Sunday, November 3, 2019

25 Things that create the Belize experience.....



While you might find a few of these things elsewhere in the world.....most of these are part of what makes the Belize experience so memorable and unique!

1.) There’s a napkin wrapped on every beer ...and you order a beer by saying, "I'll have a beer" (beer=regular Belikin)
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2.) Fry jacks - sometimes as big as a football and stuffed with tons of stuff
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3.) Belikin Beer
4.) Puddle jumpers
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5.) Johnny cakes
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6.) English signs...yet you landed in Central America
7.) You'll notice locals will speak English to you - but then immediately turn to their friend and speak 2 other languages, and they can go in and out seamlessly
8.) Golf carts are the preferred, or sometimes only option, in places
9.) Mennonite furniture - once you recognize the Mennonite template, you can't unsee it...and you'll see it......everywhere
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10.) The smell of Belize - to me, is a mix of Fabuloso and Mahogany wood
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11.) "Right now" means.... not right now
12. ) Highest building is still a Mayan ruin
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13.) The Belizean accent - everyone loves it and it will make you nostalgic when you aren't there
14.) Diversity easily intermixed at a bar - every color, age, socioeconomic status all hang together - and no one is trying to dress fancy
15.) You may randomly find a t-shirt from your tiny American elementary school hanging in a secondhand store window - happens all the time
16.) When it rains, expect everything to blip in and out for a little while - power, internet, cable (not always, but never a surprise)
17.) If you stop to talk to anyone who has lived here a while, you watch as they slowly but clearly scoot over to the nearest shady spot - no explanation needed
18.) Speed humps are the countries best traffic cop
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19.) Make sure you check expiration dates at the grocery stores....and be careful buying imported freezer goods!
20.) Drums as the only instrument in the best band you’ll see all week
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21.) Mayan ruins as common as Starbucks in NYC
22.) It’s likely your well cared for taxi cab is suffering from a lack of new parts
23.) Fast rains - quick sun - sometimes all day
24.) Hitchhiking is normal - and so are loungers on your parked cart - normal to find a couple Belikins in your cart in the morning
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25.) Good morning, good afternoon, good evening/night (often, twice) is the normal greeting - not "Hi" or "Hello" - and you'll feel compelled to make eye contact and say it to everyone you pass, once you are here a while! 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Visiting Placencia soon? Check out this traveler's top 10 images from their recent trip here!!!

Shannon, from Cleveland, OH, has been coming to Belize for over 5 years. She keeps coming back for the traquility on the beaches, and says it is one her most peaceful and happy places she's ever been.

Once you know Placencia, it is also very rewarding to watch and understand the small but meaningful changes that happen to this little village year after year. Most people that come to Placencia feel a bit of nostalgia for the way it looked when they first saw it; it is one of those places that tends to stick to travelers, because of the small town, warm welcome, you'll know everyone's name at your favorite spots by the time you leave. Placencia is one of the most vintage Caribbean-looking beach towns, that also happens to have a funky, artistic but come-as-you-are (a bit of grit!) feel that visitors come to experience again and again. Doesn't hurt that you will experience great beaches where you willl often be one of the only people on the beach, even in high season!

Here is a forward by Shannon: I have been lucky to travel all over the Caribbean: The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands, Cancun/Tulum, and many trips to Belize. Belize is by far my favorite spot (and not just because Laura and Dave are here) because it offers the perfect balance of relaxing and adventures. You can have an island experience similar to the BVI with beaches more beautiful than Cancun or the Dominican and also rainforest experiences with waterfalls and hiking.  The icing on the cake is it’s English speaking with fabulous food and US dollars are accepted everywhere. CBC provides the perfect spot for relaxing along with kayaking and paddle boarding that fills out the week of excursions perfectly.

Here's a taste of her vacation here, told in 10 images!

Day 1: Beautiful, perfect views and tons of relaxing at CBC.....

Day 2: Afternoon lunch and drinks at Tipsy Tuna, with a Caribbean band in the background.....


Day 3: Trip to Belize Ocean Club for lunch and a BOC Martini with cucumber...plus a shot from an afternoon at the new Placencia Beach Club.

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Day 4: Amazing grilled lobster at Secret Garden....

Day 5: Adventures at Maya King....waterfalls and river tubing, a must do!

Day 6: Boat trip to Ranguana Caye (worth 2 shots!) Great snorkeling, bbq lunch, cocktails, and jenga....we didn't want to leave!


