Friday, August 16, 2019

Guest Blog - Top 10 Things to Know While Building in Belize...

We are very lucky to have Sonia Alvarez of Latitude 20 Architecture  on the peninsula in Placencia, Belize. She is a very impressive architect and as a female entrepreneur, has started Latitude 20 Architecture. She has a fantastic resume including some of the most impressive designs and projects in Belize, including Naia Resort and Spa, Palm Reef Resort, and recently - the new Margaritaville in San Pedro - among many others. She has a vast range of knowledge about the building and designs that work best in Belize - there is some unique knowledge needed in building here because of many factors including the infrastructure, materials available, (relatively speaking) small number of skilled workers, tropical climate, and more. Sonia's breadth of knowledge makes this blog very valuable for those looking to build in Belize, and we are fortunate to have gotten the following insights about building here!!
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Top 10 Things to Know While Building in Belize...

1.) Select an experienced and qualified architect who is working legally! They should also be a member of the architectural association. There are many unqualified, illegal architects working in Belize so be sure to ask for credentials. 

2.) Don’t assume you can build your home because you were a builder/developer in your home country. Without knowing who the qualified, reliable sub-trades are you WILL lose money and have countless headaches.

3.) If you are not in Belize while building your home, It is strongly recommended to hire an onsite project manager to ensure the builder is building according to the plans. A good architect can provide this service and manage construction funds. They can also send weekly reports with photos and drone video to show progress. This is key!

4.) The government will not provide you with an onsite inspector to make sure that things are done properly. They don’t inspect buildings during construction, they just stop to construction sites to make sure you have your construction permit. You just cannot assume that anything you build in Belize will be built to the North American standards, even when the government approves it.

5.) In the past, the only building codes in Belize have been those imposed by local municipalities. The country has developed a national building code calling for nation-wide standards of construction. The Central Building Authority (CBA) has now taken a tougher stance to ensure that builders follow the building code.

6.) You will have a limited selection of finishing and fixtures in Belize so you may want to import from the US or Mexico which means shipping and import duties which will add to the cost. Many people move to Belize believing all goods and services are pennies on the dollar. Labor is less than in the US but if you are importing materials the cost will be comparable to the US.

7.) Construction is cheaper in Northern than Southern Belize. Overall, building costs (wood and concrete) in Belize range from around US$120 to $150 per square foot, not including the cost of land.

8.) Wood expands and contracts, absorb and releases moisture, warps, twists, cracks, moulds, and rots. Most of the problems mentioned can be limited by kiln drying the wood at some point prior to your purchase of it. Because kiln drying is not available in Belize, wood will be cut to order, and it will be delivered green. You have to allow months for it to dry if you don’t wish to have some of those ghastly possibilities.

9.) It is very exciting to design and build your custom home to your specific needs and lifestyle. Although you may believe you will have this home for the rest of your days, unforeseen circumstances may force you to sell your home which can be difficult if it is an obscure or impractical design. For this reason, it is a good idea to design your home that will be appealing to a buyer if you have to sell.

10.) Some areas do not have municipal water so most houses have water cisterns to catch rainwater. Belize has few industries and a small populace which means low pollution and clean rainwater, and in many places, drinkable tap water. If you build in areas such as Plantation in Placencia, you may need two or more cistern or water tanks for a large house to collect rainwater.

***If you like sustainable living, Belize has some construction systems available that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient like solar panels, solar water heater, rainwater collection, water treatment system plans, bamboo flooring, spray foam insulation.

Here are some of Sonia's other amazing designs, more can be found on her website and Facebook page!
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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Guest Blog - Top 10 Things to Know about Being Sober in Belize.....




Randy is the GM at Caribbean Beach Cabanas in Placencia, and he has been a remarkable and valuable addition to the Placencia community for the last year plus! He moved to Belize full-time over a year ago and made the decision to not drink alcohol anymore before he moved here. Belize is not the easiest place in the world to be sober - that is for sure. Now that Randy has a year-plus experience with what that has entailed for him, I was really interested to hear his thoughts about life in Belize sans alcohol - it is a question we get a lot from potential guests and expats, because Belize has a bit of an anything-goes, Jimmy Buffett island party lifestyle reputation. So here are his insights, thank you so much Randy!!!


The Top 10 Things I learned about being sober in Belize... 

1.) The party is much more fun when you are drinking. Who doesn’t want to feel included and able to relate? This step is normally advised for an addict later on in their recovery. Since I relocated to Central America only 3 months being sober, the risk factor of relapsing was significantly higher. For an alcoholic, being around the very core of the problem is never recommended practice.

