Friday, September 23, 2016

Independence Day, Ranchito Style

As I mentioned in my previous post, Wednesday was Independence Day here in Belize. We, along with our friends, Colleen and Bruce, decided to check out some of the festivities at the Ranchito Community Center.

Here's a shot of Colleen and Fernando Daniel.

Not only is he our Ace Master Gardner, but he also happens to be the newly elected Chairman of the Ranchito Village Council. And let me tell you, he is one of the most hard working, honest men I have ever known and we are proud to call him a friend. 

The festivities kicked off with a parade of local school children. Dressed in their school uniforms, all of the them sported flags and horns. Some even had patriotic (albeit temporary) tattoos.

The smallest munchkins got to ride in style.

And to keep the pace moving, there was even a drum corps.

Some of the children carried banners, including one displaying this year's theme.

We were also delighted to see the 2015 Queen of Ranchito and her successor, who was crowned later in the day. Aren't these beautiful young ladies?

I should note that the feel-like temperature was about 103 degrees. How they managed not to break a sweat is beyond me.

Later in the day there were a number of family-friendly festivities, followed by a dance.

While waiting for the parade to start, I took shots of some of the recent upgrades at the center. The Village Council and a number of other volunteers put in countless hours to make these enhancements happen in a very short period of time. 

The exterior of the center was repainted...

...and festooned with all manner of flags.

The fence surrounding the center also got fresh paint.

The base of the commemorative statue has been cleaned, and the angel on top repainted.

Also outside, in the back of the center, there are two new bathrooms. There are also two inside the center itself.

And speaking of inside the center, there were plenty of decorations.

The oscillating fans flanking both sides of building are new and very welcome during these hot and humid days.

The Council also had someone refurbish the flag painting, which turned out great.

While all of these upgrades coincided with the Independence Day celebrations, there are long-term benefits as well. Frequently, visiting nurses use the center to do children check-ups, missionary groups come stay, and the local school uses the building and its facilities for various activities. 

In my humble opinion, the Village Council has done an outstanding job -- not only for Independence Day, but for long-term benefit of the village. So happy and proud to live here!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Slices of Life in Belize - Septermber 15, 2016


Some sad news to report. We recently had to put our dog, Sam, down. He contracted tick fever back in January, but thanks to the ministrations of our vet, Dr. Charles, Sam made a recovery. But we were warned that a relapse could happen at any time.

A little over a week ago, we noticed he started to exhibit the same symptoms as before -- no interest in food or water and being very lethargic. Dr. Charles confirmed our suspicions and pumped him full of antibiotics and vitamins. Later that day, Sam's temperature had dropped from 103.5 down to 101 degrees. Things were looking up.

But the next morning, his temperature spiked at 104.5 and he still refused food and water. He was so spent, he could barely walk. Dr. Charles made a house call and, after looking Sam over, told us his liver and kidneys were shutting down.

While we know we made the right decision, it was still heart wrenching. We take comfort in the fact that he had a good life, was well loved, and one of the bravest dogs I've ever known. I mean he took on anteaters, twice!

Sam -- good, loving, and missed.


On a happier note, September in Belize is like a never-ending party. Why? Because 21 September is Independence Day and every district in the country uses the entire month to host various festivities. 

This year Belize turns 35 years old and this is this year's theme:

You can read about the history of Belize here.

In Corozal, parades of all kinds are scheduled, as well as a block party, Carnival Jouvert, dances, and of course, fireworks. 

And our small village of Ranchito has a bevy of events slated for next Wednesday including a children's parade, the crowning of the Queen of Ranchito, family friendly festivities and a free dance. Pictures of all the fun will be posted on the Ranchito Village Council Facebook page. 

National motto: SUB UMBRA FLOREO ("Under the shade I flourish")

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Pool Project Update: The Fates Have Their Say

Well it's been a little over a month since our pool project was completed, and I thought it might be a good time to share how things have been going.

For starters, we have been very pleased that the screens have been doing their job by keeping leaves and bugs out of the pool. Other than an occasional dusting of marl, the pool water looks pristine.

The screens also lend a real Zen feeling to the space. You feel like you're outdoors, but can enjoy the space without being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

We took delivery of our furniture for the seating area and it is awesome!

