Today we took some whole wheat tortillas down to Chunky and Ruthie at Coral Bay Villas south of San Pedro Town.  They live in Minnesota for half the year and Belize the other half.  We'd been reading their blog for some time and had run into them not long ago in town on a chance meeting at the hardware store.  It was great to be able to spend some time chatting with them, and to see what Coral Bay Villas was like.  It's really cute, and the new pool is great!  
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Chunky, Ruthie, and Emily checking out the pool
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Yes, this pool -- and the glorious Caribbean Sea beyond it
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Ruthie, Emily, and Chunky in front of Coral Bay Villas
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Ruthie, Chunky, Emily, and Barry
 
This morning we participated in the first-ever 5K run for the Mama Vilma's Family Home project.  The event was sponsored by the Funky Monkey Bar & Grill at the Cloisters, owned by Dale from Ohio, whom we'd met when he gave us a ride in his cart to town one day not long ago.  

The run began in Central Park and ended at the Funky Monkey, so we decided to walk to town to avoid having to leave our bikes somewhere.  The dark sky was threatening rain.  Once we crossed from the beach onto the road, we got a ride the rest of the way from Dov in his golf cart, who was also participating in the run.  This was nice as we were going to be getting plenty of exercise already, but it got to us to the start quite early, and there was plenty of waiting around time after we registered.  We enjoyed chatting with Dov, Taz and her daughter (who were walking).  Our friend Maureen even came over to chat for a few minutes as she and Robert were eating breakfast at Estelle's close to the start of the race.  She was all dressed for running, and if she hadn't been wearing flip-flops, we would have insisted she join us!

As we watched the sign-in sheets, I noticed that I was the only woman in my age group (46-54), so I was assured an age group win (haha!), while Barry had two other men in his age group.  Unfortunately, being a first-time event, the number of participants was low, with only twelve runners and four walkers.  Hopefully there will be a much better turnout next time around, as the entry fee goes to an excellent cause.  (Read more about the vision for the Mama Vilma's Family Home  on Tacogirl's blog.)

Finally, with the ear-splitting sound only an air horn can make, we were off.  The sun was out by this time, and it was very humid. The threatening clouds never did produce any rain. Barry tells me that it became more overcast again as the run went on, but I actually didn't even notice.  I just felt hot and sweaty from the humidity, but we've been training in this tropical weather since early September, so we were well prepared.  Since this was my first official 5K event, I did exactly what was recommended on various websites I read ahead of time -- started slowly.  I am a slower runner anyway, so by starting slowly to pace myself, I knew I would not catch any of the other runners, since everyone in front of me was either male or much younger.  I did end up passing two women who started out quickly but ended up slowing to a walk in the first mile.  I just wanted to finish without walking, and whatever time I happened to end up with, I could live with.

The route started on the paved town roads, made its way north over the Boca del Rio bridge, then headed north on the unpaved road up to the turnaround point at Ak'Bol, about 2/3 of the way along the course.  It then headed south back to the Funky Monkey. 

As I was heading north but had not yet reached the turnaround point, I saw the motorcycle escort leading out the first runner making his way back to the finish.  Much to my surprise, it was Barry!  I knew he was fast, but since he was also one of the older runners, I didn't expect him to win the race.  Since there was no one chomping at his heels, I could tell that he was going to place first if he didn't have an unfortunate accident, and that fact really boosted my spirits for the rest of my run.  

As I made my way to the turnaround, all of the faster runners on their way back yelled out encouraging comments to me like "Way to Hustle!", and "Good going!" as they ran by.  I guess this must be a race tradition for the faster runners to encourage the slower ones.  I wasn't aware of it since I've never done an official race, and biking events are typically not out-and-back, but it was nice to feel supported.

I ended up placing 10th overall with a time of 30:28, which turns out to be a 9:50 pace, my fastest ever for that length run.  I used to do more like a 10:30 pace on the treadmill at the gym at work, and I'm even slower on our beach runs.  I guess knowing this was timed and seeing all the faster runners got my adrenaline flowing!  And of course, as predicted, I was first (and only) in my age group...woohoo!

Barry was the star of the day, placing first overall with an excellent time of 23:16, a 7:30 pace.  This is even more impressive since he'll be 58 in less than a week.  I am very proud of him!  The medals are held up in customs somewhere, but he will certainly be getting one at some point.  

