LIVING IN BELIZE – “Badly Burned Placencia Man Needs Donations” 7/5/13

Dwayne Flowers probably went to work on Wednesday just like millions of us do every day. Even in Belize, things like that are routine.  But his day took a sudden and horrific turn for the worse, when a propane tank at a job site he was working at exploded.

Dwayne received 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 85% of his body. He was immediately air lifted to the Belize Medical Center in Belize City, but no hospital in Belize is set up to provide the critical care treatment he needs immediately. So a very generous sponsor agreed to guarantee a $22,000+ USD plane ride so he could seek treatment in the United States.

Dwayne and his wife, Cindy Herrmann Flowers, an American citizen who relocated to Belize two years ago from Dallas, TX, left early yesterday evening, and have arrived safely at the Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, where some kind doctor has agreed to sponsor Dwayne’s treatment.

However, that leaves the matter of the two airplane rides, the Belize Medical Associates bills, as well as living expenses for Cindy while she remains at her husband’s side.  The community of Placencia has pulled together like any Belizean community does in times of crisis, but more help is still greatly needed.

I can’t do much personally myself beyond the donation I have made, however, I can use the power of this blog, and the amount of people it reaches worldwide to ask that if you have any charity in your heart, please see your way clear to help the Flowers family, and especially Dwayne, in their time of need.

We have set up a Donation Website for Dwayne that can be found here:  http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/dwayne-flower-s-burn-victim-fundraiser/70857

Donations can be made in two other ways.  If you live in the States, a Paypal donation can be made to barbiphillips@yahoo.com.  If you have an account in Belize, you can deposit or transfer your donation to Atlantic Bank, Cindy and Dwayne Flowers, Acct #211244321.  If either of those are not an option, please email me at sharonhiebing@gmail.com and I will put you in touch with someone who can assist in giving you information for an account Cindy has in the States.

For more details on this story, please visit this site:  http://edition.channel5belize.com/archives/87658

Also, a Facebook Group has been created for those wishing to follow Dwayne’s progress:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/425048180943025/

Thank you in advance to all of you who choose to contribute. And if you do nothing else, please keep Dwayne and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

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LIVING IN BELIZE – “Lunch at Maya Beach Bistro” 6/28/13

Yesterday we woke up to a very wet and rainy morning. But come about 8:00 a.m., the sun came out and it was a very pretty day here on the Placencia coast.  Once we had taken advantage of the sun and gotten our clothes washed and hung to dry, we decided to get out of the house for a while and go have a bite to eat. We choose the nearby Maya Beach Bistro.

I blogged about them before when we went one day to swim at the pool, but this time we came to eat at their restaurant.

The acclaimed restaurant (it has won restaurant of the year two years in a row now from the Belize Tourism Board) is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., has wonderful breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizer and dessert selections, and a full bar. It’s also conveniently located on the highway.

All of this located right on the beach, which had a stunning view of the sea yesterday.

We started off by ordering a couple of Panty Rippas (Coconut Rum with Pineapple Juice). The menu said they were a very economical $6 bze ($3 usd) each, but later when we got the bill, we were given “Happy Hour” pricing of $4 bze ($2 usd). Considering we arrived at 2 p.m. and left at 5 p.m., I’m left to wonder if they have Happy Hour pricing all day. If so, I will be back often J

For lunch, I had a very rich and spicy Pumpkin, Coconut and Jalapeño soup, followed by a light and fresh Watermelon, Tomato, and Feta Cheese side salad (you could get a meal size as well, but I opted for the appetizer version). Be forewarned that the salad does have onions and pickles in it as well, which weren’t noted on the menu (I know some anti-onion folks who would have been none too happy about that).

Nige opted to have the Pork, Pork, Pork Burger (served with a side of Caesar salad), and the serving size coupled with the presentation was awesome upon arrival! It tasted as good as it looked, and in fact, he could only finish half – leftovers!

