Wade the Gringo

Monday, December 26, 2011



Living in Belize is an adventure! The majority of the roads are dirt, the traffic laws are lax, there are few police, the borders are porous, corruption by government officials is rampant and overt, there are scary tropical diseases, deadly snakes and health care is relatively primitive. Heck, those are the things I like! On the flip side the violent crime rate is astronomical, the justice system is a joke and violent offenders regularly walk free. It’s like anything goes and I try not to be surprised or outraged at the most recent inexplicable thing. Competent and responsible people are generally left to themselves but if you draw the attention of the police they might just beat the crap out of you, well, maybe probably not you. Life here can have an edge to it and it is not for everyone.
There is a common expression in parts of Africa that could apply to Belize, ”A.W.A.” Africa Wins Again. It does not mean that anyone actually wins, quite the opposite. The phrase is uttered as things perceived as reasonable to accomplish are not because it seems that people and forces beyond our control are inexplicably working against us. It could easily be a popular expression here in Belize, “B.W.A.” Belize Wins Again!
So, why live in Belize? A friend and I were recently kicking around ideas about how we would sell “Life in Belize” without the slick, glossy effect of the tourist brochures or the schmoozy realtor blowing sunshine up your shorts. We thought there should be a little more realism than the “Living in Paradise” angle and sought to boil it down to what we love about this country. The answers were freedom, adventure, cultural diversity, untouched land and the incredible value you can get for your dollar. We never agreed on what might be a good tag line but thought “Land of the Free” was pretty accurate.
Belize is a free land and I feel free as I go about my daily life. If I want to build a deck on my house I don’t need a government official to approve it. If you own property you can generally do with it what you want. While I think this country needs more police officers I also find it refreshing that every time I look in my rear view mirror there is not a cop deciding if they should pull me over. I like that I am able to make my own decisions regarding how I drive, if I want to make a U-turn, for example, it’s ok. People can still ride in the back of pick-up trucks. You can ride a bicycle without a helmet. I just don’t think I need the government making day to day choices for me, I see where their choices have landed them and I’m not impressed. Some of my friends have said that the lack of government involvement in our lives is similar to the way the US was in the 1950’s. In Belize the government simply does not have the resources to be intimately involved in our lives, although I suspect they would if they could.
A major draw for foreigners considering moving to Belize (or buying property here) is the value they get for their dollar. Taxes, for example, are ridiculously low. On the 165 acres that our Barton Creek Outpost is on the annual taxes are a whopping $500US a year. My friend owns a million dollar resort on the beach in Placencia and his property taxes are $75US a year. He pre-pays multiple years at a time. Hello!! My in-laws are trying to downsize from their 10 acres on an island golf course in southwest Florida because their property taxes are a burden. The Income Tax in Belize is about 30% but there are plenty of ex-pats living here who will say, “There’s an income tax?” Sales tax on most items is 12% and there is no Capital Gains tax.
The cost of property in Belize can still very reasonable as well and there are great deals everywhere. I often hear, “I wish we bought land here 20 years ago…” well, 20 years from now this will be 20 years ago and they’ll be saying the same thing. Here are a few examples:
A 245 acre Mennonite farm for sale for $300,000. It has multiple buildings, 2 creeks and year round, drinkable, fresh water spring.
13 acres of undeveloped property adjacent to Chaa Creek Resort for $17,000.
A simple home on 8 acres with a teak farm for $89,000.
Seakunga Beachside Resort for just over a million and the property taxes are only $75 a year!
Here are some common living expenses…
Annual vehicle insurance is about $250US. Annual registration, $100.
Loaf of bread, $1.50
Pound of ground beef, $2.00
Gallon of milk, $8.00
Dozen eggs, $1.50
5 Gallon jug of bottled water, $2
Bottle of good rum, $10
Bottle of beer in the grocery store, $1.50. Beer in a bar, $2.00. Downside….there are only a few types of beer available
Good dinner in a restaurant, $15.00 (alcohol not included)
Gallon of gas, $5.30
Electronics here are twice the price they are in the US.
Beautiful hardwood furniture and custom kitchens are inexpensive.
I had my appendix removed here for about $2,000.
I also appreciate Belize because I have found it educational living in a place where less than 5% of the population has the same skin color as me. Here is a rough breakdown of the ethnic makeup of Belize according to the 2010 Census:
Latino: 50% Creole: 20% Maya: 10% Caucasian (including Mennonites): 5% Garifuna(black): 5% East Indian: 2% Asian: 1% Other: 7%
That kind of ethnic diversity lends itself to a wide range of art and music although I admit to being disappointed in the variety of food. The local food is excellent but it is all pretty similar. There, I said it.
It is not the average North American that travels to Central America, much less moves here. The people that come here and stick are, well, different. They have been able to recalibrate their lives and thought processes and often have done so late in life. They have developed working relationships with other cultures and, if not blend in then at least learn to live alongside. Coming here from the United States has brought challenges for me that I did not anticipate and with the help of friends, family and faith we have been able to meet those challenges. I’ve only been here since 2004 and who knows, Belize may yet chew me up and spit me out but I’ll always be thankful for my time here. It is a land full of beauty, opportunity and hard lessons. We came to an exotic land looking for an adventure and found one. If you are you looking for something different then maybe Belize is for you. If you want to talk about it feel free to contact me.For Photos and comments CLICK HERE.

