Monday, June 29, 2009

New Pictures Arrive

After three weeks at home and limited news of the construction in Belize, pictures of the house in Belize have finally arrived, showing the construction as of June 25th. Several days of rain have delayed construction, but the walls seem to be going up and everything seems to be in the right places. These first few pictures show the construction as of June 19th.

These last pictures are of the construction as of June 25th. The walls for the bedrooms are just about to the right height, then the blocks need to be set for the higher ceiling in the living room and kitchen.

View of the front door

East side of house

View from the water looking back at the retaining wall and patio

View looking at the retaining wall and west bedroom

View of retaining wall and east bedroom

View of retaining wall, cistern and pool

Almost finished east bedroom and bathroom walls

All of the walls almost complete

I have decided to change the patio doors from the standard 6ft 8in height to a larger 8ft height. With the living room ceiling at 11ft+, it should add to the air flow and sunlight in the living room and kitchen, while also adding a visual effect of a larger room.

On a more serious note, Bob Wright, whom I rented a studio apartment from while I recently was in Belize, is undergoing surgery tomorrow to help restore his hearing. Good luck to Bob and a speedy recovery. I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that the surgery is successful.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our Neighbors in the Mayan Seaside

During the 6+ weeks I was in Belize, I was able to meet some of the neighbors in the adjoining community of Mayan Seaside and Wagner's Landing. The Friday night place to meet is at Smuggler's Den, in Wagner's Landing, where the owners, Ray and Rosa have a small bar, restaurant and resort overlooking the bay. People from both the Shores and Mayan Seaside gather for a few drinks, dinner and to shoot the breeze.

Over at the Mayan Seaside (, it continues to grow, with new homes going up every few months. A nice planned community run by Art Higgins that will have a large community park and dock when all the work is completed.

Overlooking the park and bay, Brian and Laura have built a beautiful home that is open to the breezes from the sea, with high ceilings and lots of windows. The custom doors, that are the gateway to their home, were made by a local carpenter with the Belizean birds that inhabit the area as a template.

Brian has designed unique features into the design of the house and is using a windmill to generate alternative power options to run appliances and other equipment. His cinema room will be like no other in Belize, with a large screen TV, Bose 10.1 surround sound, motion seating and even a popcorn maker.

Brian and Laura share their home with their three ferrets. The ferrets have their own separate room, complete with a waterfall. I only saw them while they were sleeping, but I"m sure that they are a hand full when they are awake.

Another couple of recent additions to the Mayan Seaside community were built by my contractor, John Harris. Just down the street from Brian and Laura, one of these homes is owned by Barry and Libby and was just recently completed in April. Some minor work still needs to be done and the garage is just now being added on, but Barry and Libby are extremely happy with their new home. It sits overlooking the bay and future community park.

Another home built by John is a small one bedroom house, that the owner, Nick, wants to add on to, as his visits to Belize become more frequent. I'm sure he's going to need to add more rooms once his friends find out he has a place in Belize.

Nick, on the right, and his friend Tony, came down for a week of relaxing, fishing and drinking beer. Or at least that is what Tony thought. But Nick had some other things he wanted to accomplish while he was there, so Tony not only got to fish, drink and relax, he also got to paint and clean up the not so minor paint spills. But, Nick did supply the beer. I probably would have painted for the free beer. I never did see their fishing prowess, with them only catching a few catfish, but they could only go as far as the pier. I can see that the next item that Nick will get is a boat.

Another cute house in the Mayan Seaside is owned by a wonderful couple, Jim and Elle. They have a Mennonite built home, brought to the site and put up on stilts. This is their home until they are ready to build their dream home on the lot next door. The call their place the Monkey House and the downstairs is home to Jim's Baboon Bar. I've already had the pleasure of throwing back a couple of cold Belikins at the Baboon Bar.

Another example of a Mennonite home is this home that was For Sale, also in the Mayan Seaside community. As you can see, some people fill in the underneath of the home, like Jim and Elle, and some just leave it open, like below. The things to consider when buying a Mennonite home is termites and wood upkeep. But the price can be right and for a reasonable amount of money, you can own land and a home, near or on the water.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Building Goes On

When I left Belize, the house was two sets of blocks up from the foundation. The electrical boxes were just being placed and some flex conduit between boxes was installed. The pool was just getting a rough coat and the lounge area cement pads were just in the finishing stages. The area below the retaining wall is now flat and ready to work with. The project is beginning to move along rather quickly.

When John sent these new pictures, they had already moved up to eight blocks up on both the inside and outside walls and looked like they were moving fast. Since I was out of town and didn't have internet access, I didn't check my e-mail until Saturday. From the pictures that John had sent, I noticed two things were wrong and one thing I had hoped to change. But, were they too far along to easily fix the problems? The first thing was that the bedroom windows facing the ocean were being set for 4 x 4 foot windows and not the 4 x 5 foot that was on the plans. The other was the placement of a bathroom window and also the size. When I called John, he assured me that both problems would be checked out and changed as needed. The other change that I wanted was removing the top step out of the pool. It just looks like a great place to stub a toe. Also, by removing the step, it doesn't allow for dirt collection and provides a larger step, down into the pool. John has to check on that to see if is safe and possible to do.

For now, I have to wait for the next set of e-mails from John, hopefully, with more pictures. So in the mean time, I will update the blog with the things that I saw and the people I met, during my months long stay in Belize.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Whirlwind Week

After finally making it home from Belize after two months, it would have been nice to sit back and slowly get back into the faster pace of southern California. But one of the main reasons I returned at this time was to go to my niece's high school Las Vegas. Josette had invited us to attend her graduation and we happened to have enough comps to get the rooms free, so what the heck, lets go. I had already had enough of airports and flying, so we drove to Vegas in about 5 hours.

