Our First Experiences on Ambergris Caye

I don’t think it’s actually hit me yet that I live by one of the most beautiful oceans I have ever seen.  I’m here – washing dishes, playing with my children and working – as if nothing has changed.  I’m out near my pool right now beside the Caribbean Ocean writing this post.  The warm morning breeze welcomes, my coffee cup is filled with coconut milk and the pool guy is putting out all the cushions for the lounge chairs and raking the sand.

Pinch me, I think. 

Getting Settled in Ambergris Caye

The first week after a move is a roller coaster.  We’ve been through the expected emotions of joy, excitement, awe, frustration, shock and the pit in the stomach “What the heck did we do?” emotion (okay, the last one was just me, K is much more emotionally stable).  Ambergris Caye is beautiful and we are excited to be here and explore, meet more families and find our little groove, our ‘normal’, whatever that may be.

Our first days in Belize have been less than exciting.  We like to get the ‘organizational’ stuff out of the the way so that we feel free to play.  We haven’t explored much, but we have settled into our new condo, bought the necessary supplies for cooking and comfort and have taken care of our two little sick children that came down with a stomach bug for the past few days.

Our New Condo

View of the Caribbean from my balcony

My view doing the dishes. Nice!

We’re happy that our new place is built to American standards.  It feels SO clean.  We love the layout, it has just enough furniture to be comfortable but not cluttered and everything is in really good condition.  Having an American washer and dryer is awesome!  We have nice stainless appliances, a huge kitchen sink (compared to Costa Rica) and plenty of cabinet space.  It’s really nice to finally feel comfortable in our home.  In Costa Rica we didn’t have a place where we felt comfortable to sit and relax.  Here we have plenty.  And we do have air conditioning, which is nice to have.  Since we are right on the beach, we enjoy beautiful sea breezes all day, but have had the windows closed with the air on anyway.

Morning Walks on the Beach

I woke up before the sun and went for a walk in my new town, San Pedro, Belize.  I strolled along the white sand, barely watching where I was going.  My eyes were focused on the iridescent Caribbean water.  The sun was just about to come up, but the water already looked illuminated from below.  How beautiful.

Sunrise over the Caribbean

Sunrise over the Caribbean

Confusion over Dollars

The currency is Belize is the Belize Dollar (BZ).  It stays at a consistent exchange rate of 2 BZ to 1 US Dollar, making calculating how much things cost super-easy.  I wish they would have called it something other than the ‘dollar’ because we are constantly saying “Belize Dollar or normal dollar?”.   We didn’t have to exchange money, US dollars are accepted everywhere.

Gringo Priced

Arg!  Having lived in a foreign country for the past 1 1/2 years, you’d think that I’d be able to catch when I’m being totally ripped off.  I must have been wearing my “Fresh off the Boat” sign on my forehead when an unscrupulous store merchant overcharged me a ridiculous amount.  So ridiculous in fact, that I should have caught it.  I thought it was expensive, but paid it anyway.  Did I just pay $7 US for VO5 shampoo?  Yes, I did.  I was charged $4.95 BZ for a packet of instant coconut milk, which was supposed to be $1.50 BZ.  This wasn’t a surprise and I didn’t freak out because it happened to me in Costa Rica as well.  Upon arriving to a new place there are certain things you need and don’t care what the price is at the moment.  The real price of the shampoo was $2 US.  I went back the next day to give the store a chance to make right, but the cashier (the same one) totally denied everything and even went so far to say that it wasn’t him.  He told me to come back when the owner was there, which I did, but there was no store owner.  He told me to come back again.   Therefore, I have to post this warning:

Do not shop at Mimo’s store on Ambergris Caye…they will rip you off:

Ripped off on Ambergris Caye

Mimo's Store - Beware...they'll gringo price you times 4!

After the fact, I was informed that by Belize Law, everything in the store should be marked and I should have recieved a receipt, which I did not.  Lesson learned, again.  Dang it!  Now I walk past the store and do the 2 fingers to the eyes then point at the clerk “I’m watching you” glare.