Day 7: Breakfast at Maya Bistro...delicious omelet, and then a few hours enjoying coffee on the palapa dock....


Monday, September 30, 2019

Scenes from the new Placencia Beach Club (formerly Fusion)!!

Shane and Heather recently opened the Placencia Beach Club - and can't say it enough, they did it perfectly!! The old club that was there, Fusion, was only a few years old, and they took the bones of it (and it was just starting to really show signs of neglect, we are so grateful for many reasons that Shane and Heather saved it!) Fusion was great, but Shane and Heather took the good parts and made it absolutely comfortable, sleek, and perfect. The food and drinks were great, the chairs were super comfortable, and the overall vibe and ambiance make it a can't miss.
Placencia Beach Club is just north of the village; you cut off a lot of time if you are able to walk the beach there, it is a super pleasant and short walk. Here are some images to get you excited!! It is a short walk from CBC and several of our guests and us, had a blast Saturday afternoon. It is generally 13 and up, with two times a week where there is a family swim.

Great food..... here is their menu...
And here is what we ordered....in order, the tacos, poutine, taco and lobster pups.....




Here are the grounds...





And inside the restaurant area...


Amazing job, so far feedback has been totally positive, our guests have loved it!!!







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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Friday, July 12, 2019

Guest Blog - Top 10 Traits Successful Expats Share


Guest Blog - If you are looking to move to Belize, one of the factors to keep in mind (the same concept as picking a career!) should be evaluating if your personality and strengths match those that have been successful and happy here. There are expats in Belize who leave it better than they found it and are a positive influence on the community (and of course those on the other end, which is a group preferable to avoid joining).  I went to one of my expert friends for this topic.

Chris Appelbe has been in Belize over 10 years; we were lucky enough to meet him almost 6 years ago the first day we came to Placencia. He showed us our first property that we turned into CBC, and we have been close friends ever since. You can see Chris on our HGTV show where you get a real taste of his Canadian dry humor that makes working with him so enjoyable- (the show airs again July 18th at 3pm Eastern!) Chris is a true expert of real estate and understanding what success is in Belize. He owns WOW Belize, and also works with REMAX Placencia. We also definitely recommend him if you are looking in Belize, both for his trustworthiness and making the process fun!
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TOP 10 TRAITS SUCCESSFUL EXPATS SHARE

Chris Appelbe

1.) Friendly - if you're going to move to a new place you need to meet new people; without a social network, an expat needs to be able to meet people outside of work and social circles. This is not difficult for most people, as warm countries tend to be friendly and locals are very accepting and eager to chat.

2.) Humility – Regardless of how educated or successful you are at home, you’re in a new sandbox and you don’t know how things work, so be humble and understated and you will make friends much quicker and not fall into the next category.

3.) Humility II – Moving to another country and assuming your well thought out business plan from home will work in your new country can be the kiss of death…different things work in different places and economies, so assume you know nothing ---- observe, speak to as many people as possible and figure out what works for your NEW home.

4.) Patience – Goes hand in hand with #3. Don’t be in too big a hurry to start your new business or invest your hard earned nest egg. Take at least 6 months to figure out the best strategy for your new home.

5.) Curiosity - Take interest in other people. Nobody wants to hear your life story from your old life --- ask questions and show interest in learning about others and you will make friends quickly, and be appreciated.

6.) Respect – be respectful of your new home - its rules, people, customs and beliefs. Do not try and turn it into your old home. Your old home is not better!

7.) Don’t Complain - although there is a time for constructive criticism, it is best to keep negativity to yourself, and learn to accept the way things are. Different is not wrong, much of the time one simply needs to adapt to a new way and embrace change…which was the reason you are migrating in the first place.

8.) Keep busy – if you are lucky enough to be retired then keep busy by exploring, volunteering or taking on new hobbies (other than drinking at the bar everyday.)

9.) Leave cultural and social baggage at home. If you had a prejudice, bias or rival with a group at home leave it there. You are around like-minded people in your new home so you need to develop new bias and prejudices. (just kidding).

10.) Become a local. It's easy to gravitate towards people from your old region and culture but your social circle should include both fellow expats and locals. Learn the local language or lingo…the locals appreciate it, you will pay less for things and it may get you out of a tight spot one day!

Happy Hour is more fun when you have friends.