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Monthly Archives: May 2012

New Food Experiences


During the past week I have had some new food experiences.  The first happened last Monday, Victoria Day in Canada but Labour Day in Belize.

Blue Crab – These little blue creatures are quite common here and you can see their crab holes all over the place, even in some cases several blocks from the water.  As early morning and early evening approaches they leave their burrows to come out for food.  When the rainy season starts they come out in droves and are caught by the locals who then gather them up for a feast.  I was invited over to a friend’s house for a meal of crab.  And since I hadn’t had it before, of course, I took the opportunity.

Before

Blue Crab

After – they lose their blue…

These crabs are a lot of work but the shells are not so hard that you can’t use your teeth to crack them open to get at the meat, if you don’t have a cracking tool.  The lady who prepared these crab for me used curry and garlic and ginger and other spices made into a sauce.  The sauce was delicious for dipping the mashed plantain into.

At the same meal as the blue crab I had a drink called Mash.  This was an interesting concoction of coconut water, mashed banana and spices.  The banana was not mashed all the way and it acted as a strainer for the liquid part of the drink.  It was quite tasty.

My Homemade Flour Tortillas – it was the second time that I had them this week.  And the second time for making them.  The first time they were a bit tough, but used as a sandwich with peanut butter and banana, or for dipping with beans and salsa, they were just fine.  The second time I made them I used a different recipe.  The second time I used oil and milk while the first time I used margarine and water.  I don’t know if it was experience making them or different ingredients but they weren’t as tough this time.  Next time will be better as I think I am getting down the knack for making them – for smoothing them out and getting them thin enough.  With peanut butter and banana they really are good. And with bananas at 8 for $0.50 (USD) eating bananas is a real pleasure.

Seaweed – Where I live there is an individual who rides his bike down the street every day yelling “Sea Wee”.  I Seaweedthought he was saying seaweed but not having full understanding of all the various dialects I just wasn’t sure.  So today I was out driving with my friend through the streets of Punta Gorda and he pulled up to a house with a bike and cooler sitting out front.  He honked the horn and the owner came out and my friend bought 3 seaweed drinks.  I asked the seller what was in it and was told – seaweed, cinnamon, nutmeg, peanuts, and he smiled when I asked about the rest of the ingredients.   Later I found out that it could be evaporated milk, or regular milk and there could even be some sort of alcohol thrown in there.  It was pretty good, and mine didn’t have any alcohol in it.

I also became a little bit Belizean this week.  I just officially opened my real estate office this week and like everybody else I closed at lunch time.  Guess what I had for lunch??? Rice and beans – lol!

As time goes on I am learning about and trying new foods.  The rice and beans, while isn’t all that tasty, can be made more tasty with the addition of spices like curry, or herbs like garlic, or vegetables like onion and tomato.  Because they are pretty bland, the possibilities are wide open to add flavour to a Belizean staple.  And I think I am going to try to find a recipe for “seaweed” as I did find it pretty good.  And I know, with time, my tortilla making abilities will improve.  It’s all about texture and practice.  Now, for the blue crab, can’t say I was thrilled with them.  There is such a small amount of meat for so much work.  Not sure it is worth the effort.  But at least I can say that I tried them.

Has blue crab been on any of your dinner tables?  What did you think?

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Moving - in progress...

 

Cacao Festival Weekend


For those of you who haven’t heard by now, this weekend was the Cacao Festival, one of the largest events held during the year by the Toledo District Belize Tourism Industry Association (Toledo BTIA).  Much of the most recent edition of the Toledo Howler, the local tourism paper, was dedicated to all things cacao in honour of this event.

For me, the highlight of my week was getting my office ready, to be able to announce my presence to the world.  The thatch got put on the front of my office,  I got my office furniture purchased, made flyers, purchased my signs and got the office ready to open.

During the Saturday street festival I made my way through the streets, to the businesses, using the occasion to meet people and introduce myself as the owner of a “new office”, Re/MAX Belize Property Center South.  I also helped a bit with making the thatch roof.  I learned how easy it is to split cohune leaves in order to prepare them for thatching.  I worked, briefly, with a machete to try to split one of the thicker cohune leaves.  That thing was pretty unwieldy for me to use.

For the Cacao Festival, Friday night was the Wine and Chocolate event held at Coral House Inn.  This was an evening event with food, drinks and desserts focused on chocolate.  Belikin, a local Belizean brewery, made a chocolate stout just for the Cacao Festival and it was introduced at the Wine and Chocolate night.  I had some, and I thought you could smell the chocolate and taste it – although it wasn’t a strong smell or flavour.  By the time I had finished my 4 oz. the flavour and smell of chocolate had disappeared.  A few of the chocolate growers in the area were present giving out samples.  One of the samples I tried was bacon chocolate – chocolate with bacon pieces in it.  Can’t say that I would choose this again.  It was okay as a one time sampler but, for me, not a winner.  I visited with a few people, listened to some jazz music, enjoyed the scenery, got wet in the rain, and made my way home early.  There were fireworks held a bit after I left but I did get to see them from the street near my apartment – above the trees of course.

Saturday was the day I distributed flyers for the office.  During the evening though I did take in some of the cultural events at the temporary stage.  Live bands were brought in, some local dance groups performed their particular style of dance and then it poured (rainy season started a bit early).  I wasn’t feeling well most of the day so I went to bed pretty early.  At 11:00 p.m. I was awakened by a loud boom – and I knew there was supposed to be a 2nd night of fireworks so I got up, and went out on the balcony to watch the fireworks.  The display was only a few hundred feet away so I had a really good view as they rose into the sky.  As I was standing there I got a bit misty eyed because I would rather be watching fireworks with my husband beside me.  Next year…..

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Toledo District at Work

 

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Getting Ready to Work!


