As a new Expat living in Belize..how we find stuff !

           The ongoing story of relocating to Belize, Central America, and building our new home.

walkoliver

More like the “Beach less traveled” 😉

 

The road definitely “less traveled” by me of not only moving to Belize, moving into a small cabana, and being here during the construction of our final home, does have challenges. Trust me when I say it’s not all walking the beautiful beaches, eating fresh seafood, and sipping exotic rum cocktails, or a cold Belikin and sushi every day, but close.

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Although more rarely these days, fresh sushi and a couple Belikins at the Tipsy Tuna in Placencia.

 

The fact many call Belize and most of Central America “3rd world countries”, and not matter how improved the internet service, sewer, electric and phone service becomes, it still is. As I have traveled much of the globe, and experienced first hand what poverty, corruption, crime and war can do to countries, everyone needs to realize how frickin good you have it in the U.S. and Canada.

First of all, if you wake up one morning and have a desire for a Starbuck coffee, or what to shop for specific designer shoes, what do you do? You Google them, right? You not only can find just about anything you might want on your smart phone and Google, and oh boy, there’s probably 100 places nearby to buy them.

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“South of Bistro”?

When our cabana was dropped on the property, my builder had arranged for electricity to be installed and turned on, if you remember that fiasco. But when it came time to receive a bill, I didn’t, for three months! Finally I googled “Placencia Belize Electric Company”, and found nothing. I had to call my builder and ask where it was. Same for the water company, who after four months still has not sent me a bill, and I need to address. And on the term “send”, there is no mail delivery, because there is no physical address for my home! When I paid my electric bill, I noticed the “address” they had for my cabana was “a couple lots south of Maya Beach Bistro:?

There are many other things we take for granted in the U.S. that I continue to realize I will never experience here in Belize, and actually I’m pretty happy about it. Over the past few months I needed to find specific things. Coconut palm and fruit trees, ceramic 5 gallon water base,  picture frames, veterinarian services, plant fertilizer, dog watchers, and so many other things, i couldn’t locate on the internet. So where did I find them?

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Facebook is where Belize lives, with many “groups” set up to help everyone out, with anything. I belong to some specific Facebook Groups for Expats, as well as one of my favorites, Placencia Classified, where I can find stuff for sale, and ask locals where to find something. Not only do I hear immediately suggestions from other Expats, but also locals, and it has become one of the best “friend builders” I could hope for.

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Found this Mexican water cooler bottom on Facebook at Mayan Pride here in Stann Creek.Had the beautiful Belizean hardwood base made by a local artisan I found.

 

One thing I have found out is the fact that on these sites, many people answer questions that fit their own purpose and agendas. Being directed to their own business or partnership, or a friends. Now that may be all well and good, and I try to take good with bad, but sometimes its very obvious something doesn’t pass the “smell test”. More an more when I ask for advice I receive “IM”s” telling me to ignore and stay away from specific people on the site and their “advice”. I have found that this can be very helpful eliminating my “gut feelings”. It’s the answer to what I call “Online Dating “truth dilemmas”.

The bottom line is here in Belize, you may never find everything you think you want, but if its available, your “village” will help you find it.

Refreshingly like going back in time, isn’t it?

Cheers everyone, will talk soon,

 

The Pirate …..Gary

 

 

 

 

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Look Who’s “coming to dinner”?

Source: Look Who’s “coming to dinner”?

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Look Who’s “coming to dinner”?

The continued adventure of living in Belize, and building a new home.

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Start of another beautiful day in Belize

You probably have noticed that we have been taking a “holiday” from the construction phase of our new home the past few weeks. Both the crew and I probably need the break, and as it works out, things really do “happen for a reason”. First of all, my lovely wife Marsha was able to come down for a short visit, only a week, but as good luck would have it, so were a bunch of our good friends.

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How do you like the custom stand I had made for our water jug ? 🙂

 

One of the fun things we did together was plan an entire day together, starting with “brunch” at our good friends Jimbob and Valerie’s lovely bamboo home. Bloody Mary’s and Mimosa’s  do have a way of getting people ready to party all day and night!

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What a motley crew, our little “gathering” at the Slocum’s beautiful house

Next stop was to travel to the town of Hopkins and everyone’s favorite riverfront bar, the Curve Bar. Not only are there awesome food choices and cocktails, but they are home to a almost 12 foot crocodile! I do believe he has gotten this large because they feed him patrons that can’t pay their bar bills?

