Belize Blog Post 1 - The First 10 Days

Belize Blog Enteries (the first 10 days in country... posted the first time I had access to wifi!)

Day 0
9 Oct 2012
Dad and I drove around today, the day before we fly to Belize, and did some last minute errands.

I bought supplies at Walmart today, got 8 pack of Irish Spring soap, bottle of shampoo, 200x pain relievers, shave cream and pack of razors, 2x toothpaste, (think that's it), cashed the check.

Then we went home, and finished packing. My bag was weighed at home to be 48.8 pounds, but it weighed 51+ at the airport. They didn't charge extra for it. In all, 1 had 2 carry on (camera etc in 1, laptop etc in other) plus the black parachute bag, and a suitcase of donated stuff from a family in Seattle area. Dad also had a carry on and 2 checked bags. The extra bags cost us $40 each (first checked is free). There was the usual shuffle of moving gear between bags to get to max weight without going over.

Mom's (Beryl) friend Cheryl went with us to Seattle today. Well, Dad drove, but it was Cheryl's Yukon SUV we all rode in. Mom and Cheryl plan to shop on the 10th.

When we checked into the hotel (Sleep Inn near Sea-Tac airport, Seattle) Dad and I took one room, and Mom and Cheryl took the other.

Wake up call was set for 3:45am. We watched a bit of TV, then were in bed by around 9pm.

Day 1
8:52 PM 10-Oct-2012

The day started at 3:30 am, Dad had set an alarm on his iPhone (weird to know my Dad has an iphone!). Staggered around a bit, and were down to the front desk before 4am, got some free breakfast. Incredible that they have food set out that early, but it makes sense, being an airport location. I had 2x boiled eggs, orange juice, and an apple. Don't worry, I'll even out the healthy breakfast later!

We got on the airport shuttle around 4am, and were at the United gate in good time. We were slightly misdirected on check in, but got that taken care of quickly. The nice lady who was helping route us sent us outside, to the curbside check in, which had practically no line. Turns out the guy there could not do international. When she saw us coming back, she appologized and cut us to the front of the line, so no real harm there.

One of our bags came in over weight, but the counter agent let us slide on that.

Then we went through security screening. One of my more favorite things to do! First we got into a line, then a TSA agent told us there was no line at the other gate, so we headed over there. Then I started untying my work boots. I always figure its best to wear my boots when going to a job, in case my other stuff gets lost. Gotta have work boots to work!

Ok, boots untied, shuffle along and then start unloading my carry on bags. See, when I travel, there is usually multiple cameras, a laptop, assorted charging cables, other cables, snacks, and lots of other shiny x-ray calibration targets. I think I should talk to TSA about being a training agent or something, I'm full of valuable lessons, just waiting for the screeners to unravel me!

First time I almost get to the x-ray, and the agent sends me back to the bins full of my assorted shiny treasures. Seems I'd pushed them onto the conveyor belt, then the x-ray jockey had reversed the belt to get a look at something, and of course now my 3 or 4 bins were no longer on the conveyor belt. Not that they fell off or anything, they'd just been pushed back to the rollers where they'd sit till someone else pushed them into the machine. So I got to stand there, and wait for the time to push them through again...

Good, ok, now through the x-ray, no beeps, all good. Cool! Around to catch up to Dad, who's all screened and ready to go. Oops, no, now there is a problem with my back pack. Hmmm looks like I have about 500 ml of water left in my Camelbak drinking bottle. That'll never do! So the friendly TSA agent pulls it out of the bag, and wants me to go back and start over. Since Dad is still there, he's allowed to guard my other bags and boots, and I go back with the last bag, and said bottle, to the front of the line. She then says I can dump the water out in the trash can. I ask if I can just drink it, which was my plan, but I wasn't awake enough to remember I had water in the bottle till just about then. She looks at me like "Dude, you can't drink that much water", I'm like, "No, really, watch me!" So quick breath, and I chugged it down. Almost, little choke at the end, quick breath, and drank it the rest of the way down. Wahoo! burp!!

Ok, now I have doomed myself to needing to pee in the sometime future, but they say its important to be well hydrated when you fly, supposed to keep the jet lag to a managable level (would that be Cessna lag?)

Anyway, put my gear back together, hop in my boots, and I'm off again. We go down the hall toward our gate, we're talking about how well things are going, and finally we realize the hall doesn't show our gate letter anymore. We're looking for N15, and there is no more N numbers. Hmmm I've flown out of Sea-Tac before, and remember there are N for North terminal and S for South terminal trains. Where is the train? Oh yeah, way back just about the first security screening area that we'd almost been into before we got sent to the second screening area. Ok, no worries, back track, find the escalators, and then Dad mentions that maybe I should tie my boots before I get ate by the escalator. Yeah, good plan, sit down, tie boots, and we're off, to ride the train.

Sounding a lot like Trains, Planes, and Automobiles already!

Ok, trains are quick and efficient, and soon we're at our stop, back upstairs to the North terminal, and finally its time to sit down and patiently wait for our boarding call. Now is about the time the water catches up, so I head off to find a restroom, only about 10 gates away, then I come back, guard the pile of stuff so Dad can go... go!

