Archive for May, 2008

Ol’ Betsy

May 18, 2008

I went to Belize this past week. I left on the midnight bus on Monday, arriving in Chetumal around 5:30 AM. The express bus to Flores, Guatemala, via Belize City, left at 6. As we approached Belize City I asked the driver for directions to the regular bus terminal. He told me it would be alright to just ride along with him for the next 30 miles, as he was going that way anyway. After I sat there on the bus, and kept an eye on his bag, a woman entered and asked me where I was going. She told me I had to go into the office and buy a ticket. The ticket cost $10, so I handed them a US 5. No, they said, its’ $10 US. I nearly spit. I knew full well that, from the regular bus station, it was only $3, Belize. So I told them as much and retracted my five dollar bill. Took a taxi over to the terminal, and then paid only $2 for my fare.

Next day was Belmopan day. Transfer the title and collect $1500 Bz for the truck. As luck and Belize would have it…Bruce informed me the day before, that he had lost the title. Replacing it cost me 3 hours and $45. He told Cliff that all the lights were working. it took us the rest of the day to hunt down the parts and get them installed–5 bulbs and a brake light switch. Then a shunt across the front of the engine compartment from o the right headlight to the left. We made it back to the office with 15 minutes to spare. The evening before, I had removed the tool box from the truck, so I wouldn’t forget it. So we bought a 14 mm combination wrench to get the cap off and a crescent wrench for the rest. We drove out to the junction and pulled off under a big shade tree, pulled the cap off and went to work. At some point, Cliff offered the cap to the man selling produce, and that was taken care of. He later gave us some sandpaper and lent a screwdriver. I was promised the money in US$, and was given it in Belize dollars. I lost between 40 and 50 dollars in the exchange to pesos as a result. I boarded the bus from Cheers at around 8:15, arriving in Belize City at 9. At 9:30 I rolled out of town heading North to Chetumal. At 4:30 I headed out of Chetumal for Merida. I met a Finnish woman with a Finnish name I can no longer remember. We shared a snack before she went off to Playa and I to Merida.

I saw red-lored parrots and vermilion flycatchers. The blooming trees include both red and yellow flamboyant, yemeri, Golden Rain, plumeria, mango, give and take, apple blossom, passion vine, african tulip tree, several orchids and a couple others I don’t know.

I stepped off the bus a 10 PM into very warm air. The high that day had been 107 F, and it was certainly still in the mid nineties at that hour. I walked the eight blocks home.

Connie and I just returned home from our 17th anniversary dinner at the Hotel Residential; then took the dogs for a walk to look at a house for sale on 84 between 55 and 57. Tomorrow the workers come and begin to work on the front two rooms, repairing the ceilings and installing skylights before removing the second floor altogether.

Connie and I spent yesterday afternoon and all day today removing the tile and doors and carrying them downstairs. I removed my first commode today, with a hammer.



May 11, 2008

Or pitaya.  It’s pronounced both ways.  I saw my first bloom yesterday, and it was nearly as beautiful as the fruit it will produce in a month or so.  It is also my favorite tropical fruit, as of out visit here last July.  The flamboyant trees are also beginning to bloom.

We met with our engineer, Raul,  Evalynne, our designer, and (ar)Mando, the albanil/crew chief on Friday, while Alfredo and Marcos worked on the new stone wall out back.  We’re designing and placing skylights, both regular and vented, and will begin installing them shortly, before having the roof repaired and sealed ahead of the rains.  We’re consuming copious quantities of water and ice these days, as the afternoon temperatures dance in the 102-106 range.  Mostly we sleep through the worst of it, but today we had houses to visit.  It’s a different lifestyle in all this heat.  Stay up late, arise early and sleep a couple hours in the late afternoon.

I will travel to Belize this coming week, to sell the old Nissan truck.  I plan to board the ADO first class bus shortly before midnight tomorrow, for the 4.5 hour ride to Chetumal, where I’ll have to wait at least a couple hours for the express bus to Belize City.  From there, it’s only an hour more to Monkey Bay, and I should make it well ahead of lunchtime.  Hopefully everything will go smoothly and I can be back in Merida Thursday evening.

the drive

May 5, 2008

Connie and i just got back from a trip to Soriana to buy a kiddie pool. We stopped at a panaderia on the way home. When I went in, there was still some daylight; when we got going again it was dark, but we were only a few blocks from home by then. The entire trip was probably 6 miles, and we went in the trike. I’ve begun to absently call it the car, since that’s how it gets used. We had to buy a small plastic chair, as well, so both Connie and the pool could fit. We put the pool in sideways, then crammed the chair in next to it. She had to crouch down and pull the top of the pool down over her head, so I could see enough to drive. We took a very long detour on the way, coming out a considerable distance away from where we thought we would, stumbling across another Soriana enroute. We made a strong effort to not repeat that mistake on the way home, as darkness was threatening and I, for one, was getting tired. This was by far the longest trip we’ve taken to date, in said vehicle.