Food

Island life is more expensive than living in the rural mountains of Costa Rica.   Groceries are certainly more here than in Costa Rica.  Ouch!  We are used to fresh fruits and veggies that are 1/3 to 1/4 of the price.  In Costa Rica, we would overfill our fridge with fresh fruits & veggies every week from the farmers market for less than $50 US.  In San Pedro, we barely filled the stroller.

Restaurants are more expensive which is to be expected ($15 US/entree not including tax and tip) vs ($7-10 US including tax and tip) .  The food has been more flavorful though and the variety is awesome!  We’re so excited to eat out here, especially with all the happy hours, my favorite!

Lunch at The Secret Garden

For example, we stopped at a Lebanese restaurant for lunch.  I ordered the Falafel plate, which came a vegetable salad and hummus.  It was delicious.  The falafels were light and airy.  K had the Roasted Chicken platter with curried beans and rice and vegetable salad.  We were stuffed and still had leftovers to take home.  Those 2 plates, 2 cokes and 2 beers = $21 US ($42 BZE).  Not bad.  Especially considering that restaurants in Costa Rica were more of a miss than a hit.

I keep comparing it to Atenas, Costa Rica.  One of the last restaurant meals we had was at a restaurant called Mejor Clima.  We ordered Shrimp and Rice, an order of fries, a seafood soup and a beer.  The food was terrible and our bill came to $23 US.

So, my first impressions are that San Pedro may not be the cheapest place to live, but the food is already better than most Costa Rican cuisine.

The San Pedro “Farmer’s Market”

Tuesdays, on the lagoon side of the island, there is a “farmers market”.  I put it in quotes because it’s not really the farmers that come to display their produce.  The market consists of boats that come loaded with produce from mainland Belize and Mexico.  We were told they come around 9 am, so we got there ‘early’ at 8:30.  Nearly everything was gone.  The boats actually get there around 6-7 am.

Boats with produce San Pedro, Belize

Boats with fresh produce - San Pedro, Belize

Produce was piled on the ground in bags.  It was our first time, so we didn’t really know how the market ‘worked’, but we simply started putting produce from the large sacks into small plastic shopping bags and creating ‘our pile’ with it.  I was about to cry.  When we first moved to Costa Rica, we went through these same “the variety of food here is awful” emotions.  But we got used to it and it was really more than plenty.  We experienced the same here at the San Pedro Farmer’s Market. Next time we’ll go earlier.  These are the things to learn when in a new place.

Fruits and Veggies at the San Pedro Farmers Market

Fruits and Veggies at the San Pedro Farmers Market

Luckily, there is a small store (The Greenhouse) that has produce we didn’t find at the market, like spinach, broccoli, good lettuce (not iceberg) and all the variety of international spices that I would need.  I’m pleased.

 Yoga

I really miss my three times weekly yoga class for $4 US a class.  And I really miss my fellow yogis there.  I’ve found a few yoga classes and plan on attending next week, but most are 3-4 times the price.  Otherwise, I’ll be on my own on the beach in front of my condo.  You’re welcome to join me anytime.

Time to Explore Belize

I miss a lot of my Costa Rican life but have yet to explore my life here.  It’s so nice to be right on the beautiful white sand beaches.  My children have played in the sand every day underneath beautiful palm trees.

G masters his scooter on Ambergris Caye

G masters his scooter on the sand streets of the Island

The water is amazingly beautiful and the people are friendly and relaxed.  It’s seems the only people in a rush are the ones driving the golf carts.   The streets are narrow and golf carts zoom past so fast as if they were late to get somewhere.  Aren’t we on Island Time?  The island is so narrow that you can stand in the middle of the street and see the lagoon on one side and the ocean on the otherside.  Pretty cool.

I cannot wait to get kayaking and snorkeling.  The reef is about 1 mile off-shore, I’m sure I can kayak that and then jump into the water for a quick snorkel.  That’s going to be my life.

Keith has bought himself a new machete and is determined to learn how to climb up the trunk of palm trees to hack some coconuts off for fresh coconut water. I can’t wait to see him to that!  Wait, he just did!

Let the exploration of Ambergris Caye and all of Belize begin!  We love it already!

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