Monday, December 19, 2011

SAN PEDRO SCOOP! An Expat's Daily Blog in Belize: Evil Lion Fish, A Wet Holiday Parade and Roadkill ...

SAN PEDRO SCOOP! An Expat's Daily Blog in Belize: Evil Lion Fish, A Wet Holiday Parade and Roadkill ...: What is one of the most dangerous and dreaded fish in the Caribbean Sea? Bull shark? No. Moray Eel? Nuh uh. It's the small, beautiful b...


Join us as we thank the Maya for some of the most incredible foods that have moulded our cultures throughout the times. Here’s a list of 10 Maya foods that changed the world’s eating habits:

The ancient Maya civilization — which ranged from the Yucatán Peninsula to Chiapas and Tabasco states, part of Veracruz state and as far south as Honduras — is well known for perfecting architectural techniques that produced towering cities, and for developing an advanced written language and creating books centuries before anything comparable appeared in Europe. The Maya also were gifted mathematicians who developed the concept of zero. And their astronomers, through centuries of patient observation, created a 365-day solar calendar that varies by less than 2 seconds from the one we use today — more accurate than what Cortés was using when he landed in 1519.
Lost among the laurels heaped upon the Maya, though, is credit for their agricultural wizardry. When the conquering Spanish started carrying Maya food staples back to Europe and to the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, it changed the world’s eating habits. We’re not talking about the Yucatán’s deliciously exotic lime-and-achiote concoctions but food you buy every day in Safeway’s produce aisles. Just try to get through a day without:
Legions of chocoholics would argue that the Maya’s “food of the gods,” made from the toasted, fermented seeds of the cacao tree, is the New World’s greatest gift to civilization. Though Cortés learned of chocolate from the Aztecs, they had acquired it through trade with the Maya, who first cultivated it about 3,000 years ago. Maya and Aztec aficionados drank their chocolate bitter and spicy; sugar was unknown before the conquest. Even today, chocolate in the Yucatán may be flavored with paprika, annatto or even pepper. But it was more than a drink to the Maya, who believed it came from the gods and formed a bridge between heaven and earth. Cacao seeds were an early form of money, and archaeologists have uncovered counterfeit seeds made of clay.
Vanilla (vainilla)
The elixir from the world’s only known edible orchid, probably first cultivated by the Totonaca in neighboring Veracruz state, had become a common flavoring for the Maya’s chocolate drinks by the 1500s. Vanilla, too, was adopted by the Aztecs, who introduced it to Cortés. Spanish and Portuguese explorers who brought it to Africa and Asia in the 16th century named it vainilla, or “little pod.” Southern Mexico’s jungle is still the only place the Vanilla planifolia orchid grows wild, pollinated by native, non-stinging bees that produce Maya honey. Today’s prized Tahitian vanilla, which came from Mexican stock, requires hand-pollination.
Corn (maíz)
Every elementary-school kid knows corn was the most important food in the Americas. The Popul Vuh, the Maya “bible,” attributes humankind’s very existence to this domesticated strain of wild grass. In its creation myth, the “Creators and Makers” fashioned man from tender kernels of yellow and white corn after failed attempts with mud and wood. Though corn was a dietary staple in most of Mexico as long as 6,000 years ago, it was the Maya who first cultivated it around 2500 B.C., abandoning their nomadic ways to settle in villages surrounded by cornfields.
Chiles were cultivated in the Americas as long as 7,500 years ago. Blame Christopher Columbus for mistaking them as relatives of black pepper, native to southern Asia, but give him credit for spreading them throughout the world. The release of endorphins, increased heart rate, mental stimulation and euphoria provoked by chiles’ capsaicinoids — the ingredient that makes them taste hot —qualifies them as psychoactive plants. Southern Mexico’s Capsicum annuum species, with its many cultivars, is crucial to nearly every fiery cuisine in the world.