The day bed has become my personal nesting area. You can find me stretched out on it most afternoons, reading a book, and sipping a cold beverage.

The recliners are also very comfy in all three positions, straight up...

...foot rest up...

...and fully reclined.

Before the furniture arrived, we were trying to figure out what to do for a coffee table. We landed on the idea to tile the top of a spare table we already had using the leftover floor and decorative tiles. David did an awesome job.

An added bonus is that the decorative tiles coordinate perfectly with the patterned throw pillows.

In addition, David found the perfect spotlight to show off the pool at night.

It took Olivia, our mostly indoor dog, a couple of weeks to feel comfortable being in the pool area, but not so much for the cat. She immediately claimed the space as her very own. I truly believe she thinks we had it built just for her, including the ginormous water bowl. Yes, she drinks out of the pool. Sigh.

David also got the solar heating installed to warm the pool water.

He is going to put together a post describing what all is involved and how this works. We are still experimenting with it to maximize the pool temperature, but once final tweaks are done, I think it will enable us to use the pool almost year round.

Now with all these developments, you might think we've been spending every spare minute bobbing around in the water and relaxing. Unfortunately, The Fates had other ideas.

For starters, the crew and no sooner left when we both came down with nasty colds. Actually, David caught it first and, being the generous soul that he is, passed it on to me. We spent about 10 days hacking and sneezing and generally feeling yucky. It wasn't a big surprise, considering we were pretty run down from lack of sleep and the stress of the construction. And we weren't the only ones who were run down.

Poor Olivia developed a severe topical fungal infection. She has always had some skin issues, but this was worse than anything she had had in the past. The vet thought that besides being prone to this type of thing to begin with, the noise from the construction, all the crew being onsite, plus the concrete dust just exacerbated her condition. So to get her over it, she needs to be bathed every other day, for a month, with a special shampoo. After that, weekly baths, with the same shampoo will continue forever.

No sooner were we all recovering than rainy season started. We got our first really torrential rain on June 5. Why might I remember this date? Because it's the day our house flooded. You see, there are two 40 foot gutters on either side of the pool structure, plus we had the 40 foot run on the back of the main house replaced. The construction crew had all three gutters draining into one 2-inch diameter pipe. We expressed our concerns that the pipe diameter might be too small to handle the runoff of 140 feet of gutters, but we were told not to worry. And initially, all seemed to be good.

But then the storm hit. The rain was coming down hard and fast. That small, 2-inch pipe couldn't handle the runoff. The next thing we knew water was coming up through the floor drains in the seating area. The water then started flowing down the new hallway, into the spare room, and made it's way into the living room, kitchen, and front porch. 

I called the contractor and using a tone that clearly brooked no argument, demanded he get his butt over here to do something to stop this. While waiting for him to arrive, David and I were using mops, a squeegee and buckets to combat the water that continued to spread. 

The contractor arrived and it was decided to cut the downspout on the pool house so the water would just flow directly to the ground. That meant there was no more water backing up through the house, but we had our work cut out for us. Our couches and area rug were soaked and to make matters even more interesting, we lost power. So there we were, in the dark, trying to cope with all this. 

And being the graceful being that I am, I ended up slipping not once, not twice, but three times. In all three instances, I landed on my tailbone and ended up bruising the left side of my ribs.

However, we were finally successful in getting most of the water sopped up and were able to salvage the couches and area rug.

The following day, the construction crew showed up and modified the drainpipes. They ended up installing three pipes, one for each gutter, and digging a deep soak away that was filled with rock and gravel.

Since this modification was made, we've had a number of big thunderstorms and all is working well.

But wait, The Fates weren't done with us just yet. It was around this time that a glass jar fell from the drainboard, hit the tile floor, and shattered. David ended up having a shard embedded in his left foot somewhere between his little toe. At first he thought it would work itself out, but it didn't and became very painful.

He went to see Dr. Punjabi (an awesome doctor) and he wanted David to get an X-ray. A prescription was written and off David went to the hospital. He opted to have expedited service and had to pay a whopping $24 BZD ($12 USD). Try getting an X-ray for that price in the States.

Unfortunately, the X-ray didn't show any discernible shard, but Dr. P. thought he might have some luck if he cut open David's foot to probe and flush the area. After being given a local anesthetic, the operation got underway. I was in the room with the two of them and Dr. P. gave a running commentary of every step of the procedure. He even invited me to take a look as he probed (insert wince here). 