We're in Loading Group 6, so there is about 5 other groups ahead of us, meaning there is fear of the overhead bins filling up, but we actually do ok this time. Seems that group 7 was huge, and we don't care about them! HA!

The plane was pushed out more or less on time, and it was a pleasant flight down to Houston. About 4 hours. Maybe a little nap. 2 or 3 orange juices and a coffee. United is still passing out free hydration, but no free nuts. Eventually I feel the need to reduce my hydration, so its the shuffle at the seats, where the aisle guy gets up to let you out, and then since he's up, he follows you. Really, if we can figure this out, why is world peace so hard?

Roll into Houston about on time, more hydration reduction.... whew! We do the march of the penguins from the C gates to the E gates, eventually passing a pizza place, for some quick and yummy nutrition. Then some more dehydration, and we get to our departure gate with some time left over. Again we're in the Group 6 seating ... group? This time, Dad and I got to sit together. I'd been somehow drafted into the seat selection and online booking ritual before we left, and on the little airplane seat map, the back row looked like it might have a bit more leg room. In real life, I think that extra room was allocated to the coffee maker. Still, at least we didn't feel like we had a lot of people looking at our backs! On the down side, we were pretty much the last to leave the aircraft. I think even the crew might have snuck out before us! (no, not really, although we did consider bribing them to open the rear doors to let us try out that cool slide they always talk about... )

It was raining in Belize when we landed, not hard rain, just a bit misty, so they were careful to tell us the metal steps would be slippery. What? No jet way? Well, at least the airport didn't seem to be thatched!

First we followed the yellow brick road, and went through Immigration. We got 30 day visas, and were sent along to claim baggage. So we picked 4 heavy looking bags, and wandered toward Customs. Next was the sign that formed 2 lines, To Declare, and Not to Declare... that is the question (sorry to any Shakespeare people out there)

So, here's the situation. We are going for charity work, we are taking a LOT of new tools, and stuff like clothes that will be donated to the kids at the orphanage. We will be leaving stuff there, so that is kind of like importing. But they're orphans, so its not like we're doing commercial importing for profits. So we chose to declare. And we had a secret weapon or two. One, my Dad and I are extremely charming, and I'm almost as good looking as my Dad. And we had a letter from the Orphanage introducing us, explaining that we were there doing God's work, helping the children... it was very official and well written, if I do say so myself. Especially since I helped write it! See, my sister has been helping the fund raising for the orphanage, and the marketing, and she had the letter template on her computer. But she wasn't able to go make a letter, so I went to her house and with her help on the phone, I was able to figure out her file system... anyway, once I had the template, I typed it all up nice and neat on the letterhead. Printed 3 copies, and we're styling... doing God's work!

Seriously, we're doing good stuff here. And it hardly seems right to have to spend donated money to pay customs fees for things that will help the kids, right? Yeah.

Things are going amazingly well, and a few minutes after we clear Customs and Immigration, Stanley and Clark roll up to the curb, and we're on the road. Ok, one more quick stop at the Shell station for more unhydrating, and some more nutrition (Snickers bars!) and then its about an hours drive to the new and still underconstruction Kings Children's Home orphanage. Honestly, this place is already amazing, and it doesn't even have a roof yet. Even Dad is impressed, and he's been here more times than he can count! There is a lot of new stuff that is finished. Things look really nice.

I had thought I'd have to sleep in the Dorm room, which would have been totally ok with me, it would have had 6 or 8 bunks in it, I think. But somehow it was decided that since I am planning to be here for a long time, maybe even spring, at least for now, I'm in one of the "couple's" suites. Sweet! Queen sized bed, my own shower and toilet and sink, a door that locks, almost hotel living here.

Just after Dad and I got settled in a bit, John shows up. John is another regular here, my Dad and he know each other from way back I guess. John is from Australia originally, and is a very cool, and in very good shape guy. He's already planning to take me on some jungle hikes. I'm just a little bit afraid. But excited too, going to be some awesome pictures coming!

Anyway, we talked about some plans, things that are happening that Dad didn't even know about, stuff that is happening just yesterday and today. I'll leave the details for later.

Ok, wow, end of Day One on Belize (ha, said Guam there!), and we're settled in, feet in the mud as they say... oh yeah, had a pretty good couple of thunder storms come through already, its the rainy season here now, and everything is wet. But the tropics are awesome, the rain is mostly warm, and it feels kind of good.

Tomorrow we're taking Stanley to the airport, he's going up to Texas to pick up an old school bus, will be towing a truck behind that, and bringing back some scaffolding that we'll be using. And that's just about the best way to describe how things are here. Some things we need are here, some things we will build or invent, and some things are a 3 or 4 day drive away, if we can get them at all. The rest, we'll just make up as we go.

Its about 11pm local time, so will wrap up.

