Monday, December 22, 2008

3 days to Christmas

It's getting close to Christmas and Misch and I have house guests. Mischelles' mom, Fay, and our nephew, Jonathan, are here from the Palm Springs area. Our niece, Josette, from Las Vegas is also staying with us. It keeps me from updating the blog as much as I would like. I can't seem to get computer time. They both are on the computer messaging their friends. Looks as though I may have to wait to update the blog about the trip.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The trip to Belize

I have been so slow to post new happenings on my blog. The time has just flown by. So I will bring everything up to date.

The last post was 2 weeks before I left for Belize. The trip to Belize this time was to find a contractor to build our new home. I had a few contractors we were interested in contacting and a few I found while I was down there.

The flight was from LA to Dallas and then on to Belize. It was not that bad, but it was a full flight. About 8 hours total to get to Belize, then on to get the rent a car at the airport. I rented a car from Belize Auto Rental and was very pleased with the car, the service and the price. The car was a 2005 Kia Sportage with 100K on it. Fairly good on gas and only $540 US for 10 days including CDW and taxes.

The flight was about 10 min late and Customs was slow due to the amount of people on the flight. By the time I got through Customs and got the rent a car, it was getting close to 5pm and sunset is around 5:30pm. I had a 2 hour drive to Corozal and I was going to spend half of that driving on the Northern Highway at night. I was not looking forward to that part of the drive. It was my first trip driving from Belize City to Corozal.

The Northern Highway wasn't that bad, but with no streetlights except in towns, no center divider lines, no lit signs, it could be easy to lose your way in the dark. And everybody rides bikes on the road, sometimes two or three abreast, and dressed in dark colors. A scary drive to be sure. I would not do that again in the dark unless I had to. And the sleeping policemen (speed bumps) are in all the towns and not that clearly marked. I think I hit a couple of them doing 40 mph or so. It's no wonder the shocks in the cars are the first to go.

I arrived in Corozal around 7:00pm and still had to find the road out to Consejo. After finally locating the road, I arrived in Consejo around 7:30pm. I was staying at Bob and Martha's place right across the street for the Customs station. Nice place close to the water and in the small town of Consejo. They rent out a large studio apt downstairs for about $25-$40 a night, depending on the length of the stay.

After a day of travel, I went to sleep early and awoke with the sun. I put together my list of things to do and was headed to town by 8am. My first objective was to get a SIM card for my cell phone. I went to BTL and of course they were closed. Monday to Friday only. I went to another store that I was told would have SIM cards, but they were out of new ones and only had used ones. I didn't want someone's old telephone number, so I decided to wait until BTL opened on Monday.

A friend in Consejo Shores had asked me to pick up some Sage while I was in town, for the Thanksgiving turkey. I went to 5 different stores and none of them had any Sage. In fact, they pretty much all have the same things in all the stores. That's why when you shop in Corozal, you may have to visit many places to find what you need. And most of the stores seemed to be run by Chinese. There are also a lot of Chinese food restuarants in town. In fact, a lot more than any other restuarants. I haven't tried any yet but was told a few of them are rather good.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Getting ready for the trip

It's just under two weeks before I leave for Belize. I've been getting items I will need to plot where the house will sit on the property. I will begin to contact various contractors to shop my plans and to get a ballpark figure on the cost to build. I also want to wander through town and find the stores I will need for tile, paint, fixtures,etc.. A friend from work, Hipolito, who is Belizian, will be down visiting family, in Corozal, for a few weeks, so I hope to hook up with him for a few days. He can show me the town and other places that I will need to know about in Belize City and Belmopan. I am also looking forward to meeting Dave and Dianna. They also have a blog that has provided needed information and occasional wit. They have also used a contractor that I am going to try and get a bid from.

