An American Ex-Pat in Belize, An Old Dog Learning New Tricks

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“What time is it?”

“Guess”, the beautiful blonde in my bed replies. The younger blonde stirs, not wanting to get up just yet.

“7:25?”

“7:50, it’s late”, she says. The three of us have slept in a bit. My wife, 3 year old daughter and I get up to meet the day.

“Shhhh, listen”, our daughter Cyan says as she wakes, “I hear a toucan.” Living in the jungle has its advantages and waking up to the sounds of croaking toucans, screeching parrots and the bizarre “gobbling” of the cha-cha la-ka’s is a daily treat.

Logan, our 9 year old son, has pitched a tent a short distance away at our backpackers’ campground & hostel, Barton Creek Outpost. We walk down there to find that Logan got scared during the night and chose to sleep on the ground, near some backpackers in hammocks. He’s a tough little jungle boy but he’s still a little boy. Logan is sometimes called Mogley after the kid in “The Jungle Book”.  He has lived more than six of his almost 10 years here at the Outpost and is Mogley in many respects. He once offered to take 6 backpackers on a jungle hike and about 45 minutes into it three of them, convinced they were lost, decided to break away to find their way back. Logan returned to the Outpost 20 minutes later without them & told us what happened. I gave the wayward souls another hour or so and went looking for them. I found them a short distance from our place, exhausted and in agreement, “We shouldn’t have left Logan!” He was 8 years old at the time.

Our soon to be 13 year old daughter Kaitlyn is another child of the rain forest. Three years ago we had the opportunity to get her in a “Bush Medicine Camp” hosted by internationally renowned teacher and author Dr. Rosita Arvigo. After being there a day Kaitlyn told me that the best student in camp would receive the “Director’s Bush Doctor Award” and she wanted to win it. Kaitlyn is bright, funny, artistic and a beautiful person but she had never sat in a formal classroom at that point and I hoped she wasn’t setting herself up for disappointment. At the end of the 2 week camp I sat with tears in my eyes as I watched my daughter receive Dr. Arvigo’s Bush Doctor Award. She was invited back the following year to assist the counselors and has a special relationship with “Ms. Rosita”. Today Kaitlyn regularly shows people around the Outpost property identifying medicinal plants and showing then that termites are edible. She loves to chat with her friends on Facebook, helps take care of her 3 year old sister, minds her parents and has my respect and admiration. Why was I ever worried about having a girl?

My wife and I are about to celebrate 10 years of marital bliss, we’ve been married 16 years…..but seriously folks… Our 16th anniversary is coming up and we are waffling on what to do. We do know it involves leaving the kids with friends for 2 days.  It looks as though we’ll hole up in a hotel in nearby San Ignacio with AC, TV, new movies, chocolate and one another. It might not be glamorous but it sounds like an excellent way to spend a couple of days!

We recently got a couple of horses at the Outpost, a momma (Shady) and her 11 month old philly. I don’t know anything about horses but thankfully one of my best friends is an expert and we have a community of Mennonites nearby and much off their lives revolves around their horses. I am surrounded by good horse people.  Our 12 year old Kaitlyn loves horses and has been spending time at Mountain Equestrian Trails (MET) learning more about riding and, more specifically, caring for horses in preparation for their arrival.

A week after the horses arrived the philly was found lying in the pasture and it looked as though we would lose her. An expert horseman & elder Mennonite was kind enough to come look at her and he had some ideas but we also went meet with their resident horse & animal guy who prescribed some meds but was not confident that she would make it through the night. I also made contact with my friend at MET and he came down that night but made the same diagnosis, bad. He, like the Mennonites, suspected a stomach issue so with some difficulty, we ran a hose through the horse’s nostrils down to its stomach, ensuring we are not in her lungs, and put vegetable oil in her stomach in hopes of potentially loosening things up. This is also a procedure the Mennonites brought up and we saw it for what it was, grasping at straws.  There were no immediate results and the next morning I found that we had lost her. A sad day to be sure and digging a giant grave for a horse in hard rocky ground didn’t make the day any better. The dreaded task was accomplished with the help of a volunteer and towards the end a Mennonite neighbor came by and showed me how to really handle a pick and shovel.  Thank you, sir.

A week later Shady surprised us with the birth of a new philly that the girls decided will be named “Luna” because of her beautiful white color. Luna is in good shape, much loved and well cared for.

Apart from horses I figure I have become a moderately competent handy man since I’ve moved to the middle of nowhere. Last night our only source of electricity, the diesel generator, wouldn’t start so I hunkered down in front of that beast and began the troubleshooting. I used to call the path to the generator the “Trail of Tears”. Today I am slightly more proficient at this kind of thing and brilliantly deduced that the injector wasn’t working properly. Well, 1st I deduced that the fuel hose was leaking so I took 30 minutes to repair it only to find it wasn’t the main problem. I then removed the injector, cleaned it, reinstalled it and the generator started right up. I was a legend in my own mind and was, in fact, celebrated at the Outpost by the people who were, only moments before, preparing dinner by kerosene lanterns and candlelight.

Living in Belize has been a new chapter in my life, one that I started just 2 months shy of my 40th birthday.  Who says that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? In the last 6 years I have learned to dig a deep grave, build a website, construct buildings, install lighting, run a rubber hose up a horse’s nose and squeeze maggots out of the skin of my family. I also barely escaped a catastrophic outhouse collapse, teetered my Land Cruiser on the lip of a 25 foot sinkhole, had dengue fever (twice), a flesh eating parasite (twice), paddled in the longest three person canoe race in the world (twice) and have killed deadly snakes (many times). Who knows what tomorow will bring?

Crap! The generator just died again, I gotta go…

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About BelizeBritts

Jim and Jacquelyn moved to Belize in 2004 after spending much of their adult lives as US Navy Deep Sea Divers. Jacquelyn specialized in the Navy's Marine Mammal Program handling sea lions and dolphins with the US Navy's Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) as well as conducting underwater repairs on navy ships. Jim was a Navy Chief specializing in underwater repairs to ships and submarines as well as operating a recompression chamber for the treatment of injured divers. They moved to Belize in 2004 from Pine Island, Florida where Jacquelyn is a 4th generation native. Jim is from all over but calls Nashville, Tennessee home. In March 2013 they moved back to Pine Island, FL to spend more time with their family.
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8 Responses to An American Ex-Pat in Belize, An Old Dog Learning New Tricks

  1. DriveGoddess says:

    As always Jim, immensely honest, informative and entertaining….congratulations to all of you for what you are doing….living life your way.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Sounds absoluetly wonderful. Wish I had the guts to do something that adventurous.

    • belizebritts says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Stephanie. This kind of life has its ups and downs, both are somewhat extreme. I have recently committed to share more of both that I might share the entire picture.

  3. tacogirl says:

    Loved your pics. What a great family adventure camping in Belize. We have camped once on AC but am itching to do it again especially since we got a new tent down here.

  4. paula himschoot says:

    You’re a great writer, Jim. When’s the book going to be out?l

    Love from your Mother in law:)

  5. Pingback: Ray Gano, Belize, Ex-pat, relocate, bugs, Prophezine, San Ignacio, Barton Creek Outpost, Shining Light Baptist Church,

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