We hung around the Funky Monkey for water and photos for awhile -- supposedly a group photo will be in the San Pedro Sun soon, and if so I will link to it here.  I wish there were more photos of Barry in the following shots, but he was wielding the camera for most of the time.
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Walking to town with threatening clouds to the north
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Dov and his golf cart made our trip in a bit quicker
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Signing in
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Barry before the race
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Pre-run stretching
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Waiting to start
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Runners gather at the start. Dale (right) wields the air horn.
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Almost time to start!
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Dov and another runner in town -- this is the newly paved road to the bridge.
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Unpaved road north of town in Tres Cocos area. Much easier running surface than the paved road.
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Turnaround point at Ak'Bol was this little red table with a tiny Christmas tree atop it!
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Police escort in front of Barry on "back" leg. I am still on "out" leg.
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Race ended here
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I think I can, I think I can...
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Done!
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the Funky Monkey - cute place!
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Post-run water and milling about
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The Funky Monkey -- we gotta get here for a meal; it's not a bad walk from our condo.
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Barry's placement and time - YES!
 
We had a scare last night with Paisley.  Although we don't know for sure what happened, our best guess is that she got bit by something (spider? ant? scorpion?) last night when I had her out for the last time, though she didn't yelp or show any signs of being bitten at the time.  A little later I put her to bed in her crate (at which point she appeared completely normal), then went to bed myself.  I was already drifting off to sleep when Barry came in holding Paisley and saying that something was wrong.  He had been watching sports on TV and was just about to hit the hay himself when he heard her banging around in her crate.  Turns out she was rubbing her face all over inside trying to scratch her incredibly itchy face, which by this time had swollen up like a balloon.  In addition to a swollen, red face, she had itchy, raised hives on other areas on her body, and a red rash on her chest.  

There is an well-regarded veterinarian here on Ambergris Caye who accepts emergency/after hours calls, so I made sure I had her number handy, but by this time it was 11pm, and I didn't want to have to call her unless absolutely necessary, especially since we had no way of getting Paisley to her (since we don't have a golf cart, and taxis can't cross the bridge after 9pm) and would have to ask her to make a house call.

I immediately went online (what did we ever do before google??) and researched the symptoms, and since Paisley was still breathing okay (indicating her throat was hopefully not swelling, which is when this kind of thing gets really dangerous), we quickly got a Benedryl into her, wrapped in cheese.  She didn't mind that one bit.  We think that Benedryl may have saved our Lhasa Apso Columbus's life when he got into a yellow jacket's nest and received numerous stings when we were camping on property we used to own in the North Carolina mountains years ago -- far from any vet, cell phone signal, and also on a weekend.  Fortunately, the Benedryl also helped Paisley significantly, and quickly.  Within thirty minutes, I could see the swelling going down.  

I sat with her on the sofa for another hour, watching her get calmer and calmer (at first she was frantically itching, drinking a lot of water, shaking her head, etc.), watching the swelling lessen, and when she was finally falling asleep, I put her in her crate.  By this time it was 12:30 am, and with my adrenaline flowing from the episode, I couldn't fall asleep until at least 1 am, then got up a couple of times in the night to check on her.

Today she is much better.  I gave her another Benedryl at 7 am, but even before that all the hives and redness were gone and most of the swelling.  She's still got a "wattle" under her chin (a turkey neck, in keeping with the holiday weekend) where we can feel some swelling, and there's what looks like a small puncture wound on the lower side of her mouth, which is apparently where she got bit or stung.  She's eating normally, playing like crazy, and seems to feel just like herself again, so we are out of the woods now, thankfully.  As the day has gone on, the wattle is shrinking as well, so I suspect it will be mostly, if not all, gone by tomorrow.  Note to self:  ALWAYS keep Benedryl on hand.  
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Last night - swollen cheeks, around eyes, and swollen hives on head and elsewhere on her body
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Feeling miserable and itchy last night
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This morning -- you can see how different her cheeks and eyes look -- only the wattle remains!
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Mid-day -- the wattle is shrinking gradually. It is even smaller tonight.
 
We had fun today at lunchtime when new friends Robert and Maureen introduced us to friends of theirs, Sharon and Richard.  The four of them made their way north on their bicycles to have lunch with us at the Lazy Croc, our next-door neighbor restaurant.  Both couples hail from Vancouver and have condos at Royal Palm Villas, south of San Pedro, while we live approximately two miles north of town.  

