Becoming a Resident of Belize – Living and Learning


March 2014- The roads of Belize and what happens to vehicles. Plus moving as Tourist/Residency/QRP differences. Jobs…and Belize as a family place
March 25, 2014, 4:09 pm
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2014: The roads of Belize and what happens to vehicles. Plus moving as Tourist/Residency/QRP differences. Jobs…and Belize as a family place… 5 years-we’ve been here!!!

When we moved to Belize in 2009 we brought down a 2005 Mercury Mountaineer SUV. This is a good choice as it is four-wheel-drive, has a V-6 engine and can seat several people. When we had visited in March 09 we had noticed how potholed the roads were. The Mercury Mountaineer handles the roads really well even with all the holes. Maintenance is a yearly ordeal as the roads do take their toll on the vehicle.

On another note, as we drove down, we had to pay duty on the vehicle at the border which looking back we probably wouldn’t have done the drive down had we have known what an adventure it was going to be.

Paying duty on your items when you move here is quite a hassle. People who don’t drive down and have their items shipped in a container, unless they are moving to QRP(Qualified Retired Person), have to pay duty on all items. Even the people moving as QRP have to pay shipping and a broker for all those items.

We’ve discovered that you can buy most anything down here if you just ask around.

I digress, so back to the initial story. When you’re looking at living in Belize having a vehicle is very freeing. You have the ability to go anywhere you want at any time. Unless it happens to be a very strong rainy season, which last year’s was the strongest in over 50 years time.

After we had been living in Belize for a little over year I bought a little Mercury Tracer car. It’s a good little car to get around town and handles the bumps fairly well. When we had the extra rain it even handled the flooding pretty well until the mud took over. Now my little car is in the shop having its engine replaced. I don’t think this was due to the flooding just because it is an older car.

People sometimes wonder why the roads in Belize are so bumpy. Once you’ve lived here for a while you realize that the monies are here to fix the road but somehow they don’t make it to that process. The transparency of the issue lands in the government. Belize is a small country and everyone knows why the roads are not fixed but that’s neither here nor there.

Sometimes the roads are really good especially during the dry season. It even gets so dry that the town Council comes through with a water truck sprays down the dust. After such a long rainy season everyone is looking forward to a long dry season. Were all hoping that some of the roads will be patched or possibly re-surfaced.

So if you’re looking to buy a car for Belize I would recommend an SUV not necessarily four-wheel-drive but something with a high wheelbase because some of these potholes like to eat cars.

If you’re looking to move down and are wondering if you should ship a vehicle it is entirely up to you. QRP people have an advantage as they can bring down a vehicle that is no older than two years duty free. I’ll talk more about QRP in a few minutes.

People who are looking to move down as a tourist or resident and are thinking of bringing a vehicle I would recommend buying something that is already here. Shipping and duty can be very costly. Not only that but you have to have a broker to bring in any items also.

When you buy vehicle in Belize the duty on the vehicle has already been paid and is included in the price. There is a pretty good selection and mechanics who will gladly check out the vehicle to tell you if it is a good price or not.

QRP – Residency- Tourist

When you first enter the country of Belize you are a tourist. This would be if you are visiting from a cruise ship or just passing through.

If you’ve already decided to move to Belize and are over 45 years in age and have an income of $2000 usd per month from pensions or retirement you can bring all your items in that are household, a boat, a vehicle that is at least two years old or newer duty free. You will have to hire a broker to handle customs and you will have to have a shipping company. This is a good program for retirees.

If you’re wanting to live in the country and work or you do not have the required income for the QR P program then you will have to go to immigration each month in town on Fifth Avenue and get a monthly stamp in your passport which allows you to live in the country for 30 days at a time. When doing residency program you cannot leave the country for more than two weeks in the year of waiting. The two weeks can be consecutively or it can be broken up into separate days. Sometimes immigration is a little confusing on the two week issue. Once you have lived in the country for one year you can apply for your permanent residency by going to the immigration office and asking for the paperwork. There will be a checklist involved were they will ask for copies of your passport face page, copies of your birth certificate that are official, among other things. You will be asked to go to Belmopan which is the capital for an interview and possibly a police interview. The last interview will be to receive your stamp of residency. This process can take between 3 to 6 months. Once you have your residency you no longer have to pay the exit fee to leave Belize.

Also if you’re wanting to work but are not a resident yet you will need a work permit. Permits vary in price depending on if you are a professional, volunteer, or a student. Here is a website with more information on all of the above: http://www.belize.com/residency-and-retirement-in-belize

If you come to Belize a tour as a tourist you can stay as long as you like without having to do either of these programs as long as you renew your visa with immigration in town.

When we moved here we got work permits as we knew we would have to work and this helped us to get our residency quicker. Because I had the ballet school and Brian had his consulting we were already showing that we wanted to help Belize grow as a country and this looked really good on our qualifications. We got our residency in three months.

For people wanting to move here and have a job we have noticed that there is a limited supply of spec homes. People could even do as they do in the states and buy a home cheaply then flip it. Although you would not be looking at profits like you would have in the states.

There are plenty of opportunities for people wanting to work with children. I know I’ve said that before but it is still very true.

The ability to make your life into something you want is a beautiful thing. Living in Belize is like living somewhere where you can think of an idea and bring it to true fruition. It takes time and perseverance but you can do just fine here. You may not make millions but the lifestyle is much more relaxing and you find you don’t need so much new stuff. You learn to make do with what you can find what you can make.

You make friends with locals or other individuals they become like family. Belize is a country of family. The Easter holidays are coming upon us and it’s a wonderful time to see the country come together and celebrate with their families and when they invite you to join them you know your now part of this jewel of the Caribbean.

