Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Two months already!

Gibnut. They're supposed to be good eating, a lot like pork. There's a breadnut tree on our property line, which is their food of choice, and Bol told us that if we hear a shot at night it's just him killing a gibnut, and we should prepare for a barbeque the next day.



To remain in Belize, Tom and I are required to go to the Immigration department in Belmopan and get our passports stamped every month. Since we came into the country on January 21, the 21st of each month is the day of our big outing to Belmopan. Our original plan for the day had been to meet Bol at our property in the morning, and take him to Belmopan with us because he needs a police report to renew his guide license. However, he wasn’t able to get the photo he needs for the report, so he showed up in the morning to tell us he wouldn’t be going. He had met our other neighbor, Lilly, on the road, so Lilly, Bol, and Lilly’s dog Dixie – the one our pack had tried to beat up – came up the driveway so Lilly could see what we’ve been doing. After the grand tour, as we were standing in the driveway, Bol pointed to the sapodilla tree. Apparently the kinkajous hadn’t eaten all the fruit, because a pair of coatimundi – also known as quash around here – was crawling around in the branches. Bol says they’re most closely related to raccoons, although they look more like foxes, except they climb trees. When I was out on Esmerelda the day before, I had seen a pair in the jungle. I heard them before I saw them, and thought they were peccaries (small jungle pigs) because they were grunting, but then I saw one run down a tree and through the underbrush, with its partner right behind it. We were glad to see them in the tree not only because it’s yet another exotic-to-us animal on our property, but also because until then, the only animals eating the sapodilla fruit were the kinkajous. Now that we know other animals are showing up, we’re waiting for the howler monkeys to appear, even though we know that they may keep us awake all night with their bellowing if they’re right on top of us.

We took off for Belmopan and had our passports stamped without incident. The Immigration Officer who stamped them for us asked if we planned on staying, and when we said we were, he sent us to the office where work permits are issued. The very helpful work permit officer told us exactly what we need to get work permits, and also explained how we can expect to make the transition from work permit to Permanent Residency status. It’s all a little ambiguous because in order to get a work permit as a business owner, you need to have your business registered, but in order to be running a business you’re supposed to have a work permit, and somewhere in there you have to get approval from your town council, but the work permit officer assured us that it all works out. Tom took the first step towards being a business and went to the Social Security office to get the paperwork so we can start paying into Social Security for Selwyn, so now we just have to figure out what town needs to approve us and we’ll apply to be a business.

While Tom was doing that, I went to the Belmopan market. I was thrilled to find that the first mangoes of the season are being sold. We had been eating them in Mexico, where they have them all year, but found that as soon as we crossed the Belize border they were out of season and not expected until the end of March or beginning of April. They’re still expensive by Belizean standards, $1BZ per mango, but compared to what I was paying for them at Wegman’s they’re a huge bargain. And, they’re fresh. I also found the white onions that we’d eaten in Mexico that were out of season in Belize. Hopefully, the avocados aren’t too far behind! I’ve also been looking for a new wallet, but gave up before we left the US because everything I liked was $40US or more. After getting the produce, while I was waiting for Tom, I walked through some of the market stalls that sell things other than produce and found just what I wanted. I was afraid to ask the store owner how much it cost, but finally decided that it was worth a shot, and it was – it was $15BZ. So, for the equivalent of $7.50US, I got just what I wanted for a good $35US less than what I would have paid in the US. Being a handbag and wallet snob, it’s been a long time since I carried a wallet that was that cheap, but I’m happy!

From Belmopan we headed out to Spanish Lookout to try and get everything on Tom’s materials list. We stopped at the sawmill and picked up two hardwood 6x6s, one eight feet and one twelve feet. Hardwood is way heavier than pine, and it took a big effort on the part of Tom and the sawmill attendant to get them into the truck, but the truck’s ride really smoothed out once they were loaded. Back on the road and heading towards Spanish Lookout, we saw a small pickup truck that had run off the road, down an embankment, and was sunk in the mud at the bottom. We figured we need all the good vehicle karma we can get, so Tom turned around and went back to see if the guy needed to be towed. He did, and was quite happy that Tom had come to his aid before he even had to start walking. We were laughing because Tom asked him how he ended up in the ditch, and he started spewing a story about how his brakes aren’t good, and he hit the brakes, and suddenly he was off the road and in the ditch – which was funny both because this was on a wide straight stretch of paved road where we can’t even imagine why he had to hit the brakes, and because it’s typical Belize that he’s driving a truck where the brakes are so bad that using them means a trip off the side of the road.

We spent the afternoon picking up most of the rest of the stuff on Tom’s list. Our last stop, at about 4:30 pm, was at a steel shop to get some brackets to secure the metal sheeting to the tops of the poles under the second cabin. Tom had been unable to find these brackets, so he took them to the metal shop to see if they could make them. They took a look at them, determined that all they were was sliced angle iron with holes drilled in the edges, and asked if we could wait for about 45 minutes while they made 60 of them for us. In our ongoing comparison of Belize to the US, we figured out that in the US, with the huge selections at Lowe’s and Home Depot, Tom probably could have found something that would do the job. Here, we don’t have the wide selection, but you can walk into a metal shop at 4:30 in the afternoon and they’ll offer to custom make 60 pieces of whatever it is you’re looking for in less than an hour, so you get exactly what you want. In the US, we wouldn’t have even known where to go to try to have them made, and if we found a place, we’re pretty doubtful that it could have been done so quickly. We finally decided that Belize reminds us of how the US was about 30 years ago, when if our fathers needed some piece of hardware they couldn’t find, they’d take us to Finkel’s in Lambertville, where they’d either find it or make it while you waited on a Saturday morning. That lead to another brief discussion where I reminisced about how much I hated those Saturday morning trips to Finkel’s, as Tom looked at me in amazement and told me how much he loved them. But that’s a whole other subject…

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