Many pictures were taken, much good barbeque was enjoyed, and we even got to see a couple of crocs this time!  We had never managed to see a croc when we'd dined here in the past.  Barry and I topped off our barbequed chicken sandwiches and baked beans with a (shared) piece of Cheri's amazing homemade pecan pie.  Yum!  This is a dangerous place to live right next door to, and not only because of the crocs!
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L to R - Richard, Sharon, Emily, Maureen, Robert
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Da cooker
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There's one of 'em! This one's name is "Jaws", and he's actually missing most of the bottom one.
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We saw this critter across the pond -- a huge raccoon
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L to R: Barry, Emily, Sharon, Richard, Maureen, Robert
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Canello, aka Sammy, came with us and hangs out at "the Croc" a lot -- I expect he gets some handouts!
 
If you read our previous blog post, you'll know that we met the local known as "Fish Johnson" last night at Cholo's, and he promised to bring us some shrimp today.  At around 3 pm, he showed up outside our condo yelling "fresh seafood"!  Not only did he have shrimp, but he had fresh lobster (out of the shell and cleaned) and snapper fillets, so we bought it all.  We have plenty of leftovers to eat up in the fridge, so everything went right into the freezer, after we divided it up into single-meal portions in a bevy of ziploc bags.  "Fish" is quite a San Pedro character, and we're glad to be on his customer list.  This solves one of our shopping dilemmas as it is easier than finding and buying seafood in town and transporting it back by bicycle.  
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Emily with "Fish" Johnson, a friendly guy
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Fish tallying up my bill
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A nice place to shop
 
Although Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Belize, many restaurants cater to the large number of American tourists and expats in the San Pedro area by preparing a special Thanksgiving meal.  We examined the list of offerings and decided to dine at Elvi's Kitchen, a restaurant where we've had a couple of delicious meals before, in large part because they were offering a Thanksgiving lunch until 4pm, in addition to dinner later that night.  We thought it would be nice to eat a late lunch as we often did in the US, rather than waiting so late to eat a big Thanksgiving feast.  We invited David, who owns a house on the beach less than a mile north of us, to come along.  David is from Virginia, and although he lives here on Ambergris Caye full-time now, like us, this was also his first Thanksgiving here.

We splurged by catching the water taxi into town rather than walking.  It was nice to arrive in town and not be hot and sweaty as we are when we walk.
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Waiting for the taxi
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...and here it comes!
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Emily and David outside Elvi's
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Elvi's interior: sand floor, thatch roof, and the tree used to be alive. Neat place!
Unfortunately, when we were ready to order, the waitress told us that they were only going to be serving the Thanksgiving meal for dinner -- not lunchtime.  We were disappointed as that was one of our main reasons for choosing Elvi's.  She didn't give any reason for the change; perhaps they just didn't get enough people in for lunch to bother with it.  After contemplating what to do for a few moments, we decided to enjoy drinks and appetizers instead, since we were all hungry, then come back at 5 pm for dinner.  
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When life gives you lemons, make lemonade (or rum-n-pineapple juice)!
After taking the edge off our appetites with some delicious conch ceviche and chips, chicken fingers, and empanadas, we left and strolled around town for awhile.  David has been coming to San Pedro for decades so was able to point out some places that had been around for many years, and even took us into the town cemetery.  It is right on the beach and surrounded by a high fence.  He told us that the fence was added only after some of the graves washed into the sea.  Oops!  Like cemeteries we'd seen in the Florida Keys, this one also had the graves raised up above-ground since the water table is so high.  Our "virtual" friends and soon-to-be San Pedro residents Bill and Debra did an interesting entry about this cemetery on their Taking Belize blog, with plenty of photos, since we didn't get any. 

Eventually we ended up at the Hangover Bar at the Holiday Hotel, which Barry and I had never been to.  David was a great guide as he knows all the good spots to go.  Happy Hour had just started since it was a few minutes after 4pm, so we got some more local rum-n-juice drinks and headed to the nice outdoor seating right on the beach.
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A great way to spend Thanksgiving!
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Main building of Holiday Hotel -- very Caribbean in style
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David and Barry enjoying Happy Hour libations
David was a great storyteller, sharing many experiences he had working for the Dept. of Social Services in Virginia, and before we knew it, it was time to head back to Elvi's for our Thanksgiving dinner.  And what a dinner it was!  Just check out this menu:
We all chose the butternut squash soup as our appetizer.  It was creamy and wonderfully flavored.  The cran-apple relish added a delicious sweetness.  I could have made a meal on this soup and the basket of delicious homemade rolls (wheat, white, and sweet potato) with chipotle butter.  Yum!
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Butternut squash soup, sweet potato roll with chipotle butter, and sangria. Life is good!
Surprisingly, Barry decided to go with the lobster entree, while David and I stuck to the traditional turkey.  This is the second time Barry has chosen a lobster dish recently, much to my surprise, but it was gorgeous and delicious as well.  The turkey was wonderful, though, as tender as any I've ever had, and all the side dishes were yummy too.  It was so much food that I brought back half my plate in a box for tonight.  Lucky me!
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Barry's lobster
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My turkey, ham, and lots of fixin's
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Talk about a table groaning with food...
For dessert, we all chose the pumpkin pudding, which was actually more like a moist cake with cream cheese frosting, but we weren't complaining.  It was delicious!  In fact, we'd already dived in before Barry remembered to take a photo!
After we'd paid the bill and rolled away from the table, we realized we had about a 45-minute wait until the next hourly water taxi north, so David suggested that we stop in at Cholo's sports bar for a nightcap.  The water taxi terminal is just a stone's throw away from this open-air place that was filled with locals, so it was a good place to have one more libation (that we certainly didn't need!) before catching the taxi home.  Barry and I had spent all the cash we'd brought, not expecting to eat lunch AND dinner out, so David kindly treated us.  