Plus, Josette wanted to show off her new ride.

I wish I had a car like that when I was seventeen.

So, after two months in Mexico and Belize, and a week in Vegas, I am finally home to relax for a few days and finally get caught up on the blog. John has sent new pictures of the work site, so I will begin to post them and the last few pictures I took before I left Belize.
But on Monday, it's back to work! Finishing the remodel of the master bathroom and deciding if we want to go ahead and spend the money for a kitchen remodel. The clock is ticking.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Back Home in SoCal.

After being gone for almost two months, I am back home in southern California. It's nice to be home to Mischelle and the dogs, but after the drive home from the airport, I am ready to go back to Belize.

The trip home from Belize was a breeze. I left Consejo at around 3:30AM to catch to 6AM bus out of Chetumal. Belize and Mexico have an hour time difference and Mexico is an hour ahead of Belize, so I needed to be at the bus station at 5AM Belize time. The van, from Belize VIP Transfer services, was there on time to pick me up and drive me to the bus station in Chetumal. Once in Chetumal, I caught the bus to Playa del Carmen, where I would pick up another bus to the airport, The cost of the bus from Chetumal to Playa was $210 pesos ($16US) and about a 4 1/2 hour bus ride. The bus from Playa to the airport was $90 pesos ($7US) and about an hour drive.

I spent some of my extra time I had between bus rides, in Playa, sitting at a restaurant on 5th Avenue, watching the tourists go by. Drank my first beer in weeks, that was something other than a Belikin. A nice change of pace. I caught the 2:10 bus from Playa to the airport ( I lost track of time and missed the 1:10 bus ) and arrived at the airport at 3:15, and I had a 4:30 flight. Time was just a little tight so I rushed into the terminal expecting to see lines. Nope. The terminal was only marginally busy and there were no lines to the ticket counters. As I approched the ticket counter, I was stopped and asked for my health certificate. My What? Seems that due to the swine flu, you needed to go to a health screening area, on the OTHER end of the airport, fill out a small health form and have your forehead scanned for fever. That was it. About 3 minutes in line and about 3 minutes for the test. But that would have been a REAL time killer if it was busy. So, with my health form in hand, it was back across the terminal to finally check in. With nobody in line, I sailed through the check-in counter and security check points and was at my boarding gate with 45 minutes to spare.

Mischelle had booked my return flight through Mexico City because the direct flight home was sold out, so the plane I was on was a domestic flight with an international connection. Instead of American tourists that were headed home after a week in paradise, I had a combination of Mexican tourists and business people that were headed to their homes in Mexico City. From Cancun to Mexico City was a full flight and I was hoping that the flight from Mexico City to LA wasn't going to be as crowded. Mexicana didn't assign a gate to the Mexico City to LA flight and I was told to check with the information booth upon arrival in Mexico City about the new gate assignment. The Mexico City airport is famous for switching gates at the last moment and I'm thinking this is going to be one of those times. I had only an hour between flights and 20 minutes after arrival in Mexico City, I still didn't have a gate assignment for the next flight. I had arrived at gate 24 and was just waiting for them to announce that my departing gate will be gate number 1. But much to my surprise, they announced my flight was leaving out of gate 27. I made the short walk over to gate 27, sat down and started recharging my laptop at one of Samsung charging stations. Wi-Fi was available, but at a $10 fee for 24 hours. Of course, no sooner did I get it plugged in, they were ready to start boarding. The surrounding area was full of people, but only about 50 boarded our flight to LA.

On the flight home, I had the 3 seats to myself, so I was able to stretch out, put my noise cancelling headphones on and go to sleep. I woke up about 30 minutes out of LA to the Captain announcing the current conditions in LA were 63 degrees, cloudy, with rain. What a change from Belize.

Once on the ground in LA, I was the first in line at the Immigration counter. My bag was one of the first dozen bags off the plane. I breezed through customs and was out on the street, waiting for Mischelle, in under 20 minutes. This was great. I had called Mischelle from the baggage carousel and she was there to pick me up within 5 minutes. I was headed home, and in record time....until we got on the freeway. Just after we get on the freeway, a highway patrol car is weaving back and forth across all lanes, to slow traffic to a crawl. I'm thinking great, a big accident just happened and we're stuck behind it. Welcome back to LA. I'm ready to go back to Belize. But they were just closing lanes for construction, so in 10 minutes, we were back doing 70 mph down the road. We were home within an hour.

As we pull into the driveway, I can hear the dogs barking from inside the house. I get a joyous greeting at the door...I'm home. After being gone for so long, it is good to be home.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Some Walls Go Up and Some Walls Come Down

The cement block work has begun and it's beginning to look more like a house, although it looks a little small. But, once the wall are completely up, I'm sure it will look bigger. The first set of blocks were set on Monday and interior walls will start today. With the retaining wall out in front, it really adds some dimension to the overall view. The area inside the retaining wall is larger that the footprint of the house.

I'm headed home tomorrow, so today has been a day of visiting everyone. I don't know where the time went, but I guess that's what happens in Belize. I will update everything when I get home and settled in. I have a lot of time to make up for and I'm sure Mischelle can hardly wait until I get home. I'm curious how the dogs will react, just because I won't be home until after 1AM. They will probably look at me with that "hey, dad" look and go back to sleep...until it sinks in it's me. Hey, Mischelle, it's me and I'm on my way home...and I can't wait. :-)