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An adventure in Medicine south of the US Border
September 4, 2013, 5:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Living in Belize – yearly update – A Medical Experience
It is 2013 now! Hard to believe that time has flown by at such a pace, but it has and here we are.
Lately I have been updating about once a year so that I have a good juicy story to tell. Circling the corner of the New Year I had not yet come up with a good update. I had not been feeling well for some time and so had not really given it much thought. Things have quickly emerged into an interesting and refreshingly good story.
A lot of people ask about Belize and the medical options she has to offer. Over the last seven months I have been through many of her choices, but let’s start at the beginning so you get a feel for the situation and then the outcome.
In August of last year after our usual trip to the U.S. we arrived home with me not feeling 100%. I had been feeling rather strange, drained and dehydrated for some time. I had felt that maybe I was overworked from the heat, kids and ballet. After trying to hydrate and relax I noted no good changes and decided to take myself to our local doctor. By this time I had developed a back ache that was continuous like a toothache. It steadily hammered at my back and I worried I’d kidney stones or had pulled a big muscle out.
(As a side note: I will be giving credit where credit is due and try not to sweet coat my experience. Even the negatives. Belize has many well trained and well educated physicians, but as in all countries there are those who need some more learning to put it nicely)
Our local Dr. has proven himself to us various times. He is a Dr. who cares and worries about your health. He works with both American/Canadians and local Belizeans. His name is Dr. David Reyes. I would recommend him.
I digress. Back to our story.
After visiting Dr.David he expressed his thoughts that I might have a severe UTI or Kidney stones. We did the urine test and it showed bacteria in the urine. He prescribed Bactrim for 7-10 days hoping this would clear it up. I don’t like antibiotics and this one never has liked me. Needless to say it did not work and the back pain became worse. He then decided to do an Ultrasound to see if we could spot the culprit.
The ultrasound showed a mass on my right kidney. Masses are never pleasant and this caused us all worry. He immediately recommended that I find a Urologist as he knew this was not his specialty. He recommended Mexico as they have more specialists there. Brian and I do not speak Spanish well, still, and felt discouraged by this.
After googling Urologist in Belize and talking with one of my students fathers (he is a pediatrition) he gave me the number for a Dr.Rugama in Belize City who works with Belize Medical Associates. (www.belizemedical.com) This company website looked great and impressed us. It also boosted my confidence that we would find out what was going on.
Called, made the appointment and went the see the Dr.
He was a man who had moved from Nicaragua. His English was not so good. He looked at the ultrasound and quickly said “This is NOT the problem” He said it was a severe UTI. He contradicted all the medicines that Dr. Reyes had put me on and changed it up. He prescribed new drugs and said not to worry about the mass.
He seemed very nice and concerned. He’d given us his email for emergencies and his cell. All positives so we thought. After returning home and taking the new drugs (nitro something or other) Found out I was very negatively sensitive to this. Had a hydrocortozone shot to counter act the reaction (hurts A LOT) then zyertec. Texted the Dr. and he sent a new drug to try. Also made me sick.
Went back to Dr. David Reyes in town and he shook his head. He repeated his advice that we should have found someone in Mexico.
I was very sick at this time. Sometime in late September. I looked green and had the back pain worse. Dr. D did another ultrasouond and we discovered the mass had grown. Yippee.
As we were so nervous of Dr’s in Mexico and Dr. D was unsure as to who to refer us to there he tried his best to fix me.
We did urine and blood work. Cultures were done by a lab in Mexico that is much better than what we could get in town. Everything still showed bacteria and that mass.
He really worked hard to help us. I tried another list of antibiotics. Mostly with painful and bad results.
I took one called Amikacina (bad spelling) for 28 days. The max is 14 but it seemed to shrink the mass.
I looked black and blue like I’d been beat up as these were injected shots in the bottom. Ouch!!
By just before Christmas Brian told me to quit taking all the drugs. We then tried attacking from a natural approach. Vitamins, minerals, fresh fruit, veggies and herbs. This seemed to work. I felt better from not being drugged. I didn’t look green any more but I still had the back pain and felt weak and slow.
Just for the heck of it I went to see Dr. D for an unltrasound check. When we had finished the shots in December the mass had shrunk some. It did not go away but looked smaller. Well. Goodie it had grown again.
So yet again Dr. David recommended that we go to Mexico and I found myself at home searching online for a Dr. who spoke both English and Spanish. Luckily my search worked out and by some strange coincidence I found the Dr. in Merida Mexico who spoke both English and Spanish fluently and was both a urologist and an oncologist. After finding this information I contacted Dr. David in town and shared my results and he expressed that this was probably a great idea. I had Dr. David call the doctor in Mexico as I was not sure if his secretary would speak English. Luckily the Dr. himself answered.
Dr. David explained the situation to the Dr. in Mexico and he expressed concern. We also found out that the Dr. would be visiting Chetumal the upcoming Saturday and he could squeeze us and for an appointment.
That Saturday when we arrived at the clinic. (www.clinicacaranza.com ) which we were impressed with from its many specialists and the cleanliness of the facilities. We found the Dr. upstairs using the office that was a friend of his and we began the discussion of all the antibiotics, medicines, ultrasounds etc. that we had been through over the last 6 to 9 months.
He looked at the ultrasound we had and explained that it was very blurry and was not clear enough to show what he thought it might be. So he called downstairs and setup for us to have a CT scan immediately. He also went downstairs with us as he was the only one who spoke English that we knew in the clinic. The CT scan was completed quickly and the doctor came in smiling saying he knew exactly what was wrong.
We went upstairs back to the office to discuss the CT scan and what it showed. The CT scan showed that I indeed had a mass upon my right kidney and that it was cyst. The location of the cyst was pressing on the top of my right kidney which was near a lot of nerves and was what was causing the back pain. His diagnosis was to have the cyst taken off as it was the culprit of the problem.
The Dr. said that the cyst had taken a long time to grow. The cause was probably a kidney stone that had cut the kidney and produced a pocket which had turned into a cyst over time. He said that surgery would be the best option to remove the cyst but that there was no hurry.