While at Cholo's, we met "Fish Johnson", a well-known local who sells fish and shrimp from a cooler on his bike he rides up and down the beach, and we placed an order for two pounds of shrimp to be delivered this afternoon (Friday).  As of 2 pm he has not yet shown up.  He had definitely indulged in a few Belikins by the time we met him, but we did write our name in his little book, so we shall see.  We had heard about him, and our neighbor Mike had purchased shrimp from him before, but we didn't know what he looked like -- now we do.
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Emily at Cholo's
It was a clear night with a star-filled dark sky, a perfect evening to ride the water taxi back to the Grand Caribe dock.  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are thankful to live in such a beautiful place, for new friends here on Ambergris Caye; and for old friends and loving, supportive families back in the US.  We are truly blessed!
 
In addition to the Boca del Rio bridge being closed to vehicular traffic (but not bikes or pedestrians) for another day for construction, we ran into this traffic stop just south of the airport while riding around doing our daily grocery shopping,  They don't seem to make bikes stop, fortunately, so we just went around.
This guy had another good idea:  just avoid the roads completely!  He was riding in a unique stand-up canoe, powered by a pole (the water is very shallow) and a small sail.
 
We had a very busy morning today as Barry headed out early on a bike ride north so we could get going to town earlier than usual.  Without really considering the logistics, I had scheduled my first haircut appointment in San Pedro at 10:00, and today was also the day we had to renew our tourist visas for the next month, so we had a lot to pack in in the morning.  Barry got caught in a heavy rain during his ride, so cut it a little short, though it was sunny by the time he got back to the condo.  Typical Belize weather!

The Boca del Rio bridge across the cut that divides north Ambergris Caye from San Pedro Town was closed today for road construction in town, so there were many golf carts parked on the north side of the bridge and people walking across the bridge to do their shopping and business in town.  Bikes were allowed to pass over the bridge, though we had to do much weaving through the construction zone on the other side.  In the US, this area would have been cordoned off and people directed around it due to safety laws, but here in Belize, things are a bit different, and we joined pedestrians and other cyclists driving right through the construction area, weaving through areas with wet concrete, and riding over numerous power cords.  The construction workers should be commended for their patience in tolerating our presence, as I am sure it didn't make their jobs any easier.

Our errands went smoothly:  we got our tourist visas renewed at the immigration office, zipped by two grocery stores for a few items, then Barry left me off at the hair stylist's while he headed home.  He wanted to get the camera to take photos of the bridge and road construction since neither of us had thought to bring a camera, again.  (We have now rectified this situation as I've tucked the smaller camera into my backpack, which I always take to town.)

Jessie was recommended to me by Ruth, who spends half the year here in San Pedro with her husband, affectionately known as Chunky.  We've been reading their Belize Snowbird blog for awhile, and finally had a chance meeting with them at Castillo's hardware store recently, soon after they'd arrived in town from Minnesota for their six months here.  Ruth was headed to her hair appointment, so I asked her who she went to, and the rest is history.  

Jessie works at her family's salon, Leslie's Salon, and I learned that she is a native San Pedrano.  You don't meet all that many people here who are actually native to the island, so that was neat.  Even more surprising, she is the twin sister of Jody, and daughter of Captain Martin, who run the Lady Leslie Catamaran tours here in town.  We had been on their day snorkel trip to Caye Caulker on our first trip to Belize and had a blast!  We wrote up our day aboard the Lady Leslie in our older blog (scroll down to May 26th).  