While I am there, I'm going to open a bank account and hope I have all the information that they need. I have visited the Belize Forum, various blogs and even the banks' own web site, to get information on what I need to open an account at Atlantic Bank ( It seems that I need a letter of introduction, from two different banks, that includes the date the account was opened, type of account(s), average balance, and that the client has performed to the banks' satisfaction. They also want a color copy of your passport, showing the signature and photograph. One place on the forum said they wanted the original social security card. And I think this is only to open a savings account. If you want to open a checking account, you need to be a resident for six months.

In the following posts, I will include information that I have found with regards to rainwater catchment systems, septic systems, back up generators, solar and wind options, and just about anything else I can think of that can help building a house from the ground up, in Belize. I hope what I learn, and post ,will help other avoid the pitfalls that enevitably befall all large construction projects. The idea is to keep these mistakes to a minimum. The projected start date if all goes well would be around the first of May with some of the ground work started in April.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election '08

I can't believe it. It's finally here. After 2 LONG years of campaigning, the election day is finally today. After ALL the ads, ALL the mail and ALL the phone calls, it's coming to an end. The lines at the polling places, here in Camarillo, were quite long. I was rather surprised to see the turn out. Democracy at work. We voted, but we did it by absentee ballot. Much easier. No waiting in line.

Mischelle liked the McCain/Palin ticket but I went with Obama/Biden ticket, so we just cancelled out each others' vote. They said with all the money being spent, it figured to be about $10 for every vote, so they just spent $20 for nothing.

It's official. We have our first black President. I hope with his election we can move more to the center and find more common ground and compromise than the last eight years. McCain gave a gracious speech in accepting defeat and Obama in his winning speech, talked of bringing a country together. Yes we can.

The other big issue here in California is the gay marriage proposition. The polls are not closed here, so they won't show the results until late tonight or tomorrow. The turnout at the polls broke records here in LA. Good for us. I admired Belize for their embrace of democracy and the high voter turnout. They take their politics seriously. I look forward to watching their elections. At least they don't have as much money to spend on advertising.

Friday, October 31, 2008


It's Friday and it's Halloween. We've had a little rain here and there, but nothing speak of. But, it seems to have driven all the kids away. The way Halloween is now, the parents take their kids to the Mall where it is safe and controlled.

I remember as a kid, roaming the neighborhood, everybody in costume. Hundreds of us. You knew the good houses and hit them up first, then on to the apartments. It was a big deal. Then as you got older, you went to costume parties. I even remember going down to Hollywood Blvd one year, for Halloween. We ended up in a bar called the FireFly. As you're really not sure what kind of bar it is in Hollywood, when we entered it seemed to be OK. Well after a short time we found out why it was called the FireFly. They locked the doors, so no fire marshalls, and proceeded to fill the bar drink well (you know, the one that backs up the main bar counter) full of lighter fluid and then lit it afire. What a sight to watch it race from one end of the bar to the other. The Fire Marshalls would have loved that.

Back to this years' Halloween. More kids are beginning to show up and this may not be such a dud afterall. We bought lots of candy and of course it is all the good stuff like Reeses, PayDay's, Butterfingers, M&M's and more. I would hate to think of what would happen if the kids didn't show up. Misch and I would probably gain 10lbs. each. Cute kids. Probably ended up with about 50 kids. We decorated our yard as usual, with the tombstones, carved pumpkins and lighted monsters. I wonder, do they celebrate Halloween in Belize? If not, they will when I get there!

And tommorow begins the breakdown of the Halloween gear and packing it up until next year. Unfortunately, when the Holloween stuff goes back in the attic, the Christmas stuff comes out. All the stores are having big sales now for Christmas because they're afraid you won't have money at Christmas, so they want to try and get your money now. Actually there are some good deals out there. Several stores have gone bankrupt and are selling things at close -out prices. I think Christmas is going to be a little tight this year.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plans for the Future

The planning begins.