My office is almost finished.  Not bad, just a few weeks behind schedule.  Now before you make comments about that, as I recently became aware of, the heat here really does slow people down.  It is really difficult to work for a straight 8 hours a day in the heat.  So I guess this isn’t too bad.   And it hasn’t exactly been priority for the person doing the bulk of the work – he is doing it gratis for me.

But we are just about there now.  Yesterday the thatch got installed.  I ordered signs, got the furniture and I am expecting to be open and ready for business by Friday, just in time for Cacao Festival.

As the thatch was being installed, I, of course, watched and helped where I could.  I even used a machete for the first time – albeit not very effectively.

First, Victor brought cohune leaves from somewhere out-of-town.  These are the main types of leaves that are used in thatch roofs.  The cohune is a large feather palm tree which bears fruit in the form of a nut (similar to coconut) and can grow up to 90 feet tall and the fronds get quite long as well, in some cases, up to 30 feet.  The nut yields an oil similar to coconut oil.  Cohune grows everywhere in Belize, and at all altitudes from sea level to 2000 feet above sea level.  I have heard it said that it is becoming more and more scarce to find.

The first thing to be done was to build the structure which to attach the leaves.  I am not sure what wood was used for the structure.

Thatch Making - Frame StructureThatch Making - Building Frame Structure

After the structure has been put together, it’s time to start adding leaves.  But the leaves need to be prepared first.  The leaves have an upside and a downside to them as they are folded.  So it is important that the leaves be split and then set in place with the leaves all facing the same way.  This is because as they are put into place they all have to be facing with the grooved edge facing up to catch the rain water and take it away from the structure.

It is actually quite easy to split the leaves.  Starting at the narrowest end, find the middle and pull – the leaf splits easily.  Where the stalk gets too thick use a machete to continue splitting.

Thatch Making - Splitting CohuneThatch Making - Splitting CohuneThatch Making - Splitting Cohune

Thatch Making - Victor Sr. Using MacheteThatch Making - Victor Sr. Using Machete

The split thatch is organized with the fronds all facing the same direction.

Thatch Making - Split Cohune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to start putting the split palm leaves into place.  As they were installed, wire was used to hold the fronts to the wooden support structure that was already in place.

Thatch Making - Putting up 1st Leaves

Thatch Making - A Family Affair

Thatch Making - Chris Helping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the process went on, Victor’s mother also showed up, as well as a local friend – mom to provide encouragement and support and friend to lend a helping hand.

Thatch Making - Underside View

Thatch Making - Finished Job

Thatch Underside and Finished Product.   Victor suggested I give it a haircut but I don’t think I am going to.   I conducted a small poll and the responding public resoundingly (1 responder) said leave it – it’s more authentic.  And since that agrees with my thought, that is what I will do.  Over the next few days, the leaves should begin to dry out and turn the shade of grey that we are all used to seeing.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Starting to Work

 

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My First Boat Trip in Belize


Yesterday I went out for my first boat trip since I have been in Belize.  The purpose was to look at properties that I either have listed or that clients want to see but I got much enjoyment out of the trip.  We were gone for about 2 hours out across the Caribbean Sea and up the Rio Grande, a major river in south Belize.  It had rained through the night and again in the morning so I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to go.  But about 8:30 in the morning the boat captain called me and let me know that we were still a go.

The above picture is the view of Punta Gorda as we were heading away from shore, towards our destination about 3 miles across the sea to another shoreline.

Riding to the Storm

At one point we thought we were going to get wet.  From a distance it looked like rain, but by the time we got there it cleared up and we were spared the drenching.

Birds Out Diving for Food

Some birds were keeping us company for a bit as they were diving for food.

View of First Property from Sea

After about 15 minutes or so of boating we came to the shoreline of the first property I needed to look at.  From the distance I could tell there was a bit of beach.  In the southern part of Belize there is little beach, although there is plenty of shoreline.  So to see this, I will say I was pleased.

Shoreline

Palm trees overhang the shoreline into the water.  I love this view and this is one of the things I love about being here in Belize.

Mouth of the Rio Grande

Next stop was up the Rio Grande.  This river snakes throughout southern Belize, twisting through the jungle like a snake.  Unfortunately, the pictures I took don’t really capture this but look at any aerial map for this river and you will see what I mean.  The scenery was spectacular going up this river.  The jungle crowded the river on both sides with a wide variety of trees and plants pushing through to the water’s edge.  Flowering trees, air orchids, mangrove stands, coconut, palm, and far more than I know the names of were evident on the shores.  We could hear the birds but not see a lot of them.

Crocodile Farm

I’m not sure if I included this in a previous blog post but this is where Victor (my sales assistant) and I saw 2 crocodiles in the water.  This used to be a crocodile farm and now it isn’t.  We were looking at the property to scout it out for prospective clients and we came across the creatures in the water.  One was further away and was swimming away but the second one was just off the edge of the dock with its eyes and part of its snout sticking out of the water.  We backed away from this spot and we were shaking in our boots all the way back to the main area of the property.

Fishing on the Rio Grande

We passed by this boat carrying 3 men who were out on the water fishing, enjoying the day.

River side of Belcampo Lodge

During the ride we came across this beautiful little haven with the cruising boat, and cabanas, and I learned that this was part of Belcampo Lodge.  Belcampo Lodge is up the hill from here and has a stunning view of the surrounding forest.

Heading Out the Mouth

After cruising the river for about 40 minutes or so we made our way back out to the sea.

Victor

Just had to get a picture of Victor in here, looking so serious.  But this guy knows the area.  And a trip out to a property listing without Victor would not be as productive.

After about 2 hours, the boat ride came to an end.  I can tell you, I loved it.  It reminded me again of why I wanted to be in a tropical area.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Flora and Fauna

 

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