Settling in Belize
Date: 2 September 2002

Buenos Dias!

It's been a while since we've connected with you all again, and although life is slow down here in Belize, little by little we are progressing. My last email was sent as I left for Brownsville, Texas to retrieve our car. I flew into Brownsville via Houston, and it was hot, hot, hot. Whew, much hotter than Belize. I returned to the RV park where the car was stored to discover that the brakes had seized. Perhaps it was due to the moisture and the coating of rust underneath it acquired back in Quebec where winters take their toll on undercarriages. I drove VERY slowly and was able to stop as long as I had about 300 feet before I actually had to stop. The brake pedal went all the way to the floor and would make a terrible scraping sound. I found a Firestone mechanic shop about 3 blocks from my hotel. At first they didn't even want to touch it because the braking system was so rusted, but with a little cajoling they finally attempted to fix it warning me that they might break it more in the process and entire brake system may need to be replaced. Luckily, it was finally fixed -- 5 days and $1200 later I was ready to head back. During that time I availed myself of cable TV, air conditioning, restaurants, a few movies, and I got a good bit of computer work done using a free-trial AOL internet connection. Brownsville is mostly Hispanic, and I was very impressed with how nice everyone was. But now it was time to again say good-bye to 'civilization' and get this show back on the road.

Driving the Pathfinder was a breeze after being so used to a 37 foot bus, and it was going to be a lot easier to go through Mexico running so lean. I tried the International Bridge border crossing on a Sunday afternoon, and I was the only person in the immigration office. No lines of people, no commotion, just the whole place to myself, which was good because getting a driving permit involves a lot of paperwork and moving from one window to another handing over forms to be stamped. Of course I had already been through it so I knew mostly what to do, and no one there speaks more than a couple words of English. After getting (and paying) for the driving permit I was informed by a customs officer that I would owe duty on the 5 kilowatt generator I was bringing in. I informed him that I was just 'passing through' and that the generator would not be staying. I mentioned that I was able to bring all my stuff through last time without any duty when I crossed via the Free Trade Bridge and a temporary importation permit. He informed me that now that I had a driving permit I couldn't get the temporary importation permit. Since the generator was practically brand new and worth a few thousand dollars, I was not looking forward to paying duty here in Mexico and then again in Belize. The officer said that he would be taking me to another office to do the paperwork and pay the duty. He said he would tell the customs official that it was worth $300 so that I wouldn't have to pay too much duty -- about $50. We got to the office to find the customs manager asleep at his desk. The officer knocked on the desk and the official popped up. They spoke a little in Spanish and the guy at the desk turned to me and asked, "how much did you pay for it?" Both the officer and the guy at the desk waited for my answer. "Uh, $300...," I said. The guy at the desk talked with the officer again and the officer told him it was very small (certainly the guy behind the desk wasn't going to get up and go check it out, it might spoil his nap). The duty ended up being about $80. I thanked the officer and within a few moments I was on the other side.

Driving was a breeze. I was able to make the trip in less time than I had done with the bus, and I never drove later than 9pm. It really is a beautiful drive in some parts of the country with mountains to the right and the sea to the left. There were periodic military road blocks, but after showing my papers I was always allowed to continue. I stayed in a cheap motel the first night and in an 'auto hotel' the second night in the big city of Villa Hermosa. In Mexico, the auto hotel is a combination motel and garage. I drove into the gated entrance where I was met by someone who asked whether I wanted the regular room or the jacuzzi room. I opted for regular, paid the fee (about $40), and they pointed me to my garage door -- all without ever leaving my car. I drove into the garage, and the cashier followed. After taking down my name and license plate, she pushed a button and slipped out as the garage door closed. I followed the staircase up and the room was above the garage. It was very nice. I was now safely tucked away in my room with the car locked up below. I think this type of motel would do well in the States.

I made it to Belize the next day by 4pm and was able to get the paper work started. I took a taxi into Corozal Town and spent the night with friends. The next morning I managed to cash a personal check from an Indian merchant in town who even gave 5% more than the normal conversion rate so he can send US dollars back to India. I returned to the border and was through by noon. Yahoo! We now have a car in Belize!

Now that we didn't have to drive the bus whenever we needed anything, we were able to use the car to search for houses and run errands. We eventually found a little house in Corozal Town on the bay. It is situated between the Catholic school and the Methodist school and shares a backyard with a preschool. A policeman lives above the preschool on the second floor. The house was being renovated when we first found it and within 2 weeks it was ready for us to move in. The rent is $250US per month, and that is more expensive than what many folks are paying. But it is on the water, quiet, and within walking distance to school, the market, the pier, several parks, and the town center. And, after extending the driveway and expanding the gate, I was able to park the bus within the fenced-in property.