After leaving the Dr. in Chetumal we were very relieved from his prognosis. He said the antibiotics that all the doctors had put me on had not done any good as it was a cyst and not an infection. The cyst was causing the infection.
We decided to take a trip to relax and tried to not worry about the cyst. During the vacation my back continuously hurt. The continued pain was a worry to me. I told Brian that I would rather have the thing taken off if it was possible financially.
He agreed and we set the date for the surgery to be April 24. We called the doctor, made the appointment and he said we needed to arrived the day before as the surgery would begin early in the morning.
And yet again here is another story about Mexico.
We left the Wednesday before the surgery was to take place. We had a full tank of gas, snacks in the car, water for my continuous drowning of the kidney and a map of how to get there. The Dr. in Merida said that he would meet us at the hotel and take us to the clinic where the surgery would take place as the city was very large.
The drive through Mexico was both exciting and nerve-racking as we were both worried about my kidney and the stress of driving in a place that we’d never been before. It would’ve been nice to know that when traveling in Mexico you need to have a permit to drive through the different states. We did not know this.
We arrived at the halfway point to the city that we were headed to in Mexico when we were stopped at a police check. On a side note: police checks are standard in Mexico and so we were not worried.
The policeman asked if we had the proper permit to drive through his state. In our broken English/Spanish we explained that I was on the way to have surgery the next day. He was very sympathetic but explained that he could not let us pass through the state without having the correct permit. By this time we were very upset as we did not know what to do.
Luckily I remember that the last town we had passed through had an ADO bus terminal. I told Brian maybe we can get tickets from the terminal and ride the bus. He was worried about parking the car somewhere overnight or even for a couple days.
So we decided to find a hotel to leave the car at but first we wanted to check to make sure that the bus would be indeed traveling to Merida that day. We found the bus station and check the times. There was one leaving in half an hour. This relieved a little of our stress but we still had to find parking for the car.
I remembered seeing a hotel down the road from the bus terminal that had a good secure area for parking. We drove to the hotel and explained to the desk clerk what our problem was and how we had to hurry so we can catch the bus. Their English was not so good but our broken Spanish got the point across. They even gave us a free ride to the bus terminal so we would not miss our bus.
We arrived in time to buy the tickets and get a water. By this time my nerves were shot, I was shaky, nervous and fasting because the day before surgery you cannot eat. Brian was a rock. He was upset from what had happened with the permit issue but since that had been resolved he felt better.
The bus ride was very quiet and soothing. The temperature was the typical cold that is on the ADO buses. We arrived at the bus terminal and looked for a taxi. I had written down the name of our hotel on a piece of paper and showed it to the driver so that he would know where we needed to go.
He was a great driver and would have done any NASCAR driver Proud. The city was beautiful at night. We had only heard of Merida and so this was our first trip there. It was very reminiscent of Savannah or Charleston. Lots of history, enormous buildings and very cultured. Almost like being in Miami or LA.
We arrived at the hotel a little late but they still had kept our reservations as we had paid online. The hotel was used to hosting people who would be having surgeries and so had lists of restaurants where you could order food. Brian was starving.
He ordered some food we prepared to wait. Meanwhile I got online for Facebook so that we could keep in contact with our families. The doctor just happened to be online too and I spoke to him briefly through Facebook and he said that he would meet us there an hour at the hotel if that would be okay to go over how the surgery would be. We thought this was exceptional in a Dr.
The doctor arrived within the hour and told us how the surgery would go, where we would be and that his assistant would pick us up in the morning so we would not be late. He was very reassuring and said that he had done the surgery many times and expected no problems.
The next morning the assistant was late but we expected that as it is Mexico. I just worried that we would not miss the surgery as I wanted to get this thing done and over with.
We arrived at the clinic/hospital and our Spanish assistant proceeded to check us in and find out what papers we needed to fill out. She was very sweet even though her English was very minimal.
My memory is not clear as to that day but I will try to remember as best I can.
A little after 8 o’clock I was taken into a room where the anesthesiologist asked me some questions through the Dr. as he was my translator. I had to take my contacts out of course and for some reason the nurse decided to try to partially take off my toenail polish. I would’ve gladly done that for her if someone would’ve told me the day before.
I remember lying down on the bed looking up the ceiling and everything went dark.
The surgery was supposed to take two hours when in fact it took five. Evidently I am a bleeder. I didn’t used to be so I think that all the antibiotics after months of usage had thinned my blood.
Brian was very worried. No one had told him what was going on.
When I arrived in the room for recovery I don’t know when I got there, how I got there or how long it was.
The Dr. and the staff at the hospital were fabulous.
I woke up very angry because I was in a lot of pain. Brian was just glad I was okay and had a talk with the doctor who explained why the surgery had taken longer than originally planned. He explained that cyst was larger than anticipated. (About size of a nickel if it was moon.) He also told that when cutting a kidney they tend to bleed. A stynt had been used to help the flow of blood and extra gauze to stop the flow. That was what had taken so long.
The pain was horrible. The nurses were great. I could click the button whenever I had extra pain and they would come and give me medicine.
The first night after the surgery I did not sleep well. I was in a lot of pain and Brian had been given something to help him sleep. This made him snore horribly. I tried to throw my pillow at him. I tried to throw my water bottle at him. Then I had to have the nurse come in to retrieve these items. The nurse was kind enough to supply me with something to help me sleep. I think I got two hours.
The next day I slept a lot which was wonderful. The doctor came and decided that he would put me on a different medicine as the ones that had prescribed were not working properly.
After being in the hospital for two nights we decided to leave on that Saturday because we were worried about the car.