2.) I used to think alcohol brings out people’s true colors, but it’s the opposite. When people are drinking and they lose their inhibitions, their brain is trying to regain normalcy so hard that logic and sense go by the wayside. Your brain has so much going on with the chemical imbalance, it reverts itself back to infancy to protect one of your most important organs.

3.) FOMO is a great thing to not have!!! I used to always wonder what was going on any given night of the week. Who’s out right now? Where is the party? There’s gotta be something wrong with me if I am not involved. When you are able to remove yourself from feeling like you are missing out by not being involved, life is so much more enjoyable and manageable.

4.) Selfishness is ok when it comes to protecting and maintaining your sobriety. It’s hard to say no to your friends, especially when they want you to be a part of the soiree, but there’s only so much of standing outside of the party looking in one can take, so it’s ok to say enough is enough.

5.) The morning is a great time to be alive and aware. No groggy feelings of regret from the previous night make for a much more productive day. I used to have what I called the Morning After Anger, where I was just mad at the world. Everything bad happening to me wasn’t caused by my actions, but because the Universe was unfair and unbalanced.

6.) Relationships are a lot more substantial when you are able to really get to know someone. I haven’t been in a relationship since I quit drinking, but I am excited and also nervous to see what the future may hold.

7.) There should not be any shame in owning up to the fact you are an alcoholic. We are all human and no-one is perfect. By allowing myself to disclose this information when appropriate, it is a small characteristic trait adding to the larger picture of who I am.

8.) You’re a lot stronger than you think you are. Temptation is always going to be a part of the human condition. It just depends on how you are able to process that forbidden fruit and if you are able to consciously weigh the outcomes before that bridge is crossed. It doesn’t matter where you may be in the world, there is always going to be something to tempt you.

9.) Once you relearn how to walk, it gets easier each time. Alcohol was so prevalent in everything in my life that I couldn’t ever imagine doing anything without it. So when you strip away a primordial craving and need from your very existence, you are basically a newborn all over again.

10.) If you can be sober in Placencia, Belize, you can do it anywhere. With the lack of resources and support groups, sobriety in this amazingly charming fishing village is not easy. Most seasoned members of AA would strongly advise against any such rash decision making and that you are almost certain to fail. But with enough grit, determination and memory of how things were in the previous vodka drenched life, I am able to persevere and continue on with this adventure called life. Here’s to second chances and making it count.

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There are a ton of outdoor, fun, adventurous activities available all over Belize that do NOT require alcohol and in fact would be worse with alcohol (Like snorkeling with sharks or parasailing!). There are games and social events every night of the week in the popular expat and tourist places in Belize, and while people are drinking at them, the game/trivia/karaoke/outdoor movie/horseshoes/sporting event etc does not require drinking and there is plenty to keep a sober person busy and interested!

Monday, August 5, 2019

For those living in Belize.....Best Ever Chicken Rice Bowl Recipe!


Have you ever made something and when you went to eat it, you felt like it was JUST right?? I made this (spectacular) chicken bowl last week and not only was it super easy (several things are made beforehand) but when I ate it I thought, this is magic and I have to write it down or I'll lose it. Note that you can make this low carb by omitting the beans and rice and putting it over lettuce. Belize has fantastic, made-from-scratch food, but bowls are not something easily found here. Bowls are super popular in the US, and this will remind you of US take out style if you are missing a little taste of home.

CHICKEN RICE BOWL 
From the bottom of the bowl on up...

---White rice - add cilantro, and lime with salt for extra taste or make a packet of yellow rice, easily found at the grocery stores here, both work well. (if you want to be super fast, you can buy one of the pre-made packets of rice that you pop in the microwave for 90 seconds)
---Black beans - canned are fine
---Crockpot taco shredded chicken (throw this in the crockpot in the morning) - 2 packages of chicken breasts, 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes, 1 packet taco seasoning, 1/2 jar canned salsa (I added extra spice - chili powder, garlic and onion powder, salt, pepper, & smoked paprika - not necessary). Put on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours, shred chicken with a fork when it is super tender.
---Shredded Cheese 
---Blender Salsa and Homemade Belizean Onions - I keep these two items in my fridge at all times - and I highly recommend you do this too as these two thing make EVERYTHING taste better. I make these about once a week or so and keep them in glass jars in the fridge.
---Sour Cream
---Green Onion (chopped obviously)

Other things I have used in the past when making this are sauteed green peppers and onions or guacamole, but I didn't have those this time, and it turned out perfect without these two extra steps/flavors. By using a can of beans, the pre-made rice, and having the salsa and onions already in your fridge you can literally make this in minutes, even the crockpot step just takes a minute.

Enjoy!! :)
While I didn't get a picture of this bowl, here is another very close random bowl I had a picture of, but I assume we all know what the bowl will look like :):)
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