Moving to the Turneffe Islands
by: Harriette Fisher
Good morning my friends:
It is 5:00 in the morning and sunrise is not until 5:30 so I though I would get started on my missal to you. It is dark and this is my new laptop so I am having a time of it, but nothing that the bright light of day and spell check can't fix.
I arrived on schedule on Thursday, January 30, 2003 and must say that being a cripple has its advantages. I was wheeled everywhere and never had to wait in lines. However I would never purposely injure myself just for the convenience, as the pain is awful. Just try walking in sand with a crutch.
Oh, but on with the adventure.
My apartment was ready and waiting. Katinka had left a few boxes that I was not sure What to do with so I waited until here mother, Anta returned. Anta's Swedish words were "Do what you want!" So I have the loveliest large wicker hamper I have ever seen. The apartment is very clean and simply furnished. Of course I had to rearrange it my first night here, On the 4th day I discovered that the end unit is vacant so I looked at it, Other than being filthy with trashed furniture it is better than the one I have.
There are 4 one bedroom units here on the top (3rd) floor - all alike. except the two end ones have side windows. In order to get cross ventilation in the middle ones you have to leave both end doors open. They build things "differently here: The cement stairs lead up to a nice wide veranda that is half covered. From there you see a row of 4 doors interspersed with small windows.
Knock, knock. "Come one in!", if the door is open the person is most likely home. You enter with an open closet on one side and the bathroom on the other. Then you pass the open bedroom into the main room where there's a corner kitchen --- of sorts. Sink with small drain board and cabinet beneath with the stove up against the sink, then a built in lower cabinet that is not very big, with a small refrigerator pushed up to the end of that. But no cupboards, The apartments are furnished, obviously by the Brits. Hugh overstuffed brocade sofa and two chairs. Six colonial high backed chairs and Enormous table - all made of mahogany and the chairs are padded with old English rose floral prints. Looks like the kind of stuff Mom used to buy when we wall papered the ceilings at the Berger place.
On the 4th day here I discovered that the end unit is vacant so I looked at it. Other than being filthy with trashed furniture it is better than the one I have. So, already I'm moving. They are supposed to clean it, but things are s l o w here, so I may jump in and do it myself. (Later note: The new windows were finished today and he plans to start painting on Monday - My furniture arrives in the 26th and it looks like it will be ready for me to move in).
I asked a lot of questions and got a lot of answers then went shopping. On the main land, occupying some of the nicest land in the country (once it was cleared of jungle) there is a large Mennonite population, they have been extremely well accepted here and provide some valuable services. They raise most of the produce and chicken, ergo eggs, all of the pigs and make sturdy furniture.
Since the landlady provides only two ¾ size beds I am having the Mennonites build me a queen sized one. I have a queen size air bed at home that I love and lots of sheets to fit. Years ago Taylor bought me a great mosquito net square cover for my bed. I'll bring that down to enclosed my bedroom. It hangs from floor to ceiling and will fit around the fan over the bed. I also ordered two simple night stands, a full size futon for the living room. Single guest can sleep on that, couples can have the bed and I will take the futon. They are also making me a lounge chair that will flatten out into a single bed.
I don't yet have a TV but ordered a corner unit with 4 shelves for audio video equipment. I ordered a small two shelf, two glass door cupboards to hang on the wall but am going back for a second one;. One for dishes the other for food. I plan to mount a bar between them to hang my pots and pans from.
Already I've learned not to buy anything metal - salt air eats it in no time..
I had bought an air chair (like I have in my bedroom in Martinez) the last time I was here and the carpenter hung it today. The other day I bought the hammock that goes with it. The rusty S hooks were in place for that so I have a siesta there every day.
DO I SOUND HAPPY?
I'm in heaven. I make it a point to do one useful thing every day. I tried being frugal and making my coffee in my room each morning. That lasted 3 days. My favorite thing to do (well, one of them), is to get up at 5:30 and walk to the beach - ½ block! I wade up to my knee which feels very good on my leg. Lily's opens at 6:30 and have a table and coffee ready for me. This is as social as any bar as most people who come by stop and talk. There is a new owner and new manager who both love me. Louise, the manager has redecorated the place, expanded onto the beach, painted the place and is very proud. Chris the owner is very happy with him.
My first day there I asked Louis why he had an orchid in a bathroom without any natural light, and it was dying. He said he was told orchids grew best in a woman's bathroom. HA HA! So he gave it to me to nurture back to life. It is doing very well in my bathroom - I have a window that is open with a constant breeze In order to expand they were putting tables and chairs out under the palms trees where the most beautiful grass on the island was growing. Louise also thought the rows of Lilly's were too tall so took hedge clippers and whacked them down.