We were able to buy a full set of wicker furniture and a large refrigerator at a garage sale. We are still in the process of getting kitchen cabinets, counters, tables, chairs, and beds. We sleep and cook in the bus and spend the rest of the time in our new house. There is almost always a breeze coming straight in from the bay and we can hear the waves crashing. While the mosquitos are rare here, we are host to at least 10 different species of ants. There are the big red ones that feed on the leaves of trees and create a highway from their mound to whatever tree they are feeding from. Ants coming from the tree carry little green leaves back to the mound and the ants going in the other direction carry nothing. The ant trail is about 4 inches wide and is completely cleared of obstacles -- it is actually 'mowed'. The little leaves they carry are like flags at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. It is fascinating, but too close to home, and the ants have a stinging bite. Since our backyard is the playground for a preschool, the ants are unwelcome, and it seems to be a never-ending battle to get rid of them.

Within the house there are tiny little red ants that live in the woodwork. For the first week we were spraying long ant trails that led into the baseboards or the ceiling. They moved from the kitchen to the bathroom to the living room, but I think we have gotten their nest(s) out of the house now. Then there are some really, really tiny ants that are practically microscopic. If you drop a watermelon seed, they are around it within minutes. I think they come in from outside and they are mostly on the floor. They are lighting fast as they scurry about. So we must sweep and mop our tile floor at least once a day. There are other types of ants, too, like the black marching ants that will come into a house and clear it of all the other bugs, lizards, and scorpions. They leave a long trail and stay for about a day or two and then leave. Belizeans will let them come in, do their work and leave because they get rid of all the other pests. We haven't been visited by them yet, but I suppose it is inevitable.

Cheyenne and Lakota start school tomorrow. The school is next door and the preschool is in the backyard so at least we won't have to drive them to and from school as we have been for the last 4 years. Both the children have uniforms and are excited about wearing them. We bought Cheyenne's school books which are published for Caribbean children. The colors of the children in the books are black and brown with the occasional caucasian child in the background. The schooling is British-based and comparable to Canada. Cheyenne will be attending the Methodist school. The church is just a few feet from our yard, and we hear singing most of the day on Sunday. We will likely attend from time to time.

Now that we have electricity, phone, water and cable, I will be able to work again. I have a few Canadian contracts I am working on and hopefully more will follow. I may have a little contract with Pepsi here to help balance the books of their various distribution centers. We still hope to find some property in the little village of Copper Bank where we had been living in the bus for a month. While Corozal Town is small, it is still a little city and a bit too noisy and busy for us. Don't get me wrong, it is quite nice and most of the time we have the bay to ourselves, but we are hoping to be in a place a little more private.

The children are swimming everyday -- sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. Cheyenne has taken to snorkeling and Lakota is like a little otter. The bay is warm and is usually calm in the morning. We can see rainstorms miles out to sea as they move inland. It gives us time to prepare before we get drenched. Some of the windows in the house do not yet close all the way, and when the storms hit, water is blown right in. We've got some more work to do to weatherproof the house before hurricane season starts. We have a 400 gallon water tank that collects water from the roof, and it is already full. When it rains, it pours, but it never seems to last more than an hour or two -- usually it is just a few minutes.

That's all for now. Our new phone number is 011+501 422-0143 {that's how you would dial it from the States or Canada} Our address is:

Eric Schaub & Lyne Filion
#59 1st Avenue
Corozal Town, Belize
Central America

Take care!


Next Newsletter - 19 Sep 2002, The Saga Continues

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Calm Dawn Sea
The sun is up at 5:30, and the bay is calm.

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Pastor's House
We've rented a small house on the bay. It used to be the pastor's house.

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Bus on the Bay
Our bus is parked across the street from the house until we expand our driveway.

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Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

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Children Playing in the Bay
Cheyenne and Lakota are good swimming buddies.

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Lila's Birthday
Lila takes a breath to blow out the candles.

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Cheyenne in Her New Uniform
Fresh off the rack, Cheyenne tries out her new school uniform.

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Corozal Spinal Twist
Lila has found her spot for yoga.

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Cheyenne Waving
Cheyenne waves hello.

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Wet Lakota