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We followed a few hours at the “Curve”, to another friends lot and more importantly, pier and screened in room, directly on the Sittee River, for SHOTS! 😉

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Another day the boys (and one lady) headed out to sea for a day deep sea fishing, which I must say was awesome.The Pirate had the pleasure of being the only one aboard that caught a shark and a seagull!?

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Gilligan ! Did you bring that cooler of 1 Barrel Rum ?

Now getting back to the build, and surprises that can and often do happen without notice. Marsha and I over the past year have been lucky enough to meet the owners of the houses on either side of us. That’s lucky because they are owned by Expats that don’t live here full time. That being said, we have a vacant wooded lot to our right, that we were told was purchased by a young couple about 8 years ago. They were supposedly not interested in building foe 20 years?

The other day they showed up at my doorstep, introduced themselves, and told me they were having a construction company clear their treed lot, tomorrow! They also told me their plan is to start building a house in the fall.

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Lot between our house and neighbors

I was actually thrilled to hear this because having a vacant treed lot next to me isn’t the best of situations, for security reasons. Also, locals have been using their lot as a dump!

Things were going good until they brought up the fact that our builder and crew had set up a worksite, along with piles of lumber and stuff, on their side of the lot line. As they are planning on having the entire lot cleared and leveled. they needed this stuff removed, before the next day. Telling them I agreed, and that we had no idea they would be here, I told them I would have everything removed before their crew got here in the AM.

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The boys scurry to get stuff over the line ?

It’s this morning, and finally the crew of guys are here removing all the construction stuff, and luckily, because they just showed up with some monster equipment to start clearing.

One thing I have always believed, make good friends of neighbors, and with that said, invited our new neighbors for beers on my deck to watch the clearing 😉

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Marsha and Little Oliver taking a last walk on the beach before she leaves ;(

And so the adventure continues.

“May the wind always fill your sails, and the matès always keep the rum in yer cup to the rim!”

The Pirate

 

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The adventure continue’s, building our new home in Belize.

 Is that the Amazing Drunken Pirate Pole Maze?

 

polessunrise

 

There are no end to the amazing differences in construction practices I am seeing with the building of our new house here in Belize. I remember the first time years ago that I saw a construction site, and the hundreds of gnarly wood poles underneath the 2nd floor. I had inquired and found that the Belize builders use them to support the upper structures when pouring concrete for floors above. Driving the country I started noticing them everywhere, and got used to seeing them, especially the ones left behind on abandoned construction sites.

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And then I started watching loads of these poles being delivered to my homesite and realized I was about to witness up close and personal, how these are used. With my upright concrete columns already poured, the forms were created cris-crossing all of them in preparation of the concrete being poured into them to support the concrete floor of the house.I watched as floor joists were hammered into concrete between the columns to support the concrete flooring, and where it definitely would need extra support.

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I watched as the crew cut the poles to size, day after day, and pushed them up under the flooring above. It’s just amazing how many there are under there, and it does look like a giant maze.

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The crew has had a few well deserved days off and have again returned to finish up the tying together of all the upper supports before the pouring of concrete above.I’m assuming that this will be accomplished with the massive “pumper truck” that was recently used to pour the horizontal cross pieces.

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This time of year it has been unusually windy and rainy, creating almost hourly races between the crew, trying to get down from the 12 foot floor, seeking shelter under the Cabana. I’m certain my crew appreciated having the cabana here, rather than heading into the woods.

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When we meet again, we should be pouring the main floor and from then, everything goes up to the sky.

From the sandy beaches of PIRATES PARAISO (Pirates Paradise),

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Cheers from the crew,

 

The Pirate…Gary

livelikeapirate

Live lika a Pirate

 

 

 

 

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Did someone say “Seafood Orgy”?

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 Easy to focus on one thing.

 

I have just reminded myself that in fact, the building of our new home here in Belize is not the only purpose for this blog. It is an important aspect of it, but really, opening people’s eyes to what life is in Belize and both good and bad is the purpose. I want my readers to know what day-to-day life is like, what coming down here to vacation is like, and what you must do before making that decision to become an Expat. Once you do that, you need to know how and where to buy an existing home or build a new one and finding an ethical realtor, builder and what hoops you need to get it done.
Even as a new Expat, in the process of having my new home built, I do need a “release” now and then. After all, this is the beginning of my retirement “fun years,” so where’s the fun?
Over time I have watched and seen what many other Expats do in their day to day life, and many fall into the same old-same old, of having their name on their chair at one of the local “Expat Bars.” Yes, I can see how this can happen, especially if you are retired and don’t have some hobby or job. Of course, this often happens back in the states too, but especially living in a Caribbean Resort area, with beach bars makes it a little tougher to resist.

