Sunday, January 26, 2014

Slices of Life From Belize: January 26, 2014

Ever had one of those months where the days feel like they just zip right by? That's what January has been like for me. I really thought we would settle back into our normal routines once the holidays were over. However, stuff just kept coming up and, the whole month, so far, has felt a bit disjointed, as will this post in all likelihood.

Hopefully, the turns in topics won't throw you into a tailspin.

Permanent Residency Update: One step closer

Way, way back in June of last year I posted about where we were in our quest for residency. At that point in time, we were hopeful that we would receive our official stamp around August or September. All that was left to be done was have Special Branch in Belmopan run an Interpol check, forward the application to Special Branch in Corozal, have an interview there, then go back to Immigration in Belmopan for our final interview. And everything might have gone according to plan, if there hadn't been a scandal in the Immigration Department. I'll spare you all the details, but allegedly some officers in the Department were essentially selling passports and citizenships. 

When the news broke around late August, the government decided to shut down the Immigration Department in Belmopan. That meant, while they were investigating, reorganizing, doing whatever else, all of us with residency and citizenship applications were in limbo. It took until early this month for the Immigration Department to be up and running again.

Earlier in January we called to get a status of our application and were eventually told it was still with Special Branch. Then we started calling Special Branch to find out why it was taking so long to do the Interpol check. After David was transferred five times, he finally spoke with a gentleman who seemed to know what was going on. He agreed that it shouldn't take that long for the the check to be done and after some digging, said that Special Branch in Corozal had our file. He was kind enough to give us the name of two officers in that office that we could speak to.

As soon as David got off the phone, he drove down to the Special Branch office in town. The two officers, whose names he was given, weren't available. But another officer was. After about 15 minutes of scrolling through his online files, he found ours. An appointment was set up for the following Monday for our interview. The officer made it very clear that we needed to bring all of our documentation, including land certificates, utility bills, references, and the like.

We arrived on Monday to find that the officer David spoke to the week before wasn't around, but another officer could see us. I whipped out all of our paperwork, and was at the ready to hand over whatever information would be needed. Turns out the officer only wanted to see our passports and our references. He told us that once the references were checked, our file would be transmitted back to Immigration in Belmopan sometime in the next two weeks.

At this point, I have to admit that I wasn't incredibly hopeful that the two week turnaround was going to happen. But lo and behold, that Thursday we found out from the friends we listed as references that they had been contacted.

We then called Immigration in Belmopan to find out when they might schedule our final interview. We lucked out and got connected to a woman who really seemed to be on the ball. She let us know that she would need verification from the Corozal Immigration office that we were up-to-date on our monthly stamps. As we needed to go there anyway last Thursday for our January stamp, we could get it taken care of then. After providing photocopies of the last few stamps in our passports, along with the pages with our pictures and passport details, the Corozal office faxed everything off to Belmopan.

When we got home, we called the woman in Belmopan back and she let us know she would keep an eye out for the fax and, we should check back in the next week or two to schedule our final interview.

Crazy, no? But we're far closer to the finish line than we've been in the past and hope springs eternal that we'll be official Permanent Residents before our February stamp is required.


Running Demons

While all of the residency stuff was going on, we had another episode of Lizi escaping the yard. I really have no idea what makes her do this. Ninety-nine percent of the time she is quite happy, plays with Sam, runs around with Olivia, and seems not to have a care in the world. But then some sort of running demon possesses her and she figures out a way to bolt. 

Our runner, Lizi

It took almost two hours for David and Fernando to corral her and it was only because she exhausted herself that they finally could get a leash on her. This dog was running down the airstrip that is behind our house! She crossed the highway and somehow made it back across without being hit! Fernando brought her back and immediately gave her a bath, because she was covered in who knows what. And at no time did she look penitent. I'm beginning to wonder if exorcisms might work on dogs.


A Graceless Week

When Lizi got loose, I tried to help the guys nab her. Unfortunately, as I was walking down the lane and keeping my eyes on her, I failed to notice a rock in my path. Down I went and ended up skinning my knee and bruising ribs on my right side.

It took a couple of days for my ribs to start feeling good enough to want to play Wii tennis again. I am hopelessly addicted to it. So as to not aggravate my ribs, I decided to try and play left-handed. That worked out well for a bit, until I went for a shot and slammed the top of my left hand into the mahogany front door. A bruised knuckle was my trophy.

A couple of days after that brilliant move, I was carrying our full coffee cups out to the porch. My toe caught the edge of the living room carpet and coffee went flying. Fortunately, none of it hit the carpet, I didn't fall, nor did either of the cups break. I did, however, twist my ankle a tiny bit.

As this was the third time in a week I had demonstrated my graceful qualities, I decided I was at my quota. Knock on wood, I've been accident free since then. Well until the next time I do a bonehead stunt. In the meantime, David is seriously considering encasing me in bubble wrap to help minimize future bodily damage. A fashion statement, it isn't.


Winter in Belize

This portion of the post I know will not elicit any sympathy from readers in North America, but...

It can get downright chilly here. We had a stretch where our temperatures during the day were in upper 60s, low 70s and at night hit the low 50s. There also wasn't much sun to be found. Doesn't sound too awful until you remember that few, if any, of us have heaters and many homes don't have hot water. Without the sun to warm up concrete, those of us who have block houses were feeling the chill. Add tile floors to walk on and it's easier to understand why most of us have been wearing socks and shoes instead of flip flops, while digging out long-sleeve shirts and pants.

A reasonable indicator of how chilly it gets:

The coconut oil solidifies.


Steppin' Up

The cool weather also played havoc with David's latest project. A friend of ours, Colleen, asked if David could make some steps to help shorter friends of theirs get into the raised bed in their spare room should they spend the night.

David figured out the design, bought the wood, and went to work. Unfortunately putting on the coats of varnish had to be delayed a bit because it was too cold. But finally the weather started cooperate and he could finish the piece.

Pretty, isn't it? Princess Kitcat was supremely disappointed to find out this was not her new throne.

And while I'm sorta', kinda' on the topic of pets, here are a few more shots of our brood:

Olivia - who can resist this face?


Sam and Lizi wrestling on their dog beds...

...then just hanging out.
Behold the glory of CHEESE!

We were very spoiled while living in the States, especially when it came to having access to a variety of lovely cheeses. We had one whole drawer in our fridge that only housed cheese. We were/are addicts.

When we made the move here, we knew that getting our hands on cheeses of any quality would be the exception than the rule. We've come to being content eating wedges of Happy Cow (the Belize version of Laughing Cow). 

But then a wonderful thing happened. A company by the name of Caves Branch Artisan Cheeses opened in the south of the country. We were fortunate enough to sample some of their offerings (thank you Colleen and Bruce!) and were so impressed that we recently placed an order (thanks Judy Y. for organizing that).

At this very moment, we have (from left to right): 

Spressa - a semi-hard cheese with "a hint of a tart texture yet a light fruity after flavor."

Camembert (Triple Creme)



Mr. Stinky - "A rich lingering flavor of Rouquefort blue, but a dryer texture."

Our cheese drawer in the fridge is full! YAY! Check out Caves Branch on Facebook.


So there you have it -- a rather mixed bag of what has being going on at Casa Wright. Maybe in the coming weeks we'll get back in our normal groove. 

Ahhhh, probably not.