Today was our day to renew our 30-day tourist visa, so we had to venture to town again, despite the messy road we blogged about yesterday and yet another 2/3" of rain overnight.  Fortunately, today was absolutely gorgeous, with wall-to-wall blue skies, sunshine, and just a few puffy white clouds. The Immigration office in San Pedro normally opens in the morning at 8 or 9 o'clock (we've never been there too early, so I am not sure), closes for lunch from 12 to 1pm, I believe, and then opens again until 3:30 pm.  We arrived at a few minutes after 10.   
We saw a few folks waiting on the balcony outside the office, but that's not unusual, because it's a tiny office, and when it's full, sometimes people wait outside.  But much to our surprise, the doors were locked up tight.  And there was nothing posted on the doors indicating that the office was closed today.
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What's going on here?
The couple that was waiting outside told us that they were supposed to be open in "a while".  Hmmmmm.  How long is "a while"?  We had a few other errands to run, so decided to go ahead and do those, in case "a while" meant an hour or so.  

As we were leaving, the couple we had been talking to came down the stairs and told us that someone had just come out of an office and said that it would be opening at 11 o'clock -- they were having a meeting.  Aha!  We laughed about how they didn't post anything on the door to let us poor waiting folks know when they'd be opening.  We took off on our bikes and hit the Maria's fruit and vegetable stand (seems like we are there almost every day) for a few more items, then the bank.  By the time we were finished there, it was 10:48, so not too much longer to wait.  

We pedaled back to the Immigration office, locked up our bikes, and waited on the second-story balcony outside.  Fortunately, there was a great breeze, and as I mentioned, it was a beautiful day.  We got to watch the goings-on at the San Pedro airstrip as we waited, as well as all the golf carts, bikes, pedestrians, and taxi cabs passing by on the street down below.  Here's our view from the balcony:
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The recently repaved runway looks good!
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Here's where we pay our tourist visa fee each month
After we'd been waiting a few minutes, the couple we'd been talking to before showed back up.  Turns out that they are from the nearby island of Caye Caulker and read our blog.  So if you're reading this, guys, hello!  They were picking up their self-employment permits today.

At about 11:10, the Immigration office door finally opened.  Fortunately, the employees all seemed to be in really good moods.  Either their meeting was really productive, or the refreshments included some rum punch!  It was good to see them smiling, though; it certainly made our visit there more pleasant. 
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At last, the door opens!
As they say, when in Belize, you have to live on island time and be flexible!
5/23/2012 05:22:23 am

Can't wait to have that kinda freedom! So glad that the rain moved on and you had a beautiful day to be on "island time". =)

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JoAnn
5/24/2012 03:40:20 am

How interesting. I don't want to think about what people would have been saying if that happened here in NY. In my view, the thought of a relaxed and flexible life style sounds heavenly :)

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BeBelize Emily
5/27/2012 12:15:11 am

Yes, it's a good thing we're retired so we CAN be flexible! Living on an island, you definitely have to be.

5/27/2012 12:02:24 am

I don't miss that immigration process ONE BIT! Residency is worth it just to avoid that line. Ugh.

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BeBelize Emily
5/27/2012 12:17:33 am

We have not found the lines to be too long, Rebecca. But the office has never been closed when it's supposed to be open until this time. The funniest experience we had when waiting in line once was a tiny Belizean baby getting her passport picture made. The mother was holding the baby up, and the officer taking the picture had to do it over and over to make sure the baby's eyes were open and its head was in the exact right place. I was amazed how strict they were even on a baby's passport photo. Also was amazed the baby wasn't absolutely WAILING having to go through this for so long. Finally, he got a shot he was happy with, and everyone waiting in line clapped and cheered!

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