The thing I love the most about the Maya Bistro, and the hotel in general (the restaurant is part of the Maya Beach Hotel), is the exceedingly friendly staff. If you are a repeat customer, they immediately recognize you and welcome you back. They are very attentive. AND, if after eating you feel like going for a swim on their beach or at their pool, they will graciously allow you. If you’re ever in Maya Beach on the Placencia peninsula, make sure you stop in and try out this great spot – you won’t regret it!

DISCLAIMER: No, I am not friends with the owners or the staff, I just happen to really love it here!

LIVING IN BELIZE – “Road Trip for Nige & Horrible Storms” 6/20/13

Last Saturday, Nige decided he wanted to go home to Cayo to visit his mom and brothers. We didn’t have much going on here, but I really wasn’t in the mood for a road trip myself, so he decided to go without me. I didn’t, however, want to be left behind stranded, so I kept the car and he took the bus.

That’s Nige in the white hat, boarding the bus

The Placencia bus station is located in the village proper, right next to M&M Hardware store, and across the street from the graveyard.

M&M Hardware Store

Before the bus arrived, we filled up our tank at the one and only gas station in this area of the peninsula (there’s one at Robert’s Grove in Maya Beach also). It’s located at the back of the M&M Hardware store parking lot.  They only have supreme gas here, no regular, which makes it more expensive.

Fuel station

Gassing up the tracker

Down the street, at the end of the village, there is a now defunct gas station that used to be for both cars and boats, but a local told me that when the line from the station to the ocean broke and no one fixed it, everyone just started using the fuel station over by the Hokey Pokey. I guess the old station is up for sale – we’ll have to see if someone buys it and restores service.

The now defunct gas station in Placencia village

What’s a Hokey Pokey? Well, that was a question I had when I arrived here too. It’s the little ferry that shuttles people back and forth between Placencia and Mango Creek Independence, which is further South.

Hokey Pokey ferry “terminal”

Lots of expats go to Independence because there’s an immigration office a cab ride away in Big Creek, and it’s easier to go there, especially if you don’t have a car, to get your passport stamped. Anyway, I snapped a picture of the Hokey Pokey’s sign so that I would never forget the schedule (even though they have a website too).

Ferry schedule (click on their website, easier to read lol!)

Also located in the M&M parking lot is the Southern Cable Network (SCN) office. It’s a dinky little building with no signage, and I only know that’s what it is because a friend told me. They provide both cable and internet service, though I’m not overly impressed with their internet and much preferred BTL (faster and more reliable).

Southern Cable Network – the green and white building

After Nige took off on the bus, I ran down the street (across from the old gas station) to the ATM at Belize Bank. I haven’t been inside the bank yet, but Nige says it’s the smallest Belize Bank he’s ever seen – just two tellers. I’m just glad there’s one here (there’s also an Atlantic and Scotia Bank as well), since that’s the bank we use.

Belize Bank, at the very end of the Placencia Village

Anyway, I think Nige jinxed me by leaving, because as soon as he did, it started storming here. It rained for three days straight, non-stop. In fact, I would have put this blog out yesterday, but our power was down all day! Anyway, here’s the puddle in our front yard. Hurricane season has definitely arrived!

My front yard after 3 days of storms. I need an ark, not a car haha!

So I guess I could have let him take the car after all, because in this weather, I mostly stayed inside and didn’t really need it. Funny how life works that way sometimes.

LIVING IN BELIZE – “Riversdale Jaunt” 6/13/13

The other day we decided we wanted to get out of the house, so we took a ten-minute drive to the nearby community of Riversdale. For those of you not familiar with Riversdale, it is the first community you come to when you begin the 20 mile drive down the Placencia peninsula. It is nothing more than a dirt road.

Riversdale is very, very SMALL.  It is really one main road that forms a “L” to the right, which runs parallel to the beach.  The homes here are quite simple – mostly wood structures on stilts to capture the nice breezes you can enjoy from the ocean.

They do have the requisite “fútbol” field for the locals, but not much else. I didn’t even see a store where someone could buy flour or a soda if they wanted, although there was one other main artery we didn’t turn down, mostly because it looked so muddy we thought we might get stuck. Perhaps there was a store for the locals there. If not, the closest one would be Maya Beach, quite a distance for someone without a car.

