First Month in Southern Belize

Last Thursday we had to make a stop at immigration in PG (Punta Gorda) to go through the surprisingly painless process of renewing our visas — neither of us could believe it had already been 30 days since arriving in Belize.

Needless to say a lot’s happened in that time. After spending a few days in Belize City and Caye Caulker, we hopped on a James Express and ended up here in Eldridgeville (aka “Eldridge”), where we’ll be spending the better part of our time in Belize over the next year with Hillside Health Care International (or HHC “Clinic” or HHC “Center”, depending on what day it is and who’s asking).

At the Punta Gorda pier early on a Saturday morning

Eldridge (and Hillside) are located about five miles inland from Punta Gorda (and the Caribbean Sea). Lori’s first month at Hillside has been both challenging and incredibly rewarding and both of us are looking forward to what awaits us over the next 11 months.

Lori with out-going Rehab Director Annette in front of one of Hillside’s behemoth mobile clinics or “Mobiles” as affectionately referred to by Hillside docs.

Lori will be (and has been) spending much of her time behind the wheel of one of these J75 Toyota Landcruiser Troop Movers, which unfortunately are not exported to the U.S., but are the workhorses of much of the “developing” world.

I’ve got many a fond memory of being carted around throughout Africa in many of these and now Lori gets to drive one.

This one is my favorite of the fleet because it’s extra hardcore with its winch and snorkel (vertical exhaust pipe for stream crossings…that’s right, stream crossings.)

As much of a beast as this vehicle is though, there are villages that Lori and her team goes that are even too much for the Mobiles–she and a team of docs/staff have had to travel on foot, crossing rivers themselves sometimes, to reach patients at the far reaches of the district where the Belize Ministry of Health very rarely even treads.

At the Dolores Health Post (and Primary School) at the very end of the “Dolores Spur,” one of the more remote unsealed “highways” nuzzling up against the Guatemalan border. From here, we could literally throw a rock and hit Guatemala.

The end of the “Dolores Spur,” one of the nicer unpaved highways we’ve been on.

Med and PA students at Hillside from the UK and U.S. engaging in experiential learning by clearing a field with nothing more than a machete. The purpose of the activity is to give the students a better understanding of the musculoskeletal pain/injury from repeated daily activities that many patients seek treatment for in this area of Belize.

I’ll devote future posts to the Hillside clinic/organization, Eldridge, PG and even our funky house, which we’ve christened “the Homestead.” This post, however, is meant to be a quick collection of noteworthy events and aspects of our daily lives over the last month.

The map of Belize that hangs on our wall chronicles where we’ve been thus far in the country. Most of the travel came as a result of simply getting down here or conducting official Hillside business. Lori’s job requires a lot of travel throughout our adoptive district of Toledo, but we only mark the roads we’ve both traveled together (highlighted in orange). It seems one month in and we’ve already covered 2/3 of the sealed (paved) highway in the country.

I meant to include this photo in our first Belize post but it got left out (UPDATE: Added, as of Aug 2018). This is all of our luggage for Belize between the two of us for one year (taken in Lori’s parents’ house in Oregon prior to departure). Not too shabby in my opinion.

One entire bag is SCUBA and snorkeling gear. I was originally going to rent the equipment when I arrived, but after realizing one equipment rental would pay for the luggage fee, I decided to pack my stuff (minus my weights, of course).

After years of travel we finally invested in a good and compact luggage scale, which ended up making our lives much easier this go-around.

It’s very compact and pretty accurate (we found ours to be 1 lb. under, meaning our biggest bags were one pound over, but we planned for this possibility. We also had our doubts that it could handle up to 70 lbs. without breaking (as the package claims), but we tested it pretty close to that with no issues.

And now on to our lovely home, which we’ve dubbed the Homestead. While rustic (as you can see), we’ve enjoyed living here and experiencing how many Belizeans live. It’s a pretty modest house even by Eldridge standards, but in many ways quite luxurious compared to thatched roof village housing (though those homes do have many advantages over this one or even a cement house).

The “Homestead”: Our home in Belize.

Our tranquil and pastoral view out back.

You’ll notice it’s dark outside, yet it’s probably only 6:30 or 7p. It was a bit of an adjustment coming from Oregon/Washington in early August when sunset is still close to 9p and arriving in Belize where the sun sets around 6p in August–Ah life in the tropics.

The house was passed on to us by a Peace Corps volunteer via the outgoing Rehab Director. Much of what you see are her homey touches (e.g. Christmas lights, curtains, table covering, and makeshift futon made of two mattresses and a foam pad bound together and covered with sheets (though Annette and Hillside staff are responsible for the nice new paint job). The flooring is real wood and quite lovely, as is the ceiling, which protects from heat radiating from the zinc (metal) roofing, while serving as a cozy home for many a critter.

First real meal out back: Homemade coconut curry shrimp

And now, it’s critter time!