Quick notes while I'm thinking of it. I don't want to take a chance on forgetting stuff, there is so much the first few days in a new place. Like today outside the airport, was an old British Harrier jet. Belize is a British colony. I used to work on the AV-8B USMC Harriers when I was at China Lake, this is the AV-8A, made in Great Britain.

John is already asking my ideas for stuff, for example I mentioned I'd seen solar water heater systems, so he asked me to design one, diagram it, and they might do it. And while we were talking about a big high power extension cord with a break out box, I mentioned what we used while at PSAV at the hotels, a long cord with a 30 or 50 amp connector, down to a breaker box with conduits and plugs, and a cart / wheel contraption to roll it around. So I sketched that tonight too.

And then since Stanley is flying up to Texas tomorrow, he needed to exchange some Belize money for some US money. Between Dad and I, we had enough to make change. So I'm keeping a running total of my supplies and cash totals. That will help me estimate how long I can stretch my supplies and cash, and when I might need more, or plan to go back to the US... or find local work.

But that's a pretty good first day!

(Ok, while I have it in mind, here is the roof truss situation. What Dad and I expected, was to make trusses here ourselves, most likely from local galvanized sheet steel. Well, John did some more digging, and found a guy who could get the steel from our supplier, at our price, and he would manufacture the trusses for us, and deliver them with a crane. All at a price competitive with what we could do ourselves. So we will likely have trusses delivered, with no use of our own volunteer laber. Then we'll supply the labor to install them, and finish up the roof. Life is good!)

Day 2
Snake Killing
Seriously, I'm writing this on day 4, and I can't remember much in the area of specifics.

We started off the morning by taking Stanley and Clark to the airport. Too funny, because yesterday they were the guys who came to pick us up! They came to the new Home where we were, and then they drove to the airport, we dropped them off and then we drove back.

Of course, its not that simple, life never is, especially when it involves going to the airport! Seems that Stanley was supposed to meet someone, who was late. But they still got to the airport in plenty of time.

By the time we got back to the Home, it was around lunch time, and John was there, ready to get us set up on some new projects. Since we'd been bouncing along the road for an hour each way on the airport run, I had to make a quick trip to the rest room. John had been telling about the local snakes we should watch out for, so I was kind of looking, but not really seriously.

As I was walking across the gravel along the back of the building, to my room, just ahead of me I see a quick motion. I look up just in time to see a little dark snake slither off of my bottom step, into the gravel. Wow, cool, looked like a little garter snake, sort of. It moved a bit, then just stayed there, looking toward the deep grass, not toward me at all. Head up a bit, but not coiled. Ok, what ever, I walked around it, maybe 4 or 5 feet away, and up the steps. As I got to the top of the steps I looked back, and it was still there. Then I notice its coloring a bit more.

A really pretty diamond pattern on its back. Oh Crap! That's the super dangerous snake that John was telling me to keep an eye out for. Not a Diamond Back Rattler, but the patern is a lot like that. This one was smaller, maybe 2 1/2 to 3 feet long, and maybe an inch or so thick, not very big at all.

I looked at it a few seconds and it didn't seem to be going anywhere, so I pondered my next move. I didn't want to lose sight of it... the only worse thing to me than a snake I can see, is a snake I know is close, that I can't see! I figured the best plan was to call John, who had a good sense of what's going on here. Well, I called to John and my Dad, and they didn't come. I didn't want to go screaming and running like a little girl, so the next best plan I could come up with was to kill the snake myself. Sadly I haven't gotten my own machette yet, but I did have a good assortment of big rocks and brocken cinder blocks handy, so I started with one of each. From my safe feeling spot on the top step, with the snake's back to me, 4 steps down, I figured I had good odds. And I could always run screaming back into my room if it went badly.

Did I mention I don't like snakes? Honestly, I know very little about snakes. Most places I've lived there have not been dangerous snakes, and I've never felt like I had to kill one before.

Ok, deep breath, steady, and throw the broken brick down toward the snake's head. Ok, not a perfect shot, not a kill shot, but I did manage to get a pretty good hit about 4 inches back from the head, and it pinned the snake down so it couldn't get away. But oh wow, this was getting serious, the snake was looking around back at me, fangs out, and making striking moves in my way, and at the brick too.

Wanting to finish it off, I rushed the next shot and missed. Dang.

Of course, the snake was too close to all the good rocks, and I really didn't want to make it a fair fight, either! So I looked around and found a few more rocks, and got a couple more hits, but still wasn't able to kill it. In all this time, the snake hadn't moved much, so I figured I could safely go for help. So I walked back to where Dad and John were getting ready for lunch.

"Hey, do we have a shovel or rake handy? I'd like to finish killing my snake!"


Oh, yeah, I am stoning a snake, and I'd like to finish it off, you know...

So they come over and check it out. John later tells me he's kind of impressed, being my second day in the country and I've already killed, or at least seriously injured a snake, he's been here a long time and hadn't killed one yet. Oh joy, what an honor. I'm still a little freaked out over the whole thing. So he looks around, and I had found a stick while looking for rocks.