My pain was better but still very strong and so the doctor prescribed me a morphine patch. Each patch was good for three days. I had enough to last for 12 days.
The doctor arranged for his assistant to pick us up and take us to the bus terminal so we could catch a bus at 1 o’clock. She was again late but it was expected as we knew she was late last time.
As they rolled me out to the car down the bumpy stretch of driveway I wondered why I had not tried to walk. Everything caused pain. When we got to her car her two-year-old son was inside. He decided to lock the car. Meanwhile she yelled at him in Spanish. As I was medicated this was highly funny.
We were both worried we would miss the bus as we knew we had to purchase tickets for the ride. The streets of Merida are very small and crisscrossed. We were glad to have the driver. She was on the phone with the doctor and he was navigating her through all the traffic and the roads.
We arrived at 5 to 1 and were very worried we were going to miss that bus. When we pulled into the parking lot it was a surprise to see the doctor waiting with a wheelchair and tickets that he had bought for us.
Before we had checked out of the hospital Brian had had to pay the bill. We had planned to use a credit card but the hospital and the anesthesiologist wanted cash. So Brian made many trips to the ATM. We were almost tapped out of credit.
So when we were at the bus terminal getting ready to leave finding our seats on the bus which were conveniently located near the bathroom the Dr. then came to the back of the bus where we were seated and asked if we needed any money to help us through Mexico. He was ready to take out his wallet and give us cash if we needed. We found this to be exceptional treatment from a doctor. Nowhere else have we ever met someone who went out of their way to treat you so kindly and be so helpful.
Brian smiled at the doctor and told him we were okay that we did not need the money. And with that last farewell he left the bus which then started to pull out and head towards the town where our car was.
The bus ride was uneventful and fairly smooth. Thank goodness!
When we arrived at the bus terminal and alighted from the bus we hired a bicycle taxi to take us to the hotel as I could not walk properly. When we arrived at the hotel a man who spoke English was working the front desk. From looking at us he knew that we had came from the hospital. He asked us if we were the ones who had left our car. We told him yes and then he explained to us that the people who had been running the front desk had not completely understood the situation. He said that because we had not stayed at the hotel he didn’t feel that it was right to charge us the full price of a hotel room. (We had paid 700 pesos, which seemed a lot for parking, but it was necessary at the time.) The man then gave us a complete refund of the pesos. Brian offered to pay him a little for using the space in his parking lot but the man refused. There are good people everywhere.
The car was just where he left it and looked fine. We were both a little teary-eyed from the kindness the man had given us with the parking. It was a blessing.
We then went to the gas station to fill up and get something to drink for the kidney. From there the ride was a blur as I was heavily sedated. I remember stopping at a gas station because the kidney needed to be emptied again. When I got out of the car to go to the restroom the attendant looked at me like I was a monster as I could not walk standing straight up and was hunched over like an old woman. The bandage had to be changed and I fix that then headed back to the car. Meanwhile the girl still looked at me like I was crazy.
As we got closer to the border of Belize and Mexico I told Brian that I would like to have a nice meal at the casino. He agreed that that would be fine and sounded good to him.
Here I want to give props to the people of the Las Vegas casino in Belize located in the Freezone as they are awesome and super great. Not only did they supply me with a wheelchair to help me from the car but they rolled me into the restaurant too. We have made many friends at this casino and so my appearance was a shocker. It was great to be home.
Everyone asked about my condition and if I was okay. I explained that I was doing fine and would be better in a couple weeks.
We decided to stay the night at their nice hotel. I enjoyed resting in the room while Brian went to free his mind with some much-needed medicinal gambling.
We left the next morning to come home to our house and get settled in. For two weeks I went from the couch to the bed to the couch to the bed. Brian continuously worried about me. Our surgeon/Dr. from Mexico was in constant contact with both Brian and I. Brian was afraid the morphine was affecting me badly and that I was taking off into another world.
Once the medication was finished I got to learn what withdrawal is like. It is not fun.
When I finished the patches there was a pill for me to take which was a derivative of morphine. I tried this for two days and decided that it was too much. After speaking with the doctor he and I both agreed that Tylenol would work fine as the pain was extremely less.
It had been an ordeal to get me up out of bed as the surgery had affected much of my stomach muscles.
It is now September and has been 4 months and a couple days give or take since the surgery. I have no back pain. I rarely take a pain pill rather it be Tylenol or ibuprofen. I continue to take plenty of water and healthy foods to build my strength.
We started ballet classes back on 2 September and everything is going well.
During the summer we had done a ballet class and I had had a guest teacher from Puebla, Mexico who had been schooled by Russian dancers. She was very rough on the kids but kind.
I’m still taking it easy and not overstretching and looking forward to a future with no pain.
Throughout this whole process I have discovered that there are good doctors and bad doctors everywhere. Sometimes it’s luck that you find a good one. Sometimes it’s just research. If anyone would like to know the name or contact information of my Mexican urologist/oncologist I’ll gladly pass it your way as he was a fabulous wonderful great Dr.
I know that if I ever needed him for any information I could contact him immediately.
In synopsis:
The US offers many medical options and with the new health plan that is coming into play they are likely to be less productive and comprehensive as they used to be and when thinking of living outside the US medical treatment can be a major worry for some. I would like those people to know that there are many options down here. The best advice I can give is to ask questions. If someone doesn’t know the answer they might know someone else who does.
Mexico has an extensive amount of medical facilities in various locations. They are safe locations. Not all Mexico is dangerous like the US border.
If anybody has any questions please feel free to contact me I’ll gladly try to answer them and if I don’t know what the answers are try to find out.
From this whole ordeal I feel blessed as the trip could have been a disaster. My faith kept me strong and sure did help us through this.
A thought…. “this too shall pass…”
Adios for now my friends.