Below is but a sampling of critters we’ve encountered through moving in, cleaning, and well just living in the Homestead. You see, the Homestead is not so sealed (you can actually see daylight through the walls). Most of our critter encounters, however, occurred in the first few nights after moving in. The house hadn’t been occupied for two weeks and Toledo was experiencing some very significant rainfall, both of which we believe contributed to the critters making themselves right at home.

One of our first critter spottings on our first night, a large black scorpion near the ceiling.

This scorpion is dead (done by yours truly) and picture taken for identification purposes. I don’t remember his story or how things escalated to me taking a bucket and bashing his head in (you have to get their head as they are hearty little guys and will still come at you kicking and screaming if you try and squish them anywhere else).

I don’t like to kill scorpions and know they eat roaches and mosquitos, but if one is at my feet in the kitchen, chances are he won’t be of this world for too much longer.

On to friendlier critters, meet Fredrico the Frog (as Lori and I named him). He hangs out in the soap dish of the shower and generally keeps to himself — though on the rare occasion I’ve had him jump on me while showering, leading to a few heated lectures about personal space.

We’ve got a lot of geckos in our house, poopin’ and prowlin’ (which is one of the primary reasons we continue to sleep under the mosquito net despite a noticeable lack of mosquitos in our room at night. Gary the Gecko is one such lizard that joins us for dinner each night. However, if you have a keen eye you may have noticed that this is not Gary nor any other gecko for that matter, but rather a much larger and slimier cousin who was hanging out in our bathroom for a time.

An interesting (and pretty large) caterpillar I came across one day with really evil-looking red eyes (hard to see in the photo). I’m sure he’ll end up as a beautiful butterfly (or perhaps a terrifyingly large and angry people-eating moth)…only time will tell.

Now, my intention is not to drive away readers with pictures of feet (particularly mine), but if you really want a taste of living in Southern Belize, you can’t not mention the fire ants. When fire ants bite Lori, she gets a little red pimple. When they bite me, I get:

Your mileage may vary…

Aftermath of several fire ant bites over the last week. If you’ve never been bitten by a Belizean fire ant, their sting/pinch is surprisingly painful. After you’ve removed or killed the little booger, you’re stuck at least for the next 48-72 hours (if you’re me) with painful swelling and large blister culminating with an large itchy red blotch. This is why I’ve resorted to wearing shoes most days now in the tropics (grrrrrrr), but after everything heals I may try bug spraying my feet daily.

I’ve found that cleaning with soap and water immediately following the attack helps reduce the reaction. Icing and Advil, as usual, helps with the swelling and pain, and beer helps with everything else.

Lori’s got the right idea wearing boots (and making quite a fashion statement might I add) to ward off fire ant attacks while hanging laundry to dry out front.

Not critters so much, but worth mentioning, there is a family of bovine which graze in the field behind the house, all of which are strangely relaxing to observe from the screened in porch. Put on some Bob Marley, grab a beer and feel the stress bunnies hop away on the Caribbean breeze…

Conspicuously absent from my list are the smelliest, loudest and most unsettling critters of them all, the bat colony which has taken up residence in our bedroom. They have claimed a small alcove under the eave separated from us by mesh, which I must admit is a pretty good find for them– the mesh prevents them from entering the rest of the bedroom, but their poisonous guano fumes and loud screeches in the night respect no such boundaries.

We’ve had our awesome bat-handling neighbor, Omar, over to eradicate them and clean out the bat crap, but sadly in vain as they just find a way back in. Oh yeah, and did I mention there is also a full on nest of baby bats up there too! Woohoo! The plan is to try and figure out where they are coming in and seal it up, but the babies do complicate matters a bit. To be continued…

And now on to the Belize Daily Life Lightning Round

New Zealand butter in a tin at your favorite Chinese Supermarket in PG!

The two most widely available beers in Belize: Belikin Stout and Belikin regular (or just “beer”) — actually pretty tasty.

Marie Sharp’s pepper sauce, Belizean-made and available EVERYWHERE. Belizeans put it on everything and for good reason — it’s darn tasty!

And finally, a view of the Caribbean out the back window of Asha’s Culture Kitchen and Bar on Front Street in Punta Gorda.

5 thoughts on “First Month in Southern Belize”

    you sure know how to find excitement.
    life is never boring for you two, that’s
    for sure !
    As always I enjoy your travels!
    take care! Love to you both GM/T

  2. Caroline McClain

    Love the critter update and getting to see Lori’s Mobile!!! Sounds like the job is going great with tons of adventures 🙂

  3. Shirley Northcraft

    Love the details about life in the beautiful. but primitive Belize.

  4. We are glad you moved LOLOLOL
    Enjoyed the updates as always

  5. christina donagan

    I just love following you guys on your adventures…Love the pictures and the story’s ..Thank you


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