Tomatoes (tomates)
Even the Italians had to make do without tomato sauce before Columbus set out for the New World. Precursors originated in Peru, but the tomato as we know it came from the Yucatán, where the Maya cultivated it long before Cortés first encountered one in an Aztec market around 1520. Native versions were small, like cherry tomatoes, and probably yellow rather than red. Two years after Cortés brought the tomato back to Spain, it made its way to Naples — then under Spanish rule — where invention of the pizza made tomato sauce a necessity of life. Once believed poisonous because they are related to the deadly nightshade, tomatoes are now a staple of nearly every cuisine in the world.
Black beans (frijoles negros)
Archaeological digs indicate the black bean originated in southern Mexico and Central America more than 7,000 years ago. With their meaty flavor and velvety texture, black beans are still the favorite in and around the Yucatán, where they may turn up in almost any dish. They have spread widely throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, and the southern United States, becoming an important part of the many regional cuisines.
Avocado (aguacate)
From its origins in southern Mexico, where it was prized as an aphrodisiac — the Aztecs called it ahuacatl, meaning “testicle,” and kept their daughters indoors during harvest season — the avocado spread north to the Rio Grande and south to central Peru before Europeans encountered it. The sexual association carried through the 19th century, when growers who wanted to cultivate avocados commercially first had to mount a campaign to persuade the public that eating avocados did not equate to licentiousness. Mexico is still the world’s main source of avocados.
Sweet potato (camote)
Sweet potatoes are native to the tropics from the Yucatán to Venezuela, and the Maya domesticated the plant at least 5,000 years ago. By 2500 B.C., sweet potatoes had spread throughout the Caribbean and South America. Sweet potatoes belong to the genus Ipomoea, which includes morning glories. Though commonly confused with the yam, what we know as yams are simply another variety of sweet potato. True yams are native to Africa; when slaves from that continent were deposited in North America they adopted sweet potatoes as a substitute for the tuber they had eaten in their homeland and called it by the familiar name.
Squash (calabaza, calabacita)
Though corn and beans are better-known Mexican natives, squash predates them by several thousand years; Maya people domesticated several varieties of squash as early as 8000 B.C. Oils from these seeds were the main source of dietary fat before the Spanish introduced beef and pork. Though the native plants included cucumber, zucchini, patty pan and butternut squash, great quantities of pumpkin — la calabaza grande — defines the Yucatán diet even today. Toasted, ground pumpkin seeds still appear on menus even more than the flesh.
Though it’s more closely associated with Hawaii now, all indications are the papaya originated in the tropics of southern Mexico and Central America. After the Spanish carried seeds to Panama and the Dominican Republic, cultivation spread throughout South and Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Pacific Islands, India and parts of Africa. It has became naturalized in many areas and still grows wild along Mexican roadsides. Hawaii, where papayas first arrived in the 1800s, is the only U.S. state to grow them commercially.

So there you have it, the next time you are enjoying a complimented meal of Corn, Avocado, Chiles, Tomatoes, Squash, Papaya, Black Beans, Sweet Potato, Vanilla or Chocolate — do remember to thank the ancient Maya.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Top Secret Famous Recipes Wendy's Taco Bell KFC McDonald's 660 Recipes eBook


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Top Secret Famous Recipes Wendy's Taco Bell KFC McDonald's 660 Recipes eBook
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