On my way back to the condo, I ran into Barry heading south on his bike with the camera, so I turned around and rode back to the bridge with him so he could take some photos.  The most interesting sight we saw, I think, was Cherie (I hope I've spelled that right) of the The Lazy Croc restaurant practically next door to us, bringing back a large wheelbarrow load (with a helper) of groceries for her restaurant from town.  They filled up two coolers, then she bungeed the wheelbarrow onto the back of her Polaris, which she'd left parked on the north side of the bridge.  With a smile she said "Where there's a will, there's a way!"  What a great attitude!  As we are learning, it pays to be flexible here on the island, and not let things like a bridge closing get your panties in a knot.  We are so very fortunate to be living in such a beautiful place, where, as I write this, the sun is shining, the sea breeze is blowing through my hair, the brilliant turquoise sea is right out my windows, and the temperature is a perfect 81 degrees.  Ahhhhhhh.....just another day in Paradise.

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Looking south towards town -- bridge is closed to vehicles
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Golf carts parked on north side of cut
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More golf cart parking
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Road construction on San Pedro side of bridge
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We think this is the mayor, Elsa Paz, on the left taking a photo -- and Cherie w/wheelbarrow on the right
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Construction zone with pedestrian, even small children, walking through!
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Our friend Chip heading back north from town
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Road construction -- this area used to be sand/mud and filled with potholes and puddles.
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Leslie's Salon
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Part of the same road recently paved - not much traffic today with fewer carts/taxis around. Nice!
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Road construction looking north from town
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The concrete for the road was is all mixed here, then taken by hand in a wheelbarrow to the site.
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This is the area we had to get through on our bikes. We are definitely not in the USA, Toto!
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Example of a guy on a bike making his way through the construction zone
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Mayor talking to construction supervisor, perhaps?
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Golf carts and taxis parked just south of cut
 
Here are a few assorted photos from our day.  Enjoy!
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Paisley giving me her "I wanna go out, Mom" look. Who could resist that sweet face?
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Barry picked up our latest Debbie Cooper print from Tropic Air Cargo on his bike.
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Nice late afternoon view
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It's Miller...er, Belikin time!
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Oscar taking down the Grand Caribe flag at the end of the day
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A lovely sunset, as seen from the Chico Caribe dock
 
Today we had a delicious lunch at Aji (http://ajitapabar.com/), just a hop, skip, and a jump (if that far) from our Chico Caribe condo.  It was their grand-opening day for the high season, and we've been anticipating this day for quite some time, as dining options on our part of the island are limited.  We had 12:00 reservations, but the sky was looking very threatening as it grew close to time to leave.  We had already been soaked to the skin in a passing heavy rain band during a bike ride earlier this morning (Barry actually got soaked twice as he started before me), so we were hoping that was all for the day for bad weather.  However, as we started the short walk up to the open-air restaurant, the sky was spitting rain once again, and by the time we got there, we had to make a run for the palapa over the bar to avoid getting drenched!  

We were fortunate to nab primo seats at the bar, as all the current diners had to hustle over from their tables to the palapa as well.  We ended up sitting at the bar for our meal instead of at a table, as everything outside was wet for quite some time even after the rain stopped.

Victoria, who runs Aji with her husband Hugo, the chef, kept things running smoothly, setting up a huge table in the palapa for the guests currently eating, and getting them settled.  She was simultaneously training new staff, taking orders, and making drinks.  I can't imagine how difficult running a restaurant must be, especially on opening day, but she carried it all off with nary a sign of stress. Very impressive! 

They offered a lovely three-course menu for just $25 BZD ($12.50 US) for opening day.  They also had drink specials all day.  I had been missing my daily glass of wine it is so expensive here on the island I haven't been able to justify buying a bottle when local beer and rum are so much more budget friendly, so I thoroughly enjoyed a couple of glasses of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc for just $10 BZD ($5 US) per glass.  Barry had a couple of local rum and pineapple juices for just $3 BZD ($1.50 US).  Can't beat those deals!  

For our meal, we got to choose an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert off the special opening day menu.  We both chose the seafood fritters for our appetizer, which were piping hot and absolutely delicious, with a spicy aioli dipping sauce.  For entrees, Barry had vegetable pasta, and I had the grouper with steamed veggies and rice.  Everything was delicious.  We got one of each dessert, Caye Lime pie and Chocolate Flan cake, both scrumptious as well.  

We enjoyed chatting with other folks at the bar as well as Dov and Laura Magy, who were just finishing up their desserts wen we arrived.  Unfortunately, we forgot to take our camera, a serious oversight, so we have no food photos to share, but Barry ran back and nabbed a few photos of the restaurant later.  I am sure we'll be visiting frequently in the coming months, since it is so close and so good!
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Aji Bar