May 3, 2008

I noticed, while re-reading “The Warmest Day”, that i mis-labeled the golden rain tree.  It should be Cassia fistula, and I also failed to mention that the Pseudobombax down the street is blooming again.

The Warmest Day

May 3, 2008

I imagine we surpassed the 100 degree mark today, though we don’t have a thermometer yet. May is traditionally the warmest month of the year, as we reach the end of the dry (verano here). The same was true in southern Belize, except there the rain doesn’t traditionally come until the end of June. We’re told that in comes in early June here. In our experience, the days and nights grow continually warmer, right up until that first rain of the season. Immediately the temperature drops between ten and twenty degrees, and the humidity increases significantly. This dry season has been very bearable, as opposed to those we experienced in Belize, a big reason for this being the presence of electricity, and thus, fans. Still it is hot.  But we’ve adapted over the past 6 1/2 years.

The Cassia Grandis (golden rain trees) are blooming not quite profusely, but steadily. There is another yellow-flowered tree also blooming–a very large one. I’m trying to find out what it is.  The Enterolobium (guanacaste) are dropping pods and Mayplums are everywhere, as are Haas avocadoes, several varieties of mangoes and 3 types of custard apples (red, pink and white). We had a flurry of guanabana (soursop) a few weeks ago, but they appeared and disappeared inside of a week. Canteloupes (melon china) seem to be more prevalent too, though they seem to be a year-round thing.  And Jicamas are making the scene–large piles of large tubers.  We are steady consumers of many these delectables. Pitaya (dragon fruit) are here in July, but are they here earlier? I for one certainly hope so! They seem to grow wild on walls all over the city and in the surrounding countryside there are great plantations. But the greater bulk of them, I’m told, come from Tabasco.

My Sunday bike rides have become reduced to just getting out and riding into a stiff wind for a couple hours, in 100 degree heat and no shade for miles, just for a good workout. I’m currently shopping for running shoes, and am hoping to renew my career as a jogger as well, for some mid-week huffing and puffing.

I am happy to report that I now have enough Spanish to argue with the various service providers here. I’m in a bit of a stand-off with the garbage collector, after an angry encounter a couple weeks ago. I also have accused our internet provider of overcharging us (true) all the while delivering substandard service (untrue)–this one over the phone. It’s much more difficult speaking a foreign language on the phone than it is in person.


May 3, 2008


February 27, 2008

Well, I made it to the Ake’ ruins, on Sunday. Though the day was very hot (91 degrees with 38% humidity), and precious little shade was available, the birding was pretty good. Here’s the list. Roadside hawk, Couch’s kingbird, grayish saltator, golden fronted woodpecker, Yucatan woodpecker, ladder-backed woodpecker, melodious blackbird, great black hawk, spot breasted wren, blue grey gnatcatcher, yucatan flycatcher, great crested flycatcher, social flycatcher, boat billed flycatcher, great kiskadee, barred antshrike, cave swallow, vaux’s swift, summer tanager, grey catbird, masked tityra, squirrel cuckoo, and scores of the usual suspects, tropical mockingbirds, white winged doves and ruddy ground doves. Great tailed grackles and groove billed anis were notably absent. On the way home I stopped for water and a snack, stepped outside into a very small patch of shade beside a building and was treated to a pair of green jays, my first sighting ever. One of these days I’m going to record the birds I saw on my trip to Sisal two weeks ago. At the moment I can’t lay my hands on the list, but I know it’s here somewhere.