And while he didn't find any foreign object in David's foot, he suspected and hoped that the shard was either flushed out or moved away from the nerves and no longer be painful.

All in all, the whole process took about an hour. The cost for the procedure, plus antibiotics ran about $170 BZD ($85 USD). Talk about a bargain.

I am happy to report that David's foot healed up just fine and he no longer has any stabbing pains. My ribs and tailbone are just about back to normal, so all is good on that front. And even Olivia is looking and feeling better from her every other day spa treatments.

We are supremely hopeful that The Fates are finished with us, at least for a while. In spite of the weird events, we have managed to bob around the pool a handful of times and it is just lovely. The whole space has exceeded our expectations and I find myself wandering out there many times during the day. Considering everything that has gone on in the last month, it's wonderful to have a peaceful haven to relax and unwind. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pool Project: Week Nine

Week nine is a wrap and we are 99% complete. The crew is coming by tomorrow to finish up some things, which I'll get to in a moment. But first, I want to share this:

Not too shabby, huh?

But it took quite a bit of work from the crew last week to get it to this point. For starters, they had to finish the steps leading up to the pool. Here they are in their almost finished state. White paint has since been put on the risers, which really makes the tile pop.

In the very near future, we will be installing a grab bar from the column to someplace on the wall below the screen.

And speaking of screens, you might remember that the week before last the crew built the frames. Last week was spent stapling the screening to the frames. Now the thing about the type of screen we chose to use is that it really needs to be stretched a lot to avoid wrinkles and sagging. As a result, the frames were bowed from the tension. It took some time on David's part to come up with a way for the guys to affix the frames without damaging them or the concrete. With the use of a jack, all got fitted in.

In the above shot, you can see the triangular openings for screens. These frames were very tricky to cut, due to all the angles. David, again, came to the rescue to help the guys figure it all out and even made templates for them.

While all that was going on, a new crew member stopped by. Say "hi" to Bob, the temporary block supervisor.

Bob kept a beady eye on all the goings-on, including the installation and painting of the soffits.

One of the critical tasks that also happened was applying the Diamond Brite to the interior of the pool. It's messy work, especially as once it is applied, the entire area needs to be acid washed to help bring out aggregate color. We opted for a blue hue, but when we saw the final result, it appeared like a dingy gray. Big disappointment, but there was nothing that could be done. 

Then an interesting thing happened. We started filling the pool and magic!

The water changed color! Here's what it looks like completely filled.

Hard to believe, isn't it?

While the guys were doing their stuff, David was busy doing his, meaning installing the fans...

...and two of the four sconces he made.

So after all of this activity, that's how we arrived here.

This morning, I wandered out with my coffee to take it all in, as well as this hideous view:

The cat even took a gander.

And if you're wondering what our dog, Olivia, thinks of the new space, we can't coax her to come out there. We suspect she has been so wigged out over all the noise and activity these last nine weeks that she needs time to readjust.

And if you're wondering if we've been swimming yet, the answer is no. The main reason is that to effectively cure the Diamond Brite, the water needs to circulate for 24 hours. We're experiencing a problem with too much air in the lines. Investigations are underway as to the cause and what adjustments are needed.

Another reason we haven't been in the pool yet is that until the water circulation is complete, there is still a level of acid. Not a huge amount, but enough that you don't want to be bobbing around for long or going underwater. That being said, we are supposed to scrub the interior surface every day, and initially twice a day, for the next couple of weeks. I will be sure to report back on how that all goes.

We were rather surprised that once the pool was full of water, it was already 82 degrees. But late yesterday afternoon, it was all the way up to 86 degrees. Nice!

So where does this leave us? Well, tomorrow some of the crew are coming back to touch up paint, plus touch up the wood with stain and varnish. The guys making the screen door are supposed to show up and do that install. The crew also will be clearing out all their equipment from David's shop, so he can reclaim that area. And last, but not least, another coat of sealer will be put on the deck.

Once that's all done, we will be officially finished and on budget, I might add. But between now and then, I plan to spend most of this Sunday in the seating area with a big grin on my face.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pool Project - Week Eight

It was estimated at the onset of this project that work would be completed by the end of last week. The crew is very close, but holidays and whatnot have pushed the end date to sometime this week.