I have an idea of how I want the house to look, keeping it simple in design. I don't want to go overboard on the design because it will drive up the cost and the time to build if I do lots of curves and odd angles. Thats not to say I won't have some interesting designs, but KISS (keep it simple stupid). My friends Kit and Tim are going to send me pictures of their place in Mexico that use palm frond designs on the ceiling and Tim came up with an idea to make the supporting columns look like palm trunks. Interesting idea.

The plans have gone through a few redesigns, mostly to add things we thought we would like have, but won't break the bank. But unfortunately, Wall Street has done that for me. The plans have been downsized due to the downsized state of my savings acct.. I have now made the design so I can build the house in sections. Kitchen, living room and half bath on the first floor and the Master bedroom and bathroom on the second floor. We figure we can add the extra bedrooms and bath, that are in the picture, at a later date.

If this ends up being the design we use for now, I want to finish all the landscaping, add the pool and possibly the dock. As you can see, the design is rather basic. I did the rough mock up just to see the overall look and if that is what I really wanted. We would just build the two storey part of the structure and add the rest later.

I also have designed how I want our lot to look when it is finally finished. With it being a little over 250 ft from the ocean to the road, I have quite a bit to work with. I'd like to place the house about here.
The dream is there, can we make it happen? Now, I need to find a contractor. One that shares my dream and also can afford my pocketbook. I have seen the work of a few of the contractors online, as a couple of people have blogged their experiences and included pictures ( , I also have a few other recommendations from the, that I will also check out. There is a world of information out there, you just need to find it. I will add sites that I think are important, or at least interesting, as this blog continues.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Belize from afar

Back at home , the internet becomes our link to our dreams 3000 miles away. As we google Belize, cruise the forums and follow the links to old or dead end web pages, we wonder if our dream will come true.
Then, a couple of weeks after we returned, we received a call from a friend in Corozal. She knew of a couple of lots that were available at Consejo Shores. As luck would have it, I had visited those lots while I was there, so I had an idea of what the lots looked like. I had taken pictures and decided that lot 27 was the one we wanted. Now comes the price.
We contacted the owner of the lots and she was an expat living in Corozal. She and her friend had decided to sell their lots and knew vacant lots in Consejo Shores were at a premium. They had set a price and were pretty firm on what they wanted. Now the price becomes the deciding factor. Do we spend the money now, and get our slice of paradise, or do we take our chances and wait for other properties to become available in the future.
I had done some research and could not find any vacant seaside lots that had been for sale. There were lots that already had homes, but they were out of the price range of what we wanted to pay. Some also had foundation issues and probably would have to be torn down anyway. So a decision looms. We counter offer on the price, and she accepts. We, are going to own property in a foreign country.
The housing bubble is about to burst but the equity in our home is double what we paid for it, so we decide to refinance, pull the money and buy into our dream. Was it a good idea? We'll see. For now, it was a search for the dream and an early retirement to help fulfill the dream.
We refinance our current home in Camarillo to purchase the lot in Consejo Shores. And the dream begins in ernst.
The process of buying land in Belize is not as bad as buying land in the States. A LOT less paperwork. Just get a good paralegal or lawyer you can trust and be willing to wait. And wait. And wait. Things move slowly in Belize, but isn't that why you want to move here? It will get done in two to three months if all the paperwork is in order.
And then it happens. You get a FEDEX from your paralegal. And there it is.... the deed to your dreams.
And now the work begins on how leave life as we know it, pack it up and move to Belize.
I'm a lucky one, in that, a few years after leaving high school and a few college courses under my belt, I apply for a clerk position at the phone company. Not expecting to spend a lot of time there, maybe a couple of years or so, I begin a career that I would have never expected. After a couple of years as a clerk, I took internal classes at my work to improve my chances for a transfer out of this job as a clerk. Again as luck would have it, I received a transfer to the location and outside job I had wanted and so began my career as a telephone install and repairman. What a job. I'm outside, in So. Cal, where it never rains, I get my work in the morning and away I go. Back in the garage by 4:30. I like this.
But Ma Bell changes, each time losing the family feeling I got being employed by them, even though it was a large company. Ma Bell became Pacific Telesis which then became Pacific Bell. After a few years, Pac Bell was bought by SBC which then bought the parent company ATT and 25 years later we are Ma Bell again. But things have changed along the way. DSL and TV. After 30 years it is time to let the young kids take over. Old habits die hard and ATT is headed in a new direction. And soon, so am I.
We saved our money, made a few wise investments and I had a pension after 30 years with the phone company. Is it the right time to retire early? 6 months, a year ago I would have said yes, but at that time I didn't have my thirty years and needed that last year to collect my full benefits. Now, at this time, with the market as bad as it is, it really makes me think if we can make it.
But plans have been in the works for months, and I'm scheduled to leave for Belize in mid November to pick a contractor to build our home. We will probably have to downsize our plans, but the house is designed so it can be built in sections. I don't want to put the dream on hold, so I hope we find a contractor.
Next is all the planning to make it work.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Our First Blog Begins