John takes the stick, and lets the snake try to strike the stick, and in the process, the fangs dig into the stick. He then pushes the stick down and basically smashes the snakes head into the ground, and squashes it, killing the snake. Then he lifts the stick, and the snake is still hanging by his fangs, so he just walks over to the tree line and flings it into the bush.

Mission accomplished. Now we can eat lunch!

Day 3
9:18 PM 12-Oct-2012
Got my Belize phone today, I probably won't post the number, cause I always forget to answer it anyway..

Yesterday afternoon, last night and this morning I had a skull crushing head ache. Just felt yucky. So finally this morning when I got moving, I decided I might be getting dehydrated. Started the morning with a whole water bottle (750 ml Camelbak) and immediately started feeling a bit better. Followed that with another 750 ml of water, over the next hour or two while getting ready for the day, and the rest of the day went much better. So, lesson learned! Its way easier to get dehydrated in the tropics than what I'm used to. Its not that super hot here, either, just muggy and warm all the time. It sneaks up on you. Heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dehydration are all preventable, and could be potentially trip ending.

Today John, Jack, my Dad and I met for a while in the morning, and came up with a list of things to work on. My Dad and I spent another day on the road, getting supplies and materials together.

The volunteer house has a fully furnished kitchen, nice stove, oven, fridge etc, but we have to supply our own food. Since we're trying to make funds last as much as possible, we went down to the local farmers market today, where we bought some eggs, which were litterally too big to fit in an egg carton, some potatos, some tomatos, oranges, onions, etc.

Today is Three Times the Minutes Day for some local wireless telephone companies, so we took advantage of that to load up some phones we'd brought with us. Rather than bringing our nice phones, we have some of the cheaper phones and go PrePay as you go instead. No sense having a monthly contract if you're not sure how long you'll be here! So we dropped the phones off, as it apparently takes a while for them to be unlocked or reactivated, and said we'd come back later.

Next We went down to Spanish Outlook (I think?) to buy steel that we'll use for a few projects. We'll be building a work table and saw horses for the chop saw, we'll be repairing a gate, and we'll be making a box for the safe.

The last is kind of funny to us. At the volunteer house, there are 4 "couples" rooms, and 4 more dorm style rooms. In all there could be room for 50 to 60 people. Since they're all volunteers, and are traveling here from "foreign" places, they'll likely have passports, and maybe other valuable stuff. So there is a small safe here at the volunteer home. The problem is its not a very substantial safe. The joke has been if we had a better can opener, we could probably cut the back off of it easier than the last can we tried to open. And so, we'll be building a metal box, from 1/8 steel, welded together, and bolted into the concrete, which the safe will then be placed into. The box will then have a hinged door and another padlock on it, just to be sure.

After ordering the steel, we had some time to kill, so we explored some local hardware stores. If you have money, you can buy pretty much anything you'd probably want to buy, it will just cost you more. In addition to the normal tools and supplies, many of the hardware stores are selling some Chinese knock off motorcycles. One looks a lot like a 70's era Honda cruiser motorcycle, another is a decent looking Enduro type dirt bike you could ride on the roads. Prices were cheap enough the locals were riding them. It won't replace my main motorcycle, but it might be interesting to get one to ride around while I'm here. We'll see...

Since it was around lunchtime, we headed over to a local Dairy place that had a lunchbar. Since my Dad is vegetarian, most of what was on the menu wasn't an option, including the pizza they were selling by the slice. Our only real option then was to order a whole pizza, which we got with tomatos, cheeze, (green peppers on my half) etc. It was ready in just a few minutes, we ate half of it there, and then took the rest home for supper.

After lunch we picked up the steel. The guy had been able to do a great job in bending the box for our safe, which will save a lot of welding. We'd thought maybe it would come in individual sides, top, bottom etc, but he was able to fold the sides, top, bottom in one piece. Came out looking really nice.

It was getting later in the afternoon, so we headed back to the volunteer house, dropped off the steel, and then went back into town (Belmopan) to pick up the phones, and some other stuff.

Up until now, my Dad or some of the other guys have been driving, but now it was my turn. We're driving Stanley's truck, a newer model Nissan 4 door pick up, with a 5 speed. Nice truck! But I'm learning this isn't a great area for a stick shift, because there are huge speed bumps everywhere, and you have to slow right down to 1st gear and crawl over them. Seriously, do not go flying over these! Its actually best to just follow someone, as you'll see them slow down, because if you're just zooming along, you sometimes can't see them until its too late. Traffic here is a bit crazy, you'll be driving along, going sometimes pretty fast, and will get passed by someone going much faster. The roads vary from pretty good, to pretty bad, mostly paved. Now, keep in mind that last month, I was driving the Alaska Highway, and some other highway's up north. The roads we're driving here in Belize are the "Main Highways", not some little side roads. The roads here have practically no shoulders, the shoulders are sometimes crowded with bikes, kids, dogs, or horses. Its best not to drive after dark, because all of the above are straying out into the road, and you really can't see them.

Once we got back to the Home, we had supper, which consisted of the rest of the left over pizza, and John had made some lentils with potatoes and beans, and life was pretty awesome again.