And even though this was a short week (Monday was a holiday), the crew accomplished quite a bit.

Most of the wood frames for the screens have been assembled. We should start to see them going in tomorrow.

Gutters have been made and installed.

They are made from PVC pipe and, if you look closely at the top picture, the guys cut a narrow channel on the top. Water collects from the roof, but minimal debris. Pretty clever.

Painting is almost done, including the exterior and interior of the pump house.

Once the plumber and electrician arrive this week, the pump/filter will be installed.

The floor tile in the seating area is also almost done.

The floor has been grouted, but the four-inch surround still needs to be done. Oh, and the bottom step you see here also needs to be finished and painted. 

At this very moment, David is installing the brackets for the two ceiling fans that will be in this area. It will be nice once they are installed so they no longer live in our spare room bathroom.

We had thought that the pool and deck would be acid washed last week, but due to a lot of ash produced from cane and field burns, it won't happen until this week, once the screens are in.

So, starting tomorrow we have the following things to look forward to:

  • Screen installation
  • Completion of painting
  • Acid washing deck and pool
  • Installation of switches and outlet covers
  • Completion of half-round steps in the seating area
  • Pool pump/filter install and testing
  • Job site clean-up

But best of all, if all goes according to plan, we can fill the pool. It's hard to believe that by this time next week, we could be bobbing around enjoying a refreshing adult beverage! Keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pool Project - Week Seven

Well, the crew faced some challenges this week, but was still able to achieve a number of milestones.

As you may recall from my Week Five post, the crew spent a great deal of time rendering the columns and walls to create a smooth finish. 
Once all the surfaces were cured, Mr. Mario went around and started tapping the columns and walls. It seems that on another project he has going, the crew ran into a problem with the final coats of cement not adhering properly. Sure enough, he identified a bunch of spots on our structure that had the same problem.

As a result, those hollow spaces needed to be chipped out and redone. And while it was a bit of a setback, we were glad that Mr. Mario took the time to check into it. The last thing anyone of us would like to see are cracks.

With that work out of the way, the crew started installing the zinc roof panels.

And this is where the next challenge cropped up. It seems the screws that come as part of the roofing "kit", were too long. If used, we would be seeing the pointy screw ends every time we looked up at the ceiling. Not exactly the look we were shooting for. David checked around at hardware stores in town, but shorter screws aren't available.

The solution? Mario had one of his guys, using a chop saw, cut the ends off of a slew of the screws. Somehow, all of his fingers were still intact by the time he was done. 

While the roofing work was underway, a couple of the other guys were putting the decorative tile in the pool.

In the meantime, the glass block was installed in the new hallway.

Once the tile work was done in the pool, the entire structure was power washed. When the surface around the pool was dry, the guys taped off the area around the pool's perimeter where Diamond Brite would be applied.

Mr. Mario's plan was to spread a thin coat on the deck surface and around the bull nose. His reasoning was that if it's a thin coat it would still provide grip, and it would eliminate people stubbing their toes if a thicker coat would be applied.

When David went out to see how it was going, he noticed brown specks in the aggregate.

Hmmm, what was up with this? After some head scratching and emails to our supplier, we finally hit on the answer. As the guys were applying the Diamond Brite with a trowel, they were inadvertently collecting little bits of untreated cement that the power washer didn't remove. David picked out as many brown cement specks as possible all the way around the pool and it now looks like it should.

And just to keep things interesting, while the Diamond Brite was going on, the painter showed up and spent a couple of days priming the walls, columns, and pump house.

Here's a view from the south end...

...and from the west.

This week's activities will include applying Diamond Brite inside the pool, more painting, putting the finishing touches on the south end fascia board and the rafters, and maybe gutter installation. Once the painting is finished, the frames and screens can be assembled and installed. Oh, and there is also hooking up the pool pump and installing all the electrical boxes, outlets, and switches.

I must say that even though there is still work to be done, we are definitely in the home stretch. And even in its uncompleted state, there's a spa-like sense to the place. Without a doubt, we love it and anticipate spending quite a bit of time out here.

Matter of fact, as this is our first day off in three weeks, I think I'll grab a chair, go out to the seating area and just be for a bit.