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 Looked all over the Peninsula for one of these bases, got it from Mayan Pride at the Art Festival. Happy wife…Happy Life 😉

Myself, on the other hand, enjoy a different issue, I find myself working more and playing less. As a Freelance Travel Writer, sitting in my Cabana with Oliver, watching the house build, I find I have all this time to allow my digits to dance over the keyboard, that it consumes me.
Yes, my clients are ecstatic, as I have increased my articles, have accepted a new company specializing in Central America articles, and have gone nuts on the two fiction novels I’m writing
So, let me tell you about the fun weekend I just had, and the fun weekend is coming up shortly.
This past weekend was the Placencia Sidewalk Art Festival in the village. I had attended last year with my wife Marsha when we were here for the “Gathering.” This year I attended it all alone, but with a purpose. I intended to meet up with my friends here in Placencia, make new friends, and do a little shopping for the cabana, and my wife.
I accomplished all!

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Meet the fishing boats at the Placencia dock for fresh fish and lobster

Now about the Spiny Lobster! If you have never experienced a delicacy, you are missing el mucho destination for your taste buds. I have always prided myself on being one with my New England Lobsters; even ordering them shipped overnight to the west coast after I moved there. And then I met “Spiny.”

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 This is what 3 lbs.. of delicious fresh caught Spiny Lobster Tails looks like

They are sweet, delicate and satisfying, just like the love of your life should be, without the claws of course. And cook them on an open fire and OMG!

In preparation for the closed season, I visited our local fishermen on the Placencia Docks and “requisitioned” a few pounds for the freezer, to last me a while.

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Cooked on my new drum charcoal barbecue, basted in butter, yummy Spiny Lobster Tail.
As the country prepares its taste buds for the end of the lobster season next week, I already find myself looking forward to the open season later this year, and the Placencia Lobsterfest June 23-25th. This year could be big because, for the first time in years, Caye Caulker has announced that they have canceled their 2017 Lobsterfest this year. So, only San Pedro and Placencia will enjoy a Lobsterfest this year, and lucky me…I live in greater Placencia.
For over 18 years there has been a Lobsterfest here in Placencia, and every year, the crowds grow with hungry, butter -slurping eaters. If you are planning or thinking about planning a visit to Belize this year, this is an excellent event to plan to visit and enjoying a seafood orgy! But I will warn you, start looking for a place to stay now, because you’ll be sleeping in the streets if you don’t.

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 If this isn’t your view every morning, ask yourself..why not?

Hope to see ya at the festival this year. If not, make sure you hit the “Follow button” below, and read all about it.

 

Gary…The Pirate

 

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Building our new home in Belize..going Vertical!

The Sky’s the limit!

Building on the waterfront of the Caribbean encourages one to consider just how you will situate your new house. You do have options, building directly on the sand, raising it up a few feet, or raising it up a whole bunch of feet. Depending on what material you will be using to build has a lot to do with your decision.

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The one thing you need to remember is you are in the path of hurricanes, swells and flooding. On the Placencia Peninsula, not that many years ago, a hurricane pushed through and a six foot swell washed over narrow portions of the peninsula. Thats exactly what happened on my lot.In previous years, major hurricanes actually picked up wood homes and moved them.I have been told that many of these homes, like in Placencia, remained where they landed, and the household just moved to the new location.

When we made our decision to build, we took that into consideration and decided to not only have our guest cabana up off the ground, but also our new house. The cabana ended up sitting on wood poles with concrete bases, about seven feet above ground.

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Our main house will sit between ten to twelve feet above the ground.This will have multiple purposes to us, of course the main one being potential flooding. The second includes security and limited access to our home. Nobody will be climbing through our windows on the ground floor. Having the base of the house that far above ground will also help out with the crawling insect and reptile issues of Belize.

Three times lately I have heard neighbors talking about the snakes showing up in their yards and trees, and I’m not talking small snakes. Two neighbors reported 6-8 foot pythons, and one an undetermined snake.

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We also have scorpions, tarantulas and as most visitors know, skeeters, noseeums,sand fleas and other bitting insects.If we can eliminate even half of these by raising the house, and responsible spraying, it will make our life much more pleasant.