8:54 PM 13-Oct-2012
Saturday - Day 4

Today we went to the little church that the orphanage owns. Its actually pretty near where the new home is, so the kids drive past us in their school bus.

I haven't gone to church much in my adult life, the exception would be when I was photographing weddings, but then I was there to work. It takes a bit to get used to, walking into a church that is mostly full of kids, between newborn and 16 years old. There's a few adults, to be sure, but not very many. Much of the service was performed by the kids, there is a lot of singing, and its all very enthusiastic.

After church, John, Dad and I went back to the Home and had lunch, left over pizza and the rest of the lentils from yesterday. Then John went over to the Orphanage to help out with the kids.

In the afternoon, Dad and I did some exploring around the country, driving around some of the back roads, and finding some things he'd seen in his previous visits.

One place of interest is the Jaguar Creek Resort. I got some brochures, and they probably have a website. Its in a rain forest, near the Blue Hole park. Really a beautiful area, just big lush trees, vines, and a waterfall. The resort is best described as a place where a group could come together for a conference, or maybe a spiritual retreat. There is a meeting room, a full kitchen that can do catoring, and there are sleeping rooms or cabins spread out over the grounds, all connected by raised sidewalks, maybe catwalks would be a better description. Just a really beautiful looking place. They didn't seem to mind us walking around and checking out the place, even though a group was there.

We got back to town around dark... 6pm it is real dark here, and by 6am its getting light. That still takes some getting used to!

Anyway, we drove around town a bit and then stopped at a place for Chinese food. Dad and I got a couple dishes and split them, and managed to finish them off. Total came out to $27 (Belize, which is $2 / $1 US, so $13.50 total, not too bad I figured)

Turned in kind of early tonight, but as usual it will be around 10pm before I get to sleep. And that's the end of today!

Day 5 - 14th
7:20 PM 14-Oct-2012
Wow, early night tonight. First real day of work, I guess, too. This morning Dad and I put the welder extension cord together. First we soldered some lugs onto the cables, used a propane torch. I used to do that kind of stuff at Western Truck Body in Edmonton, so no problem there. Then we connected a short cord with a range connection plug to the long cable, and finally joined a new receptical and box to the old junction box.

Then while John and Dad were building the jig for making some of the roof joists, I went out to dig a hole for the new gate post. Seemed simple enough, hole should be 18 inches in diameter, and 3 feet deep. No problem. I had a pick, a shovel, and a post hole digger. Dad mentioned the clay is pretty tough to dig. It actually digs easily enough, but it sticks like crazy to the shovel or the post hole digger. I guess that's what he ment! It took me around 3 hours to dig, and I'd guess I spent 30 minutes actually digging, the rest of the time was spent trying to get the dirt off of the tool! The only thing that really worked was to use a screwdriver and scrape the dirt off, I tried hitting it against a rock, eventually I broke the rock!

Rather than making a big pile of dirt, I noticed there was a mud puddle hole just up the driveway from the gate, so I figured I'd double up and fix that at the same time. So I went back and got a wheelbarrel to put the dirt in as I dug, and then would dump it in the mud puddle. When I was all finished digging, I backed the pickup through the dirt a few times to pack it. That didn't go so well, as the mud was so sticky it just clung to the tire! I guess I'm good enough at digging holes, and I'll leave road repairs for the experts!

After a quick lunch of left over pizza, water, and some trail mix, I went to see how John and Dad were doing. By now they had a pretty good start mounting a cut off saw to the metal table, but they wanted me to see what was the deal with the drill press. Seems that the drill press was military surplus, from World War 2 by the looks of it. The press part wasn't working, so that was my new mission. Grabbed a wrench and started taking it apart, and after a while I could see there were several problems. The shaft that turns the drill chuck was bent, the pulley was bent, and the set screw for the pulley was pretty loose. Using my many years of metal working experience, I figured 4 or 5 good hits with a hammer would get the shaft back to straight. The pulley we decided to ignore, as it most likely would break if I hit it with a hammer. The loose set screw we put some lock tite on (the blue stuff, of course) and I think we'll be able to live with it. Still some vibration, but a lot better than it was when I started. Not bad for a battle field... er... Jungle repair!

By now it was supper time. John had been cooking some black beans and potatoes all day, so we were in pretty good shape!

After all the work outside today, I just might go to bed early. Its weird here, its dark by 6pm every day. I'm so used to life in the far north, where its still light after 10pm, very tough to stay awake now.

I guess its a good day if I didn't spend any money right?

Day 6 - 15th
9:25 PM 15-Oct-2012
Monday - Pan American Day - National Holiday, most businesses are closed today.

We bought more water today, got a full 5 gallon jug, and I also bought a gallon container for my room, as well. The 1 gallon is way over priced vs the 5 gallon, but at least now I have it. Done deal, say no more :) We did also find some more water jugs, so will get them filled soon. Between the 3 of us, we drank the first 5 gallons in the last 4 or 5 days.

