Moving to Mexico (Chapter 4, Part 2):
MISTAKES #3, 4, 5, 6, 7… Not thoroughly visiting and exploring Belize before buying there.
The second time we planned on going to the condo, my wife became ill and needed to stay home. I had to handle things alone. This time the furniture was completed so I finished fitting out the condo with electronics, bedding, linens, kitchen stuff, etc. It was a huge job sourcing each item and having the larger things delivered. When it was done, I had a couple of days to relax and enjoy the place, so I headed for the beach just off my back porch.
I cracked open a Belikin Lighthouse Ale and as I lay in my hammock on our beach, a flying bug as big as an Oreo cookie landed on my chest and bit me. I smacked it and it flew away. That was weird. I covered myself with a towel, tried to smile and took a snooze.
When I awoke, I found that my beach bag had been stolen. Beaches in the Caribbean are public to the high-water mark, so strangers walk by what feels like private property all the time.
“Probably just some kids,” I chuckled to myself. All the got was some sunscreen, a magazine, and some bottled water. I decided to drive to town to get a bite to eat but when I went to the roadside area of our building, my golf cart was gone.
“Did you lock the steering wheel with that chain the rental guy gave you?” My friend asked.
“Nope,” I frowned. “I didn’t think I needed to do that in our driveway.
“The local kids steal unlocked golf carts. They start them with a universal key or screwdriver and take them for joyrides,” My friend told me. “It’ not a big deal…unless.”
“Unless the steal the battery.”
“They do that?”
“Sometimes. The batteries are very valuable here.” He said. “Or they might….”
“Might what?” I asked, getting nervous.
“Well, sometimes the run them on undeveloped beaches and leave them in the water,” He shrugged. “No big deal, though.”
“Those carts cost eight grand,” I snapped. “What exactly constitutes a big deal around here?”
Fortunately, the cart was found abandoned a couple of miles north and the rental company delivered another one to me. Major hassle: avoided.
We had just shelled out $265,000 USD on a condo and I wanted to enjoy my first stay in our new home. It had taken the builder a very long time to complete our unit. We advanced him $50,000 so he would finish our unit first, not thinking of how much fun it would be listening to the contractor’s tools and blaring radios for another year while the builder struggled to sell, fund and complete the project. Belizean contractors sometimes work seven days a week so there was little-to-no respite from their noises, job-site debris, and odd stares as they labored, and we attempted to lounge in the pool. It felt oddly bourgeoisie to say the least.
Mistake #4: The beach looked great from a distance.
I headed to the ocean for my first refreshing dip in the sea at our beach. As I entered the water, my leg sank about a foot into dark and silty muck. What’s this? As I struggled to get my foot free of the mud, I began to realize that may be why there were so many long docks on this island. I had seen many of these docks with ladders and swimming areas at the end. Perhaps that is where the sand was more “sandy.” I walked to the end of our dock and had a fantastic swim. The water was clear and warm. I could do this.
As I walked around on our dock, I saw a woman carrying snorkel gear exiting the sea wiping her face frantically. I walked to her quickly to see if she needed help. Her face and upper body were covered in red bumps and she appears dizzy.
“Are you OK?” I asked.
“I don’t feel very good. Something stung my face when I was diving,” She mumbled. I went to get the groundskeeper at our condo building, a local man who hopefully knew what to do.
“Pica Pica,” He says, shaking his head.
“Hot sauce?” I made an odd face. He explained that Pica Pica are the microscopic offspring of a local jellyfish that releases its eggs in Spring.
“She need Windex.” Apparently, that is the local cure. “Come wit me, lady.” He walked her back to the building to get some window cleaner for her bites.
Mistake #5: The Ambergris Caye ATM Syndrome
Belizean people are kind and wonderful, but there are also a lot of transient mainland crooks who use their island neighbor like an ATM, robbing people, burglarizing homes and businesses only to return home on the next ferry boat. The better Ambergris did, the more it became a target for surrounding areas that were not similarly infused with tourism and investment money.
The downtown area had three parallel roads that were unofficially known as Front, Middle and Back Street.
“Never go on Back Street after dark,” I was told by a local bartender.
“Why not?” I asked.
“That’s where the locals go.”
“They get drunk and fight. Someone usually gets stabbed. Best to stay on Front or Middle Street, “ he said. I never ran into any menacing, knife-wielding thugs on the island but it was common knowledge that local guys preferred to stab each other to settle disputes. That was a scary thought that plagued my mind when we would leave town and drive the three miles south to our condo on the unlit, unpatrolled dirt road praying our single headlight would stop flickering.
Truthfully, I rarely felt threatened unless it was late, and I was on a beach in town. Many of the guys selling CD’s and DVD’s on the beach were selling a lot more. When I would turn their offer down, some of them became pretty aggressive. They acted as if the money in my pocket belonged in theirs as if I was a walking ATM.
Mistake #6: Medicine for Golf Carts
I’ll mention just a few more thoughts about the yin and yang of the local custom of using golf carts as transport. At first, it’s incredibly quaint zipping along sand and dirt roads with no windows or doors. Then you experience your first traffic jam in town, a line of golf carts a twenty deep all looking for a parking place. There can be a similar line of traffic leaving town that will perplex you until you see the local police stopping every cart, asking for identification and generally menacing every tourist as they ensure each cart has a registration tag. *Which, by the way, has NOTHING to do with the renter of the cart.
Many of the roads are being cobbled, but the remaining dirt roads can be pretty tough on the sinuses. Normally, I dealt with the dust fairly well by tying a damp bandana around my face, bad-guy style. But one time my mother and I both came down with serious sinus infections. A local doctor was recommended.
“She has delivered every baby on this island. She’s the best.” A local lady told us.
We went to her small office off the main road near town where she gave both of us injections and some medication. Our symptoms never subsided so when I got home, I called my doctor.
“No wonder it didn’t work.” He said. “I don’t know what she shot you up with, but this medication is for pink eye, and it’s three years old.”