5 with the news commentators screaming about it's record breaking power.

There are emotional highs and lows and then, following the storm, exhaustion and an attempt to regroup and recover. Unfortunately, we have not had that luxury. All we can do is try to maintain some semblence of normality while watching the Caye empty again. The roads are quiet, the beaches deserted, there are no boats on the water and the shops are full of people, some grim faced, some joking and laughing with borderline adrenaline pumped hysteria.

Friends and relatives again phone and email, imploring us to leave, warning us of all the horrible things that might happen and if you are staying you have to grit your teeth and stick to your guns while still letting them know how genuinely important it is to you that they care that much. How disappointed we would be if our friends and family didn't care that much. Lets hope we don't disappoint you with our decisions.

We are tired. Hurricane Felix is now not as threatening as he was yesterday. We are not letting down our guard and we know that if we don't get hit, some other community will and that community may not have concrete buildings and safe places. We don't wish this on anyone and we don't want it ourselves. All we can do is use this as an opportunity to reflect on what and who is truly important to us. Hurricane Felix is testing us in many ways.

Sep 1, 2007

Here We Go Again

Felix is on his way. Right now, we are expecting him to hit on Wednesday as a Cat 3 Hurricane. This may sound a lot less ominous than Hurricane Dean, but Felix is predicted to hit us dead on. Belize seems to be the bullseye. We'll keep everyone updated as best we can.