Today was a nice day, I don't think it rained all day.

Dad and I went into town and bought some welding rods from a guy who makes decorative steel, door and window coverings, etc. We'd already spent the morning cutting steel for a work table, that the drill press will be mounted on, so once we got the rods, Dad spent the afternoon welding the table, and also a box for the safe.

I spent the day on some odds and ends, did laundry (line dried even, took advantage of the nice weather, the electric dryer is pretty expensive for the home's electric bill, so we try when we can.) I also did some measuring for the gate that we'll be eventually repairing, and I fixed an extension cord.

John spent the day over at the church, repairing some broken church pews (benches).

Overall, it didn't sound like a lot, but everything here tends to take more time than you expect.

I also was going to shovel the mud off of the driveway, that I'd tried to patch the road with. But when I looked at it this afternoon, it was drying and I think it might be ok after all. We'll see. Oh, and the shovel I carried all the way out there, fell apart, needs a screw to hold the handle to the shovel head. Go figure!

Anyway, its 9:30pm, I got some good sunshine and fresh air, and I'm on clean sheets, I think its bed time :)

Day 7 - 16th
7:53 PM 16-Oct-2012
We went to Spanish Lookout again today, and other zig zagging too! Hard to believe its been a week already! Time flies...

Breakfast today, as most mornings lately was John's cooked oatmeal, and I had a cut up grape fruit. OMG they are soo good here, super juicy and sweet. You can't let the green skins fool you, they're really good inside. That's been my experience with food here lately, the fruit looks super green and usually not very good, but it all tastes good.

After breakfast, Dad and I loaded up in the truck and drove into Belmopan. First we drove to a metal working place we'd been to yesterday, to settle up our bill. Yesterday was a big festival day (Pan American Day) so the shop was near closing when we got there. We've done business with that shop in the past, so he told us to just take our stuff and come back today and settle up. So starts the goose chase, as they say. He figured up a bill. We drove the bill back to the Home, where a check was cut, and we were given a voucher that had to be signed by the shop. We drive back to the shop, and while driving, see the check was wrote for $10 less than the bill, so we fished out cash, and paid the bill, got the voucher signed, and drive back to the home. Turned in the voucher.

Next we needed a couple old cheap steel wheels, so we found an auto wrecker place. We'll be using the wheels for bases for a pair of stands we'll be making, so we picked some heavy ones. One is bent, so I expect I'll get to hit it with a sledge hammer. Joy!

Then it was off to the hardware store (we hit probably 6 hardware stores today, about typical it seems!) we priced some stuff, bought some stuff, and then went off to somewhere else.

We've been drinking a lot of water, so we filled two more 5 gallon jugs today, and bought some local drinks out of the cooler. Tropical places have some very strange flavors. But they were nice and cold, so that helped... in fact they were half frozen! Somehow we'd both left our water bottles at home, so for the rest of the day we were parched and yet we had 10 gallons of drinking water, just no practical way to drink it!

We'd used up most of our gas already, so off to the gas station, where we put in about $195 (Belize) of regular gas. Yeah. Wow. Its around $12 a gallon Belize dollars, or $6 US a gallon here. Yikes!

Then it was out to Spanish Lookout again, to get some lumber and more steel, and more hardware stores. I'm learning there are lunch bars in some really unusual places, like the one today in the upstairs of an autoparts store. Good food, decent prices, and a view of the fuzzy dice display. Good times!

It never rained at all today, was pretty hot though. Nice to see the blue skys!

In all today, we actually never got any real work done, just lots of driving around. We did come back with a truck load of parts and supplies, so tomorrow should really be good. That's the theme lately, we're spending a lot of time and money, then when we get enough stuff we go finish stuff up, and then start something else.

The situation right now is a bit frustrating, if you think about it too much. We know the big cash we need to do real building is coming, but its not here yet. We can't order any building supplies, and we have crews of people coming soon. Hoping we get the ducks in a row soon, it will be sad to have volunteers here and no roof materials to put up.

Every time I walk around the old home, it really hits home how much these kids need the new place. There just isn't room for them all, but they're doing the best they can with what they have. I guess they don't know any better, but we do.

Day 8 - 17th
7:39 PM 17-Oct-2012 - Wednesday
Been here a week already. Wow, seems like forever! I have decided I don't enjoy being tired like this. The heat, the humidity, the heavy work. Urg.

Concrete for gate post

Safe box
drill holes in concrete floor
set concrete bolts
place box onto bolts... eventually
install safe
paint box
all out of order...

Help finish drill press table
got it flipped over on feet, put drill press up on table, wow heavy!
bolted down to table
drilled and bolted vice to table
mounted eye bolts to drill press to assist in lifting

Just pooped right now, have taken shower, and its 7:42 pm. I expect I'll be asleep by 8pm. My ribs on my right side are bothering me a lot, the left side is a non issue now. Weird. At first it was just the ribs in front, but on the right side, it extends back to under arm pit and almost to my shoulder blade.