We decided to stop and have lunch at the one and only commercial venture in Riversdale, The Lost Reef Resort & Hideaway, a local hotel and restaurant.

They have a great beach-side location, with a dock and lots of hammocks for relaxing, as well as an outdoor patio and indoor restaurant and bar.

 

There’s also a pool, although frankly, it looked a little worse for wear, and I for one would not enjoy swimming in it a whole lot (but with the ocean there, I guess that’s not such a big deal).

The Lost Reef also has cabanas for rent – five in total. I didn’t get to see inside one, so I’m not sure how they look. If you’ve ever stayed there, let my readers know what you thought of them.

Nige and I decided to have a few beers, and I ordered a ceviche. While the serving size was small, I must say, it was pretty filling. 

It’s worth commenting that the owners and/or managers of this place were exceedingly nice and attentive.  We had three different people checking on us constantly, making sure that we had everything we needed, which I really appreciated.  One of them even offered to take this pic of Nige and I, which we welcomed since we don’t always get to be in the same photo together.

All in all, we really enjoyed our day in Riversdale, but if you go, bring your bug spray – we had a devil of a time keeping them off us, although in fairness to the hotel, it’s been pretty bad this time of year darn near everywhere!

LIVING IN BELIZE – “The Shak & New Dock” 6/10/13

The other day noon time rolled around and both Nige and I realized we hadn’t eaten anything all day long (that’s what happens to us sometimes when we’re busy with our noses stuck in the computer). So we decided to try a new place for brunch. I’d seen this sign the other day down at the very end of the Placencia Village, and it looked like they had some healthy options, so we decided to go check it out.

It’s called The Shak, and in all my years of coming to Placencia, I never managed to stop in and eat. Not sure why. It’s a great location, right on the beach, nice shaded seating, and the staff is quite friendly.

Little did I know they also serve breakfast all day – score! So I had their veggie omelet, and it was to die for.

Nige had the rolled tacos, which were equally as good.

While we were eating, a little visitor came to say hello!

The restaurant fronts the dock, which is getting quite an extensive renovation.  Now I certainly hope these aren’t being built for the cruise lines, which not only has the BTIA (Belize Tourism Industry Association) said they don’t want here in Placencia, but the overwhelming majority of locals and tour guides don’t want as well. Because this dock sure looks big, and I don’t know many people in their “average” size boats who can tether up to that and get out (unless they carry a ladder – unlikely).

The cruise ship debate has been raging for years here, and I for one would hate to see them come spoil this quaint little village. Leave the cruise ships in Belize City, where they belong.

LIVING IN BELIZE – “A Day at the Pool” 6/6/13

My last blog was titled “A Day at the Beach.” Today, it’s a day at the pool (life in Placencia is tough, huh?).  We happen to live in the Maya Beach area of the Placencia peninsula, and here there are a couple of hotels with pools on the beach.  Besides the ultra swanky Turtle Inn and Chabil Mar, there are no other hotels in the village proper on the beach with pools (I know, hard to believe).

The “beach” at Maya Beach Hotel

What’s nice about the majority of hotels in Belize is most will allow you to come and use their pool (some for free), especially if you purchase a few drinks or some food. Of course, when we go to have a pool day, we plan on doing both.

The pool at Maya Beach Hotel is on a raised platform

We chose to go to the Maya Beach Hotel, home of the famous Bistro, and winners of the 2010 & 2012 Belize Tourism Board’s “Restaurant of the Year” award! It just so happens, our neighbor happens to be one of the chefs here.  They also have free wifi that works even at the pool, which I took full advantage of.

There’s me, working away on my laptop

We spent the day lounging, swimming, eating, and drinking, and all in all really enjoyed ourselves. 

The dock at Maya Beach Hotel, with relaxing hammocks

Nige, contemplating what he’ll do next – order a beer or go for a swim lol!