In the plant department: “Tropical Trees of Mexico”says there are two varieties of Pseudobombax elipticum, one with white stamens and one whose stamens are striking pink. It’s the white one down the street. I passed a pink one at an abandoned hacienda on the way home. The area is lousy with abandoned haciendas, due to the very rapid demise of the sisal industry upon the arrival of nylon rope. It’s a shame, because sisal is a much higher quality rope in my opinion. I read recently, that the large acreages planted to sisal helped to desertify this area, due to lack of foliage. Since the near extinction of that industry, trees are beginning to re-occupy the land and , theoretically, rainfall will increase. There is a (barely) functioning sisal mill (at an abandoned hacienda) practically right inside the Ake’ ruins. Carambola vine. My own name. It’s a plant I saw only twice the entire time we were in Belize. Strolling through the ruins on Sunday I saw dozens of them. Both the fruits I saw in Belize, reminded me of an iguana head. Pointed on one end and rounded on the other, with three flattened (squeezed together skin) ridges along the length. The ones here have many ridges and somewhat resemble starfruit, in shape only. I saw no leaves, but the vines are covered thickly with 1 cm long needles. I chose not to touch them. In Belize, I was told not to even touch the fruit, as it irritates the skin and makes it intensely itchy. I found a dry one on the ground and opened it up–looked like a milkweed pod. Aesclepius? Help me out here if you can. As the days pass here, it becomes more and more apparent that Roystonea regis, the flamboyant tree, much prefers a drier climate. There are many many very large trees here. I saw a craboo tree blooming this morning. Orange and yellow flowers on the same raceme. Very pretty. African tulip trees have been blooming for a couple weeks, anyway, and the aroma of orange jasmine (which also grows into a quite large tree) filled the air as I pedaled through Eklum puebla. For future reference; when biking to Tixkokob, take the Tixpehual turn-off, for a much quieter road.

There is a very tiny puebla around the ruins. As I started back, I stopped for a soft drink at a combination small market/restaurant. They only had Pepsi products. I can’t remember the last time I had a Pepsi–they don’t exist in Belize. Coca Cola has that market sewed up. Coca Cola is the Dean Witter of Belize. Back in Tixkokob, a small town famous for hammock making, but more importantly for it’s lack of restaurants, I found a rather flashy one, called “En Poco de Todo”,( a little of everything).  I had an order of salbutes, three small fried corn tortillas, topped with shredded cabbage and carrots, pink onion slices, shredded chicken and a slice of avocado. Their home made ‘mexicana’ sauce was very tasty, but watch out! for the picante.

I saw two snakes on this trip, both of them squashed on the road. The first was less than a foot long, and had alternating bands of coral and black. The second was grey with brown globs down its back, and only slightly longer.

I’m going to try and mix in some cenote trips in the coming weeks, as we continue into the dry season and the days become hotter and drier. It would be nice to cool off in a cenote before heading back to town. The Ake’ ruins are southeast of Merida. I had a short bit of headwind in the stretch between Eklum and the ruins, and had a mild tailwind most of the way home. And I needed it.  It was VERY hot out at 3:30.


May 3, 2008

I had an old VW bug once. It was a ’63, and I had it in it’s final days, the mid 80s. The engine on that bug was so worn that I had to crawl under it and work on it EVERY time I drove it. That means I’d crawl under it before I drove to town and after I arrived in town; before I drove home and after I arrived home. One headlight pointed straight up and the other straight down.

Maintaining an old bike is a somewhat related venture. If it gets ridden a lot, it needs a lot of maintenance. Tires pumped up and repaired, brakes adjusted, shifters adjusted. Spokes tightened and loosened to keep the wheels spinning true. That seat that just won’t stay tight. Many people, especially those who don’t ride , don’t realize the extent to which one is tied to that old bike. Kind of like the relationship one has with a dog. You need to spend a lot of time together to remain on good terms. Not so much with a dog, as they are advanced beings. In 53 years of dogs, I can’t remember one instance where my dog got angry with me. Dogs are aware of a lot more than humans give them credit for. They’re ahead of us, karmically, in every respect. We humans are oh so self-centered. When we finish our human trials, re-incarnationally speaking, we likely come back as dogs. Not so bicycles. We probably never come back as bicycles.

When I was attending City College in Sacramento, CA back in the mid seventies, I rode my 10 speed 14 miles every day, going to and from school. Hardly a day went by that I wasn’t working on it at lunch time so I could then ride it back home. On weekends, I might ride it 50 miles. I was a runner in those days too. My cardiovascular system was in top shape in those days. I could play frisbee for hours on end without tiring, amazing those around me.