A recap & Ideas for People wanting to open businesses!
January 13, 2012, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

2012 is upon us. The magic year of the end of the Mayan Calendar. Who knows what this year will bring.

To update on our life here:

We have continued to both work.

The Ballet Studio is still doing well. We’ve moved locations several times, but rent here is very flexible and Belizeans are so helpful!

On March 30th 2012 our Dance classes will be performing ‘The Wizard of Oz’ as a ballet. Wish me luck! Its been fun teaching the kids about a movie from 1939! Some have seen it and others have not clue, but they enjoy the story line.

Overall the ‘ballet’ has been a great success!

Brian’s business in Real Estate is very Seasonal! Our summer was dead. No work and so went our savings again. It happens. We’re building up and preparing for another summer. This time I’ll try to keep the ballet going even though the temperatures will melt the strongest of heat seakers.

Also Brian and I did complete our Residency in Oct of 2010 🙂

Freedom!!

I’ve been keeping my eyes open for ideas for those moving here. Oportunities abound. Depending on how envolved you want to get in the community and what type of money you want as a return on your investment.

Children are in abbundance here. If you have a talent for Piano, Singing, Painting, Kung fu, Karate, Crafts, Tutoring, etc. You could easily start an after school programe. The children soak up anything you are willing to teach them. The parents enjoy the fact that they are not plopped in front of a tv and learning something new.

Also for the non-children enthusist. Someone who has experience in the building industry who would ‘oversee’ projects for expats. Alot of the retiree community have trouble communicating with the locals when it comes to building. Someone with experience keeping an eye on proper codes and people skills would do really well.

There are builders here. Some Belizean ones and US/Canadian ones. With so many new faces moving here this could be an option, but then again it might be getting rather crowded. Thats where the ‘Oversee’ idea would work good.

Another good opportunity would be for nurses. There are several retirees here who are getting on in years and would prefer someone to drop by their homes to help out with bloodpressure checks, etc. This could be a good nitch. There is no meals one wheels or Hospis here (sorry if that is incorrectly spelled…)

There are alot of jobs I’m not touching on but this should give an idea to anyone who might be thinking ‘ Hey I could do something there’. If you think that then chances are : You will find something!

Here’s another good one: House sitters! U.S. and Canadians travel much more than Belizeans and its a good idea to have someone watch your house while you are away… ‘While the Cats away… and all..’ House sitting would be an excellent job or maybe Property management.

I’m throwing these out there, hopefully someone will get hit with the right one or even come up with your own.

If you have any  questions feel free to contact me:

realestateconsultingbz@hotmail.com

or

http://www.facebook.com/#!/CorozalClassicDance



Working & Starting a Business in Belize.
September 29, 2010, 8:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

 

My husband, Brian, and I moved to Corozal Belize about a year and 6 months ago. We both moved here with the intention of working, living, and contributing to the community.

He had built custom homes in Georgia for 25+ years and when the economy stumbled the business fell with it. We went from having plenty of work for ourselves and our sub-contractors to nothing.

When both our homes sold within 1 month we took that as a sign that we should try something new.

Our search for a English speaking, safe to buy, friendly country began. Belize popped right up. Many countries don’t mind you buying a condo or home, but really don’t like you working or starting up a business. 

We studied properties, residency, retirement (not an option), etc. Looking at all the Caribbean areas blew our minds as there are some very expensive places. Belize won out in the end.

After buying a house and moving here in May of 09’ we took some months off before starting our new venture to get  used to our new surroundings.  It didn’t take us long to make friends with a variety of people and really feel good about the choice we had made.

After our initial ‘vacation’ from the real world we knew from watching our savings diminish that we would have to get jobs soon.

Belize is interesting in the fact that to get a ‘work’ permit here you have to follow the no ‘compete’ law. Which means you will not be taking a job that a qualified Belizean could fill.

With Brian’s knowledge of home building and previous experience in Real Estate he set out to get his permit for ‘consulting in the Real Estate field’.

This left me at a crossroads. What could I do in a country blooming in promise such as Belize? What did I have to offer? Strangely enough I got to thinking of all the kids in the area. Belize has a lot of children and they are always looking for after school programs and activities.

I participated in the Lighting of The Christmas Tree program sponsored by the Corozal Town Council by doing a couple Ballet Dances and a Color Guard Routine. (Both are things I’d had done in School).

The children’s eyes lit up and it started me to thinking seriously about an after school program.

Going on this concept I started the process of opening a Dance Studio. (Corozal Classic Dance Education – see us on facebook)

I had to purchase a work permit for $1,000 bz  ($500 usd) which would cover me for a year. In that year we wanted to complete our residency program (where you can have a business but not required to have a permit). (As a note: Brian’s permit was $2,000 Bz as he was considered a professional… The permit idea is very flakey and changes all the time.)

For those wanting to know: To apply for the permit you go to your local immigration branch here in Belize and they fill you in on what copies, stamps, forms etc. that you will need to turn in.

The permitting process took us about 2-3 months. (We are now working on our residency and hoping to complete that soon. For residency it is require that you live in the country for 1 year without leaving for 14 days. Day trips to Mexico do not count against the residency process.)

After receiving my permit the Studio started with 10 students. We held a Recital at the end of March 2010 and it was very well liked.

The next semester of the Studio started in May and continued until Sept 1st when we had our second Recital. It was a lot bigger. Consisting of 28 students! We did 10 different songs on the theme of ‘Nature Unleashed.’ We had a great turnout of 250 people for the show!

It’s very hard to run a business here.  The trick is to find a niche that has not be explored before. Ballet (or Bal-et as the locals call it) is taught in Mexcio and in the city of Belize, but not in the smaller areas. Overall I’d say that I have had a very positive reception. The kids love learning  to dance like little princesses and the parents like that they are learning and staying active.

To keep the Studio afloat I charge minimal fees for the Rent, costumes, equipment, etc.  If I were in the states I would not be able to keep going on the amounts that I take in, but here it works out well for all.  I don’t overcharge or undercharge. I try to keep it relative to the community and what the people can afford.

I’ve often heard a saying “ The quickest way to make a million dollars in Belize is to move here with two.” Meaning that you don’t move here hoping to become rich quick. Investing is good, but don’t over do.  Moving here is a switch to a way of life and life here moves at a much slower pace. 

For me to be my own boss is a great thing. I’ve come to enjoy the freedoms found here.  I make my hours, plan my days I’ll work, set a pay rate and run the show. (If the show gets much bigger I’ll have to hire help!) Handling a Studio entails a lot. Billing, rent, past dues, costumes, etc. Anyone who has been in any type of performance knows what I mean.

After being on stage since the age of 5 dancing, pageants, chorus, and band it is uplifting to spread the knowledge of what I had learned to the people here. Belizeans are sponges when it comes to learning. Especially something they enjoy. Anyone who says the people here aren’t smart is totally wrong. It’s like anywhere in the world. Some are gifted. Some not, but each offers something different.

