Sunday, December 28, 2014

Slices of Life from Belize: December 28, 2014

Driver's License

Now that we’ve acquired Permanent Residency, we can move ahead with getting our Belize Driver’s Licenses. The first step was to get our Social Security cards. Natural born Belizeans are entitled to a variety of benefits, similar to ones found in the States. However for expats, the Social Security card provides a means of official identification – other than your passport.

The process was easy-peasy. We visited the local Social Security office, filled out a short form, had our pictures taken, and a week later picked up laminated cards. Mine is good for 10 years, then will have to be renewed. David, being of a certain age, received a gold card with no expiration date and is entitled to receive small discounts at local pharmacies, some stores, and other businesses that have enrolled in the Seniors program.

Our next stop will be the Ministry of Works sometime in the coming weeks to apply for driver’s licenses. Our understanding is that you can pay to have them expire in one or three years. Will report back with more details once we’ve gone through the process.

Banana Blossoms

I caught an episode of Chopped not long ago and one of the mystery ingredients the chefs had to use were banana blossoms. I was like, “What the heck are those?” Even a couple of the chefs had never encountered them. After doing some online research, I discovered that this is the source of the blossoms:

When you peel off the outer leaves, the pale green ones are very similar to artichoke hearts. And guess what? We have these blossoms in our very own backyard.

Fernando was kind enough to cut a small one for me so I could experiment with it. After doing all the peeling...

...I put the leaves in some acidulated water so they would keep their color. 

As I was making a stir fry dish that night, the leaves got tossed in with the veggies.

To be honest, the banana blossoms really don’t have much taste. Then again, neither do non-brined artichoke hearts. And while there are a number of “gourmet” ingredients that are difficult to find here (if available at all), I think it’s rather cool that we have something exotic within reach of a ladder.

Cable TV
When we moved here 2 ½ years ago, there was no access to cable television at our house. At the end of our lane, yes, but the cable company had no plans of extending it down to us.

The only other option we had was to go with a satellite dish provider. As I recall, there were only two dish providers to choose from back then and both were based in Canada. We decided to go with Shaw Direct.

And while we had access to nearly 200 channels, we came to find that many shows were duplicated.  If we wanted access to channels like HBO, Showtime, Encore, etc., they couldn’t be purchased separately. They were part of a bundle of channels, most of which we knew we would never watch. We also discovered that often the HD channels wouldn’t be available or only available at certain times of the day. On top of that, we had the privilege of paying an additional $6 every month because we were using our US-based credit card to pay our bill. But crappy satellite was better than no satellite.

From time to time, we would check with the cable company to see if their plans had changed and even offered to pay to have the cable run to our place. Still no dice, until about two months ago.

We saw one of the cable guys at the end of our lane and asked if there was any chance of extending service to our place. He said that his supervisor in Orange Walk would need to make that decision. We were given the supervisor’s name and number and David got in touch with him.

After repeated calls, the supervisor finally agreed that it would be an excellent idea to run cable to our place. The only problem was they didn’t have enough cable on hand to make it happen. Weeks passed, more calls were made, and finally, finally on Christmas Eve our cable dreams came true.

The reception is way better than we expected and we get a whole slew of premium channels. Best part about it is that it costs almost half of what we were paying for the dish and we didn’t have to pay any installation costs because of a holiday special the cable company is running until the end of the year.