Well, I got my first job (although we can't call it that or I will get kicked off the island). I'm cleaning up the Lily bed in exchange for coffee.. There were some other nice plants getting trashed so one day we talked about a solution. Well, as I have said, things move s-l-o-w here. Imagine my surprise when I went down the next morning - the grass was pulled up like sod and moved to a wonderful place. The area was boarded up so it is a step up and level and the damaged plants were all transplanted around the perimeter. Chris was so proud he was upset that I was an hour late getting there to discover it. We moved the orchids that were not doing well to better locations - they grow in the webbing around the branches of the palm trees. The whole place looks great. They can get one more table in and are filling up not only for breakfast but every night for dinner.
I went to the nursery last Saturday and bought 5 or 6 very special plants and black dirt to plant then in.
Only problem is the cheap Mexican pots cost 3 times as much as the plants, so I'm working on a solution for that...
I finally got my video camera in the water yesterday. I works fine - I didn't do so well. I learned a lot - what not to do. The couple I dove with is from St. Paul; he teaches at the same university as Monika but does not know her. He uses the same video program that I have so they came by in the after noon and we tried downloading it. Something is wrong but Peter, Anta's new employee who is a professional videographer, is due back tomorrow and maybe he can figure it out.
I'm meeting new people, getting a lot of exercise, eating little, but good stuff, getting lots and lots of sleep and no matter how much lotion I use or how much I cover up and turning color.
I think of each and everyone of you from time to time. Internet is expensive here so I wrote this on my lap top will burn a CD and within a day or two should get it posted to you.
Love from Harriette
BELIZE 2 -- March already!
Good morning again. My usual time to write -5:30 AM. I want to thank each of you who responded to my last report. It was so nice to hear from home. If you didn't get "Belize 1", can't open an attachment or thought it was SPAM, I would be more than happy to send you a personal copy.
Eric H. and I had a brief IM session yesterday and he said Jim O. printed a copy and took it to the meeting - Jim that was very sweet of you.
So, on with the saga.
SAND AND BUCKETS
That's what my life is really about is sand and buckets. First of all, sand is everywhere. With the nasty weather on the east coast the cold wind is whipping right down into the Caribbean. Now, I know cold is relative - I'm very comfortable with 57 degree nights, however the natives are bundled up like Eskimos. This constant wind covers EVERYTHING with a sheet if sand. I have to sweep, mop and dust everyday.
BUT SAND IS GOOD
You won't believe what grows in dry sand! I am creating a jungle on my back verandah and beauty on my balcony over looking Front Street. The only problem is buckets. Everything here comes in nice white 5 gallon buckets that used to be trashed. However, right now there is so much building going on that contractors are paying $1 per bucket to mix everything from cement to paint in. I know what it takes to clean one out - a lot after what every was in it is setup. Probably about two minutes otherwise. However, none of the workmen clean them, "That's not my job" and they go on the junk heap.
The lights went out at Lily's yesterday morning and the electrician who came to fix the problem was paid in screwdrivers. After a lot of BS he said he would bring me 5 clean buckets this morning. We'll see if he remembers?
One of my friends here is the daughter of the man played by Harrison Ford in "Mosquito Coast". She and her mother still have 17 acres here on the island - up north. Anything north of the river that was cut by a hurricane many many years ago, is called up north. It's another whole life style; more like my Long Caye will be. Her husband is the care taker of the 17 acres and two adjacent luxury homes where the owners come for only a few months a year.
Natalie (know all over the island as "Nurse Natalie") and one of her neighbors - about a quarter mile away, invited me up for the day yesterday. It is a 20 minute boat ride by regularly scheduled water taxis and cost $20BZ round trip ($10 US).
Fresh AA is always welcome here and they have wanted to have a step meeting. So, sitting on Judy's verandah on one of the few hills on the island, in the fresh breeze, drinking lime in soda water, we did the 2nd step. We then walked down to the Palapa Bar and joined the "constantly drinking" patrons for lunch. There is no anonymity here - if you were a drunk and don't drink anymore people notice.
As Natalie and I hiked off up the trail to her house Judy got pulled aside by one of the women who had just moved back to the island and wanted some help with controlling her drinking.
Natalie and Sam live in a cool one room cabana with a big screened in porch across the front. I drink a lot of water down here and had two glasses of hers. As I finished the 2nd one I asked her where she got the water, it was the best I have tasted on the island. She casually said, "Rain."
Sam then gave me a tour for as long as my leg would hold out and tried to give me starts of the most incredible plants. I stopped him at three buckets full. Judy ran up to her house and gave me two buckets that had cracks in the bottom. Her husband said that was going to cost me a dinner. LOL! One of the passengers on the water taxi carried two of them all the way to my door (including the 2 flights of stairs).
My two prizes are Palm trees. One is a Palmetto and I have it on the Front Street balcony that has a west exposure. I'm hoping to get some shade from it, The Coconut Palm is in a bucket of sand on the South side but gets only mid day sun because of the 3 story building 15 feet away. I've named this one 030703 and will take a picture each year to show the growth.
Enough for now - my brain needs my coffee - Lily's here I come.
BTW - Sam gave me 3 plants (bulbous) of an unusual yellow Lily. We planted one at each entrance to the restaurant and I'll have to get mine planted.
I sure would like to hear from you.
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