Visiting San Ignacio, Belize – Day 8

Today, John cleared his schedule so that he could show the men around. They got up at 6:30, and headed to John’s house for bacon, eggs, pancakes,fry jacks, and a new fruit called a Custard Apple. The custard apple is a little smaller than acantaloupe, grows on a tree, and is full of big, black seeds. The texture is soft andslimy, and was the first (and only) food in Belize that Vaughn didn’t care for; None of the guys liked them!

After having breakfast at John’s house, the guys all went to a local automotive dealer to ask about buying vehicles in Bz, or fees for bringing them in. The owner of the lot travels to the US twice a month to purchase used vehicles here and take them down to Belize to resell; it is a 34 hr. trip each way. He said that the Mx police can be a problem and it helps to know how to work them (not always bribe, sometimes you should call their bluff). He has to pay the same import duties that we would bringing a like vehicle in. The general consensus (from Belizeans also), is it is better to bring your choice of vehicle with you than try to find it there. There are registration/plate fees in Bz; they average $200bz for a car, $300bz for large truck, and $20-40 for a motorbike. There are quite a few 4-wheelers down there on the roads, and the men saw lots of dirt bikes. Many of them were ridden by young boys, on the road, without shoes or helmets (gasp!) :)
Also went to a new parts store that was just built in S.L. Some of the newer buildings (like this one), are quite modern. The entire front of this store was mirror panes, and going inside, the men felt like they were back in the states!
Down in Belize, you will only find Coca-Cola products – they have a monopoly on the soda industry there; of Coke products, my guys only saw Coke, Fanta, and Sprite…
After the dealership, the men went to Midwest Steel and Agro in Spanish Lookout. It is a big warehouse that carries tools, finish building materials, and seeds(which were expensive). My guys took in a camcorder to record what was available in Bz, and the prices – much easier than pages and pages of notes. An interior designer approached them and said, “you guys must be contractors, and you must be thinking of moving down here. I don’t know why anyone else would videotape this store!” I suppose it did look a little odd. Midwest carried items like vanities, faucets, On-Demand Hot Water Heaters (YES!-mandatory in my house!) bathtubs, paint, and plumbing items. Materials averaged about 25% more expensive than what we are used to paying in the states.
Next it was off to Farmers Trading Corp. (took the camcorder in again), and this place carried a little bit of everything… Groceries, shoes, clothing, fabric (most fabric down there is quite colorful), canning supplies, books, baby items including cribs, a few toys, beds, appliances, school supplies, scooters, pedal bikes, motor bikes, tools, Rubbermaid, sinks/vanities/faucets, paint, fencing… Anything that you would find in a grocery, drug, or hardware store, FTC would have it!
Most of the women down there use disposable diapers, and you can get baby items, but not a large selection. At FTC, there was one (style of) stroller, 2 walkers, one highchair (Vaughn never saw anyone use a highchair while he was there – the children had been trained to sit on stools).
Shoes in brands that we are used to in the US, were expensive down there, but they had other brands (never heard of) that seemed the same quality that were not as expensive.
At the FTC, one Mennonite lady had ridden her 4-wheeler to the store (in her bare feet), made her purchases, climbed on her quad tucking her dress in around her legs, stowed her bags behind her, and placing her little daughter in front of her, zoomed off for home. No shoes, no helmets, no CPS (child protective services) – gotta love the freedom!!!
Past Spanish Lookout, there is a farmer, Ron, who moved to Belize from Kentucky 7 years ago. He owns 360 acres, runs Brahma cattle, and the men stopped to talk with him about residency and differences from US. He really likes it in Belize because it is so laid-back.
It is possible (for a resident) to get a home/land loan in Bz, but the interest rate through a bank is 25%! It is not possible for an ‘outsider’ to buy land within the S.L. community. All land is held by the Mennonites, and they sell only to those who meet their requirements (being a Mennonite). Sometimes it is possible for an outsider to rent land/home from one of the Mennonites, but it is completely up to the owner. Land seems to average out at about $1000/ac(for larger parcels), you just have to shop around for what you are looking for.
After talking with Ron for about an hour, the men headed for San Ignacio. To get there, they had to cross a river by a hand-cranked ferry. The ferry operator is a government employee, and there was no charge for the service.

Lunch was first on the agenda in the pleasant city of San Ignacio. Vaughn had rice and beans (included in almost all bz. meals), stewed chicken, fried plantain, coleslaw, and pineapple juice for $18bz. Greg had Quesadilla de Pollo – very good and so was served so much he couldn’t eat it all.
view from restaurant in San Ignacio.

After lunch, the men went to the hospital to find out what they could about health care in Belize. It sounds like both medical and dental care is fair to good. Most Belizean doctors are/were trained in the US. If people need highly skilled medical care or the newest technology, many travel to Mexico City for great care (some in US go there also if they cannot afford treatment in US for lack of insurance). Belize health care is sufficient to cover your dental needs and most health care. It is also inexpensive. The average doctor visit runs between $15-20, with dental being similar.

On the way back to S.L., the guys stopped off at some property that was advertised for sale. The beautiful 500 acre farm offers varied opportunities – it has river frontage, irrigated cropland, a large citrus grove, manager and employee homes, and machinery. If you are interested in this fantastic property, it is offered at 2.3 million, turn-key.

After coming back to S.L., they stopped to check out a few cell phone places. Stopped at Western Dairies for milkshakes, and then drove out to check out a local lake.

On the way back to S.L., John took the men to meet his in-laws. They got to visit with John’s MIL, but his father in law didn’t speak much English. His MIL showed the men some of the different items that they home can down there, and opened a can of pickled veggies. My guys liked them very much. While there, John went out and cut a few coconut off of a tree in their yard for the men to try. John showed them how to, with a machete (they use machetes for EVERYTHING), hack off the outer husk and then cut off the end to open the coconut, put a cup over the hole to drain off the milk, and then deftly cut it in half to get to the meat. Neat experience! Abe had invited the men over for dinner, so they headed over there and had homemade bacon & mango pizza with chocolate peanut butter pies for dessert. As mentioned before, many people have multiple business ventures going at once. Abe works as a machinist and makes $17.50bz/hr., and his family runs about 1000 layer hens and sells the eggs. They also have a few cows for both milk and meat, and have some fruit trees for their own use.

While sitting out on the patio talking with Abe, bats would fly by, and there were geckos crawling all over the outside walls of his house. A 3 inch bug flew up and landed on a window near them; Abe caught it to show the men. He called it a grasshopper, and it looked much like one except that it’s long wings looked like leaves. Vaughn found a large toad and was poking it with his finger, saying, ‘hey, look at this’… The toad hopped near one of Abe’s barefooted children, who quickly jumped back. Abe said that maybe Vaughn shouldn’t be touching it as it secretes a very painful poison. The men also saw a large spider (about 6 inches in diameter) – one of Abe’s boys just walked over and smooshed it with his bare feet! Yuck! All the ‘interesting wildlife’ was a great addition to a wonderful evening of fellowship.

near the river at Spanish Lookout

This would be their last night in Spanish Lookout, and Vaughn and Greg’s last night with Stephen and Grady.

Lilla Rose

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