I hope this ramble helps people understand that Belize offers a lot. Her promise as a country is still fresh and new ideas are welcome!



Almost 5 months In Belize
September 29, 2009, 4:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I last wrote on our blog in July. It is now the end of September and I felt that it was time for a new post.

My experience with Belize so far has been mixed as it would be in any new country you move to.  We’ve had 4 people visit us from the states so far and we’ve noticed that their opions are similar to ours.

Where to start…

There is a beer company here in Belize called Belikin and they have a bikini calendar that comes out once a year. I was talking to a friend of ours over a couple of the said beers and ask him how you went about getting on the calendar and if there were guidelines and such for being in it. He did not know but gave me the name and location of a resturant owned by one of the sons of the company.

We decided to travel down to the resturant and meet this guy. Maybe he could give me the answers I needed.

I googled the address and we headed down to Belize City. The resturant was very nice, great food and cold draft Belikin beer of course.

Walking in we were seated and I asked the waiter about the man we were sent to meet. He said that he was there and he would send him by our table. (I would like to note that I am not using names as a privacy thing) The man in question came by and I asked him the big question.

How do you get to be on the Calendar for Belikin?

I would also like to note that I have always wanted to do a bikini calendar. One of those silly dreams you get as a young person. This would be my way to make that dream a reality.

Anyways, back to the story.

I was given the man’s brother’s number. Evidently he handled all things having to do with the brewery and the calendar. I thought that while we were in town I’d give him a buzz and see if he was anywhere around.

Lucky for us he was at the brewery working and said we could drop by on our way home.

I was glad by this time that I’d had a couple beers with lunch. Liquid courage and all. Entering his very nice office after climbing up this flight of marble stairs I focused on what I would say. ‘Hi, I’d like to be in the calendar, what do I do? etc.’

At first sight of me he seemed taken aback. Evidently girls don’t volenteer for such things down here. Most are very shy. Me being American and raised different, I was anything but shy. My questions were answered and he said they’d be glad to have me on the calendar. There were some obsticles to cross. Namely would it be an issue with Immigration being that I am not a resident yet (you have to be here a year for that) and would I need a special permit from them for work.

Meanwhile a Test shoot was set up with the photographer. We drove back down the next week for that and it went really well. During this whole deal I kept asking, ‘hey when will I know if I get it?’ and would hear that it had to go to a commitee vote to decide the finals and such. The question of the permit was then raised again.

I asked if they had looked into it and was told that their man who dealt with such things was out of the country and to try back again the next tuesday for answers.

We went for beers at our friends bar again and he smiled a crooked smile and said “You don’t expect them to do anything do you? I mean really. Like they are going to trouble  themselves with a permit issue. You should handle this yourself and fill out the paperwork at least then you show good intent.”

So we went to the local store (like a dollar store) and purchased the form (yes they sell government forms here!) Filled it out and took it to the local immagration place to speak to them about the  issue.

The lady there was very nice. I told her what it was for and she told me not to worry about it unless I was actually chosen  for the calendar. For some reason this didn’t feel right. We decided to call the head office in the capital of Belmopan. Calling offices of government down here is a trick. They might answer, they might not, the number might no longer be in service, or it could even be a prepaid phone that is out of minutes. Oh yes it’s interesting trying to get them on the phone.

After trying for days to get someone we decided to road trip it to the capital and speak to them in person. We left on a Sunday and figured to be there at the office bright and early Monday morning. Things in a normal government would have worked fine, but hey this is Belize. Surprises are ripe. Now we know better.

We sat in an office for an hour until we got restless and asked one of the receptionists about the permits. She then told us we were in the wrong waiting room. So to the back of the building we went. Here you could tell was where the action happened. The line was huge!  When the big doors did open we were lucky to find out that not all the people were for permits and that only 2 were in front of us.

I was feeling better by now. We were getting somewhere. Our number was called, we went in, told the guy what was up and what we assumed we needed. He then said we’d have to talk to the Director of Immagration for a special permit that only he could give. No big deal. We asked where his office was and were told to go back to the original office and make an appointment.

The receptionist looked at us with disgust. I could see the ‘oh it’s you agian’ look in her eyes. We asked about an appointment with the Director and she motioned us to the other receptionist for an appointment.

We were then informed that the Director only worked on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She had a 4 oclock on tuesday and thursday was open. Belmopan is a good 2 hours or so from where we live. We could either blow another night in a hotel and waste a whole day waiting on tuesday on come back Thursday. So we decided on Thursday.

The drive back was a disappointment.  Here we thought we could get this resolved easlily. Not here. This is Belize.

Late Wedsday afternoon I recieved a call. I had been looking forward to the trip to get the things taken care of and here’s this call. “Mrs. Bower, we’ve rescheduled you for Tuesday at 1:00”. For us this was a big pain. We were to pick up Brian’s parents that day at the airport. Lucky their flight came in around 10 so we had time to drive the 30 min from Belize City to the Capital again.

It was terrible leaving them sitting in the car. Our first guests here and they have to wait on us to get this permit thing done. They were so nice about it.

We arrived early and sat in the room to wait.  It was cold from the big air conditioner and looked like rain. After waiting around 45 min we started hearing rumors. Whispers around the room. (There are alot of Languages down here, Spanish, English, Chinese, German, etc) From what I could make out the Director hadn’t even showed up for work nor called his receptionist. Tension was high. What would we do now? The photographer had been putting the shoot off for me already and had scheduled the shoot for that Thursday. I did not have time to fool around like this.

Brian took the intative and went back to the original permit office. He explained the situation again, this time to a girl who knew about the calendar and she said that the permit wouldn’t be an issue, but it would cost $500 BZ ($250 US). great I knew the shoot didn’t pay but $100 BZ anyways. Digging a hole again I thought.

Brian then asked what that permit consisted of. How many days did it cover and such. It would be for a year. We both new I didn’t need that long of a permit the shoot was only 2 days. He asked it there was anyone of a hiring rank that we could question. (Politness is big down here and you don’t want to be insulting.)  She said yes and that he was in.