 

LIVING IN BELIZE – “A Day at the Beach” 6/3/13

I just want to start this blog by saying how much Nige and I love living near the beach again!  You may recall that when I first moved to Belize in 2010, I lived on the island of Ambergris Caye. While the island lifestyle was not for me (too expensive and crowded), the biggest regret I had about it not working out there was giving up daily access to the beach.

Now that we’re in Placencia, I don’t have that problem anymore.  On Saturday, Nige and I decided to be “pretend” tourists for a day and get out of the house and have some fun.  So we donned our swimming suits, packed the sunscreen and some beach towels, and headed into the Village.

Our new favorite beach spot is the Tipsy Tuna Beach and Sports Bar.  Surprisingly, you will not find many bars on the beach in Placencia (although right next door to TT they are building a new one called De Vines I believe, former owners of Barefoot Bar are building it – yay! You can never have too many beach bars imho).  TT is nice because they have lounge chairs right by the ocean that you can sit on if you don’t want to pull up to the bar or sit at a table.

They don’t pressure you to buy anything either, although we always get at least a few drinks and sometimes some food as our way of saying thank you for the use of the spot.  Saturday was incredibly beautiful and the crystal blue waters beckoned us. Perfect day for a swim!

After spending several hours at the beach, without getting burned this time (I invested in a proper beach hat finally, at the behest of Nige who has never cared for my ball cap look), we went home, showered, and then went for a night out on the town!

I call this my “Kim Kardashian” hat lol!

Lucky for us, we live by several good restaurants in Maya Beach.  That night we chose Mango’s, owned by expat Frank (one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet). We chose Mango’s because not only is their food good (try their pizza sometime) and they’re located on the ocean, they have a big screen TV and Nige wanted to watch game six of the NBA playoffs.

We had a super fun evening, meet some nice new locals there, and really enjoyed getting to know this new area better. Do you ever pretend like you’re a tourist for a day in your hometown?

 

LIVING IN BELIZE – “What My Expat Life Looks Like Now” 5/30/13

Wow, can’t believe how long since I blogged last.  After we returned from our whirlwind five-week trip to Guatemala and El Salvador (hopefully you saw all the pictures on my Facebook fan page), we settled in for the long wait of gathering all the various documents we need so that I can apply for U.S. Immigration for Nigel.  So no, we are not back in the States yet.

Yes, I’m still alive!!

But we were bored with Cayo. And nothing against San Ignacio Town, but after being there for three years, we felt like a change of scenery was in order.  So last week we packed up and moved to Placencia. Placencia is gorgeous – it’s about a 20 mile strip of peninsula located in Southern Belize, bordered by the lagoon and Maya Mountains on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other.

Placencia beach – love being by the ocean!

We scored an incredible long-term rental deal in a cute cabin on the lagoon side – $450 usd all-inclusive (rent, utilities including wifi and cable TV, garbage, and fully furnished with a washing machine!).  The best part of the house is the screened in back porch area, where I sit on my laptop a good portion of the day and look for new ways to educate myself or propel myself forward.

This is our cute little cabin on the lagoon – porch is in the back. There’s a 2 bedroom available right next door – wanna be my neighbor?

For a studio apartment, the kitchen is huge! Loving being able to cook again after not having a home for three months!

Upon my return to the States, I plan to re-start real estate investing career in Houston, Texas. I’ve really missed being a real estate investor the last few years and can’t wait to get back to it. So that’s another thing I’ve been spending a ton of time on. Researching zip codes and finding good deals (if you have any, send them my way lol!).

Nige and I have also been having a lot of fun trying out the restaurant scene here in Placencia.  My two favorites so far are De Barcelona Beach Tapa Bar (formerly located at Robert’s Grove and now in the Village proper) and The Purple Space Monkey (who has seen a massive remodel and transformation).  They both have excellent food and great locations.  We are, however, still suffering from sticker shock here. Besides the great housing deal we got, everything else is more expensive, especially restaurants! Oh well, that’s the price you pay for living down South, but it’s worth it to us.

So I’ll try not to go so long next time before I blog again. Amazing how time flies!