We seem to have lost our cows. The home had 3 cows, they were donated by the Mennonites (I believe?), and then this morning or last night sometime they were missing. Strong likelyhood they were rustled, as opposed to the earlier theory they had escaped. So now we have no cows.

Saw another big, BIG snake today, we think it was around 6 feet long, moving really fast, it crossed our driveway right in front of us. We were in the truck at the time, but that was about half an hour after I'd been walking around in the grass about a hundred yards from where it was. Too close for my liking! Didn't get a great look at it, but it was dark with colors, so I'll call it that Tommygaff like the earlier one. No idea how to spell that either.

Dad and I mixed and poured concrete this morning, we're setting a new post for the main gate. The earlier gate was about 20 feet wide, in a single span, and it was just not up to the weight, so it warped pretty bad. Now our plan is to cut that gate in half, and then swing half from the original post, and half from the new post. All this work to fix a temporary gate, although its likely it will be there for a couple of years before the big gate is finished. Rather than getting "quick post concrete" we made "real" concrete, mixed powder, sand, gravel, and water in a wheelbarrel. With shovels. We used 2 wheelbarrels worth of gravel, and a whole bag of concrete. So apparently I dug a pretty good hole a couple of days ago!

Ok that's it, I'm tired, I'll edit this later maybe. Maybe not...


Day 9 - 18th
7:51 PM 18-Oct-2012 - Thursday

We're getting earlier starts lately. Kind of have to, its completely dark by 6pm so if you want to get anything done, you have to be rolling before 9am! This morning I was out in the common area by the kitchen by 6:50 am, and Dad had the big extension cord we made, for the welder, stretched out already. I guess that now that I'm going tobed before 9am, its not too hard to imagine getting up before 6am!

We went into town today around lunch time, had to get more hardware, and we had the local welder do some work for us. We don't have a 1" drill bit, and we don't yet have a cutting torch, so we outsourced. The guy wasn't able to jump right on it, so we said we could come back in the afternoon. Then at the hardware store we grabbed some paint, more electrical stuff, some bolts to hook things up with, and some ear plugs and a face shield. Now we can scream at each other more safely, I guess :)

Reminds me of a guy I knew in the Navy, he'd say he couldn't hear me, because "I" was wearing ear plugs.

Just think about that a bit, ok?

We then stopped at a Taco place, but they didn't have any vegetarian options. Like, no rice, no beans... no lettuce! Ok, so we walked on that one, and went around to another place. The local pizza places are really expensive, because electricity is crazy expensive... most pizza ovens are electric I guess. But almost everything else is reasonable. So Dad and I had Sub sandwiches, and soda pops, and fries, and the total was about $30 (Belize funds, or $15 US, for both of us, not so bad, and really good food too)

After that, we stopped at another hardware store, that was having a big sale, and I bought a super awesome bright flash light (good for seeing what I'm stepping on in the dark!), and we bought some big 14" inch cut off disks for our metal chop saw. They were only $11 each, and they were Dewalt brand even (figure $5.50 each US funds), cheap entertainment! All the better to unleash a million bee stings... If you've ever been down range of someone cutting metal with a cut off wheel, you know what I mean, the flying molten metal stings a lot!

Later in the afternoon, I went back to the welders place to pick up our metal projects, which was my first time out into town on my own. At least I didn't get lost! All was well. Its always tough in a new place, everything is so strange, no landmarks make any sense... So now that I've been here a week or so, things are starting to be more familiar. Life is good!

John needed to move some lumber around on the deck this afternoon, so he comes over and gives me a stick, and says "Snake Detail"... then he walks away. Odd... oh, he wanted me to come along! Ok, he figures there might be snakes under the lumber, so I'm standing there like a dork with this stick, and he picks up the first board... no snake, then he's yelling "scorpion! scorpion!" well, crap, about scared the crap out of me, not the scorpion, but him yelling at me! Somehow a black scorpion looks scarier than a regular one... what color is a regular scorpion anyway? So I swing the stick, chop his tail off, not a bad shot, then it runs away, and I'm trying to smack it before it gets under the other boards, whack... whack... whack... dang, I can't get a decent shot now because John's yelling and laughing at me for being so hopeless... finally I get a good smack down on him and its done. Until the next board! No, just kidding, next board, no snakes, no scorpions... the 3rd board had a nice big scorpion, but it was still snoozing, so I squashed him first try.

We have an old drillpress. Might have fallen off of a battle ship, maybe. Anyway, the way it is now, you plug it into an outlet, and the drill starts running. No on / off switch. Not the safest or most convenient set up, really. So one of my missions today was to wire a switch. When we were shopping we got a junction box, and a switch, which also had an outlet on it. The plan was for the switch to control the drill, and the outlet would be unswitched, to power a light. Its nice to have the light separate, so you can get things lined up, and then turn on the drill, see? Anyway, I have wired a bit, and know how to wire a plug in, and how to power a light switch. But this thing is a combination, and as far as I can tell, the instructions are wrong! Finally I broke down and asked Dad to explain, because I was pretty sure I'd followed the diagram, but it just seemed wrong. And I'd already tested it and it didn't work, so I knew there was problems! Anyway, we ignored the instructions, and things worked a lot better after that! No smoke, no shocks, and everything works just as it should. Nice feeling!