We were pointed in his direction and he was busy. We waited patiently outside his office and then explained yet again the situation. He asked what the max pay would be if I was picked and I told him $1100BZ. He then said that there was no sense in us buying a permit as a model is actually considered a professional here and the cost of the permit $2000! He smiled and said that for a 2 day shoot with such a small pay we would not need a permit. I asked him for that in writing and he said that I didn’t need that.

“If anyone gives you trouble have them call me, as I am the acting Director.”

We asked him about the Director not being there and he scowled and said the man was never there and should be removed. He explained that he handled all the affairs since the other guy was a no show.

We left in high spirits. I would not need a permit and Immagration would not be an issue. I called the photographer and we planned the trip for the shoot.

I would give the details of the shoot, but it’s a tiring story about girls and sleepless nights and one long 4 hour drive from Belize City home.

The shoot did go well and we viewed the proofs when we took his parents back to the airport. I still don’t know if I got in. It’s driving me crazy. I do know that they have not had a white girl in the calendar in over 4 years. (Race isn’t a thing here, but most girls are spanish, black, mestizo (mx/mayan),or a mix of these.  So maybe that’ll be my edge. Who knows. Last I heard I will know hopefully sometime in October.

This story is a good example of Belize. It’s alittle screwy. You just have to deal with it and not be afraid to ask questions. Things do happen, but sometimes it takes a while.

We’ve really adapted to the slower lifestyle. I think if we were in Atlanta now we’d go nuts!



The Long Road Trip
July 8, 2009, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

We left out from North Georgia April 24th 2009 on an estimated 5-7 day trip through the states, Mexico, and ending in Belize.

It was a dreary morning when we hooked up our 16′ cargo trailer to our 05′ Mercury Mountaineer. The load was excessive and once the two were hooked together you could feel all the weight pulling you back. 

Atlanta traffic wasn’t bad for Atlanta, and we tugged our burden along at a decent pace.  We had reached the southern part of the big city, just south of Jonesboro when trouble started.

A large puff of smoke shot out the back of the Mountaineer and the tackometer started screaming. We pulled over and I got out to check underneath the vehicle.  Liquid seeped and oozed around the transmission. Not a good sign. 

It looked as though things were conspiring against us early on.  Our cat, Monkey, who had been serenading us with her panicked meows all morning, was drugged up, but fighting it and frazzling our already shot nerves.

We drove our now limping caravan to the next exit and prayed for a Ford dealership. The Lord was with us that day.  We asked at a nearby gas station receiving mixed directions. Lucky for us, we did find the dealership. The guys at Mike Fitspatrick Ford in Newnan were awesome. They knew that we were on our big trip and that the sooner we could get back on the road the better.  We found out that our transmission had totally blown. We had figured that based on the large black cloud that had appeared on the highway as we’d been moving up the incline of the incident. It had looked like a Nascar engine loss.

Anyways. We were told that they could get a replacement transmission overnight and try to have it in the next day.  This was all on Friday afternoon. The dealership supplied us with a rental and we went in search of a hotel that wouldn’t mind a yelling cat.

LaQuinta was down the road and was pet friendly.  We dropped off Monkey and our luggage and decided to treat ourselves to an early dinner and some soothing cocktails.

Saturday morning dawned, Day 2, and we awaited a call from the Ford guys to let us know when they would be finished.  Around 11 am we got the call. Everything had worked out well and was ready.  So after giving Monkey another relaxation pill and sticking her in her cage we headed out for the next step in our trip.

The guys at the Ford place told us the new transmission should make it fine. They were unable to add the extra radiator, which would allow for better cooling, but that was ok. The mechanic told us to baby it and we should be fine.

All day long we petted the suv. The tug and pull of the trailer was like a weight holding us down from any enjoyment.  We stopped twice that day in Alabama to check the transmission for over heating and such.  We were beat by the time we pulled in at our next stop in Louisiana.  We’d picked up some sub-sandwiches and settled in to catch our family up on our progress.

Day three was long and arduous as all the others had been.  We made a goal to reach Texas and get within 170 miles or so of Brownsville, where we would be crossing into Mexico.

Traffic was hit an miss. The roads in Louisiana were pot-holed and in dire need of a new coat of anything! Texas border was a joy to see.  The nicely concreted highway spread before us in an unending long line.  Storm clouds started brewing and winds picked up.

The trailer, we discovered, did not like wind and fought us like a caged beast as we headed south. We stopped in a small town, truck stop late afternoon (6 or 7) and were smiling at the rain drops, because we’d finally gotten away from the Monster that was our trailer.

Day 4 started out fairly well.  That far south in Texas, there were few cars on the roads and it was blessedly flat.  We boogied along and sighted the border town of Brownsville around lunch.  We were all excited, but both of us couldn’t dispell the feeling that something was going to stop us again. 

We got in line at the border, all on pins and needles. Went through U.S. customs, no problem and headed over the big bridge to Mexico.

As we figured we were flagged to a look-over station and asked all kinds of Spanish questions (They really quit speaking English at the border and translators are few and far between.)  Through various sign gestures and a nice guy, who tried to speak English, we discovered that we lacked to correct permits to cross.  We followed the Mexican customs man in his truck and got in line to go back over the bridge to the United States.  The wait was about 45 minutes to cross and of course we got tagged for search at the U.S. border. We hadn’t even made it into Mexico and had to open the trailer again!

I decided to call our Mexican Insurance Broker knowing that we would need to add a couple extra days to our coverage.  (In Mexico, it is required.  If you get in an accident without it you go straight to jail.)  The insurance man kindly gave me the name of a Broker to call to get our things across and fill out the required papers. 

I called the guy who spoke great English for the locale.  We met up with him at the nearest Burger King and filled out the forms he would need to submit to the MX government.  He also knew our need for a rush and recommended several ways to get things pushed quickly. Copies were made of our passports etc. We then went in search of another hotel for the night.  We found one with a pool and ordered out pizza.

