by Ray Auxillou
We got our first straggler backpackers for this season coming, yesterday, overnighting between Guatemala and on their way to the beach at Placentia. Not doing tours, as they are short on money. http://folkmusicfl.tripod.com/adventuresinbelize
They found us from the Dutch version of the TROTTERS GUIDEBOOK, from Europe. They are Flemish from Belgium, working as three hospital volunteers in a remote very high Mayan CHOC village, 46 kms from Huehuetenango, Guatemala, in a very remote area. We will have their story up next week, posted on http://westernbelizehappenings.blogspot.com
We are not going to get rich off Falconview Hostel. That is for sure! For those of you contemplating retirement in Belize and wanting a sideline business, you might find our experiences useful. As old people, we donít want to work, or get bogged down with government red tape bureaucracy. So we employ no full time workers in our hostel operation. We deliberately avoid anything remotely to do with any government requirements for paperwork, tax reporting, or licensing and permits. Sometimes we are tempted to do other businesses, but the threat of dealing with bureaucratic paperwork is enough to kill those ideas. We do see lots of business opportunities though. Income Tax department became annoying and insistent last week and wanted me to fill out some forms for FALCONVIEW HOSTEL and get a tax number of some kind. Filled them off and mailed them to Belmopan. Since we only took in around $1200 Bz currency for our first year 2007, I was happy to do so. I refered them to the Belize Tourist Board, who collect our bed tax of 9%, which mostly comes out of my pocket anyway. The BTB keep better revenue records than I do. I could sit down and consume a half a day labor and figure the revenue out exactly, but since it is below income tax minimums why bother? Too much aggravation. Anytime the bureaucratic paper work gets too annoying, we will simply close everything down. So long as it is minimal and doesnít take too much time, we can handle it in our old age. But when you get cranky and old, you donít want officious self important types annoying and threatening you with letters of fines and penalties. We continue to build in construction and expand, limiting our business flow to the type of thing that requires minimum effort on our part. Our leisure is more important than money income at our age. Construction is our way of fighting inflation in Belize. The money purchases less and less each year. We enjoy the University age visitors we get though, and the swapping of tales and life stories. We have four bunk beds, in a dormitory sleeping a capacity of eight persons. We offer them their own bathroom and hammock recreational living room and a kitchen, where they can cook their own. So far, we are going to be starting our third season in January and we have never been full yet. We would need about 32 beds and a full hostel ten months a year, to make money. It is possible, if we hustled we could do better, but why bother? Hustling money and retirement and old age donít go together. A fun life does! We spend about $40,000 Bz currency a year, which is ALL our savings interest and pension and social security from the USA. Half of this goes on new construction costs and half goes on running the hostel. If you do the math, you can see if we sold out full, every bed, all year around, we could not even break even. At a price of $11 USA per night. Fixed operational costs consume whatever money we make. Since our home residence and the hostel are all one building, any money the hostel makes, goes to offset what would be our fixed retirement living costs like: butane gas for cooking, electricity, water, telephones and we have a lady comes in once a week, or as needed, to clean the place up, do the floors and make beds. We also give about 3 days work a week to an independent mason to come in and do handy man work in the construction. Sometimes he shows up and sometimes he doesnít. Which suits our budget fine. We also have a high school young man, who comes in and does painting, yard cleaning and that sort of thing, on his Saturdays, whenever he feels like it. He makes his pocket money that way and is learning the carpentry trade from me. The hostel and our residence are all one, and the costs of living and operation are basically one and the same. Whatever we spend we would have to spend anyway almost, so hostel income covers a fraction of the fixed building operational costs. We also have a bad habit of giving everything away FREE to the young backpacker people that come. Usually we serve them breakfast FREE and drive them around a lot, to do shopping and catch tours sometimes; which burns OUR gasoline budget. I know we shouldnít do that, but what the hell! I remember my young teenage years hitchhiking my way around the world and all the people that helped a young man with a backpack and a ukulele, to sing my six songs for supper, who didnít have any money.
Iíd hoped to have two new apartments ready for this Xmas coming tourist season. Alas, we are maybe, going to finish only one in time. Itís a combination of money flow availability and the availability of our casual independent contractors. We can only go as fast as paying cash will allow. I think the efficiency apartment wonít get finished before Easter, maybe not even then? Iím building the kitchen counter right now and the double bed for the new third floor apartment. Antonio my mason is tiling the shower stall in the bathroom. My teenage high school helper ( 18 years ) should, or maybe, will show up on Saturday, in which case he will varnish the bathroom door and the verandah door for the new third floor apartment. Itís a funky varnished interior wooden building. Kinda small, as we had to give up seven feet of our rooftop slab, because of the power lines passing next to us. That left the apartment size severely curtailed.
The organic lettuce in the bigger nursery downstairs in the yard, is coming slowly. The seeds were ball head lettuce seeds; ESCAROLA and GREAT LAKES seeds. They are not growing very good. No ball head lettuce type have grown good so far in Belize, in our two years of experimenting. I need some WARM WEATHER leaf lettuce seeds from volunteers overseas, for none are available locally. They did say they got in TROPICAL EMPEROR seeds at Jiron feed store, but between the Mennonites and Central Farm, they bought the whole stock out and I didnít get any. We know this variety works as a leaf lettuce in Belize. Iím going to scrounge around today and see if I can get any. Iíd like about a 1000 seeds. Just checked, no Tropical Emperor in stock anywhere. Weather has been cold at nights this FALL.
The October flood waters have gone down and the low bridge across the Macal River is now open again. My wife Silvia and I made a one day trip, last week, to Flores/Santa Elena in the Peten, Guatemala, to do shopping. There was a national teachers strike, all over Guatemala, for two years back pay raises, or something; blockading the road on the edge of the twin towns of the Peten in Guatemala and we had to return. It was about 14 hours traveling and shopping in total and when we got home I collapsed on my bed and went to sleep in exhaustion. So Silvia says no traveling this month for me, to San Salvador, or anywhere else this year. Shopping with women in stores always exhausts me, it isnít the bus rides. Too many hours on your feet looking at merchandise stuff. If they would put hammocks in the shops it wouldnít be too bad ( grin! ). Heck! Iím only 71 going 72 now.Ray Auxillou