Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hints and Tips for Driving in Belize

About a year and a half ago I blogged about what an adventure it is to drive in Belize.

To underscore what it's like on the roads here, I am sharing a recent Facebook post by a fellow expat, Damon Russell, on his hints and tips for what to expect. Take it away Damon...

Having no towing, roadside assistance, or much by way of service stations in Belize, driving a car here requires a slight rethink of what to bring and how to determine if you should or shouldn’t go on. Here’s a few tips:

In addition to a spare tire and jack and lug wrench, I’d suggest you also carry basic tools, a recovery strap to get you out of the drains, a heavy hammer to bang the bent rims back to stop the tires from leaking after potholes. A tire pump is another must-have accessory, as well as bungee cords, zip ties, steel wire, etc. A machete is also a good thing to have. The smaller one works good for the car. If you wander deep in the bush, a chainsaw might be a good idea as well.

If your battery goes dead, a “jump start” in Belize usually involves the helper removing the battery from his car and either turning it upside down over yours while you start your car, OR they’ll remove your battery, install theirs, let you start your car, then switch them back.

If you have a pickup with NOBODY in the back (pan), they’ll look at you funny. Stop and give them a ride. 10-15 people is about the limit for passengers, although at the checkpoints they may balk at 5 to 7, depending on who’s driving, and who’s in the pan.

Seat belts are to be worn at all times, when proceeding through police checkpoints. Put them on at least 100 feet before the policeman and put down your beer, or hand it to the passenger, unless they’re a small child.

If you have a large hole in your windshield, clear shipping tape may be used to reduce wiper wear and rain entry into the vehicle during the rainy season. Otherwise, remove the glass until the first rains come, or if required to renew your registration.

If your wheels are bolted on with 5 lugs, you can break at least three off before you need to concern yourself with getting it repaired.

If you stop for tacos during your travels, do NOT forget to toss the garbage out afterwards. If you don’t, you’ll be infested with ants or TacoCats the next day.

Baygon or Fish [local bug spray] is an acceptable starting fluid for gasoline or diesel engines.

Tires have wear indicators at 2/32” tread depth as required by the USDOT. You’re not in the US, so if the tire holds air, keep going. If the belts are exposed, cut off anything that might stick out and scratch the paint.

If your car has every exterior panel the same color, it’s considered rare and increases resale value. If it also has no broken windows, it’s probably new here in Belize. Give it time to acclimate. It’ll happen soon.

Gauges, speedometers, warning lights, etc. are distractions. Pay no mind to glowing “Check engine”, “ABS”, “SRS/Airbag” warning systems and the like. Nobody cares about that stuff. Pay attention to the road, why are you looking down?

If you brought in a car with navigation and cruise control, that’s cute. If it’s a hybrid, that’s even cuter. We need them here, all we can get. Thanks!

Exterior illumination is a luxury that even government agencies can’t afford. Don’t expect that single red or white light up ahead to be a motorcycle, it’s likely another car.

In the US and Canada, they drive on the right side of the road. In England and much of the EU, they drive on the left. In Belize, we drive on both.

The first time I read this, I literally laughed out loud and almost snorted coffee out my nose. The tips on this list may sound like wild exaggerations, but I'm here to tell ya', they are not, which is why I guess I found the piece so funny. 

Thanks Damon for allowing me to share this and letting our blog readers gain some greater insights to just what kind of driving adventures we have here.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Quick Bites - Part 2

When I posted Quick Bites - Part 1 last month, my intention was to do this second post in just a matter of days. Somehow those days flew right by me. So here, one month later, I finally got my act together to present another round of meals that have appeared on the Wright Table. 

Bacon, Egg and Shrimp Fried Rice - WOW! This turned out so well and tasted great. The bacon bits added nice crunch and saltiness, while the peas offered a sweet little pop. The smell of the ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil was something I want in my kitchen more often. Just as an FYI, I don't have jasmine rice, so used regular old white rice. And I will go on the record to say I used a tad bit more bacon than the four ounces that were called for. This dish will definitely appear on the Wright Table again.

Carrot Spice Bread - You will not believe how good your kitchen will smell while the bread is baking! 

A look at the Carrot Spice Bread when cut. The recipe calls for icing on top, but I personally thought it would be overkill with the sugar and natural sweetness of the carrots in the bread itself. But hey, that's just me. 

This broccoli salad recipe was one I tagged on my Facebook timeline, much to the huge surprise of my husband and friends. It's super easy to make, and I actually kind of liked it, considering it's a vegetable. I could have cooked the broccoli just a teeny bit longer -- like 30 seconds. I'll come clean (again) and admit to crisping up some bacon to sprinkle over the top. To me this makes a nice change of pace from a regular green salad, especially when lettuce goes missing from the market. Would also make a great side dish.

Spicy Peanut and Sesame Noodles - I did my own riff on it, and we now have another "make again" dish to add to the mix. I thought I had sesame seeds, but it turns out I didn't. And of course, I couldn't find any in the few stores we stopped into. But I did have slivered almonds. Turns out they worked great for some nice crunch. Also couldn't find a red pepper, so subbed a green one. But let's discuss the sauce. It is awesome. You get a richness from the peanut butter, which if you didn't know that was one of ingredients, you would never guess. There's some nice heat from the Sriracha and everything just comes together nicely. Another nice thing is that it works well as a warm or room temp dish. Try this - you won't be sorry.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins - Made a batch of these not too long ago and was pleasantly surprised. Due to the rolled oats and whole wheat flour, these muffins are a bit denser than what you might be used to. The bananas and honey brought their sweetness to the mix, but I did cut back a bit on the amount of honey I used. We generally don't like overly sweet things, but add as much honey as to your liking. This is a great recipe for using up some of our banana crop as they ripen.

One day I made home made, whole wheat Farfalle (bow tie pasta). Easy-peasy and fun to do.

And, so those pasta pieces wouldn't be nekkid, I made a sauce that contained, among other things, red wine, chorizo, crushed red pepper, oregano, and a touch of cumin. 

Turned out great and we had leftover sauce for future pasta and pizzas.

So there you have it...food fun in Belize. Promise there will be more pics and recipes in the not-too-distant future. Really! Pinkie promise!