And here it begins. It is our quest to document our trials and tribulations of moving from Camarillo, CA to Consejo Shores, Belize. I'd like to thank Dave and Dianna for their blog, as it has inspired me to create my own blog.

Our dream to move to Belize had its roots from many years back. In my early 20's I had spent a lot of time diving in the Carribean sea. One of my first experiences was Cancun in the early '80's. Only a dozen or so hotels on the entire 10 mile beach. Friendly people and food carts lined the streets. But in time, this slice of paradise was found by timeshare salesmen and it was time to move on.

When Mischelle and I first got together, we had known each other for several years thru mutual friends. One of our first trips was to Cabo San Lucas, where her family had been vacationing and fishing for years. Cabo was a small fishing village not yet discovered by tourists. We loved the starkness of the mountains and the sea. The diving and fishing was amazing.

But in time, this slice of paradise was found by timeshare salesmen and it was time to move on.

We checked out the Bahamas, Grenada and the Grenadines,St. Lucia and the Virgin Islands but in the end we came back to Mexico. Close to home and we love mexican food.

So our next adventures came back to Mexico. We spent lots of vacation time in Cozumel and the Puerto Aventura area and what is now known as the Riviera Maya. Scary drive on two lane highway for an hour or so south of Cancun. Playa del Carmen was a small no-light town. Happy people, food vendors on the street and no timeshare salesmen.

But this too, came to an end. More hotels, and yes, we did end up getting a timeshare, but on the terms we liked and in a nice collection of properties.

But we knew we needed to move on and Belize was next on the map. Friendly people who speak english(?!), excellent diving, and we can still get mexican food.

Now the question is where do we want to live. On the Cayes, or in the Cayos', in the north or in the south.

After looking around and deciding where we didn't want to be, we narrowed the choices. We like the Cayes, but decided that being on a low lying island in the hurricane season would be stressful. Not good. Supplies also can become an issue.

The mountains of the Cayo district are beautiful and adventure is around every corner and cave. But the roads and streams during the rainy season can become unpassable and there tends to be more rain in the mountains.

Same with the south. Lots more rain.

So after whittling away the other places, we decided to look in the north. We started in Corozal town. From there it was off to visit home sites in Progresso Heights, Cerros Sands and Sarteneja. No timeshare salesmen but everyone seems to sell real estate. From there we traveled north to a small town called Consejo. There we found a place with a beautiful view of the Bay of Chetumal. Could we have found our slice of paradise? A small quiet town, not far from the main town of Corozal. And just across the bay is Chetumal. Mexican food, Mc Donald's, Sam's Club, etc.. Not as much rain as the rest of the country. Not a lot of bugs. A short plane or boat ride to spectacular diving. Even gambling near-by.

We visited a small community of expats in a well maintained development next to the sea. Consejo Shores. Mostly half acre lots with a small pitch and putt golf course. We were in heaven. Now if we could live the dream and find a lot on the sea.

Only problem was, there were no vacant lots for sale. So back home we went and tried to find our dream on the internet.