A note to friends and colleagues re.: Why I’m still happy to live in Belize, two years after arriving:
It’s been a beautiful day, as most days are here in one way or another. It’s 84 degrees, a bit windy and there are some clouds, but lots of sun. Went swimming in the Caribbean Sea with my dogs, as I do most days. Water a bit choppy but I can do “laps” a couple of hundred feet offshore. Use snorkeling equipment so I don’t have to turn my head to breathe. When it’s calm, one swims over quite a bit of coral just off-shore and sees lots of fish , mostly small but some almost a foot long.
Four days ago, 6 of us (expat friends plus one friend from Belize) drove about 35 minutes on paved roads and then drove up a 5 mile dirt road to the headquarters of the Cockscomb Jaguar Reservation, a park of many thousands of acres. There’s a river flowing through the park, and one can rent a tire tube for $2.50 and float for an hour or two through the rainforest and jungle. I’ve done it at least 10 times and enjoy it to my core. Tubing on the Delaware River is fun , but. .. !
Two days ago, 5 of us kayaked about 10 miles down the Sittee River, putting in about 45 minutes from my house. Yesterday, 3 of us took a strenuous hike up a small “mountain” (within sight of Victoria Peak, the tallest mountain in Belize) and then swam in a beautiful river. Weeks can go by without doing great things like this, but sometimes several get packed into a week.
With a friend , spent a week in Cuba just a month ago. 6 days in Havana plus a day (driving in a ’54 Chevy with the owner/driver and a guide) going about 250 miles into the country and back (tobacco farms and sharp hills and the Caribbean in the distance). The whole trip was fascinating. Old Havana is as lovely as one expects. Lots of walking, and riding in bicycle taxis plus the ever-present American cars from the 50’s. Almost everyone is thin ! Quite startling, really. Even us “alders” are almost all thin. We went to a wonderful beach one day, marred by the four or five dead lambs and chickens to be found near the water’s edge (Santeria is said to be “big” there). And I’ll admit I found the government’s intrusion in life, well, intrusive. “Normal” people can’t use the internet, for example; I could, for a fee in the hotel, but when I tried to use the word “embargo” in an e-mail to a US friend about how I couldn’t download a book on to my kindle, it wouldn’t “send” until I took the offending word out. Now our NSA is looking for words they find offensive in e-mails too, but my interest in sending e-mails in Cuba was chilled, which I suppose is part of the intent. By the way, we took buses from where I live Belize to Cancun (many, many hours in buses and waiting in terminals) and flew from Cancun to Havana and back. Cuban Immigration doesn’t enter a stamp in American passports so there’s no hassle to enter as an American from that route.
When my Toyota truck was stolen about a year and a half ago, rolled in a ditch and quite completely wrecked (yes, there can be dark days here as well as anywhere), the truck was taken to a body shop (one man) in the capital city and, ten weeks later, returned to me in like-new condition, for $3500. That’s the price of a mediocre paint job in the States.
I’m doing a volunteer assignment that has been fun thus far and, hopefully, will prove useful. The Peninsula International School is a six month old private school located in Placencia, the Village of 1300 people (about 1/3 expats) about 13 miles from where I live in Maya Beach. My niece, 43 year old Selena Lucas, mother of two boys, 3 and 7 years old , has lived in Placencia for six years and founded and runs the school. The school is springing forth as an extraordinary one. The idea occurred that there are other private schools in Belize (so far I’ve identified six) and they all might profit from an association of private, independent schools. They could support each other in curriculum development, common student/parent issues and challenges, fundraising, etc. So far, I’ve identified the schools and have spoken to each of the principals, all of whom are interested in the association concept. I’ll visit all or most of the schools to further develop the idea, with a first meeting of the group to be perhaps held this coming summer. We’ll see.
My rented house is quite lovely, sitting on a canal adjoining a 25 mile long Lagoon, and a 3 minute walk from the Sea. It’s just three rooms, but they’re great rooms and there’s a walkway through the air to a veranda on top of a wonderful boat house. I’ve had 35 guests for dinner Uust twice in the 8 months I’ve lived here). I feel as if I live in an aviary. Birds all around (from herons to frigate birds to toucans to parrots to about 40 white herons in a group, viewed just today). Bird calls all the time. There’s a two-foot long iguana who lives in a large hole in an oak tree about 40 feet from my back porch. And there’s a 4+ foot crocodile who lives in my canal. If I still lived in Maine, I’d be in a one bedroom apartment for a similar price. There are times sitting on a hammock on the veranda that I feel profound peace.
Ember and Betty are my dear dogs. I adopted them both while in Maine (they were brought up from Georgia by the wonderful “Underhound Railroad!) and the dogs rode down the 5400 miles from Maine to Bel ize with me. Whitney Houston had just died and I sang along with Whitney for many of those mi les. Dogs sang occasionally. They are surely spoiled dogs. They run without leashes back and forth for a mile along the beach almost every day and frolic in the sand and sea, with each other and other dog buddies, and me. Betty will swim out with me a couple of hundred yards. Ember sometimes visits for brief moments, to show she’s loyal. Lucky dogs and I’m lucky to be their “dad.”
The ulcers I developed a year and a half ago have gone away, after treatment and lifestyle changes, and I’m back to eating pickles. I feel great, and get more regular exercise than I ever have (not saying too much; I never exercised much – but I do weigh 170 lbs., down from 240 about 7 years ago!). Also completely stopped drinking four months and a week ago (who’s counting?). Drinking too much – or too long in each day – is an expat peri l, in addition to genetic makeup. I’m not saying I’ll never drink again, but I’m very glad I’m taking a substantial “vacation.”
I read incessantly. A few of us are just starting a book group. First book is “The Gift of Rain ,” by Tan Twan Eng. Stunning book. About sixty years in the life of Mr. Philip Arminius Khoo-Hutton and the people with whom he was intertwined. World War II didn’t make life simpler for anyone in Malaysia. One of the best books I can remember reading, and the 5 people who are reading it with me are thoroughly enjoying it too.
Have made a few good friends here. At my current age, new friends aren’t likely to become truly “old” friends, but they can still be good friends.
The happiness of introducing visitors from my US life to this wonderful land is still in prospect. I’ve had a couple of old friends who stopped in more or less by accident. The joy of visits by my beloved, and loving, children, and other dear “old” friends, is still in the future, and I can’t wait.
I’ve spent many hours trying to integrate pictures into the text above. The only one I got in was the book cover (and I hope you read the book). I’ve gone to places with faster internet speeds, and had several advisors, to no avail. Oh well. If you’re interested, look me up on Facebook (David Ford , Belize) , where there are a fair number of photos .. You might have to “friend” me, but we’re friends so that’s ok.
So enough about me! How about you? Would love to hear a bit or a lot.
All the best to you,