So, this week it was time to “go vertical” with the house. The crew started attaching wood forma around the rebar cages in preparation of pouring cement into the top, some 12 feet in the air.I was fascinated watching as the lined them all up perfectly straight, not using 6 foot levels, but instead a attached stick at top, and a hanging plumb bob!

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In my mind I pictured a “pumper truck” with massive flexible hose that would reach up to the top of these towers to pour the concrete.

Wrong !

The guys set up the small portable mixer, water hose, and started shoveling the mix into the mixer. They built a wood formed bin on the ground and poured concrete into it.They then proceeded to shovel concrete into six gallon buckets and carry to each column, hand it up to a guy on a platform, who poured the concrete into the tower.

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This procedure will be repeated for all 20+ support towers.

So who needs Jenny Craig or the local gym?

Last night another massive delivery of steel rebar, in preparation for the next step in the build, going horizontal with the concrete forms. Just wait until you see how they are supported?

Cheers everyone, and thanks for following.

 

Gary…The Pirate

 

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Building our new home in Belize, the story continues.

All about site prep and building a good foundation.

steel

Loads and loads of rebar!

As I watched load after load of monster bundles of steel rebar arrive on site, I had no idea how it would all be used. Sure, I already knew that the concrete would be re-inforced with steel, but wow! You have already seen photo’s of the up-right rebar towers going up where the concrete towers will be poured. But then the crew, of nine guys by the way, have been bending rebar into additional towers, and assorted other shapes every day.

The crew has also been digging channels between the towers, as well as across the building site. Little did I know that these extra rebar towers would be laid down in these channels and connected to the towers, so concrete could be poured and everything would be connected.

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Trust me when I say, this house ain’t going nowhere man!

So now its time for my first “bad” in the “Good, the Bad and the Ugly in the story of my build.

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Are you getting your whistle on ?

 

When the 20 tower bases were filled with concrete, with the steel towers embedded in them, I was fascinated by how precise this process was going to be. I walked the homesite, impressed by the exactness by which the guys had aligned perfectly, and spaced equally the 20 towers to support the house. Anticipation was high to see the steel towers encompassed with cinderblock and cement poured around them.

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All iron towers in a row, equal distance.

 

And then the day came when I watched as the guys started cutting some of the steel rebar towers down at their bases, and moving the tower to different locations, then tying them in place with small rebar “horseshoes”.What on earth would they be doing that for?

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Cutting the bases of tower to re-locate in correct positions. See the sparks from the metal saw?

As my curiosity got the better of me, I pulled out my master copy of the house plans, the ones finally approved by the CBA. Low and behold, there is a page that clearly shows the location of all the upright concrete support posts, and it was clear, eight of the original installed towers were in the wrong place.

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Plans show “2 then space, then 2, then space, then 1”

At this point, I would like to say that I am living on-site to watch the building of our new home, help out where needed, and be here to give advice and answer questions when they arrive. Just a couple weeks ago when they site planning was going on, Kevin my builder came to me with the question about the location of the house, and specifically, where the front steps would be. As it was planned, the steps would be to close to the cabana, and he wanted my advice on how far we should actually move the house toward the ocean, providing better stair location.

That’s the main reason I am here. I’m not the “foreman on site”, making decisions on implementing plans. I’m not the one double checking where everything goes, and what goes where, going by the plans, watching everything closely”.

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                                                             But I am now.

It wasn’t a really big deal, the misplacement of the steel uprights, but if they had poured the columns before noticing, it sure would have been. I will say that the job site Foreman, Nelson did come to see me after the towers were re-located, to explain what had happened,what they had done to fix the issue, and he took responsibility for the mistake. Of course, that was after all this, and after I had already figured out what had happened.

Like I said, it’s not a big problem, however, remember, the strength of the entire project rests on the foundation.

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 Master plans…at the ready !

The master plans are no longer rolled up, with a rubber band around them, and contained in the plastic bag to keep them from rotting, in my closet! They are more accessible, and will be checked daily until the day we move into our finished home.No matter where you decide to build, who is building your home, and how much you trust him or her, this is what you should be doing.

Everything now is fine, the bad has morphed to good, and onward and upward we go. Everything including the wood frames around the base and columns is in place, ready to pour concrete.

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The end to a “rocky road” week now paved in smiles, this is how every week should end, WITH RUM Matès ! Arrrrrrrrr….!

Wait one..is today Friday ? Who knew! Trust me, tomorrow the crew will be back..as usual.

 

Cheers all!

The Pirate…Gary

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Me diving with giant Manta’s

 

 

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