Day 5 saw us sitting at the Brokerage office waiting on MX to fax back our papers.  We decided to go park at a truck stop and relax, as the parking at the Brokerage was in straight sun.  The truck stop was very nice and clean.  Listening to the news on the radio we started worrying again.  Swine Flu was reportedly running rampant in Mexico City and supposedly all of MX was on a travel warning.

We decided on a plan of action. Brian bought water (my hubby) and I picked out some rubbing alcohol to was our hands with and some pepto bismol in case of stomach problems. The truck stop didn’t have much else.  Even the workers had on masks and gloves . It was an eery feeling.

We got a call telling us that we would be able to cross around 2 oclock.  Nerves were stretched tight.  Arriving at the Brokerage we followed the lady who would lead us through the customs process. (Although we were still in the U.S. our guide now did not speak English.) U.S. Customs did a total car/trailer xray and then sent us on our merry way. Mexico customs was strange. We met some officials on the side of the road who checked our papers and then road on the running boards of the suv to the inspection post.  Inspection wasn’t that bad. Stamps were given and we paid a fee for the TV that we were bringing.

We were in!

Unfortunately for us we started going in the wrong direction, but being as that it was in the late afternoon around 4:30 or so the MX customs guys were getting off work and flagged us down pointing in the other direction and saying Belice that way. So we turned around and were on the road again.

We drove and drove until it started getting dark. We’d only been through one Military checkpoint and they’d flagged us past.  We stopped in a town called San Fernando. A small little place, that had a nice charm.  We located a hotel and Brian got out to try and explain that we were looking for a room for the night. No English here and first off the guy thought Brian was looking for company for the night, but then he saw me in the suv and understood. Si, one room, two people.  We did not mention the cat. 

After finding a small diner and having two of the best hamburgers ever (bread, hamburger patty, two slices of ham, avacados, mustard, ketchup, and tomatos.) yummy, we decided to get some much needed shut eye.

Day 6 started out grand.  We were moving along at a nice pace. The roads weren’t too bad. About like Louisiana and we were having a more positive feeling.  We reached Tampico MX around lunch and were excited to get through the town as we’d heard many horror stories.

Sadly it wsn’t to be.  We got stopped on the south side of town by the Policia. They spoke no English and asked us several times about our Spanish. (hint hint)  We’d stopped in town at the local Pemex station (Mexico’s gas is regulated by the government and all the stations are the same.) and had been spotted by one of the Police officers (I would like to note that I say Police officer lightly).  I had remembered seeing the man use his walkie talkie, but had figured he was just working. Come to find out he was signalling his buddies when a gringo drove through town. Fresh meat. We got stopped and three guys surround our suv wanting passports and papers. Which we had and thought were in order. One guy points to the stamp where we’d went to Belize in March and says ‘this date has already passed’. From then on, it was an old con scheme. We discovered that the Mexican border had not stamped our passports and these guys were not going to let us pass. We thought we had all we needed to get through the country, but no.  Funny enough after an hour of messed up broken English and some guy on someone’s cell who could speak English, we discovered they wanted $300 US money to pass. Once the money was handed over we hauled ass out of there.

Tampico is a nightmare of crowded roads and crooked cops!

We made it to Villa Hermosa that night after the suv had decided to act strangely and stopped at another truck stop where the Federales had set up camp. At least it was going to be a very safe stop.

Day 7 was long. Extremely long. The monster that was the trailer (VIN number ending in 666. Not joking! surely a sign) had upset the suv again. We stopped at the closest Pemex and I pulled out our pocket translator. I used it to make a paragraph in spanish requesting help on getting a tow truck.  The guys at the station were fascinated with us crazy gringos. We did get a much needed tow 2.5 hours later.  The men in the tow truck were very nice and spoke a small amount of English. Today was going to be a great day for them.

We spent the day following our trailer in the suv as the nice ford f-350 pulled our load. The suv was purring and happy to be free. We had no idea that Mexico had so many mountain ranges. We would not have made it pulling the devil trailer ourselves. In fact we were lucky to have made it that far.  Chetumal MX was our next goal. We knew we’d arrive after customs had closed and knew another hotel room was in order. 

We had read the many warnings about driving at night in Mexico. They’d said ‘just don’t do it!’ Well we ending up having to. The advice is true, but necessity rules out advice. The magic of Mexican roads is the Topes (aka speed bumps/ speed tables.) They are everywhere. No red lights. Just Altos (stop signs) and Topes. Thousands and thousands of topes.  It’s a wonder our suv doesn’t need new shocks.

Anyways, back to the trip. After another long 10 hour day (most of our days averaged 8 to 10 hours.) we stopped in Chetumal and had to find somewhere to park and pay the tow guys the $1000 U.S. that it cost for the tow.  It took about an hour to get parked, unloaded, and such.

I had texted our Belize customs broker that we were running late and would be glad to see him Saturday to cross. He texted back that the border was closed for the weekend. (Cinco de Mayo striking early with some Swine flu paranoya thrown in.) By this time it was Friday the 1st of May.

The long weekend at the border was a nice respite. The Holiday Inn there has a great courtyard pool! It was fancy and like the Ritz in Atlanta for about $80 per night US. A much needed splurge.

Two more days passed and Monday appeared.

May 4th day 11.

We got to the border early and sat for six hours. Various meetings and haggles went on.  Our broker was great, Stephen Kuylen Sr., and we got past customs lighter of pocket but not nearly as bad as were had been originally anticipating.

9 miles south of the MX border we arrived at our house in lovely Corozal Belize. We haven’t looked back, only forward. We’ve added on to our little place, installed the above ground pool that we brought from the states, and made some great new friends.

Things are day by day here, but always an adventure.



Back in the U.S.
March 22, 2009, 4:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Arriving home on Thursday the 19th was a real eye opener. The speed of traffic, the crowding airport, and the rules for absolutely everything surrounded us. The wide open spaces of Belize and the countries exotic magic were left behind and we prepared for preparations for our departure.