You Know You Live on Ambergris Caye, Belize When…
Moving to Belize over nine years ago was an amazing thing. I’ve had the chance to immerse myself in a new culture, new music, new languages (Spanish, Kriol, Maya, Garifuna – depending on which part of the country you are in) and piles and piles of delicious Belizean food. (Here’s a post ALL about the food.)
To learn how to shop different, walk or hitchhike everywhere and drive a golf cart, fly or take a boat when I want to travel to the city and so many more things.
Life slows down and changes when you adapt to life in Belize. That adaption is not without its tribulations. (15 Things No One Told You About Moving to Belize.)
But you know that you have arrived, I think, when start doing the following:
When something breaks, you automatically think about how to fix it and/or MacGyver it…
When I lived in the US (over 9 years ago), something would break and you would either order a new one (probably on Amazon) or, if it was more expensive, call your building’s handyman. Here in Belize, there IS no Amazon and a handyman, if you can reach one on the phone, might arrive today or he might arrive next week.
On Ambergris Caye, the sea air chews away at everything. I have pried open all sorts of things that shouldn’t be opened (from IPhone chargers to digital clocks). And for larger things? There’s a whole lot of jerry rigging going on. A friend has a great story about how he tried to build a new frame for the rusted washing machine out of wood.
This stuff is EXPENSIVE on the island…you want to make it last!
An invitation for your neighbor’s Quinceanera says 5pm, you arrive at 7pm and you are still the first one there
Time is relative here. And when you first get down here, it’s a huge adjustment. “Right now” means later today, tomorrow or never. 5pm NEVER means 5pm. For different events, it means different things. A San Pedro Town Council meeting 15-30 minutes later. A night time party (almost always at the Lions Den)? 2-4 hours later than the time specified.
EVERYONE Belizean seems to know but you.
You coming to a screaming halt to allow a dog/iguana/snake to move out of the road…or not
Animals here love to lie in the road sunning themselves. Even in busy areas, you will find an elderly, mostly deaf potlicker lounging on a heavily trafficked turn. You stop, he MIGHT get up and amble to the curb. But maybe not.
It’s been his spot before the road and YOU even arrived. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
You can call your doctor and get an appointment in 20 minutes
Good grief what a change from the states. As an employer, I remember being shocked by how quickly Belizeans go to the doctor. A sniffle, the beginning of a sore throat? Many are off to the Polyclinic. But why not? Drop in…see the doctor immediately…get meds all for a very reasonable price.
Plus, you are almost SURE to get a note that gets you out of work for 3 days. It’s always 3 day.
When you order a beer, you mean Belikin regular…duh
In 2009, CARICOM beers were allowed into the country for the first time. Presidente, Red Stripe, Heinekin, Carib…we know how Caribbean bottled choices. But when you order “a beer”, you always mean Belikin. After a good long total monopoly, it is the beer of Belize.
Oh…and did I tell you that I am a master brewer?
If someone asked, you’d consider cole slaw and potato salad your daily vegetables
If you eat local, you RARELY get a green vegetable on your plate. Breakfast would be tacos (you can request cabbage or onion inside), lunch, stew chicken, rice & beans with cole slaw and potato salad and dinner more of the same.
Want broccoli or lettuce or asparagus or any other imported vegetable? It’s going to cost you. And if you have Belizeans over, they may not touch it.
You wave at almost every golf cart you pass especially in September or October
Ambergris Caye is a small island but then, when you think about it, it’s really not that small. I would guess there are 20,000 people here. BUT if you have been here long enough, especially in the “slow season” when there are very few tourists, you know who lives here full-time and you wave.
It’s just what you do.
You START to understand how EVERYONE San Pedrano is related
There are a few prominent names on the island – families that have been here since the island was a coconut plantation. Parham, Alamilla, Nunez, Guerrero, Paz…
You might find that your grocer is related to the cousin of your handyman who is the uncle of the head of police. Personal relationships are everything on the island – and it takes a long time finding out how everyone on this island, or even in this small country, is connected.
I’m still working on my “org chart”.
When you walk into the Bank and there are 10 people in front of you and you think…meh…not so bad
Like I said, time moves a bit slower down here. And going to the bank is a PRIME example.
In my 10 years in Manhattan, I don’t think I actually went INTO Bank of America once. Everything is done online…everything.
In Belize, if you want to cash a check or make a payment, you actually GO INTO the bank. You know when the lines will be long (end of week or end of month) and you can do your best to avoid them. But during “the season”, a line of 10 or less is a home run. Don’t worry…they have the air con pumping, the TV on and there is always some in line to chat with.
Gecko poop on your bed is no surprise, in fact, it’s a positive
Go away for the weekend and odds are, that on your return, there will be small turds on your bed. No, you don’t have rats…silly you! Rats don’t go on the bed! You have geckos and you should rejoice…these guys eat sand flies (that go through screens) and mosquitos (that ride you inside like a bus).
If you are like me, you greet them each night by name. Hey Timmy Timmy No-Tail…I see your tail is start to grow back in…
You don’t expect the power to be on ALL the time
The lights go out on the island at the most inoppurtune times. Our electric company, Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), schedules outages for maintenance. Usually at 5am on one of the hottest Sundays so when your fan and AC go off, you wake up immediately and sweat in the dark.
It also just goes out. You can COUNT on a power outage (or as the locals say “the current”) on Christmas eve, when the island is packed with power hogging tourists.
You are often out of phone credit
Unlike where you used to live, few people are on phone plans. Here you buy a SIM card for your phone and then buy phone credit. $10, $20s at a time. You try to remember which days are “double up” but even if you do remember, you usually forget to buy phone credit.
It is completely unclear how much a call costs. So sometimes you make 2 local calls or send, what seems like, a few text messages and BAM. There goes your credit.
You hardly ever use your oven
The only Belizean foods that seems to require an oven are breakfast foods like meat pies or johnny cakes. Most people grab those at a local deli.
And all other food, from stew chicken to fry chicken, rice & beans and tortillas is made on the stove.
You use your comal WAY more often than the oven. If you even have an oven.
*Lobster meat pies from Boogie’s Belly and Johnny Cake from Celi’s Deli (both my favorites)
Rain brings about a wide range of emotions
During the busy season (late December thru May) we see almost no rain. People rejoice when it first comes…the flowers! the cisterns! the dust!
But when it starts raining hard, things change. The mud flicking up your back as you bicycle or walk in flip flops (we certainly can’t go out in this!) and then…the mosquitos.
You stock up when you visit the US states
Most imported items are WAY cheaper in the US. When you take your annual or bi-annual trip to your old home, you stock up on certain things.
For me, it’s usually toiletries. Why pay $25bzd for a tube of your favorite Dove Body wash when you can buy it at CVS for $3.99US. I also love to hit Old Navy for some low priced COTTON clothes.
Or real maple syrup.
You start working BAD Kriol into your conversations with your Belizean friends
It’s inevitable. You’ve been hearing the accent and the language for years now…it’s going to start coming, awkwardly, out of your mouth.
People ask you in the street: “Wadda gwan?” (or what’s going on) and you are going to start answering “Straight”.
Or instead of saying “I don’t know”, you might say “me no no”. It’s the accent that is going to be way off…sometimes your friends will laugh at you…sometimes they will let it slide.
You Smother Your Food with Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce Before Even Tasting It
Even five year olds do it. It’s time to man up.
I know there are SO many more you can help me with! Like “Smothering your “Fry” chicken with sweet ketchup”. Please feel free to comment about how you know you live on Ambergris Caye…
For sharing AND future reference, please stick a PIN in it.