Leaving Belize

It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog to everyone who has followed my personal journey since moving to Belize, and especially to all of the many clients that allowed me to help them through their three phases of relocation here.

I always tried to make my blogs are transparent as possible, but honestly, who wants to read about someone who is always ill. And the reality of it is, I have been ill since the second day I arrived in Belize.  On day two I developed the beginning of my psoriasis issue, I presume from the humidity, which my California body wasn’t prepared for.

Several months later that was followed by double ear infections, which have been recurring almost without fail every four to six months.  Then I got psoriasis of the scalp, which involves have disgusting scabs on your head and losing hair.

As if that wasn’t enough for one person to endure, I also have painful abscesses under my arms, and have spent the last several days in and out of the hospital having them drained.  Then there’s the mystery upper abdomen pain that no one can diagnose, even with an ultra sound.

Frankly folks, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on doctors, medicines, herbs, lotions, potions, special diets and cleanses, all to no avail.  It’s clear to me my immune system is shot, and for some reason here in the tropics, I cannot strengthen it and get better.

Therefore, I have made the very hard decision that I am going to return to the States, where I had none of these issues at all, and see if I can reset my body and get better.

What this means is that I will no longer be offering relocation consulting services.  It also means I had to let go of Red Roof Property Management.  But as luck would have it, my ex-husband, Dale Hiebing, recently moved from Ambergris Caye to San Ignacio.  When I told him I was leaving, he was very excited about taking Red Roof over.

He and I started our real estate investing career together in 1998, so he understands property management as well as I do. And, he is bringing Nige’s brother, Jovan, on board with him to run the office. Jovan recently graduated from college on the island with an AA in Business Admin.

There is some icing on the cake in this story. After over two years of dating, Nige and I got engaged recently.  We will be getting married in Belize before we head back to the States, so that his family may attend, something that was important to both of us. And, I got a great surprise when my sister told me she’s coming too!

I’m so thankful for so much of what has happened to me in Belize. I started two successful and profitable businesses met the love of my life and have made some wonderful friends. No, my plans didn’t work out exactly as I had envisioned, but that’s life. So I’ll be moving onward and upward. I’ve always landed on my feet, and I’m sure I will do the same back in the States.

I have nothing bad to say about Belize, and I’m not leaving because of anything that Belize did to me.  It is a wonderful country with beautiful people, and Nige and I will be back visiting often, I’m sure.  But you only get one life, and health is everything, so I must do what I feel is best for me now.  Thanks for coming along on my journey and being so actively involved in my life. It has been a pleasure getting to know you all.

Sharon

LIVING IN BELIZE – “Santa Elena, Belize House for Rent on the River with a Pool – Rare!!” 2/4/13

Red Roof Property Management is really excited about our newest listing.  It is the first time we have ever had a long-term home for rent with a pool!  Believe it or not, they are quite rare here in the Cayo District.

This home also has the bonus of being on the Macal River, where you can watching the La Ruta Maya Canoe races, or just relax in the amazing gardens, which have all kinds of fruit trees, like banana, cherry, dwarf peach, golden plum, avocado, limes, and plantains!

The best part is you won’t have to worry about any of the maintenance, since a pool man and gardener will take care of everything for you.

The home itself is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath fully furnished place.  The kitchen has tons of cabinets and the living room a comfy sofa and tv.

The master suite has a king size bed, ceiling fan, wardrobe, a nice large bathroom with shower and American style washer and dryer. There’s even a cool native mural on the wall!

The second bedroom has an a/c unit in it, and the third can be used as an office or multi-purpose room.

Santa Elena is San Ignacio’s sister city, so this house is located maybe five minutes from the bridge where you can quickly be at the produce market, bank, one of the many restaurants, or bars.

It is being offered for $800 USD, which includes your electric, water, yard and pool maintenance.  Also, the owner is leaving her Smart “Dongle” wifi internet flash drive and cell phone for the new tenants – you just add your gigs or credit.

For more details, visit our website: 

http://belizehouserentals.redroofpropertymanagement.com/available-santa-elena-belize-house-rental-furnished-showcase-yard-with-pool/