(Posted for Jim Patterson)
Who says that dreams can't come true? Probably more people than not! Mine has. It all began by accident. Always a water person, I had traveled extensively through the Caribbean; mostly the eastern Caribbean with its crowds and high prices. Then, in 1981, I was invited to Belize.....”Where the hell is Belize?” was my first response. My host laughed and explained that this was the new name for what had been British Honduras, and was located in the Western Caribbean, just south of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Not expecting much, it was much more than I ever expected.
At that time, the travel conditions were bad, the airstrip old and small, hotels were mostly thatched roof cabanas or clapboard buildings. This was just after Belize became an independent nation, yet still a protectorate of that fading world power. The politics were confusing, but basically the system was what we North Americans are accustomed to. Most everyone speaks English, with the lilt of the Caribbean, Spanish, and kriol, a local version of the former slaves who worked the land for their English masters. Most everyone speaks each language, usually during the same conversation. Most everyone is relaxed and happy. No stress here!
I soon found myself on Ambergris Caye, the largest of the country's islands, located in the north of the country. It was love at first sight. The island is nestled inside the world's second largest barrier reef, and as some claim, the world's largest living reef. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Clear iridescent waters, coconut palms, and the reef roaring it's victory in holding back the Caribbean sea. Wow, what diving, snorkeling, and fishing. A water lovers dream come true. After four days and nights here, enjoying the local people, the North Americans who had just started developing the place, and of course, the water, I was hooked. Hooked just like the reef fish that we caught and which were prepared for us and other guests by the hotel's cook one night. Everything seems to happen spontaneously here, just the way I like it. Further, land prices were cheap, but rising, construction costs were low for the very tropical beach homes which were just starting to be built, mostly by Americans.
After 25 years of marriage to a very staid woman (Linda), I announced that we were moving to Belize, but she took exception to my idea to live my adventures in Belize. Needless to say, after the announcement of my intentions to live in Central America, She said that she wanted a divorce, so, I gave her everything we had together. By that time I had two children who didn’t understand what had happened to our family. DIVORCE WAS INEVITABLE!
My dreams for a tropical retirement home in Belize began then. I returned often to enjoy the ambiance, and to get to know the locals. I still couldn’t afford to do anything permanent due to the financial pressures of starting a business and raising a family. But the dream didn’t die. In fact, it grew. After going through a divorce, and spending several hard years reorganizing my life and building my business in America, I met and married someone (TINA) who not only shared my dream, but actively guided and planned our future home in Belize. We returned together in 1992, and finally bought property in early 1993. We spent a month in a rental home, and found our beach front land together. The land prices had quadrupled in ten years, but we reasoned that this trend would not stop. We couldn’t afford to build then, but planned to start something small within a few years.
My Business was good in 1992 and again in 1993. We sailed our boat to Belize from Texas in November 1993. What a trip! We spent most of the winter in Belize and Guatemala. We were even more convinced that the dream was happening. After sailing the clear waters, exploring more of the interesting interior of the country, seeing more of the country's 200 beautiful islands, and towns, we were more convinced than ever that this is where we wanted to be. Tina & I carefully rationalized the perils and pitfalls of moving to a third world country. We obviously are adventurous people, but the thought of living our adventures daily was scary. We postposed our plans, and returned to Texas to our jobs and family. We left the boat in the Rio Dulce in Guatemala rather than repeat the 1000 mile trip.
In the summer of 1994, we realized a financial windfall. We immediately came to Belize, drew up a house plan on the back of a bar napkin, hired an architect and a general contractor, and began our dream house. We started the house in July and didn't return until early November to check on the progress. What an experience, building a house by long distance, and by fax machine. We were pleased with the progress, but didn’t think the house would be finished by Christmas, as promised by the contractor. Still hopeful, we returned in December to monitor the completion of the construction. What a pleasant surprise! To see the fruits of our dreams and expectations take place before our eyes. The house was everything that we had planned, and more.
We moved into Casa Manana on Christmas Eve and immediately began hosting a group of sailing friends who flew in to warm the house and to welcome in the new year. What an experience. To share our dreams with our good friends, to wake every morning to a breathtaking view of the Caribbean Sea, to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle, and to enjoy life's little pleasures is more than we had planned for. We still had several strings attached to America, but those strings were not strong enough to hold us there. We were actively moving our lives and our dreams to paradise. Unfortunately, after three years of fun, both Tina’s and my family had medical problems than needed attention. ANOTHER DIVORCE!
While on a sailing trip to Glovers Reef, I met a very nice lady who was on a diving trip. I met Sharon Ashe again in San Pedro, and we soon found ourselves spending more and more time together, the results of which was finding romance in 1997. We were soon married on the Casa Manana beach with lots of good friends and family. This marriage has blossomed many times over through the years. A SUCCESFUL MARRIAGE (at long last).Due to the real estate spiral, we are now in the process of selling Casa Manana in July 2007. However, Sharon & I fully intend to stay on Ambergris Caye, now and in the future. We’ve purchased a condo on the north end of Ambergris which will give us more time to do some international traveling during our retirement years. We believe that we’re extremely lucky to have a lot of free time and are financially capable of enjoying our life style with a lot of good friends and family in San Pedro. We look forward to enjoying our retirement years while living in Paradise.
Jim & Sharon Patterson
San Pedro, Belize