Tonight I started designing a security system for the new home. They're not looking for something complicated, no video, no motion sensors, but it would be nice to know if a door is opening up that's not supposed to be after lights out. So I sketched out an idea for a circuit, and next time I'm out shopping I'll buy some parts to prototype with. Its not really cool to spend someone's money, and then find out its a flawed idea, right?

And here we are, 8:14pm, and its bed time!

Day 10 - 19th
9:10 PM 19-Oct-2012 - Friday

I started waking up around 4am this morning, but managed to stay in bed till almost 6am. This going to bed before midnight is sure screwing with my sleep routine!

I helped Dad set up the tools, rolled out the big power cord for the welder, and then we had breakfast. John makes the best oatmeal. Starts off with heating up the water in the frying pan, and throws in some raisens so they get nice and plump. Yum!

After breakfast we did some more work. So far we're still building stands and getting the tools ready. One project John has for us is making some reusable metal forms for pouring concrete pillars, for some gates. I'll explain how they work when I actually see one in use, but he put a lot of thought into them, so I expect they'll be pretty cool!

Just before lunch Dad decided it was time for me to learn how to weld, so he dug up a couple pieces of scrap, and gave me some pointers. I didn't die or anything, so I guess there's hope!

Lunch we had some tomato and cheese sandwiches, and finished up some grapes. There is so much produce available, we end up over buying, then have to really try hard not to waste it!

After lunch, we were doing some welding on the forms, so Dad got me started and turned me loose. Short learning curve here in Belize, I burned 2 rods before lunch on a practice piece, and then after lunch I'm doing production work already! Not that I actually know enough to be dangerous yet, but still, I can say I did some decent welds... at least 2 of them anyway! The others, well, not so pretty, but functional anyway. By next week we should have the MIG welder, so who knows what kind of fun stuff I can cook up next!

We knocked off around 2pm this afternoon, and drove down to Spanish Outlook again. This time we stopped at a place to get some black plastic pipe, for our Solar Hot Water system prototype. I'll look up the prices later, but we got 50 feet of 1" pipe, and it seemed to be a fairly reasonable price. Then, as is the Belize custom, we had to go to another hardware store to find proper fittings. We got adapters to hook up garden hose to the pipe. We'll do some testing and try to grasp how much pipe (length x diameter) would be practical to use for a solar water preheater system. I think we will use solar to heat the water, then store it in a big holding tank, which then will feed the main water heaters. If the "cold" water coming into a regular water heater is already mostly hot, it won't have to use as much gas or electricity to heat the water up to final temperature. That's the theory anyway. What we are doing with the prototype is trying to come up with a best guess as to how much we need to build.

Since we weren't working anymore, I put on shorts for the first time. Almost weird feeling. I might try it again sometime :)

After Spanish Outlook we took a back roads out, which involved a ferry crossing over the river. Not any normal ferry, of course, this is Central America. This one holds 2 or 3 cars at a time, and is hand cranked. As in, there is a guy, who turns a crank, which turns a winch, and pulls the ferry across the river. The cable is anchored to both sides of the river. I swear, you can't make this kind of thing up! I'll be sure to take pictures next time. We hit the crossing pretty close to sundown, so the sunset crossing the river was amazing. Then on the other side we saw some huge trees that had recently been cut down, the trunks were close to 5 or 6 feet thick at the base. Just wow.

On the way back, we stopped to get the little white pickup truck. Dad is a half owner of a Dodge Dakota truck down here, so once in a while he decides he wants to borrow it back from the other owner, who lives here. So then, since it was pretty much dark, we each drove a truck back, in the dark. Dark driving in Central America is a whole new experience. There are animals, like dogs or sometimes cows. The roads don't really have shoulders. There are kids and people walking or riding bikes all over, and there isn't much for street lights. And there are the monster speedbumps too. The people on bikes usually wear dark clothes, and none have reflectors. And it seems to be a universal rule that headlights barely work, and windshields are dirty. Such is life! Still, if you get a choice, try not to drive after dark. Which happens around 6pm. Just saying.

As I got back, we got word that the cows had been found. Well, 2 of them were still alive, the 3rd had been butchered already. So some people went to bring them back, they just tied them with ropes and led them back. Not a bad ending to the week at all!

Star fruit, first one since Guam, I had forgotten what they were like, so when I saw some in the store a few days ago, I bought 2. So tonight I grabbed one and cut it up. John had never had one either, so we shared it. Good stuff, he's going to be planting a tree on his property.

Its now 9:50pm, almost a late night compared to normal. Tomorrow is Saturday, so a bit of a day of rest here, sleep in a little. Life is good in paradise!

Day 11 - 20th
Ok, this will be quick, I'm located at Paradise Resort, ( at Placencia, Belize. More on that later, but I need to get this posted and then I'll write more. Stay tuned!

By Carlin Comm posted on 2012-10-20